Volume 5, No. 12, December 2023
Editor: Rashed Rahman
Israel’s terroristic roots and exaggeration of Arab terrorism
In this context it is critically important to remember that Israel has its own terroristic history and heritage, which is conveniently ignored in the loud cacophony of the ‘terrorist’ epithet continuously thrown at the Arabs. Early in the struggle for Israel, the Zionists adopted clear terrorist activities and actions to achieve their goals. The most egregious and infamous of these actions was the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946. In addition to being a hotel, it was also the central offices of the British Mandate authorities of Palestine and its central Secretariat for the Government of Palestine, as well as the Headquarters of the British Armed Forces in Palestine and Transjordan. On July 22, 1946, the hotel was bombed in a brazen terrorist attack by the Zionist underground terrorist organisation, Irgun. Ninety one people of various nationalities were killed. Forty six were injured and there was heavy destruction of the hotel and the different British offices. The attack was also fully approved by the Haganah, the principal Jewish paramilitary group in Palestine. No less than the US Department of Justice, through the Office of Justice Programs, wrote in 1977:
“…it is concluded that: (1) Jewish terrorism against British and Arabs did contribute heavily to the removal of the British from Palestine, the abandonment of the League of Nations mandate and the creation of a Jewish state of Israel… it is concluded that they played a significant part in the creation of the Jewish state.”
Menachim Begin was then the leader of the terrorist group Irgun. Three decades later in 1977, Begin’s political party, Likud, won the Knesset elections by a landslide, becoming the biggest party in the Knesset, and electing him as the sixth Prime Minister of Israel. This was an open election of an established and internationally recognised terrorist.
Begin’s most significant achievement as Prime Minister was the signing of the Camp David Accords, the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, for which he and Anwar Sadat shared the Nobel Prize for Peace. In the wake of the treaty, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, which had been captured from Egypt in the Six-Day War of 1967. However, contrary to this accord, Begin’s government actually promoted the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, also territories occupied in 1967. Begin also authorised the bombing of the Osirak nuclear plant in Iraq in 1981. “Operation Opera” (or “Operation Babylon”) was an “anticipatory act of self-defence”, as Begin put it. This was a foundational part of the now infamous “Begin Doctrine”, a policy of pre-emptive preventive strikes and counter-proliferation, which Israel has employed wherever and whenever it arbitrarily decides to do so. This is clearly a state sponsored act of terrorism being justified in crystal ball terms.
Most egregiously, on June 6, 1982, Begin authorised the IDF invasion of Lebanon, ostensibly to fight Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) strongholds there, with little challenge or critique from the whole of the west. As Israeli military involvement in Lebanon deepened, the Sabra and Shatila massacre was carried out by Lebanese Maronist Phalangist militias headed by Major Haddad, who was deeply allied with the Israelis who instigated this attack. “…at least 800 civilians” were killed although some estimates go up to 3,500 Palestinian civilians. This did officially shock world public opinion.
The Kahan Commission was appointed to investigate the events. It issued its report on February 9, 1983, and found the Israeli government was indirectly responsible for the massacre, but that Defence Minister General Ariel Sharon himself “bears personal responsibility”. The commission recommended that Sharon be removed from office and never serve in any future Israeli government. However, Begin refused to fire him and ironically Sharon later also became the eleventh Israeli Prime Minister, from March 2001 until April 2006.
Given these terrorists and mass murderers and their subsequent role of central leadership of the State of Israel, if honesty is a moral value, it would be well to tone down the rhetoric of Arab terrorism in the Palestinian leadership. As the Bible quotes Jesus saying:
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
It should be remembered that the Palestinian leadership had both those with Muslim heritage, like Yasser Arafat of the PLO, and those with Christian heritage, like Greek Orthodox Dr George Habbash (known as “the Hakeem”) of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an even more radical organisation. As former CIA analyst and Middle East expert Bruce Riedel characterises it:
“Fatah was relatively moderate, but other groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine led by George Habbash were far more radical and committed to international air piracy to terrorize Israel.”
 J L Peeke: Jewish-Zionist Terrorism and the Establishment of Israel, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1977), available at
https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/jewish-zionist-terrorism-and-establishment-israel. See also, J Bowyer Bell: Terror out of Zion: Irgun Zvai Leumi, Lehi, and the Palestine Underground, 1929-1949 (Dublin: Academy Press, 1979); Harvey W Kushner: Encyclopedia of Terrorism (Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2002); and David Whittaker: The Terrorism Reader (4th ed.) (New York: Routledge, 2012).
There were at least three distinct Zionist Jewish terrorist groups operating in Mandatory Palestine:
 See, “Flashback: Sabra and Shatila massacres,” BBC.com, January 24, 2002, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1779713.stm.
 Bruce Riedel: “Remembering a Triumph in Intelligence: Fifty Years after ‘Black September’ in Jordan”, in Studies in Intelligence, vol. 64, no. 2 (June 2020) available at https://www.cia.gov/static/Black-September-Jordan.pdf.
(To be continued)
The writer is the Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Justice and Christian Community (Emeritus), Director of Islamic Studies (Emeritus), Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, US, and the Desmond Tutu Professor of Ecumenical Theology and Social Transformation in Africa (Emeritus), University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.