Important note: This was a response writeup. The reasons I wrote it are detailed below. The writeup I responded to was removed, at the request of the author. Why he did this I do not guess. I would like to believe that he realised how ridiculous it is. I usually do not advocate leaving response writeups when the original has been removed, but I have left this here for several reasons:

  • This was not a one-time allegation. It comes up from time to time. This does not make it any less ridiculous, but still, if I remove this, somebody else might decide to write another "Israel is a terrorist state" writeup. And then I'd probably have to reply to it. And if I'm gone, somebody else will. My writeup staying should remove the need for a senseless posting-deleting-reposting ping pong game.
  • It has enough stand-alone information and opinions to merit remaining here, at least in the eyes of the one editor I spoke to about this.
  • I have been asked to leave it here.

It should also be noted that the now-removed writeup and my reply were written at the time of Israel's entry into Jenin in April 2002.

When I first read nyte's writeup, I thought, "This is just silly," and moved on. And then it got chinged! Which means somebody might read it, and think, "hey, he's got a point," and so this downright stupid idea of nyte's might actually be treated seriously, with people quoting it in arguments about Israel. Which would be a shame, really.

First off, I am Israeli. You should know that, to read this in a more objective light. Second, I am totally against the oppression of the Palestinians. I think that what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians is wrong. I think that putting the settlements in the occupied territories was a terrible idea that was bad for both sides. I am all for giving the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in their entirety in return for peace (yes, including East Jerusalem).

With that out of the way, calling Israel a terrorist state is just silly. I think it is similar to the signs of 'Israel = Nazis' (or Jew = Nazi, or Sharon = Hitler) that I've seen. And yes, I can understand where it comes from. I can understand the anger and the frustration at the situation, and of sitting on the side, not being able to do anything. And then trying to hit where it hurts the most. Because calling a Jew a Nazi is the worst insult possible. I'm not going to into that argument right now, because it's even stupider than the one I am going to get into. Calling Israel a terrorist state is pretty much the second worst thing you can do, and it almost gives the suicide bombers redemption. It's almost an excuse. If Israel is a terrorist state, then the Palestinian suicide bombers are a reasonable method of fighting for independence. Well they are not. Palestinians are using terrorism, and it's unjustifiable on any grounds. Blowing up a room full of civilians is inexcusable.

And now let me explain why nyte's argument is silly: nyte looked for a definition of terrorism into which the state of Israel fit. Undaunted by two failed attempts, he accepted Webbie's definition. On nyte's defense, everyone has their own conception of terrorism, and most rigid definitions would include many exceptions. So for example, Webbie's definition would include the bombing of Dresden, which is hardly terrorism, I think you would agree. Or maybe it is. In any case, let us indeed look at the definition nyte has chosen: "The practise of coercing governments to accede to political demands by committing violence on civilian targets; any similar use of violence to achieve goals." Now Israel may be wrong, cruel, inhuman and unjust. Israel may be committing major human rights violations. Israel's leader may be a war criminal. But it is not a terrorist state. nyte's bending of the situation to include Israel in it is akin to taking Webbie's definition of chair: "A movable single seat with a back", and saying: "a genetically-engineered riding mule is a chair." A seat is something upon which one sits, or something made for sitting. Well, this riding mule was made for sitting on. Is it movable? Certainly. And it has a back. So it must be a chair.

I will agree that the Palestinian Authority is a government for purposes of argument. I disagree on two major points: 1) The Israeli government does not attack civilian targets for the purpose of terrorism. 2) The Israeli government is not doing anything right now to coerce the Palestinian Authority into anything.

The Israeli army may have not been treating the Palestinians nicely, but no attacks were ever made on civilian targets in order to harm civilians. Of course attacks were made on civilian targets, but that is because the Palestinian military factions base many headquarters, hideouts, etc. in these places. All attacks made on Palestinians have been in order to capture or kill members of Palestinian organisations. (I am not condoning Israel's execution policy either, btw). Now you may think this is bullshit, and that Israel is "pretending" that the targets are military, and just bombing civilians. That is your right. I personally don't believe that is the case, and that is from knowing the Israeli army from the inside. Yes, there are some bastards who may not mind genocide (i.e. exterminating the Palestinians), but they are very few. And such operations have to have the agreement of a lot of people. Which could never happen. Incidentally, I also know several retired generals in the Israeli army, and they all agree that such a theory is silly. Secondly, Israel at the moment has one demand of the Palestinians: to stop the violence. Israel is not using terror to stop it. With the Park hotel suicide bombing in Netanya on the night of the Seder, in which 20 people died, Israel reached a breaking point, and is now enforcing its own safety. Is it harming civilians? Certainly. If Israel could do the same without harming civilians, would they? Of course. And that is the important part. At the moment, Israel does not have demands from the Palestinian Authority. Israel has taken matters into its own hands. And look at what is actually going on in the occupied territories now: gunfights (it is highly unlikely that there are gunfights with civilians, who just happen to own rifles and submachine guns and refuse to surrender to an army). Before an air bombing, the inhabitants of the building are always told to evacuate. As you can see, there are no demands on the Israelis side. Israel is arresting or killing members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad (and other organizations). The army has found many labs, weapon storage hideouts and other terrorism related things.

And let me answer the two potent points nyte made: "Does the Israeli army believe it is capable of rooting out and killing every potential suicide bomber?" No, Israel is not stupid. Israel does not think it can get every terrorist in the West Bank. And elabortion on the subject will follow shortly. The other point nyte made is: "their goal can only be to induce such abject terror into the hearts of Palestinians everywhere that they accede to Israeli demands for fear of being exterminated entirely". No. There are four major reasons (that I can think of) that the Israeli government decided on this operation:

  1. After a month of incessant terrorist attacks in Israel, the public was getting extremely restless. I for one think twice before I leave the house to any public place. It was getting too much, and the Palestinian Authority was doing jack shit about it. (Surprise surprise, they finally proved that Yasser Arafat has in fact been giving money to the terrorists). So the government had to do something. Just like the American public would not have taken it if the U.S. Government had said on September 12, 2001, "well, there isn't anything we can do."
  2. Sending a message to Arafat that this is unacceptable, and that if he won't do anything then we will.
  3. Disrupting as much as possible the terrorist organizations. Israel doesn't want to get every terrorist or every potential suicide bomber. That is stupid. All that is necessary is the leaders. Everyone knows that. So Israel is going after terrorist organizations' leaders and infrastructure. It's simple. If you destroy 50%, you will have about half as many terrorist attacks.
  4. Moving the war front. As any military strategist will tell you, the war occurs at the war front. When the front was the Israeli-Palestinian 'border', the war was there: suicide bombings and terrorist attacks in Israel. Now the war front has moved, the terrorists have to fight there. And it has worked. since the beginning of the operation, there have been no terrorist attacks withing the '67 borders.
This is a war. Unfair, unbalanced, unequal, inhuman. Call it what you will. It is not terrorism. Again, I do not condone it, but it is not terrorism.

I never cease to be amazed at the terminology used by people and media around the world while discussing or reporting on "the conflict in the Middle East". One tends almost without fail to hear the words "Palestinians" and "Israel". Never "Palestine" and "Israelis". While people are obviously aware that there are human beings populating the state of Israel and supporting (or not, as the case may be) its government, their existence is hardly ever acknowledged in discourse, except occasionally as statistics in the death count. This semantic inequality contributes to the popular impression of the Palestinians as a beleaguered, downtrodden people suffering under the heel of a faceless, ruthless and violent oppressor. A single opressor. Not a collection of beleaguered individuals who are as afraid, as angry, as insecure and as confused as any group of people continually subjected to unexpected deadly bouts of spectacular violence.

Equally strange is the seemingly willful ignorance of people not connected with the conflict of the fact that the Palestinian nation is no longer the scattered group of unrepresented refugees they may have been in the sixties. They are a nation, and although not yet recognised as a state by Israel or sitting in the UN, they have many of the trappings of such: agreed borders, a police force, independent municipalities, a school system, a water board, taxes, official financial support from the EU and other international powers, elections etc. They are by no means a single-minded mass of uneducated and violent freedom fighters. They have their share of artists, philosophers, film makers, dissidents, dissenters, peace makers and even capitalist millionaire businessmen. In any case it is worth remembering that Israel has not been officially recognised as a state by many of its closest neighbours, which puts it on a slightly equal footing from the point of view of international recognition, at least in its own backyard.

If we are dealing with two civilian populations in conflict, then there can be no question of the fact that the terrorism is one sided. Thankfully no Israeli civilians have yet taken the law into their own hands in this present conflict, and although in the past such individuals did rarely arise, they were so few and far between that any Israeli could tick their names off - with some horror, I might add. Regardless of the rage some individuals might express privately, it is the general ethos of the Israeli population at large that "we" simply do not do things like that, a slightly holier-than-though conceit that has, ironically, been reinforced by recent events.

If, however, the conflict is between two politically distinct entities (states or no, call it what you will), then we are dealing with an armed action caused by the inability or reluctance of one of them to curb the violent attacks of private organisations and individuals of its own citizenry agains the other. In such a situation a democratic government has a mandate and an obligation to protect its electorate. The way in which Mr. Sharon has been so far been preforming this obligation has given rise to many analogies with the actions of the US military in various situations, most notably former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. These analogies are both quite false, for in both cases the action taken by the US was taken against governments, not terrorist organisations.

The bombing of civilian installations such as power stations and railroads in Yugoslavia was done to undermine the resources of the Milosevich organisations, not to root out terrorist cells. And the initial attack on Afghanistan was also concerned primarily with toppling the Taliban government - just check the news reports from October. It is this aspect of the actions of the US that has given rise to (insufficient, in my view) criticism of its throwing it military weight around to further political aims, removing and setting up entire governments at will. But this bears no resemblance whatsoever to the actions of the IDF in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has not presumed to change the Palestinian administration. There is some confusion in the media about Israel attacking police stations and other semi-military installations, but this is caused by the unfortunate overlap between these powers and the terrorist organisations.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbulla et al are not fighting for peace, but delaying it. Even if there was a will, there is no way for Israel to negotiate with a collection of disparate violent groups with no coherent policies or political demands. Their actions undermine not only the safety of the Israeli people, but the authority of the very leader elected by the Palestinians and accepted internationally as the spokesman and negotiator on their part. In attempting to eradicate these groups Israel is, ironically, attempting to further the cause of a political solution in the Middle East (as well as to protect its citizens, which is the primary aim of course), not rampaging mindlesly across refugee camps.

Now, an argument can indeed be made that taking unilateral military action in the sovereign territory of another country is the hallmark of a terrorist state. But I have been unable to think of an example of another state with this status which is a good parallel to the unique conjunction of circumstances we have here. As difficult as it is these days to make anyone believe that the Israeli people at large want peace and quiet, and that the actions of the government and military are seen to be furthering these aims, this is nevertheless the case. So, regardless of personal opinion, calling this particular conflict the action of a terrorist state is a case of special pleading - tailoring the definition to suit the concept - supported neither by fact nor precedent.

I highly doubt the Israeli army cares enough about Palestinian lives enough to pinpoint the location of a militant beyond "general area". I don't think (I hope) they're out for genocide, I just think they see whatever civilians they kill as an added bonus.

Well. I honestly don't know what to say to that, apart from ranting incoherently for several minutes. If that's what you really think, despite the assurances of at least two people who have actually served in the IDF, then that's what you think. No amount of our explaining operational procedures and counter-terrorist tactics to you could possibly convince you that Israeli soldiers (most of whom are teenagers) are not psychotic, trigger happy fucks with permanently cocked guns.

I really don't know what to say to this. I just thought it needed copying and highlighting again, just to show that some people can think like that.

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