What is Terrorism?

To illustrate how terrorism is used by modern media and government, Noam Chomsky retells St. Augustine’s anecdote of a pirate arrested by Alexander the Great:

"The Emperor angrily demanded of him, ‘How dare you molest the seas?’ To which the pirate replied, ‘How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat, I am called a pirate and a thief. You, with a great navy, molest the world and are called an emperor.’"

This story is a perfect explanation of how Palestinians are called terrorists even after Israel’s most recent attacks.

Qassam Rockets

 If you want to see some pictures of Qassam rockets’ impact in contrasted with the destruction that Gaza faced, check out the following linke.  Some of the pictures are extremely gruesome which in some ways makes the comparison more stark. See: The Other Side of the Story! )

Qassam Rockets are small and made out of explosive fertilizer and sugar.  They have limited aim and often don’t even reach Israel.  This is in comparison to Israel which has the most technologically advanced military equipment, and bombs that weigh literally tons.

One argument that explains why Qassam Rockets are terrorist weapons and so evil, is that they are indiscriminate and target civilians, whereas Israel uses precision-guided weaponry to avoid civilian casualties.  Any weapon that targets civilians is morally repugnant, but lets unpack this claim a little bit.  Qassam Rockets are
indiscriminate only in that they are not sophisticated enough to have very much in the way of aim.  If Palestinian groups in Gaza could aim at checkpoints and army bases, they would.  Qassam Rockets’ so-called indiscriminate fire are the direct result of the tremendous disparity in resources that underpins this conflict in the first place. Palestinians target civilians because they do not have the military capability to attack Israeli military targets.

Furthermore, when does intention stop mattering in our assessment of morality.  Israel did not intend to kill any civilians in Gaza, or so it claims.  Palestinian rockets and mortar fire have killed 23 Israelis in 8 years.  Israeli bombs killed 1400 Palestinians in less than a month (Palestinians in Gaza killed 13 Israelis during the war,
10 of whom were soldiers).  Even if we accept Israel’s dubious claim that 700 were confirmed Hamas operatives (including traffic cops, police cadets, and other petty officers), that does not change that the rest were civilians.  And why do 3 Israeli civilians justify/outweigh 700 Palestinian civilians? (Wikipedia actually has a thorough analysis of how casualty figures were manipulated in Israel’s war in Gaza)

An additional string of questions surrounding the Israeli government’s use of Qassam attacks as a justification for the attacks are: Who do we hold accountable for the relatively decentralized firing of these weapons?  When is it fair to hold Hamas accountable for other groups’ attacks?  How much of this is blaming Hamas for their lack of control over other militant groups?  And, can we really hold the entire population of Gaza accountable for the actions of those launching rockets?  Should all US citizens be subject to total siege because the US government perpetrated a war in Iraq under false pretenses?

Suicide Bombings

Before the rockets, Palestinian resistance groups’ most famous and feared weapons were suicide bombs.  These bombs were detonated in densely populated civilian areas with the intention of killing as many civilians as possible.  There is a widely held belief that because they are suicide bombs that makes them morally worse.  The fact of the matter is that as with Qassams, Palestinians, morally justified or not, attacked Israelis with suicide bombs because those were the only weapons available to them.  If a Palestinian bomber could have achieved the same number of deaths without killing himself/herself, they probably would have chosen to live.  If Palestinians had advanced military technology that allowed them to attack military targets, I find it hard to believe that they would have chosen to attack

The purpose here is not to justify Palestinian military actions that kill Israelis, but to debunk the myth that Palestinian violence is terrorism while Israeli violence is justified because it isn’t trying to kill civilians.  The very premise guarantees Israel’s supposed moral superiority and masks the power differential.

Leave a comment