April 13, 2002
A Raspberry to William

Yesterday, I saw this William Raspberry op-ed column in the local daily. It turns out it was actually written on Monday, but nobody else seems to have picked it apart yet, so I'll take a whack at it.

Does it make sense to see the crisis in the Middle East as primarily the work of Palestinian terrorists driven by anti-Israeli hatred?

Only if you look at the facts. If you wish to empathize with the suffering of those who have reaped what they have sown, then you might view it differently.

I certainly do not intend to praise the Palestinian suicide bombers who were, for a while during Passover, blowing themselves up on a daily basis. But to think of them as violence-prone cowards — even to call them terrorists — is to miss the most salient fact of their behavior: utter desperation.

This is utter drivel. There is absolutely no justification for the bombings. This line of reasoning is also used to excuse inner-city violence, riots (see the Rodney King fiasco), and a host of other anti-social behaviors.

I don't dispute that the suicide bombings constitute terrorism (even while the United Nations struggles to define the term). A good-enough working definition is violence, particularly against civilians and innocents, in furtherance of political ends.

The only reason the UN has any trouble defining terrorism is because the Arab nations are adamantly opposed to agreeing to any definition that includes attacks upon Israeli citizens. Since the terrorists are using a variety of methods to attack Israel, there are very few definitions of terrorism that meet these criteria.

But isn't it reasonable to examine those political ends? Isn't it reasonable also to ask what moral distinctions there are between what the suicide bombers (and those who dispatch them) are doing and what the Israeli forces have been doing?

Desperation does not result in attacks upon civilian populations. Attack a military installation—that's one thing. Blow up a pizza parlor—that's quite another. Ths Jews do NOT target innocents. The Arabs do. It does not get any simpler than that.

President Bush has described the latter as justified in retaliating for the suicide bombings. Those who see the suicide bombers as heroes naturally view their actions as retaliation for the latest humiliation visited upon them by the Israelis. What seems obvious to me is that every act of violence, by both sides, is both aggression and retaliation — and that it does no good to try to separate one from the other. One might just as well hope to settle claims on the land variously called Israel and Palestine by hiring a title-search company to look it up.

"The latest humiliation" must mean when Israel has tightened security due to yet another attack. It probably won't do any good to mention the fact that they wouldn't be in this situation if they hadn't attacked the Israelis in 1948, defied the UN by blocking Israeli shipping through the Suez (and blockading Eilat) in 1956, expelling the UN observation mission, bombarding Galilee, and again blockading Eilat in 1967, or invading in 1973, not to mention the two intifadas.

Are they terrorists? Certainly. But is Israeli President Ariel Sharon any less a terrorist because he does his thing through a uniformed military, with tanks and machine guns? There's terror — and intransigence and duplicity — on both sides, and precious little value in trying to determine which side owns the preponderance of guilt.

Please specify the instances in which Sharon has targeted civilians. Terrorists who are actively planning attacks are not civilians, by the way. They are even more insidious than uniformed soldiers because they blend in with the local population, something that can never be said of the IDF.

Or the preponderance of virtue, for that matter. Much is made of the concessions the Israelis offered — and that the Palestinians (in the person of Yasser Arafat) rejected about 18 months ago. And hardly anything is made, in the United States, at least, of the Palestinians' earlier concessions — particularly of Israel's right to exist within secure borders and the abandonment of the Israel-is-Palestine contention in favor of a Palestinian state made up of only the West Bank and Gaza.

Conceding the right of Israel to exist isn't a concession, and it's hardly universal. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah all state that they aim for the destruction of Israel. Considering that polls indicate that Hamas has the most support of any faction in Palestine (even more than Arafat's Fatah party), and considering that Hamas aims to establish an Islamic state on all land that was once mandatory Palestine, (are you listening, Jordan? You're next, after they're done with Israel) one has to wonder if the Israel-is-Palestine contention really has been abandoned. As to the secure borders issue, Israel has never had secure borders, and never will, as long as the various terrorist factions continue to receive support from the Palestinians.

Why is it so much easier for us in America to see Sharon's actions as in Israel's legitimate interest than to see the suicide bombers' as serving theirs?

Because we have no trouble distinguishing terrorism and military response to terrorism. It's not that difficult, unless you are an editorial writer, a leftist anti-Israel agitator, or Cynthia McKinney.

posted on April 13, 2002 12:04 PM


".... and the abandonment of the Israel-is-Palestine contention in favor of a Palestinian state made up of only the West Bank and Gaza." - and since when that's to be considered as a concession to begin with? Palestinians never had any legitimate basis for such a demand (which is worth as much as the demand for Palestine-is-Israel. And I guess you are aware of the fact that there are Israelis who profoundly believe that should be the case, based on religious and historical grounds. That contention however, was never adopted by the state of Israel). And for what it's worth, lets remind ourselves that Palestinians never dared posing such a "contention" towards their fellow-Arabs, when they (Jordan&Egypt) ruled the Palestinians for about 20 years (1948-1967). Should the Palestinians decide that US-is-Palestine, would "waiving" such a position be considered as a concession?... I don't think so... The alleged "concession" weights, hence, just the same.

posted by Michal, Israel on April 14, 2002 04:02 PM

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