Terrorism in Palestine

Occupation feeds hate
2003 artwork called "Occupation feeds hate!" by Carlos Latuff. (Photo credit: Carlos Latuff, Copyrighted free use, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jakarta, IO – Israel and most Westen countries have dubbed the horrific events of the 7th of October 2023 as terrorism and Hamas as a terrorist organization and what occurred on that day was truly horrific. Emergency responders have described how they found that Hamas had tied up and shot whole families including women, children and old people, they cut-off the limbs of living people including children. Hamas did not just kill Israelis but tortured some of them and dismembered the bodies of the dead cutting off their heads or limbs. They raped women. Videos show Hamas savagely battering people to death. What occurred that day was not only clearly a violation of humanitarian international laws but barbaric in its brutality.

For ASEAN what has also been deeply disturbing has been the killing of 32 Thai workers and a Cambodian national, as well as the kidnapping of up to fifty-four Thai nationals. Most people are not aware that Thais were amongst the highest number of foreign nationals killed in the Hamas attack. At the time of the attack, there were about 30,000 Thai nationals working mainly in the agricultural sector in Israel; many close to the border with Gaza. In the past it was mainly non-Jewish Palestinians who worked as farm labourers in Israel but after the Intifada in 1987, Israel no longer allowed freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and replaced Palestinian farm workers with farmers from Thailand who rapidly became the mainstay of Israel’s agriculture.

After the attack the Israeli government which is desperate to keep Thai agricultural workers in Israel offered nearly US$4.9 million as compensation for foreign workers continuing to work in areas around the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, till the end of the year. Thai Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin however, has said that, “This is unacceptable. Thai lives are at stake.”

He has asked all Thai workers to return to Thailand telling them that the Thai government can repatriate one thousand Thai citizens per day and that Thai workers leaving Israel would be compensated around US $ 400 each.

After the UN Security Council failed to reach a consensus on any action with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict, last week the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza. It also demands “continuous, sufficient and unhindered” provision of lifesaving supplies and services for civilians trapped inside the enclave.

Family of the Thai workers
Family of the Thai workers who died in Israel during the HAMAS attack. (Photo credit: hws.org)

The killing and kidnapping of Thai and Cambodian nationals, is most certainly why both Thailand and Cambodia voted against the recently passed UN resolution. Canada had proposed an amendment to the resolution which would have condemned Hamas’ October 7th attack as terrorism and asserted Israel’s right to defend itself. This amendment was rejected, and Thailand as well as Cambodia voted against the UN resolution.

Although Hamas’ attack was an act of terrorism, in his speech at the UN, António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN said however, that the events of the 7th October 2023 cannot be viewed in a vacuum. The Israeli ambassador to the UN reacted in rage to Guterres comment and demanded that he resign as the Secretary General of the UN. However, many other countries defended Guterres’ comment saying that he was simply doing his job as Secretary General which entails that he look at issues from all perspectives.

This means taking a look at the history of terrorism in the Middle East. A vital question that arises, is whether the terrorism conducted by Hamas today, is in fact itself a product of terrorism?

The first to use terrorism in Palestine as an instrument of violence with which to accomplish their goals namely, the creation of a Jewish state, were in fact the Zionists. Before the creation of Israel, Zionists used terrorism against the British under whom Palestine was a mandate, as well as against non-Jewish Palestinians living in Palestine at the time. The Zionists conducted an extremely successful terrorist campaign which later proved to be a vital element in the creation of Israel.

David A. Charters from the University of New Brunswick writes in ‘Jewish Terrorism and the Modern Middle East’ that the terrorism carried out by Zionists in the 1940s was both tactically and strategically significant. Zionist terrorism eroded British power in the mandate leaving them unable to control it which ultimately led to the British withdrawal from Palestine. This in turn created the conditions that made it possible for the Zionists to establish Israel and in the process creating an Arab diaspora.

The migration of Jews back to Palestine began at the end of the 19th century as a result of the persecution of Jews in many European countries. The Zionist movement was created in 1897 by Theodor Herzl with the aim of creating a Jewish state in Palestine. At the time Palestine had been a part of the Ottoman Empire for four centuries and the Jewish population of Palestine made-up about three percent of the population of Palestine. The Muslims made up the majority of the population and then came the Palestinian Christians.

During the First World War, Britain declared war on the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. At the time Palestine was still a part of the Ottoman Empire with a small Jewish population. In 1917, the British government created the Balfour Declaration announcing the support of the British government for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. No representation was heard from the local population in Palestine, the majority of whom were non-Jewish.

Three Zionist groups were to lead a terrorist insurgency against the British and non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine which began on the 31st of October 1945 with   attacks against the British.

At the time the Zionist movement consisted of the Labour Zionists which was a socialist agrarian movement and the Revisionists who were more nationalist in character. The Labour Zionists who were in the majority created the Haganah or ‘Jewish Defence Force’ to defend Jewish settlements, although later they also carried out limited operations against non-Jewish guerrilla forces in Palestine.

The Revisionists believed that it was necessary to attack non-Jewish settlements and the British. They created Irgun Zvai Leumi or the ‘National Military Organization’. In the 1930s they attacked Palestinian non-Jewish settlements and people.

Irgun poster for distribution in central Europe, ca. 1931-38 depicting “Erez Yisrael” in the borders proposed by the Balfour Declaration. (Photo credit: Irgun, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

During the Second World War Haganah and Irgun were at first willing to provide limited cooperation to the British.  However, by the start of the Second World War British policy towards Palestine had changed with their proposal for the creation of one democratic Palestinian state for Muslims, Jews and Christians alike. The more militant Zionists then established the Lochmei Herut Israel or ‘Fighters for the Freedom of Israel’ abbreviated to LHI. The LHI was led by Avraham Stern and later became known as the Stern Gang.

After the Holocaust during which so many Jewish people were killed, a culture of survival developed among Zionists and intensified the pressure to establish a Jewish homeland. So, what emerged to confront the British mandate of Palestine in 1945 was a very militarized Zionism based on the slogan “Never Again”.

The Zionists launched their first terrorist attack on the 31st of October 1945 by attacking railways, oil refineries, and police boats. The three groups mentioned above carried out 79 terrorist attacks between October 1945 and July 1946. Haganah used terror in order to pressure the British to allow Jewish immigration into Palestine which they had stopped. They attacked objects related thereto such as radar stations and police boats. Irgun and the Stern groups, used violence to make the British leave Palestine as they were felt to be protecting the non-Jewish Palestinians. To achieve this, they bombed British troops and police, military bases and police stations, oil refineries, trains, bridges, and banks. In July 1946 they blew up the King David Hotel where the headquarters or Secretariat of the mandate was located. It was where the day-to-day work to keep the mandate functioning was carried out. Ninety-two people were killed including 23 senior civil servants and their staff. This was also where administrative files and records were kept which were destroyed in the blast. None of these could be easily replaced. After this the more pacifist Haganah stopped armed attacks. Irgun and the Stern Gang escalated their attacks carrying out 286 attacks during the next year. They bombed roads and police stations, they kidnapped military personnel and civilians, they executed 2 sergeants after a mock trial and booby trapped their bodies, they derailed 20 trains and mined 5 railway stations. They attacked the petroleum industry including destroying 16,000 tons of petroleum products at the Shell Oil refinery in Haifa, they blew up the Semiramis Hotel and assassinated the UN mediator Folke Bernadotte.

Avraham Stern (1907-1942) founder of the Zionist terrorist group Lochmei Herut Israel, later known as the Stern Gang. (Photocredit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
/media/File:Avraham_Stern.jpg )

By August 1947 Irgun and the Stern Gang had also created large scale Palestinian-Jewish violence.  They attacked non-Jewish Palestinian settlements either driving away or killing the inhabitants. The most famous case being the Massacre at Deir Yassin which took place on the 9th of April 1948, where at least 107 non-Jewish Palestinian villagers, including women and children were killed despite a previous peace pact having been signed with them. Some villagers were killed during the fighting while others were killed while trying to surrender or escape. A number of non-Jewish prisoners were later paraded around Jerusalem where they were jeered and spat at, stoned and later killed. The village was looted and there were reports of rape. The massacre created fear among non-Jewish Palestinians causing many to flee their homes.

Irgun and the Stern Gang used terrorism to create chaos and make Palestine ungovernable so that the British would leave which they did in September 1947. At the same time the Zionists carried out a strategic political and psychological battle for legitimacy. They held propaganda campaigns in Europe and especially the United States where there was a large and politically active Jewish community. Since after the Second World War, Britain was financially very much indebted to America, it was able to exert substantial influence on Britain.

Zionist public relations campaigns emphasized firstly, that the Zionist insurgents were winning therefore making British withdrawal inevitable. Secondly, they emphasized the illegality of Britain’s Palestine policy which by then due to the protests of the non-Jewish population of Palestine, now set limits to Jewish immigration to Palestine which the Zionists claimed violated the terms of Britain’s mandate in Palestine. Consequently, the Zionists were only acting in self-defence and the blame shifted to the British. Thirdly, they delegitimized British rule in Palestine by portraying Palestine as a police state under the British. In this way the Zionists were able to put pressure on the United States government, so that it was not possible for the Truman administration to cooperate with Britain in trying to find a peaceful negotiated solution to the problems in Palestine.

In November 1947 the matter was brought before the United Nations and through a combination of the Zionists armed struggle using terror tactics, international sympathy after the War for Jews due to the Holocaust and a powerful Jewish lobby in Washington, the United Nations were persuaded to pass a resolution partitioning Palestine rather than creating one Palestinian state for Muslim, Jewish and Christian Palestinians as envisioned by non-Jewish Palestinians and the British. In the partition, the Jews who then made up about 33% of the population of Palestine and who legally owned about 6-7% of the land, were given 61% of the territory whereas the Muslim and Christian Palestinians who made up roughly 67% of the population and who owned most of the land were given 39% of the territory of Palestine.

Algerian 1966
Algerian 1966 stamp commemorating the Deir Yassin Massacre. (Photo credit: Post of Algeria, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

At the time the non-Jewish Palestinian population which was largely leaderless and not prepared for armed conflict was driven out of the Israeli territory by Irgun and Stern gang attacks such as the massacre at Deir Yassin or understandably fled in order to avoid the violent conflict. They were never allowed to return by the Israelis once the fighting had stopped.

The unfairness of the United Nations partition division became the basis for future conflicts in Palestine which resulted in non-Jewish Palestinians losing more and more territory, finally leaving them with 22% of the territory in the form of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

All these events led to the birth of Palestinian terrorism which used the same methods that Zionist terrorists had used against the British and non-Jewish Palestinians. The Israeli government did not like to acknowledge that terrorism was one of the weapons used by the Zionists to establish Israel, especially under Labour Zionist governments. However, since the 1970s when the Zionist Revisionists came to power former terrorists began to be acknowledged. Later, Menachem Begin who had been the commander of Irgun from 1943 to 1948 even became Prime Minister of Israel from 1977 to 1983.

Acknowledging this original use of terrorism by Israel’s founders would make it difficult to delegitimatize the non-Jewish Palestinian terrorism such as the Hamas terrorist attack of October 7th, 2023 as events appear to have come full circle now. The non-Jewish Palestinians and their supporters are now conducting the sort of public relations campaign and lobbying carried out by Zionists after the Second World War. This was made possible through the advent of social media,  international Arab owned news channel, Al Jazeera and the fact that the history of the Palestinian struggle is now readily available for anyone to research through Google.

The world dislikes watching the killing of thousands of Palestinians which it does with growing horror and anger through social media. At present, over 11,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza, 70% of whom are women and children.  The Irish Prime Minister has spoken out against the targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza as revenge rather than defence. Bolivia and South Africa have announced that that they are severing diplomatic ties with Israel and all over the world hundreds of thousands of people have turned out to demonstrate against Israel. Despite Hamas’ terror attack, Israel is losing in the realm of international public opinion and is being seen as the aggressor. If the American public can persuade the United States Congress to withhold funds for Israel as they did against the Netherlands during Indonesia’s struggle for independence, peace in Palestine may stand a chance and peace negotiators may finally be able to work out a solution for Palestine that is fair to both sides. (Tamalia Alisjahbana)

If you enjoyed reading this article you may enjoy reading more on this topic by the same writer:

– Waging a Jihad for Peace
Now is not the time to remain silent
: https://observerid.com/waging-a-jihad-for-peace/