In recent years, those in the Western world have become accustomed to viewing Arab countries as the origin of terrorist groups and Israel and various Western countries as the victims of terrorist activities. However, terrorism played a key role in the establishment of Israel, and many Western nations provided support for the terrorist attacks that were undertaken as part of the Jewish Independence Movement.
Historical Roots of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
According to Slater, Zionism, the Jewish nationalist movement, arose early in the past century in response to 2,000 years of anti-Semitism in Europe. This rampant anti-Semitism had left the Jewish people essentially homeless, so that they saw no choice but to found a Jewish state. Unfortunately, there was no available land on which such a state could be established. Although initially somewhat open-minded regarding potential locations, Zionist leaders eventually fixated on Palestine. This desire was based on Palestine being the Jewish Biblical homeland before the expulsion of the Jews by the Romans 2,000 years previously. However, both Christians and Muslims also held historical claims to Palestine, and for more than 1,300 years, Arabs had inhabited the land. The Palestinians at first attempted to maintain their claim to the region through non-violent resistance, but after being subjected to a campaign of terror undertaken by several Jewish military organizations, they eventually adopted terrorist tactics similar to those that had been used against them for the establishment of the Israeli state.
From the 1920s onward, the Zionists adopted an approach known as the Iron Wall, which involved "the systematic but calibrated use of force to teach Arabs that Israel, the Jewish state-on-the-way, was ineradicable, regardless of whether it was perceived by them to be just" (Lustick, 2008, p. 30). Herman asserts that Israel's long-term deportations and killing of non-Jewish individuals, part of this Iron Wall strategy that has been in place since before the establishment of the Israeli state, are a form of ethnic cleansing. According to Lustick, the Iron Wall approach provoked a large number of military encounters in which Arabs suffered humiliating defeats and devastating losses.
The result of the aggressive takeover of Palestine was that entire villages were rendered stateless, dispossessed, occupied, impoverished, and politically oppressed, their citizens living out their lives as miserable refugees. A large number of Jews were forced out of Arab countries as well - approximately 560,000. Although Israel views these Jews as displaced in the same manner as those Palestinian Arabs rendered homeless by the Israeli military, there is one critical difference. Because all displaced Jews are automatically granted citizenship in Israel, none are forced to reside in miserable refugee camps like so many of those who had formerly called Palestine their home.
During the Jewish takeover of Palestine, many Palestinian Arabs fled the region for fear of being killed, particularly after the various massacres undertaken by Israeli terrorist groups. Many more left because they were ordered to evacuate. By contrast, although Israeli citizens have had to live with the threat of Palestinian terrorism since the state of Israel was established, these terrorist acts do not threaten the country's national security, and individual Israelis are significantly more likely to die in traffic accidents than to become the victims of terrorist acts.
A 1947 United Nations resolution granted the Jews approximately 50% of Palestine but certain Jewish terrorist groups were dissatisfied with this solution and angry that Britain continued to place limits on Jewish immigration to the region. The British government, which had become disillusioned with the Israeli project due to the actions of several Jewish terrorist organizations, withdrew from Palestine in 1948, after which Palestine's Jewish settlers quickly proclaimed Israel to be an independent country and sought to expand their borders well beyond those established by the U.N. resolution. As a result of these expansionist activities, in 1949 alone, 750,000 people were displaced; by 2006, this number had reached 6 million, with 1.5 million remaining as wards of the U.N. The majority of these people have one goal: to reclaim Palestine and return to their homes.
Britain's Early Involvement
According to van Oord (2008), Britain had a long history of involvement in the region prior to the establishment of an Israeli state, stretching back to concern over Napoleon's failed attempt at conquest in the area in 1799. Napoleon's interest in the region triggered a desire in Britain to establish a connection with the Holy Land, which manifested in the creation of a British consulate in Jerusalem in the late 1830s and the Palestine Exploration Fund several decades later. Because the sympathies of British protestants lay with the Jews of the Bible, they came to view the Jews as the Chosen People. This allegiance that was to have disastrous consequences for Palestine's indigenous, predominantly Muslim population, as they came to be viewed by the British protestants as invaders who could claim neither natural or nor religious rights to the land, and the Muslims were equally suspicious of the British. Ozacky-Lazar and Kabha note that the Arabs believed the British to be not only collaborating with the Jewish settlers, but even providing weapons and military instruction.
Prior to the establishment of Israel, the Western world viewed Palestine as a backward, primitive country that had changed little in 2,000 years. It was this perception that provided intellectual legitimacy for Western involvement, for many believed that the region could only be redeemed through modernization and a shift from Muslim to Judeo-Christian values. This also enabled the Western world to characterize acts of imperialist conquest as charitable initiatives designed to support primitive peoples in making the transition from wretched squalor to affluent modernity, and this was the attitude that shaped Britain's involvement in the region.
Zionists demanded that the League of Nations and Britain impose Jewish policy and support Jewish settlement in the region. Although peace in the region was Zionism's ultimate objective, it was to be "a peace based on resignation of the enemy to an unchangeable reality rather than acceptance of the justice of the Zionist cause" (Lustick, 2008, p. 31). In response to these pressures from Zionist interests, with the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain promised to help establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine (it is worth noting that this was not originally specified to be an independent state). However, despite Britain's colonial imposition on Palestine, no real moral argument can be made on behalf of Britain's right to dispose of Palestine as it saw fit.
British opinion of the situation began to shift as Jewish terrorist sects stepped up their activities and the displaced Arabs became increasingly desperate. According to van Oord, in 1929, ethnic riots gave rise to violence that took the lives of 250 Jews and Arabs. Tension and violent clashes increased over the years, and the British Shaw Committee, set up to investigate the problem, concluded that "Jewish immigration and land acquisition was turning the Arabs into a landless and discontented class, who rightly feared that their national aspirations were jeopardized and their economic future endangered" (Van Oord, 2008, p. 221.). This conclusion was at odds with the general Western belief that the Jewish influx would have a positive, modernizing effect on the Arab populace and contributed to the decision of British authorities to temporarily limit Jewish immigration to the region. However, the majority of Europeans and North Americans continued to blame the Arabs for the violence that was forever erupting. In addition, the horrors of the Holocaust ensured that Western sympathies lay even more firmly with the Jewish cause.
The Roots of Jewish Terrorism
According to Perliger and Weinberg (2003), there is an ancient historical precedent for Jewish terrorism. The authors note that as early as 66-73 CE, the Zealots, members of a militant Jewish sect, committed public murders as part of their rebellion against Roman rule. Their goal was to trigger increased Roman repression, which would ideally lead to Jewish rebellion. They believed that although they were in a relatively powerless position, God was on their side and would enable them to achieve victory despite Rome's military prowess. The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, leading to the sacking of Jerusalem. As a result of this disaster, Talmudic literature developed the tradition of the Three Oaths, which in essence advised the Jewish people not to provoke government authorities. However, later revolutionaries were to reject this pacifist stance. Such individuals, primarily intellectuals, used terrorism to fight the Tsarist autocracy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Combat Organisation of the Socialist Revolutionaries was one such group. Their methods, along with the view of terrorism as a means of self-defense, were adopted by the Zionists in Palestine in the early twentieth century.
Beginning in the 1920s, Zionist military strategy revolved around building, training, and equipping an army that would be able to protect the Jewish people, and later the state of Israel, and that could deliver "painful preemptive or retaliatory blows against Arab enemies . . . to ensure victories of such vividness and consequence that Arabs would come to regard Israel's existence as an immutable, if unpleasant, fact of Middle Eastern life" (Lustick, 2008, p. 46). According to former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, Israel's military ruthlessly provoked clashes and even invented incidents on many occasions in order to have an excuse to retaliate and escalate the violence.
Jewish terrorism prior to the establishment of Israel is most strongly associated with two radical right-wing organizations - the Irgun (later known as Etzel) and the Lehi. However, many Arabs view the more moderate Hagana, which was to become the foundation of the Israeli military, as a terrorist organization as well.
Perliger and Weinberg describe the evolution of Jewish military groups, beginning with the Ha-Shomer, whose goals were to defend the Jewish presence in Palestine. The Ha-Shomer organization, established in 1909, was elitist, clandestine, and nationalistic. This organization disintegrated in 1914, making way for the Hagana, which was to become the prominent Jewish military organization in the post-WWI years. The Haganah evolved as "a countrywide self-defense organization" whose goal was to establish "an underground military organization that would act to guarantee the achievements of the Zionist program and the conversion of Palestine into a Jewish national homeland" (Emile Shofani, qtd. in Ozacky-Lazar & Kabha, 2002, p. 46).
The Hagana, which rose in power from 1919 to 1921, was quite similar to the Ha-Shomer in its nationalistic and leftist goals, though its leadership eventually shifted from labor interests to those of the elected establishment. As Arab attacks on Jewish targets intensified throughout the 1920s, support for The Haganah grew, as did its military prowess and infrastructure. The orientation of the group gradually shifted from defense to active combat and helping to establish new Jewish settlements, and the organization eventually evolved to become the mainstream Israeli military.
Lustick describes the shift in the Israeli military approach whereby "force against Arabs and Muslims [was] increasingly treated as a kind of rattonade," or "rat hunt," which was a "term used to characterize the French practice in Algeria of entering casbahs and other Muslim quarters, killing the inhabitants, and then quickly returning to European areas or bases; in other words, "a violent strike against the enemy on the other side of the wall for purposes of punishment, destruction and psychological release" (p. 47). Herman (2002) lists the methods used by Israeli terrorists who acted as part of the Hagana or on behalf of various splinter groups. These terrorist activities included bombardments to drive Arab peoples from their homes in order to clear the land for Israel, murder of Arab civilians, and leaving explosives in public places for detonation by remote control. Despite their claims of targeting Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, the Israeli military has attacked not only civilian residences but also hospitals; has deprived civilians of food, water, and electricity; bulldozed and rocket bombed homes; and committed acts of vandalism. However, the Haganah (which had participated in a number of these terrorist activities), and later the Israeli military, were by no means the most aggressive in their persecution of those perceived as standing in the way of an independent Jewish state.
Over the course of the 1920s, a number of additional small, right-wing organizations with nationalistic goals formed, and these were to become the foundation for Jewish terrorism against the Palestinians. One such group was Brit Habirionim, which was active in the early 1930s. Strongly influenced by Italian fascism and far more radical than the mainstream Jewish settlers of the time, they considered both the British Mandate and Zionist establishment to be corrupt and inefficient, unable to ensure that the Jews fulfilled their perceived destiny of establishing an independent state. After engaging in a flurry of terrorist activities, the organization was dismantled in 1933 when the British Mandatory Authority arrested its leaders. Other groups that were to play an even more significant role in Jewish terrorism included the Irgun and the Lefi.
The Irgun (Etzel)
The Irgun (later known as the Etzel) was established in the 1930s in Palestine "as the armed wing of the right-wing Revisionist party," led by Menachem Begin, who would later become Israel's prime minister. Perliger & Weinberg detail the history of the Irgun, a clandestine military organization with a far-right political mandate that helped enormous numbers of Jews immigrate to Palestine despite Britain's efforts to quell the influx. The group also was also responsible for a variety of terrorist acts against both the Arabs and the British occupiers in Palestine. When the Arab uprising took place in the late 1930s, the Haganah adopted a policy of restraint, whereas the Irgun launched a reign of terror that included more than 60 arbitrary attacks using guns and explosives against Arab civilians, careful to always label these attacks as retaliations. The methods used, such as leaving explosive devices in a crowded marketplace, were remarkably similar to those utilized by the displaced Palestinians later on.
Although the Haganah's official position was to condemn the terrorist activities of more extreme groups, such as the Deir Yassin Massacre undertaken by the Irgun and the Lehi, historian Aref al-Aref asserts that there is evidence that this massacre of Arabs "took place with the consent of the the Haganah command in Jerusalem" because the Haganah "forces occupied the village immediately after the massacre and raised the Zionist flag" (Ozacky-Lazar & Kabha, 2002, p. 47). This, along with later cooperation between the Hagana, the Irgun, and the Lehi, suggested that although the Haganah sought to avoid the greatest excesses, its sympathies lay with the more aggressive terrorist sects overall.
According to Rowley and Taylor, in 1944, as it became apparent that the Allied Forces would be victorious, the Irgun ended its cease-fire. Significant contributing factors to the group's resumption of activities included the perception that the British were not sufficiently grateful for Israel's assistance during the war and the continued restriction of Jewish immigration by the British. The organization demanded that British interests withdraw from the area in favor of a Jewish government. The Irgun's three primary goals post-WWII goals were to wrest Palestine from British control through any possible means and establish Jewish rule throughout Palestine. The Irgun expanded and consolidated its operations in the run-up to the establishment of the Israeli state. The organization had developed a military philosophy that justified acts of terrorism, which were carried out by small, compartmentalized units. Such acts were highly effective, as they had the element of surprise on their side. These attacks, committed against the British occupiers as well as the Arabs, were condemned by Arabs, British, and mainstream Jewish establishment alike. British authorities made a number of arrests and imprisoned a number of Irgun activists, but despite these measures, the Irgun continued with its terrorist attacks undaunted until WWII when an umbrella organization called the Hebrew Rebellion Movement was created, encompassing the Irgun, the Lehi (a radical splinter group of Israeli Liberation Fighters), and the the Haganah. However, cooperation among the three organizations was soon demolished when the Irgun blew up Jerusalem's King David Hotel, targeting the headquarters of various British authorities. The attack took the lives of at least 82 people and injured many more, and many of the victims were innocent civilians. When their union with the more moderate Haganah was dissolved, the Irgun and the Lehi again stepped up their terrorist activities.
According to Rowley and Taylor, after the British had withdrawn due to increased targeting of British authorities by Jewish terrorists, the Haganah and the Irgun, along with WWII veterans from the Jewish Brigade, came together to form the Israeli military with the goal of seizing all of Palestine. A number of Arab countries including Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan then invaded Palestine, hoping to drive out the Israelis, but they faced a formidable enemy. The Israeli military was 100,000 strong and had arms provided by France (as an act of hostility directed against Britain) and Russia (via Czechoslovakia), and was able to expand its borders to encompass 80% of Palestine. Arabs responded by murdering 1,300 Israelis between 1949 and 1956, and Israel retaliated by launching increasingly severe attacks against the Arab nations. Egypt and Syria remained militant and continued to put up fierce resistance for quite some time, whereas Jordan and Lebanon took a more duplicitous approach, establishing under-the-table land settlement contracts with Israel. In 1967, the four countries again gathered to attack Israel but Israel achieved a decisive victory, seizing the Sinai Peninsula, capturing all of Jerusalem, occupying the Golan Heights, and conquering Jordinian territory west of the Jordan River. In 1973, Egypt and Syria again launched a surprise attack against Israel, and while they had some initial success, within three weeks Israel, with the support of the United States, had again gained the upper hand.
Despite their earlier resolve, in more recent years, many Arab nations have been less enthusiastic about engaging in a fierce fight with Israel on behalf of the displaced Palestinians. Egypt has on several occasions refused to be drawn into war with Israel on the Palestinians' behalf, and since the mid-1970s, Syria has refused to allow Palestinians to use Damascus as a base to launch raids against Israel.
The Irgun, otherwise known as Freedom Fighters for Israel or the Stern gang after its leader Abraham Stern, was a splinter group that broke away from the Irgun when the latter group agreed to a cease-fire with the British at the start of WWII. According to Perliger and Weinberg, the Lehi was even more radical than the Irgun. Lehi members believed that Jewish independence could be achieved only through violent struggle and terrorist actions. Like the other Jewish terrorist groups, the Lehi was influenced by both Italian fascism and the Bolshevist Revolution. However, the group was even more vehement in its belief that Jewish religion, race, and national values were superior to all others and that violence was the only means to achieve an independent Jewish state. The group adopted a policy of political assassination and deliberate targeting of civilians to achieve its aims.
According to Perliger and Weinberg, religion played a stronger role in the Lehi than in other Jewish terrorist groups. The outlook of the organization was very right wing, characterized by xenophobia, national egotism, and the expectation that the individual sacrifice his own needs to those of the nation. Poorly planned terrorist attacks on British targets carried out by Lehi members led to the death of innocent civilians and police officers, some of whom were Jewish, which provoked the mainstream Jewish establishment to cooperate with the British Mandate in working to expel the radical, quasi-fascist group. By 1942, the majority of Lehi activists had been captured and the group's leader killed. A small number of remaining Lehi members tried to carry on the organization's work, reflexively opposing the Zionist socialist movement, which they saw as nothing more than a tool of the British Mandate. The Lehi believed that the British supported the Arabs because they preferred to rule over a people they considered primitive, rather than the Jewish, which the Lehi considered to be cultured. The Lehi's position was that Arabs must be removed from Palestine either through expulsion or slaughter, and that there was no room for compromise.
Perliger and Weinberg note that although the Haganah had formerly sided with the mainstream Zionist and British authorities, in 1945 it shifted its alliance to the Lehi. Two factors influencing this shift were the horrors suffered by the Jewish people during Holocaust and Britain's continued restriction of Jewish immigration to the region. However, the Lehi soon found the Haganah too moderate and once again the two groups split. Even after the United Nations created the two states, one Jewish and one Arab, the Lehi continued with its terrorist mandate, which included the assassination of Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, a U.N. diplomat. This assassination was part of the group's attempts to thwart the efforts of the mainstream Israeli government and the U.N. to establish a cease-fire between Israel and the Arab world, fearing that this would lead to a loss of control by Israel as former colonialist powers sought to re-establish control over the region. When the Israeli army prepared to go into battle against a number of Arab states, Lehi members joined the mainstream military, and the Lehi was officially dissolved in 1948. However, many former leaders of the group remained active in Israeli politics.
Jewish terrorist groups such as the Irgun and the Lehi did not operate in isolation. They drew support from a number of different countries, including Italy and Poland.
Italy: Fascist Support for Jewish Terrorist Organizations
At the height of the Jewish Independence Movement, Italy's sympathies lay with the Palestinians due to concern about the potential for places considered holy by the Catholic Church falling under Jewish control. The Mussolini regime was openly pro-Arab and pro-Islamic. Italy's preference for the Arabs is evident in the fact that the leaders of certain Libyan Arab tribes had awarded Mussolini the gold Sword of Islam. Despite this sympathy for enemies of the Jews, support for Israel's primary terrorist organizations - the Irgun and the Lehi - came from Italy, largely because many officers there felt that they were sincere fascist organizations that would help to spread the fascist ideology throughout Europe. Also, as Pinto notes, because the Revisionist Movement, from which the Irgun drew its mandate, appeared to have widespread sympathy among Zionists, it was in Italy's interest to establish useful relationships with the movement's leaders and ideally gain some influence and control over it rather than risking France gaining such leverage (p. 97). As for why the Irgun would seek an alliance with fascist Italy where anti-semitism was rife, in addition to the group's right-wing outlook, it was desperate for an ally that could help drive the British from Palestine.
Despite ordinances in the 1930s that gave rise to the Unione delle Comunita Israelitiche Italiane or Union of Italian Jewish Communities, pro-Arab sentiment remained strong in Italy, largely due to Italy's hostility toward Britain and France, as well as aversion to what was perceived as the American way of life and Zionism, the latter of which was thought to have socialist undertones. Some in Italy feared that Israel could become the "Trojan Horse of Russian penetration into a region where Catholics and Italians still had a great deal of support" (Graziano, 2007, p. 293). As the strength of socialist and pro-British elements within the mainstream Zionist movement grew, Italy increasingly distanced itself from the Jewish cause. However, it should be noted that Italy's formal policy was one of impartiality after the birth of the Israeli state.
Although Italy's sympathies lay with the Palestinians for many years, there has been a recent shift, with the majority of Italians now favoring Israel. There are a number of reasons for this change. First, support for Israel is now associated with the political right wing, and support for Palestine with the political left. Also, the 1991 Gulf War and Islamic terrorist attacks in the United States, the UK, and Spain, as well as the assassination of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch director who produced a controversial film about Islam, all contributed to the shifting of alliances.
Poland: A Training Ground for the Irgun
According to Brumberg, Poland was once a haven for Jews. The country had been home to a large Jewish population since the 800s, and from the late 1300s, they enjoyed political, social, and religious freedoms well beyond what other countries had granted them. It was not until the 1600s that anti-Semitism began to spread throughout the country due to the Counter Reformation zeal of the Jesuits, and this new attitude was accompanied by increasing political restrictions on the Jewish population, along with harassment, assaults, and even murder. This hatred escalated and reached a fever pitch during WWII when the country suffered much hardship and Polish citizens sought a convenient scapegoat for their troubles. Although some Polish citizens aided the Jews during the Holocaust, many more expressed indifference to their fate.
According to Wentling, Poland was awash in anti-semitism in the years leading up to WWII. Poland's premier, Ignace Paderewski, feared that the Jewish people planned to create a Palestine within Poland. Although there was no evidence that this was true, the fact that the Hebrew names for Palestine and Poland were identical provoked suspicion, hostility, and outright violence in which many Polish Jews were massacred. These unfortunate people made convenient scapegoats for economically desperate Poles who needed someone to blame for foreign interference in their country's affairs, and were angered at the outpouring of support for the Jews coming in from the United States. Despite the fears of the Polish nationalists, the Polish Jews were not a homogenous entity that aimed to take over part of Poland. The reality was that Poland's Jews belonged to various fragmented political orientations which included mainstream Zionists, Mizrachi Zionists for whom religion was a focus, the Agudath (ultraorthodox), the Revisionists, the Labor Movement Zionists, the Assimilationists, and the Bund, a socialist party that had come to dominate the political life of Jews in Poland by the second half of the 1930s.
Given the extreme anti-Semitism in Poland and the desire for a racially homogenous Poland, it was decided that the most expedient way to get rid of the large Jewish population in the country was to support the creation of Israel. It was assumed that once Israel was established, Poland's Jews would emigrate en masse. Thus, the country was a significant source of support for the Jewish Irgun group, supplying arms and offering the services of the Polish military to train elite Jewish officer corps.
France: A Nuclear Ally
France was traditionally a strong supporter of the Jewish cause, supplying arms to the Haganah and later the Israeli army in defiance of Britain. The two armies, French and Israeli, exchanged both military plans and secret information, and France promised that it would assist Israel if the Arabs attacked.
Heiman identifies many of the primary motivations for France's continuing support of Israel. In the 1940s, the Jews and the French began to cooperate on nuclear projects. A number of French nuclear scientists were Jewish, and others who had taken part in the French Resistance over the course of World War II had strong sympathies for the Jews due to the horrors of the Holocaust. Their profound connection with the victimized Jewish people was a factor in military and scientific cooperation, though the practical desire to secure the assistance of talented Jewish nuclear physicists such as Teller and Oppenheimer and brilliant Israeli computer experts also played a role. In addition, ties with Israel would increase the likelihood of receiving nuclear aid from the United States. France later resumed its ties with the Arab world and withdrew its nuclear cooperation from Israel, though it remained friendly and sympathetic toward the Israelis.
The Soviet Bloc: Shifting Alliances
According to Kelemen, the Soviet Union had originally taken a strong stance against the Zionists, which it viewed as an oppressive, imperialist force. However, the Soviet bloc modified its position somewhat during World War II. Two factors that influenced this shift were Germany's attack on Russia and the atrocities committed against the Jews during the Holocaust. Although many were still concerned about the forcing of an independent Jewish state overtop of an unwilling Arab populace, the Soviet bloc soon came to see that a Jewish state would be more effective in advancing its aims in the Middle East than an Arab one, and so Czechoslovakia began supplying arms to the Hagana in 1948. Eventually the Soviet position on the Arab-Israeli problem became dichotomized because the communists wished to "reconcile the traditional communist support for Arab nationalism with [their] wish to see the Zionist movement's confrontation with Britain lead to a diminution in the latter's power in the Middle East" (Kelemen, 2006, p. 147). This desire to see the British ousted from the region led the Soviets to support the creation of an Israeli state.
The United States: Israel's Primary Defender
Herman asserts that Arab civilian targets were chosen consciously, deliberately, and strategically by various Israeli terrorist groups and also as part of the Jewish strategy prior to the establishment of Israel, and that the Israeli military continues to act with full confidence that Western governments will take Israel's side and that mainstream Western media will turn a blind eye, and there is plenty of evidence to support this hypothesis. Jewish settlers and military interests in Palestine received aid from the large American Jewish population at the height of the Jewish Independence Movement, and American sympathies still tend to lie with Israel. While much of the Arab world continues to view Israel as nothing more than "an outpost of Western Imperialism," Israel's staunchest defenders in the West are inclined to view it as "the front line of the Western world in its civilizational battle with the Muslim and Arab fundamentalist, obscurantist forces" (Lustic, 2008, p. 39).
According to Khalidi, divisions between the Arab world and the West have deep roots in the past. Arab experiences with western colonialism were a major factor in this divide, which existed even before the creation of the Israeli state, and Western, particularly American, support of the Israeli state exacerbated this divide. As Western Europe grew ever more disengaged from the Israel-Palestine conflict, the United States was increasingly seen to represent Western involvement in the region. In later years, diplomatic and military backing of Palestine by the Soviet Union was seen as a counterforce. From Russia's perspective, the ongoing conflict represented a good opportunity to side with a popular Arab cause, thus setting itself against the West, and particularly, the United States. However, although the Arabs favored the Soviet Union over the West, since WWII, they became increasingly reluctant to join the military network of either of the superpowers of the era.
Herman notes that the United States has been the primary backer of Israel, providing massive subsidies; offering diplomatic, political, and military protection; looking the other way as Israel expels, tortures, and slaughters Palestinian civilians; and siding with Israel as it periodically invades neighbouring countries such as Lebanon. This unwavering support has been evident in the fact that the U.S. has vetoed approximately 60 U.N resolutions that would have implemented international sanctions against Israel, enabling the Israeli military to continue its systematic violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Herman asserts that although the U.S. tends to refer to the Israeli-Palestine conflict as part of an ongoing war against Arab terrorism, given the enormous imbalance of power between Israel and Palestine, it is more correctly characterized as a slaughter.
The Zionist lobby gained North American support in the early 1940s due to the thesis of a scientist named Lowdermilk. Lowdermilk asserted that Jewish settlement in Palestine would benefit the local populace, because the Arabs would have a larger market in which to sell their produce and more labor and investment opportunities. This hypothesis contributed to both European and North American support of Jewish immigration to the region. Although neither a Jew nor a Zionist, Lowdermilk's work was somewhat influenced by both political and spiritual allegiance, as he was more inclined to identify with the ancient Israelites than the Palestinians.
According to Herman, there are three factors that have historically influenced the U.S. policy in the Middle East with regard to the Jewish settlers and later, Israel. First and foremost, the U.S. requires a strong ally in the oil-rich Middle East, which is of great strategic and economic importance. Israel has also helped the U.S. by supporting American imperial interests in places such as South Africa under apartheid, Mobutu, and various unpopular Latin American regimes. This has enabled the U.S. to maintain its involvement in such places, but avoid being seen as aiding various unsavoury regimes. Another key driver of the U.S. support for Israel is the power of the United States' influential pro-Israel lobby. These interests have had a profound effect on media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict and have successfully pressured various politicians. An additional factor that comes into play is racism. Stereotypical views promoted by the mainstream Western media ensure that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular are presented in a negative light, whereas the Jews are portrayed in a sympathetic manner.
It is also worth noting that given the historical role of the Jewish people as victims, it has been relatively easy for the Western world to continue viewing them as victims of terrorist acts rather than perpetrators. Herman asserts that the mainstream media in the U.S. has historically designated any attack perpetrated against Israel by Palestine an act of terrorism, whereas any aggressive act committed by Israelis against Palestinians is described is counter-terror or retaliatory action. He points out that by definition, terrorism encompasses acts designed to coerce, intimidate, and inspire fear in order to achieve political ends. As such, Israel's frequent use of force throughout the years against the Palestinians should be defined as terrorism. In fact, even former Israeli U.N. Ambassador Abba Eban has agreed, noting that casualties are frequently inflicted against innocent Arab civilians. In addition, over the years, Israel has routinely used torture with only occasional criticism from mainstream Western media. An estimated 5,000 Palestinians were tortured in 1991 alone, according to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group.
Throughout history the Jewish people have often been persecuted and pushed to the margins of most societies they have inhabited, and as a result, have tended to form vigilante groups in self-defense. These groups historically deployed terrorist tactics, as such tactics are the only way for a relatively powerless group to effectively attack a powerful adversary. However, even after the Jewish people had attained a position of power within the Middle East, many of these groups, entrenched in the old philosophy of self-defense, carried on as though still fighting a much more powerful adversary.According to Perliger and Weinberg, what made the Jewish terrorist groups unique was the dual incorporation of both socialist and fundamentalist-messianic elements in their philosophies. Key elements of these groups included selective interpretation of traditional texts to justify violent actions, the belief in simplistic notions of good and evil with no shades of gray in between, and a strongly authoritarian outlook that drew upon fascist traditions. When the Jewish people attained their goal of sovereignty, such terrorist groups largely dissolved, though terrorist acts committed against Arab people carried on as part of a broader government strategy, which included the traditional tendency toward vigilantism that such groups had adopted.
What conclusions can be drawn from Jewish terrorism in the establishment of the Israeli state and beyond? Shughart asserts that the main lesson is that "terrorism can succeed" because "the Irgun was instrumental in securing national independence . . . Israel," which shows that "relatively small groups of urban guerrillas, though outmanned and outgunned . . . can demoralize great empires by waging campaigns of carefully planned attacks on targets inevitably left pregnable by the larger, but less flexible forces arrayed against them" (p. 20). He also notes that repressive countermeasures taken by moderate governments or other authorities will likely serve to advance the interests of the terrorist entity by shifting public opinion in their favor. Ironically, the tactics used by the Palestinian terrorists against Israel in an attempt to regain their homeland, so fiercely denounced by the Israelis and the Western world, are the very same strategies as those once deployed by Jewish terrorists in the establishment of Israel.
In recent years, although many Israelis on the political left can envision a future in which two states exist peacefully side by side, those on the political right have been less likely to endorse this vision. The Iron Wall approach is being gradually abandoned (although unilateralist, coercive policies are still embraced by many), leaving a large number of Israelis confused and anxious about the future. They now face a hard decision: "engagement with the real Middle East and the demands it makes upon Israel for justice, democracy, and territory, or escape from it" (Lustick, 2008, p. 51).
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