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For The Sake of Its Own Virtue, Palestinian Resistance Must Spare Civilians
Published on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 by
For The Sake of Its Own Virtue, Palestinian Resistance Must Spare Civilians
by Ramzy Baroud

Palestinian resistance factions must desist from targeting Israeli civilians, with or without an officially bargained ceasefire and regardless of the course of action chosen by Israel and its reckless government in response. This decision is imperative if the Palestinian struggle is to safeguard its historic values and uphold its moral pre-eminence.

For some, such reasoning may come into view as morally inconsistent, one-sided even; after all, the Israeli army continues to target civilians unhindered, so why deny Palestinians the right to retaliate?

Palestinians possess the legitimate right of self-defense, and the unequivocal right of ridding themselves of a lengthy and vile occupation. These rights are recurrently highlighted in international law and require little debate or intellectual tussling. But it is amiss, for the occupied - who surely possess the moral edge - to utilize the unmerited ways of the occupier. International law makes a clear distinction, as should Palestinian resistance, between occupying military forces and civilians. If Palestinians waver from this crucial line of reasoning, their historically virtuous struggle risks being diluted with moral corruption. .

The Palestinian revolution, with its formerly unrefined armed resistance, sprung from the orchards of Jenin as early as the 1920's. It was, and remains a freedom vow, a cry for justice that has forcefully echoed in universally accepted and time-honored rights and principles. It was certainly not the unscrupulous ways of colonialists or the occupiers that guided that march for freedom.

Typically, the overall methods used by the ongoing Uprising in the Occupied Territory stand at odds with the ghastly practices of the Israeli government and army. In fact, since their early days of embattling occupation forces, Palestinians aspired to be inclusive, as they longed for equality and insisted on the universal applicability of human rights.

These values must remain intact.

But one must also agree, that every nation, and Palestinians are no exception, has a breaking point. It is only human, following decades of disproportionately dispensed suffering, violence and dispossession, that one's determination to attain freedom would partly concede to an overpowering sense of desperation and raw desire for vengeance. To those living in the Occupied Territory, the phenomenon of suicide bombings is not fully alien to the context of reality into which Palestinians are born. Yet, if Palestinians allow Israeli tactics to influence their resistance strategy, then the authenticity of the entire struggle is compromised.

But what if Palestinian factions overcome their sense of dejection and despair and unilaterally halt any attack on Israeli civilians, permanently and unreservedly?

Alas, even then, the perception held of Palestinians and their struggle is unlikely to change, at least not in the United States, where political propaganda, not actuality, governs public opinion.

It should come as no surprise then that the Palestinian struggle - out of sheer ignorance, media distortion or religious fervor - was equally and abrasively condemned by much of the Western hemisphere prior to the first suicide bombing against Israeli civilians, less than ten years ago.

This flawed perspective perpetuates in complete defiance of logic. After all, the conquest of historic Palestine, with all the massacres it entailed, preceded any truly collective Palestinian struggle, whether violent or otherwise.

The mainstream media, most notability in the United States, has wholly omitted such a fact. As far as Israel (and thus pro-Israeli media and governments) is concerned: the version of history that counts is the one that comprises Palestinian violence. Violence in the Middle East is largely defined by Palestinian attacks; subsequently, "calm" and "lull" in violence is anything that is in between. In other words, Israeli violence may be inundating the Occupied Territory, and yet, if no Israeli casualties are reported, much of the world media perceives this era as an era of "calm".

The suicide bombing of October 04, 2003 and the more recent one on December 25 of the same year are a case in point.

Between these two incidents, Palestinian losses mounted. Reportedly, 117 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians, including 23 children; several thousand Palestinians were made homeless as nearly 500 homes and apartments came tumbling down by Israeli army explosives or bulldozers, primarily in the already over-crowded and poverty-stricken Gaza Strip.

But according to Palestinian-American media critic Ali Abunimah, the corporate media in the US (and in Britain, to a lesser extent) brimmed with regret over the squandered opportunity for peace that the December bombing yielded (keeping in mind that the latter targeted Israeli soldiers, not civilians).

Newspapers and other media, such as the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and CNN dealt a blow to any journalistic integrity when they chose such statements to mark the day of the Palestinian attack: "12-Week lull in Mideast ends," "Mideast quiet shattered", "Attacks broke a lull that had lasted more than two months and raised fears of a slide into violence", "There has been a relative calm since the Haifa bombing (last October)," and so on.

Such manifest favoritism in reporting gives rise to the argument that the desire to condemn the Palestinian people's struggle is instinctive and utterly fails to consider the disproportionate hurt inflicted on the Palestinian people by Israel.

This argument becomes even more plausible when pro-Israeli pundits in the American media and government, and within the ranks of the noticeably influential lobby groups and think tanks, find Israel's justifications for its senseless violence and occupation of Palestinian land, substantiated, even compelling. After all, Israel will always maintain a level of "moral superiority" over the Arabs, as declared by Douglas Feith, the US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.

Nevertheless, even with this troubling state of affairs in mind, injustice must not be an invitation to respond with an equivalence of morally degrading acts as those advocated by the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon and its apologists elsewhere. Sharon and his henchmen, of all people, should not, in any way, determine the nature and magnitude of Palestinian resistance.

To maintain its moral edge, the Palestinian revolution should not evade from its all-encompassing, tolerant and inclusive path, it should not be tainted by the fallacies of the occupier, it should not fall into the trap of fury, racial and religious exclusivity and revengeful acts against civilians.

True, the U.S. media will hardly acknowledge such a realization. But should we remain confined by media partiality and too concerned over the validating words of some government spokesman? Were these the values that inspired and sparked the current Uprising and the uprisings of the past? Certainly not.

Countering Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians by lashing out at Israeli civilians, no matter how outwardly satisfying revenge might seem, should be estranged from the everlasting principles of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. These values must remain untainted, wholesome even, so that the will of the people might some day prevail over tyranny and oppression. And it will.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author, editor-in-chief of Palestine Chronicle online newspaper


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