Gaza: Who is Terrorist?

By Terry Lacey – Jakarta

An over-politicized, simplistic view of the Global War on Terror, in the context of the rise of political Islam and Muslim fundamentalism was the Achilles Heel of United States foreign and military policy under President Bush. This policy made more enemies, instead of less. 

The Israeli war on the Gaza Strip will radicalize a new generation in Palestine and the Arab and Muslim world, undermining moderates and strengthening militants.

The German paper Tageszeiting said “There´s a real fear that the war in the Gaza Strip will radicalize the next generation of Palestinians – and that it will be Al Qaeda that eventually takes over from Hamas”.  Any such trend must be reversed. 

This is similar to what the United Kingdom had to do with Sinn Fein and the IRA. Previous UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was key to the successful Irish peace process, and is now a Middle East peace envoy and can convey lessons of experience, on how to move from extremism and violence to political inclusion and peace. 

Turkey has a party with Islamic roots in government, reconciling this with modernization, the possibility of joining the EU, mass tourism for the benefit of Western tour groups, membership of NATO and a security agreement with Israel since 1996.

Indonesia has pursued sensible but firm measures on terrorism, in the context of wider economic and social policies and strengthening of democracy and civil society, with a modern, responsible Islamic political party in the government coalition, while tolerating fundamentalists who are free to organize and express themselves within constitutional limits. 

Contextual problems and disputes had to be addressed in Indonesia so that more extremist groups became more constitutional, moving away from fundamentalism or separatism. Indonesian political Islam, with a strong tradition of democratic politics, is increasingly addressing economic and social issues, alongside questions of Muslim aspirations and identity, within a multi-cultural society.

Despite problems Indonesia has made progress in these areas and in expanding the role of shariah banking to benefit Indonesians of all religions. 

The over-wide use of definitions by Israel as to who is terrorist has contributed to widespread destruction of civil infrastructure and a mounting number of civilian and non combatant casualties during the war on the Gaza Strip.   

This concern has been expressed by the International Committee of the Red Cross which defines combatants as those deeply engaged in hostilities.

Philippe Sands, Professor of International Law at University College, London, says he is not aware of any Western democracy having taken so broad a definition (of terrorism).

The Israeli human rights organization B´Tselem and Human Rights Watch have also drawn attention to this.

The EU cut off financial support to the Hamas government on the grounds of links with terrorism and rejection of the proposed twin state peace agreement. But you cannot designate all the voters, political activists, civil servants and police force of a democratic government as terrorist. This is impractical and wrong.

Shlomo Ben Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister, made clear in the Jakarta Post on New Years Eve that Hamas was not elected by the Palestinian people to agree to a rapid peace agreement. A long term truce, maybe, with security guarantees Israel and Israelis are entitled to, but no twin state solution and no early peace agreement.

Why should Hamas be forced to do otherwise when it has a democratic mandate? Is their position not similar to that of Likud which may also be elected shortly to stop the twin state? Political solutions are made through politics, not by coercion.

United States National Security spokesman Gordon Johndroe hinted at recognizing this dilemma in a statement in Waco, (Jakarta Post 28 December) when he said “Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wishes to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people.”

Definitions of who or what is terrorist should not become permanent, immutable, unsustainable, self-fulfilling prophecies that then become politically self-defeating.

– Dr. Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta, Indonesia, on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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