Since Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza began, Zionist officials, pundits, journalists, and their Western opposite numbers have endlessly invoked the sinister specter of “terrorism” to justify the industrial-scale slaughter of Palestinians. It is because of “terrorism,” twice-failed U.S. Presidential candidate and unconvicted war criminal Hillary Clinton representatively wrote for The Atlantic on November 14 that “Hamas must be permanently erased.” Destroyed hospitals and schools and civilians killed en masse are reasonable “collateral damage.” Such is the unparalleled evil of “terrorists.”
Yet, the relentless stream of heart-rending clips documenting the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) Holocaust deluging social media feeds the world over, and the ever-ratcheting child death toll has compelled countless citizens to ask, “If Hamas are terrorists, then what are Zionists?” It is surely no coincidence YouTube recently yanked the official video of a groundbreaking track by renowned rapper and MintPress News contributor Lowkey, “Terrorist?” posing this precise question.
“Terrorist?” was released in 2011, at the height of the U.S. Empire’s “War on Terror.” Then, the purported global threat of “terrorism” was exploited throughout the West to savage civil liberties at home and wage relentless illegal military “interventions” abroad. Mainstream usage of the term precipitously plummeted thereafter. It is only now regaining popular currency due to the Gaza genocide.
This is no accident. As we shall see, Israel – and specifically its veteran leader, Benjamin Netanyahu – was fundamental to concocting the mainstream conception of “terrorism,” explicitly to delegitimize anti-imperial struggles while validating Western state violence directed at oppressed peoples across the Global South. The impact of this informational assault can be felt in every corner of the world today – not least Gaza.
In fact, one might reasonably conclude the specific foundations of Nakba 2.0, which is unfolding in grisly real-time right now, were laid decades ago as a result of the connivances of Netanyahu, the international Zionist lobby, and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. What follows is the little-known history of how “terrorism” came to be. A majority of the world’s population – the Palestinian people in particular – live with the mephitic consequences every day.
Our story starts in 1976, at the peak of détente between the U.S. and Soviet Union. After two-and-a-half decades of bitter enmity, the two superpowers resolved to peaceful coexistence at the start of the decade. They collaborated to systematically dismantle the structures and doctrines that defined the immediate post-World War II era, such as Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.).
In May of that year, the CIA produced its annual National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a comprehensive report combining data from various intelligence agencies intended to be a basis for crafting foreign policy. In keeping with the past five years, it concluded the Soviets were in severe economic decline, favored diplomacy over conflict, and desperately sought an end to the Cold War. Such findings lay behind Washington’s push for détente and Moscow’s eager acceptance of major disarmament and arms control treaties.
However, newly-appointed CIA director George H. W. Bush categorically rejected these conclusions. He sought a second opinion and constructed an independent intelligence cell to review the NIE. Known as Team B, it was composed of hardcore Cold Warriors, defense-industry-funded hawks, and rabid anti-Communists. Among them were several individuals who would become leading figures in the neoconservative movement, such as Paul Wolfowitz. Also present were the infamous CIA and Pentagon dark arts specialists who had been professionally ostracized due to détente.
Team B duly reviewed the NIE and rubbished each and every one of the Agency’s findings. Rather than dilapidated, impoverished and teetering on total collapse, the Soviet Union was, in fact, more deadly and dangerous than ever, having constructed a vast array of “first strike” capabilities right under the CIA’s collective nose. To reach these bombshell conclusions, Team B relied on a confounding hodgepodge of peculiar logical fallacy, paranoid theorizing, crazed conspiratorial conjecture, unsupported value judgments, and amateurish circular reasoning.
For example, Team B repeatedly assessed that a lack of evidence Moscow possessed weapons systems, military technology, or surveillance capabilities comparable or superior to Washington’s own was inverse proof the Soviets, in fact, did. They were so sophisticated and innovative, Team B concluded, that they couldn’t be detected or even comprehended by the West. Team B’s analysis was confirmed to be a total fantasy when the USSR collapsed. Yet, its methods informed all subsequent NIEs throughout the Cold War and likely endure today.
On June 27 of that year, mere weeks after Team B was set to work on reigniting the Cold War, Air France Flight 139, en route to Paris from Tel Aviv, was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Redirected to a Ugandan airport, the plane was greeted on the runway by Idi Amin’s military, who ushered the passengers – the majority of whom were Jewish or Israeli – into the terminal, watched over by scores of soldiers, intended to prevent their escape or rescue.
The hijackers relayed a demand to the government of Israel. Unless a ransom of $5 million was paid to them and 53 Palestinian prisoners were released from jail, the hostages would be executed. In response, 100 elite IOF commandos launched an audacious action to free the hostages. Their mission – known as the Entebbe Raid – was a stunning success. All but four hostages were rescued alive, and the IOF lost just one commander – Yonatan (Jonathan) Netanyahu, the older brother of Israel’s sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
‘Propaganda to Dehumanize’
For years, by that point, Israeli officials had been attempting to popularize the term “terrorism” to explain the motivations and actions of Palestinian freedom fighters. That way, their righteous fury at repression could be reframed as a destructive ideology of violence for violence’s sake without rationale and Zionist colonial tyranny as warranted self-defense. This effort became turbocharged in September 1972, when the kidnapping of 11 Israeli athletes at that year’s Olympics in Munich by Palestinian militants ended with all hostages murdered.
This particularly public bloodshed centered world attention on Israel and left Western citizens wondering what could’ve possibly inspired such actions. Zionists had hitherto managed to largely conceal their systematic, state-enforced repression and displacement of Palestinians from the outside world. Journalists were kept well away from the scenes of major crimes. At the same time, Amnesty International’s Israeli branch was secretly financed and directed by Tel Aviv’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to whitewash facts on the ground.
For the Netanyahu family, the Entebbe raid was a tragedy – but also an ideal opportunity to validate and internationalize the concept of “terrorism,” as espoused by Zionists. In 1979, Benjamin Netanyahu founded the Jonathan Institute in honor of his slain brother. Its purpose, he said, was:
To focus public attention on the grave threat that international terrorism poses to all democratic societies, to study the real nature of today’s terrorism, and to propose measures for combating and defeating the international terror movements.”
In 1983 Netanyahu explained what terrorism is not
If you miss a target and a bomb accidentally falls on a Children’s hospital it’s not terrorism
Does it hold true in 2023!!! pic.twitter.com/6DiHRv0IKk
— Dr Nilima Srivastava (@gypsy_nilima) October 21, 2023
In July that year, the Institute convened the Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism (JCIT) in Jerusalem’s Hilton Hotel. It gathered together a 700-strong mob of Israeli government officials, U.S. lawmakers, intelligence operatives from across the ‘Five Eyes’ global spying network, and Western foreign policy apparatchiks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many representatives of Team B were in attendance. For four days and seven separate sessions, speaker after speaker painted a disturbing picture of the worldwide phenomenon of “terrorism.”
They unanimously declared that all “terrorists” constituted a single, organized political movement that was being secretly financed, armed, trained, and directed by the Soviet Union. This devilish nexus, it was claimed, posed a mortal threat to Western democracy, freedom, and security, requiring a coordinated response. Eerily, as academic Diana Ralph later observed, the JCIT’s collective prescription for tackling this purported menace was precisely what transpired just over two decades later during the “War on Terror”:
[This included] pre-emptive attacks on states that are alleged to support ‘terrorists’; an elaborate intelligence system apparatus; slashed civil liberties, particularly for Palestinians targeted as potential terrorists, including detention without charge, and torture; and propaganda to dehumanize ‘terrorists’ in the eyes of the public.”
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin addressed the JCIT’s opening session. He set the tone by claiming Western state violence was ultimately “a fight for freedom or liberation” and, therefore, fundamentally opposed to “terrorism.” He concluded his remarks by imploring the assembled throng to go forth and promote the conference’s message once it was over. And they did.
‘The Terror Network’
Among the JCIT attendees was American author and journalist Claire Sterling, who cut her teeth as a reporter decades earlier at the Overseas News Agency, an MI6 propaganda operation seeking to boost U.S. public support for entering World War II. Following the conference, she frequently amplified the claims of JCIT speakers in articles for prominent newspapers, leading to an epic March 1981 front-page exposé in The New York Times, “Terrorism: Tracing The International Network.”
A book published later that year, “The Terror Network,” expanded significantly on Sterling’s oeuvre and firmly cemented the notion of Moscow as a grand spider sat in the middle of a vast, globe-spanning web of deadly political violence in the Western public mind. It caused a sensation upon release, receiving rave reviews from major news outlets, being translated into 22 languages, and becoming a bestseller in several countries.
Most significantly of all, “The Terror Network” had a particularly potent impact on newly-inaugurated President Ronald Reagan and his CIA chief William Casey. Committed anti-Communists, they entered office desperately seeking a pretext for brutally crushing left-wing, nationalist opposition to U.S. imperialism in Latin America. Sterling’s work provided ample ammunition for achieving that bloodsoaked objective and was key to the White House decisively shattering détente, a process begun by Team B five years earlier.
Consequently, “The Terror Network” was circulated among U.S. lawmakers and heavily promoted overseas on the Reagan administration’s dime. Casey furthermore tasked his Agency with verifying its thesis. They quickly assessed Sterling’s work to be irredeemable garbage, ironically enough, as it was heavily influenced by CIA black propaganda. Enraged, Casey demanded the evaluation be revised. An updated appraisal was less scathing but nonetheless stressed the book was “uneven and the reliability of its sources varies widely,” while “significant portions” were “incorrect.”
Still dissatisfied, Casey asked a CIA “senior review panel” charged with scrutinizing Langley’s formal estimates to write their own report on the subject. They concluded the Soviets did offer limited financial, material and practical assistance to a handful of anti-imperial Global South liberation movements, some of which were labeled “terrorists” by Western powers. But there was “insufficient evidence” of Muscovite culpability for the entire global phenomenon of “terrorism,” let alone funding and directing such entities as dedicated policy.
Undeterred, when Casey personally delivered the report to Reagan, he allegedly said of its findings, “Of course, Mr. President, you and I know better.” So it was CIA-backed death squads that ran roughshod across Washington’s “backyard” throughout the 1980s in the name of neutralizing Soviet influence in the region. Their actions were heavily informed by the Agency’s guerrilla warfare manual, which encouraged assassinations of government officials and civilian leaders and deadly attacks on “soft targets” such as schools and hospitals. “Terrorism,” in other words.
‘We Are All Palestinians’
Another example of Reagan’s “terrorism” was sponsoring Afghanistan’s Mujahideen resistance fighters in their battle with – ironically enough – the Soviet Red Army. This policy endured after the “Evil Empire” was vanquished. The same militants were transported to Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s to aid and abet the painful, forced death of Yugoslavia.
When these covert actions produced “blowback” in the form of the 9/11 attacks, several individuals who attended the JCIT, and their acolytes, were elevated to the Bush administration due to their supposed “terrorism” expertise. Meanwhile, with public and state-level fears of “terrorism” ramping up significantly the world over, many Western countries turned to Israel for advice and guidance on how to tackle the issue. As Nentyahu commented in 2008:
We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon and the American struggle in Iraq.”
This was not only because 9/11 “swung American public opinion in [Israel’s] favor.” In a blink, Zionist repression and slaughter were transformed from a source of international embarrassment and obloquy into a compelling sales pitch and unique selling point for Tel Aviv’s welter of “defense” and “security” firms. The Occupied Territories became laboratories, their inhabitants test subjects, upon whom new weaponry, surveillance methods, and pacification techniques could be trialed by the IOF, then marketed and sold overseas.
It is not for nothing that graphic videos showcasing IOF “surgical strikes” on Palestinians, their homes, schools, and hospitals are proudly displayed at international arms fairs, and private demonstrations of invasive surveillance tools such as Pegasus routinely wow repressive foreign security and intelligence agencies behind-closed-doors.
On top of a significant financial benefit, there is a diplomatic dividend, too. Israel secures an invaluable censure-stifling goodwill from customers, therefore permitting the Zionist project of permanently purging Palestine of its indigenous inhabitants to persist untrammeled. We see a palpable demonstration of this currently. While the streets of almost every major Western city have regularly teemed with pro-Palestine fervor ever since the latest attack on Gaza began, the protesters’ elected representatives are at best silent, at worst, actively complicit.
Impassioned chants of “We are all Palestinians!” have been a frequent fixture at these events. This rallying call is highly apposite, for in addition to expressing sympathy and solidarity with the Palestinian people, it is urgently incumbent upon us all to reflect that the very same techniques and technologies of control and oppression to which they have been so cruelly subjected daily for decades are now firmly trained on us as well, as a result of Israel’s invention of “terrorism.” As such, it is no exaggeration to say Palestinians are canaries in the coalmine of humanity.
Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News
Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPress News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg.