Israel's Post-September 11 Opportunism

Brian Dominick

Count on Binyamin Netanyahu to tell it like it is. Before the dust had settled over Ground Zero following September 11, the former Israeli Prime Minister proclaimed the effect of September would be "very good" for his country. The smoke rising from the World Trade Center was used as a screen behind which Israel hurriedly committed assassinations and other war crimes right under the noses of a distracted world community. This opportunistic response set the stage for a year of increasing aggression against the Palestinians, under the guise of Israel's own "war on terror."

Current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, proclaimed Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat to be "our bin Laden." Thus began a wholehearted campaign to demonize Arafat and delegitimize the Palestinian Authority in the eyes of the world _ especially those of the United States. Ever since Sharon has drawn comparisons between America's "War on Terror" and Israel's 55 year-old war on Palestinian civil society. Most of the actual parallels between the two campaigns pertain to each nation's response to terrorism perpetrated against it. Collective punishment of civilians in the name of anti-terrorism is the most glaring connection.

Since this new wave of anti-terrorist sentiment has swept the United States, it has become unacceptable to criticize Israeli policies and actions for fear of being considered soft on terrorism. This rings true for politicians and everyday Americans alike. Sensing this shift in post-9/11 sympathies, Israel has accelerated its repression of and violence against Palestinian civilians, with condemnation by Washington decreasing from modest to virtually none. While at first it seemed Bush's need to garner support from Arab/Muslim countries for his upcoming invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq was leading him to tug on Sharon's reigns, the unwillingness of Arab governments to stand by the Palestinians let Bush off the hook.

It has also turned out that Sharon didn't flinch when Bush ordered him to cease the March-April search and destroy campaign in the West Bank. This was embarrassing, not only because a supposedly obedient client had refused a direct order, but because Sharon shined a mirror on the US, using Bush's own language of a "war on terror" to expose the hypocrisy implicit in Bush's mild criticisms of Israel. Then Sharon went so far as to employ W's doctrine of "regime change" as the solution to the "Palestinian problem," as Bush himself had done vis-à-vis the Afghan and Iraqi "problems." Bush eventually came around to back Sharon's call for Arafat's ouster.

There is no telling how successful Israel will continue to be in riding the wave of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-(certain)-terrorist sentiment resulting from September 11, but it will only be curtailed to the extent American and Israeli citizens refuse to take the bait.

Brian responded to the September 11 crisis in Manhattan as an emergency medical technician. He also spent two months working on ambulances in the West Bank this year.