Terrorist Label Obstructs Human Security for Palestinians in Gaza

March 24, 2009

gaza_strip

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on-going since 1947 if not before, is perceived by the Arab world, to be one of the most defining conflicts of our time.  Hamas, from a Palestinian perspective, is a democratically elected party responsible for governing this region, but has not been officially recognized by Israel or the US among other states. The Israeli government addresses Hamas as a form of ‘terrorist’ threat to the security of Israel.   Labeling Hamas as a terrorist group rather than as a democratically elected form of government is at the core of the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

Human Security does not exist for either the Israelis or the Palestinians since both parties are constantly living in fear. The issue of security boils down to state security versus civilian security — both of which are necessary but have not yet been feasible. This is because neither side is willing to give up what they believe is rightly theirs and this ‘belief’ is being nurtured with time and an unwillingness to compromise.

Being a stateless nation for more than forty years has taken a toll on Palestinian psychology — leaving them feeling like they have nothing left to lose. Palestinians are not recognized as resisting military occupation and are subject to being treated like ‘terrorists’ on what they believe is their own land.  Moreover, the international legal legitimacy accorded to Israel as a state, provides Israelis with a “non-terrorist” military advantage.  A prime example would be UN negotiations with the Israeli government on the use of prohibited weapons – the justification being that international law does not apply to Palestine since it is not an identified state.   Terms like ‘terrorist’ and ‘martyr’ signify the ever growing political-culture gap among ‘us’ and ‘them’ that infuses this conflict.

For Palestinians, their lack of human security in Gaza is attributable to Israeli actions.  Palestinians have been dealing with an Israeli military occupation in every sense of the word — Israeli checkpoints are a prime example of the kind of control is exercised over Palestinian civilians on a daily basis.  The Israeli government’s control over water, food, electricity and medical aid during the conflict, as well as the closing down of borders aroused suspicion and caused on outcry from Arab media –mainly because the Palestinians had no way out of what was a death ground for them.

So far, peace has not been a reasonable option for either side.  But peace talks are always in the works- not necessarily for the acquisition of peace but more as a political strategy whereby it is easier just to blame each other for the prolonging of the conflict until one day, someone gives up.

In the end, a Human Security diagnosis of this conflict describes an unwillingness from both parties to either recognize or respect one another’s presence in the region.  The unfair use of the “terrorist” label serves to exacerbate this mutual hatred and will ultimately prolong the conflict.

Ghadir Mahdy & Luis Esteban Arellano Salinas

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5 Responses to “Terrorist Label Obstructs Human Security for Palestinians in Gaza”

  1. Pinky Chu Lai Man Says:

    Thank you for your post.

    Recent conflict in Gaza has aroused vast international attention on the relationship between Israel and Palestine. But Israel-Palestine conflict is nothing new. Long before the Gaza conflict, disputes between the two parties were originated decades ago.

    I could not agree more with your point on the unfair use of the “terrorist” label on Palestine, or Hamas to be more specific. Islamic Palestinians are often being regarded as terrorists due to their revenge or resistance to Israel by using extreme tactics like suicide bombings. However, if you imagine yourself as one of the Palestinians, whose tribe has been under long-term suppression, you may understand the reason or the feelings of Palestinians’ or Hamas’ military actions. The State of Israel was built on 78% of the Palestinian land, but after the “occupation” or partition which was authorized by the UN and the international community in 1947, Israel was formally established and it resulted in massive Palestinians refugees, which is around 70% of all Palestinians. Since then, Palestinians have suffered from insulting and humiliating Israel policies for decades, which led to the increase in their frustration and hatred towards Israel. Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) continued to disappoint Palestinians on its failure and corruption and the world standing aside to watch indifferently. The hopelessness, or the lack of human security, triggered the desperate Palestinians to turn to Hamas for spiritual support, and in which Hamas successfully mobilized her people with Islamic value of being martyr, they believe that using death as a weapon is the only way to get out of all these unfairness and injustice. Despite my disagreement on their radical action towards Israel, the label of “terrorists” on Hamas is unjust, because it seems to justify the brutal policies of Israel in Gaza.

    Human insecurity is the cause of Palestinian attack on Israeli, hoping to resist the oppression, but the truth is this would only be a vicious circle which reinforce the hatred and violence on both sides. I believe in order to end this tug of war between Israel and Palestine, it is important for both Israel and the world to recognize Palestine and treat them in fair and just way.

    Pinky

  2. Ilina Georgieva Says:

    Dear Ghadir and Luis,

    Interesting topic indeed.

    I disagree that labeling of Hamas as a terrorist organization is at the core of their conflict with Israel. Rather the reasons that stand beyond this label should be analyzed. What is actually at the core of Israeli-Palestinian dispute? Is it a religious, national or just real-estate conflict? I think that solution is possible only after we find an answer to that question.
    If the problem really stands with dividing Jerusalem’s holy sites, then can’t we just transform it in a city-state (like Vatican) ? Then it will belong to neither of the sides. And if it is a real estate conflict, then what is the best way to address it? Many accuse both Israelis and Palestinians that they do not do their best to achieve peace in the region and do not act rationally. However we need to take into account that cutting such a small piece of land is extremely hard job. For example if Palestinian state is established in the West Bank, it will be only 11 kilometers away from Israel’s biggest international airport which can raise security concerns among Israelis. A two-state solution will be very painful for both sides because it will require mutual compromises and full devotion. Do you think it is possible? And if not, do we actually have an alternative?

    Ilina

  3. zayralopez Says:

    Thanks Ghadir Mahdy and Luis Esteban for your post.

    You state that labeling Hamas as a terrorist is at the core of the Israeli-Hamas conflict. However the current situation is only the consequence of a long story of suppression and military tactics. There is a big resentment and anything thing both sides do is going to trigger in a huge wave of violence. You also mention that no one side wants to give up, they strongly believe that they are in the right parts and defending themselves against the unjust. Therefore, as Ilina mention solve the conflict requires mutual compromises from both sides.

    I think that it is actually a very tangible case of solving an international conflict through national security approach, according to the reading “An Alternative Human Security Diagnosis”: “National security is generally structured to respond with short-term coercive fixes to defend state integrity. … In contrast, a Human Security approach would respond by pointing out that using military violence to counter this immediate threat exacerbates the problem over the long run”. I wonder what is acceptable to do from the national security approach to protect my country against other nation. I think that the Human Security approach would be a better way to reach a healthier outcome for everybody. “Governments have the short term responsibility to protect their people against violent threats, but Human Security would argue that they are also obligated to take part in preventing and resolving the long term problem”. The otherwise as Pinki says it will be a vicious circle of violence.

    Zayra Lopez

  4. Anna Hannus Says:

    Thanks Ghadir and Luis,

    I believe you are right to point out Israel’s refusal to accept Hamas as their elected counterpart in negotiations and its labelling of Hamas as a terrorist organisation is one major obstacle to peace and human security both for Palestinians and Israelis. If Israel would have recognized Hamas after the 2006 elections, there would definitely have been a better chance for peace talks.

    However, Hamas did come to power vowing not to negotiate with Israel under the circumstances of occupation and aggression, and the peace process (if you can even call it a peace process) would probably have been easier if Mahmoud Abbas softer line would have prevailed. Still, as you say, it is understandable that Palestinians, under these circumstances, would elect a more radical government, and if Israel wants the next elections to produce a different one, they will have to talk to the current one and thereby show that it respects the Palestinians. This, of course, does not mean that it cannot fight terrorism – but the kind of senseless attacks on the people of Gaza that we witnessed quite recently can hardly be justified, and is likely to produce more terrorists than it eliminates.

    As Pinky says, it is easier to understand the “extreme tactics” some Palestinians chose if you consider their circumstances. But that “Islamic Palestinians are often being regarded as terrorists due to their revenge or resistance to Israel by using extreme tactics like suicide bombings” is not incorrect to me – deliberately targeting and killing civilians (by suicide bombing, or anything else) is per definition an act of terrorism whether you call the people performing these acts ‘freedom fighters’, terrorists, soldiers, or states.

    Best wishes,

    Anna

  5. ghadirmahdy Says:

    Note to all of you: The fact that AL Jazeerah was the only news reporting channel allowed in Gaza during the recent war explains why maybe the extent of the injustices of that war have not created more sympathy for the Palestinian people.

    Pinky,
    You bring up some interesting points. There is definitely a sense of hopelessness that is driving the Palestinian people to resort to extreme acts of resistance, mainly because they feel overshadowed and unheard. The failure of the PLO and also the death of Yasser Arafat and later the succession of Mahmoud Abbas have all been very unsettling events and have resulted in lack of proper governance.
    This conflict has been endless because it involves both religious and political conflict of interest hence why the ‘vicious cycles of violence’ are easily triggered.

    Ilina,
    Thank you for your comments. I think you misunderstood what we meant as “core of the conflict” in the context of this article. Obviously, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not stemmed from a labeling of ‘terrorism’; as we mentioned in the article ‘the war on terror’ is only an emblem of the Bush administration that has given Israel an advantage over Palestine. We were emphasizing not only the political-culture gap post Bush but the effect the label ‘terrorist’ has on the international community and their inaction.
    If you are asking what the real cause or start of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, well that is a topic that would need a big fat essay! The problem can be traced back to religious, political-strategic factors, all of which are controversial, depending on how you look at it. But the facts are that the state of Israel was founded on Palestinian land, without the consent of the Palestinian people.
    As long as Palestinian resistance of occupation is not acknowledged then the problem will persist as history has already shown us. A two state solution has been mapped out before- many times! Dating back to the Camp David Accords of 1979- so compromise and all the diplomacy is sadly long gone.

    Zayra,
    I would like to point out that Human Security approaches in the sense that you are referring to, may not be suited for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, mainly because the Palestinians have no official form of government. So long term or short term, the problem is that there is no proportionality in terms of power between both parties. When all you have to defend your home is throwing a stone or bombing yourself as opposed to an Israeli army and internationally banned weapons, compromise is hard to come by.

    Anna,
    Why is it that the Palestinians are expected to make most of the compromise? Just because Israel uses the politically correct way to kill people by the masses, does not make it any less an act of terrorism.
    “The kind of senseless attacks on the people of Gaza that we witnessed quite recently can hardly be justified, and is likely to produce more terrorists than it eliminates.”
    “Deliberately targeting and killing civilians (by suicide bombing, or anything else) is per definition an act of terrorism whether you call the people performing these acts ‘freedom fighters’, terrorists, soldiers, or states.”
    I find the way you worded this argument very interesting. And I agree that killing of any sort is wrong. But sometimes a form of resistance is necessary; otherwise there would no longer be Palestine or Palestinians in any sense of the word. There is only so much dignity Palestinians can afford to lose before losing their sense of identity and sense of purpose in this harsh world, where the bigger players always seem to win.

    Thank you guys for your comments. Looking forward to further discussion.


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