Not all terrorists are the same, writes Lev Grinberg* |
What is the difference between state terrorism and individual terrorist acts? If we understand this difference we will also understand the evil of US policies in the Middle East and the forthcoming disasters. When Yasser Arafat was placed under siege in his offices and while he is kept hostage by the Israeli occupation forces, he is constantly being pressed to condemn terror and combat terrorism. Israel's state terrorism is defined by US officials as "self-defence," while individual suicide bombers are called terrorists.
The only "small" difference is that Israeli aggression is the direct responsibility of Ariel Sharon, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Shimon Peres and Shaul Mofaz, while individual terrorist acts are carried out by individuals in despair, usually against Arafat's will. One hour after Arafat declared his support for a cease-fire and wished the Jews a happy Passover feast, a suicide bomber blew himself up in an hotel in Netanya, killing 22 innocent Jews celebrating Passover. Arafat was blamed for this act, and the present Israeli offensive has been justified through this accusation.
At the same time, Sharon's responsibility for Israeli war crimes is being completely ignored. Who should be arrested for the targeted killing of almost 100 Palestinians? Who will be sent to jail for the killing of more than 120 Palestinian paramedics? Who will be sentenced for the killing of more than 1,200 Palestinians and for the collective punishment of more than 3,000,000 civilians during the past 18 months? And who will face the international tribunal for building illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian lands, and disobeying UN resolutions for more than 35 years?
Suicide bombs killing innocent citizens must be condemned unequivocally; they are immoral acts, and their perpetrators should be sent to jail. But they cannot be compared to state terrorism carried out by the Israeli government. The former are individual acts of despair of a people that sees no future, vastly ignored by an unfair and distorted international public opinion. The latter are cold and "rational" decisions of a state and a military apparatus of occupation, well equipped, financed and backed by the only superpower in the world.
Yet in the public debate, state terrorism and individual suicide bombs are not even considered as comparable cases of terrorism. The state terror and war crimes perpetrated by the Israeli government are legitimised as "self-defence," while Arafat, even under siege, is ordered to arrest "terrorists".
I want to ask: who will arrest Sharon, the person directly responsible for the orders to kill Palestinians? When is he going to be defined as a terrorist too? How long will the world ignore the Palestinians' cry that all they want is freedom and independence? When will it stop neglecting the fact that the goal of the Israeli government is not security, but the continued occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people?
As Israelis in the opposition, we are fighting our government, but the international support that Sharon receives constantly jeopardises our struggle. International public opinion must be changed, and the UN must deploy intervention forces to stop the bloodshed and the imminent deterioration. Israelis and Palestinians desperately need the international community to wake up and change its attitude. These are necessary both to save our lives (literally), and preserve our hope in a better future.
*The writer is a political sociologist and director of the Humphrey Institute for Social Research at Ben Gurion University.