Thursday, December 15, 2011

Extreme Right May Be Extremists, But They Aint Terrorists

PM: Anyone harming security forces will 'pay a high price'

First read these two articles. Now I have a question: are they a terrorist group? Again, look at the facts and answer that question honestly: we have a group - no, group isn't the right word. There are certain people living in Israel who have an extreme ideology, and on their own accord, commit hooligan acts of violence. There is no central structure. There is no consensus. The people they claim to support condemn them, whether the Council for Communities of Judea and Samaria (the Yesha Council,) or MKs and Ministers of the Likud, Israel Beiteinu (Israel our Home), National Union, Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home), Shas, UTJ... All these people condemn the acts. They have no leader. They aren't even a group. When a mosque in Jerusalem is set alight, or the windows of a mosque in Jenin is broken, there is no connection between these groups.

What makes Hamas a terrorist group? There is a group with a centralized base of authority, leaders, a charter, etc. None of this exists among these "Right Wing Terrorists."

Now it should be clear: I condemn this behavior as well in the harshest of terms. It does the Right an injustice and by no means is this in the spirit of any of the Zionist leaders to whom we look, be it Ze'ev Jabotinsky as a political leader or HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook zatzal as a religious one. While the government is misguided in its own actions, that is by no means an excuse for acts of violence, AND CERTAINLY NOT AGAINST THE IDF! (Although the government has done a disservice by politicizing the IDF, this is by no means a reason to attack the soldiers who protect us, and further the ill-will and discord between the left and right.)

That being said, by deciding to label them as terrorists, Bibi is heading down a slippery slope. Who isn't a terrorist? Can we decide that the Mafia gangs in Rishon Letzion and Netanya are also "terrorists" whom the IDF can detain without cause, bypassing the courts AND the police? What about people who simply protest via civil disobedience, but not by "violent" means? Considering the IDF has failed to stop attacks in the past, what new criteria will be used to establish who is and who isn't a "terrorist?" If I wear a big knitted kippa, long peyot, and live in a more "radical settlement," am I now someone who can be detained with no probable cause until determined otherwise? Is it now guilty until proven innocent if you live over the Green Line or express right-wing views?

The government needs to step up and call a spade a spade. Israelis living over the Green Line need to be afforded the same rights as all other citizens. In Jerusalem, as in Tel Aviv, and Sderot, and Eilat, and Givaat Shmuel, and Beit Shemesh, and Modiin, and all the other communities that are not under "military rule," housing demolitions are carried out by the police under the complaints of the municipality and the Ministry of Housing. Only in Jewish communities over the Green Line (except East Jerusalem) do we have this phenomenon that houses, with full approval of the government, within the community's recognized borders, are housing demolitions carried out by the army and not by the police, with the authorization of the Defense Ministry and not the Housing Ministry, and that happen in the middle of the night with little to no warning. If rule of law was established, akin to within the Green Line, perhaps we'd see a reduction in these acts of vandalism. And no, this should not be misconstrued as giving in to terrorism. This should be construed as upholding the rule of law and the democratic nature of the country. And what to do about these hooligans? Treat them as such. If an "arse" vandalizes a building in town in Jerusalem because he's a bum, he's arrested and treated to due process. DO THE SAME!

ETA: Additional related articles

War-Hungry Youth (Israel Hayom)
Creating Tension to Expel Jews (Jerusalem Post Op-Ed)


  1. Hey Josh,

    Nice article.

    You set up a bit of a straw man by turning the "terrorists" in your title into "terrorist group" in the body of the article. A terrorist does not have to be part of a coordinated group. I think you would agree that Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist who committed an act of terror.

    In its simplest form, terror is an act of violence or the threat of violence, usually targeted at civilians, meant to intimidate the larger population.

    Of course groups such as Hamas and Fatah use terror as a means to achieve their goals, but terror can exist in the absence of a group.

    That said, I'm not sure the attack on the IDF base would be an act of terror. However, I do believe acts against Mosques and individuals are.

    For the record, I believe that Bibi stopped short of officially characterizing the "price tag" attackers as terrorists.

    And yes, the government, really all governments since '67, have done a pretty poor job of handling the situation in the territories.

  2. Bibi did stop short from labeling them as "terrorists," which is by no means insignificant. However, many in the government do indeed label them as terrorists. To your point however, Ehud Barak among many other prominent members of the government do indeed identify these "hilltop youth" as a terrorist group, and would like them to be labeled as such. (How that could happen practically is beyond me, but hey, go figure.)

    Can terror exist in the absence of a group? Yes and no. In it's simplest understanding, yes of course they can.

    However, the bigger picture is that people are trying to label them as terrorist groups and equate them with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah... That comparison is apples and oranges. The latter are groups who are bent on the destruction of the Jewish State (Hamas), the Jewish people (Islamic Jihad), or the establishment of the Palestinian nation-state (Fatah). All however, agree on the requirement to attack Jewish Israelis. And the means is terror. The former, however, are a bit different. The fact that they are unconnected people, who may unite around a similar, extremist agenda, cannot be stressed enough. They are people who are carrying out acts of violence because of an agenda. Not a group. And if they are labeled as terrorists, then where does the line stop? I am by no means saying they aren't criminals - they are. But why isn't the mafia in Netanya labeled a terrorist group? They too use violence or the threat of violence. And interestingly, using your own definition, I wouldn't say they are terrorists (the right-wing extremists). They don't target civilians to intimidate the larger population. Most of the extreme-right would say they are meant to send a message to the Israeli government, and not to the Palestinians.

  3. Like I said, for now I'm glad we've stopped short of labeling them as terrorists. However, I am glad that the government is coming down hard on them. Especially in today's social network age its very easy for a disorganized group to become a movement with a clear agenda.

    As an aside, I don't think targeting someone else's civilians mitigates the concept of terror.

    Unfortunately our bar for terror has been set very high. But you don't have to blow up children in pizza parlor to be a terrorist. In fact you can make a case that a more successful terrorist doesn't have to kill anyone to achieve his goals. (Living in Bet Shemesh we have a new appreciation for this concept.)

  4. ETA: Two interesting articles on the topic