Israel’s navy has intercepted a ship carrying 300 tons of weaponry apparently in transit from Iran and destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.  The weapons have been unloaded in Ashdod and the ship continues on its way.  Hezbollah condemns Israeli ‘piracy’ but disclaims all knowledge of the shipment.   Clearly this increases tension in the Middle East.  Israel is naturally concerned at the possibility of an increased threat on its northern border and a possible violation of the 2006 ceasefire conditions.

Haaretz reports Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as saying   “Iran is shipping weapons to terror organizations in order to attack Israeli cities and kill its citizens. It is time that the international community applied real pressure on Iran to stop these criminal actions, and support Israel in its battle against terrorists and their patrons,”

We have become used to the language of terror in the context of the Middle East without questioning its proper application or the context.  Since I have no more knowledge about these Arms than is in the public domain I’m disinclined to comment directly; but:

What do we mean when we use the word ‘terror’?

In the Israel/Palestine context it is usually used of Palestinians/Arabs attacking Israeli’s.  Rarely in the principal western media is it of Israeli’s against Palestinians, although we have recently begun to hear a little about settler violence.  Often it is when large numbers are killed and injured that these things come to our attention.

How might it feel for a young woman, a university student in her early twenties, to be taken at night, put in handcuffs and blindfolded and driven away.  Would she feel terror? Personally, I think it likely. I would not want it to happen to a daughter of mine. That was the experience on 28th October of Berlanty Azzam a student at Bethlehem University. Arrested by the Israeli military for the ‘crime’ of being in the wrong place. She is from Gaza and came to the West Bank in 2005 to study.  She had no permit, as a Gaza resident, to be in the West Bank; but no such permit was required in 2005 – it did not exist.  So,the Israeli military received legal advice that this action should not be carried out but went ahead anyway.

When Israel behaves in this ‘terrorising’ manner are they so different from those in Hamas and Hezbollah against whom they fulminate?  Iran is criticised for being undemocratic and intolerant, and especially for its apparent hatred of Israel.  Are we allowed to criticise Israel for its apparent hatred of Palestinians, for the detention (without trial or charge) of 10,000 Palestinians, (including 400 children), for the refusal to allow aid and reconstruction in the prison camp that is Gaza. Are we allowed to question the democracy that disenfranchises the population of the West Bank (who may vote for a powerless Palestinian Authority but not for those who have actual control of their water, their food, their fuel, even their air).

During the Boer War, probably unintentionally, we, the British, invented concentration camps.  Hitler developed them as a ‘solution to the Jewish problem’.  We are entitled to ask whether Israel is perfecting the process with 1.5 million victims who are wholly dependent on Israel and who are facing winter without homes, with restrictions on fuel and food and medicine and everything that we regard as necessary for civilised life.  These things can be provided:  it is not that it is impossible or even very difficult.  It could be solved in weeks, except that Gaza is controlled by democratically elected representatives from Hamas and therefore the residents are to be punished.

Education, Arms, Democracy.  Peace will not be possible when we focus only on the tools of war. The international community has to show that is means what it says and that international law is applied ‘blind’, without favour.  Where justice is perceived to be partial terrorism will flourish.

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