“Terror Out of Zion”

The one thing coursework in International Terrorism can do is make you despise simplistic good vs evil storylines. So can the study of History, the reading of other people’s literatures, and the willingness to know what you don’t want to know. Be warned that your capacity to suffer fools gladly quickly wanes too.

In this present age of open-source libraries and punditry, you can do a lot of learning for free, but it requires great discipline to sift through miseducation, learn analytical skills, sit in debates with those who know more than you and test out your knowledge muscle, then stand solidly on the clarity of human complexity.

Digging into the birth of the state of Israel years ago as a student led me down an interesting path in later years – giving lectures on the theatre of war and the birthing of the modern nation-state.

We humans have not quite evolved to birthing and raising nations nonviolently. Sometimes I imagine governments fear the coming of more intelligent beings because there’s a chance they might lock humans up in cages for our own protection. We have come along way, but we’re still animal – territorial, predatory, domineering.

Birthing a nation is often traumatic, a bloody mess, a knock on death’s door, then a celebration. And then comes defending it and growing it.  There’s nothing new about what is going on in Gaza where Palestinians have been in the throes of birthing a nation.

Let’s get this out of the way first: While Israel has every right to defend its nation, Palestine has every right to birth its nation, past miscalculations notwithstanding. There is also nothing new about the violent methods being used by an extremist group, Hamas. The Israeli combatants used terrorism to birth their own nation as well. 

Menachem Begin, leader of Irgun Zvai Leumi, one of the Israeli terrorist groups that fought for its independence, later became a Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner. 

Now here we are, 2023, and the Palestinian extremists use the same tactics of terrorism with all its horror and inhumanity. Who’s to say the Hamas leader will not one day win the same peace prize as Menachem Begin? The thought of it churns the stomach of anyone who staunchly stands with Israel. I get that. 

But let’s not forget, elimination is a language of terror, a tactic used as a threat against whoever stands in the way of birthing a nation. Sometimes, it is implemented with shocking sadism. No one knows this better than Israel. The most powerful nations have used it – eliminated massive numbers of indigenous populations. Israel’s most violent underground combatants massacred innocent local Palestinian populations to pave way for a new nation. The ghosts of Deir Yassin will not stay quiet.

On the US Department of Justice library’s website, you will find an abstract of the book “Terror Out of Zion: The Shock Troops of Israeli Independence” (J.B. Bell, 1977). The abstract says in part:

“The Irgun was formed [..] to assume an offensive terrorist strategy against the Arabs with apparently arbitrary violence against Arab populations. Another underground Jewish terrorist group, Lohamei Herut Yisrael [..] came to be perceived as the most violent and unrestrained terrorist organization of modern era.”

History is a brutal subject anywhere and everywhere. We can pick any from the 193 westphalian nation-states (the only kind of nationhood recognized as legitimate in our current global system) and bring it to book for genocide, subjugation, containment, plunder, assimilation, apartheid, you name it – some in the past, some in the present.

-Side note- To fellow Africans: Don’t let anyone tell you Gaza is none of your business. Making African issues your priority shouldn’t stop you from having a global voice. Soon you realize the interconnectedness of things. Like my friend’s cousin – an Ethiopian Jew from Eritrea living in Israel among Palestinians, innocent civilian recently killed in Gaza. I gave her what comfort I could as we sat in my kitchen, an embrace that felt hollow, inadequate, and later, I thought of another friend’s email signature line- “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe” (John Muir). Go on, paint your educated opinion outside the Motherland lines in bright and bold colors. -End of side note-

If a Palestinian nation is to be born into this family of sovereign statehood, and it will be, Hamas has to shift away from this language of elimination, and do so quickly, or else get eliminated by a generation of Palestinians fed up with this primitive tactic of nation-birthing. Israel has to shift away from its plan to annihilate Hamas because it ends up eliminating thousands of innocent children and non-combatants. This turns off a generation of Israelis fed up with this barbaric form of defending a nation.

If we must stand-with, let it not be on a foundation built from rearranging bricks of ignorance. Who’s to say the nation of Israel and the future nation of Palestine will not one day have the strongest bond?

 “Where should we go after the last frontiers? Where should the birds fly after the last sky?” – Mahmoud Darwish

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