The U.S. placed Hamas on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in October 1997. Since Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip (2005-2006), the U.S. and Israel have clamped a suffocating siege on the 1.7 million Palestinians living in Gaza.
I suppose the hope (more like wishful thinking) was that the ordinary people on the street would feel the brutal impacts of the siege and rise up and overthrow Hamas. If that’s really the strategic thinking of Israeli and American counter-terrorism “experts”, they have been proven wrong. So their fall back position has been extrajudicial killings (targeting Hamas in their cars and homes) and murdering innocent civilians (AKA collateral damage).
As someone who has met members of Hamas, shared meals with Hamas, accepted shelter in their homes, and toured the destruction following Israel’s bombing in November 2012 with Hamas leaders, I have a more nuanced understanding of what defines a terrorist. (More about Hamas in a future blog post).
I recently learned that the U.S. State Department added extremist Jewish settlers and groups who commit “Price tag” attacks in its annual report on terrorism.
“Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed to be anti-settlement) expanded into Israel from the West Bank in 2013. The Israeli government formed a new unit of the national police designated specifically to investigate these crimes in both Israel and the West Bank and in June the Security Cabinet authorized the Ministry of Defense to classify groups that perpetrated “price tag” attacks as “illegal associations,” which allowed security authorities greater leeway in collecting information on and seizing the property of groups, and of their members, that perpetrated “price tag” attacks. Incidents included:
- In July, gravestones in a Christian Orthodox cemetery in Jaffa were vandalized with the words “revenge” and “price tag.” Price tag graffiti was also found on a residential building near the cemetery.
- In August, the Beit Jamal Monastery near Jerusalem was firebombed and spray-painted with the words “death to the Gentiles” and other slogans.
This is a new and significant development. I wonder what push back State Department officials are feeling from AIPAC. It certainly hasn’t received attention in the mainstream press, even as the violence perpetrated by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank intensifies. The murder of 16-year-old Mohammad Aby Khdair is the most recent example.
I’ve known for some time that terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. Labels are too simplistic and, in this case, too provocative to be very helpful, but I’m pleased that the U.S. government is officially recognizing the terror perpetrated by extremist settlers in the West Bank.