Terrorism: The Way It Works

by Marwan Bishara

Le Figaro, Paris, France, Feb. 11, 2002

World Press Review, April 2002

A person is not born a terrorist; he or she becomes one. ... How do you make a Palestinian kamikaze? The recipe is simple: You mix a few ounces of flesh, blood, and bones; you sprinkle with a hint of the promise of a decent life. Then you break any morale and place him (or her) into total hopelessness, while regularly adding drops of concentrated doses of morality and racism. You stir the mixture well, cover it, and let it marinate out of the light. Finally, you bring it to a boil in the searing heat of the humiliation of the occupation. And there you have it! Now, they are ready to die. They can go out and commit desperate acts on their own initiative or be recruited by the local resistance movement. Worse, they can fall prey to the indoctrination of the neighborhood fanatics and sign up to become the next martyrs.

Over these last months, Israel has demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop the terrorist production line. But where does this production line begin? For Israel, it begins when the terrorists are ready to die. For the Palestinians, it begins when they have lost hope. After that, it is just a question of time and happenstance. A few days ago, the production line was running full steam. The Israeli military was bulldozing dozens of dwellings in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, probably in reprisal for the attack on a military post by two Palestinians. These demolitions have increased the number of homeless. Palestinian families: 92 more families; in other words, several hundred Palestinian children in the street, according to Israeli human rights associations. Just numbers; no names, no faces, no drama.

Since last week, these children, homeless and deprived of school, have been ready for the next phase: to fight for their home. They can join up either with the secular structures of the Palestinian organizations, Arafat's Fatah or the Tanzim, or they can join the fundamentalist movements of Hamas or Jihad, which Israel, and to a certain extent the United States, define as being terrorists.

For Sharon, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is no different from the Taliban, because it harbors terrorists. Relentlessly, he is exploiting the United States war on terrorism to wage his own war against the PA. To destroy the enemy, thus defined as a form of contagious disease, means to kill all those who are suspected of terrorism, their allies, their friends, and all those who support them and support their cause.

As a matter of fact, Arafat's leadership is the exact opposite of that of the Taliban, since it represents the most liberal segments of Palestinian society, those who are most favorable to coexistence. For years, Arafat has resorted to very severe measures of repression against Hamas. But the permanence and the violence of the occupation have only strengthened the determination of Hamas.

The removal of Arafat would only strengthen the religious fundamentalist movements. To accept instructions from Israel would be tantamount to collaborating. Fortunately, Arafat is not a collaborator. This is what makes him a leader capable of signing a compromise with Israel that can lead to a historic reconciliation and to peace. Discrediting him and weakening him can only lead to more instability and violence. Arafat is in agreement with the solution of two states, based on the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. But Sharon, what is he in agreement with? Occupation, colonization, massacres? For the Palestinians, Sharon is another Milosevic. In 2000, Shimon Peres had already sounded the alert: to elect Sharon was to produce another Milosevic!

Today, a growing number of people in Sharon s government are talking openly about transferring the Palestinians to the other side of the borders. Already 150,000 Palestinians, or 10 percent of the population of the West Bank, have left the occupied territories. While Arafat has nothing in common with Mullah Omar of the Taliban, Sharon is much more intelligent than Milosevic. He will not go so far as to carry out an ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian type, but the persistent deterioration of the situation will have the same tragic repercussions on the region.

It is the occupation that is the engine of hate, impoverishment, and humiliation. It is Israel's worst enemy. The Palestinian resistance to this occupation will no doubt continue until all Israeli forces have been withdrawn. It is said that terrorism is the weapon of the weak. That is not true. The best weapon of the weak is international legality and justice.

Former [Israeli] Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the most decorated Israeli general, once asserted that had he been born Palestinian, he would have become a "terrorist." Fortunately, the majority of young Palestinians seek to live and not to kill themselves. It is only by strengthening their hope for a decent life that we will be able to overcome the culture of hate and death.


Marwan Bishara is a Palestinian journalist and lecturer in international relations at the American University in Paris.

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