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A response to Ted Honderich's Legitimization of Palestinian Terrorism

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Message Michaella Matt
On the eve of International Holocaust Memorial day, in the wake of the Al Jazeera leaks, UCL professor Ted Honderich has published a letter in the Guardian granting legitimacy to mass killing of Jews, based on their 'greed' and 'lack of decency':

The revelations in detail (Report, 25 January) of the intransigent greed, the escape from decency, of Israeli governments in negotiation with our selected leaders of the Palestinians, serve one purpose among others. They provide a further part of what is now an overwhelming argument for a certain proposition. It is that the Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism within historic Palestine against neo-Zionism. The latter, neither Zionism nor of course Jewishness, is the taking from the Palestinians of at least their autonomy in the last one-fifth of their historic homeland. Terrorism, as in this case, can as exactly be self-defence, a freedom struggle, martyrdom, the conclusion of an argument based on true humanity, etc.

In his writings, Honderich makes a distinction between Zionism, defined as the creation of Israel in its original borders, and neo-Zionism, the expansion of Israel beyond its original borders, child of 1967, against which terrorism is legitimate.

Honderich's argument is seriously flawed. In 1967, it was Israel's enemies themselves who instigated war. Days before the Israeli strike, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran, an move defined in international treaties as an act of war against Israel, and Syria began deploying its troops along Israel's northern border. Until 1967, Israel was content with the borders that resulted from the 1948 war--a war also instigated by its Arab neighbors.

If Israel's enemies sought its destruction in 1967, what makes Honderich think their hatred of Israel today is suddenly based on ethical grounds? This is the error of the left, eager to victimize and demonize, in disregard of historical fact.

Moreover, after the 1967 war, despite massive territorial gains, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt for the sake of peace. Yet regarding the West Bank, the U.S. and Israel encountered the unflinching Arab rejectionist stance of the Khartoum resolution: "No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." The Arab world, then and now, could not come to terms with the very existence of Israel, preventing any way forward that did not involve grounds for Israel's destruction in the future.

Honderich claims his arguments are not anti-Semitic. Yet despite his naive characterization of Israel's foreign policy predicament, he defends the West's attack on Afghanistan as moral and condems the 9/11 attacks. Only from Israel does he deny the right to self-defense.
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Michaella Matt has a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories and has written for publications such as Tikkun Magazine and Perspectives: A Brown (more...)
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