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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 30, 1984, Page 2


Israel and "State Terrorism"

During recent months, "state terrorism" has become a new watchword within the Administration, and the need to fight it more effectively has developed into a major goal of U.S. foreign policy.

This fact became clearer than ever in mid-April, when the White House confirmed that President Reagan had issued a secret directive on April 3 which laid the basis for "taking the offensive" against state terrorism.

Speaking about the directive, White House spokesman Larry Speakes declared on April 18 that "the states that practice terrorism or actively support it cannot be allowed to do so without consequences." The next day, Secretary of State Shultz warned that some of the U.S.'s counter-actions might be preemptive.

The emphasis on this issue has been building up since last fall, after 241 American marines were killed in Beirut by truck-bombers that the Administration believed were linked to Iran.

After the massacre, officials began talking of state terrorism as though it were a new development. As recently as last December 27, President Reagan said that state-sponsored terrorism was "a fundamentally new phenomenon." On January 22, Mr. Shultz talked of "the emergence of terror as a kind of weapon of war by states," and named not only Iran but also Syria, Libya and the Soviet Union as countries that use this weapon. In a later speech, he added North Korea.

Many longtime observers of Middle East affairs fault the assessment of these Administration leaders on two counts. Firstly, state terrorism is not new—it has been practiced in the Middle East for years. Secondly, one country that has used terrorism to very great effect over the past 36 years—the state of Israel—has not been put on their list of practitioners.

In 1980, the CIA, in a report issued publicly, defined terrorism as "the threat or use of violence for political purposes by individuals or groups, whether acting for, or in opposition to, established governmental authority, when such actions are intended to shock or intimidate a target group wider than the immediate victims."

In the columns which follow, we list a small sample of actions by Israel that meet the criteria laid down by the CIA:

*On September 17, 1948, four months after the official establishment of Israel, U.N. Palestine Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte was assassinated by members of an Israeli terrorist group, the so-called Stern Gang, while driving in the Israeli-controlled sector of Jerusalem. The U.S. government, at the time, believed the identity of the perpetrators was known to Israel's Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, but the perpetrators were never prosecuted. Thirty years later one of them, Yehoshva Zeitler—known to be a close friend of Ben Gurion's—acknowledged that he was one of the assassins and explained that "we executed Bernadotte because he was a one-man institution who endangered the status of Jerusalem by his declared intention of turning her into an international city. He was hostile to Israel from the moment the state was established and actually laid the foundation for the present U.N. policy of supporting the Arabs." The message to other potential pro-Arab sympathizers was clear.

*In early October, 1953, three people in an Israeli border village were found murdered—presumably by attackers who had crossed from Jordan. Later, on the night of October 14-15, an Israeli military force crossed into the small Jordan border village of Qibya and demolished 30 to 40 buildings, including the village school, the water pumping station, the police station and the telephone office. But the soldiers did much, much more. According to the official report by the Chief of Staff of the U.N. Truce Supervisory Organization, whose officers went to the scene immediately after the raid: "Bullet-riddled bodies near the doorways, and multiple bullet hits on the doors of the demolished houses indicated that the inhabitants had been forced to remain inside until their homes were blown up over them. Witnesses were uniform in describing their experience as a night of horror, during which Israeli soldiers moved about in their village, blowing up buildings, firing into doorways and windows with automatic weapons, and throwing hand grenades." More than 50 men, women and children died. It was later acknowledged by Israel that the raid had been carried out by Force 101, a special unit set up for just this kind of operation under the command of Major Ariel Sharon.

*During July, 1954, several bombs went off in Cairo and Alexandria, including two which set fire to the U.S. Information Service offices in both those cities and one which went off in a Metro-Goldwyn Mayer theater. Members of what the Egyptian authorities described as a ring of "Israeli spies" and who were, in fact, Jewish—were tracked down and put on trial. Two of them were executed and the rest jailed. The Egyptian action raised a furor among Israelis, who accused Egypt's president,Gamal Abdul Nasser, of "trumping up" charges against Jews. A few months later, however, a political scandal erupted in Israel—later known as the "Lavon affair"—and forced out the admission from Israeli government officials that the members of the Cairo spy ring were indeed Israeli spies—highly trained members of Israel's military intelligence service. A primary purpose of the bombing operation, it turned out, was to try to put a halt to what the Israeli government saw as an alarming trend towards better Egypt-U.S. relations—by creating the impression through the bombings that Egypt was basically unstable and anti-American.

*On December 12, 1955, Israel carried out a three-pronged, meticulously planned attack by land and sea against Syria, on the northeastern shore of Lake Tiberias. More than 50 Syrians were killed. Israel told the U.S. Security Council, which condemned the raid, that the attack was a reprisal for Syrian hindrance of Israeli fishermen on Lake Tiberias, but U.S. truce observers declared there had been no such hindrance. In the opinion of American truce observer Commander E.H. Hutchison, "it was a premeditated raid of intimidation, motivated by Israel's desire to test the strength of the Egyptian-Syrian mutual defense pact, to disrupt Arab unity further, to bait the Arab states into some overt act of aggression that would afford it the opportunity to overrun additional territory..."

*On October 29,1956, in the Israeli Arab village of Kafr Kasem, Israeli border guards shot and killed 43 Israeli Arabs, including seven children and ten women. The victims were farm workers who were returning home on foot unaware that while they were laboring in the fields a daily curfew—imposed because of the Suez war—had been moved forward from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. The government kept the massacre secret for two months, but was forced to hold a trial after word of it was leaked. At the trial it was revealed that the border police had been given orders to enforce the new curfew in a way that would impress the inhabitants of the local Arab villages: violators were to be shot, not arrested, even if they had not heard about the change in the curfew. Several of the defendants testified that the police officer in charge had said that if some Arabs were killed it would make the task of enforcing the curfew that much easier. The officer told the court that he was obeying the orders of the military. A number of the defendants were given sentences, but less than a year later all of them were freed.

*On July 18,1981, Israeli planes bombed Beirut, killing more than 300 civilians. The Israeli army's chief of intelligence told reporters that the motive behind Israel's massive raid on a densely populated quarter was to generate Lebanese civilian resentment against the presence of Palestinian guerrillas there. "I would say at least they have something to think about now," he said. A few days later, Israeli jets again dropped bombs over Lebanon. According to TheNew York Times, "Witnesses, including Western reporters caught in the attacks, said nearly all of the casualties appeared to be civilians, most of them burned alive in their cars, trapped in clogged traffic."

*In October, 1982, an Israeli court began the trial of seven Israeli soldiers on charges of beating up West Bank Palestinians. The soldiers had said they were just following standing orders. Documents introduced at the trial included some issued by the then Israeli chief of staff Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan, which called for the punishment of the parents of students who participate in demonstrations, expulsion from the West Bank of Arabs considered troublemakers by the Israelis, and "economic punishment" of whole villages. Eitan said Arabs should be imprisoned for investigation, without formal charges, for up to 18 days as allowed by Israeli law in the occupied territory, released for a few days and then reimprisoned. "Harrass them," Gen. Eitan said, according to the documents. He also urged the creation of a special "detention exile" camp in the West Bank and said that the Arab population should be informed that "the inhabitants of Jewish settlements (in the West Bank) must carry arms and open fire when attacked." After the documents were introduced at the trial, Gen. Eitan commented: "None of these methods were illegal." The court agreed, but convicted four of the soldiers, on February 17,1983, for having gone beyond Eitan's recommendations. They were given token sentences.

Space limitations do not allow us to provide a fuller list of similar Israeli terrorist actions, which could fill many more pages. We have not, for example, included the many acts of terrorism that were carried out in Lebanon during and after the invasion of Lebanon in June, 1982—including the illegal use of the U.S.-supplied cluster and phosphorus bombs which cause such painful injury to individuals. We can also make only passing mention of the frequent and devastating attacks on refugee camps in Lebanon which took place at various other times during the 1970s; and of the random and murderous shelling and bombardments during 1969 and 1970 of Egyptian villages, towns and cities—which Israelis hoped would humiliate Nasser enough to cause his downfall. Nor was there space to provide examples of the government-encouraged vigilantism that has caused so many deaths of Arabs in the West Bank.