Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Non-Violent Terrorists? No, Non-Violent Terrorist Sympathizers

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By Barry Rubin

Here we go again with the quarterly (perhaps monthly) article about how Israel's enemies are turning to non-violence. This one, by Charles Levinson in the Wall Street Journal, is far better than most. Indeed, to his credit, it reminds us of one of the attributes of good reporting: it is balanced and honest enough to give the reader sufficient information to question the thesis the author presents.

The article begins:

"Hamas and Hezbollah, groups that have long battled Israel with violent tactics, have begun to embrace civil disobedience, protest marches, lawsuits and boycotts—tactics they once dismissed."

But really this kind of thing has been talked about, but never long practiced, for decades. There were protest marches in the 1960s and the Arab boycott of Israel has gone on even longer. The example that leads to these new musings is, of course, the Gaza flotilla. But as Levinson rightly points out, this gambit succeeded precisely because the militants planned to use violence.

He writes: "But a small cadre of Palestinian activists has long argued that nonviolence, in the tradition of the American civil rights movement, would be far more effective." Yet there are cultural and political reasons why this approach never wins out, in the Middle East at least.

Let's assume that when Israeli soldiers landed on the flagship of the Gaza flotilla, that it surrendered peacefully as the other ships had done. All of the headlines and reactions were based on Jihadists attacking the soldiers, taking them hostage, and Israeli forces killing nine of the violent attackers to rescue their people. No suicide attackers, no international impact. This doesn't indicate a turn toward non-violence but to carefully camouflaged violence.

One Hamas parliamentarian is quoted as saying, "When we use violence, we help Israel win international support. The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets."

Yet this analysis leaves out a huge elephant. The biggest international gains came about as a result of other examples of camouflaged terrorism: two wars set off by the terrorists--2006 in Lebanon; 2008-2009 in the Gaza Strip. Violently attacking Israel, forcing it to respond, and then trying to get as many of your own civilians killed is the strategy that has worked.

That is exactly what also happened with the Gaza flotilla.

To Levinson's credit, he includes the background so often left out of articles:
"Hamas and Hezbollah, the Islamist movement in Lebanon that has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s, haven't renounced violence and both groups continue to amass arms. Hamas still abides by a charter that calls for Israel's destruction; Palestinian youths still hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers. And the flotilla incident didn't fall into conventional standards of peaceful protest: While most activists passively resisted Israeli soldiers, some on the boat where protesters were killed attacked commandos as they boarded, according to video footage released by Israel and soldiers' accounts."

Well, he did pull one punch. It isn't just rock-throwing but the murder of Israeli civilians whenever possible. The reason such attacks don't happen more often has nothing to do with Palestinian tactics and everything to do with generally effective Israeli security measures. Otherwise, there would be as many terror attacks on Israeli cities as there are in Iraq.

What has changed, of course, is not Hamas or Hizballah policies but Western reactions. A sharp leftward and anti-Israeli turn in some places, coupled with  radicalism in academia and part of the media, has meant an avid audience for supporting terrorist groups, first and foremost by not classifying them as such and keeping secret what they are saying in Arabic. Indeed, striking against Israel has become the number-one international priority for most left-wing activists for reasons I explained here.

The influence isn't running from West to Middle East (moderation, nonviolence) but in the exact opposite direction. Antisemitism and irrationality flow from radical Middle East groups to radical Western groups, subverting the standards of democracy, journalism, and scholarship. The genteel antisemitism so present in a newspaper like the Guardian soon becomes the antisemitism of the passionately vitriolic hater.

And now theres a new feature. Even when Western supporters of Middle Eastern terrorists become violent, they can expect at times--as seen in one recent British case--to get off scot-free, thus subverting the Western legal system as well. Or what can one say about the German parliament's passing an anti-Israel resolution which is basically a vote of support for Hamas? Those who have spent decades voicing their regret for the Nazi past help the closest variation of Nazism at present, which intends to commit genocide on Jews in the future. Irony, anyone?

"Non-violence" is not being carried out by either Hamas or Hizballah, which haven't changed one bit, but by their Western supporters. During the 1930s, some in the West practiced appeasement toward the fascism of that day; a few became supporters. But the development of an active, enthusiastic mass base for a violent, genocidal foreign movement is a unique attribute of our era. To justify
revolutionary terrorists who are open antisemites on humanitarian grounds is another twenty-first century innovation.

One might suggest that the present line-up is that Western governments support the Palestinian Authority (PA) while the Western left supports Hamas. The attempt is now to turn the governments in that direction as well. Once the anti-Israel forces in the West backed the PLO and, during the 1990s, the PA. Now, however, the domination by Arab nationalist activists have given way to the Islamists, something very evident from the campus debates and demonstrations.

But precisely because the Middle Eastern groups are so extreme, so anti-Western, so repressive, and so viciously violent, they have and will continue to force Western governments to recognize reality.
That's why there is a real gap between policies and propaganda.

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