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April 16, 2001
Israel's Aggression is not a Civil War

by Ramzy Baroud


Please Don't Refer to Israel's Aggression as Civil War
Middle East News Online
By Ramzy Baroud, Middle East News Online News Editor
Posted Friday April 13, 2001 - 06:45:23 PM EDT

Durham, NC, USA - New terminology has crept up on us, and is increasingly being used by pro Palestinian intellectuals, mainly in the West, dubbing the one sided war underway in the occupied West Bank and Gaza as a "civil war."

Emphasizing the full danger of such a description requires much more than one mere article, not only for being incorrect according to political definition, but mostly for legitimizing Israel's territorial rights in occupied Palestine, from 1948 to the present.

The term is utterly dangerous and should be rebuked by those who value the moral upper hand that the Palestinian struggle enjoys, in spite of Israel's political pressure and dominance.

Webster's Dictionary defines civil war as a "war between geographical sections or political factions of the same nation."

When my family was robbed of its land and dignity, and was forced to flee after Zionist gangs perpetrated a horrifying massacre in May of 1948 in their village of Beit Daras, they were the victims of European Jewish immigrants.

It's as inconsiderate to argue that the Stern, Irgun, and Hagana gangs were part of the "same nation" that my parents came from, as it's uninformative to insert the notion that Israel's Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza belong to the same nation.

According to Palestinian-American history scholar Dr. Walid Al Khalidi, over 70 percent of the current Jewish population in occupied Palestinian and Syrian lands are European and American Jews. Of course, a substantial percentage of those immigrants came from Russia, and continue to use Russian as their first language.

So how does such a typical colonial setting qualify the current aggression against Palestinian civilians as a civil war?

The use of such terminology might be harder to disregard as writers and intellectuals who view the Palestinian struggle with a sympathetic eye are those who introduced the term, maybe because of their conviction that a one state solution is the ultimate answer to the conflict. Trusting those writers' opinions and genuine intentions could simply mean accepting their ideas, good or bad.

Denying the accuracy of the term and objecting to it's connotation is important, and becomes more important if we consider the damage that it could inflict if widely accepted and used.

Civil war provides both sides, Palestinians and Israelis (including the 220,000 settler) with a sense of territorial legitimacy, for it indicates that both sides are striving to achieve more gains (particularly territorial ones) at the expense of the other.

But according to UN resolutions and international law, neither Israel nor its settlers have any rights in Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Arguing on moral grounds, not in accordance with the unfortunate political reality, one can even easily contest Israel's legitimacy in the land occupied at gunpoint in 1948 as well.

Moreover, the term could weaken the righteous Palestinian argument that Israel is an occupying power.

Consider this, would any rational person have accepted the scenario that the Lebanese civil war would have been resolved with less bloodshed if certain segments of the populations were forced to relocate based on their ethnic and religious lines?

Don't we look with dismay on the suspicious attempts to divide Sudan, Iraq or even the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Consequently, embracing the civil war approach would suddenly make Palestinian demands for the dismantling of Jewish settlements and the departure of settlers unjust and baseless.

But more provocative is the negative impact that this new approach would have on the world's already apathetic attitude toward the Palestinian plight.

It provides a new premise for those who justify their indifference by stating that the war between Arabs and Jews is a religious war, which has lasted for thousands of years and will burn forever.

It would strip Palestinians of their political assets which are embedded in international law, and which identify Israel as an occupier, an aggressor, and Palestinians as an independent, yet occupied and aggressed upon nation.

The greatest danger by far is that such an argument indirectly supports Israeli prime minster Ariel Sharon's theory, that the violence in what he perceives in the "Judea and Samaria" is an Israeli affair, and any international intervention violates Israel's sovereignty.

Palestinians have no army. They only possess a police force, whose numbers and range of power were dictated by Israel as a result of the infamous Oslo accord of 1993.

The Israeli army and Jewish settlers have been on the attack for over six months, killing 420 Palestinians, injuring and maiming nearly 18,000. During its war, Israel has upgraded its military tactics from the use of live ammunition to the use of explosive HVM bullets, as well as rockets and guided missiles.

The fact that most of Israel's victims have been civilians, or that Jewish settler's are disguised as a civilian population does not warrant the use of the term "civil war".

It is a war, in fact a one-sided war, launched daily by a man whose history of war crimes narrates a dark and horrifying fate that still awaits Palestinians, and by a colonial nation that shares very little with Palestinians, whether in history, roots, language, cultural or religion.

Palestinians used the term "Khawaja" to describe early Jewish settlers who conquered Palestine in 1948. Khawaja means foreigner, often referring to invading foreigners. Palestinians continue to refer to Israelis as foreigners, over five decades later.

Those who bombed KhanYunis refugee camp a few days ago, and used illegal gas against Palestinian children in Bethlehem are not my people, not my neighbors, nor are they part of my nation.

They are invading foreigners, and they shall always be.

So please stop referring to Israel's war as a civil war, because it is not.