Ten Lies About Terrorism

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

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 of Sri Lanka and Aryan Nations of the 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, we will use a formula contained within a United Nations report issued last year, and 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.

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 such a profiling system suggested "that we should have a new offense 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.

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 pullout from the Gaza Strip. Within days, evacuated settlements were used as launching pads for rocket 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.