Palestinian resistance to the seizure of their land and dispossession of their people has been ongoing since the original Nakba, and has been almost entirely non-violent.
They first became branded as "terrorists" by the massacre of Israeli athletes taken hostage at the 1972 Munich Olympics by the Palestinian "Black September" group. The abductors' intention was to trade athlete hostages for 234 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and to awaken world awareness of Israeli crimes against their people.
However, the plan went disastrously awry. An Israeli coach and one athlete were killed heroically resisting and attacking the early morning intruders, and the other nine hostages were killed during a botched rescue attempt by German police demanded by Israel. This effectively defeated their objective, to present Palestinians as victims of Israel, instead inverting the aggressor-victim relationship in the eyes of the public.
The horror of 33 massacres committed by Israel during the 1948 Nakba and numerous subsequent massacres committed by Ariel Sharon's notorious special operations Unit 101 against expelled Palestian refugees in Jordan, violent dispossession of a million people between 1948 and 1950 and another quarter million in 1967, and a subsequent brutal military occupation including wholesale imprisonment and torture of many thousands of resisters including children, were ignored, lost behind the high-profile horror of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes killed. The Palestinian motives behind this tragic action were carefully evaded and obscured by the media for over three decades until revealed through two brief dialogues in the 2005 film, Munich.
One must question the police decision under heavy on-site Israeli pressure to launch a clumsy and ill-prepared rescue operation. Were the athletes' lives risked and ultimately lost to prevent Palestinian disclosure to a watching world of well-founded grievances against Israel that might have threatened its heroic exodus myth and pretenses of democracy? What truths would the Palestinians have revealed if permitted to escape by plane as anticipated to present their ransom demand before the world press from a safe haven? Moshe Dayan vigorously insisted on the rescue attempt, overcoming the wishes of Prime Minister Golda Meir who had supported the agreement to allow the Palestinians to fly to an Arab state where all would be released.
Most subsequent terrorism by Palestinians has consisted of suicide bombings following Israel's failure to abide by the 1993 Oslo accords, reaching a peak during the early years of the second intifada from September 2000 through 2003.
But Palestinian terrorism has typically arisen in response to Israeli state terrorism. After September 2000, 93 Palestinian children were killed before the first Israeli child died, and 105 Palestinian children were killed before the first suicide bombing. It appears obvious that the suicide bombings were retaliatory, carrying the message, "Mr. and Ms. Israeli, how does it feel to have aggressors invade your communities and kill your children, as you so often do to us?"
Hamas discontinued suicide bombings in 2005, but Israeli aggression continued unabated. From 2006 through 2010, eight Israeli and 666 Palestinian children were killed. Israel has F16s, attack helicopters, drones equipped with Hellfire missiles, cluster bombs, phosphorus bombs, tanks, artillery and snipers, and uses these regularly against unarmed and largely helpless Palestinians. The Palestinians have nothing but their own bodies as weapons delivery systems, and Qassam rockets without explosive warheads or directional controls frighten and disturb but kill only about two Israelis annually.
Calling this a "war" is like calling an exhibition football game between the New England Patriots and Bucolic Valley High School a "championship." The state terrorism of Israel vastly surpasses any weak armed resistance the Palestinians can mount, but they bravely and steadfastly continue nonetheless. Everybody hates a bully, and Palestinians are no exception.
This page will be expanded following review of a new book on the history of the Palestinian resistance by Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, who points out that there are no examples of a completely non-violent struggle against colonial occupation.