Political terror, as the calculated utilization of violence to elicit psychological intimidation in an effort to accomplish strategic and political goals, was a major feature of the zionist movement's modus operandi prior to the establishment of Israel. During this tumultuous period, zionist underground subversive organizations, such as the Haganah, headed by David Ben Gurion, the Irgun Zvei Leumi, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stern Gang, co-headed by Yitzhak Shamir, engaged in a form of 'ethnic cleansing' to wrest Palestine from its indigenous Arab inhabitants.
They unleashed a campaign of terror and violence that deliberately targeted civilians in order to effect an exodus of Palestine's Arab population. The zionists' campaign of terror also targeted their erstwhile British patrons. Foreign dignitaries involved in diplomatic efforts to negotiate a settlement short of the zionists' maximalist demands were targeted as well.
That the murderous acts of violence perpetrated by zionist groups were carried out in accordance with an organized and systematic campaign of terror is borne out by available historical evidence. In the late 1930s, the Haganah, the Irgun, and the Stern Gang, entered into a pact in which they agreed to coordinate their military operations under the supervision of the Command of the United Resistance Movement. According to the pact, all military operations conducted by the three groups had to be approved by the Command before they were carried out.
Terror tactics employed by the zionists included assassinations, hostage-taking, bombings, and outright massacres of civilians. In his memoirs, The Revolt (London: W. H. Allen, 1983), Begin provides accounts of numerous operations that were approved by the Command. The most notorious of these was the July 22, 1946 bomb attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Masterminded by Begin himself, the attack resulted in the death of about 90 British, Arab, and Jewish men and women. More than 70 others were injured.
Palestinian civilians were the most favourable target of zionist terror attacks. In his book, Soldier with the Arabs (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957), John Bagot Glubb, a British officer in the Jordanian Arab Legion, better known as Glubb Pasha, reports a conversation with a Palestine Government Jewish official which reveals the zionist intention to engage in a form of 'ethnic cleansing' in Palestine. In the course of the conversation which took place in December 1947, Glubb Pasha questioned the viability of a Jewish
state in Palestine whose demographic makeup comprises a number of Arabs almost equal to that of Jews. To this the Jewish official responded: 'Oh no! That will be fixed. A few calculated massacres will soon get rid of them (i.e., the Arabs).'
In their drive to bring about a demographic purgation in Palestine, the zionists indulged in attacks on the civilian population with such glee and cruelty that they spread horror and fear throughout the country. The most frightful of these atrocities was the one perpetrated on April 9-10, 1948, by the Irgun against the village of Deir Yassin. The village was captured by the Irgun following a brief battle with its defenders. All the inhabitants of this Arab hamlet to the east of Jerusalem who, either voluntarily or non-voluntarily, had decided not to flee - a total of more than 250 men, women, and children - were brutally and mercilessly massacred.
This grisly carnage spread panic among the Arab inhabitants of Palestine accelerating their exodus from their own homeland. The news of Deir Yassin massacre caused Arabs living in other population centers to flee whenever zionist forces approached. In fact, Begin himself described the psychological impact engendered by reports about the massacre in the Arab media and its benefits for the zionist goals, saying: 'Out of evil, however, came good. This Arab propaganda spread a legend of terror amongst Arabs and Arab troops, who were seized with panic at the mention of Irgun soldiers. The legend was worth half a dozen battalions to the forces of Israel.'
According to some estimates, due to the resulting atmosphere of panic, 200,000 Palestine Arabs had already become refugees prior to the proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.
Understanding the roots of the zionists' terror strategy to secure for themselves a state in Palestine entails an examination of the nature and ideological foundations of zionism as a 'settler colonialist' enterprise. 'Settler colonialism' is a more virulent variant of colonialism than the traditional, classical kind which confronted most 'third world' countries.
Classical colonialism is predicated on an asymmetric relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, or, in the terminology of dependency theory, the core and the periphery. On the economic level, classical colonialism embodies an economically exploitative kind of relationship where the colonialist power drains the wealth and resources of the colonized. On the political level, it constitutes a general asymmetric power relationship, or, to use the Hegelian jargon popularized by the Marxists and neo-Marxists, a master-slave relationship.
On the cultural level, classical colonialism seeks to obliterate the Us-versus-Them dichotomy by making 'Others' like Us. This is captured by the English poet Rudyard Kipling's phrase 'White Man's burden,' or the French notion of 'mission civilatrice' (the civilizing mission).
This brief digression into the various dimensions of classical colonialism is important for understanding the peculiar characteristics of 'settler colonialism,' and, in turn, the seriousness of the threat posed by the creation of the zionist entity in the Middle East. Despite its exploitative nature, classical colonialism falls short of physically
exterminating the native 'savages' living in colonized areas. At best, in its cultural dimension, it wages a form of kulturkampf (cultural war) that, if successful, would ultimately results in a cultural genocide.
In contrast 'settler colonialism' is predicated on the possession of land and the physical extermination of the native 'savages' as a means to establish or legitimate its claim to nationhood in the land. This is the marked difference between classical colonialism and settler colonialism; the difference between mere cultural genocide and a truly physical one or its functional equivalent.
It should be pointed out in this context that zionism was nurtured by a number of sustaining ideological myths. Most notably and relevant here is the one stating that Palestine had been a terra nullius ('a land without a people for a people without a land') when the zionist settlers began to arrive there in the nineteenth century - a process known as aliyah (or 'ascent') in Hebrew to denote the spiritual elevation that comes along with moving to the Holy or Promised Land. But since Palestine was actually already inhabited, then carrying out the zionist myth required that it be physically depopulated.
The notion of the Jewish historical right to Palestine served as another ideological myth underlying demographic purgation. The upshot of this notion is that the exodus of the Palestinians was a prerequisite for the 're-establishment' of the Jewish presence there. In such a scheme of things, driving the 'native' Palestinians out of their land was not seen as an act of destroying an indigenous people, society and culture, but rather as a liberating and redeeming act.
Beneath this veneer of ideological rationale, however, the message was simple. The Palestinians stood as a nuisance, an obstacle, hindering the redemption of the historical rights of the Jewish people and their 'ascent.' Eliminating or subjugating this hindrance is not only justified but necessary as well.