Monday, August 07, 2006

posted by Ofer

On Terrorism

The word "terrorism" has been thrown back and forth quite a lot lately. Hizballah are terrorists, Hamas are terrorists, the IDF is the terrorist army, Bush is an international terrorist. In most cases, this word is misused.

The American Heritage dictionary defines:
Terrorism - The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.


I checked a few other dictionaries and encyclopedias and they all have pretty much the same definition. When I use the word "terrorism", I certainly don't have this definition in mind. When I think of terrorism, I picture exploding busses, a suicide bomber entering a restaurant or a shopping mall, a car bomb parked near a lively market. The formal definition certainly encompasses more than that. In my opinion, the dictionary definition is inaccurate.

First of all, what does "unlawful" use of force even mean ? If it means illegal, then by what law ? If it means immoral, then according to whose morals ? The one using force almost always feels that his actions are legal, justified and moral. Resorting to the failsafe concept of "ignore that which you do not understand", lets just decide to omit this word from the definition.



Moving on, we get to the part about "using force ... with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments". Most international use of force fits this definition perfectly. Modern use of military force, more than anything else, is intended to intimidate your enemy government into surrendering. In addition, by this definition, any country which holds strategic weapons of mass destruction is a terrorist country: you hold on to these weapons precisely to intimidate everyone else, and deter them from messing with you.

And finally, "... often for ideological or political reasons". Why else would anyone use force ? For the fun of it ?

The bottom line is that the dictionary definition of the word "terrorism" is vague and ambiguous, to say the least. In recent years, the term "you're a terrorist" has basically come to mean "I think you are very evil".

Israel has been calling its enemies "terrorists" for decades. The Arabs have only started using the word more recently. Therefore, I think its only fair to apply the basic rules of kindergarten and say to our rivals "its our word, we used it first, get your own word".

I honestly don't understand the lack of creativity on the other side. Is "terrorism" the only hurtful word they know ? What about "nefarious", "atrocious", "monstrous", "dreadful", "wicked", "knavish", "villainous" ? They can even say that we're ugly and that we have bad breath, but why use the single word that we have used for so many years to describe them ?

Maybe its like a symmetric pet-name that we have for each other, like: "honey", "darling", "sweetheart", "terrorist". Maybe they're just trying to say: "If we learn to share a word, maybe there's a chance of learning how to share the Middle East". Nah, they're just not very creative.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Sharon said...

Ofer, Glad to see you can retain your sense of humor in these troubled times. Take care!

2:53 PM  
Blogger howie said...

The namecalling thing can deteriorate into childish stuff. However...we have to take words seriously for a sense of clarity. To me...without this clarity we can slip into the world of moral relativism and moral equivalency.

Many "military" acts perpetrated by the Palestinians have been terrorism, in fact, most. Hizallah became a terror organization when it started firing its "little Katies" into the air and letting them fall where they might, though primarily or soley aimed at non-military targets.

If Israel were a terrorist army...well Ofer, you know better than me that the civilian toll would have been off the charts on day one, both in Gaza and Lebanon if that is what the intent was.

I know a soldier who took two bullets in the leg, two in the arm and one in the head in Jenin because he risked himself trying to avoid hurting civilians. He is not dead, but pretty much gave his life protecting enemy civilians.

So I will continue to use the word terrorist. Yes, like many things in life, there is gray area...but when your groups stated policy and practice is to maximize civilian destruction and horror...well that makes you a terror organization and it is not morally relative at all.

Tishmor al atzmecha!

7:41 PM  
Blogger Enriqueta said...

kudos for the sense of humor, its so sad to even really imagine. Yet it is a part of life for to many.

thanks for the post!

11:42 PM  
Blogger Ofer said...

Hi Howie,

I certainly don't thing that the IDF is a terrorist organization, but in all fairness, neither is Hizballah. Don't get me wrong, I think they are the villains here, but I also think that "terrorist origanization" is simply the wrong term for them. I also think that it goes against our interests to call them terrorists. I'll explain:

The only real terrorist act linked with Hizballah is the bombing of our embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992. This is, without a doubt, a terrorist act. But everything else Hizballah does should be categorized as guerrilla warfare, and not terrorism. They are still the bad-guys, I'm just trying to be precise.

Indiscriminant targeting of civilians does not immediately qualify as terrorism. When the Nazis bombed London during WW2, the purpose was to kill civilians. When the USA dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the purpose was to kill civilians. Neither of these acts can be called terrorism. They certainly qualify as "playing dirty", or even as "war crimes", but not as terrorism. In the same sense, Hizballah's actions do not count as terrorism per se. They are just as bad, but still not terrorism.

Since we use this word so much, we don't want it to lose its punch. If we overuse it, especially when it is unwarranted, people will start questioning us even when it is justified. In contrast to Hizballah, the Hamas are clearly a terrorist organization. If we want the world to take us seriously when we refer to the Palestinian government as being run by terrorists, we had better stop using this term for Hizballah.

A good example of a perfectly good term ruined by overuse is the word "antisemitism". Clearly there is a lot of antisemitism in the world, but when you call someone an antisemite today it means almost nothing. This is because, for many years, Jews called anyone who critisized them by this name, even when the critisism was justified. Very quickly the term lost its punch. If we want our words to remain effective, we should use them carefully. If we cross the line and overuse them, they wil start falling on deaf ears.

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On terrorism

You will discover the political definition of "terrorist" in the July 1987 edition of the American periodical Readers Digest.

It was and its a political slogan created by Netanyahu and if you remove all references to "arabs", you will discover that it actually defines the likud in its refusal to adhere to international laws UNGA 181 [which partitioned sovereignty and is the foundation for the State of Israel], UNGA 273, UNSC 242, UNSC 1397 and Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC)[Geneva Coventions, etc].

What is Terrorism? It is none other than violations of LOAC which have established norms for instituting War Crimes Tribunal to prosecute same.

Why would Israel bother with such international legalities of War Crimes Tribuanals when it can simply pronounce "terrorism" as the propagated means to cloak its own War Crimes which do qualify as Crimes Againt Humanity?

If arab "terrorism" is such a scourge on Israeli society then why doesn't Israel establish War Crimes Tribunals?

The pretention that "terrorism" cannot be defined morallay or legally is self-delusion and a conscious attempt to justify the Israel Likud's Crimes Against Humanity.

Are we to believe that Israeli society is that ignorant that it has forgotten the foundation of its own sovereignty that is commonly called "right to exist" of which the original Jewish State leaders embraced and refer to in Israel Declaration of Independence and furthermore accept in its petition to the UN for recognition and admission to UN as member recorded in UNGA 273 which is called UNGA 181?

Likud zionism is neither Weizmann's zionism nor "biblical zionism" but a false zionism that would pursue the malevolence of genocide and embrace the destruction of Judaism under the banner of "God has said..."

The prophecy of the return is a myth borne from the prophet Deuoteronmys conditional blessing/curse is itself founded upon Noah's blessing/curse of Japhet, Ham, and Shem.

Since when is Judaism a religion of malevolence that it would embrace Crimes Against Humanity?

No, Judaism is a religion of Benevolence and God Almighty has fullfilled his pledge to Noah with the establishment of the UNGA 181 State of Israel.

Yet, this pledge does not consist of approbating evil of the children of Shem vis-a-vis each other.

UNGA 181 is Solomon's wisdom was applied to the territory of the pre-existent UN (former League of Nations) Trusteeship Territory State of Palestine.

Why continue with the self-delusion that Israel shall be permitted to dispossess the Palestinians or Palestinians dispossess Israelis; each the other from their respective UNGA 181 partitioned territory?

It is time to recognize that the other has equal right to exist, each in their own territory.

This requires of the Israelis to disavow the policy of settlements and vacate the settlements.

This requires of the Palestinians to disavow the return to UNGA 181 State of Israel.

More importantly: it requires both to embrace International Law and each other as neigbors.

5:45 AM  

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