Sharons War on Terrorism
August 28, 2001
believe that Zionism is racism, that the state of Israel is tyrannical, that
the Palestinians have been deeply wronged, that armed resistance against the
Jewish state is entirely justified, and much else.
But however deeply you believe all this, you
still have to be horrified when a bomb in a pizza joint kills 20 people.
Terrorism is a feeble and inadequate word for such a sickening act.
And there have been too many such acts.
In response, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has
announced and begun to execute a policy of state assassination, killing suspected
instigators of terrorism. No arrests, no trials, no formalities or niceties. Israeli
forces nobody is calling them death squads, for some reason
just single out those the government decides to hold responsible for
terrorism and kill them. Monday they fired missiles into the office of the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine and killed Mustafa Zibri, a senior Palestinian
Such discretionary killing by a state is
obviously troubling. One reason for holding trials is to ensure justice for the
accused; another is to present evidence to assure the public that the government is
not acting arbitrarily. This is especially important when the government considers
itself at war with a whole ethnic group, as Sharons government does.
Sharon has few scruples when it comes to
non-Jews. He considers that the disputed land of Israel/Palestine belongs
exclusively to Jews and he has never said what rights, if any, the Palestinians
have. He feels justified in doing whatever is necessary to consolidate Jewish
power over the land claimed by Israel, including the occupied territories. He
neither recognizes Palestinian rights nor admits limits on Jewish rights.
It was predictable, then,
that he would react with little restraint to the recent atrocities. His defenders,
even in the American press, say he has no choice but to target suspected terrorist
leaders for death, even if innocent people are killed in the process. The trouble is
that for Sharon and his defenders suspected terrorist leaders is a very
By their logic, Yasser Arafat, head of the
Palestinian Authority, would qualify. They hold him responsible for the atrocities.
There is no evidence that he favors these acts or could control them if he wanted
to, since many Palestinian militants despise him as a quisling and homemade
explosives used by suicide bombers are beyond his reach. But whos
splitting hairs? In his own mind, and by the logic of his partisans, Sharon would be
fully justified in killing Arafat himself.
Is Sharon really trying to stop terrorism, or is
he using terrorism as an excuse for killing off the Palestinian leadership? Given
his ideology and his record, we are entitled to suspect that he sees an opportunity
to rid himself of his enemies without having to justify himself in court. War
nearly always serves as an occasion for serious expansions of state power and the
destruction of legal protections.
A further problem is that these state
assassinations arent being enacted with homemade bombs; they employ
American-made missiles, jets, helicopters, and other weapons, which are
supposed to be used only for defense against foreign attack. When Sharon attacks
his enemies, he makes still more enemies for this country.
This is why American interests are at stake in
the endless Middle East conflict. The United States is Israels chief
benefactor; it doesnt follow that Israel is a reliable ally of
the United States, as its partisans claim.
Yet American politicians are rarely candid
about the stakes for this country. They may sometimes shake their heads over
Israeli excesses and even murmur about Palestinian rights, but they
almost never discuss the price the United States pays in international hostility,
even when Americans become the targets of terrorism.
Israels journalistic amen
corner here unremittingly defends its harshest treatment of Palestinians
and its military strikes against its neighbors. Even if all these acts were morally
justifiable, the question would remain: Whats in it for America? Why
should we be enmeshed in a bitter ethnic struggle on the other side of the globe?
The United States has sacrificed its interests
and betrayed its principles in its support of the state of Israel. The policy may be
bad for the country, but it seems to be lucrative for our politicians.