Even before all the victims in last week's terrorist attack in Be'er Sheva were identified, Israeli security sources had identified those responsible for the attack - the Syrians. A random question by a military correspondent may have been what prompted the heads of the defense establishment, and in their wake the media, to level a series of threats and warnings at Israel's northern neighbor. This automatic accusation did not appear in a vacuum, either. For some time, Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, and with him the senior level of the Israel Defense Forces, has been trying to accuse Damascus of responsibility for the terrorism in Israel.
It's possible that Syria had a part in the Be'er Sheva attack, but, as the director of Military Intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash, said at week's end - contrary to Ya'alon's remarks - Israel has no proof of any such involvement. Certainly it's difficult to imagine that such proof would be forthcoming within hours of the attack. Why, then, were the accusations made? First, this is one way to rebuff the challenge that Syria posed when it called for the renewal of negotiations with Israel. Second, from the point of view of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the talk of Syrian involvement was a means to divert attention from the failure of not building a separation fence in the south, which is due to Sharon's insistence on a route that will be some distance east of the Green Line. Third, this is a way to distance himself from allegations that there is a connection between the terrorist incident and the disengagement plan.
However, the true goal of bringing Syria into the picture is far broader. The attempt to cast responsibility on Damascus is intended to avoid having to cope with the true causes of terrorism. If Syria is responsible, then maybe there is no connection between the occupation and the disgraceful situation in Hebron - where a handful of violent settlers are intimidating the city's Palestinian residents - and the terrorism that emanates from there.
Colonial regimes have always accused external sources of intervening in the liberation struggles waged against them, in order to undermine the justice of the struggles. For example, the Soviet Union and Libya were said to be financing the activity of the African National Congress. The Bosnian freedom fighters who wanted an independent state were said to be the emissaries of Al-Qaida.
This is also Israel's aim in blaming Syria: to blur the justified aspect of the goals of the Palestinian struggle. The same aim underlies the frequent warnings of the defense establishment against Al-Qaida cells that are said to exist in the territories, about Hezbollah, which is said to be funding and organizing terrorist attacks, and about Syria and Iran, which are purportedly equipping terrorists and dispatching them to mount attacks.
The point is that if the war against terrorism is not being waged only against Mohammed and Ahmed from the refugee camp, but also against Iranian and Syrian missiles, then the threat is magnified and goes beyond the question of the occupation. The message is that ending the occupation will not bring with it an end to terrorism, because Syria and Iran are bent on destroying Israel in any case. The war is again being fought against the entire Arab world, and we are again the victim. Bringing in these outside elements also helps Israel recruit world sympathy - especially that of the United States, which is especially sensitive to any mention of Al-Qaida - and brings condemnation of the Palestinians.
For the Israelis, it is apparently easier to deal with their leaders' claim that the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin, Zakariya Zbeidi, is financed by Hezbollah than it is to cope with his life story. That kind of coping would oblige Israel to ask itself what happened to Zbeidi from the time he took part, as a boy, in a theater group established by the Israeli peace activist Arna Mar in the Jenin refugee camp (most of the children who took part in the group - its story has been commemorated in the film "Arna's Children" - were killed in one way or another as adolescents) to the time he became the commander of the killing battalion, and what responsibility Israel bears for the course his life followed.
That viewpoint would also take into account the fact that Zbeidi's mother was killed on the porch of her house and that his brother, other relatives and most of his childhood friends were killed or arrested. But it's easier to say that Hezbollah is simply funding him.
Syria may well be involved in Palestinian terrorism, and maybe Iran, too. But there is no need for learned security assessments to uncover the simple truth: The underlying basis of this terrorism lies in the territories. Nowhere else. The main motivation for the war against us is the aspiration to shake off the cruel yoke of the occupation. The checkpoints, the humiliations, the suppression and the mass imprisonment are the true infrastructure of terrorism. All the rest are props. Palestinian terrorism was not engendered in any external command post. It had its birth among the rubble in the territories, in the hearts of the children who saw their parents humiliated and their lives trampled underfoot. Anyone who truly wants to put an end to terrorism must fight the occupation. Any other war is pointless. All it will do is reduce the scale of terrorism from time to time, and chalk up a few achievements - but it will lose. Check out the history of the liberation movements elsewhere that preceded the Palestinian struggle.
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