Sunday, June 25, 2006

Abusing the "T" word

Terrorism.... what is terrorism?

Earlier today, eight Palestinian militants infiltrated a military base in Kerem Shalom, Israel, using a 300 meter tunnel they had constructed underneath the Gaza security fence. They blew up an armored personnel carrier and attacked a tank and a watch-tower, killing two Israeli soldiers, wounding several more, destroying the tank and taking one Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, as prisoner. More details here from Haaretz.

According to Palestinian militant groups, the attack was in response to Israel's killing of Palestinian militant leader Jamal Abu Samhadana by an airstrike this month.

One thing that I find annoying about this attack is the verbiage used in the news media. The Palestinians who carried out the attack are "terrorists", the dead soldiers were "murdered", and the Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit was "kidnapped". However, when the situation is reversed, an attack by Israel on the Palestinians is a "targeted killing", an "airstrike", a "shelling", or something similar, and Palestinian militants are "captured" by Israel.

The use of words like "terrorism", "murder", and "kidnapping" in this case is inappropriate. The Palestinians militants attacked an Israeli military base from which attacks had previously been launched into Palestinian territory. In a state of war, a military installation like this is a valid military target. The events this morning were a guerrilla attack, not terrorism. For the Israelis, this makes the Palestinians who carried out this attack enemies, but it does not automatically make them terrorists. There is a big difference between a guerrilla attack and a terrorist attack.

Calling events like this terrorism dilutes the concept of terrorism, and dilutes the revulsion we should all feel when seeing real acts of terrorism. Hijacking or blowing up airplanes is terrorism. Wantonly murdering innocent civilians is terrorism. A bombing on a bus or in a restaurant is terrorism. Shooting schoolgirls or farmers walking a bit too close to your sniper tower is terrorism. Crashing planes into the World Trade Center is terrorism. And, wantonly shooting artillery shells (by Israel) or Qassam rockets (by Palestinians) into populated areas is terrorism. Terrorism is evil, terrorism is wrong, and terrorism is something that none of us in the civilized world should stand for.

Let's not dilute the concept of terrorism by lumping guerrilla attacks against military targets into it.