A Church of England Priest named Giles Fraser penned a column at the Guardian defending the Palestinian right of armed resistance.
The column, ‘If we can have a just war, why not just terrorism?‘ (which follows a similar pro-terrorism argument advanced by Guardian associate editor Seumas Milne in a column last week) begins by suggesting that the IDF intentionally targets civilians in Gaza, while benignly characterizing Palestinian acts of ‘retaliation’ against the ‘occupation’.
Or, to put it in terms of today’s news: the Israelis won’t have any definition that would make them terrorists for bombing old people’s homes in Gaza, and West Bank Palestinians won’t have any definition that will make them terrorists for fighting back against occupation with petrol bombs
In addition to the risible suggestion that the IDF targets the homes of innocent elderly Palestinians, such Palestinian ‘resistance’ includes much more than Fraser indicates. Such acts of “resistance” have included (to cite just a few recent examples) the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Palestinian sniper fire at an Israeli civilian vehicle that killed a father of five, and an attempted suicide bombing.
Fraser then introduces us to his Palestinian protagonist:
I am eating aubergines and flatbread with Dr Samah Jabr in a cool Palestinian cafe in Stoke Newington….She is an educated, middle-class Palestinian (in no way a rabble-rouser) but she insists that the word terrorist has become a powerful…political pejorative employed to discredit legitimate resistance to the violence of occupation.
What some would call terrorism, she would call a moral duty. She gives me her paper on the subject. “Why is the word ‘terrorist’ so readily applied to individuals or groups who use homemade bombs, but not to states using nuclear and other internationally proscribed weapons to ensure submission to the oppressor?” she asks. She insists that violent resistance must be used in defence and as a last resort. And that it is important to distinguish between civilian and military targets. “The American media call our search for freedom ‘terrorism’,” she complains, “despite the fact that the right to self-determination by armed struggle is permissible under the UN charter’s article 51, concerning self-defence.”
Though Fraser uncritically cites Jabr’s claim that armed struggle is permissible under the UN charter’s article 51, a review of Article 51 demonstrates that there is no such right:
Here’s what Article 51 of the UN’s charter states:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
The language is quite clear. UN “member states” have the right of self-defense, not armed terrorist groups and illegal militias. Such a doctrine clearly grants Israel (a UN member state) has the right to respond to rocket fire, while Hamas, as an internationally proscribed terrorist group which indiscriminately attacks civilians, is not granted such a right under Article 51.
I took part in the Moral Maze recently on Radio 4 and was howled at for suggesting that there could be a moral right of resistance to oppression. And the suggestion was made that, as a priest, I ought to take no such line.
It is nonsense to think that being a state grants some sort of blanket immunity from the charge of terrorism – and certainly not from the moral opprobrium we attach to that term. We talk of asymmetric warfare. This is asymmetric morality: one that, in terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, loads the dice in favour of the occupation. This is just not right.
It seems that a priest should avoid emboldening a proscribed terror movement by distorting international law to suggest that attacks on civilians may be legally justified, and – even more importantly – refrain from obfuscating the profound moral difference between homicidal antisemitic extremists and the Jews they’re trying to kill.
- Israel acting disproportionately? Think again (thecommentator.com)
- Jenin redux? Guardian omits reports of rockets, terror tunnels in Shuja’iya (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian editor defends Hamas’s right to kill Israelis, AGAIN. (cifwatch.com)
- Minutes after Tel Aviv terror attack, Glenn Greenwald praises Seumas Milne’s defense of ‘armed resistance’ (cifwatch.com)