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Who is a Terrorist?


A week ago or so, in Jerusalem, an Israeli Border-Police office was stabbed to death by three Palestinian assailants in broad day light. She was a young woman of 23, her whole life ahead of her, whom relatives described as a “real-life Wonder Woman.” In my book, she is most certainly worthier of that title than the Israeli woman playing that Comic Book hero in cinema theaters, with all the fakery and shield-deflecting bullets. May she rest in peace, Hadas Malka, and may the memory of her bravery and dedication to defending her country be of blessing.

The Palestinians who killed her were shot and killed too by Israeli forces. They were declared by the Israeli Government and Media as terrorists. Indeed, Netanyahu demanded of Abbas to declare and denounce them as such, which Abba refused to do. The reason he refused to do so, whether stated or not, is that for the Palestinians these were not terrorists, but rather freedom fighters. They were part of the resistance, from Hamas and the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.’ Which, together with other such forces, had been fighting and resisting—though without much success—what they consider to be the occupation and colonialization of their land for the last 50 years.

This difference of view regarding the assailants’ motives and actions, reflects a larger issue of disagreement as to the nature of not only the Palestinian struggle for independence, but also of terrorism at large. Since Israel and its army control their territory, control their every-day life, and keep building settlements on what they regard as their future-state; and yes, sometimes terrorizing them too—think Israeli settlers uprooting their olive trees and slaughtering their sheep—what are they to do? Peace, you say? But Israel’s interest in peace comes second to solidify their control over the occupied territories. It is why, when Netanyahu had demand that Abbas would stop the financial support for the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli, who are confined there on charges of murder and terrorism, Abbas had refused to do so. He reacted likewise even when President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson had demand the same of him. You see: Abbas would lose whatever little credit and respect he still has with his people, who regard those prisoners as martyrs and freedom fighters.

Just a week prior to that, it so happened that four Arab Gulf States severed diplomatic ties, and boycotted a fifth state, Qatar, for supporting terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including objections to Qatar’s close ties with Turkey and Iran. Qatar reputed these accusations, pointing to its constant fight against terrorism. This effort and boycott is being led by Saudi Arabia, which just received a most generous promise of American weaponry from President Trump, in return for many sacks of gold. Yes, that Saudi Arabia, from where Bin Laden came, and most of the other terrorists who blew up the planes and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, murdering close to 3000 innocent people. Killing citizens—and citizens only!—indiscriminately in the streets of peace-loving cities, that’s terrorism.

You might be surprised to learn that Nelson Mandela, one of the most revered politicians ever, whose funereal was the largest gathering of international diplomats, including the then American President Barack Obama, was labeled and regarded as a terrorist. First by the British, second by the racist South African white regime, and third by the Americans. As far as 2008, after he’d been already the liberator and president of South Africa—yes, after receiving the Nobel prize for peace, too—he was still on the American terror list. Imagine that!

And imagine also this: Both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir—who later would become Israel’s Prime Ministers—were labeled and regraded as terrorists. Not only for blowing up the King David Hotel (see picture above) in Jerusalem, killing scores of innocent people from different nationalities, including Jewish victims, together with British Army personnel, but for other acts of murder and atrocities. Even Ben-Gurion, and his Haganah military commanders, who fought so hard for Israel’s independence, had called them, and regarded them as terrorists. And so did the Zionist Congress and Jewish Agency. You can try to justify it by saying that they also fought for Israel’s independence, only sometimes using terrorism means. Just as the Palestinians are doing now. And anyhow, that’s always the case, isn’t it, when fighting for liberation and independence?

And so it goes. One way of looking at it is to say—and principally believe—that terrorism is when you attack and kill indiscriminately innocent people. Young and old, male and female, of all gender and races, who did you no wrong whatsoever, and who are not fighting against you (even if their governments are doing so). They are not occupying your land, your home, your people. Of course, does it really make a difference for this categorization, when your government, on the other hand, indiscriminately blowing up buildings, bombing civilians, ripping them to pieces, killing scores of them, as the Americans still do in Syria and Afghanistan, and as Israel did in Lebanon and Gaza?

Go figure. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” And ‘terror’ as “a state of intense fear;” and also as “violence (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.” Reign of terror is defined as “a state or a period of time marked by violence often committed by those in power that produces widespread terror.” So there you have it, my friends, no need to spell it out for you. At the end of the day, and argument, it seems clear that ‘who is a terrorist,’ may well be just in the eye of the beholder.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.


Should Israel Come Out Of The Closet?



First, full disclosure: I’ve heard this expression lately – an expression reserved usually to gay people coming out and admitting to being homosexual – being mentioned at a lecture in regard to Israel’s nuclear capability. It was not explored much deeper on that occasion, in a discussion-group — “The Israel Forum,” – I moderate here in the Sacramento Jewish community; but, nonetheless, it stuck in my mind and kept on rolling there, dying to “come out” and express itself at further length in this blog post. And what better time to reflect on such an issue than on the anniversary of the most dangerous “close call” of all times, the Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended on October 28, 1962, 51 years ago.



It is an intriguing idea, for Israel to come out of the closet, and a challenging one at that. After all, the world at large knows that Israel possesses a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, with capability of nuclear power that can be launched upon command at an hour of need, or even react to such an attack after it was already had been launched. With that capacity and power, Israel’s strength might be – according to the experts – behind only America, Russia and China. It has been disclosed lately that as far back as the early 60’s, when Israel was developing its nuclear weapons, the Americans – and American Presidents, no less – had tried in vain to stop its progress, and to find out information about its development; very similar, one might surmise, to the current situation with Iran. Yet Israel, a friend and beneficiary of America like no other, had refused to cooperate. It was reported recently in Israel, with the release of documents related to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, that twice Moshe Dayan, the Security Minister at the time, was ready to start preparations for a nuclear launch in the early stages of that war. But PM Golda and her close ministerial advisers had stopped that dead on the tracks. How fortunate we all are for that.

But what does Israel have to lose, come to think of it, by admitting to having nuclear weapons? As if the whole world doesn’t know that already. What does the Israeli government afraid of, or worry about: more pressure to join the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (as of February 2012, 189 recognized states are party to the treaty), and sign the treaty of nonproliferation? Well, maybe so. But then again, Israel is being pressured to do so no matter what. And in any event, the pressure will grow even stronger if, or once, an agreement had been reached with Iran to halt its own nuclear weapons’ development and ambition. And no one, no force exists – yes, not even dear old USA, as past efforts had proved – that will be able to force Israel to join, or destroy its nuclear arsenal, without its consent and cooperation.

There is a very well received and discussed non-fiction book recently published (and currently on the New York Times bestsellers list): “Command And Control,” by Eric Schlosser, which explores thoroughly the many close calls, small-scale accidents, and large-scale accidents – all those terrifying “almost” situations – particularly here in America (but also in Russia and elsewhere) that had the potential to trigger a major, disastrous, global nuclear war. Reading just excerpts from that book gives one chills of fear, and serve as a warning to us all. We almost forgot how dangerous the world is with those terrible weapons deep in the ground, up in the air and down at sea. And the author warns us emphatically that it is not getting any better any time soon, due to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Think then of Israel, and what would happen if such an accident, or miscalculation would to occur? The end of the world, as we say in Hebrew. Literally! And Israel, West Bank and all, is still such a small country by comparison to America, Russia and China, to possess such a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Let’s make a detour here, for entertainment relief, and talk about Anderson Cooper. Yes, he of “CNN 360” and “CBS 60 Minutes,” with the always carefully combed silvery hair and black T-shirt when a suit and a tie are not required. The whole world – well, at least here in America – was talking and rumoring about him as being gay. He kept mum about it for quite a while, pretending not to hear. At the same time continuing with his TV programs, and with segments such as “Keeping Them Honest.” And being overall the “champion of the people;” well, a do-gooder, kind of. Then when he came out, it was not – surprise, surprise – such a big deal after all. It relieved him from that terrible burden of hiding “in the closet,” and of secret that had demanded of him not be “honest.” And then, voila! He came out, and everybody was “cool” about it. Cooper himself even participated in a hilarious skit about it – getting married to Stepon, the “gay poster-child” NY correspondent — on the finale of NBC SNL show last season.

Take example, Israel (said only partly in jest here.) It may release our Jewish State, too, from the burden of keeping mum about its “open secret.” In the short term, it may just help, being open and honest about it, in pushing Iran towards a nuclear deal. And in the long run, will enable Israel – just maybe — to join these and other negotiations on non-proliferation. And if, when all is said and done, it would help create a nuclear free-zone in the Middle East, then what’s so wrong about that? Isn’t that what we all want? What Israel wants and truly needs. No one in the Middle East with nuclear capability, what could be better than that? No threat of accidents or close calls going terribly wrong. With America’s nuclear capability — close by in the Mediterranean Sea or up in the air – always at the ready to protect and intervene, should the worse was to occur. Not such a bad idea for Israel and the Jewish people to contemplate, come to think of it, especially in this light of “keeping them honest,” and of “coming out of the closet.” It may prove very beneficial to us all. Even though, admittedly, I don’t see it becoming a reality anytime soon.

* Published first on “The Times of Israel.”

** “Leave a comment” link is the last tag, in blue.

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