Israeli State Terrorism Over the Years

Photograph Source: Amit Agronov / IDF Spokesperson’s Unit – CC BY-SA 3.0

The mainstream media have fully documented terrorism by Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and other groups against Israeli civilians that reached its most horrific and sadistic level in the massacre of October 7th.  The media typically define terrorism as any act of violence against civilians in support of an ideology, which certainly describes Hamas’ terrorism.  But there is another definition of terrorism that refers to acts of violence against civilians in order to intimidate and/or defeat their political leaders.  On the basis of that definition, Israel has been terrorizing Palestinian communities over the past 75 years.  This, of course, does not explain—let alone excuse—the horrors that Hamas inflicted on Israelis several weeks ago, but attention must be given to the impact of terrorist acts by both sides on the politics and policies of Israelis, Palestinians, and Arab countries.

Just as the horrors of the Holocaust in the 1930s and 1940s have contributed to Israeli brutality toward the Palestinians, the terrorism of the Nakba in 1948 has contributed to Arab hostility toward Israel.  This is the “chain of hate” that the legendary historian Arnold Toynbee wrote about in the 1950s.  The Nakba, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, is not well known to some and denied by too many others, but the forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israel war is certainly well known to Arabs.

Israelis have called for the resignation of the UN Secretary Secretary General for merely stating that the Hamas attacks of October 7 “did not happen is a vacuum.”  Israelis have even objected to the remarks of one of the two released hostages for stating that she was well treated by Palestinian guards and doctors who made sure that she received her medicines.  Typically, the Israelis dismiss any criticism of their actions as examples of anti-semitism or any failure to demonize their enemy.

The atrocious Israeli bombing campaign that has led to thousands of airstrikes on Gaza is a clear violation of international law and the rules of warfare because of the lack of any proportionality, which finds huge amounts of ordnance dropped on civilian communities that cannot defend themselves.  Israel’s failure to provide an exit strategy for Gazans is a violation of international law.  Israel’s failure to provide food, water, and fuel is another violation of international law.  The sum total of these horrific actions points to terrorism and even genocide.

The mainstream media have largely ignored the fact that Israel had turned Gaza into an “outdoor prison,” a term first used by former British Prime Minister David Cameron, soon after Hamas won an election in 2006.  The election initially had the support of the Bush administration and particularly its secretary of state, Condi Rice.  The term “outdoor prison” predictably drew criticism from Israelis, but the fact that 2 million Palestinians have suffered from 50 years of occupation and 15 years of blockade cannot be denied.  When I was in Israel in the late 1970s on an official visit and referred to Israel as an apartheid state, I was similarly criticized by my Israeli hosts.

Half of the population of Gaza are children, and Israeli tactics have ensured that Palestinian children grow up in a society characterized by fear, lack of security, and hopelessness.  Medical services have been destroyed, and the unemployment rate in Gaza is the world’s worst.  Palestinian students have won academic scholarships in the West, including the United States, but have not been allowed to leave the territory.  The kinds of images that we are seeing today as a result of Israeli bombing should have been more widely circulated in previous bombing campaigns in 2009 and 2014.  US administrations have for the most part ignored this terrorism.

Seven out of ten Palestinians in Gaza are registered as refugees, and many of these come from families who were forced to leave their villages in 1948. Many more have been forced to leave their homes due to other wars or violence.  Four years after the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2014, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza were still unable to return to their homes.  The oldest children in Gaza have lived through three wars that have killed more than 3,800 Palestinians prior to the current campaign. More than 700 of these were children. Many children have seen family members, relatives, friends or others be killed or seriously wounded.

A 2012 UN report predicted the Palestinian enclave would be “unlivable” by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade, and in June 2017 a UN report on living conditions in Gaza stated that all the indicators are going in the wrong direction and that deadline was actually approaching even faster than earlier predicted.  The current war’s first week witnessed 6,000 bombs destroying or damaging 11,000 structures.

The United States and the Biden administration are complicit in these campaigns because we send sophisticated military weaponry to Israel as soon as possible.  Currently, the United States is rushing 155mm artillery, smart bombs, and surface-to-surface missiles to support an air and ground campaign against a defenseless community. In an unusual display of courage, a senior State Department official, Josh Paul, resigned to protest the rush of military deliveries to an Israeli military that doesn’t need them.

The combination of an untrustworthy Netanyahu and a politically vulnerable Biden does not point to an opportunity for a cease-fire, let alone any political solution.  Biden has indeed warned Netanyahu not to be “consumed by rage,” but this is an example of too little and too late.  Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is particularly clueless regarding the context of the war, arriving in Israel to say that he was there “as a Jew.”  Israel’s sadistic bombing campaign contributed to Arab leaders’ unwillingness to meet with President Biden.  Every recent US administration seems to believe that US-funded arms transfers will contribute to Israeli security and encourage Israeli concessions that will allow a Palestinian state.  This is a false and dangerous calculation.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His most recent books are “American Carnage: The Wars of Donald Trump” (Opus Publishing, 2019) and “Containing the National Security State” (Opus Publishing, 2021). Goodman is the national security columnist for