Letter to the editor of Somerville newspapers re Gaza and terrorism
Any decent person, trying to figure out which of the two sides in the Israel/Palestine conflict is more right than the other, naturally is concerned about the deliberate killing of non-combatant civilians. Surely whoever engages in such violence cannot be right, and whoever defends against it cannot be wrong.
It would therefore seem, on the surface, that the Israeli government is in the right in its recent violent assault on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip because, as the Israeli government spokesman put it, "Israel is 'compelled to take these defensive measures' to protect 200,000 Israelis living within Palestinian rocket range." (Boston Globe, March 2)
True enough, aiming rockets at non-combatant civilians is terrorism, and it is wrong, period. But there is something else very important to say about it. It is very much like the wrong killing of innocent white children done by some slaves during Nat Turner's slave rebellion in the United States in 1831. The terrorism by certain slaves was not the most important fact; the wrongness of chattel slavery was. In Israel/Palestine the most important fact--one that our mass media hardly ever mention--is the violent ethnic cleansing of non-Jews (Palestinians) from their former residences in what is now Israel, starting in 1948 and continuing through today, in order to make Israel a "Jewish state." Many of the Gazans, for example, are refugees from their former homes inside Israel that they can almost see over the fence that traps them inside Gaza.
The Israeli government claims to be defending Israeli citizens from terrorism. But if it really wanted to end the terrorism, it would let the Palestinians return and stop the ethnic cleansing. If Israel did that, then there would be virtually no support among ordinary Palestinians for aiming rockets at ordinary Israelis, and in fact any Palestinian authority would be forced to arrest such terrorists or else lose all legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian public. The Israeli government does not want to end terrorism against Israelis, it just wants to use it as a pretext for continuing its violent ethnic cleansing.
Some Palestinian violence is directed at Israeli soldiers who violently enforce the ethnic cleansing, and this, unlike aiming rockets at Israeli civilians, is legitimate resistance to oppression; it is violence in self-defense. Terrorism is not resistance. And resistance is not terrorism. This has been the longstanding position of the Somerville Divestment Project, of which I am a member.
The SDP's official position is: "SDP opposes all attacks by anyone, anywhere, and at any time where unarmed civilian casualties are clearly likely, whether the attacks are aggressive or retaliatory. At the same time we support self-defense actions and armed resistance against those who use physical violence to oppress people." (See http://divestmentproject.org/downloads/Why_Our_Govt2007.pdf)