Palestinians are not terrorists

Mar 10, 2023
An Israeli soldier's sunglasses reflect the Palestinian flag during a protest.

Australia supports, indeed resources, Ukrainian armed resistance to Russia’s invasion and its attempt to forcibly exert its sovereignty over Ukrainian soil. Very few Australians appear to find fault with this position. For what reason is Israel’s provocative and continuing colonisation of Palestine not seen in the same light?

Human convenience is served through words that place perceived opponents or potential antagonists in a universally despised category.

In international affairs one such word is terrorist.

An internationally acceptable definition of terrorism, or terrorist, is stubbornly hard to achieve. In general terms a terrorist is one who inflicts terror on others through the pursuance of political or religious ideology, or even because of economic ambition. The membership of Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, and ISIS are clear examples.

Ironically, the violence inflicted by proponents of extremist ideology often falls on those who might otherwise identify with them religiously or politically. Muslims have suffered most from the action of Islamic extremists. Christians suffer from Christian extremism.

The Australian government has recently listed Hamas as a terrorist organisation, presumably at the request of Pro-Israeli activists. Hamasʹ military wing had been listed, but now the entire organisation is also included. Given Hamas was democratically elected by the people of Gaza and that Hamas is the provider of most humanitarian facilities, such as they exist, it is an extraordinary step for the Australian government to have taken. The step makes it a criminal offence to send money to Gaza for humanitarian relief channelled through Hamas.

On an individual basis, the Australian media follows the Israeli propaganda line that anyone who gets in the way of the Zionist project of colonisation is a terrorist. In East Jerusalem or anywhere on the West Bank you are deemed to be a terrorist if you object to your house being demolished, your orchard being decimated, or your basic human rights being denied.

In April 2017, the then immigration minister, Peter Dutton, cancelled the visa of Bassem Tamimi as he was about to board a plane in Amman for Australia, on the basis that his visit would present a danger to Australian society. Mr Tamimi’s crime is that he passively resists the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. His home and indeed his entire village of Nabi Salih in the West Bankʹs area C is constantly under threat of demolition or confiscation.

Australia supports, indeed resources, Ukrainian armed resistance to Russia’s invasion and its attempt to forcibly exert its sovereignty over Ukrainian soil. Very few Australians appear to find fault with this position. If you like, it is seen as a “just war” by Ukraine and its allies.

For what reason is Israel’s provocative and continuing colonisation of Palestinian land, Palestinian homes and Palestinian rights not seen in the same light?

May 15, 2023, is the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophe, the loss of 78% of mandatory Palestine to become the State of Israel; the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and the attempted erasure of any notion of there ever having been Palestine or Palestinians.

If the Nakba were a past event that would be terrible enough. But it is not. It is ongoing. The Zionist project clearly believes unfinished business remains, with clear intention to take the remaining 22%. Confiscation of Palestinian land continues, permission, to build Palestinian homes is refused and every attempt is made to stymie Palestinian economy and culture.

In these circumstances, how can resistance to this onslaught be described as terrorism?

International law is clear, states may not use force against the lawful exercise of self-determination, while those seeking self-determination may use military force if there is no other way to achieve their goals (again cf Ukraine).

Most Palestinians are arrested, or lose their lives, simply for resisting provocative intimidation.

It now appears that one of the strategies of the Zionist project’s extreme right is to provoke another intifada. Why would they do this? Clearly the answer is to provide a catalyst for a new Nakba.

Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli minister for the West Bank has already asked his security forces to show no mercy to Palestinians and suggested they should obliterate the Palestinian town of Huwara. The US response in this instance has been to describe such action as abhorrent, but in the same week approved a visa for Smotrich to visit the US and speak and raise funds for the Israel bonds conference. It is reasonable to assume that many Jews also find such language and intended action abhorrent.

Most Palestinian youth have no allegiance to old political movements such as Fatah or Hamas. They overwhelmingly hold contempt for the Palestinian Authority which they perceive to be simply an extension of the Israeli occupation. Born long after Palestine was supposed to have become a State, they have given up on the PA and feel they need to take control of their own destiny. They will increasingly stand up, resist, and simply refuse to disappear or fade away.

If Australia and similar friends do not step up and call out Israel’s contempt for international law, its subversion of a two-state solution and its overt apartheid policies, then responsibility for further suffering must be sheeted home to those who saw but did not act, heard but did not listen, those who turned their back on morality and justice to walk on the other side of the road where might is right.

Yes, there are many other situations in the world where injustice prevails, and suffering is intolerable. But there can be few if any others which were inaugurated by international agreement, imposed out of transferred guilt and shame, and supported out of western domestic policies and alliances.

Those who resist colonisation, intimidation and loss are not terrorists, whilst those who inflict such humiliation and loss can justifiably be so described.

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