Wednesday, October 26, 2022



At the socialist site  Jewish Currents, writer Alex Kane provides us with an excellent example of anti-Israel agitprop - and even justification of terrorism -  disguised as a critical analysis of the definition of terrorism.

Like all good propaganda, the article starts off with a very reasonable point:

ON OCTOBER 9TH, a Palestinian shot and killed Noa Lazar, an Israeli soldier serving at a checkpoint near the Shuafat refugee camp. Three days later, a Palestinian gunman killed Ido Baruch, a soldier who was guarding Israeli settlers as they marched near the Palestinian town of Sebastia in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the Shuafat attack a “severe terrorist attack,” and said the assailant behind Baruch’s shooting was a “despicable terrorist.” The Jerusalem Post, Israel HaYom and i24 News referred to the Shuafat shooting as a “terrorist” act. The centrist Anti-Defamation League as well as the liberal Zionist J Street also referred to the shootings as “terror” attacks.

This broad consensus across the Zionist political spectrum reflects a commonly-held view among many Israelis and Israel advocates that the killings of soldiers engaged in a military occupation are acts of “terror,” in the same category as indiscriminate attacks on civilians. But this view represents only one pole of a discursive struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, and, more broadly, Western countries and formerly-colonized nations, who have clashed in international fora like the United Nations (UN) over whether violence against agents of a military occupation ought to count as “terrorism.”

While different countries have codified their own definitions of terrorism in their national laws, “there is no international legal consensus on the meaning of terrorism,” said Ben Saul, Challis Chair of International Law at the University of Sydney and author of the book Defining Terrorism in International Law. According to Saul, there is general agreement among states that the deliberate killing of civilians to achieve political goals constitutes terrorism; the disagreement lies in “whether insurgent or guerrilla attacks on soldiers in armed conflicts should also be called terrorism.”
Kane is partially correct - not only Israel but most Western nations and media usually refer to attacks on their own soldiers as terrorist attacks, but generally not attacks on other nations' soldiers (not just "agents of a military occupation" as Kane claims.)  For example, the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed over 300 US and French soldiers was referred to as a terrorist attack in US statements and news articles even though the targets were military.

However, the official definitions of terrorism adopted by many countries do not give exceptions for attacks against soldiers. Most Western countries make no mention of civilian or non-combatant targets in their definitions. The FBI defines international terrorism based on the identity of the attackers being associated with designated terror groups; attacks against armed forces are not excluded.

Be that as it may, Kane's initial point has validity - one instinctively associates terror attacks with civilian targets - and he leverages that to skillfully pretend that other criticisms of the use of the term have equal validity. 

Since 2000, countries at the UN have tried to come to a consensus on what’s called the Comprehensive Terrorism Convention, which would codify the criminalization of terrorism in international law. But consensus has again stalled due to disagreements on how to classify national liberation struggles. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a body of 57 mostly Muslim-majority countries, argues that violence committed by those in a struggle for self-determination—a term referring to a people’s ability to form their own state and govern themselves—should not be covered by the terrorism convention but rather by international humanitarian law, which governs the permissible use of force based in part on the “principle of distinction” between civilians and soldiers. The OIC’s argument is aimed at exempting Palestinian and Kashmiri fighters from being considered “terrorists” under international law when they launch attacks on Israeli or Indian soldiers who currently occupy their lands. The African Union and League of Arab States share the OIC’s perspective: Both bodies have adopted regional terrorism conventions that exclude struggles for national liberation from their definition of terrorism.    

Here's where we see the depth of Kane's dishonesty. Building on his initial point, he frames the objections of the OIC and others in terms of their targets, saying that their main objections are against considering attacks on "occupying soldiers" to be terrorism.

But that is not what they are saying. The OIC's proposed definition would exempt any attack, even against civilians, even targeting women and children, from being considered terrorism as long as they are "in situations of foreign occupation" or any "armed conflict." It was written, at the height of the second intifada, deliberately to excuse Palestinian suicide and bus bombings.

And this is borne out by parallel activities by anti-Israel activists who have attempted to claim that even directly targeting Jewish civilians are part of a legitimate "right to resist" - by any means. Richard Falk, former  United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, wrote that "Palestinian resistance to occupation is a legally protected right" specifically in reference to the second intifada attacks on Jewish civilians. 

Kane is presenting these justifications for attacks on civilians as merely objections to use of the term "terrorism" against soldiers. By not mentioning these facts, he is framing the controversy over the definition of the term "terrorism" as two sides making reasonable, equally valid points and that their disagreements are only about attacking the military. 

Kane then subtly justifies attacks on civilians, again by using misdirection to pretend he is only talking about soldiers:

According to George Bisharat, an emeritus professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, “terrorism” is “a buzzword” intending to cast violence against occupation soldiers as illegitimate. In Israel/Palestine, “it’s being used for its political and rhetorical impact to discredit any violent resistance against Israel’s occupation,” he said, which is why “the non-aligned nations, as they call themselves, are insistent on the principle that violence exercised to advance the right of self-determination is not illegal.”  

 The legal distinction Kane is making has suddenly changed from target of the violence (ostensibly, soldiers) is to the reason for the violence - "self-determination." Kane introduces Bisharat as only talking about targeting soldiers, but  Bisharat's words say otherwise. If "violence exercised to advance the right of self-determination is not illegal" then that includes all attacks, including civilians. (Bisharat himself knows that attacks on civilians is illegal, but he is unhappy about it, ludicrously complaining that the inaccuracy of Palestinian rockets makes it too difficult for Palestinians to adhere to international law by only hitting military targets.)

Which means that Kane is classifying attacks on civilians as just another valid position. He's too smart to say it explicitly, but the Bisharat sentence is in fact the main point that he wants to give the reader - that Palestinian terrorism is legitimate because it is resistance.

In fact, the tone of the article is that Israel is unjustifiably referring to legitimate resistance as terrorism, while those who have cheered and funded the murder of Jewish civilians (the non-aligned nations) have solid legal ground for their support. 

There is another layer to Kane's propaganda techniques.

This entire article is meant to obfuscate a basic fact. By only talking about Palestinian attacks on soldiers, he is implying that soldiers are the main targets of the terror groups. But the terrorists, whether they are Hamas or Fatah or Lion's Den, make no such distinctions. Their own words and publications never say that they only want to attack soldiers - their targets are "settlers" and, to them, every Israeli Jew is a "settler." When they attack soldiers and guards it is because those are the ones on the front lines, not out of any concern for international law or the definition of terrorism. When the armed groups have the opportunity, they attack civilians, and indeed they prefer to attack civilians because they are softer targets. 

This is why the attackers are terrorists by any definition. And that is exactly what Alex Kane and Jewish Currents wants you to forget.




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