Saturday, July 5, 2008

Only Arabs are terrorists...

On 2 July, Husam Taysir Dwayat, aged 30, took the bulldozer he was driving and rampaged through West Jerusalem’s Jaffa St, killing 3 people and injuring at least 66 others. Dwayat, a Palestinian Arab, who had worked for a number of years as a part of a construction team, held a Jerusalemite ID, which gave him Israeli residential rights but not Israeli citizenship. Dwayat's murderous rampage eventually came to an end when he was shot and killed by an off duty Israeli soldier, who is now being hailed a hero.

Dwayat's actions were heinous and murderous, but was he a terrorist? Israel’s media quickly labeled him one and continues to do so, as have the majority of Israel’s political establishment including the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, the Defense Minister, Ehud Barak and the Vice Premier Haim Ramon.

In 2007, the US State Department annual Country Reports on Terrorism defined terrorism as being the “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents”[1]. For the past 6 years, this is the definition that has been consistently used by the US State Department, with the key point being that “terrorism” is politically motivate, thus distinguishing it from murder or other aggressive acts.

According to the Israeli police, however, Dwayat had no record of being involved in political activity and that the announcements by a number of previously unknown political groups claiming that Dwayat was a member were false [2]. According to the Israeli police, his family, neighbours and his Jewish ex-girlfriend, however, Dwayat did have a criminal record, including charges and arrests for drug felonies, theft and physical assault.

Dwayat’s Jewish girlfriend of six and half years, with whom he had a child, informed the Israeli media that far from hating Jews, he had never shown any ill will to Jews and had no political affiliations. In an interview with Haaretz TV online, Dwayat’s ex-girlfriend said that he “didn’t have any problems with Jews”, going on to say “I don’t think the attack had any nationalist motivations” [3]

So if Dwayat’s murderous act was not politically motivated, if he was not acting as part of a “sub national groups or clandestine agents”, why is he being labeled by the Israeli media, politicians and other state officials “a terrorist”? Why if he acted alone, in what Israeli security forces and police believe to be an unpremeditated act, is Dwayat being marked as a terrorist?

The answer is, of course, simple. Dwayat was a Palestinian Arab, so quid pro quo, he must be a terrorist. This fact and this fact alone is the reason for him being labeled a terrorist.

The anti-Arab racism in this labeling of Dwayat is clearly evident when you ask two simple questions:

(a) If the person who had carried out the bulldozer attack had been identified as Jewish would he have been automatically deemed a terrorist? The answer is almost certainly no.

(b) If the person had been a non-Jewish but also non-Arab, would he have been labeled automatically a terrorist. Again, the likely answer again would have been no.

But Dwayat was a Palestinian Arab, and a Muslim to boot. So of course, he must be a terrorist.

In the days after the murderous act, all three Israeli political leaders, raised the flags of demagoguery and popularism, attempting to out do each other calling for the collective punishment of not only Dwayat’s family but also all the Palestinian people.

On Friday, July 4, Barak ordered the Israeli security forces to issue injunctions calling for the demolition of not only Dwayat’s family home but also the family home of Alaa Abu Dhaim who carried out the attack which killed 8 students studying at Mercaz Haray Yeshiva which conducted a joint religious and military training program.

The day before, on July 3, Olmert had reiterated his call to demolish Dwayat’s family home in East Jerusalem saying “This attack which came from within Israel, into Israel. It creates a string of scenarios we never thought we would have to deal with in the past. We have invested thousands in the construction of the security fence. While it has been effective, it turns out that a fence cannot give us the answer to the problem of terror which comes from our side” [4].

Olmert went on to say that Dwayat’s family should also be stripped of any social security benefits, saying “I think we need to be tougher in some of the means we use against perpetrators of terror... If we have to destroy houses, then we must do so, if we have to stop their social benefits then we must do so. There cannot be a case where they massacre us and at the same time they get all the privileges that our society provides”

However, far from destroying the family homes of all apparent terrorists with Israeli citizenship or residency and stripping their families of Israeli social security benefits, such punitive actions are only being directed at one ethnic group – Palestinian Arabs - revealing once again both the strident anti-Arab racism of the Israeli Zionist state and its apartheid nature.

This is starkly revealed when considering the Israeli state reaction to the terrorist attack carried out three years earlier, by Eden Natan-Zada, a 19 year old Jewish soldier.

On August 4, 2005, Natan-Zada, carried out a pre-mediated terrorist attack in Shfaram in Northern Israel. The attack resulted in the murder of 4 Israeli citizens and the wounding of at least 10 others before the terrorist was killed.

Natan-Zada, who was politically opposed to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan from Gaza, was an army deserter who had sought sanctuary in the illegal Israeli settlement of Tappauch in the Occupied West Bank. Natan-Zada was a member of the illegal Israeli settler group, Kach, who are followers of the anti-Arab racist, Rabbi Meir Kahane [5]. Kach, along with Kahane Chai founded by Kahane's son, are the only two Jewish groups listed as terrorist organisations by both the US and Israeli governments. In Israel, Kach and Kahane Chai were outlawed in 1994 after another of Kach’s members, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Palestinian men, women and children at prayer in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Occupied Hebron.

While at the time Ariel Sharon acknowledge Natan-Zada’s act as one of terrorism, there was never any call by Sharon or Olmert or Barak (who were elected politicians at the time) or any other Israeli politician for the demolition of Natan-Zada’s family home or for his family to be stripped of any of their social security benefits, despite the young soldier’s pre-mediated and politically motivated massacre of four Israeli citizens.

One of the reasons for this can be found in the simple fact that the Israelis killed by Natan-Zada were not Jews but Palestinian Arabs who held Israeli citizenship. A little over three weeks after Sharon publicly stated that Natan-Zada was a terrorist, an Israeli inter-ministerial committee in the Department of defense declared that Natan-Zada's murderous attack was not "terrorist" because he was a serving soldier (this was despite the fact that he was an army deserter)[6]. As a result, those killed by Natan-Zada were denied not only recognition of being victims of terrorism but also their families were denied the right to ongoing state compensation, which the families of Israeli Jews killed in terror attacks receive.

Nazia Hayek, the brother of one of the four people killed by Natan-Zada said at the time that financial compensation was not their main interest as it would not bring back his brother. Instead, according to Hayek, the ruling which stated that Natan-Zada's act was "neither terror or an act of hostility" sent a message to all extremists that "it was permissible to kill Arabs and [it] does not count as terror"[7]

Like Baruch Goldstein, Natan-Zada far from being reviled as the terrorist he clearly was, instead like Goldstein before him, he was cannonised by the Israeli right wing. While Israeli police moved quickly to remove the mourning tent erect for Dwayat by his family in the wake of the Jerusalem bulldozer attack, in the wake of Natan Zada's murderous attack it was reported that the illegal settlement of Tappauch built a library in his honour. Similarly, Goldstein was also honoured with celebrations in his names and shrines was built in his honour (which took the Israeli police more than 6 years to remove).

In addition, unlike the solider who shot and killed Dwayat, the Palestinian Arab Israelis who neutralised Natan-Zada, killing him in order to prevent him from killing more innocent people, were not hailed heroes by the Israeli state. Instead, they have been persecuted and hounded.

In June 2008, the Israeli Haifa District Prosecution subpoenaed 12 Shfraram residents to attend a pre-trailing hearing about the 2005 killing of Natan-Zada [8]. Previously in 2006, six Palestinians with Israeli citizenship had also been arrested for the murder of Natan-Zada and held under house arrest. It was only with threats of mass rioting by the residents of Shfraram and surrounding villages and towns that they were they eventually released.

Over the past decade, numerous studies conducted by Israeli organisations have revealed increasing levels of discrimination and racism against so-called Israeli Arabs by both the Israeli state and by Jewish Israeli citizens.

In 2007, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) released a report which revealed that the incidents of anti-Arab racist attacks had increased by 26% and that the expression of anti-Arab views had doubled in the last couple of years. The poll conducted by ACRI revealed that 50% of Jewish Israelis did not believe Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel should have equal rights and that the Israeli government should encourage "emigration" of Palestinian Arabs from Israel. According to the poll, almost 75% of Jewish Israeli youth also believed that Palestinians and Arabs were less intelligent and less clean than Jews [9]. ACRI noted that media played a significant role in "intensifying the Arab image as negative and terrorising". At the time of the report, Arab Knesset member, Mohammed Barakeh, from Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) said the poll was "the natural outcome" of the anti-Arab policies held by successive Israeli governments

A similar poll conducted by Geocartography March of 2007, revealed that 75% of the 500 Jewish men and women who participated in the poll would not live in the same building as an Arab, while 60% would not allow an Arab into their home and 50% believed marrying an Arab was "national treason" [10].

The automatic declaration of Dwayat as a terrorist by Olmert, Barak and the Israeli media, simply because he was a Palestinian Arab rather then because he carried out a politically motivated act reveals that the "us" that Olmert spoke about on July 3 does not include the Palestinian Arab citizens or residents of Israel. This along with Olmert and Barak's immediate call to conduct punitive collective punishment (which is illegal under international law) against Dwayat's family reveals starkly the apartheid nature of the Israeli state.

If Palestinian Arabs were part of Olmert's Israeli "us" and Israel was not engaging in widespread apartheid policies, then Dwayat would not have been automatically labeled a terrorist and the punitive policy against his family would also not been enacted, just as such punitive punishment was never enacted against the Jewish family of Eden Natan-Zada.

It seems in Israel, however, only Palestinian Arabs can be terrorists in the eyes of the Israeli Zionist state and many of its Jewish citizens.

[1] 2007 Country Reports on Terrorism, US State Department

[2] Haaretz service (2 July, 2008) Barak: Israel must respond immediately to Jerusalem attack, Haaretz

[3] and [4] Haaretz, Barak orders demolition of Jerusalem, yeshiva terrorist’s homes, 4 July, 2008, Haaretz

[5] Cook,J., (14 June, 2006) For Arabs only: Israeli law and order

[6] and [7] Khoury, J., Eldar A., and Sinai, R., (30 August, 2005) MK submits bill to include Jewish attacks under terror law, Haaretz,

[8] Raved, A., (15 July, 2008) Haifa prosecution considering new indictments in the death of Eden Natan Zada, YNet,7340,L-3555829,00.html

[9] Israeli anti-Arab racism 'rises' (10 December, 2007, BBC News
Zino,A., (8 December, 2007) Racism in Israel on the rise, YNET,7340,L-3480345,00.html

[10]Nahmais, R., (27 March 2007) Marriage to an Arab is national treason.,7340,L-3381978,00.html


alajnabiya said...

Excellent article. Thank you.

Alison Avigayil said...

I am very pleased to see such a well researched and articulated article covering this angle. As an Israeli citizen I'm trying to remain calm. When I pass a moving tractor I'm working hard to just keep walking as if this incident never happened, but of course like everyone else I'm having a hard time making sense of it all.

Please, if you can, tell me what you think he was doing. Why on earth would someone do something like this?

The most reasonable and sympathetic thing that I can come up with is that he was having a manic break. That he literally went crazy. But honestly, what do you think? What is the reason for this kind of an act?

Duffer2205 said...

Excellent article Kim. I wrote something on this as well on Friday. I guess that we felt the same thing as our articles are quite similar.
Read mine on Counterpunch.



Duffer2205 said...

Hi Kim. Great article. Thanks.
I've wrote something on this as well on Friday. Guess we felt the same as our articles are quite similar.
Read mine on counterpunch.

Best regards

Keep up the amazing work

Anonymous said...

Muslims Against Sharia unequivocally condemn murderous attack in Jerusalem.

We call for swift extermination of all terrorist groups that claimed responsibility for this attack.

We implore Israeli government not to provide financial help for the family of the murderer. Any such help will be an open invitation for future attacks.

Kim said...

Dear Alison,
thank you for you comment.

Unfortunately, we will never know why Dwayat did what he did.

However, based on I suppose what you can call "circumstanial" evidence, it seems as I have argued that it was not a "terrorist attack".

The Israeli police announced the other day that they had concluded he acted alone and was not part of any terrorist cell.

So the explanation for what he did lies somewhere else - so yes, perhaps it was that he had a manic break (there have been lots of report in the Israeli media and testimony from his Jewish ex-girlfirend that he had a drug addiction).

Some are arguing he may have just lost control of the bulldozer (personally I think this is unlikely). It seems to me the more likely scenario is either a mental health issue or a drug related issue, but like you I can only summise that this is the case.

The only clear thing it seems from what has been made public is that it was NOT a politically motivated (ie. terrorist) act.

In relation to your fears, it is of course understandable to worry and be fearful when unexpected things happen like this. However, you are going a long way to overcome them by approaching the issue in the way you are and understanding that this was an act of a disturbed individual and not racially profiling all Palestinian Arabs as terrorist etc.

thanks again for the comment, take care and best wishes,

Kim said...

Hi Frank,
thanks for your comment. I just read your article and enjoyed it a lot. I am glad that I am not the only person writing on this issue :)

I have been heartened to see however, the debate within Israeli society about the demolition of the Dwayat's family home and the collective punishment of all Palestinians. ITs been a long time since such public debate has erupted in Israel (in my experience).

Unfortunately, I don't think it will save the family's home but lets hope that it may start to move people in a better direction in relation to understanding the horror of collective punishment and what the Palestinian people must endure.

LiteraryMinded said...

Thank you for this very informative article.