Israel and the USA: terrorism as a pretext

Image: Khaled Hourani


After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Israel took advantage of the War on Terror discourse to justify its actions

A few days after the massacres carried out by Hamas in Israeli territory, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to do what was already expected, seeking some analogy with the attacks of September 11, 2001 so that he could gain legitimacy in the international community. President Joe Biden himself, visiting Israel two weeks after the attacks, declared that “these horrors” provoked a “kind of feeling” in Israeli society, just as happened and felt in the USA.

At both times, the USA, Israel and the main media outlets in the Western world constructed narratives that placed the histories of the two countries in parallel: both were victims of terrorism and, consequently, should always act together.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, realized that there could be a paradigm shift in actions against terrorists in the world and tried to make the most of the situation, convincing the international community of that all forms of Palestinian resistance should be classified as terrorism, even the Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat. The simple use of the word “terror” worked like magic to dehumanize opponents and justify any type of military action.

Ariel Sharon tried to sell the idea that his war with the Palestinians was just another front in the “global war on terrorism.” Ariel Sharon's triumph came when Bush declared, on June 24, 2002, that "peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born" and demanded that the Palestinian people elect new leaders "not committed to The horror". Since then, the Palestinian National Authority, which negotiated the Oslo agreements and had diplomatic representation in several international organizations and in almost every country in the world, has been systematically weakened by the USA and its allies.

If Israel can take advantage of the War on Terror discourse to justify its actions, on the other hand it has made important changes in the modus operandi of urban combat, influencing the USA. In April 2002, there was a drastic change in the strategy of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) when Operation Defensive Shield was launched, during the Second Intifada, through successive incursions in the six largest cities in the West Bank, which resulted in the siege of Arafat in Ramallah.

The word “urbicide”, used to describe the massacres and material destruction of the basic infrastructure of urban life (houses, schools, shops, factories, hospitals) during the 1992-95 Bosnian War, also came to be used for military operations Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank from 2002 onwards. A new model of urban warfare that, through the intensive use of weapons with high destructive power, began to fully affect the lives of the entire population, creating a condition of perpetual devastation resulting from extreme difficulty in rebuilding what was destroyed. It can be said, therefore, that the current situation in Gaza is an unfolding, taken to its ultimate consequences, of what began in 2002.

The use of September 11th as a paradigm for combating any and all resistance, seen, from then on, as a terrorist action, appeared as a need for security in the face of a “sordid and powerful enemy” capable of carrying out the greatest barbarities.

I believe that, in a subtle way, one of the members of the Israeli legal team during the session at the Hague Court gave us a clue as to what is actually implicit in the logic of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. According to the jurist, any military action in Gaza “will always result in tragic deaths, damages and losses” given the characteristics of the territory (high population density), and the characteristics of the enemy to be fought. In an eschatological reading, we could say that the 29 thousand people killed (11 thousand children) are the price to be paid for the Israeli nation to defend itself against an enemy like Hamas.

But there is another comparison between September 11th and October 7th that we need to remember. In the 20 years of the Global War on Terror, the U.S. caused the deaths of around 4,5 million people through its military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, in addition to displacing around 59 million people.

However, as warned an analyst from one of the most important think tanks In the USA, there are significant differences between the contexts of September 11, 2001 and Afghanistan and October 7, 2023, in Gaza. The US could opt for the strategy of vacating Afghanistan, as it did twenty years later, but Israel does not have that option, as, due to geography, it will forever be linked to Gaza.

The analyst should ask himself why 75% of Gaza's inhabitants came from cities that are now part of Israeli territory. If it is true that Israel has no other option than having to “deal with Gaza”, saying that the problem is geography is yet another strategy to hide the fact that the State of Israel was built based on colonial logic. occupation and expulsion of the native population.

The situation of “urbicide” in Gaza is one of the consequences of this long process that began in 1947 and goes far beyond Hamas. This struggle for national liberation will only end with the creation of a free and sovereign Palestinian State.

*Reginaldo Nasser is a professor of International Relations at PUC-SP. Aauthor, among other books, of The fight against terrorism: the United States and its Taliban friends (Contracurrent Publisher). []

Originally published on the website opera mundi.

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