What is the difference between state terrorism and individual terrorist acts? If we understand this difference we'll also understand the evilness of U.S. policies in the Middle East. Israel's state terrorism is defined by U.S. officials as "self-defense," while individual suicide bombers are called "terrorists." Yassir Arafat is kept hostage in his own offices for not doing "enough" to condemn and combat terrorism, while Ariel Sharon is given the OK to continue his invasion of Palestinian cities.
There is a difference between Israeli and Palestinian acts of agression—the difference is that Israeli aggression is the direct responsibility of Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Ben Eliezer, Shimon Peres, and Shaul Mofaz, while individual terrorist acts are done by individuals in despair, usually against Arafat's will. One hour after Arafat declared his support for a ceasefire and wished the Jews a happy Passover feast, a suicide bomber exploded himself in an hotel in Netanya, killing twenty-six innocent Jews celebrating Passover. Arafat was blamed for this act, and the IDF re-occupation of the West Bank has been justified through this accusation.
Every Israeli terror attack is always justified in terms of the last Palestinian terror attack, ignoring the fact that each attack is part of an unfinished circle of mutual violence and futile retaliation. This was the case with the killing of Israeli Minister Rehavaam Zeevi, which served to legitimize the seige of Arafat. What was neglected was the fact that Zeevi was killed in retaliation for the targeted killing of Abu Ali Moustafa, the secretary general of the Paletinian Popular Front, the second largest party in the PLO. All of Israel's military activities and repression since the beginning of December were based on the demand that Arafat arrest the killers of Zeevi. Why did no one demand that the killers of Abu Ali Moustafa be arrested? Because the Israeli government killed him.
Suicide bombs killing innocent citizens must be unequivocally condemned; they are immoral acts, and their perpetrators should be sent to jail. We will not be able to continue living together in Israel and Palestine if these acts are not uprooted. However 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.
I would like to ask: 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 last eighteen months? And who will face the International Tribunal for the illegal settlement of occupied Palestinian lands, and for disobeying UN decisions for more than 35 years? When is Sharon going to be defined as a terrorist, too?
How long will the U.S. government ignore the Palestinian 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? Only when Arafat has an independent state, with borders and well-equipped policemen and intelligence, will he be able to be fully responsible to his citizens. Only when Arafat is able to achieve the goal of Palestinian independence and supply security to the Palestinian population will he be able to legitimize an open struggle against any kind of terror.
As Israelis in the opposition, we are fighting against our government, but the international support that Sharon receives is constantly jeopardizing our struggle. International public opinion must be reversed, and the UN must deploy intervention forces to stop the bloodshed and restore water, electricity, medical aid, and other necessities to Palestinian cities whose supplies have been cut off by Israel. The obstacle to this deployment is the United States, whose policies still define Israel as the side that is suffering terrorist attacks, and de-legitimize the Palestinian struggle for independence as terror. No nation has reached independence without struggle. It is absurd that we are still witnessing, in the twenty-first century, a case of occupation where the dominant side is seen as the victim.
Israelis and Palestinians desperately need the awakening of the international community's public opinion and a reversal in the global attitude. These are needed both in order to save our lives (literally), and to preserve our hope for a better future.
Lev Grinberg is a political sociologist and director of the Humphrey Institute for Social Research at Ben Gurion University.