How you define a terrorist act
depends on whether you're looking down the wrong end of
By Ismail Zayid COMMENTARY
Murad Sezer / The Associated Press
A Palestinian boy rides his bicycle past a
destroyed building which was shelled by Israeli
tanks the previous night in the Khan Yunis
refugee camp, Gaza strip, on Oct. 28.
THE RECENT horrendous massacre of thousands of
innocent victims, on Sept. 11 Sept. in New York and
Washington, brought a great deal of attention to the
subject of terrorism, Osama bin Laden and his group, al-Qaida.
There has also been some insinuation, by the media
and politicians, towards Arabs and Muslims, with
reference to the Middle East and the Palestine conflict.
But nowhere is there any mention of Israeli terrorism
in relation to this conflict.
Terrorism is defined in a variety of ways. An
interesting definition is put forward by the noted
intellectual Noam Chomsky, who wrote: "There is
another defining property of 'terrorism' in contemporary
(Orwellian) newspeak: it refers to violent acts by Them,
Another definition is when the men, women and
children who are killed are Palestinians and the gunmen
or pilots who murder them are Israelis. This form of
terrorism is not terrorism, we are told, but mere
retaliation, self defence or what they may call
The late professor Israel Shahak, a Holocaust
survivor, and then chairman of the Israeli League for
Human and Civil Rights, wrote: "There is nothing
new in the fact that Israel is a terrorist state, which,
almost from its inception, has used its intelligence
service (the Mossad) to assassinate people on foreign
soil with any violence or terror it considers necessary
for its ends."
The actions of the state of Israel since its
creation, and those of the terrorist gangs (the Stern,
Irgun Zwei Leumi and the Haganah) that brought it about,
testify to Israel's long-established record in
terrorism, not only in the Middle East but on the
international scene. This record is massive and would
take volumes to relate but I will refer only to a few
Assassination of Palestinian leaders and
intellectuals, in Europe and the Middle East has gone on
for years. This includes the 1972 Lillehammer affair in
Norway, where an innocent Moroccan waiter was killed in
error, instead of a targeted Palestinian; the murder of
the Palestinian diplomat and scholar Naim Khader in 1985
in Brussels, and many others.
Fathi Shikaki was assassinated in Malta in 1995 on
the orders of Yitzhak Rabin. The role of Ehud Barak,
dressed as an Arab woman, in the assassination of three
Palestinian leaders, including the poet Kemal Nasser, in
1973 in Beirut, must not be forgotten.
Israeli-targeted assassination of Palestinians
described as activists, as well as bystanders, continues
to this day. Israeli assassination is not limited to
Palestinians but includes the 1944 assassination of the
British minister Lord Moyne in Cairo as planned by
A horrible crime was committed in the assassination
of the Swedish nobleman, Count Folke Bernadotte, a UN
mediator, on Sept. 17, 1948, in Jerusalem, on the orders
of Yitzhak Shamir, who later became prime minister of
Israel. Count Bernadotte's sin was his recommendation,
as the UN mediator, that Palestinian refugees who were
driven out from their homes by Israel should be allowed
to return to their homes. This recommendation was the
substance of the UN resolution 194, on Dec. 11, 1948,
stipulating the right of return for the Palestinian
refugees as soon as possible.
Israeli use of chemical weapons is also on record in
the botched attempt to assassinate Khalid Meshal in
Amman in 1997, on the orders of Prime Minister Benjamin
Incredible as it may seem, Israel also indulged in
the development of bioterrorism.
Some readers may recall Daniel Paul's column in The
Chronicle-Herald titled Where is the outrage over
Israel's work on biological weapon? (Jan. 15, 1999). His
column referred to a report in The Sunday Herald - The
Ethnic Bomb: Israeli weapon would kill Arabs, spare
Jews, (Nov. 15, 1998), from The Sunday Times of London,
quoting Israeli scientists and politicians.
The first act of air piracy in the history of civil
aviation was carried out by Israel in 1954, when a
civilian Syrian airliner was forced down in Tel Aviv and
its passengers and crew held hostage, despite
The first act of shooting down a civilian airliner
was deliberately carried out by Israel when a Libyan
airliner was shot down by Israeli jet fighters over
Sinai in February 1973, on the orders of Israeli prime
minister Golda Meir, killing 107 of its passengers and
its entire French crew.
Israeli terror was not restricted to Palestinians,
Arabs and Europeans but included its own closest
supporter and ally, the United States. In 1954, Israeli
secret agents bombed the U.S. diplomatic centres in
Cairo and Alexandria (known as the Lavon Affair), in an
attempt to put the blame on the Egyptians. Israel later
honoured the perpetrator, Marcello Ninio.
In June 1967, Israeli forces attacked and sank the
U.S. spy ship USS Liberty, and strafed rescue boats,
killing 35 and injuring 170 U.S. servicemen, in an
attempt to conceal its own secret communications, and
again tried to blame it on the Egyptians. To this day,
incredible as it may seem, the U.S. Congress refuses to
hold an inquiry into this crime, as requested by the
surviving crew. Needless to say, no sanctions were
imposed or calls to extradite the perpetrators were
Zionist terror did not spare Jews. In 1940, Menachem
Begin's Irgun Zwei Leumi terrorist gang bombed the ship
Patria in Haifa harbor, killing 240 Jewish refugees, so
as to put the blame on the British for political gain.
In 1950-1951, Israeli agents were dispatched to Iraq
where they tossed hand grenades into the crowded
Massauda Shem-Tov synagogue, causing numerous deaths, in
order to blame it on the Iraqis and encourage reluctant
Iraqi Jews to emigrate to Israel.
Israeli terrorism against Palestinians continues,
including murder, torture, expropriation of their land,
for the creation of illegal settlements and demolition
of thousands of their homes as well as entire towns and
villages, not to mention numerous massacres, including
those of Deir Yassin, Qibya and Sabra and Shatilla.
The Palestinians of the West Bank have remained under
illegal occupation for over 34 years, in defiance of
international law and UN Security Council resolutions.
Their acts of resistance are described by Israel as
terrorism, yet international law entitles all peoples,
including even the Palestinian people, to resist foreign
Occupation is violence, and to bring an end to
violence and bring peace and security for Israelis and
Palestinians, Israel must comply with international law
and withdraw completely from all territories occupied in
1967, including East Jerusalem.
Israeli acts of belligerency extend beyond its
defiance of international law and Security Council
resolutions to violation of its own agreements with the
Its recent re-occupation, of seven cities and towns
in the Palestinian autonomous areas is illegal. The
pretext for this is the recent assassination of the
Israeli Minister of Tourism, Rehavam Zeevi, by members
of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in
retaliation for Israel's assassination of their leader
Mustafa Zibri two months earlier.
Mr. Zibri's assassination was one of over 50
Palestinian leaders assassinated over the last year. The
invasion of these towns, including Bethlehem and Beit
Jala, using tanks and Apache warships, has resulted in
the demolition of scores of homes and the killing of
over 50 Palestinians, mostly women and children.
The invasion of these towns and cities continues in
defiance of international condemnation and the call for
immediate withdrawal by the U.S., Israel's ally,
benefactor and unquestioning supporter. But, alas,
Israel remains above international law.
The late Canadian historian Frank Epp, then president
of Grebel college of the University of Waterloo, wrote:
"It is true that terrorist acts have been
perpetrated by people identified as Palestinians. But
there is another terrorism which is more vicious and
brutal, that of dispossession and displacement forced
upon the Palestinians.
However, terrorism meted out by the Palestinians,
regrettable as it is, is minute by comparison with that
which has been inflicted on them. The mass media have
failed to make this point adequately."
The tragedy for the Jewish people of Israel, in the
crimes that are committed in their name, is highlighted
in the statement made by the noted British historian
Arnold Toynbee, who stated in a 1961 lecture at McGill
University to a largely Jewish audience: "The
Jewish treatment of the Arabs in 1948 was as morally
indefensible as the slaughter by the Nazis of six
million Jews . . . The most tragic thing in human life
is when people who have suffered impose suffering in
The Palestinian people today are calling for a
modicum of justice. For without this, there will be no
peace for Arab or Jew in the Middle East.
Dr. Ismail Zayid was born and grew up in Beit Nuba,
Palestine. He is the author of two books: Palestine: A
Stolen Heritage, and Zionism: The Myth and the Reality.