Wholesale Terrorism Escalates: The Threat of Genocide

By Herman, Edward S. | Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Spring-Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Wholesale Terrorism Escalates: The Threat of Genocide


Herman, Edward S., Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)


FOR DECADES IT HAS BEEN THE STANDARD practice of the U.S. mainstream media to designate Palestinian attacks on Israelis as acts of "terrorism," whereas acts of Israeli violence against Palestinians are described as "retaliation" and "counter-terror." This linguistic asymmetry has been based entirely on political bias. Virtually all definitions of terrorism, if applied on a nonpolitical basis, would find a wide array of Israeli operations and acts of violence straightforward terrorism. Thus, a standard dictionary definition calls terrorism "a mode of governing, or of opposing government, by intimidation." A U.S. government definition describes it as "a violent act intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." Benjamin Netanyahu himself defines terrorism as "the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming, and menacing to inspire fear for political ends." (1)

That Israel's use of force against Palestinians regularly fits these definitions is crystal clear. This was even openly admitted by former Israeli U.N. Ambassador and Foreign Minister Abba Eban in a response to a letter published in the Israeli press by Prime Minister Menahem Begin in August 1981. Begin had railed against the hypocritical Labor Alignment's criticisms of his bombing of Beirut in that year, which had killed hundreds of civilians, by giving a "partial list" of 30 civilian sites bombed by Labor governments. Begin pointed out that these attacks had regularly inflicted casualties on "Arab civilian populations." (2) Eban replied harshly to Begin, but not only did he not deny Begin's facts, he went on to say that deliberate attacks on civilians were defensible when serving larger ends, as when "there was a rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that afflicted populations [i.e., innocent civilians deliberately bombed] would exert pressure on governments for the cessation of hostilities." (3)

Eban's statement, which admits and justifies deliberate bombing of civilians to intimidate, and which fits both the U.S. official definition and Netanyahu's definition of terrorism as well, was never quoted in the New York Times or any other U.S. mainstream media institution. But it, plus Begin's statement, constitute open acknowledgement by the Israeli leadership that Israel has engaged in serious terrorism and is a terrorist state. This was also admitted by Israeli Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur, who pointed out back in 1978 that for years Israel has been "fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities," citing as examples bombardments that cleared the Jordan Valley of all inhabitants and others that drove a million and a half people from the Suez Canal region. (4) Israeli military analyst Deev Schiff summarized Gur's remarks as follows: "In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it...[T]he importance of Gur's remarks is the admission that the Israe li army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously...the army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets...[but] purposely attacked civilian targets even when Israeli settlements had not been struck." (5)

The Diary of former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett is another source of evidence that Israel has deliberately targeted civilians, taking advantage of its military superiority and the knowledge that the friendly Western governments and servile U.S. and other Western media would look the other way. Sharett claimed that there were repeated unprovoked attacks across borders designed to destabilize neighboring countries and provoke military responses to which Israel could then answer with escalated violence. Sharett was a relative dove, and was shaken by the ruthlessness of the Israeli military establishment--"the long chain of false incidents and hostilities we have invented, and so many clashes we have provoked," the "narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness of our military leaders,. …

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