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Thoughts on Israel, Palestine, and terrorism

The Monday suicide bombing in Tel Aviv was bad news for both Israeli and Palestinian citizens and has disturbed an already uneasy political situation. Such bombings are politically more dangerous for the ruling Hamas party in the Palestinian Authority, as they themselves have not renounced the use of violence as a political tool, although they do not appear to be involved in this particular bombing. For the Israeli government, it is sadly simply business as usual - issue more orders to clear borders, lob a few artillery shells, arrest a few Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority issued the following official statement after the bombing:
We have issued official statement in the name of the Palestinian National Authority absolutely condemning the operation, which we consider a despicable operation that harms the Palestinian people.
The harm that this does to the PNA is particularly great coming only a short while after many western nations, including Canada, withdrew financial support of the PNA government. The resulting financial crisis has caused the largest employer in the country, the government, to withhold pay cheques for at least this month.

The statement issued by Khaled Abu Helal, spokesman for the PNA Interior Ministry has been interpreted by those that would like to interpret it as such as a defense of the bombing:
We think that this operation . . . is a direct result of the policy of the
occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people
This was interpreted breathlessly in the US press as "emphatic support", and likewise by our very own National Fishwrap Post.

The National Post, true to its short-sighted form, goes on to explain that this completely justifies cutting off support to the PNA and then villifies their acceptance of aid from Iran. This makes total sense if you look at the world through goggles that only let you see things in right and wrong; punishment becomes the only tool in your toolbox. The logic, I suppose goes like this:
- the Palestinian people voted for Hamas
- Hamas supports terrorism
- the Palestinian people voted for terrorism
So naturally, why indeed should we support Palestinian terrorists?

That this argument is facile should not need be stated, but since our very own government and a healthy chunk of the right-wing blogosphere, not to mention the purveyors of such idiocy at the National Post, haven't gotten beyond this, maybe it does. This argument doesn't lead to a constructive future for a number of reasons, and I will likely spawn some hate mail for this, but here goes.

First, let's put it up front and centre - terrorism isn't evil. Rightly or wrongly, terrorism is a battle tactic used by the downtrodden to fight back. It is dirty fighting, and lots of innocent people get killed to be sure, but it is not a personified "evil". You can't fight terrorism as a construct or as an enemy - it is a tactic. You fight terrorism by trying to find the cause that drives the terrorists. Going after those that commit terrorist acts is all well and good, but if you do not deal with the underlying motivation, you will play an endless game of whack-a-mole with terrorists popping up faster than you can deal with them.

In the case of Israel-Palestine (and I will limit my discussion for now to this topic), there is a nation of displaced people that are still effectively homeless, largely jobless, and almost entirely hopeless. Is it possible that someone that has any hope at all is going to strap a mantle of bombs to his or her belly and walk into a restaurant? It is this hopelessness what must be dealt with, and we do not deal with it by withdrawing our support because they voted for someone we don't like. This will, I guarantee, drive the population in directly the opposite direction we would like them to go. That they are now accepting donations from countries we don't like, countries that would surely love to export Islamic jihad to them in the case of Iran, is only natural - by withdrawing our support we effectively asked them to do just that. And furthermore, we have absolutely no right to bitch three or four years down the road when the Israel-Palestine conflict expands to an actual real-life Islamic jihad - because as surely as anyone, we helped create it.

Right now the Israeli-Palestine conflict is a political and economic struggle. Surely we would be no better off if we turned it into a religious one, too?

You may well get some hate mail, but not from me - your assessment of terrorism as not evil is exactly right, no matter what the mainstream press (or useless rags) have to say. That process is called 'othering', and involves the creation of scary stereotypes of groups we disagree with. Just like WWII Anti-semetic German propaganda, only more subtle. I challenge anyone to find a news story from the National Toast or a mainstream U.S. news organization that does not negatively characterize other religious or ethnic groups, especially since 9/11.
It's all about cultural relativism. We can't judge the actions of others using our own moral framework, or expect others to adhere to the same set of expectations. The fact that acts of self-sacrifice have had the chance to become commonplace or acceptable is troubling, the fact that it is an action that can, under a different religious framework, be an acceptable option is not.
It's not about valuing or de-valuing human life, which could be and has been interpreted as evil - it's about adhering to your religious faith. I'm not prepared to accept a religion as 'right' or 'wrong', since I'm waiting until I'm on my deathbed to convert to the right one (hedging my bets), religious traditions and rituals are just different. We categorize people as evil, without regard for the fact that they are doing what they feel, deep down inside, is right and just. That people get hurt is unfortunate, but we have to look at the social and historical events that make strapping a bomb to yourself an acceptable or desirable act.
And, as you say, what we are doing is likely to push the situation further in directions the West would rather not have it go.
Yikes, I do go on. Great post.

I'm with Flash, that is a bang on assessment.

Of course, expect the clownservaties to immediately accuse you of :

a) Anti-Semitism for criticizing Isreali policy
b) Cottling or outright supporting "Terrorism"(TM) for saying that maybe we should not have withdrawn finacial support for the PNA.
c) Antii-Semitism for criticizing Isreali policy
d) Antii-Semitism for criticizing Isreali policy

Oh yeah, and Anti-Americanism for criticising Isreali policy....

Next thing you know, you'll be talking crazy ans saying that Iran is using bluster for internal political reasons and you don't support a nuclear first-strike...

Next thing you know, you'll be talking crazy ans saying that Iran is using bluster for internal political reasons and you don't support a nuclear first-strike...

I'm soooo transparent ;)

I find it interesting that the Israeli/PNA isn't higher on the radar of any of our political parties. Have any of the opposition parties voiced any opinion?


"The NDP therefore calls on the federal government to ensure that all direct assistance funding these important programs that are now suspended, be redirected to organizations directly involved in delivery of humanitarian aid and democracy building in the Palestinian Authority. Any net reduction in aid to the Palestinian people is shortsighted and counterproductive."

Pretty straight forward, but bo one knows about it.

Thanks Mike! I have no idea how I missed this. I think I must be spending too much time reading international stuff and not enough on the Canadian sites. Gotta study!

Having written that, the fact that I (of all people!) didn't know this is a telling failure on the part of the NDP.

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