OP/ED - Far too often, politicians and journalists alike accuse those they oppose of being “terrorists.” The term has been used so loosely that it has begun to lose meaning. To confound this problem further, “terrorism” can mean different things to different people. Indeed, the OECD publishes a chart showing how each of its nation-state members defines terrorism differently.
This author considers terrorism to be an illegal act or threat of violence that targets civilians for the purpose of influencing political activity. No doubt, some will take issue with this definition. Certainly, the United States government considers the 1983 suicide bombing in Lebanon that killed 220 United States Marines to be terrorism, despite that the attack was not directed at a civilian population.
No one can argue seriously that the October 7 attack of Hamas was not terrorism. The victims were noncombatants and civilians. Hamas had no real chance of military conquest over Israel. Hamas appears to have only intended an impact on the political discourse, despite the fact that such discourse will be overwhelmingly negative toward Hamas. Hamas’ only chance to garner favor through its horrific acts would be to provoke an overwhelming response from Israel that would undermine Israel’s international standing.
Regrettably, Israel may well be doing exactly what Hamas wants. With each passing day, the response of Israel seems to defy military logic and serve only to spread death, deprivation, and destruction among the noncombatants of Gaza. Israel has killed over 6,500 persons thus far in its response, and injured tens of thousands more. The Israeli President promises to hold all Gazans “responsible,” despite the fact that half the Gazan population are children and the other half have no viable political or military means to stop Hamas. Israel now threatens to hold all Lebanese “responsible” for the acts of Hezbollah, notwithstanding Lebanon’s unsuccessful military attempt to stop Hezbollah. Like the Gazans, the Lebanese lack any viable means to control Hezbollah. If Israel attacks Lebanon, Israel will once again be needlessly killing and injuring people that have no ability to change the situation.
Do Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute terrorism? Israel argues that the thousands of civilians it has killed and wounded constitute unavoidable collateral damage. For multiple reasons, Israel’s argument fails. Israel has attacked many churches, hospitals, United Nations operations facilities and other locations that clearly represent non-military sites. Israel has no military advantage from attacking these civilian sites, other than to instill fear into the hearts and minds of those they have incarcerated in Gaza. When striking targets within Gaza, Israel has chosen weapons that do not perform surgical strikes, but rather eliminate entire city blocks, knowing fully that their attack will kills many scores of innocents.
Israel has a more effective, and less deadly means, of accomplishing its stated goal of eradicating Hamas. Israel could create a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave Gaza and allow these civilians to stay within Israel while Israel undertakes its attack of Hamas. This would not only spare many thousands of innocents’ death, but it would also isolate those associated with Hamas and make their conquest easier for Israel. Yet, Israel steadfastly refuses this far more humane approach.
Israel has attacked through highly illegal means by deprivation of food, water, medicine, food, and other essentials to mass numbers of civilians. Incarcerating millions of civilians and slowly causing their deaths through lack of nourishment, water, medicine, and other essentials constitutes a war crime. Article 54(1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Convention provides plainly that “Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.” Israel is a signatory to the Geneva Convention. Israel actions are unquestionably illegal, as well as immoral. Israel’s action not only violate the Geneva Convention, but Israel’s actions also violate its internal rules. Israel’s Manual on Laws of War (1998) provides that any war time action “with a view to inflicting starvation or suffering on the civilian population . . . is forbidden.”
Of course, Israel provides no statement explaining why it commits these crimes. Two views prevail. The first suggests that if the crimes against civilians are sufficiently punitive, the civilians will force a change in leadership. Nearly two decades of massive Israeli bombardment, horrendous military violence and overwhelming deprivation through blockade have proven this approach to be false. The second approach contends that Israel can use these periods of conflict to promote mass exodus of indigenous people, such as occurred in 1948. The latter seems far more likely. Indeed, Jordan and Egypt have both refused to accept these Israeli refugees for exactly this reason.
Upon clearly reviewing the circumstances, one can only conclude that Israel’s actions do constitute terrorism. Israeli attacks have killed or injured tens of thousands of civilians. These attacks have failed to materially impact Hamas. Israel’s refusal to allow civilians food, water, medicine, and other life-giving essentials has no purpose other than to kill and injure innocent civilians. In doing so, Israel has violated international law. In essence, the attacks on Gaza needlessly harm civilians and serve no valid military purpose. Israel appears to be motivated solely by an attempt to ethnically cleanse the indigenous people in Gaza. Israel has refused to adhere to our Western values of respect for international law and human rights. The conclusion is inescapable: Israel is committing terrorism in Gaza.
Israel has long lauded itself for complying with the rules international law. Yet its actions clearly demonstrate that it disregards international law. Israel engages in actions that unquestionably violate the Geneva Conventions and other elements of international law. America must guide Israel to comply with international law and treat the indigenous people they have colonized with respect, decency, compassion, and humanity. Sadly, Israel has chosen violence as the means of controlling its indigenous population, both on the West Bank and in Gaza. Israeli violence enforces apartheid among the indigenous people living in the West Bank, and Israeli violence incarcerates and imposes a harsh embargo on the indigenous people living in Gaza.
The United States has indicated that it will require that Israel comply with international law. But the United States fails to back those words with actions when, as now, Israel’s behavior violates international law. Within the past few days, the United States has blocked Security Council actions to end the siege of Gaza and persecution of indigenous people. The American government knows the slow death grip Israel has placed on Gazans is illegal and unconscionable. Yet, America allows this. In doing so, the United States violates its own ethical standards and compromises our American integrity.
We must never allow Israel to rob us of our American integrity. The United States must advance a Security Council resolution requiring Israel to cease its attacks on Gaza civilians, allow essentials to be delivered to Gaza and embrace Gazans as her people. America must cease its military and economic assistance to Israel until Israel agrees to act in accordance with international law. Anything less sends a message to Israel that it may commit these crimes with impunity and to the World that the United States does not value human rights. America must reclaim its leadership in human rights and cease enabling Israel to flaunt international law.
(J. George Mansour was born and raised in Missouri and has long been a student of political science and international relations. Mr. Mansour is now based in Austin Texas, where he remains an active investor in a variety of businesses.)