As resistance operations in the occupied West Bank escalate, Israel’s occupation army continues to mobilise against Palestinian “terrorist attacks”. However, there are now Israeli voices which reject such a description; they are saying that there is a guerrilla war going on. The difference is clear, but it’s still not so obvious to many within Israel.
“The guerrilla war Palestinians are carrying out against Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories enjoys a certain degree of legitimacy in research, literature and international law,” a number of opinion pieces, articles and statements by politicians, academics and legal experts have asserted. “Guerrilla warfare requires more courage, because Palestinians in this case take up arms against trained Israeli soldiers, and because fighting against armed soldiers residing in the occupied territories is the clear definition of guerrilla warfare.”
Sharon Luzon is a lecturer at the Hebrew Open University specialising in military and security affairs, international relations and political science. His explanation about the Palestinian resistance is that, “As long as the Israeli army stays in the West Bank, which it has controlled for 55 years, the land is occupied, and these soldiers are maintaining this occupation. The Palestinians are fighting them, so they are fighters; that is their definition, besides the term ‘freedom fighters’. Even settlers residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, they exist for military purposes, which makes them legitimate targets for Palestinian militants, especially when they [the settlers] are armed adults.”
Despite the mobilisation of the extreme right in Israel, and politicians giving the occupation army more powers to suppress the Palestinians in response to the recent guerrilla attacks, there are still some Israeli voices that deviate from the consensus and reject the oppression. They refuse to characterise the resistance operations carried out by Palestinian militants against the occupation soldiers and illegal settlers as terrorist attacks.
Parliamentarian Ofer Cassif, for example, does not hesitate to say that, “Palestinians who shoot at Israeli soldiers are not terrorists, but guerrilla fighters similar to the revolutionaries who fought the Nazi occupation in Europe during World War II.”
This suggests that those Israelis and their supporters who call Palestinian militants “terrorists” are seeking to demonise and dehumanise them in order to fuel the conflict. So-called Palestinian “terrorism” prompts us to think back to what “Jewish terrorists” did when they killed British soldiers and planted a bomb in the Arab market in Haifa in 1938; and when they blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and killed 90 British personnel and local Arabs, mostly civilians, in 1946; and did many other despicable things. That was terrorism in every sense of the word.
It is true that Israelis like Luzon and Cassif oppose violence, support peaceful struggle against the occupation, and do not want anyone to be killed. At the same time, though, they believe that, “Any armed man has the right to harm an occupying military force, according to the internationally-recognized definitions and those of the United Nations. These definitions state that the occupied people have the right to use armed means against the occupation, so they cannot be called terrorists, because real terrorism is the occupation itself.”
It is difficult to talk about the rise of an Israeli collective conscience on the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance. Nevertheless, the trend is growing from the time when someone like Israeli playwright and TV presenter Yaron London said at the height of the Aqsa Intifada (2000-2005)and the guerrilla operations it witnessed that, “The hostile operations launched by the Palestinians against the Israelis deserve to be part of the national war of liberation, not terrorism.”
Moreover, the Professor of Chemistry at the Hebrew University in occupied Jerusalem, Amiram Goldblum, has accused Israeli settlers of being terrorists. The Israeli settlement project, he said, is a trigger for the terrorist industry, and that real terrorism began 55 years ago in 1967, when the settlement project began. This has turned every home established by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories into an existential threat to the people of Palestine. Terrorism is not limited to shooting or the use of weapons, but is also represented by the presence of settlers living in such homes built on Palestinian land.”
Goldblum added that, “Israel practices state terrorism against the Palestinians, and anyone who does not protest against the terrorism of the Israeli state is a partner in one way or another.” Meanwhile, every effort that would stop state terrorism is worthwhile and appreciated. He pointed out that some sections of the Israeli right are considered to be neo-Nazis, describing members of the right-wing “Im Tirtzu” movement as “Hitler’s Boys”.
While Israel’s security agencies, army and civil administration continue to control the lives of the Palestinians across the occupied lands, its colonial settlement looks to control the land without any of its original inhabitants between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. It seeks to blur the borders between these areas and the occupation itself.
“The scheme to control the Palestinians is not a side act, but is the main part of Israel’s day and night work,” said Menachem Klein, a lecturer at Bar Ilan University and an advisor to the Israeli delegation in negotiations with the PLO. “Israel has developed its mechanisms to control the Palestinians. It has reached the point of producing biometric identification devices, advanced computers that scan texts on social media and mobile phones, and process large amounts of data, in addition to espionage through apps such as Pegasus. All aim to control the Palestinians.”
His words carry a clear and unambiguous admission that the Israeli authorities’ description of the Palestinian guerrillas as “terrorists and saboteurs” does not convince all Israelis; that there are growing numbers who are convinced that the West Bank is occupied land; and that targeting Israeli soldiers there is an act of legitimate resistance according to international law. These Israelis may demonstrate outwardly that they accept the army narrative, but in their hearts they are fully aware that Palestinians are freedom fighters in a struggle against soldiers of an illegal and rejected occupation.