Beware of the apologetics of terrorism

Some recent opinion columns in the Daily emphasized the predicament of the Palestinians. Others highlighted the plight of the Israelis. Both points of view deserve to be heard. I find, however, that one specific theme of pro-Palestinian reasoning is deceitful, morally offensive and racist. I call this theme the apologetics of terrorism.

The apologetics of terrorism is an entire philosophy that provides a cover of legitimacy to the fact wide segments of Palestinian leadership and society are supporting systematic terrorism – a crime against humanity – as a political tool.

Legitimacy is bestowed by belittling Palestinian terrorism, rationalizing it so that it could be justified, and creating a false moral analogy between terrorism and miseries of war. Allow me to introduce you to just a few key entries in the “Encyclopedia Apologetica Terroristica,” culled from recent letters and opinion pieces in The Minnesota Daily.

Belittling: We keep hearing about the Palestinian “youth who have no means of defense except the stones beneath their feet.” A romantic image, but a completely false one. Stones do not blow up buses and cafes, military-grade explosives do. The “youths” actually use guns, assault rifles, mortars, missiles, grenades and more for terrorism attacks – often procured from Iraq and Iran.

Worse is that, by and large these are not spontaneous acts of frustration any more than were the attacks on the twin towers. An entire death machine recruits and organizes these “youths” and supplies them with weapons, training and indoctrination. In fact, after several armed thirteen-year-olds were killed while attempting to infiltrate Jewish settlements in order to murder people there, a Palestinian women’s group urged Arafat to “stop sending innocent children to their death.”

Belittling is also behind the characterization of Palestinian terrorism as “rare events,” even though this March alone, terrorism in Israel has claimed more lives than Sept. 11 (relative to the size of the population).

Rationalization: We’re told the violence is all because of “Sharon’s aggression” and that “the Palestinians are not terrorists, but freedom fighters.” By giving the same act a different name, the need for condemnation is gone. But the leadership of the “freedom fighters” initiated the violence following a statehood offer from then Israeli Prime Minister, Barak. Former President Bill Clinton described that offer as the best deal they could hope to get. Barak even engaged in further negotiations.

Why fight for freedom you can negotiate, unless you have a hidden agenda? Is the systematic murder of innocents ever a “fight for freedom?” This insults the memory of true freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

False Moral Analogy: If the terrorist isn’t good, at least they can try to show the non-terrorist is equally bad. Consider the massacre that wasn’t – Jenin. The Israeli army was fighting armed Palestinian militias. Risking its own soldiers, the Israeli army chose not to use air strikes for fear of killing civilians. Ground troops went in instead. The heavy battle took the lives of 23 Israeli soldiers, and apparently approximately 50 Palestinians. The terrorists themselves chose to stage the battle deep inside civilian population, revealing their general contempt for life.

Still, many accused Israel of a “massacre.” Is urban warfare, devoid of deliberate targeting of civilians, a “massacre”? Even Amnesty International (an organization often vocally critical of Israel) rejected that. According to Israeli intelligence, Palestinians went as far as transferring 24 corpses from a cemetery to a supposed “mass grave” to create an illusion of a massacre. All of this was because asserting a false moral analogy that confuses right and wrong is essential to legitimizing terrorism.

My sincere hope is that you, the reader, will now be able to identify and reject these tactics – belittling, rationalization and false moral analogies – by recognizing them as the terrorism apologetics they are, when reading future opinions columns and letters.

The apologetics of terrorism is nothing but neo-racism in disguise. It sees Palestinians as children. Like minors, they are never accountable. They are “frustrated,” “desperate,” their emotions take over their rationale and therefore their terrorism should be wept for, not condemned.

Like minors, they don’t deserve the rights adults do – say, a democratic leadership. “Collaborators with Israel” are summarily executed in the streets – so be it. Palestinian elections were postponed indefinitely two years ago – never mind. After all, who ever heard of an Arab democracy?

Israelis, however, are expected to be adults. They are counseled to “show restraint” and “uphold democracy,” or bear the adult consequences of being vilified as massacring “war criminals.”

This is quintessential patronizing; it is anti-Arab racism. It is deeply wrong, for all people were created equal and should be subject to the same standards. Tragically, people who support the Palestinian cause are the first to happily embrace the hypocritical, Palestinian-demeaning apologetics for short-term political gains.

The Palestinian leadership wants a state, but refuses to own up to the responsibilities associated with sovereignty. These responsibilities include rooting out terrorism. It comes with the territory, in more than one way.

If you want to help Palestinians find a respectful place among the nations of the world, help them understand that terrorism is a plague that must be purged, irrespectively of anything Israel says or does. Rage against the apologetics of terrorism.


Dr. Leeor Kronik is a post-doctoral fellow in the department of chemical engineering and materials science. Send comments to [email protected]