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(editor's note - Text in navy blue italics has been added by the editor)
Terrorism is the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent in order to inspire fear for political events.
Even after the Declaration of Principles was signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993, Israel did not cease being a target for terrorism. Sporadic attacks continued, and in 1996 a spate of suicide bombings killed 59 people in 10 days.
After the Peace Process broke down in September 2000, terrorism against Israeli civilians increased.
Following attacks in the USA, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Britain, Spain, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and, of course, Iraq, terrorism is increasingly understood to be an international scourge like piracy. It isn't all due to Israel. The issue can be "legitimate" opposition to occupation, opposition to the ousting of Saddam Hussein or cartoons of Muhamed that Muslims found offensive. The way chosen to protest the issue, killing civilians and destroying property of innocents, cannot be tolerated in civilized society.
Terrorism doesn't only occur inside the Israeli occupied territories, in the form of shootings at cars on the roads for example. There have been several devastating attacks against civilians inside the Green Line, in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanya and Jerusalem among other places. Palestinian terrorists seem to particularly target young people, such as in the bombing of down town Jerusalem on a Saturday night (December 1st 2001, 11 people killed all under 21) or a Tel Aviv disco where 21 teenagers were killed (June 1st 2001). They attack people on their way to and from work, such as the bus bombing in Haifa (December 2nd 2001, 15 people killed) and people at leisure just eating out e.g. the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem (August 9th 2001, 15 people killed, 7 were children). These are just a few of the attacks. They continue weekly, the number of casualties rising all the time.
Accusation: The Palestinian use of terror is understandable and legitimate as it is their only weapon against the oppression of Israeli Occupation.
Rebuttal: There can never be any justification for the deliberate murder and threatening of innocent civilians to exact political concessions. The only effective way to combat terrorism on an international scale is to view all terrorists equally and not to differentiate between good and bad terrorists. The biggest success terrorists have had in the twentieth century has been getting people to accept the idea that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".
There is always an alternative to terrorism. The greatest leaders of last century, who fought for their people against oppression, rejected terrorism and attacks on civilians. Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, all achieved their aims through other methods. There is never an excuse for terrorism.
For the Palestinians there is even less justification, as they chose a path of terror whilst in the middle of a peaceful process that was reaping results. When the PLO signed the Oslo Declaration of Principles in 1993 they rejected terrorism. The basis of the peace process is that disputes should be resolved through negotiations.
Palestinian terrorism is counterproductive. Rather than bringing more concessions it makes Israelis less inclined to trust Palestinians. The Palestinian's use of violence has caused the peace process to collapse. Before the so called Al-Aqsa Intifada started, the Palestinians were poised to receive almost all that they wanted, including a state, and control over considerable parts of Jerusalem. The Palestinian leadership rejected this offer and chose terrorism rather than further talks.
Far from the use of terror being the Palestinians' only effective tool to use with Israel, negotiations and the Peace Process are.
Accusation: Terrorist attacks on America, such as on September 11th are because of America's support for Israel.
Rebuttal: Following the attacks on America in September 2001, many people sought to find links between these attacks and the Israeli-Palestinian situation. It was suggested that if America didn't support Israel it would not be a target for terrorism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The militant Islamic groups responsible for the attacks on the USA see America as their primary enemy. They dub it "The Great Satan". Israel is known as " The Little Satan". Israel is targeted because it is a representative of America in the Middle East, not the other way around.
Hamas, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda are Islamic extremist and rejectionist groups. They are not interested in finding a solution to the Palestinian problem. They see themselves as engaged in an ideological battle to the end, Islam against the West! If you doubt this you can just look at what they say. They all have their own websites, which make their aims very clear.
Bin Laden is happy to use the Palestinians as justification but this is merely a smokescreen. Their cause is added to his list as an after thought. Even the Palestinian leadership has been emphatic about disassociating itself with Al-Qaeda. The only link between the terrorist attacks on America and Israel is that both countries are victims of the same terrorism.
Accusation: Palestinians live under Israeli Occupation.
Rebuttal: Since “Israeli occupation” is frequently used to legitimate terrorism it is worth noting that as a result of the implementation of the Oslo Peace Agreements approximately 99% of Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip live under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. All of Gaza and about 40% of the West Bank are under Palestinian control.
There are restrictions, particularly on Palestinian movements between the different areas under their control. These restrictions have increased as Israel's security is increasingly threatened. Nonetheless, at Taba Israel offered to end all occupation, allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state on 100% of the Gaza strip and 95% of the West Bank as well as a patch of land, currently part of Israel, to compensate for the missing 5%. Arafat rejected the offer. He gave up his best chance to end occupation and instead allowed the Palestinians to turn to violence.
Accusation: Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have tried their best to contain the violence.
Rebuttal: Following many terrorist attacks on Israel Arafat issues a condemnation, but his actions don't match his words. Under international pressure Arafat has on occasion arrested the leaders of the terrorist groups but each time he has released them a few weeks later when the pressure eases. In May 2001, for example, Arafat released over a dozen Islamic militants who had been imprisoned since the suicide bombings in 1996.
Much of the violence has even been orchestrated and implemented by groups associated with the Palestinian Authority leadership such as the Fatah affiliated Tanzim militias and Arafat’s own Force 17 security force. On only one occasion did Arafat issue a clear directive for a ceasefire. There is no evidence that the PA have made a sustained and serious effort to end the violence. Rather, the PA is filled with illegal weapons, in defiance of the Oslo agreements which had clear limits on the number of weapons permitted.
Accusation: Israel itself is a terrorist force because of its assassinations of Palestinian leaders.
Rebuttal: Israel would prefer the PA to take decisive action against the leaders of the terrorist groups. Failing that, Israel would like to be able to enter the PA controlled areas and arrest those who attack her. However neither of these options are always available. Therefore, regrettably Israel has been forced to resort to assassinations of terrorists engaged in the planning, organization and execution of attacks on Israeli civilians. This is no different to the American attempts to reach Osama Bin Laden. When the country in which he resides won't arrest him or extradite him then there are few remaining options. American Vice President Dick Cheney supports this view:
"If you've got an organization that has plotted or is plotting some king of suicide bomber attack, for example and [the Israelis] have hard evidence of who it is and where they are located, I think there is some justification in them trying to protect themselves by pre-empting." (Fox News Aug. 3rd 2001)
The best explanation of Israel's policy in this comes from the Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Moshe Ya'alon.
"There are no executions without a trial. There is no avenging someone who carried out an attack a month ago. We are acting against those who are waging terror against us. We prefer to arrest them and have detained over 1000. But if we can't and the Palestinians won't, then we have no other choice but to defend ourselves." (Jerusalem Post Aug. 10 2001)
There is a significant difference between terrorism and the reaction to it. Israel has the right to self defense, and Israeli actions have been far more sparing of the rights of civilians than those taken by the US in Iraq or by the Egyptian government for example.
Accusation: Israel uses excessive force against people, often children, who are merely throwing stones.
Rebuttal: Israel is constantly being accused of a disproportionate reaction. The question of proportionality is somewhat absurd. A proportional response to a bus bombing would be for Israel to place a bomb on a Palestinian bus. This is obviously unacceptable. Israel's responses are designed to neutralize specific threats and, unlike suicide bombings, they are targeted at perpetrators not civilians. It is equally absurd to suggest that Israel must be wrong because more Palestinians have died than Israelis: as if it were a competition and were more Israelis to be killed Israel would become the good guys.
That is not to say that civilians never die. Regrettably innocents, including children, are occasionally caught in the crossfire. Although the suffering of every child is tragic and regretful, a basic difference exists between the two sides. Most Palestinian children have been hurt due to their direct participation in violent confrontations, and a minority of the casualties were the unfortunate result of crossfire or return fire directed towards terrorist targets. By contrast, Israeli child victims were the deliberate choice of their terrorist attackers - the intended and preferred target of the Palestinian bombers, snipers and gunmen. Palestinian children and teenagers have been active in the violence against Israel. Schools are closed to allow their participation in demonstrations and riots. Training camps exist to prepare them, and incitement is constant even on children's programs on Palestinian TV.
Protestors do not throw small pebbles as is suggested by the tone of the media but rather large rocks capable of doing serious injury. Neither are the demonstrators unarmed. Most times, in addition to rocks, protestors have thrown Molotov cocktails and used pistols, machine guns, assault rifles and grenades. Israeli troops under attack have had little choice but to react with rubber bullets and sometimes live fire. Israel's use of force is reactive, designed to defend herself against armed and violent opponents.
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