Much of the history of terrorism in today’s Middle East has been thrust down the Orwellian memory hole due to the highly effective campaign over the past 50 years to suppress information prejudicial to Israel.
Blowing up a bus, a train, a ship, a café, or a hotel; assassinating a diplomat or a peace negotiator; killing hostages, sending letter bombs; massacring defenseless villagers — this is terrorism, as we know it. In the modern Middle East it began with the Zionists who founded the Jewish state. 1
Israel’s original sin is Zionism, the ideology that a Jewish state should replace the former Palestine. At the root of the problem is Zionism’s exclusivist structure whereby only Jews are treated as first-class citizens. In order to create and consolidate a Jewish state in 1948, Zionists expelled 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland and never allowed them or their descendants to return. In addition, Israeli forces destroyed over 400 Palestinian villages and perpetrated about three dozen massacres. In 1967, the Israelis forced another 350,000 Palestinians to flee the West Bank and Gaza as well as 147,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights. Since 1967 Israel has placed the entire Palestinian population of the Territories under military occupation.
The effects of the dispossession of the Palestinians and other Arabs are with us to this day, in the shattered lives of the millions of people directly affected and also as a sign of the West’s war against the entire Arab nation and Muslims everywhere. Arguably, the original sin of Zionism and its effects on the peoples of the Middle East were central to the motivation behind the events of 9/11, and the most important consequence of which is the ongoing “war on terrorism” that is smothering our political landscape.
One of the most notorious acts of Israeli terrorism occurred during the 1948 war when Jewish forces, members of the LEHI underground (also known as the Stern Gang) assassinated Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, a U.N. appointed mediator. Bernadotte was killed on September 17, 1948, a day after he offered his second mediation plan which, among other things, called for repatriation and compensation for the Palestinian refugees.
The assassination of Bernadotte highlighted one of the biggest policy differences at the time between the United States and Israel, namely the fate of the Palestinian refugees. By that time, Jewish/Israeli forces had already forced more than half a million Palestinians from their homes. The resultant international outcry focused attention on the implications for Middle East peace as well as on the suffering of the refugees. Moreover, the fate of hundreds of thousands of Jews who resided in the Arab world, mainly in Iraq, Morocco, Yemen and Egypt, was placed at risk because of Israeli expulsion policy.
The day before the assassination Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett publicly accused Bernadotte of “bias against the state of Israel and in favor of the Arab states.” Stephen Green points to evidence that the Israeli government was itself directly involved in the killing. On the night of the assassination the Czech consulates in Jerusalem and Haifa were busy processing some 30 visas for Stern gang members “who had been rounded up for their involvement in the planning and execution” of the assassination. “Between September 18 and September 29, most if not all of the 30 left Israel on flights for Prague, Czechoslovakia.” The “scale, precision, and speed of the evacuation-escape” made the State Department “suspicious that the Stern gang was not involved alone.” The U.S. wondered if the “operation might have been planned and prepared in Czechoslovakia, and that a specially trained squad had been flown into Israel from Prague for that purpose.”2 In addition, historian Howard Sachar notes that “Yehoshua Cohen, a friend of Ben Gurion, is widely believed to be the trigger man.” 3
Eight months later, in May 1949, the Israelis revealed to the U.N. that the majority of the Stern Gang members rounded up in the “purge” had been released within two weeks. Those not released were held until a general amnesty was granted on February 14, 1949.4 No one was ever put on trial for the killing.
The assassination of Bernadotte made international headlines and for a time more attention was paid to the issue of the Palestinian refugees. In the end pressure to repatriate them was never successfully mustered. Arguably, from the point of view of Israeli expulsion policy, the assassination was a success since none of Bernadotte’s successors was able to focus sufficient pressure on the Israelis to make any concessions. Had Bernadotte lived, he might have succeeded where others had failed. At the least, his murder was a warning to any who might have tried to follow his activist example.
One of the most notorious examples of Jewish/Zionist terrorism in the post-war period 1945-1948, was the bombing of the King David Hotel on July 22, 1946. The bombing developed out of an atmosphere where the Zionists were enraged when the British Labor party’s sweeping victory in the summer of 1945 did nothing to liberalize the previous government’s policy on Jewish immigration. British insistence on maintaining their restrictive immigration policy led to the unification of the three major factions of the Jewish fighting forces into a United Resistance. The three forces comprised the Jewish Agency’s Haganah led by David Ben Gurion, the LEHI, the Stern Gang led by Nathan Yellin-Mor, and the Irgun led by Menachem Begin, who in his book “The Revolt” bragged that he was “Terrorist Number One.” At the end of October 1945, they formally agreed to cooperate on “a military struggle against British rule.” 5
Their joint attacks, including the Night of the Trains, The Night of the Airfields, the Night of the Bridges and other operations, were so successful that they led finally to forceful British retaliation. Immediately after the Night of the Bridges, June 17, 1947, British Army searches for terrorists were conducted, arrests were made and Jews were killed and injured in clashes. A much larger British operation that came to be known as “Black Sabbath” began two weeks later. Thousands of Jews were arrested. British troops ransacked the offices of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, seized important documents, arrested members of the Jewish Agency Executive, and carried out searches and arrests in many kibbutzim.
As a direct result of the Black Sabbath operation, the Haganah command decided on July 1 to conduct three operations against the British. The Palmach (the elite Haganah strike force) would carry out a raid on a British army camp to recover their weapons. The Irgun would blow up the King David Hotel where the offices of the Mandatory government and the British military command were located. (The LEHI task, blowing up the adjacent David Brothers building, was never carried out.)
Just at this moment came an appeal from Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization, urging that the armed struggle against the British be halted. As a result of his appeal, the supreme political committee decided “to accede to Weizmann’s request.” However, Moshe Sneh, the Haganah liaison with the Irgun and LEHI, strongly opposed the Weizmann request and did not inform Begin of the committee resolution but merely asked him to postpone the action.6
The King David Hotel was brought down by means of 50 kilos of explosives, placed beside supporting pillars in the hotel’s “La Regence” restaurant. Timers were placed for 30 minutes. After the bombers made their escape, telephone messages were placed to the hotel telephone operator and to the Palestine Post. The French Consulate, adjacent to the hotel was also warned to open its windows to prevent blast damage, which it did. 7 Some 25 minutes later, a terrific explosion destroyed the entire southern wing of the hotel— all seven stories. The official death toll was 91 dead: 28 Britons, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews, and five others.
Moshe Sharett’s résumé included being head of the Jewish Agency’s political department (1933-1948), Israel’s first foreign minister (1948–1956), and its second prime minister (1954-1955). Following his death, his son edited his personal diary which covered the period from October 1953 to November 1957. The diary was published in 1979 in Hebrew only. It may well have received little attention outside of Israel had it not been for Livia Rokach.
Born the daughter of Israel Rokach, the minister of the interior in the government of Israeli prime minister Moshe Sharett, Livia Rokach later moved to Rome, where she identified herself as “an Italian writer of Palestinian origin.” In the early 1980s, she translated excerpts from the Sharett diary and inserted them into a book: “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism: A Study Based on Moshe Sharett’s Personal Diary and Other Documents.” Despite legal threats from the Israeli foreign ministry, the book was published in the United States by the Association of Arab American University Graduates (AAUG). Israel never took legal action fearing that, in the words of Knesset member Uri Avneri, “stopping the dissemination of the booklet would be a mistake of the first order, since this would give it much more publicity.”8
In her book Rokach charges that from the earliest days of the state, Israel cynically and with cold calculation used its military power under the banner of security in order to dominate the region. She explains that Israel’s leaders were unhappy with the 1949 armistice borders even though, as a result of the 1948 war, they increased Israeli territory from the U.N. allotment of 56% of mandate Palestine to 78%. The Israeli government understood that it needed to transform the fledgling state into a regional power in order to conquer the rest of Palestine as well as some of the territory of its Arab neighbors. Rokach concludes from Sharett’s journal that the Israeli political establishment never seriously believed in an Arab threat to the existence of Israel. She writes that Israel deliberately attempted to drive the Arab states into confrontations and wars in order to dominate the Middle East. Such ambitions could not be achieved on the basis of the earlier Jewish moral superiority doctrine and thus “inevitably presupposed the use of large scale, open violence.” According to Rokach, “Terrorism and revenge were now to be glorified as the new moral…and even sacred values of Israeli society.” Such a transformation of the Israeli population could not be achieved automatically, but required a generation of fear and anxiety on the part of its population and its supporters. They also understood that the:
lives of Jewish victims also had to be sacrificed to create provocations justifying subsequent reprisals… A hammering, daily propaganda, controlled by the censors, was directed to feed the Israeli population with images of the monstrosity of the Enemy. 9
In late 1953, Israeli prime minister Ben Gurion decided to take a two-year sabbatical during which he would withdraw from government activity. His retirement was “presented as a spiritual exercise” but Rokach contends that it was done for strategic reasons. The “moderate” Sharett was to replace Ben Gurion in order not to alarm the West about Israel’s intentions. “In the short range the Israeli design was aimed at slowing down the negotiations between Arab states pressing to be armed and the West which was reluctant to arm them.” The timing of Ben Gurion’s sabbatical indicates that already only four years after the war of 1948-49, the security establishment was contemplating a strategy for regional destabilization. Its modus operandi was to be the political military policy known under the false name of “retaliation.” The point of the retaliation policy was to provoke conflict and tension in the area, to destabilize the Arab regimes by demonstrating that they could not protect their citizens from Israeli attacks, and to set the stage for general war.10
An instance of Sharett’s documentation of Israeli “retaliation” is the notorious Kibya affair. On the night of October 12, 1953, a grenade was thrown into a Jewish settlement east of Tel Aviv, killing a woman and two children. Ben Gurion and others planned a powerful retaliatory blow against a Jordanian village from which it was determined the attack originated. Sharett argued against the raid; on October 14, 1953, he recorded:
I told [Pinchas] Lavon [a staunch supporter of the retaliation policy soon to become the minister of defense] that this [attack] will be a grave error, and recalled, citing various precedents, that it was never proved that reprisal actions serve their declared purpose. Lavon smiled … and kept to his own idea…. Ben Gurion, he said, didn’t share my view.11
Two nights later, Ariel Sharon’s Unit 101 killed 60 people in the Jordanian border village of Kibya. Sharett heard reports that:
thirty houses have been demolished in one village. This reprisal is unprecedented in its dimensions and in the offensive power used. I walked up and down in my room, helpless and utterly depressed by my feeling of impotence. . . . I was simply horrified by the description in Radio Ramallah’s broadcast of the destruction of the Arab village. Tens of houses have been razed to the soil and tens of people killed. I can imagine the storm that will break out tomorrow in the Arab and Western capitals. (15 October 1953)
I must underline that when I opposed the action I didn’t even remotely suspect such a bloodbath. I thought that I was opposing one of those actions which have become a routine in the past. Had I even remotely suspected that such a massacre was to be held, I would have raised real hell. (16 October 1953)
In addition to the Israeli retaliation policy against the Arabs, Rokach devotes a chapter to a possible Israeli “false flag” or “black propaganda” operations whereby its own Jewish citizens were deliberately sacrificed. In her chapter entitled “Sacred Terrorism” Rokach details an incident from March 1954 in the course of which attackers killed ten passengers on a bus from Eilat to Beersheva at the Ma’aleh Ha’akrabim crossroads. Four passengers survived. To this day the circumstances of the attack are shrouded in mystery. Who were the attackers? Rokach wrote that the Israeli cover story was “too strange” for outsiders to believe, noting:
Colonel Hutcheson, the American chairman of the mixed Jordanian-Israeli Armistice Commission, did not take it seriously. Summing up the Commission’s inquiry, Colonel Hutcheson in fact officially announced that “from the testimonies of the survivors it is not proved that all the murderers were Arabs.”
The details of the operation were so unclear that even American press reports made mention of the Jordanian version “according to which the Ma’aleh Ha’akrabim massacre was committed by the Israelis.” Although in public and private, Sharett was reluctant to believe the Jordanian version, Rokach speculates that “deep down in his heart” Sharett must have had his ”unconfessed doubts.”12
Although Sharett managed to block the Israeli military from forceful retaliation for the bus massacre, a pretext was soon found to launch a massive attack on the village of Nahalin, near Bethlehem, killing dozens of civilians, and “completely destroying” another Palestinian village in the West Bank. The neighboring Arab countries “were persuaded that the Israeli escalation of self-provoked incidents, terrorism and renewed retaliation meant that Israel was preparing the ground for war. They therefore took strong measures to prevent any infiltration into Israel.” Israeli General Moshe Dayan told a journalist friend in May 1954 that, “The situation along the borders is better than it has been for a long time and actually it is quite satisfactory.” But quiet borders simply spurred more Israeli incursions and Rokach explains how the military adopted new tactics using small patrols for sabotage and murder in Arab villages, in which Ariel Sharon’s infamous Unit 101 played a decisive role.13
Today with Ariel Sharon as prime minister, the same dynamic of Israeli use of terror for political gain repeats itself shamelessly. As Rachel Corrie, the American volunteer recently crushed to death in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer, said in a letter home to her parents: “Sharon’s assassination-during-peace negotiations/land grab strategy, is working very well now to create settlements all over [and is] slowly but surely eliminating any meaningful possibility for Palestinian self-determination.”14
One of the most historically significant “false flag” schemes documented by Sharett is the infamous Lavon Affair which is one of the few such operations that the Israeli government was forced to acknowledge. In July 1954, about 10 Egyptian Jews under the command of Israeli agents planted bombs in British and American properties and Egyptian public buildings in Cairo and Alexandria. The spy ring was caught and broken up on July 27, when one of its members was caught after a bomb exploded in his pocket in Alexandria.
There was a trial and two of the accused were condemned to death and executed, while the three Israeli commanders escaped and a fourth committed suicide. A scandal subsequently ensued in Israel that turned on exactly who ordered the operation. In 1954-55, Sharett anticipated the findings of the commission which ultimately established that Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan, Director General of the Ministry of Defense Shimon Peres, and Intelligence Chief Colonel Benjamin Givli were the culprits. Sharett confided to his diary on January 10, 1955:
[People] ask me if I am convinced that “he [Defense Minister Pinchas Lavon] gave the order?” . . . but let us assume that Givli has acted without instructions … doesn’t the moral responsibility lie all the same on Lavon, who has constantly preached for acts of madness and taught the army leadership the diabolic lesson of how to set the Middle East on fire, how to cause friction, cause bloody confrontations, sabotage targets …[and perform] acts of despair and suicide.”
At the time of the bombings negotiations were at their height between Cairo and London for the evacuation of the Canal Zone, and between Cairo and Washington for arms supplies and other aid in connection with a possible U.S.-Egyptian alliance. Stephen Green presents an even more cynical picture of top Israeli officials who initiated the terrorist operation in order to sabotage Prime Minister Sharett’s ongoing and quietly successful negotiations with Egyptian President Gamal Nasser.15
1. For history of Zionist conquest and occupation, see Norman Finkelstein, “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict;” for documentation of specific acts of Zionist terrorism, e.g., letter bombs, kidnapping, bombing cafes, theaters, markets, see Issa Nakhleh’s “Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem,” pp. 65-23
2. Stephen Green, “Taking Sides: America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel,” pp. 38-4
3. Baylis Thomas, “A Concise History of Israel,” p. 93, note 3
4. Green, “Taking Sides,” p. 4
5. Written by Prof. Yehuda Lapidot, on the Irgun Website: http://www.etzel.org/english/index.html.
6. Thus, according to Irgun accounts, when the attack took place on July 22, the Haganah had officially withdrawn its approval.
7. According to the Irgun, from the time of the first call at 12:10 pm, 22 minutes were allowed for the evacuation.
8. R. Curtiss in The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs: www.wrmea.com/backissues/031885/850318011.html.
9. Livia Rokach, “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism,” pp. 5-
10. Rokach, “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism,” p. 1
11. Rokach, “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism,” p. 1
12. Rokach, “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism,” p. 1
13. Rokach, “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism,” p. 2
14. Rachel Corrie in e-mail to her family, cited in Harper’s “This Happens Every Day,” June 200
15. Green, “Taking Sides,” pp. 94-12
16. ”A dangerous liquidation,” in Yediot Achronot, Nov. 25, 200