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Bradley Burston has written some uncommon common sense about terrorism. Here is a "condensed" version. The entire article is below (at the Web site):



The 10 most useful lies about terrorism
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/764955.html

By Bradley Burston

1. 'Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.'

...
A few examples of non-Islamic terrorist groups of the present and recent past:

The Irish Republican Army

Kach

ETA, or Basque Homeland and Freedom

Babbar Khalsa (Sikh)

Ulster Defense Association

Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka

Aryan Nations, United States

2. 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.'

More of a half-truth than an out and out lie, given the propensity of supporters of one side to explain and forgive atrocities committed by that side, while condemning and often exaggerating atrocities committed by the other.

...

3. All resistance to illegal occupation is legitimate.

Intentional attacks on innocents are inherently illegitimate.

4. 'Terrorists are generally drawn from the disadvantaged sectors of a population, those who have suffered the worst oppression.'

...
There have been few common denominators found to characterize suicide terrorists. Many were model students and professionals, raised in relatively well-off home environments.

There is, before all else, the case of Osama Bin Laden, son of a multi-millionaire building contractor who made a fortune through his close ties with the Saudi royal family.

Many prominent leaders of Palestinian organizations which engage in terrorism have been physicians by profession, among them George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Hamas founders Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, a pediatrician, and Mahmoud Zahar, a surgeon.

5. 'Profiling works.'

Terrorism, as shown by the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks and Hezbollah rocketry, has proven to be highly adaptive and relentlessly creative.

There is evidence that Islamic terror organizations are seeking out white European converts to Islam as terrorists who could easily slip through a profiling dragnet.
...
6. 'We don't negotiate with terrorists'

Of course we do. Sooner or later everyone does. The underlying translation of this statement is, "At first, we say no. Then we say no again, even as we initiate indirect, behind-the-scenes contacts. Then we hem, haw, launch trial balloons, plant leaks.

"And then we go ahead and make the deal."

...
7. 'There will be no compromise or accommodation with terrorists.'

8. 'The objective of the [(check one) war / incursion bombing campaign / liquidation raid] in [Lebanon / Gaza / northern Samaria] is the swift release of the kidnapped soldier/s.'

There is little persuasive evidence that the kidnappers of IDF soldiers can be bombed, assassinated, or otherwise militarily pressured into agreeing to release the captives they hold.

...

9. 'If there were no occupation, there would be no terrorism.'

It is debatable whether this statement fits better into the status of a lie or a contention. It is, in any event, an argument which has lost much of its power in the wake of the pull-out from the Gaza Strip. Within days, evacuated settlements were used as launching pads for rocket attacks that markedly increased terrorist attacks against southern Israel.

10. 'Terrorism is the only defense of oppressed peoples against the vastly better equipped oppressor.'

... in the case of the Gaza withdrawal, hailed by Hamas as the Great Victory of Resistance, it may be persuasively argued that Israel would have withdrawn from the Strip years, perhaps even decades before, had terror groups not worked to foil every attempt at a peace agreement.
...

Terror attacks following the disengagement have persuaded most Israelis that further withdrawals would be mistaken.
...

Simply Jews joins a commenter from Lebanon in remarking "God Bless You." It is an important and thoughtful article. It will not please everyone, because it tramples on lies of all persuasions. However, to Burston's list, we need to add some commentary.

First, occupations are not in themselves "illegal." Suppose German Nazi terrorist groups (there were supposed to be such groups, but they never got off the ground) had shot at American soldiers in occupied Germany. Would that have been "legitimate resistance?"

Second, while it is true that not all terrorists are Muslim, we cannot deny the extraordinary rise in Muslim terrorism or fail to note that a large number of terrorist acts are committed by Muslims, and that in fact they have nothing to do with occupation. This is true despite the protestations of Robert Pape, who tried so hard to show that the Tamil Tigers commit more suicide bombings than anyone else. This gives the impression that they are champion terrorists, but it is not really the case. Different and sometimes unidentified Muslim groups have committed far more terrorist acts in the Israel, Iraq, Bali and elsewhere, including many suicide bombings, than the Tamil Tigers. The size of the act counts too. How many "regular" terrorist acts are equivalent to one 9-11 bombing, or one bombing of the London underground?

Third, Burston does not really offer evidence that profiling does not work. We may dislike profiling for other reasons, but the fact is that to date, most of the perpetrators of Muslim terror attacks in the West have been recognizable as non-oriental Asians. It would be stupid to ignore the possibility that blond Aryan types could be recruited for terror missions, as this has happened. It would also be cruel, grossly unfair and counter-productive to stigmatize everyone from the Middle East or all Muslims as potential terrorists. However it is certainly wise to focus somewhat more than proportionate shares of scarce security resources on travelers and immigrants from Muslim countries and to investigate individuals who might be politically active. That could have prevented the attacks of 9-11 for example. Islamists declared war on the West, with Osama Bin Laden at their head. It is reckless endangerment when considerations of "political correctness" cause authorities ignore the threats of London "Sheikhs" to kill anyone whom they think insults Islam. It is equally foolhardy to insist that every Muslim, or even most Muslims, are terrorists and to try to cast them all out of decent society.

Despite reservations, it is well to keep Burston's list in mind when thinking about terrorism. The truth is not always pleasant, but lying to ourselves will not help us understand and fight terrorism, and it can make matters worse, by generating unnecessary racism and enmity.

Ami Isseroff



The 10 most useful lies about terrorism
By Bradley Burston

1. 'Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.'


Perhaps the most often quoted of all chestnuts about terrorism, is the idea that it is solely a product of fundamentalist Islam.

A few examples of non-Islamic terrorist groups of the present and recent past:

The Irish Republican Army

Kach

ETA, or Basque Homeland and Freedom

Babbar Khalsa (Sikh)

Ulster Defense Association

Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka

Aryan Nations, United States

2. 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.'

More of a half-truth than an out and out lie, given the propensity of supporters of one side to explain and forgive atrocities committed by that side, while condemning and often exaggerating atrocities committed by the other.

It is worth noting that definitions of terrorism are legion and agreement is rare.

For the purposes of this piece, however, we will use a formula contained within a UN report issued last year, which defined terrorism as any action: "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."

For the purpose of this piece, therefore, we will declare that any side which intentionally attacks non-combatants is practicing terrorism.

3. All resistance to illegal occupation is legitimate.

Intentional attacks on innocents are inherently illegitimate.

4. 'Terrorists are generally drawn from the disadvantaged sectors of a population, those who have suffered the worst oppression.'

Attempts by social scientists and intelligence agencies to create a workable profile of an "average" terrorist or terror commander have been notably unsuccessful.

There have been few common denominators found to characterize suicide terrorists. Many were model students and professionals, raised in relatively well-off home environments.

There is, before all else, the case of Osama Bin Laden, son of a multi-millionaire building contractor who made a fortune through his close ties with the Saudi royal family.

Many prominent leaders of Palestinian organizations which engage in terrorism have been physicians by profession, among them George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Hamas founders Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, a pediatrician, and Mahmoud Zahar, a surgeon.

5. 'Profiling works.'

Terrorism, as shown by the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks and Hezbollah rocketry, has proven to be highly adaptive and relentlessly creative.

There is evidence that Islamic terror organizations are seeking out white European converts to Islam as terrorists who could easily slip through a profiling dragnet.

Lord Stevens, a former head of Scotland Yard, said recently that airport chaos could be cut if certain passengers were targeted for more intensive checks, particularly "young Muslim men."

But one of the U.K.'s most senior Muslim police officers, Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ali Desai, responded that terrorists come in no easily categorized form, and that such a profiling system suggested "that we should have a new offence in this country, called 'traveling whilst Asian'."

6. 'We don't negotiate with terrorists'

Of course we do. Sooner or later everyone does. The underlying translation of this statement is, "At first, we say no. Then we say no again, even as we initiate indirect, behind-the-scenes contacts. Then we hem, haw, launch trial balloons, plant leaks.

"And then we go ahead and make the deal."

In theory, this approach buys time in such situations as efforts to trade prisoners for a captive soldier. In practice, it may squander the sole opportunity to bring the captive home alive.

In theory, it also buys time with the terrorists and with domestic public opinion. In practice, the terrorists are not fooled, and neither is the public. This is closely akin to:

7. 'There will be no compromise or accommodation with terrorists.'

It is also a blood relative of:

8. 'The objective of the [(check one) war / incursion bombing campaign / liquidation raid] in [Lebanon / Gaza / northern Samaria] is the swift release of the kidnapped soldier/s.'

There is little persuasive evidence that the kidnappers of IDF soldiers can be bombed, assassinated, or otherwise militarily pressured into agreeing to release the captives they hold.

There is more than circumstantial evidence to suggest that the kidnapping may become a pretext for military action aimed at attacking an organization which engages both in guerrilla activity and in terrorism, with Hamas and Hezbollah the primary illustrations.

9. 'If there were no occupation, there would be no terrorism.'

It is debatable whether this statement fits better into the status of a lie or a contention. It is, in any event, an argument which has lost much of its power in the wake of the pull-out from the Gaza Strip. Within days, evacuated settlements were used as launching pads for rocket attacks that markedly increased terrorist attacks against southern Israel.

10. 'Terrorism is the only defense of oppressed peoples against the vastly better equipped oppressor.'

On the surface, terrorism seems to work, despite its moral failings. But in the case of the Gaza withdrawal, hailed by Hamas as the Great Victory of Resistance, it may be persuasively argued that Israel would have withdrawn from the Strip years, perhaps even decades before, had terror groups not worked to foil every attempt at a peace agreement.

The fact is that Israelis were trying to find a formula to leave Gaza for years. There were even many in the settlement movement who viewed Gaza as a distinct liability to the wider cause.

One thing is certain - terrorism is self-destructive on the broadest levels. It has cost the Palestinians their once-broad support in Israel and around the world for the swift creation and recognition of an independent Palestine.

Terror attacks following the disengagement have persuaded most Israelis that further withdrawals would be mistaken.

Terrorism, particularly the concept of suicide bombing, has tarnished the Palestinians' good name in the world, and their image of David in the contemporary Goliath myth.

There are many diplomatic, political and public relations alternatives to terror. Had the Palestinians focused on them and not on the armed struggle, they would have had statehood long ago.


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