I only heard about the shooting attack of last Wednesday in Tel Aviv the morning after.
It turned out my mom had in fact mailed me in the evening of the attack, noting that she had been there a few days earlier with my uncle – but I only read the mail a day later.
On the morning after, at 8 AM, I got the news from mainstream media. CNN headline mentioned “4 killed in Tel Aviv terror attack“, despite the article noting that “information about a motive wasn’t immediately available”.
Whilst U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner had already issued a statement on the day condemning “today’s horrific terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in the strongest possible terms”, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon was already warning the rest of the world that lack of condemnation may have dire consequences:
“Today’s heinous attack sadly proves that when the international community refuses to condemn terror against Israelis, the next attack is only a matter of time…Terror in Tel Aviv must be treated the same as terror in Paris or Istanbul.”
So, we’re very quick to condemn when it’s apparent terror against “us”. Whilst “terror” is a term which requires establishment of clear political motive, it is generally assumed that when the perpetrators are Palestinian, the motive is political. CNN’s headline does not seem to contradict with its lack of “information about a motive”. It is so reflexive we hardly notice it anymore. We cannot be fast enough to condemn, it cannot be condemned strongly enough, so we use “the strongest possible terms”, and in the race to condemn we cannot await investigations that will clarify the motive. It appears safe to assume.
But how fast are we to condemn, or even admit to our own (Israeli) terror? Historically, Israel has been involved not only in terrorism, but also false-flag terror. One of the most egregious known cases is the “Lavon affair” of 1954 (named after then-Defense minister Pinchas Lavon), where Israel sought to frame Egypt in terror against British and American targets in order to get them to act against Egypt. It is interesting to read this rather recent (2009) article by Haaretz’s Amos Harel, which in its cold technical appraisal seems to bemoan not the morality of the act – but its technical failure. This failure meant that it was revealed. Had it not been – this would have been another conflagration wherein we never would have known for sure that Israel was involved in the actions.
Israel had denied the affair officially for over 50 years. But in 2005, it decided to award the perpetrators with honor: “Although it is still a sensitive situation, we decided now to express our respect for these heroes” said President Moshe Katsav at the ceremony in Jerusalem (Katsav, by the way, has been convicted since as a serial rapist).
Going even further back in history, and yet reflecting upon our current times, one could mention the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem by Menachem Begin’s Irgun in 1946, targeting the British headquarters in Palestine, killing 91. What many seem to not be acutely aware of is, that the bombing was planned together with Haganah commander Itzhak Sadeh, whilst the actual bombing was by Irgun alone. “Everything was coordinated with the Hagana,” Begin said in a film clip from the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s “Scroll of Fire” series. In 2006, the 60th anniversary of the terror attack, the Begin Heritage Center unveiled a plaque in honor of the terrorists. As Tom Segev notes, “there is no condemnation”. The terrorists are regarded as “Etzel [Irgun] fighters.” At the memorial event, one of the terrorists, who still uses his nom de guerre “Danny”, said that “the bombing of the British headquarters [in the King David Hotel] was the most important event of the pre-state period. It led to the establishment of the state. We helped to drive out the British Empire, because the British realized that we Jews could fight and that we would. And I would do it again, in a second.”
Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the event: “The difference is expressed in the fact that the terrorists intend to harm civilians whereas legitimate combatants try to avoid that”, he said.
And there we have it, with a bit of coded language that every Israeli understands – Jews are generally not terrorists, because when they “end up” harming civilians, it’s just “uncalculated collateral”, but when the terrorists (that is, of course, the Arabs) do it, it’s intrinsically evil.
On July 7th 2014, after 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was torched alive by Israelis in East Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, in promising justice, that “that’s the difference between us and our neighbors. They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We don’t.” On August 2, 2015, Netanyahu repeated the message, this time in the wake of another live torching – of the Dawabshe family in occupied Duma:
“We chase them down. They name public squares after the murderers of children, and this difference can’t be covered up.”
JJ Goldberg presents a long list of Jewish terrorists who are commemorated with honor – having streets named after them. He focuses primarily upon the Jerusalem neighborhood of East Talpiot:
“Nearly all the streets in East Talpiot are named after Jews convicted and hanged as terrorists by the British before 1948. That’s right: Israeli streets named after Jewish terrorists. Don’t let anyone tell you different. There were 12 of them: nine members of the Irgun and three from the Stern Group, or Lehi. Two were hanged for assassinating the British minister Lord Moyne in Cairo in 1945. One unsuccessfully attacked an Arab civilian bus in the Galilee in 1938. Three participated in the 1947 Acre prison break. The rest attacked British security personnel. In addition to streets named for each individual, the neighborhood’s main drag bears the name by which they’re collectively remembered: Olei HaGardom, “those who ascended the gallows.” Dozens more cities around Israel have an Olei HaGardom Street. Many have streets named for the individual members, too. Two other streets in East Talpiot are named for Shmuel Azar and Moshe Marzouk, Egyptian Jews hanged in Cairo in 1955 for bombing the American and British libraries. The operation, known as the Lavon Affair, was a bone-headed plot by Israeli military intelligence meant to sour Egypt’s ties with the West. Elsewhere in Israel are streets named for Hirsh Lekert, hanged in Vilna in 1902 for trying to assassinate the tsarist governor; Sholom Schwartzbard, who confessed to assassinating Ukrainian rebel leader Simon Petlura in Paris in 1926, but was acquitted by a French jury; and Herschel Grynszpan, who assassinated a Nazi diplomat in Paris in November 1938, touching off Kristallnacht.”
But that’s history, one might be tempted to say. What about now? Is Israel involved in state terror?
This was indeed the conclusion of the UN Fact Finding mission to Gaza 2009, headed by (Zionist Jewish) judge Richard Goldstone, in its finding that the acts of Israel in Gaza were a “terrorising” of a “civilian population”. Goldstone had noted that the policy that appeared to be applied here was essentially the “Dahiya doctrine”, patented by the current chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, when he was chief of Northern Command in 2006 during Israel’s attack on the Dahiya civilian neighborhood of Beirut in its “asymmetric warfare” – Dahiya was a neighborhood that was assessed to house many Hizbollah members. Years after the Lebanon invasion, the Jerusalem Post notes that “at least once a month here [in the Defense Ministry], a disagreement erupts between the top generals over the significance of the Dahiya Doctrine and whether it should be used again in a future conflict. Most believe it should.”
“What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on,” Eizenkot said in an interview two years after Lebanon. “We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”
But when Israel enacts such terror, we are being asked to confirm – not condemn – Israel’s right to “self-defense”. And we can’t call it terror, that would be extreme. Even when it’s clear-cut murder, by a soldier – it can’t be called that (as I observed before).
The last major Israeli campaign against Gaza in 2014 was supported throughout by 95% of the Israeli Jewish public. 95 percent of polled Israelis were said to be in agreement that medic soldier Elor Azarya did not commit murder when he fired a bullet into the head of a wounded, immobile Palestinian, Abdel Fattah Al Sharif, 21, in March in occupied Hebron. Netanyahu says that “Israeli soldiers are not murderers”, and opines historically that its terrorists are not terrorists.
Now we are being demanded by this state, to condemn the terror of last Wednesday, and it can’t go fast enough.
I oppose violence. If I thought this condemnation was about opposing violence – even about opposing terror – then I would feel that it was very responsible to condemn. But this is not what it’s about. The condemnation that Israel wants is a card of sympathy for its violent policies of collective punishment, and general terrorizing of a whole population. I am concerned that I will end up supporting terrorism, by condemning it.
So instead, I chose to write this – to demonstrate how similar we all are as humans – and yet how cynically we can exploit terms in order to control others. I condemn that.