It’s been said that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. These days, the expression should be changed to: an ally’s terrorist is our terrorist, also.
Since September 11, our nation has understandably wanted to root out the perpetrators who killed thousands of individuals at the World Trade Center. Wouldn’t any country want to bring to justice those who are responsible for the deaths of its citizens? The problem is that the war against terror has become so huge that some military analysts are worried about a loss of focus on the original goal é getting Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban for allegedly masterminding the 9-11 disaster. But focus is perhaps one of the few angles to this war that has been well-thought out. We say that any nation harboring terrorists will be a target. But we can be certain that this list does not entail Ireland, Germany, Spain, or our country for that matter. And local terrorists are harbored in all of these countries. Rather, all of the countries which have been named or alluded to in our war against terror are either Arab or Muslim, or enemies of Israel.
Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud has already been criticized for not cooperating in reigning in Hizbollah as a terrorist group. Hizbollah is widely viewed as a legitimate resistance force by many in the Middle East é for helping to end Israel’s occupation of South Lebanon. But, Israel says they’re terrorists. That’s good enough for us — they are now terrorists. Now, some Lebanese are fearful that they could become a target for bombing.
But it is the Palestinian Authority that has faced unprecedented pressure. Many Palestinians are widely seen as terrorists by Israel, and thus Palestinian civilians, property, and government facilities are fair game for Israel’s bombing raids. Israel needs only say that they are fighting the same kind of war against Palestinian terror as we said we have been waging on Afghanistan. That Israel has been brutally occupying the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem and depriving Palestinians the most basic of rights is irrelevant. Each suicide bombing has been a blessing in disguise for Israel for each bombing has given Israel the”green light” to tighten a horrendous economic siege, to re-invade cities, to assassinate leaders, send out death squads, and to further bomb the Palestinian infrastructure.
One Israeli soldier even stated to an Israeli TV network that IDF soldiers can shoot at the heads of Palestinians and no questions are asked. As to the feelings generated about September 11, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it best when he was asked how the tragic events bode for Israeli-American relations, Netanyahu said, “very good.”
Very good, indeed. The Israeli government has never sat in a more comfortable position. Either Arafat arrest Palestinians, which Israel deems as “terrorists” or Arafat and the Occupied Palestinian Territories can face continued Israeli bombing. Or, to be more blunt, either Arafat carries out efforts which can lead to a civil war in Palestine or life will become even more unbearable than it already has during the last 15 months since the second Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation began. Not much of a choice.
Palestinians want their liberties and they want dignity. People who fight for liberty are generally freedom fighters. But, here we are. Israel has not known how to clamp down on the uprising against their occupation. They have, thus, managed to find a silver lining in the September 11 attacks, which should be enough to bring about nausea for most fellow Americans. The Palestinians are the Taliban and Yasser Arafat is Osama Bin Laden, they say. However, Israel is not the United States. We’re not occupying anyone and we have laws to protect minority classes from the type of discrimination that Israel wreaks on minority Christians and Muslims.
Palestinians are on the losing end of this battle, for now. After all, nobody can deny that they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They are also being asked not to act on their legal right to resist occupation or else they are to be considered “terrorists.” Illogical times we do live in. But Palestinians are not strangers to illogical and tough times. They’ll ride this out as they have in the past. Looking at our own American history, it is easy to predict that freedom will ultimately prevail. So, we patiently wait for an end to this dark chapter in history, and the beginning of a new and more hopeful one to commence.
Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.