Who Gets to Judge?

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine regarding the recent assassination of Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee leader Zuhir al-Qaisi by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)  which led to a week long exchange of attacks.  The “preemptive” strike by the IDF fueled an unprecedented number of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza forcing schools throughout Israel’s southern region to close.

My response to all of this to my friend — if peace is our goal does not the act of bombing our neighbor sabotage the mission?  Her reply, “They [the Israeli government] had to kill him because he was a terrorist”, immediately sparked something in my mind.  A terrorist?  By whose definition?  It really made me think about that concept on a much deeper level.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines terrorism as the systematic use of terror  (a state of intense fear) especially as a means of coercion. So by this definition it would be reasonable to classify any individual who inflicts intense fear on another individual as a terrorist. By this definition would it be fair to say to the people of Libya and Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Nicholas Sarkozy, David Cameron and other Western leaders would be considered terrorists?  Would the civilians of Iran and Gaza deem Benjamin Netanyahu a terrorist? Most, when they hear the word terrorism or terrorist, think of a lone individual or militant fringe group wreaking havoc upon  innocent civilians. We think of unsavory, violent men with no principles or regard for life, liberty and democracy. Today, unfortunately terrorist has become synonymous to an Arab man, long beard and turban.  However history paints a very different picture.

The first recorded act of terror committed was known as the Reign of Terror, or better yet, the French Revolution in 1795.  The revolutionary government was opposing the dictatorial rule of  King Louis XVI where plutocracy had strangled the populace to a state of abject poverty.  In a successful attempt to abolish the old regime and restore the common people non-stop acts of violence not only against the nobles but any who were deemed as being enemies of the Revolution were inflicted.  It is officially recorded that 17,000 nobles, priests and hoarders were executed — including King Louis.

Indeed America’s founding fathers George Washington, John Adams and Patrick Henry during their time were deemed terrorists by the British monarch George III. But to the people on whose behalf they were fighting they were freedom fighters. To their descendants, to the American people today, in history classes throughout America they are heroes.  So who is right?  Who is wrong?  Who has the license to judge?  More relevant, how will history judge? Today’s terrorists, tomorrow’s freedom fighters.

I do not condone violence on any level. Violence only begets more violence. Furthermore blowing up individuals, particularly innocent ones, does not endear people to your cause. But whether we agree or disagree with Palestine and the methods used to oppose Israel one thing is for certain, the prism through which terrorism is viewed is as much defined by one’s proximity as well as the acts themselves.

Mikki Israel is an American-Israeli or Israeli-American, depending on the circumstances. Mikki currently resides in Israel but comes to the U.S. whenever Israelis become too annoying, then returns after the Americans have become a headache.  She is a featured writer for Borderless News and Views, and a freelance writer for whatever media outlet is brave enough to print the news — minus the spin.


Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net