The Face of Terrorism

Last week, while Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) attempted to negotiate a two-state solution, a Palestinian gunman snuck into a Jewish settlement on the West Bank and shot a nine-year-old girl in the torso. Afterward, someone working for the PA praised the attack online. The attack was conducted during a ceasefire, and didn't serve any military purpose (aside from terrifying noncombatants). Many on the left fail to understand that terrorism isn't strictly a means to an end; terrorists often murder civilians simply to gratify their bloodlust, independent of any political goals. They fail to see the underlying moral viciousness displayed by these attacks, or appreciate why states are reluctant to negotiate with terrorists.

To understand terrorism one has to ask the question, what do acts of terror reveal about the perpetrators? If terrorism is defined as the deliberate killing of enemy civilians, minimally it reveals ruthlessness on the part of those behind it, and callousness on the part of those carrying it out. But sometimes terrorists slaughter enemy civilians for no discernible military reason, without any stated political goal, (much of the Sunni-Shia violence in Iraq comes to mind as an example of this). When terrorism serves no political or military goal, it reflects a desire to murder enemy civilians. To put it bluntly, terrorists are often killing civilians because they want to, not because they need to.

Left-wing media outlets frequently bemoan the fact that Israelis elect more and more right-wing governments, ignoring the incessant, deliberate attacks on innocent civilians. Why shouldn't the Israeli public be a little bit cautious about entering into an agreement with people who have a demonstrated desire to murder them? This is what so many on the left miss: terrorism isn't simply a tactic, it also displays the character of the terrorist. No government wants to be blackmailed by thugs, and every government has to take into account the nature of those they negotiate with.

It could be argued that this attack, while not weakening Israel's physical capability to wage war, was designed to deter settlers from moving to the west bank. That objection can be made to this particular example, but not to the scores of attacks that occurred before the separation barrier was completed, and not to the rocket attacks emanating from Gaza. Further, nobody would seriously defend the murder of defenseless enemy civilians if perpetrated by a western army, particularly if conducted during a ceasefire.

None of this should be construed as opposition to a two-state solution as a just resolution to this conflict, something this author whole heartedly supports. The point is to draw attention to the unavoidable conclusion that the actions of the terrorist reflect the character of the terrorist. Shooting a nine-year-old girl evinces a violent and depraved mind and the lack of condemnation reveals that he isn't the only one with that attitude. Any sane state will have to take this into account during negotiations, something many either don't understand or don't want to admit.

Last week, while Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) attempted to negotiate a two-state solution, a Palestinian gunman snuck into a Jewish settlement on the West Bank and shot a nine-year-old girl in the torso. Afterward, someone working for the PA praised the attack online. The attack was conducted during a ceasefire, and didn't serve any military purpose (aside from terrifying noncombatants). Many on the left fail to understand that terrorism isn't strictly a means to an end; terrorists often murder civilians simply to gratify their bloodlust, independent of any political goals. They fail to see the underlying moral viciousness displayed by these attacks, or appreciate why states are reluctant to negotiate with terrorists.

To understand terrorism one has to ask the question, what do acts of terror reveal about the perpetrators? If terrorism is defined as the deliberate killing of enemy civilians, minimally it reveals ruthlessness on the part of those behind it, and callousness on the part of those carrying it out. But sometimes terrorists slaughter enemy civilians for no discernible military reason, without any stated political goal, (much of the Sunni-Shia violence in Iraq comes to mind as an example of this). When terrorism serves no political or military goal, it reflects a desire to murder enemy civilians. To put it bluntly, terrorists are often killing civilians because they want to, not because they need to.

Left-wing media outlets frequently bemoan the fact that Israelis elect more and more right-wing governments, ignoring the incessant, deliberate attacks on innocent civilians. Why shouldn't the Israeli public be a little bit cautious about entering into an agreement with people who have a demonstrated desire to murder them? This is what so many on the left miss: terrorism isn't simply a tactic, it also displays the character of the terrorist. No government wants to be blackmailed by thugs, and every government has to take into account the nature of those they negotiate with.

It could be argued that this attack, while not weakening Israel's physical capability to wage war, was designed to deter settlers from moving to the west bank. That objection can be made to this particular example, but not to the scores of attacks that occurred before the separation barrier was completed, and not to the rocket attacks emanating from Gaza. Further, nobody would seriously defend the murder of defenseless enemy civilians if perpetrated by a western army, particularly if conducted during a ceasefire.

None of this should be construed as opposition to a two-state solution as a just resolution to this conflict, something this author whole heartedly supports. The point is to draw attention to the unavoidable conclusion that the actions of the terrorist reflect the character of the terrorist. Shooting a nine-year-old girl evinces a violent and depraved mind and the lack of condemnation reveals that he isn't the only one with that attitude. Any sane state will have to take this into account during negotiations, something many either don't understand or don't want to admit.

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