I pray that the bus stop bomb in Jerusalem today does not herald a return to this kind of terrorism in Israel. Terrorism is always a form of racism because it involves an indiscriminate attack upon a people. Killing and wounding innocent civilians is nothing to be proud of, whoever does it.
It is also the case that of recent years there has been a continuing and measurable shift, in European public opinion in particular, in favour of the Palestinians. There is not a simple cause and effect relationship, but the effective moratorium on this kind of terrorist attack has definitely helped people see beyond atrocity propaganda to a more profound understanding of the situation. International public opinion does ultimately matter. It was not terrorism or violent action or internal political or economic resistance that brought down apartheid. It was not even economic sanctions. It was moral collapse, the difficulty of living with the stigma with which white South Africans came to be viewed in the entire world. And it was the ANC’s de facto abandonment of armed struggle, long before officially renouncing it in 1990, that facilitated that. In short, Gandhi was right.
Of course we still do not know who planted the Jerusalem bomb, and it is disgraceful that Obama has already referred to “Israel’s right of self-defence”, when we have no idea if this was internal or external. Who is America going to exercise its right of self defence against in relation to events in Tucson and Spokane? Until we know something more definite – and unless someone credibly claims responsibility we won’t, as the Israeli authorities deserve no trust at all – the answer to the question cui bono does not point to the Palestinians. Nor does the modus operandi; not a suicide bomb but a bin bomb. I cannot recall Palestinians using that form of attack at any time in the recent past. Which is not to say it was not fanatic and stupid Palestinians, but Obama has no right to presume that. People prepared to plant bombs without injuring themselves are a very much wider field.
Of course, this bomb has received ten times the air time on Western broadcasters as the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza yesterday, In fact between the terrible murder of Israeli settlers three weeks ago and this bomb, the Israeli security services have killed nine Palestinian civilians just in the general course of things. But nobody bothers to report that at all. I have commended before The Prickly Pears of Palestine to you as a book which brought home to me the regular and routine nature of Israeli killings of young Palestinians.