On March 16th, 2003, 23-year old American activist Rachel Corrie was torn down by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip (Jordan). Five years later, in the summer of 2008, two Palestinian men living in East Jerusalem drove similar machines down busy Jerusalem streets, maiming and killing not a few civilians (Witte). Why did the drivers of these bulldozers – Israeli and Palestinian, both – commit these acts? Supporters and critics of Israel each have their own perspective.
The Israeli government would only go so far as to name the death of Rachel Corrie a tragic accident (Jordan) and continue to justify the demolition of houses for security reasons (Omeish and Omeish). When faced by the attacks perpetrated against its own people, however, it was much less aloof in its reaction. Debate arose over the possibility of placing more restrictions on Palestinian occupants of East Jerusalem, and some Israelis called for more forceful dealings with the families of Palestinian terrorists; on the subject of one of the attackers, an Israeli teenager proposed that “if they had ruined his house or deported his family, maybe this man would have thought twice about what he did” (Witte).
The Israeli perspective on these bulldozer attacks assumes the stance that the Palestinian resistance movement – in all its forms, such terrorist attacks included – is based on the values, not the experiences, of the Palestinians. Had the Israeli teenager considered the fact that the driver of the bulldozer could have committed the attack in protestation of the ruination of Palestinian houses and deportation of Palestinian families, would he have come to the same conclusion that such ruination and deportation could discourage these desperate acts? It is unlikely, because supporters of Israel offer up an explanation of terrorism as a doctrinal, rather than reactionary, phenomenon: in their view, these terrorists are radical Islamists who harbor a “universe of hatred” for Israel “as a democracy, as a Jewish homeland, as a country in which liberalism in all its forms, including cultural, prevails” (Stevens), not as members of a group which has been subject to ethnic cleansing and “memoricide” since 1948 (Pappe). The notion that terrorism may be rooted in the injustices suffered by its perpetrators is ignored in favor of assigning them – as Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, or whatever generalization of the terrorist identity best fits the Israeli spiel – a static and inherent value system that may be conveniently defamed as anti-Semitic, anti-democracy, and anti-liberalism.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, has put this perspective into writing. He alleges that international terrorism is waged by Arab regimes driven by a fanatic hate of Western values and a concordant desire for Islam to become the dominant world power; the focus of these fanatics on Israel is due to its position as “the Middle East’s only...