Double standards define what is terror

By Jerry Levin
January 11, 2007

Let's be clear about this: I am opposed to the use of violence to resolve political, cultural, social, ideological, or theological disputes. Or any dispute for that matter. I can never agree with militant Palestinian leaders who rationalize the use of terror as a legitimate form of armed struggle against oppression and occupation.

I neither deny nor condone the tragic carnage and suffering of Jewish families whose members Palestinian militants have killed in terror raids. How could I? I am the grandson of an Orthodox rabbi, a refugee from the Eastern European pogroms at the end of the 19th century and one of the first American rabbis to embrace Zionism.

Nevertheless, I do comprehend Palestinian militants' unwillingness to abandon the kind of insurrectionary guerrilla warfare that international law recognizes as legitimate by occupied peoples. I comprehend it because of the more extensive campaign of terror waged against defenceless, harassed, humiliated, and provoked Palestinians every day by Israel's occupying army and armed squatter-settlers.

There's a semantic double standard applied here that those situated outside the borders of Israel and Palestine don't experience. But I do here in Hebron. The double standard is simply this: Any act of violent resistant to the occupation by a Palestinian is "terror," but the terror employed by the Israeli army is only the State of Israel engaging in its legitimate "right to defend" itself.

Palestinians, of course, do not have a right to defend themselves even though it is their land that is being occupied. It is their land being relentlessly, diminished by the wall and the expanding perimeters of the hundreds of settlements inside the West Bank as well as the Gulag that is Gaza.

I'm old enough to remember Nazi propaganda that tried to characterize the underground resistance movements in countries Germany occupied as the aggressors and its own brutal terror crackdowns as the Third Reich's right to defend itself, even though Germany itself was not under occupation.

Defending a land grab is not the same as defending one's home turf. Palestinians are not occupying Israel. The Israeli military is not withstanding an invasion of Arab colonialist hordes. Thousands of violent Israeli squatter-settlers are not languishing in Palestinian prisons without charge. Palestinian occupiers are not demolishing the homes of Israeli citizens nor shutting off entry to Israeli cities towns and villages.

Nazi leaders were hung for killing non-combatants in defence of their predatory regime's right to defend itself. Yet, Israel's leaders are applauded when acting similarly with the West Bank and Gaza. They have done so, of course, on a much smaller scale. The effect, however, is the same.

As Israeli leaders like to piously pronounce, "When you save one life, you save the world." Well, conversely, when you kill one life in a terror attack masqueraded as exercising one's right to defend oneself, then one is killing the world over and over again.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations. Supporting violence-reduction efforts around the world is its mandate.

Article reproduced with the kind permission of Christian Peacemaker Teams

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