Why Israel wants us to say ‘terror’

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Michael Lesher and I have both written articles challenging the ‘terror’ narrative regarding the recent truck-ramming of Israeli soldiers in East Jerusalem: Lesher in Times of Israel here and me on Mondoweiss here. From different angles, we were essentially suggesting that the rather uncritical label ‘terror’ does not seem to take into account the whole setting of an occupied person, targeting soldiers in occupied territory – which seems to rather squarely render it an act of resistance to occupation, not terror. We both noted that Netanyahu’s claims of ISIS connection are but dark hints with no visible factual grounds, apparently conjured for the purpose of posing this case as an “unprovoked” act of hate detached from the local reality of occupation and related to a global terror threat.   

As you may imagine, such challenging can attract heated debate and insults. Yesterday I was called a “*f-ing heartless idiot*” in comments, whereas Michael seems to be getting a whole lot more. I will not indulge too much in the comments such as “disgusting human being”, “demented buffoon”, “twisted mind”, “vile”, “sub-category of human”, “sick” and so on. These are Israeli or Israeli supporters, which seem to be extremely offended by our suggestions. It would appear that by questioning the whole label of ‘terror’, we’ve both touched a raw nerve. The question is what that nerve really is, and why it’s so offensive.

We’ve both made our points, and there’s no need to repeat them. Yet I would like to open this up even a bit further for even more critical thinking:

Both Michael and I, independently, have not even questioned the issue of whether this even was an attack in our respective articles. Such a question can definitely be asked – as it is possible that the ramming was caused by a loss of vehicle control, due to a whole range of reasons. For example, on the 18th of June, an Israeli Jewish driver suffered a heart attack at the wheel, and crashed into a Tel-Aviv café, killing two and injuring six (he later died). Immediately following the crash, bystanders pulled the unconscious driver from the car and began beating him, believing that he was a Palestinian who had driven into the restaurant on purpose, according to the restaurant owner’s wife.“The restaurant was filled with white dust. At first, I thought it was maybe a terror attack,” Shosha San told Israel’s Channel 10. “They thought that the driver was not a good person, they beat him,” she said. “He was unconscious.”

So, the Jewish Israeli driver was believed to be a “not good person”, and therefore was to be beaten, possibly to death, whilst he was unconscious. But later everyone realized he was a “good person”. So – no reason to worry guys, false alarm, just a sad case of a “good person” who had a heart attack (let’s not even consider that he might have been killed by those who beat him), no evildoers here, it’s all good.

But with Fadi al-Qanbar? Oh no, he backed the car after running the soldiers over. According to the testimony of the guide who shot at him (complaining of delayed response of soldiers and suggesting it was an “Azarya” effect), he understood that it was terror when the driver backed. No doubt there. Could it be possible that al-Qanbar lost control, and realizing that he had just plowed into dozens of soldiers who now surrounded him, he panicked, knowing that he might well be extra-judicially executed, as is often the case with perceived “bad people”? Some may say it is unlikely – but we will probably never know, because he was killed on the spot.

But such considerations are regarded so outlandish under the mainstream perception of ‘terror’. As I wrote earlier today to Michael Lesher: “I had chosen to not get into all these additional questions of ‘resonable doubt’, as the issue of reflexive ‘terror’ labelling was a mouthful in itself. In light of this apparently ‘radical’ challenging of narrative which we both undertake, it seemed to me that asking the additional questions would be counterproductive to the argument. I just chose to challenge what is the more glaring assumption – terror.”

Yet as one can easily see, even the challenging of ‘terror’ is extremely contentious and appears offensive to many. To challenge this assumption on reasonable grounds involving international law is often regarded semantic, pedantic, ‘heartless’ – even when we already assume that it was an attack. But to uncritically take the claims of Israeli leaders who also make loose conjectures tying this up to ISIS as facts, is supposed to be ‘sensitive’, ‘caring’. The world does not need to see the evidence for these claims, they are simply assumed to be true, and the issue of the (assumed) attack having targeted soldiers on occupied territory by an occupied Palestinian is apparently not significant. It’s terror, Israel said so. It would be so insensitive to challenge that. Let’s not take a chance – let’s condemn it. The US State Department says “there is absolutely no justification for these brutal and senseless attacks…of terrorism”. 

Indeed why bother with details? Condemn! Condemn! – and in the race to condemn we cannot await investigations that will clarify the motive. It appears safe to assume – as I wrote in June. 

That’s what Israel wants. It wants our sympathy, especially when the world doesn’t seem to be sympathizing enough with its expansionist goals. That’s why it wants the world to say ‘terror’, and it can’t go fast enough, whilst whitewashing its own terror, even the King David bombing many decades later, as Netanyahu did. When it’s Jewish Zionist terror, there’s no limit to how long we can stretch the ‘ambivalence’. But with Palestinian terror – it’s so reflexive, it takes us only a few seconds to establish it. We’re poised to do it, it’s already assumed – “terror”! Because they are simply “not good people”.

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