Al-Hewar Editorial:
January 2002

What does Israel Want in the War against Terrorism?

Since September 11, 2001, Israel has been trying to take full advantage of that tragedy to suit its own selfish international interests and to accomplish objectives condemned by the international community while the rest of the world is busy fighting terrorism.  

 First:  Islam’s Image in the West

Israel and its followers in the US and the West have been trying to convince the West that the new “enemy” is the entire Islamic World! And that the new “enemy” carries political, security and cultural dangers, exactly as was the case with the communist USSR.  Israel tried to compare Islam to communism, especially after how the West reacted during the years of the Cold War.  The “ugly” face of communism was portrayed in the Western media by concentrating on differences in life styles and individual freedoms between the “communist East” and the “capitalist West.”  Israel has succeeded, to some extent, in the past ten years in distorting the image of Islam in many Western media. It gave an “ugly” representation of Islam by concentrating only on negative aspects of Islamic societies in order to create an atmosphere of hatred towards the new “enemy.”

The tragedy of September 11 came as a gift from the sky to Israel and its supporters. They used the Taliban as a representation of all Islam and Muslim nations.  Of course, the Islamic world is in a sad state, to say the least, but the Afghan experience is unique and represents nothing but itself.  One cannot find similarities with the Taliban experience anywhere in the Islamic world. Yet, the Western world now views Islam through Afghanistan. They see the “Arab Afghan” as the worst in that experience through their role in the “Al-Qaeda” terrorist organization.  Islam has become for many in the West as the “Backward Taliban” and the “Arab Terrorist.”  Islamic and Arabic identities have come to mean terror and ignorance -- even if that “Muslim” or this “Arab” has lived in the West all of his life. As if terror and ignorance is a genetic disease that infects Arabs and Muslims and is passed to their children at birth

The high degree of Western ignorance about Islam in general and Arabs in particular becomes apparent when they do not even recognize the difference between Muslims and Arabs. Although Arabs and Muslims share many aspects of history and civilization, many people in the West cannot tell that tens of millions of Arabs are not Muslims but Christians, and hundreds of millions of Muslims are not Arabs. 

  Second:  Israel…looking for a role!

Since the end of the Cold War, the role and importance of Israel in the strategy of the West seems to have diminished considerably, especially since the US became the only superpower with a permanent presence in the Middle East where most governments have signed treaties with the US -- making Israel’s role irrelevant.   The Gulf war that was led by the US against the Iraqi regime’s aggression revealed how much Israel was a liability to the US.  Israel could not play any useful role to help the US despite the hundreds of billions of dollars it received from the US over the past five decades. On the contrary, the best role Israel was asked to play is to do “nothing”! The same pictures emerged during the war in the Balkans and now in the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  

  If most of the countries in the Middle East are friends of the US and if the US ships, forces, and bases are present all over the area, what is the need for Israel from security perspectives?  Israel found an answer for this question! By pushing the West into a state of war with the “Arab and Islamic Terror,” Israel would have an important role to play.

Third: Equating Resistance to Occupation with Terrorism

During the Cold War, East Germany played a significant security role with all the international communist organizations that worked with Moscow. Berlin was a place to train these groups in espionage work for Moscow. There, they were also taught how to organize all kinds of political and military activities.  After the collapse of the USSR and communist East Germany, it was found that the head of the espionage department in East Germany (Marcus Wolf) was a double agent who actually worked for Israel.  In turn, Israel asked that he be pardoned and granted him political asylum.  It is interesting to note that Wolf was responsible for training and directing Palestinian communists, some of whom hijacked Israeli civilian airplanes and were responsible for a variety of attacks in European cities.   Therefore, it is not unlikely that Israel would use “Islamic“ groups to suit its purposes in the new era after the Cold War.  

Israel’s history is full of examples in which its agents tried in many ways to sabotage relations between Arab countries and the West. Before the Suez Canal crisis, in 1954, Israeli agents tried to destroy American interests in the area to push the US into a confrontation with Egypt and to support its combined aggression with France and Britain against Nasser (the Navon scandal).

Israel realized that by signing peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority it would be difficult for these governments to go to war again.  Sadat was right on the mark when he said that the war in 1973 was “the last of the wars with Israel.”  Yet, he was only right when applying this to the Arab governments but not when it came to Israel. These treaties did not stop Israel from continuously waging wars against Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and the rest of the Arab world. It followed naturally that these wars resulted in the formation of popular movements to resist Israeli occupation and its brutality. 

 Israel realized the danger of this new “enemy,” i.e. the popular resistance movements, after the successful experience of the Lebanese resistance movement. This movement confined its operations to occupied Lebanese land and against the Israeli occupation force and its agents. This strategy was very successful in countering Israeli propaganda in the West that tried to brand the resistance as terrorism. The strategy also resulted in mounting internal pressure by ordinary Israelis against their government to end the occupation. The success of the Lebanese Resistance had a stunning impact in both the Arab and Islamic Worlds. It was the spark that re-ignited the second “Intifadah” in occupied Palestine.  

All of these events made Israel realize the danger of the continuation of the Palestinian Intifadah and its potential of turning into an all out resistance movement against the occupation. Sharon (the icon of contemporary Israel’s terror) failed miserably in fulfilling his promises to stop the Intifadah in 100 days, even though that period coincided with a lack of Arab support for the Intifadah and a complete lack of international condemnation of Israel’s barbaric acts against the Palestinians.  This is in addition to the US turning a blind eye to the massacres that were and still are being committed by Sharon under the pretext that he needed 100 days to end the Intifadah after which US diplomacy could become engaged again in the region. 

The three Israeli objectives: Islam is the new “enemy” of the West, Israel has a significant security role to play to protect Western interests, and equating resistance with terror, are all connected and can not be achieved independently.  The terrorist attack on September 11 was an opportunity for Israel to try to achieve its goals. One of the main obstacles Israel was facing prior to this attack was the refusal of the US to brand certain countries and organizations as terrorists or supporters of terror. But now, the discussion in the media has changed from whether some Arab countries should be bombed to details of when they should be destroyed and how! 

There are many questions in the Arab World regarding the “Bin Laden” phenomenon. It is puzzling that he and his terrorist group, since their inception, did not concern themselves with the Arab-Israeli conflict, but rather fought alongside the US against the USSR in Afghanistan!  It is also puzzling that, during the Cold War, era the US encouraged the use of the terms “Mujahedeen” and “Jihad” to describe the freedom fighters (Hollywood even used these terms positively in its Afghan related war movies), but now “jihad” is synonymous with “terror”! It is also puzzling that while the Israeli occupation has been the main conflict confronting the Arab world for the past 50 years, “Al-Qaeda” and its leaders never took any actions against Israel, but now claim that they are concerned about the plight of the Palestinians!  

 The success of Israel in taking full advantage of the current crisis was met with a complete lack of resolve and action from Arab countries and organizations on how to best confront and address the aftermath and the fall-out of September 11.  Some of the questions that need to be answered are:

  ·        Why didn’t the Arab leaders immediately hold a summit meeting to discuss the impact of the Sept 11 attacks and to take action to protect their own interests, especially since all the signs where pointing towards blaming the entire Arab nation for the action of a handful of its estranged citizens?  Such an urgent Arab summit would have resulted in a united Arab declaration condemning the Sept 11 attacks against the US, while at the same time making a clear distinction between supporting legitimate resistance against Israeli occupation and opposing international and Israeli terror.  If the Arab leaders had adopted such a position with a few of them personally delivering and explaining this position to the capitals of the world -- especially Washington -- the Arab position would be more respected and less marginalized now.  

  ·        Why didn’t some religious authority or a Muslim country call for a conference for Muslim scholars and religious leaders to study and discuss the manner in which the image of Islam is being tarnished (either by a few who claim to fight for Islam or by those who fight against Islam)? The outcome of such a conference would be to put out an international Islamic document and declaration clarifying many Islamic “terminologies” and traditions that have been grossly distorted. Such a declaration could go far in emphasizing the correct position of Islam regarding many issues, particularly condemning Al-Qaeda terror and the Taliban experience. What if some of these leaders and scholars personally delivered to all Western capitals such an International Islamic Declaration?  They would be like messengers delivering the right message through a series of public meetings to engage the West in an open dialogue to answer many questions that ordinary people in the West have regarding Islam and Muslim countries. This would create a tremendous opportunity to present the real and positive image of Islam to the Western world. 

·        Why didn’t the Palestinian Authority call for a Palestinian national conference right after the Sept 11 tragedy? Such a conference would have come up with a common strategy agreed upon by all the Palestinian groups to confront the terror of Sharon. This would have been a very useful forum allowing the Palestinians to reach a common understanding on how to approach the international community and assert the right granted to them by international laws to continue their Intifadah as a legitimate struggle against occupation. Such a meeting would also make a clear distinction between the right to fight the occupation on one hand and to disavow terror and attacking civilians on the other. 

 The Palestinian people, who are separated between those inside the occupied land and those in the Diaspora, do not need further divisions within the Palestinian Authority between those who want to go back to negotiating with Israel and those who want to continue the Intifadah, and between a legitimate resistance movement that confines its operations against the occupying forces and groups that have no red lines in their activities.  Targeting civilians, as opposed to only confronting the occupying forces, has hurt the Palestinian cause and given Sharon the excuses he needed to continue his massacres and expand his killing fields.  

  Two different and opposing views and strategies seem to divide various groups in the occupied Palestinian land.  It seems that each of these groups has overestimated how far it should go in its struggle. The first group has gone too far in agreeing with Israel, and the second group has gone too far in the places, timing, and targets of its resistance actions.   

 Most of the Arab leaders and diplomats praised US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his “vision” regarding the Middle East (although that vision lacks clarity!).  In this vision, Mr. Powell referred to the “occupation” of Arab lands by Israel. By the mere use of the word “occupation” the US admits that Israel is an occupying force and, therefore, the people under occupation have the legal right under international laws to fight their occupiers.  Yet none of the Arab leaders or diplomats has publicly asked Mr. Powell about his “vision” regarding the “occupation”!   He could be asked the simple question: Do people under occupation have the right to fight for freedom?  Isn’t American history full of support for liberation movements? Wasn’t American Independence won after resisting and fighting the British occupation? 

Israel has tried to convince Americans and the West that Palestinian resistance is terrorism and similar to what happened on September 11, and that, therefore, its fight against the Palestinians is similar to America’s fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  The US should feel insulted and should reject such a ludicrous claim.  Such a false comparison would suggest that the US was a colonizing power that would want to bring settlers to Afghanistan; similar to what Israel is doing in the West Bank and Gaza. It would suggest that the US would occupy Afghanistan for 35 years and would deprive the Afghans of their freedom; like  Israel has been doing for the past 35 years.   

  The Arab world is governed now by a common culture but not by common policies.  All Arab governments seem to be waiting for decisions to be made by Washington and how to deal with those decisions after they are made! All are acting as individuals and in a vacuum instead of realizing that they share a common fate whether they like it or not!  The West is viewing them through one eye and does not make a distinction between an Arab in the Arabian Peninsula and the one in Northern Africa!  

 Israel has already made and is executing its plans for the entire region. The success of these plans seems to hinge on dividing the Palestinians and destroying their resistance. Israel envisions that such a scenario is the only means left for them to proceed in imposing its “New Middle East” after failing to do so over the past ten years following Madrid and Oslo.    

President Bush said he was surprised by how much the United States is disliked in both the Arab and the Islamic Worlds. The US must realize that ordinary Arab and Muslim people admire the US and its citizens, but that the problem lies in US foreign policies towards them, especially over the past 30 years. A look back at the period of the 1940-1950’s clearly shows that when the US policies were guided by the principles of freedom and justice, the Arab and Muslim Worlds were close to the US.  One outstanding example is the position taken by President Eisenhower in 1956 when he strongly condemned the aggression that was committed by the trio  Israel, France and Britain against Egypt. 

The US-Israeli marriage sits at the core of the problem that has tarnished the image of the US in the Arab and Islamic Worlds.  As a result, the US has become isolated in many international meetings and organizations; most recently in South Africa when the entire world, except the US, condemned Israel’s racist policies, and the most recent US veto against a balanced UN resolution -- adopted by all Security Council members and the US’ closest European allies -- condemning all acts of violence.  

Palestine was, and will remain, the principal element in the Israeli Arab conflict. Palestine will remain the key to any future conflicts or a solution; there is no way around it.  The magnitude of the “conflicts” or the kind of “solution” depends upon the Arabs planning for their own future instead of waiting for others to plan it for them!  It will depend upon how the Arabs are going to work with each other and upon unity.  It will depend upon the Palestinian resistance movement choosing the right methods and right timings, with actions driven by a well-developed strategy as opposed to impulses and acts of revenge.  It will also depend on whether the US will decide to continue with its current policies of blindly supporting Israel or deciding that Israel must not be above the law and must obey international laws like the rest of us! 
This article was originally written in Arabic by Sobhi Ghandour.  It was translated into English by Dr. H. Zbib.

Click here to read Sobhi Ghandour's original Arabic article (PDF Format)

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