For Israelis, There's Terror, and Then There's Terror

A thousand speeches by Benjamin Netanyahu at AIPAC won’t confuse decent people: Palestinian terror is the resort of those who have no choice.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A Palestinian man attacks a Jewish man with a knife after ramming his vehicle into him, as a civilian security guard with a gun closes in. Jerusalem, October 13, 2015.
A Palestinian man attacks a Jewish man with a knife after ramming his vehicle into him, as a civilian security guard with a gun closes in. Jerusalem, October 13, 2015.Credit: Screengrab / AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Between the concealed gloating over Europe’s disaster and the open condescension toward it, Israeli politicians are blurring the fundamental differences between one kind of terror and another.

The blurring is not accidental; it is intended to serve the narrative. Israelis who won’t see the difference between Palestinians and Arabs, Arabs and Muslims, terror and Islam, Hamas and Hezbollah and between the last two and ISIS and Al-Qaida, will see the distinction between kinds of terror as heresy. For them, terror is terror.

Terror is indeed terror in that it is brutal and criminal and targets innocent people indiscriminately. But terror also has kinds and hues and we must distinguish among them.

The first kind is ISIS terror. No justification can be found for it, neither for its goals nor the means it uses. It is meant to impose ISIS’s beliefs by force and intimidation. It will never be satiated or agree to a compromise. Israel could try to teach Europe how to quash it by force, but its chance of succeeding is dubious.

The second kind, Palestinian terror, is criminal in its methods but justified in its cause. There is no connection between the man who committed suicide in Brussels’ Metro and the youth who stabs Israelis at Damascus Gate. A thousand speeches by Benjamin Netanyahu at AIPAC won’t confuse decent people. Palestinian terror is the resort of those who have no choice, a tool of the weak to gain their more-than-justified goals.

It’s true that this kind of terror also hurts innocent people brutally. Its means are similar too. Palestinians attacked planes when Osama Bin Laden was still a business administration student in King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, and Palestinian suicide terrorists preceded ISIS. But all this cannot cover up the difference: ISIS’s goals are insane, the Palestinians’ goals are justified.

What would you say to a Gazan youngster hesitating whether to join the resistance? Is there any point to his life and any chance for his future if he and his colleagues bow their heads submissively before their jailers? Is there anyone, in Israel or the rest of the world, who would remember their existence without the violent resistance that is tagged as terrorism? And their brothers in the West Bank — violence may not have given them any real achievements, but at least it raised their issue and put it on the agenda.

Let’s be honest about it: Had the Palestinians not hijacked airplanes in the early '70s, would anyone in the world know about their disaster? Be interested in their fate? True, nothing has been solved since then, but this is despite their desperate resort to terror, not because of it.

Israel has given the Palestinians and the Arab world a fateful lesson — it understands only force. Only force got Israel to return Sinai, only force led it to the Oslo talks, only by force will the Palestinian problem be solved. This force, in the case of people who have no army or air force, is terror.

The first 20 years of occupation, during which there was little terror, passed pleasantly, so it occurred to nobody to give the Palestinians even a few of their rights. Terror put these rights onto the agenda. Because of the first intifada, they reached Oslo.

The second intifada, which was more savage, brought disaster on them — they lost some of the world’s sympathy and some of the sympathy toward them in Israel. But terror was and remained their only weapon. They have no other. Even if they destroy their entire shabby weapons’ arsenal and swear to walk in the light of Mahatma Gandhi, they have no chance of getting what is theirs without terror.

The third kind of terror is the one exercised by states. Israel, for example. A mass killing of innocents, like the one in Gaza and Lebanon, is not considered terror, because it wasn’t committed by savage Muslims or Shi’ite suicide bombers, but by advanced American planes, flown by ideological Israeli youngsters. But this is also terror, even if of a different kind.

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