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Terrorism and the Israel-Palestine conflict

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Scenes from Gaza Crisis 2014 (Image by United Nations, via Flickr)

The history of the Israel-Palestine conflict makes clear that we have not learned from the horrors of the past, Dermot Daley writes.

TERRITORIAL DISPUTES have been around throughout human reckoning and more than enough battles have started through religious differences.

The ensuing pattern of violence has permeated all of recorded history, which is inevitably written by the victors.

Many ongoing property (and religious) disputes have originated in quests by successive empires to draw lines on maps, underpinned by favours or aggressive claims of sovereignty.

The word "territorial" comes from the Latin word "terra" meaning earth or land. If someone fights for their own land, are they territorial, or terrorist?

The modern face of terrorism became manifest in the 1970s with the activities of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) protesting against harsh treatment and discrimination by loyalist English Protestants against Catholics in Northern Ireland.

The underlying resentment driving the IRA was that English law had dominated Irish life for 400 years and that Irish people had the right to their own culture.

The world recoiled at the use of explosives on civilian targets within the UK to create fear and awe. Televised images of such shock and horror were felt around the world.

In time, moderates from both sides agreed to talk and the IRA was disbanded, and within 20 years Republican Ireland became a model state of the European community.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. encouraged and funded Mujahedeen tribal resistance, and when the Russians withdrew ten years later, the Mujahedeen morphed into the Taliban, who instigated a reign of religious terror upon women and selected minority ethnic groups within Afghanistan.

The U.S. took control in 2001 after 9/11 and denied the Taliban a seat at the table to negotiate the nation’s future, culminating in resentment and further destabilisation throughout the region. The U.S. would later abandon Afghanistan.

Since WW2, the U.S. has sought to dominate any real estate wherein it claimed strategic interests, with a child-like attitude defining anyone not a friend to be a foe. 

Successive presidents of the United States have since applied the term "terrorist" to any group that uses violent means to oppose a regime supported by the USA.

Media conglomerates lapped it up.

Following the shocking event we know as 9/11 – aware that U.S. intelligence knew within minutes that the mastermind of the attack was a Saudi citizen who had been trained by the CIA to lead the Mujahedeen in "terrorising" the Russian occupation of Afghanistan – the U.S. and its allies did not retaliate against Saudi Arabia, but unleashed its war on terrorism, firstly on Afghanistan and soon after on Iraq.  

One does not need to be an archaeologist or a historian to know that the Taliban, ISIS or Islamic State did not exist until the sequence of culturally disrespectful revenge played out upon the largely agricultural citizens of these ancient lands.

In 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour presented a short public declaration in support of a Jewish homeland, nominating a part of Palestine then controlled by the Ottoman Empire and hosting a minority Jewish population.

Like many political declarations, it did not go anywhere but it had planted a seed.

Antisemitism had long been a factor across Europe and in the 1920s and 30s, Germany was struggling to rebuild after the severe sanctions imposed after WW1 — and a fanatical Austrian seized the opportunity to exploit simmering resentments to fuel a hatred of Jews.

The rest, as we say, is history. Disenfranchisement led to pogroms, led to ghettos, led to the Final Solution orchestrated by Nazi monsters to exterminate the Jewish Race in Death Camps.

With the post-war Nuremberg Trials, the World declared that this must never be allowed to happen again.

When, in 1948, a new Jewish State was created in Palestine – as with the 1917 Balfour Declaration – the existing populace was not consulted.

With respectful administration, this could have worked out. After all, the "Bible Lands" have known Arabs, Jews and Christians to live side by side with very little rancour for around 2,000 years.

But by the 1960s, Israel – emboldened by Zionist extremists – wanted to broaden its horizons and progressively, successively usurped farms worked for generations by Palestinians.

The United Nations said, “Hey, that’s not fair”, but wealthy Zionists hold a lot of influence and the U.S. bullied the UN in the manner to which we "outsiders" have become accustomed.

Progressively, Israel has stolen more and more land from Palestine, using army tanks and bulldozers to force unarmed farmers off their land, then building big concrete walls around the stolen land that they brazenly call their "Occupied Territories". And in doing so, they created Hamas.

Now in 2024, following an ugly provocative assault by the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement on 7 October 2023, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has engaged in a relentless retaliatory genocide against the civilian population of Gaza.

The October 2023 action by Hamas cannot be condoned, just as the bombings by the IRA, or public beheadings by ISIS cannot be condoned — but throughout time, there have been many angry, unconscionable acts in frustrated responses to overwhelming despair in the face of injustice and vastly superior firepower.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has recently announced arrest warrants for Hamas as well as Israeli leaders. Politicians have rushed forward to claim that the actions of Hamas and the IDF cannot be compared.

However, it is fair to suggest that the actions of Hamas are comparable to those of the IRA, ISIS and other historically disempowered minorities.

And, it is not antisemitic to suggest that the actions of the IDF in corralling Palestinian citizens into ghettos in Gaza, depriving them of food, water, medical supplies and power, and systematically firing shells and rockets into these starving and terrified people is comparable with the treatment handed to Jews by the Nazis in Europe before and during WW2.

There can be no doubt that the Israeli Government has acted beyond reasonable force.

It has engaged in war crimes and this is how it will be judged by history.

As will be Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

As will be the actions of Bush, Blair and Howard, in lying about weapons of mass destruction and using WMDs to bomb the ancient city of Babylon back to the Stone Age.

We urgently need to redefine what constitutes terrorism and we must wash the blood off our hands and publicly step up as defenders of true justice.

Dermot Daley is a fourth-generation Australian, living in Victoria, now retired from construction project management​​​.

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