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Huda Orfali

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Terrorism and Just War
by Huda Orfali   
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Last edited: Saturday, January 06, 2007
Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2005

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This paper will examine the phenomenon of terrorism and its possible moral justification within the framework of Just War theory.

This paper will examine the phenomenon of terrorism and its possible moral justification within the framework of Just War theory. It will, in the first place, examine traditional attitudes toward war; whether war itself can, or cannot, be morally justifiable. Secondly, it will look closely at modern terrorism, how and why it has developed in our times. Thirdly, I will argue strongly that terrorism itself is a form of warfare and that it is primarily a logical response to the asymmetrical nature of modern conflicts, which typically pit a powerful state apparatus against disaffected non-state actors. As a true form of warfare, it can and must be subject to the tenets of a “Just War” theory, in the same way as traditional state-state warfare of the past. Finally, having studied the nature of modern wars, my paper will prove that terror tactics are heavily relied upon today by both opponents of states and states themselves. Based on this discussion, I will attempt to answer the question: can terrorism ever be justified?

Just War Theory
Any discussion of modern terrorism must be based on traditional thinking about the nature of war and conflict and how it may or may not be justified.
There is a wide range of thinking about war. At one extreme, we have the militarists who believe that war is justifiable under almost any circumstances. “Might makes right”. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the pacifists, who believe that there is no condition in which war can be justifiable. It is always an unmitigated evil to be avoided at all costs. These are extreme views and, historically, relatively few people would subscribe to either of them. For most of us, war is indeed seen as an evil, but one that may be necessary under certain circumstances

A key concept in this regard is the idea of the “Just War”, which can be traced back to the writings of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle In the time of Plato wars were mainly fought among the Greek city-states. While the Greeks believed that peace was the optimum desired state, they also recognized that there could be times when war might be justified, either as a means of restoring peace or as a necessary response to the threat of an invader.

These ideas were expanded and reorganized by the Christian cleric and philosopher, St. Augustine, who first elaborated what has come to be known as the “Just War Theory”. He added ideas from both Roman law and the Christian theology up to that time.

The Just War theory as generally accepted today, is characterized by several basic principles: the Ad Bellum (prior to war) and In Bello (during the war) principles. Following those principles, there is no problem as long as one believes that:
1) wars can only be undertaken by a state,
2) the justice of the war is clear (which assumes that one side is just and the other must be unjust) and usually the cause is a defensive one
3) there are other means which have been exhausted and
4) wars are fought between easily identifiable states and armies, who can declare wars in formal ways.

New Forms of Modern Warfare
The problem in our modern world is that these principles have been blurred by the many new forms of conflict that have emerged in our times. For one thing, not every group, people or nation is necessarily organized into a formal state with a formal government. For example, in modern times we have groups like the Kurds, Palestinians and Chechnyans who are certainly widely accepted as peoples, with a common identity and culture, but who have no states of their own. Under the Just War theory, what right, if any, do they have to wage a war if the conditions warrant.

In terms of justice it is often difficult or impossible to say which party in a war or conflict is in the right and which is in the wrong. Citing the Palestine question as an example, both sides can argue and have argued that their cause is just and their adversaries are “evil”. Who is to judge which cause is more “just”?

As for point 3, who determines if and when means other than war have been exhausted. There are examples: (Armenians, Palestinians, Tibetans) where the perceived injustices have endured for decades, if not centuries. The Palestinians have been struggling for more than 50 years .When is enough enough?

As for formal declarations of war, in our time, this can be considered almost as a ludicrous joke. Of all the contemporary conflicts in our world today, probably not a single one has even been formally declared, in the classic sense. They simply begin, continue and end in accordance with their own exigencies, usually without the benefit of formal declarations or treaties.
As for the test of a hope of success, dozens, if not hundreds of struggles have occurred which utterly failed and in which there was probably never the slightest hope of winning, such as the ill-fated armed uprising in the cause of liberating the black slaves of the southern-states staged by John Brown in Virginia 1859. What possible hope could they have of achieving any results?
Yet, here and there, we have seen examples of success against seemingly hopeless odds. The French did leave Algeria, and the Apartheid regime was ended in South Africa, after long and bitter struggles. It is clear that groups like the Palestinians and Chechnyans do believe that there is hope for their cause, even if outsiders do not think so.

Finally, we see conflict fought all over the planet in which atrocities and evil acts occur far beyond any comprehensible strategic goal. Why were thousands of innocent civilians maimed in Sierra Leone, people who had absolutely no role in the conflict? Why are schools and hospitals sometimes targeted by bombers. Why are people killed or blown up in places by people thousands of miles away from the actual locale of the conflict?
Terrorism and Just War
Given the many new types of conflict that have arisen over the last 200 years, most of which are not between formally constituted states and the many new types of weapons of all types that are now employed, we need to reexamine the tenets of the “Just War” theory to see if it is still relevant to today’s wars. As McGun put it: “Although Just War theory has been perverted notoriously, to make moral crusades out of wars of national interest, their intention is just the opposite-to ensure that there is a justification for going into battle is not is not taken to sanction an open license once in battle.”

Just war theory was designed to assess the morality of war. However, interstate war is not the only form of political violence as we have seen in this section. Then how are we to assess the morality of other forms of political violence especially those involving nonstate actors?
Terrorism: the Traditional View
Does just war theory apply to terrorism? “When violent is committed by states, our assessment tends to be quite permissive… However, when the violence is performed by nonstate actors, we often react with horror.”
On the other hand, “Terrorism is almost universally condemned, whereas violence by states, even when war has not been declared, is seen as legitimate, if not always fully justified.” But terrorism is a also a form of violence, therefore, “If just war theory can justify violence committed by states, then terrorism committed by nonstate actors can also, under certain circumstances, be justified.”

The Nature of Terrorism
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it is tempting to believe that a “new age of terrorism is dawning” . While it may be argued that this new 21st century terrorism is characterized by some special features (e.g. a fanatical religious ideology, use of high–tech weaponry), the basic phenomenon is by no means a new one. Terrorism, in its many forms, has been with us through the ages, seemingly part and parcel of civilization itself. There have always been those who oppose the existing system, often in violent and destructive ways. Historical examples abound: the Hindu “thugs” of ancient India, the “Jewish “zealots of the 1st century AD, the Muslim “assassins” of the 11th century Middle East, to name a few.
In more modern times, there are myriad examples: the Ku Klux Klan of post Civil war America, the “anarchists” of late 19th century Europe and the numerous movement of the 20th Century: the PLO, the IRA, the ETA and countless others.

An Overview of Modern Terrorism
In his essay “The Four waves of Rebel Terror and September 11”, the scholar David C. Rapoport divides the modern history of terrorist movements, spanning the last 140 years, into four distinct periods, each with its own unique characteristics.
According to his scheme, the “first wave” was the 19th century anarchists, who employed assassinations and bombings mainly in Europe and the then Russian Empire. These groups began to use the new technology of those times: the telegraph, the railways and the printing press in pursuit of their ends. The “second wave” began around the end of WWI as former colonial empires (British, French, German and Turkish) fell into disintegration. Terrorism was used as a tool by indigenous rebel movements, often based in the countryside, seeking independence from their former oppressors in Ireland, Algeria, Greece and many other former colonies or protectorates. This period was followed by a “third wave”, which commenced roughly around the Vietnam War period. It generated many new movements such as the ETA in the Basque region and, notably, the PLO in Palestine. Such groups were more likely to engage in urban guerilla warfare and to resort, increasingly, to modern techniques of terror: e.g. the hijacking of airliners or taking entire embassies hostage.
Finally, according to Rapoport’s paradigm, we are now witnessing the emergence of the “fourth wave” which begins in the late 1980s and the 1990s. This new wave is characterized by religious fervor, in contrast to previous movements, which were purely secular and it has assumed ambitions on a global scale, with little regard for national borders. It also makes full use of modern technology of all kinds. The prime example of this type is of course Al Qaeda, with its extremely reactionary religious ideology and which operates on a world-wide stage. Religious terrorism centers around three sources according to Jonathan White. First, some religious groups feel they must purify the world for a new epoch. Second, some groups feel are chosen and may destroy other people in the cause of righteousness. Finally, other people may become so consumed with particular cause that they create a surrogate religion and take violent action to advance their beliefs.

Definition of Terrorism
Simply, terrorism is an act of violence committed for a political purpose in order to instill fear and alarm, targeting a certain group, no matter who the actor/s are.

“There is no universally accepted definition of terrorism, and most definitions offered in the international arena are tainted by self-serving motivations.” Terrorism is most often defined by those who use it to describe their adversaries. Given the extremely negative connotation of the word in our times, it is rare for anyone to admit,
“I am a Terrorist”.

Still, we need to arrive at a working definition of the term “terrorism” in order to be able to discuss the topic in a useful way. Jenkins calls terrorism, “the use or threatened use of force designed to bring about a political change.” Walter Laqueur says “terrorism constitutes the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective by targeting innocent people.” The American State Department defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents usually intended to influence an audience.”

One important distinction is that terrorism is “politically motivated” violence. In other words, it is violence with a purpose beyond the act itself. For example, both terrorists and the Mafia commit acts of theft, extortion, murder and assassination, But the terrorists commit these crimes for a “reason”, whereas the Mafia does is purely for profit or gain. Both examples are “crimes” but with a different motive. This is an important distinction.

“The major issue here is whether the goal of political violence is material to the definition of terrorism. Most Western countries seek to detach the means from the aims and to define terrorism mainly on the basis of targets of violence (e.g. civilians). Third World and Muslim countries, however, fear that the complete detachment of aims from means will deem all national liberation, resistance and guerrilla movements to be terrorist organizations.”

However, the concept of terrorism is hard to define because of the different ways it is viewed and the big scope of its motivations, ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.’ These general definitions are somehow vague and dangerous because it could encompass all kind of activities that a given ‘government’ disapproves of. Terrorism thus becomes “the violence committed by those we disapprove of.” Therefore, the lack of consensus on a definition of terrorism is very understandable in those situations.

Terrorism is sometimes defined as “violence or the threat of violence calculated to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm, in a word, to terrorize and thereby bring about some social or political change.” Thus, an important dimension of terrorism is the “reason” or cause for which one resorts to extreme and violent methods. By this reasoning, if the cause is right, then almost any act, no mater how heinous, can be justified. As Yasir Arafat once said in an address to the United Nations, Nobody is a terrorist who “stands for a just cause”

Terrorism: Weapon of the Oppressed
Unfortunately, this leads to further complications in our search for a definition. What may be a “just cause” in the view of one group (e.g the IRA, the PLO) may be seen as totally unjust or irrational by its opponents (the British government, Israel). Terrorism can also be viewed as the “inevitable product of oppression” due to the lack of power on the part of the insurgent group that finds in terrorism his last resort. Edward Hoffman says that “terrorism should be defined in terms of state repression.” Michael Stohl also claims that “terrorism is most frequently used by governments to maintain power.”

Thus, cultural norms and assumptions come squarely into play in seeking a clear definition of terrorism. For example, in the West, there are a set of “rules of war”, encapsulated in the Geneva Conventions which, among other things, prohibit attacks of violence against civilian non-combatants. Additionally, they provide for certain standards of treatment for prisoners or captives. The problem is that not all people and nations necessarily subscribe to these norms. For one thing, the rules were designed to apply to a purely European context, in which combat was waged between states with well-organized, uniformed and clearly identifiable armies.

Redefining War
In the third world, conditions of war are often radically different. Third world conflicts are rarely between countries or governments. Typically, they are centered on bitter intrastate or stateless ethnic wars within an amorphously defined region. There are no borders or uniforms. Often they pit a disadvantaged minority (or majority) against another group that has control of an oppressive and ruthless state apparatus. These are clearly asymmetrical conflicts, wherein one party has vastly superior power and resources. Current examples abound: apartheid South Africa, Rwanda, Palestine, Chechnya, Sri Lanka and many others.

In such cases, when large groups of people are faced with severely oppressive conditions and are themselves in a state of utter powerlessness, how can they seek justice, how can they struggle against the terrible conditions they endure, if not by resorting to extreme terrorist tactics: suicide bombings, killing of civilians, blowing up of buildings or airplanes and many other awful acts. In the mindset, of people in these circumstances, they may ask how they can be held to the standards of the Geneva Convention or the norms of Western society.

State Terrorism
This argument leads us logically into another aspect of the question: the role of what is termed “State Terrorism”. It is commonly accepted (at least in the West) by most people that groups such as the PLO, the IRA, the ETA, the Tamil Tigers, and many others are “terrorists”. But who can deny that there are many egregious examples of terrorism directly and deliberately practiced by states themselves. In the past century, we have particularly odious instances of this phenomenon: Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Maoist China, to name a few of the best known. These states clearly engaged in terrorism on a vast scale, dwarfing the relatively small number of acts committed by the better known terrorist groups.
Citing corrupt Latin American governments, friendly to the United States, White and Herman argue that repressive policies in the name of counterterrorism have resulted in misery for more people than any other form of terrorism.
Faced with such highly organized and frightful assaults on millions of victims by state apparatus, how could resistance by any possible means not be justified?

Some may argue that Nazi Germany was an exception; an extreme example that has no counterpart in today’s world, but again this is a relative judgment depending on whose point of view you take. During WWII, the allies had no compunction in using the most extreme tactics at their disposal to defeat the Axis: the fire-bombings of defenseless German cities like Dresden come to mind as well as the use of the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For Americans, such devastating and indiscriminate tactics were justified because they shortened the war. If the Nazis can be called essentially a terrorist group on a gigantic scale, then it was right to oppose them by all means at the disposal of the allies.

The Equation of Terrorism and State Terrorism
Today, we do not have such a scale of injustice matching the situation that existed in WWII, but there are clearly pockets of oppression that, at least in the eyes of those who must endure it day to day, are suffering oppressive situations of extraordinary harshness. Thanks to today’s worldwide communications networks, the example and images of Bosnia, Rwanda, Palestine and Chechnya leap to mind. Even in Ireland, there are many who still suffer oppression in their daily lives under the British rule.
We are left with equations of terrorism: PLO terrorism vis-à-vis Israeli state terrorism, IRA terrorism vis-à-vis British Government state terrorism. Who is right? Which is the just cause? How do we measure the injustice of children blown up in a pizzeria to the injustice of children killed by planes strafing their homes? This is the question we will try to deal with in this essay. To find a balance between the terrorism of an oppressed group and the terrorism of an oppressive state apparatus.
Is one right and one wrong? Are both right or both wrong? This is the issue that I intend to explore more thoroughly in this essay. I will use the examples of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as the vehicles for this discussion.

Justifying Terrorism as a Tactic of War
Jus ad Bellum
Just cause: Previously, we talked about the idea that “a just cause for war is usually a defensive one. That is, a state is taken to have a just cause when it defends itself against aggression.” Israel says it is defending its citizens against attacks of Palestinian suicide bombers. “The right that is usually cited as being the ground for the state’s right to defend itself is the right of self-determination.” Under certain circumstances, some groups should have the right to self-determination. When that right is frustrated, such peoples have the same just cause that states have when the self-determination of their citizens is threatened. Therefore, the Palestinians have the right to liberate their land from foreign occupation.

Legitimate authority: “When we reject the view that all states are legitimate authority, we may also ask if some nonstates may be legitimate authorities.” Once we acknowledge that stateless peoples may have the right to self-determination, it would render the right otiose to deny that the right could be defended and vindicated by some nonstate entities. This entity should be seen by the people themselves as their representative. The PLO actually represents the majority of Palestinian people and the Israeli government was also democratically elected.
Right Intention: “It seems unproblematic that those engaging in violence can be rightly motivated by that just cause… and not some other end.” The Palestinians are fighting to ‘liberate their land from Israeli occupation’ while the Israelis are fighting to ‘create the promised land of Eretz Israel, Greater Israel.’
According to Hanauer “Jewish fundamentalists have endorsed violence as a means to establish ‘Eretz Israel’ of biblical times”. The biblical Promised Land of ‘milk and honey’ was transformed into a geographical location. Furthermore, the sacred land that God has promised to the Israelites is misinterpreted to mean that “God promised Abraham the state of Israel.”
On the other hand, Muslim militants want to eliminate the state of Israel and restore Palestine as their homeland.
Last Resort: “If states may reach the point of deciding that all nonviolent measures have failed, then so too can nonstate actors.” If Israel decided that all nonviolent measures have failed, the Palestinians are justified in their claim that this is their last resort, especially when dealing with a hawkish government like Sharon’s.
Probability of Success: “Wilkins believes that some terrorist campaigns have indeed accomplished their goal of national independence and cites Algeria and Kenya as examples.” The Palestinians succeeded so far in gaining a limited rule of the West Bank and Gaza strip and electing two presidents.
Proportionality: “Given the large scale of destruction that often characterizes modern warfare, it appears that just war theory can countenance a great deal of violence if the end is of sufficient value. If modern warfare is sometimes justified, then terrorism, in which the violence is usually on a far smaller scale, can be justified.”
Jus in Bello
Proportionality: “Given that the scale of death and destruction in terrorist acts pales in comparison with that involved in wars commonly thought to be just, it would seem that terrorism would satisfy this requirement more easily than war.”
Discrimination: The allies had no compunction in using the most extreme tactics at their disposal to defeat the Axis. If the Allied bombing of German cities during World War II is justified as discriminate under just war theory, then an incident like the bombing of American barracks in Beirut, which targeted combatants, can surly be justified and discriminate. “In fact, terrorism and war are not morally different from each other.” Both Israeli and Palestinians groups like Hamas target civilians indiscriminately, therefore, they both violate this principle.

The Imperative to Recognize the Fact of State Terrorism
Within the contemporary literature on terrorism, “the issue of state terrorism receives very little attention despite claims that ‘state rather that insurgent groups’… have been the most persistent and successful users of the strategy of terrorism.”
“One basic distinction is between state and factional terror. The former has been vastly more lethal and has often been an antecedent to and contributory cause of factional terrorism. . Once regimes and factions decide that their ends justify any means, or that their opponents’ actions justify them in unrestrained retaliation, they tend to become locked in a spiral of terror and counter-terror.”
“We need to recognize that throughout history it is regimes and states, with their overwhelming preponderance of coercive power, which have shown the greatest propensity for terror on a mass scale.” “Israel’s Ariel Sharon, [is believed to be] personally responsible for the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacres.”
Chomsky, Herman and Stohl all suggest that states are the most persistent users of terrorism. Chomsky noted that “where as the term terrorism was once applied to rulers who molested their own subjects and the world, it is now restricted to thieves who molest the powerful.”

Asymmetrical Warfare
We live in an age of asymmetrical warfare but this does not mean that the essential nature of war has changed. And as in the past, in all-out war, neither side will be restrained in using whatever tactics or methods it takes to “win” the war. Did the US hesitate in using the atomic bomb in WWII?
In many regions: Palestine, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, there is a state of war in progress. Non-traditional warfare, to be sure, asymmetrical warfare, clearly, but true they are wars nevertheless. If we look at the conflicts as wars in the true sense, then we will not be so quick to label every desperate act by opposition groups as examples of “terrorism”. Nor will we be so apt to support every act by a state as “legitimate self-defense”. To do so is to define acts of terror (acts of war) strictly according to the identity of the perpetrator and without regard to the nature of the act itself or the essential justice (or injustice) of the root conflicts that have caused both sides to resort to extreme measures.

Although today’s wars differ in many ways from earlier conflicts they are still wars. There are still two sides, each of which feels its cause is justified. Wars are no longer fought by nation states on a grand scale but they are still terrible for those caught up in them. Wars are bad, they cause great suffering. Yet, because of the nature of our species, they seem to be an integral a part of life on this planet.

Terror, in the full sense, has always been a part of warfare, from the Stone Age through Roman times, through the Mongols, up to today. Wars are brutal and nasty but sometimes necessary and justifiable. That was true in the past. Asians were justified in opposing the Mongol Hordes. The Allies were justified in fighting the Axis powers. Terrible things happened in these conflicts, but we accept the necessity of (under certain conditions) combating those who would destroy or enslave us and our families.

Today, no less than in the past, wars are justifiable when peoples are oppressed and subject to terrible conditions. In such cases, both sides may well resort to tactics that we find hard to justify. Terror, in its broadest sense, will be employed by both sides in struggles every bit as savage and desperate as the brutal wars of the past.

Case study - the Palestinian /Israeli conflict
I have chosen the Palestinian/Israeli war as a case study in terrorism. It is not simply a “conflict” or an “uprising” or a “struggle”. It is a true war in every sense of the word. It pits two groups living on the same territory which each group claims rightfully as its own. It is typical of a modern war in that in that it pits ethnic groups who differ in some ways but who are similar in many other ways. It is an asymmetrical conflict because all of the power is clearly on one side (the Israeli State) with the opponents (the Palestinians) at a deep disadvantage. While there are soldiers on both sides, the distinction between military personnel and civilians has long disappeared and has no meaning in this war. Neither side has the slightest regard for the Geneva conventions or any other “rules” of war. Both sides deliberately target civilians and there have been clearly planned campaigns to create refugee populations on a large scale.
Terrorism, is the defining element of this conflict and is used indiscriminately and regularly by both parties.

Background to the conflict:
In 1948, Palestine was partitioned and with the withdrawal of British forces, a war broke out between Arab armies and Jewish forces. The war was a defeat for the Arabs and resulted in the establishment of the new state of Israel in a larger area than originally planned. The immediate result was the creation of 3 million displaced Palestinian refugees, some in the West Bank and Gaza and some in neighboring countries.

Palestinian tactics
In 1959, the Fatah organization under Yaser Arafat was created and began guerilla operation inside Israel. In 1965, it also started military operations outside of Israel proper.
Another war broke out in 1967 which had the effect of bringing the west bank and Gaza under direct Israeli control. Now all of pre 1948 Palestine was under a single state control.

In response, the Palestinians (PFLP) began a series of attacks against civilian targets, especially airliners. They attacked an El AL flight and raided the airport in Athens. These acts were deliberately designed to focus world attention on the plight of the Palestinians. They had no means of fighting the Israeli army directly and thus began to resort to these extreme tactics in desperation.. In 1970, four more airliners were captured and blown up, again as a means of gaining publicity. This led to a showdown between the Palestinians are King Hussain of Jordan. After a fierce battle, many Palestinian refugees sought refuge in Syria and especially Lebanon. There were many other attacks, some outside of Israel and some inside it. There was the infamous raid on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics and there was an attack on a school on the northern Israeli border.

Attacks continued to take place, sometimes against US interests or against moderate Arab states. Abu Nidal’s organization was instrumental in these incidents. There was an attempt against the US embassy in Cairo, a raid on a café in Rome, an assault on a hotel near Athens as well as another attack on an airliner, this time Egypt Air.

In more recent times, there have been two Intifadas, the first in 1987 and the most recent in 2000. The first Intifada was a factor is beginning the Oslo peace process. The second wave has been much more violent, with numerous suicide bombings inside of Israel.

Probably the most significant attack of all was the assassination of Israel Prime Minister Rabin in 1995, not by Palestinians but by a Jewish extremist. Subsequent attacks inside Israel by Palestinian suicide bombers was clearly instrumental in changing the whole complexion of the subsequent Israeli election in which the more moderate Shimon Peres was defeated by the right winger, Natanyahu in 1996. That event marked the beginning of the end for the Oslo peace process and has led to the current desperate state of affairs.

There is no doubt that Palestinians have been using extreme tactics for over 50 years in their struggle. While they have received a great deal of negative press coverage especially in the US and the West, it is not hard to see why they would feel the need to have recourse to such extreme measures. Less widely publicized and understood in the West is the extent to which Israel has availed itself of equally brutal and cynical measures

Israeli tactics
Even prior to 1948, Jewish settlers living in Palestine had formed terror groups and conducted numerous attacks against the then-British administration that ran the territory. They assassinated Lord Moyne, the British envoy to the region and killed over 90 people in an attack on British government offices at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
There was also the infamous attack on Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village, during which 250 people, including women and children were killed; rape and torture were also employed. Since the foundation of the state of Israel, similar tactics have been used with great regularity. In Lebanon, in particular, the Israelis regularly made attacks on civilian targets, with the aim of creating refugee movements that would put pressure on the Lebanese government. Not to mention the infamous massacres perpetuated by Israeli supported factions in the Shatila refugee camp in 1982. During the 1990s, the Israelis undertook two operations: Operation Accountability and the Grapes of Wrath, deliberately targeted civilian in their homes and schools. The goals of these maneuvers were nothing less than to sow terror and confusion among innocent civilians. Israeli has openly engaged in kidnappings and assassinations in Lebanon and Israel itself as well as using the tactic of collective punishments for acts of individuals. Israel is known to detain children who have thrown rocks against its soldiers and it is well known to use torture on a regular basis.

Since the new Intifada in 2000, the situation has only gotten worse. Israel has laid waste to many West Bank towns and refugee camps. It has bombed indiscriminately and has dismantled the civil administration of the Palestinians as well as reducing its economy to near zero levels.

While much focus has been place on the suicide attacks within Israel, the Palestinian population has suffered to a far greater degree. Many more Palestinians have died than Israelis and the war continues, day after day. The problem is not “terror” as cited by the US administration and in much of the western press. The “solution” is not to root out the terrorists, as Israel is plainly trying to do. The problem is that there is a war, which can only be ended in one of two ways: either in total defeat for one of the adversaries or in a negotiated peace. In short, it’s either total genocide /ethnic cleansing (as some Israeli radicals advocate) or it is a negotiated settlement. Neither Sharon nor the Bush administration seem to have understood this fact. Until then, the war will continue unabated. Both sides will continue to use terror tactics, perhaps in even greater fury.

In this paper I have examined the nature of war and, in particular the concept of a “Just War”. I have argued that “Just War” needs to be amended to make provision for the new types of war we see today, which are largely uneven and asymmetrical. I have discussed terrorism and different definitions of terrorism in the moral framework of the Just War theory and established that state and insurgent terrorism are not morally justified because they violate the principle of discrimination.

(c) Huda Orfali


G. Graham, “War”, Ethics and International Relations, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 1997, p 48.

R.D. Duval and M. Stohl, “Governance by Terror”, The Politics of terrorism, ed. M. Stohl. New York, Marcel Dekker, 1988, p. 180.

A. Valls, “Can terrorism be justified”, Ethics in International Affairs, Rowman and Littlefield, USA, 2000, p. 65

C.W. Kegley Jr. “The Characteristics, Causes and Controls of the New Global terrorism”, The New Global Terrorism, Pearson Education Inc, USA, 2003, p. 1.

D. Rappoport, “The Four Waves of Rebel Terror and September 11”, The New Global Terrorism, Pearson Education Inc, USA, 2003, p. 37.

J. R. White, Terrorism, 2002 update, 4th ed. Thomson & Wadsworth, Canada, 2003.

J. Shamir & K. Shikaki, “Self-serving Perceptions of Terrorism Among Israeli and Palestininas”, Political Psychology, Vol 23, No 3, 2002, p.537-557.

B. Jenkins, “International terrorism, The Other World War”, The New Global Terrorism, Pearson Education Inc, USA, 2003, p. 16.

Brian Whitaker, “The Definition of Terrorism”,

N. Chomsky, Pirates and Emperors: International Terrorism in the Real World, Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1987.

N. Gordon & G. Lopez, “Terrorism in the Arab-Israeli Conflict”, Ethics in International Affairs, Rowman and Littlefield, USA, 2000, p. 99-113

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Reviewed by Peter Paton 5/11/2006
There is no just war...
As Krishnamurti said " Be a Light unto thyself...In a World that is utterly Dark "
Love and Light
Reviewed by Michael Wells 8/7/2005
Outstanding article
God bless
Reviewed by Lee Garrett 5/17/2005
Overall, I found the article well structured and logical, and insightful as well. This is indeed a subject needing reevaluation by governments and peoples everywhere. There were a few statements I disagreed with, but on the whole, it was an enjoyable read. One question you asked: "Did America hesitate to use the atomic bomb?" implies that we didn't. In fact, we did. It was the religious zealotry of the Japanese people willing to fight to the last man, woman, child, dog, and rooster, creating an incredible bloody victory for us, that justifyied the use of this terrible weapon. It wasn't used to just "shorten" a war. The real issue was the casualty rate involved in victory. More Japanese would have died through conventional warfare, fighting island by island, than died in the two cities that were A-bombed. This falls under the heading of being "cruel to be kind". I am quite willing to conceed your point that wars can be fought by stateless peoples, because I believe the rights of an individual are the same as those of a state. Thus, vigilantism is a non-concept, an illusion used by the state to denigate those from which it drays its authority for existance. Long ago, I found a perspective that "works" for me in defining the right and wrong of terrorism. It is this: "It is not the holy war that justifies the means, but holy means that sanctify the war." Thanks for sharing.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader) 5/16/2005
A very good article. I must admit when I read the title, I thought there is now excuse for terrorism or such a thing as justifying it.

Reviewed by Regis Auffray 5/16/2005
This is a powerful statement and well expressed, Huda. Thank you. May all good things find you attractive. Love and peace to you. Regis
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 5/15/2005
Thanks for sharing this insightful article!!

Love Tinka
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