Israel’s enduring record of terror

Past crimes must be remembered to understand current behaviour

Shortly after old Israeli documents were published revealing that 80 Egyptian PoWs were burned alive and dumped in mass graves during the 1967 war, fresh documentation emerged about the campaign of terrorist bombings Israel tried to carry out in Egypt in 1954. The newspaper Yediot Aharanot ran excerpts from the memoirs of then intelligence chief Binyamin Gibli, whose publication had until now been banned. He admitted having activated a network of Egyptian Jewish agents to plant bombs inside Egyptian, British, and US-owned cinemas, libraries, and other civilian targets, with the approval of the defence minister Pinhas Lavon. The aim was to destabilise the regime of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, turn the US and Britain against him, deter the UK from withdrawing its occupation troops from the Suez Canal, and frighten Egyptian Jews into emigrating to occupied Palestine.

This cynical terrorist plot was a follow-up to the similar bombings carried out in cinemas and other places in Jewish districts of Baghdad in 1950-51. These were also aimed at encouraging Iraqi Jews to emigrate by terrorising them and causing strife between them and their Muslim and Christian compatriots. In those days, Iraq was a paragon of coexistence and cohesion between members of different faiths and sects. Iraqi Jews frequently served as cabinet ministers.

The bombings in Baghdad led to the emigration of around 105,000 Iraqi Jews to occupied Palestine. Many of them still yearn for Iraq and regret they ever left, blaming the Zionist movement for hatching that plot and then causing the exodus of thousands of Egyptian Jews.

These documented historical acts of terrorism deserve more attention today, for several reasons.

First, because of the escalating campaign by Israel’s lobbies worldwide to brand anyone who sympathises with the Palestinian cause — Jews included — as terrorists and anti-Semites. They present the Israelis as victims to stifle any media, political, and even academic voice that exposes Israeli crimes, in the process stifling the freedom of speech that Western democracies claim to cherish.

Secondly, because the incoming hard-right Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a fresh wave of normalization with Arab regimes, especially in the Gulf region, under the rubric of ‘Abrahamic peace’, using the Iranian ‘threat’ as a scarecrow to panic them into forging a military partnership.

Third, because of the daily killings and arrests carried out by the Israeli occupation state — which was founded on terrorism and has continued to employ it as a weapon ever since — in the occupied West Bank, including children.

Fourth, to urge the Egyptian and Iraqi governments to reopen the files on these Zionist terror campaigns and present them to the relevant international bodies, to lift the veil on these crimes and show the true face of terrorism to global public opinion.

The silence of Arab governments about Israel’s massacres, past and present, has encouraged its military and security operatives to step up their point-blank assassinations of young Palestinians on a daily basis, in addition to their raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque and settlement expansion.

Neither the assassination of journalist Shirin Abu-Aqleh, nor the killing of little Jina Zakarneh on the roof of her home while she was looking for her cat, nor of two young Palestinian brothers who were trampled under the wheels of a settler’s car, got the attention they deserved in the Arab media — precisely because of the aforementioned ‘silence’.

But the new year will be a year of Palestinian resistance throughout the occupied territories –both to welcome the advent of the new Israel government and its hardliners who want to kill and expel all Arabs, and to retaliate for its massacres and assassinations. The signs are clear to see.

Israel’s enduring record of terror

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