It was only slightly amusing recently when one of the television news networks did a short segment on Nelson Mandela visiting George W. Bush in the White House. The newsperson describing the meeting happened to mention that Mandela was on America’s terrorist watch list. There was no explanation of how this heroic figure from South Africa was able to fly to Washington, D.C. in order to meet with our President. Normally, being on the terrorist watch list would prevent anyone from boarding a passenger plane, to say nothing of being barred from entering the White House. That actually happened to Senator Ted Kennedy a couple of years ago—he was barred from flying from Boston back to his work in Washington, D.C.
The newsperson also explained the reason that Mandela was on the terrorist honor roll because the apartheid government of South Africa had labeled him as such, and the United States simply went along with that designation.
I found myself wishing that the newsperson would go on to explain exactly how Hizbollah, or Hamas, made the American list of terrorist organizations. But we know how that happened, don’t we? Israel wanted them labeled as terrorists, so the United States went along with it, as accommodating today to apartheid Israel as it was to apartheid South Africa back in the days before South Africa went straight.
I’ve often wondered what would happen if, say, Syria, would ask the U.S. to place Israel on its terrorist list. But that’s digressing.
What the American public doesn’t hear about from any mainstream news source is the history of Jewish terrorism from the 1940s when the Zionist movement methodically went about ethnically cleansing Palestine of Palestinians through present day, when Israel and its people commit daily acts of terrorism against the Palestinians.
From the early days of Zionism, two of the vilest Jewish terrorists went on to become prime ministers of Israel. Menachem Begin, no ordinary run-of-the-mill terrorist, but the actual head of the Irgun, one of two vicious Jewish terrorist groups that who worked hard to chase Palestinians out of their homeland to make room for Zionists intent on creating an exclusive Jewish state. The other was former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who was one of a three member troika that comprised the leadership triad of the Stern Gang, which was even more vicious, if that’s possible, than the Irgun.
I used to know Nathan Yalin-Mor, who was one of the three person troika heading up the Stern Gang during its heyday. We actually became good friends, after he turned over a new leaf and made it his life’s work to establish peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. His new peaceful attitude did not sit well with the Israeli Lobby, nor did it with the Israeli embassy in Washington. The result was, when he came to visit Washington back in the 1970s, he would ask me to help him set up appointments with American officials so he could discuss peacemaking with them. I gladly did so.
I once mentioned to Nathan over dinner at my home in Washington that Sir Christopher Mayhew, the British Lord who was pro-Palestinian, had told me that the Stern Gang had sent him a letter bomb with the intention of killing him. He had incurred their wrath by taking the side of the Palestinians during the time that the Zionist movement was trying to move them out of Palestine.
“Did you send a letter bomb to Sir Christopher?” I asked Nathan.
“Oh, yeah, we sent lots of letter bombs in those days,” he responded.
A few years ago, Robert Manning, a West Bank settler, was hired as a hit man by one businessman to kill another. Manning sent a letter bomb to his target’s office, but it was his secretary who died, and not the businessman. The same Israeli terrorist killed Alex Odeh with a bomb, but our Justice Department was not allowed to bring that up because it had agreed with Israel not to do so if they would “allow” his extradition for the secretary’s murder.
When Menachem Begin was first elected as Prime Minister of Israel, he came to Washington, presumably to tell the American government what it was that he expected it to do for him and for Israel. The U.S. Senate, of course, invited him to speak, an invitation he accepted. I attended the meeting, promising myself that I would remain silent so as not to disturb his victory lap around Washington, D.C.
But that promise lasted for only a few minutes. As Senator after Senator tossed him puffball questions, such as, “Mr. Prime Minister, do you think the Arabs really want peace?” I could take it no longer. I rose to ask him a question.
I opened with, “My name is Abourezk, and I’m from South Dakota.” I wanted to make certain he knew who was accosting him.
“I heard you on the radio earlier this morning telling an interviewer that you were for peace, but that you would never negotiate with the PLO.”
“How, Mr. Prime Minister, do you expect to make the peace you say you want if you refuse to talk to your main antagonist, the PLO?”
Begin, accustomed to debating in the Knesset, glared at me, pointed his finger in the air and asked rhetorically, “Who is the PLO?”
I interrupted him, saying, “The PLO represents the Palestinian people, and it is at least as legitimate as the Irgun was back when you were running it.”
Bedlam followed. I had insulted the Prime Minister of Israel. I had committed a grave social error, at least judging from the reaction of the senators busy kowtowing to Begin.
Senator Alan Cranston of California, who was chairing the meeting stopped the proceedings and promptly adjourned before I could make more trouble. It was when we were filing out of the meeting room in the Capitol that I heard Ohio Senator John Glenn make his famous statement, “Abourezk could start a riot in an empty hall.”
The deeds of the Jewish terrorist groups are long forgotten, and it’s probably better that they are. (But see Ilan Pappe’s excellent book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine). If the American public should be forced to remember what violence the Jewish terrorists visited upon the Palestinians, it would be difficult to convince the public that Arab resistance fighters are somehow a different kind of terrorist. After all, what would George W. Bush do if he did not have Al Qaeda to point his finger at when he wants to make war on someone or some country?
That was all in the past, but what do we know about present day terrorism in the state of Israel? Well, not much, because the daily killing of Palestinian civilians, whom the Israelis label as “militants” to make the killing more palatable, is barely noted in the American press, and even more hardly understood by the American public.
I am speaking of the horrific acts by the Israeli army in Gaza—you know, that place where democracy died the minute Hamas tried to run their elections democratically. We know all about the homemade rockets being fired into Sderot, Israel, by the Hamas terrorists, but we know very little about the hundred or so Palestinians who were killed all at one time by Israel just a few weeks ago.
We also know little or nothing at all about the targeted assassinations carried out by Israel against Hamas leaders. “Targeted assassinations” is a sanitized phrase meaning “murder.” It’s very much like the “smart bombs” President Bush boasted about during the Iraq war. The only thing that made the bombs “smart,” was that they hit the ground every time they were dropped. But they were not quite smart enough to avoid massive civilian casualties, which is what has happened with the bombs.
Similarly, the “targeted assassinations” carried out in Gaza by the Israelis kill many more women and children than they do resistance fighters.
The question recurs. Why are people who are defending their homeland with violence inevitably called “terrorists?” The rules of international law, including the UN Charter, permit nations and people to defend themselves. “Self Defense” is the term constantly used by Israel when it unleashes its wrath on Palestinians who are actually trying to defend themselves from the violent theft of their lands by the Zionists. There was very little Israeli self defense involved recently when an Israeli shell, or a bomb, obliterated a mother and four children in Gaza while they were in their home eating dinner. On such tragic occasions—too many to count now—there is a brief note in the press, an occasional apology from the Israeli Command, then back to the business of killing.
There is such a thing as state terrorism, but George W. Bush wouldn’t dare get that labeling started lest he be first on the list.
And what of the right wing settlers in the West Bank? Can you consider what they do on a daily basis terrorism? In his excellent book, The Gun and the Olive Branch, author David Hirst quotes Rabbi Israel Hess as saying, “the day will come when we shall all be called upon to wage this war for the annihilation of the Amalek.”
The Israeli right wingers want revenge against the Palestinians for refusing to give up their lands peacefully to the Zionists who wanted those lands. Thus, these so-called patriots will go on killing Arabs and be cheered by their brethren, they will even kill their own, as they did Yitzak Rabin, or anyone else who wants to talk peace and accommodation with the Palestinians.
One of them did assassinate Alex Odeh, a Palestinian who was one of the most peaceful men I have ever known.
But in the eyes of the U.S. government and of George W. Bush, they are not terrorists. Only the Arabs are terrorists.
If President Bush knew anything at all about the Middle East—which he doesn’t—he would have known not to invade Iraq, and he would have known that it is not our freedoms that anger people in the Middle East, it is our policies toward that unfortunate part of the world that create anger.
And as for terrorism, I would tell Mr. Bush there is one way to stop it without using an invading army—change our policies, make them more fair, stop enabling Israel to break every international law ever written. Or, as Spike Lee would put it, “Do the right thing.”
James G. Abourezk is a lawyer practicing in South Dakota. He is a former United States senator and the author of two books, Advise and Dissent, and a co-author of Through Different Eyes. This article runs in the current issue of Washington Report For Middle East Affairs and appears here by permission. Abourezk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.