How Hypocrisy on 'Terrorism' Kills
by Robert Parry
Israel, a nation that was born out of
Zionist terrorism, has launched massive airstrikes against targets
in Gaza using high-tech weapons produced by the United States,
a country that often has aided and abetted terrorism by its client
military forces, such as Chile's Operation Condor and the Nicaraguan
contras, and even today harbors right-wing Cuban terrorists implicated
in blowing up a civilian airliner.
Yet, with that moral ambiguity excluded
from the debate, the justification for the Israeli attacks, which
have killed at least 364 people, is the righteous fight against
"terrorism," since Gaza is ruled by the militant Palestinian
Hamas rose to power in January 2006 through
Palestinian elections, which ironically the Bush administration
had demanded. However, after Hamas won a parliamentary majority,
Israel and the United States denounced the outcome because they
deem Hamas a "terrorist organization."
Hamas then wrested control of Gaza from
Fatah, a rival group that once was considered "terrorist"
but is now viewed as a U.S.-Israeli partner, so it has been cleansed
of the "terrorist" label.
Unwilling to negotiate seriously with
Hamas because of its acts of terrorism - which have included firing
indiscriminate short-range missiles into southern Israel - the
United States and Israel sat back as the humanitarian catastrophe
in Gaza worsened, with 1.5 million impoverished Palestinians packed
into what amounts to a giant open-air prison.
When Hamas ended a temporary cease-fire
on Dec. 19 because of a lack of progress in those negotiations
and began lobbing its little missiles into Israel once more, the
Israeli government reacted on Saturday with its lethal "shock
and awe" firepower - even though no Israelis had been killed
by the post-cease-fire missiles launched from Gaza.
Israel claimed that its smart bombs targeted
sites related to the Hamas security forces, including a school
for police cadets and even regular policemen walking down the
street. But it soon became clear that Israel was taking an expansive
view of what was part of the Hamas military infrastructure, with
Israeli bombs taking out a television station and a university
building as well as killing a significant number of civilians.
As the slaughter continued on Monday,
Israeli officials confided to Western journalists that the war
plan was to destroy the vast support network of social and other
programs that undergird Hamas's political clout.
"There are many aspects of Hamas,
and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything
is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel,"
a senior Israeli military official, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, told the Washington Post.
"Hamas's civilian infrastructure
is a very, very sensitive target," added Matti Steinberg,
a former top adviser to Israel's domestic security service. "If
you want to put pressure on them, this is how." [Washington
Post, Dec. 30, 2008]
Since the classic definition of "terrorism"
is the use of violence against civilians to achieve a political
goal, Israel would seem to be inviting an objective analysis that
it has chosen its own terrorist path. But it is clearly counting
on the U.S. news media to continue wearing the blinders that effectively
limit condemnations about terrorism to people and groups that
are regarded as Washington's enemies.
As a Washington-based reporter for the
Associated Press in the 1980s, I once questioned the seeming bias
that the U.S.-based wire service applied to its use of the word
"terrorist" when covering Middle East issues. A senior
AP executive responded to my concerns with a quip. "Terrorist
is the word that follows Arab," he said.
Though meant as a lighthearted riposte,
the comment clearly had a great deal of truth to it. It was easy
to attach "terrorist" to any Arab attack - even against
a military target such as the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks
in Lebanon in 1983 after the Reagan administration had joined
hostilities against Muslim forces by having U.S. warships lob
shells into Lebanese villages.
But it was understood that different rules
on the use of the word "terrorism" applied when the
terrorism was coming from "our side." Then, no American
reporter with any sense of career survival would think of injecting
the word "terrorist" whatever the justification.
Even historical references to acts of
terrorism - such as the brutal practice by American revolutionaries
in the 1770s of "tar and feathering" civilians considered
sympathetic to the British Crown or the extermination of American
Indian tribes - were seen as somehow diluting the moral righteousness
against today's Islamic terrorists and in favor of George W. Bush's
"war on terror."
Gone, too, from the historical narrative
was the fact that militant Zionists employed terrorism as part
of their campaign to establish Israel as a Jewish state. The terrorism
included killings of British officials who were administering
Palestine under an international mandate as well as Palestinians
who were driven violently from their land so it could be claimed
by Jewish settlers.
One of the most famous of those terrorist
attacks was the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem
where British officials were staying. The attack, which killed
91 people including local residents, was carried out by the Irgun,
a terrorist group run by Menachem Begin who later founded the
Likud Party and rose to be Israel's prime minister.
Another veteran of the campaign of Zionist
terrorism was Yitzhak Shamir, who also became a Likud leader and
eventually prime minister.
In the early 1990s, as I was waiting to
interview Shamir at his Tel Aviv office, I was approached by one
of his young female assistants who was dressed in a gray and blue
smock with a head covering in the traditional Hebrew style.
As we were chatting, she smiled and said
in a lilting voice, "Prime Minister Shamir, he was a terrorist,
you know." I responded with a chuckle, "yes, I'm aware
of the prime minister's biography."
To maintain one's moral purity in denouncing
acts of terror by U.S. enemies, one also needs a large blind spot
for recent U.S. history, which implicates U.S. leaders repeatedly
in tolerance or acts of terrorism.
For instance, in 1973, after a bloody
U.S.-backed coup overthrew the leftist Chilean government, the
new regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet joined with other South American
dictatorships to sponsor an international terrorist organization
called Operation Condor which assassinated political dissidents
around the world.
Operation Condor mounted one of its most
audacious actions on the streets of Washington in 1976, when Pinochet's
regime recruited Cuban-American terrorists to detonate a car bomb
that killed Chile's former foreign minister Orlando Letelier and
an American co-worker, Ronni Moffitt. The Chilean government's
role immediately was covered up by the CIA, then headed by George
Only weeks later, a Venezuela-based team
of right-wing Cubans - under the direction of Orlando Bosch and
Luis Posada Carriles - blew a Cubana Airliner out of the sky,
killing 73 people. Bosch and Posada, a former CIA operative, were
co-founders of CORU, which was described by the FBI as "an
anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization."
Though the U.S. government soon learned
of the role of Bosch and Posada in the Cubana airline attack -
and the two men spent some time in a Venezuelan jail - both Bosch
and Posada since have enjoyed the protection of the U.S. government
and particularly the Bush Family.
Rebuffing international demands that Bosch
and Posada be held accountable for their crimes, the Bushes -
George H.W., George W. and Jeb - have all had a hand in making
sure these unrepentant terrorists get to live out their golden
years in the safety and comfort of the United States.
In the 1980s, Posada even crossed over
into another U.S.-backed terrorist organization, the Nicaraguan
contras. After escaping from Venezuela, he was put to work in
1985 by Oliver North's contra-support operation run out of Ronald
Reagan's National Security Council.
The Nicaraguan contras were, in effect,
a narco-terrorist organization that partially funded its operations
with proceeds from cocaine trafficking, a secret that the Reagan
administration worked hard to conceal along with the contras'
record of murder, torture, rape and other crimes in Nicaragua.
President Reagan joined, too, in fierce
PR campaigns to discredit human rights investigators who documented
massive atrocities by U.S. allies in Central America in the 1980s
- not only the contras, but also the state terrorism of the Salvadoran
and Guatemalan security forces, which engaged in wholesale slaughters
in villages considered sympathetic to leftist insurgents.
Generally, the major U.S. news outlets
treaded very carefully when allegations arose about terrorism
by "our side."
When some brave journalists, like New
York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner, wrote about politically
motivated killings of civilians in Central America, they faced
organized retaliation by right-wing advocacy groups which often
succeeded in damaging or destroying the reporters' careers.
Eventually, the American press corps developed
an engrained sense of the double standards. Moral outrage could
be expressed when acts of terrorism were committed by U.S. enemies,
while studied silence - or nuanced concern - would be in order
when the crimes were by U.S. allies.
So, while the U.S. news media had no doubt
that the 9/11 terrorist attacks justified invading Afghanistan,
there was very little U.S. media criticism when President Bush
inflicted his "shock and awe" assault on Iraq, a war
that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths.
Though many Muslims and others around
the world have denounced Bush's Iraq invasion as "state terrorism,"
such a charge would be considered far outside the mainstream in
the United States. Instead, Iraqi insurgents are often labeled
"terrorists" when they attack U.S. troops inside Iraq.
The word "terrorist" has become, in effect, a geopolitical
Despite the long and bloody history of
U.S.-Israeli participation in terrorism, the U.S. news media continues
its paradigm of pitting the U.S.-Israeli "good guys"
against the Islamic "bad guys." One side has the moral
high ground and the other is in the moral gutter.
Any attempt to cite the larger, more ambiguous
and more troubling picture draws accusations from defenders of
U.S.-Israeli actions, especially the neoconservatives, of what
they call "moral equivalence" or "anti-Semitism."
Yet it is now clear that acquiescence
to a double standard on terrorism is not just a violation of journalistic
ethics or an act of political cowardice; it is complicity in mass
murder. Without the double standard, it is hard to envision how
the bloodbaths - in Iraq (since 2003), in Lebanon (in 2006) and
in Gaza (today) - would be possible.
Hypocrisy over the word "terrorism"
is not an innocent dispute over semantics; it kills.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His
latest book ,Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W.
Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous
books are Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras,
Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'.