Of Terrorism and Double Standards

By: Ahmad Faiz bin Abdul Rahman

August 28,1997

Email: afaiz@ikim.gov.my (afaiz)

Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM), Malaysia

"Of Terrorism and Double Standards" article by Ahmad Faiz bin Abdul Rahman (These views are my own and do not reflect those with whom I may be affiliated whether directly or otherwise)

If there is one thing which Western policy makers have failed to admit concerning the Middle East is that desperate people do desperate things and in the case of the Palestinians, they have been forced into desperation by the Israelis. Of course, no one can justify terrorism without appearing to condone terrorism. Nevertheless, Israel and the collation of Western powers that support Israel cannot claim ignorance or innocence enough to justify their lack of commitment towards peace and conciliation.

Thus it is insufficient to accuse Arafat of sanctioning suicide bombings simply because he has said that whatever terrorist violence that would ensue due to Netanyahu's expropriation of Arab land through the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories would be on Netanyahu's head or because Arafat has openly "embraced" terrorist figures.

The result of the lack of commitment, particularly by the Netanyahu administration, has seen the death of innocents on both sides. This is because no amount of policing by the Palestinian authorities can result in the absolute curbing of terrorist violence unless and until the Tel Aviv regime headed by Netanyahu is made to shoulder some of the burden for its prevention.

As such, the expansion of Jewish settlements can have no other effect but accelerate violence. Therefore, it is unjust for anyone to expect the PLO to curb the activities of Arab extremists while the Israelis do nothing but aggravate matters.

What incentive is there for Arafat and the PLO to go out of their way to help the Jews who do nothing but further cause hardship for the Arabs? Certainly there can be nothing for the PLO but the increase loss of support from the very people whom they have promised to defend, whose rights they have vowed to champion.

The same dilemma was posed to Michael Collins in the establishment of the Irish Free State: to sue for peace with the British meant slaughtering his own people; to carry on fighting the British meant fighting a losing war, entailing greater misery and suffering.

Of course people would argue that the commonality between Arafat and Collins was that they bargained from a position of "unfair" strength: the use of terrorism. However, let us consider what some would argue as the larger and more dangerous game that is being played by Israel and it cohorts; that game being the facilitation of Israeli expansionism and the ensuring of its continued dominance in the Middle East region.

It were as though terrorist violence serves the purposes of the right wing extremist Jews who are in power in Israel and those who lobby for their support in the Western world. It creates a smoke screen, in that such violence only serves to prove that Israel remains in danger from attacks by the generally hostile Arabs; that the violence in not due to "Jewish arrogance and fascist ideals" but because of Arab barbarism.

Looking back, the Oslo peace accord was never supported by extremists on either side, but the right wing Jews had more to lose from peace than the members of Hamas or Hezbollah. The alleviation of hardship on the Palestinians could have appeased most of those who had been driven to join these violent organisations out of desperation leaving only the hard core whose support from the people would have waned over time.

Peace, however, would not appease the extremist right wing Jews. They needed desperately to undo the efforts made towards peace by removing the influential players in the politics of peace and then to come into power in order to carry on with the efforts of Israeli expansionism.

This was achieved by enraging the zealots among the Jewish youths who were supplied with religious justifications for the murder of Yizhak Rabin and which of course lead to the assassination of him. Rabin's death cleared the way for the right wing extremists because Peres did not have the same amount of support that Rabin had had despite Peres' actions during the Lebanon-Israeli conflict which came after.

Not surprisingly, when Netanyahu came to power he promised to undo whatever steps that had been taken towards peace with the Palestinian as resembled in the Oslo agreement. In his own words, "there will be no land for peace; there will be no Palestinian state." Where then is the mutual recognition which many, not least of whom are Palestinians themselves, consider to be the key element for peace between the Jews and Arabs, when clearly the indigenous peoples of Palestine have less of a right to their own land which is crucial to their equal right to self-determination?

All throughout the peace process, pressure was placed on the PLO to remove the Hamas threat or terrorist threats of all sorts. This merely served the purposes of the right wing extremist Jews since it was one of the ways for ensuring the increasing unpopularity of Arafat among the Palestinians while continuing to enrage Arab sensibility.

This would certainly explain the absence of any real concessions to the Palestinian peoples, ever since the assassination of Rabin, that would resemble good faith by the Tel Aviv regime despite the PLO's efforts to clamp down on violence. Even before Netanyahu came to power, the Tel Aviv regime had been dragging its feet in implementing the terms of the Oslo accord.

It is highly likely that this had been so in order to appease the right wing Jews who were growing in strength. Fortunately, Arafat did not simply roll over so as to make way for the extremist right wing. In fact, he has become all the wiser: any action against extremist factions, whether right or wrong, can only be divisive and absolutely devastating for the Palestinians. And most probably, this has more to do with the irking of supposedly impartial observers than the thought of Arafat's supposed open embrace of terrorism.

This is especially so with Netanyahu's consistent refusal to recognise the rights of Palestinians over their own land as can clearly be seen in the issue of the continued expansion of Jewish settlement in occupied territories, whether through coercion or bribery.

In fact, after all that Arafat and the PLO has done in honour of the peace accord with the Israelis, it would only be the foolish or the scheming who would try to make Arafat let himself or the PLO be used to do the dirty work of the Tel Aviv regime which would further disunite the Palestinians. For peace for all sides has now become an even more fragile thing.

Even so, Arafat's arms are slowly and painfully being twisted, forcing him to take further action against his own people. Any refusal to follow the dictates of Israel would mean facing a hostile international (read Western) community. Ironic, is it not, that Netanyahu, a man who has written a book on terrorism, now heads a regime than relies on terrorist violence and other violence of sorts in order to secure the Likud party's ends?

It is therefore difficult to imagine that the latest furor over Arafat's supposed inaction or tacit support for violence, especially after holding a reconciliatory meeting with all Palestinian factions of sorts where he embraced certain terrorist figures, has not been blown out of all proportion and deliberately miscontextualised for the benefit of the Tel Aviv regime.

Clearly, any action against terrorism or terrorist violence, in the case of the Middle East, requires close cooperation between both the PLO and the Tel Aviv regime, but they continue to be at odds over land, housing, education, commerce and everything else that defines human dignity for the Palestinians.

Nonetheless, inasmuch as the PLO has the duty to remove the terrorist threat, the Tel Aviv regime must stop its oppression of the Palestinian people in order to promote the lack of grassroots support for terrorist factions. Once this is realised, Arafat can and will distance himself from terrorist factions including Hamas.

Unfortunately those in power refuse to see it this way. The PLO actions are brought into question at the US Congress but not the inherent lack of commitment to peace or the efforts to undermine peace by the Tel Aviv regime. There is no threat to disrupt aid or assistance to this regime which has no qualms about resorting to violence describable as state terrorism.

Hence, if it does turn out that the PLO gets cut off from US aid or is placed under Western sanction without similar actions being taken against the Tel Aviv regime, then the bias of the US government and other Western powers in the matter of the Middle East conflict will be all too plain for everyone to see. It would be a manifestation of the jaundiced views of Western policy makers and their lack of will to honestly grapple with the central issue of land for peace and the peripheral issues concerning human dignity of the Palestinian people.

Some would even be justified in saying that it is a reflection of the degree of prejudice that has contaminated the legacy of Western political philosophy and so long as justice is defined by the bigoted, the West can forget about being champions of democracy and human rights, let alone build bridges with other cultures and civilisations.