Fighting Terror With Terror
By Ash Pulcifer Columnist (US)


On June 6, four days after the Mideast peace summit in Jordan, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades launched an attack on the Israeli military in northern Gaza. The groups managed to kill four Israeli soldiers and wound four others. Their actions were in response to the June 5 assassinations of two Hamas militants by the Israeli military, along with the IDF's continued house demolitions of families of Palestinian militants. Despite the fact that in the June 6 attack the Palestinian militant groups focused their attacks on the Israeli military, rather than attacking civilians as they have in the past, Israel responded by launching what can only be defined as a "terrorist" attack. On June 10, Israel fired missiles into a crowded street in Gaza, missing their main target but killing and wounding innocent bystanders. The following day, a Palestinian suicide bomber responded with a "terrorist" attack against Israel, exploding on a bus in Jerusalem, killing 16 people and injuring more than a hundred more. Shortly after, the Israeli government was directing helicopter attacks in Gaza.
While it claims otherwise, Israel has been fighting "terror" with "terror." It is impossible to suggest that Israel is worried about Palestinian civilians when it launches raids like the one on June 10. Authorizing helicopter gunships to launch missiles into crowded Palestinian streets? Only a ruthless government would authorize such attacks. Furthermore, as many others have stated, the target of Israel's June 10 attack was not a suicide bomber packed with explosives on his way to blow up a bus or a café. No, that target was Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the well-known Hamas political leader who was merely driving down the street at the time; Rantisi barely survived the attack. It is a highly dubious assertion for Israel to claim that this extreme level of force was needed.
Such heavy-handed and careless attacks by Israel are making it harder and harder for the Jewish state to claim the moral high ground. In order to defend its occupation of what the U.N. has labeled Palestinian lands, the Israeli government is using similar tactics that its enemies use: not distinguishing between militants and civilians. The only difference between the opponents is that Palestinian militant groups admit they are uninterested in peace; the Israeli government, on the other hand, claims that it is interested in peace, while at the same time ordering massive military attacks meant to bring terror and death to the Palestinian populace.
It seems that the Israeli government, and the Israeli populace, still believe that they can break the will of the Palestinians. This explains why they continue their harsh repression of the Palestinian population, along with their massive retaliatory attacks anytime Palestinians defend themselves either justly or unjustly. But the past 55 years have shown that such actions merely further radicalize the Palestinian population, resulting in more terror and death for the Israeli people.
Palestinians from 1948 would be shocked at the current methods of Palestinian resistance. What used to be a civil disobedience movement has now been radicalized into one that largely approves of the use of suicide attacks on civilian populations. So, too, would Jews from the 1940s be shocked at what is now considered "self-defense": occupying a land whose population does not wish to be occupied, continuing to build illegal settlements on that land, following a policy of assassinations, and firing rockets and missiles into crowded streets or apartment buildings.
And now with these latest attacks, it looks as if the conflict will radicalize even further. According to Joel Greenberg of the Chicago Tribune, in the June 10 attack, Israeli Apache helicopter gunships fired seven missiles at Rantisi, who was driving on a busy street in downtown Gaza. Greenberg writes, "The explosions sprayed metal fragments across sidewalks and buildings, shattering windows. A woman who stepped out of a taxi was killed, and an 8-year old girl was critically wounded in the head." Does the Israeli population still believe that such careless attacks are actually helping the peace process? The frequency of these attacks force any honest analyst to wonder if the current Israeli government wants peace at all.
The coming months will decide whether these latest incitements by the Israeli government and Palestinian militant groups will further radicalize the conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has already said that such strikes by Israel will continue. And Hamas spokesmen have made even harsher statements. "The Israelis will never enjoy security or stability as long as they occupy our territories," Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the target of the June 10 attack, said from his bed in Shifa Hospital. "We are going to retaliate by all means," another Hamas spokesman stated, as quoted from Greenberg's article in the Tribune. "Every person in Israel should condemn the policy of their government because they are going to pay the price."
So, once again, we seem to be back at square one with the Mideast peace process. This time the Israeli government is as much to blame for derailing the peace process as Palestinian militant groups are. If the Israeli government and its people truly want to live in peace, then they will have to stop fighting terror with terror; their current harsh policies towards the Palestinians have to come to an end, otherwise they are no better than the "terrorist" groups they are fighting.
[Ash Pulcifer is a U.S. based analyst of international conflicts and is also a human rights activist. While he does not justify or accept the killing of civilians in warfare, he attempts to understand why groups or governments resort to such means in order to achieve their strategic objectives.]
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