By Jabr, Samah
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. 22, No. 10
The overwhelming and ceaseless atrocities of Israel's government leave most Palestinians with little opportunity to reflect on the moral aspect of our resistance. Most often our reactions to events are immediate, instinctive and emotional. The few who still manage to consider the moral, political and strategic aspects of our struggle may find themselves all but stymied by the contradictions, the lack of choice, and the damage done by war to both reason and conscience.
How can Palestinian resistance be fairly assessed, then, with due consideration given to the entire history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The occupation of Palestine is based on a 19th century ideology that denied the very existence of the Palestinian people and pursued a colonial agenda asserting divine claims to a "land without a people." In response to this "theo-colonial" aggression, the Palestinian resistance adopted the strategy of "a protracted people's war" to regain recognition as a dispossessed, rather than "nonexistent" nation.
To this day Palestinians still have no state or armed forces. Our occupiers subject us to curfews, expulsions, home demolitions, legalized torture, and a highly imaginative assortment of human rights violations. No justifiable comparison can be drawn between the level of official accountability to which Palestinans are held for the actions of a few individuals and the responsibility for the systematic and intense violence against the entire Palestinian population practiced with impunity by the state of Israel. The American media call our search for freedom "terrorism," thus casting the Palestinian in the role of the international prototype for the terrorist. This has shaped Western public consciousness and resulted in an international bias that tends to describe instances of violence against Palestinian civilians in neutral language, reducing Palestinian losses to mere faceless statistics, while using emotional language and visuals to describe Israeli losses.
This distortion of the Palestinian resistance has clouded all reasonable dialogue. Many of our efforts to defy the arbitrary rules of the occupier are reflexively dismissed as "terrorism," and we are always expected to apologize for and condemn Palestinian resistance-despite the lack of agreement on a definition of terrorism, and the fact that the right to self-determination by armed struggle is permissible under the United Nations Charter's Article 51, concerning self-defense.
Why is the word "terrorism" so readily applied to individuals or groups who use homemade bombs, but not to states using nuclear and other internationally prohibited weapons to ensure submission to the oppressor? Israel, the United States and Britain should top the list of terrorism-exporting states for their use of armed attacks against non-combatants in Palestine, Iraq, Sudan and other parts of the world. But "terrorism" is a political term used by the colonizer to discredit those who resist-as the Afrikaaners and Nazis named the Black and French freedom fighters, respectively.
There also is a trend among those who oppose Palestinian resistance to use the term "jihad" as a synonym for terrorism. In doing so, they reduce the meaning of jihad to mere death. Jihad is a rich concept which includes struggling against one's lesser self, the effort to do good deeds, actively opposing injustice, and being patient in times of hardship. It is not about violence against God's creatures, or not fearing death in defending the rights of God's creations. Violence can, however, be a rational human's means of defense. When a woman reacts violently when threatened with rape, that is a form of jihad.
Moreover, jihad is an Islamic value-and not all Palestinian fighters are Muslims. The reason why young, sincere altruistic Palestinians blow themselves up is a secret they take with them to the grave. Perhaps it is the strange fruit of revenge growing in the fertile soil of oppression and occupation, or their profound protest against merciless cruelty; or a desperate attempt at attaining equality with Israelis in death, since it is impossible for them in life. …