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Defending terrorism

By Steven Martinovich
web posted April 8, 2002

To the average person, defining the concept of terrorism wouldn't cause great difficulty. In just a few seconds I managed to come up with "terrorism is the systemic use of violence, generally against civilians, in order to intimidate or coerce a society or state, usually for political or ideological reasons." Granted, such a simple definition inevitably fails to address the gray areas that students of ethics and morality love to play in but it is leagues better than the 57 nations - which included alleged sponsors of terrorism like Iran, Iraq and Syria - of the Organization of the Islamic Conference managed to do at their meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last week.

After two days of debate, the OIC's draft declaration was accepted without change. The definition? There was none. Few of the states were able to agree on a definition so delegates decided that no attempt should be made.

What gave the delegates difficulty was Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's call to define terrorism as any attack on civilians, similar to the definition above. While Mohamad acknowledged that some terrorists had legitimate grievances, attacks that targeted civilians "could not be justified "irrespective of the nobility of the struggle."

A press photographer pictures the damage to the Hotel Park in Netamanya on March 28. A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the hotel in the Israeli coastal resort town of Netanya on March 27, killing 19 people and wounding around 140
A press photographer pictures the damage to the Hotel Park in Netamanya on March 28. A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the hotel in the Israeli coastal resort town of Netanya on March 27, killing 19 people and wounding around 140

That placed the delegates at the conference in a tough spot. While they were fruitlessly working towards a definition, Palestinian suicide bombers worked feverishly to kill as many Israelis as possible during the Passover holiday. If the delegates accepted Mohamad's definition of terrorism, they would effectively renounce the Palestinians.

The end result of all the maneuvering was a declaration which rejected "any attempts to link terrorism to the struggle of the Palestinian people" to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

"We reject any attempt to associate Islamic states or Palestinian and Lebanese resistance with terrorism," the draft said. Instead, the roots of terrorism, which included "foreign occupation, injustice and exclusion," should be addressed.

Along with supporting the recent Saudi peace proposal which demanded Israel give up land it captured during a 1967 war instigated by Arab nations before peace talks could begin, the declaration also called for a 13-nation committee to work under United Nations auspices to "work toward an internationally agreed definition of terrorism" and "formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestation." Given the success of the United Nations in solving the problems of the Middle East over the past half century and its continued antagonism to Israel, one can only wonder what the by product of that committee would be.

The members of the OIC are right when they argue it's wrong to link Islam and Muslims with terrorism. They are wrong, however, by refusing to approve a definition of terrorism that would excoriate Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and the terrorists he and his aides are accused of supporting.

Palestinian Abdel Baset Odeh, a Hamas activist, holding a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, and a automatic rifle. Odeh, 25, was the suicide bomber that blew himself up in Netanya
Palestinian Abdel Baset Odeh, a Hamas activist, holding a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, and a automatic rifle. Odeh, 25, was the suicide bomber that blew himself up in Netanya

The terrorist attacks of the last 18 months, ones that saw more Israelis killed than the preceding few decades combined, have finally revealed that the Palestinian's and Arafat's desire for peace never really existed. Not long ago Arafat was essentially offered what he's always wanted, a Palestinian nation, but turned it down to pursue a goal he's desired for 30 years: the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Since 1948, its Arab neighbours have attacked Israel three times, and all three times the tiny state beat back those attacks. Those military failures taught Israel's opponents that traditional military attacks won't drive the Jews into the sea but terrorism might. Their gamble is that repeated attacks against civilians will eventually be too much for Israelis to bear economically, philosophically and politically. They might be right. For the first time since the creation of a Jewish state, many Jews are opting to leave that country in the belief that it has no future.

By refusing to condemn that tactic by declaring the actions of Palestinian suicide bombers to be terrorism, the members of the OIC have defined their own position. They had polite words in the wake of September 11 for the victims of terrorism, but when push comes to shove they will refuse to declare that the actions of Palestinian terrorists and the Israeli military are not morally equivalent. By refusing to announce that no cause justifies the willful murder of innocent civilians, the OIC member states practiced the worst kind of moral relativism.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario. This piece originally appeared in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record and WorldNetDaily on April 4.

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