The beginning of March in Winnipeg witnessed a controversial event called the Israeli Apartheid Week, which ran worldwide from March 1 to 14. In short, this was “good” for some and “bad” for others: good because it gives Palestinians a voice to speak and attempts to break the silence around them; on the other hand, it is bad because it is perceived as a movement that provides a space to promote “hatred against Jews.”
Now imagine a student who is hanging aimlessly, like Humpty Dumpty on the wall, coming across these two opposed views. What would happen? Quite frankly, they would fall and break as a result of a paralysis due to the failure to reach a meaningful decision.
Regardless of the legal and rational justifications for supporting the Palestinians, it becomes especially problematic when supporting the Palestinians’ right to resist a military occupation when perceived by the mass media as supporting terrorism or racism.
I suggest an approach to discussing the matter beyond issues of truth, good or bad, beyond Israelis or Palestinians.
In this light, speaking of terrorism, we find two kinds. One is Israel’s military, who bring oppression to the minds and bodies of Palestinians via massacres and the ongoing occupation. The other is Hamas, whose members throw rockets at unarmed civilians and detonate themselves in Israeli areas, aiming to kill and scare as many as they can.
If one understands the colonial relation of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territories, while trying to be ethically considerate of the present, Israeli and Palestinian terrorism against civilians must be condemned. The violent actions committed in the name of Palestinians against unarmed Israeli civilians are as much unworthy and inhumane as they are repulsive. They are also counterproductive.
The same and more applies to terrorism perpetrated by the Israeli state against Palestinians. Why? Because the history of colonialism indicates that the root cause of the Palestinian terrorism is Israeli terror. Research on suicide bombers shows that they are not religious fanatics motivated by irrationalism, but believe themselves to be striving towards a rational goal, namely the eviction of an occupation.
Terror breeds terror.
If we fail to acknowledge the right of the Palestinians to resist in the present, we condemn our own and others’ freedom to resist. Until the Palestinians have a right to exist and return, like the Israelis, the Palestinian lands will continue to be uprooted for more Israelis to arrive. If you do not take a stance against the colonization of all peoples on earth, by default you become complicit in their dispossession.
Since 1948, Israel’s government has expropriated more and more land and, consequently, the social fabric of the Palestinians. Within the same week of the Israeli Apartheid Week, about 50,000 new housing units in Jerusalem neighbourhoods were being built on Palestinian land illegally occupied since 1967.
Neutrality implies settling for the way things are, implying that one accepts a certain structuring of relations as real, when in fact it is grounded in historical factors. Being neutral and not taking a proactive action against the Israeli occupation de facto means supporting it.
If Israel really wants to get rid of terrorism, oppression and state militarization have to be crossed out because continuing the occupation simply generates more terrorists.
Terrorism, whether committed by the Israeli state or by Palestinian individuals or groups, aims for a just end without considering the unethical means by which these ends are reached. Palestinian terrorists allow Israel to further justify its violence against the Palestinian people by making everything permissible against them.
Taking a stance against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories does not mean you are anti-Israel or anti-Jewish or a blind supporter of the Palestinians. It means you support a more ethically responsible Israel. Whether this will ever happen or not, it is still necessary to try.
Fadi Ennab is a graduate student in sociology at the University of Manitoba.
Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)