The prime minister compares Israel’s predicament with the Palestinians to France’s current one with jihadists, but the true comparison is to France’s struggle with Algeria in the 1950s and early 1960s.
In Paris early this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drove home a message he’s been delivering for decades: “Israel supports Europe in its fight against terrorism, and it’s time Europe support Israel in the same exact struggle.”
But he’s wrong. Europe and Israel are not caught up in the same struggle. They don’t face the same terrorism, either.
Despite Netanyahu’s claim, which he says was only reinforced by the jihadist murder spree in the French capital, Islamist terrorism against a country, France, that is not ruling over any Muslim nation cannot be compared to Islamist terror against a country, Israel, that is.
France is not doing anything to any Muslim nation to warrant violent attacks by Muslims. There is nothing France can do against jihadism but fight it.
Contrast this with the terrorism France faced in the 1950s and early 1960s from Algerian guerrillas. At the time France held Algeria under colonial rule, as it had for over a century. In 1962, after years of fighting what it characterized as a war against terrorism, the French ended it by finally getting out of Algeria and granting the country its independence.
Netanyahu compares Israel’s predicament with the Palestinians to France’s current one with jihadists, but the true comparison is to France’s struggle with Algeria.
Israel has been ruling the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against their will since the 1967 Six Day War. (Israel withdrew from Gaza’s interior in 2005, but maintains harsh control over its borders, coast and airspace, thus keeping it under occupation.) The main threat of terror facing Israel comes from Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza in the shadow of Israel’s army.
In Paris, Netanyahu lumped Hamas together with global jihadist groups such as Al Qaida and ISIS, whose stamps were on the murders of cartoonists, police officers and Jewish shoppers in Paris. Hamas runs a frightful regime, it can fairly be called an Islamofascist movement, its charter contains anti-Semitic declarations, and its denunciation of the Paris massacres should be taken with several grains of salt. But none of that justifies Israel’s blockade of the Strip and its throttling of nearly 2 million Gazans. And nothing whatsoever justifies Israel’s full-on military dictatorship over 2.5 million Palestinians in Gaza’s sister territory, the West Bank (where Hamas is being suppressed by the local Palestinian Authority in cooperation with the Israeli army and Shin Bet).
So while neither France nor any other Western country is doing anything to Muslims that could be considered a casus belli for jihadists, the same cannot be said about Israel in relation to Hamas and other Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.
Violent, intolerant and anti-Semitic as it is, Hamas is still a completely different problem for Israel than ISIS and Al Qaida are for the West, and it must be dealt with in a completely different way.
Such a way was shown successfully by Israel itself when it withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon after facing years of terror from Hezbollah, which is the other Islamist nemesis of Israel’s, besides Hamas, that Netanyahu equated with the global jihadists who struck Paris.
But again, the comparison fails. Hezbollah, its militant Islamic creed notwithstanding, fought Israel when the Israeli army was occupying all or part of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000. But since Israel got out of that country, there has been virtually no violence from Hezbollah, except for its extremely ill-advised attack in 2006 that set off a month-long war. Otherwise, the rare acts of violence that Hezbollah does commit against Israel are dwarfed by Israel’s attacks on the Lebanese organization and its allies Syria and Iran.
Hezbollah used terror against Israel, and Hamas often still does, in a political context that makes them much more comparable to Algeria’s National Liberation Front that terrorized France in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Islamism of Hezbollah and Hamas or secularism of the FLN are far less significant than the fact that all three movements arose in response to enemy occupation of their countries.
Not all terrorists are the same. Netanyahu knows this, or should; his party, Likud, was founded by Menachem Begin, who fought Britain’s occupation of his soon-to-be country by means of lethal terrorism in the 1930s and 1940s, and later went on to become prime minister of Israel.
The British solved the problem of Begin’s terrorism (and that of another future Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir) by getting out of what was then called Palestine. The French solved the problem of Algerian terrorism by getting out of Algeria. Israel effectively ended the problem of Hezbollah terrorism by quitting Lebanon. It can reasonably expect to do the same with Palestinian terrorism, especially in view of Israel’s prohibitive military power, by getting out of the West Bank and Gaza.
In their fight with jihadists, France and the West use force as a last option, really their only option. In its fight with Hamas and the Palestinians, Israel holds a nonviolent political option that, certainly under Netanyahu, it has yet to try.