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In the news we get, only the Palestinians are described as terrorists, and yet the Israelis have a long history of terrorism - both before and since the founding of the Jewish state.

At least three Israeli Prime Ministers have been involved in campaigns of terror.

Menachem Begin was the commander of the terrorist group that blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 96 people. He was Israeli Prime Minister in the '70s and '80s. He once described a massacre as "a splendid act of conquest".

Yitzak Shamir was Prime Minister until 1992. He had been a leader of a Jewish group called the Stern Gang which carried out a string of assassinations.

The present Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has long been involved in terror. In 1983, he was found indirectly, but personally, responsible for a civilian massacre by Lebanese militia in two Palestinian refugee camps. At least 800 innocent men, women and children were murdered in cold blood, most of them Palestinians, after Sharon ordered his men to allow the militiamen access to the camps.

Israel's denials
John Pilger interviewed Dori Gold, Senior Adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister, and asked why Israel fails to condemn its own leaders for their terrorist acts in the same way as they condemn anti-Israeli terrorist acts. Here is a transcript of this conversation:

John Pilger: When those Israelis, who are now famous names, committed act of terrorism just before the birth of Israel, you could have said to them, nothing justifies what you've done, ripping apart all those lives. And they would say it did justify it. What's the difference?

Dori Gold: I think we have now, as an international community, come to a new understanding. I think after September 11th the world got a wake-up call. Because terrorism today is no longer the mad bomber, the anarchist who throws in an explosive device into a crowd to make a point. Terrorism is going to move from the present situation to non-conventional terrorism, to nuclear terrorism. And before we reach that point, we have to remove this scourge from the Earth. And therefore, whether you're talking about the struggle here between Israelis and Palestinians, the struggle in Northern Ireland, the struggle in Sri Lanka, or any of the places where terrorism has been used, we must make a global commitment of all free democracies to eliminate this threat from the world. Period.

JP: Does that include state terrorism?

DG: No country has the right to deliberately target civilians. As no organisation has a right to deliberately target civilians.

JP: What about Israeli terrorism now?

DG: The language of terrorism, you have to be very careful with. Terrorism means deliberately targeting civilians, in a kind of warfare. That's what the terrorism against Israeli schools, coffee shops, malls, has been all about. Israel specifically targets, to the best of its ability, Palestinian terrorist organisations.

JP: All right, when an Israeli sniper shoots an old lady with a cane, trying to get into a hospital for her chemotherapy treatment, in front of a lot of the world's press for one, and frankly we'd be here all day with other examples, isn't that terrorism?

DG: I don't know the case you're speaking about, but I can be convinced of one thing. An Israeli who takes aim - even an Israeli sniper - is taking aim at those engaged in terrorism. Unfortunately, in every kind of warfare, there are cases of civilians who are accidentally killed. Terrorism means putting the crosshairs of the sniper's rifle on a civilian deliberately.

JP: Well that's - that's what I've just described.

DG: That is what - no. I can tell you that did not happen.

JP: It did happen. And - and I think that's where some people have problem with the argument that terrorism exists on - on one side. Your definition is absolutely correct, about civilians. And those suicide bombers are terrorists.

DG: If you mix terrorism and counter-terrorism, if you create some kind of moral obfuscation, you will bring about not just a problem for Israel, but you will bring ab - bring about a problem for the entire western alliance. Because we are all facing this threat.

It's hard to see the difference between what the Israelis call 'counter-terrorism' and terrorism. Whatever the target, both involve the killing of innocent people. This is what happened when Prime Minister Sharon sent tanks into Bethlehem earlier this year.

Amjad Abu Laban, a Palestinian resident of Bethlehem, describes one such incident:

"We had, a? private hospital director who was going from the hospital in Al Hadr to Bethlehem to get supplies for his hospital. His plate number was known to the soldiers, his name was known to the soldiers and they knew that he is the director of a hospital. But he was shot. By a high velocity bullet."

Foreign sponsorship of Israeli terror
Israel's occupation of Palestine would not be possible without the backing of America. In the oil-rich Middle East, Israel is America's deputy sheriff, receiving billions of dollars along with the latest weapons: F-16 aircraft, bombs, missiles, Apache helicopters. Today Israel is the fourth largest military power in the world, and it has nuclear weapons.

Although America is Israel's main arms supplier, it's not widely recognised that Britain also fuels the conflict here, even though it condemns Israel for its illegal occupation. During the first 14 months of the Palestinian uprising, the Blair government approved 230 export licences for weapons and military equipment to Israel.

The categories these covered included large calibre weapons; ammunition; bombs; and vital parts for military aircraft that almost certainly included American-supplied combat helicopters. You may have seen these Apache gunships on the news, firing missiles at densely populated areas. Tony Blair has said, 'we are doing everything we can to bring peace and stability to the Middle East'.

Mustafa Barghouthi is a Palestinian who is all too familiar with the violence facilitated by the Israel's American-supplied weapons. He described the scene when Apache helicopters attacked the area in which he lives:

"We saw Apache helicopters circling in the sky above our heads. Then shooting a missile. The rockets fell just 200 metres from our house. All our windows were shuttered. I had a child in front of me, my daughter, who was 11 years old, shivering from fear. Worried, frightened to death. And I could do nothing to protect her.

"And you don't know whether in the second minute you or your daughter would be dead. That feeling of impotence is indescribable and I will never forget it."

(John Pilger 2000)


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