Haaretz names Jewish terrorists being held without trial in Israel

Haaretz reports: Israel’s defense establishment knows who is responsible for the arson attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family two months ago, but has chosen to prevent legal recourse in order to protect the identity of their sources, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told a closed meeting of some 20 young Likud activists in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Three Jewish suspects were put under administrative detention following the attack.
Three Jewish suspects are currently being held without trial for terrorist activities: Meir Ettinger, who according to the Shin Bet headed an extreme rightist organization intent on toppling the Israeli government though violent means, and encouraged others to carry out terrorist acts; Mordechai Meyer, the alleged arsonist behind a fire at Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem; and Eviatar Slonim, accused of setting fire to a home in the Palestinian town of Khirbet Abu Falah.

None of these names has been explicitly tied publicly to the attack on the Dawabshe family home in Duma. [Continue reading…]


French spy who sank Greenpeace ship apologises for lethal bombing

The Guardian reports: A French secret service diver who took part in the operation to sink Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior 30 years ago has spoken publicly for the first time to apologise for his actions.

Jean-Luc Kister, who attached a mine to the ship’s hull, says the guilt of the bombing, which killed a photographer, still weighs heavily on his mind.

“We are not assassins and we have a conscience,” the former agent told investigative website Mediapart. “I have the weight of an innocent man’s death on my conscience … It’s time, I believe, for me to express my profound regret and my apologies,” Kister said.

He said he wanted to apologise to the family of the dead man, Fernando Pereira, “especially his daughter Marelle … for what I call an accidental death but what they consider an assassination”, to the Greenpeace crew aboard the ship and the people of New Zealand where the Rainbow Warrior was sunk. [Continue reading…]


Israeli terrorists, born in the U.S.A.

Sara Yael Hirschhorn writes: On July 31, in the West Bank village of Duma, 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned alive in a fire. All available evidence suggests that the blaze was a deliberate act of settler terrorism. More disturbingly, several of the alleged instigators, currently being detained indefinitely, are not native-born Israelis — they have American roots.

But there has been little outcry in their communities. Settler rabbis and the leaders of American immigrant communities in the West Bank have either played down their crime or offered muted criticism.

It’s worth recalling the response of the former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to another heinous attack two decades ago, when an American-born doctor, Baruch Goldstein, gunned down dozens of Palestinians while they prayed in Hebron.

“He grew in a swamp whose murderous sources are found here, and across the sea; they are foreign to Judaism, they are not ours,” thundered Mr. Rabin before the Knesset in February 1994. “You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out.”

The shocking 1994 massacre was, at the time, the bloodiest outbreak of settler terrorism Israelis and Palestinians had ever seen. Less than two years later, Mr. Rabin himself would be dead, felled by an ultranationalist assassin’s bullet.

Suddenly, a group of American Jewish immigrants that had existed on the fringes of society became a national pariah. A former president of Israel, Chaim Herzog, labeled the United States “a breeding ground” for Jewish terror; the daily newspaper Maariv castigated American Jews who “send their lunatic children to Israel.” One Israeli journalist even demanded “operative steps against the Goldsteins of tomorrow” by banning the immigration of militant American Jews.

But tomorrow has arrived. [Continue reading…]


The Americans who prevented a bloodbath on a French train

The Guardian reports: My son, said a visibly shaken American father, left his Sacramento home to travel abroad for the first time, as a “young man on an excursion to broaden his world view and have fun with his buddies”. Now, said Tony Sadler, he’ll be coming back “as France’s national hero”.

As two presidents, Barack Obama and François Hollande, yesterday poured praise on four men whose actions averted a bloodbath on the 3.17pm train from Amsterdam to Paris, with 550 passengers onboard, the details of what happened on the Thalys express 9364 emerged in shocking detail.

It was at 5.45pm, as the train crossed the Belgian border into northern France, that a 28-year-old French bank worker left his seat and tried to get into the toilet on coach 12. The door opened on a shirtless dark-haired man, in white trousers and trainers, who was holding a Kalashnikov across his bare chest. Inside his rucksack were nine full magazines of ammunition, holding 280 rounds, and several knives. Somewhere he also had a handgun.

Over the next few seconds there was chaos. A shot rang out, a French-American passenger fell forward in his seat, hit in the neck by a bullet from a handgun. Then came a terrifying “click, click, click” as the half-naked man held his AK-47 aloft, aiming an apparently temporarily jammed gun at occupants of the carriage. [Continue reading…]


Fearful of Jewish settlers, Palestinians deploy night watchmen

The Washington Post reports: The men of this hilltop town who gather at night with clubs and flashlights stress they are not afraid. But they say something changed after the recent arson attack that left a toddler dead in a village just a few miles away.

“You don’t sleep so well,” said Ibrahim Wadi, 54, a chemical engineer who was out on the town’s southern perimeter at midnight this week, carrying a rusty steel bar and scanning the horizon.

Wadi and 30 to 40 other men, farmers and shopkeepers and construction workers, were fanned out across a rocky ridge, their flashlights winking on and off in the open fields. Some of the men carried shepherd’s clubs, others pickaxes, hoes and canes. [Continue reading…]


Israel continues crackdown on Jewish extremist network in West Bank

The New York Times reports: The Israeli authorities on Sunday continued their crackdown against the young Jewish zealots believed to be associated with the Revolt, a shadowy network described by its members as an anarchistic vision of redemption.

The extremists’ working plan calls for fomenting unrest to bring about the collapse of the State of Israel, with its democratic system of government and courts, and establishing a Jewish kingdom based on the laws of the Torah. Non-Jews are to be expelled, the Third Temple is to be built and religious observance is to be enforced, initially in public spaces.

“The starting point of the Revolt is that the State of Israel has no right to exist, and therefore we are not bound by the rules of the game,” write the anonymous authors of the manifesto of sedition that lays out these ideas, which the Shin Bet internal security agency recently discovered.

Six-month administrative detention orders were issued Sunday against two high-profile activists from the radical right, Meir Ettinger and Eviatar Slonim, both in their early 20s. [Continue reading…]


The religious roots of domestic terror

Stuart Wexler writes: From Charleston to Chattanooga to Lafayette, a series of mass murders has reignited debates over the nature of terrorism and how it is covered by the media—over whether these are terrorist acts to begin with, and—the latest wrinkle—whether or not they might be acts of religious terrorism.

In many ways the controversy has become part of a culture war. Those on the Left argue that an implicitly racist media too often dismisses mass violence by white men as the byproduct of mental derangement; Islam is seen an acceptable predicate for terrorism, but not white supremacy. Those on the Right argue that liberals, especially those in the Obama administration, are too quick to sugarcoat acts of Islamic terrorism as mere extremism devoid of religious impulse—jeopardizing security in the name of political correctness.

But if Americans want to understand and possibly even prevent domestic terrorism in the future, then they may have to abandon neat labels and presuppositions and start to deal in nuance. [Continue reading…]


Karen J. Greenberg: The mass killer and the national security state

You want to profile America’s mass killers? No need at all for the FBI or the national security state. You don’t have to secretly read anyone’s emails or check their phone metadata. You don’t need to follow them on Twitter. All you have to do is narrow down the possibilities in a logical way by looking at the history of mass killing in recent years. That means, as a start, leaving aside half the population, since women make up close to 0% of American mass shooters.

So, start with men. Admittedly, that’s a pretty broad category. Still, among men, you can narrow the field fast. Begin with age. Generally, mass killers are young. Unfortunately, this category isn’t quite as blanket as the no-woman rule. Just recently, in what looked like a copycat mass killing — a repeat of the 2012 shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater — a mentally unstable 59-year-old white man in Lafayette, Louisiana, with a chip on his shoulder about women (as well as blacks), opened fire in a theater showing the new Amy Schumer hit, Trainwreck, a film drawing female audiences, and killed two women. Similarly, in February, a disturbed and mentally unstable 36-year-old white man, barred from owning guns, carried out a mass killing of seven in the tiny Missouri town of Tyrone. Nonetheless, when you’re conjuring up the next mass killer, think young man (16-24) and think white.

Now, we’re getting somewhere. One more obvious thing: look for someone carrying a gun, generally obtained quite legally — most likely a semi-automatic pistol or an assault rifle — or come to think of it, three or four or more weapons and lots and lots of ammo. Now, given the 300 million or so guns floating around this country and the spread of “right-to-carry” laws that let anyone bring lethal weaponry just about anywhere, this may not narrow things down quite as much as we’d like. But it should be helpful. And yes, there are other factors, too, that might aid you in setting your sights on the next mass killer. As Karen Greenberg, the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and TomDispatch regular, points out today, these would undoubtedly include feelings of hopelessness and anger, a history of mental instability, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse.

In the grips of a much overblown panic about ISIS-inspired terror in the U.S., the government, Greenberg reports, is about to spend a pile of taxpayer money doing a version of what I just did. Here’s my guarantee: it will cost you a boodle, most of which, as she makes clear, won’t go where it might do some good — that is, to helping unnerved or disturbed young men. And I’ll also guarantee you one more thing: the massed thinking and resources of the national security state won’t do much better than I’ve done above when it comes to the problem of identifying lone-wolf killers. But that state within a state will, as ever, emerge from the experience more powerful and more entrenched. And, as novelist Kurt Vonnegut might once have said, so it goes. Tom Engelhardt

Dealing with mass killings in America
Funding our children, not our wars
By Karen J. Greenberg

Imagine that you’re in the FBI and you receive a tip — or more likely, pick up information through the kind of mass surveillance in which the national security state now specializes. In a series of tweets, a young man has expressed sympathy for the Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda, or another terrorist group or cause. He’s 16, has no criminal record, and has shown no signs that he might be planning a criminal act. He does, however, seem angry and has demonstrated an interest in following ISIS’s social media feeds as they fan the flames of youth discontent worldwide. He’s even expressed some thoughts about how ISIS’s “caliphate,” the Islamic “homeland” being carved out in Syria and Iraq, might be a place where people like him could find meaning and purpose in an otherwise alienated life.

[Read more…]


By inflating Islamic extremism, David Cameron has lost sight of what really threatens us

George Monbiot writes: Sir Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square should be removed to a museum. All busts and portraits of the great man in parliament and the prime minister’s residence should be taken down and placed in storage. Why? To discourage his successors from slipping their tiny feet into his shoes.

Churchill was right when he claimed, in June 1940: “Upon this battle depends the survival of … our own British life.” Those who have borrowed the sentiment are in most cases wrong. The Taliban, al-Qaida, Saddam Hussein, Isis, Islamic extremism: none of these were, or are, existential threats to the life of this country. But all are inflated until they appear to be so, invested with almost supernatural power by prime ministers hoping to be cast in bronze. This inflation, as we discovered in Iraq, has consequences.

On Monday, David Cameron maintained that confronting Islamic extremism is “the struggle of our generation”. We must pursue this struggle in the spirit with which we “faced down Hitler”. Yes, Islamic extremism is real. Yes, it creates genuine problems and presents genuine threats. But to claim it as the struggle of our generation suggests a total collapse of perspective. [Continue reading…]


Chattanooga: On the need to fight terror with reason

By David Alpher, George Mason University

In the wake of the Chattanooga shootings, another apparent act of lone-wolf terrorism, the search for answers and for retaliation comes again.

After every such incident, that search is renewed: why did this happen? Is it religion? Poverty? How do we stop it?

But maybe we are asking the wrong questions – sharpening the same tools again and again will do us no good if they weren’t the right tools.

What we need instead is an examination of whether we’re looking at the problem the right way to begin with. That perspective comes from 14 years of studying extremism, terrorism and sectarian conflict in the field – and 14 years studying American responses to terrorism post-9/11.

[Read more…]


These lone wolf terrorists are not holy warriors

Nabila Ramdani writes: With a grotesque matter-of-factness, suspected “Islamic terrorist” Yassine Salhi blamed “problems at home and at work” for beheading his boss last Friday. Salhi used a knife in the attack at Saint-Quentin-Fallavier in eastern France, before driving his delivery van into chemical canisters in an unsuccessful bid to blow up a factory.

Seifeddine Rezgui, who gunned down at least 38 people on a tourist beach in Tunisia on the same day, managed to get hold of an automatic weapon, but his profile was similar to Salhi’s. Neither man had a criminal record, and each was described by friends and neighbours as “normal”. There is no evidence of either travelling abroad to train for combat, and both had provoked little interest from the security services. They were thought to be “self-radicalised”, rather than members of a wider cell.

Unlike Rezgui, Salhi survived and is said to be offering “personal reasons” as mitigation for his sadistic criminality. He has played down his links with global jihad, according to sources close to the case, instead suggesting that he simply did not like his victim. Yet, crucially, he has told interrogators that he was interested in provoking a “media coup”: making a name for himself in front of an audience of millions. [Continue reading…]


How the embracing of violence destroyed the American left in the 1970s

Rick Perlstein writes: The terrorists attacked their target in New York on a sunny Tuesday in autumn — but not the sunny Tuesday we now commemorate. The year was 1981 — a year in which, as Bryan Burrough observes in Days of Rage, his sprawling history of America’s post-’60s radical underground, the country had suffered the greatest number of fatalities from terrorism in that era of radical violence. That figure would not be surpassed again until the year the World Trade Center was bombed.

The 1981 attack is one of dozens of acts of cinematic violence narrated in Days of Rage, and it encapsulates some of the book’s key themes. A leader in the group that staged the attack was a man named Sekou Odinga. Born Nathaniel Burns, he had returned from Algeria, where he’d worked as a deputy for Eldridge Cleaver, who had established the Black Panther Party’s “international section” there (and was accorded official diplomatic recognition from Algiers). “We have a solidarity group in China,” Cleaver told a writer visiting his lair, which had a giant electrified map with colored lights that could be flicked on and off to represent revolutionary battlefronts all over the world. “Its chairman is Chairman Mao.” Cleaver also informally directed a new group from Algeria: the Black Liberation Army, a collection of terrorist cells that crisscrossed the United States, ambushing cops in cold blood. Upon its dissolution, Odinga helped start an even more shadowy and brutal organization, so informal that it went nameless, although its members referred to it as “the Family.”

The Family had an advantage over the Black Liberation Army, what its leaders called a “white edge”: a band of worshipful white fellow travelers who provided cover by renting cars and forging IDs. What the disciples didn’t know was that in the New York action, Mutulu Shakur and his comrades were going to carry out a “revolutionary expropriation” in order to buy cocaine. While two white accomplices, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, waited in a U-Haul truck, Shakur and two other men leaped out of a nearby van, shot a Brink’s guard to death, loaded $1.6 million in cash into the van, and sped off. Police officers intercepted the U-Haul vehicle and were about to release its white occupants — eyewitnesses had said the criminals were black — when Shakur’s crew sprang out of the rented truck and raked Rockland County’s finest with machine-gun fire, killing two. Boudin and Gilbert ended up holding the bag, which had been the plan all along.

If the attack proved anything, it was the extraordinary resilience of “revolutionary” violence in the United States long after it had any conceivable chance of bringing about social change (assuming that such a chance existed in the first place). It also drew attention to the cultish behavior of the Family, their systematic exploitation of revolution-besotted acolytes, the incompetence of law-enforcement agencies in tracking them down, the underground network that assisted them, and the blood — barrels of it.

No less noteworthy is that even in our terror-obsessed era, the scale of this decadelong florescence of revolutionary domestic terrorism has been all but forgotten. [Continue reading…]


In America, infamy is as easy to acquire as a gun

In post 9/11 America, terrorism has been used to justify wars, drone strikes, torture, secret detention, kidnapping, extrajudicial killing, mass surveillance, and the unfettered expansion of the national security state.

In recent days, numerous commentators, many of whom have surely previously been disturbed by the way the fear of terrorism has been used to manipulate this country’s political system and global outlook, are nevertheless now arguing that in America today the term “terrorist” is not being used broadly enough.

Since the white male Charleston killer, Dylann Roof, is unlikely to be branded a terrorist by public officials or in most of the media, Anthea Butler suggests:

the go-to explanation for his alleged actions will be mental illness. He will be humanized and called sick, a victim of mistreatment or inadequate mental health resources.

Nevertheless, Butler writes:

The Charleston shooting is a result of an ingrained culture of racism and a history of terrorism in America. It should be covered as such. On Friday, Department of Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce acknowledged that the Charleston shooting “was undoubtedly designed to strike fear and terror into this community” (though terrorism is not among the nine murder charges brought against Roof, so far). And now that Roof has admitted to killing those people to start a “race war,” we should be calling him what he is: a terrorist.

Then what?

Ship him off to Guantánamo?

Terrorist is a politically charged and legally dubious term precisely because it gets used to shut down debate and curtail analysis. It is used to justify sidestepping due process and ignoring human rights.

The terrorist is the ghoul of modern America — the term functions more as an instrument of exorcism rather than illumination.

In America and elsewhere in the West, fear of terrorism dovetails with the inclinations to treat skin color as a mark of foreignness, and the tendency to view the foreign as threatening.

Calling Dylann Roof a white American terrorist, isn’t going to diminish the levels of racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia across this country.

Calling Roof a terrorist, merely elevates his infamy, grants him the attention he obviously craves and turns attention away from the flawed legal system that allowed a worm of hatred inside his mind to be transformed into an act of deadly violence.

In America, infamy is no harder to obtain than a gun.

I recognize that there is a common sentiment which justifiably perceives an undercurrent of racism in the way in which people get labelled terrorists — that it’s a term that sticks much more easily to non-whites and especially to Muslims — but I don’t think this indicates we lack a sufficiently expansive definition and application of the term.

On the contrary, we would be better off not using the term at all, rather than trying to make its application more racially inclusive.

Jared Keller argues:

by not calling Roof’s atrocity terrorism, we gloss over the past — and present — of white America’s war of terror against its black citizens.

To my mind, that assertion, much as it contains an element of truth, is also indicative of the cultural stranglehold with which the war-on-terrorism narrative continues to grip America, fourteen years after 9/11.

The only way in which we can sense the gravity of a mass killing is by calling it terrorism, because it goes without saying — supposedly — that nothing is more serious than terrorism.

The real problem here is not the failure to call Roof a terrorist, but rather a failure to acknowledge that America faces many issues that are actually much more serious than terrorism:

Racism, inequality, environmental degradation, an unsustainable economic system, and foundationally a societal breakdown that results from individual interests being placed above collective welfare.

In a mind-your-own-business society, the mass murderers always seemingly come out of nowhere. No one sees them coming, because no one was paying enough attention. A live-and-let-live philosophy easily shifts into a live-and-let-kill reality.

In a word, we live in a country where people do not care for each other enough.

We do not live in a country where the number of terrorists is being undercounted.

After the shooting, President Obama said: “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

But why wasn’t that point reached long ago? The signs of this ugly form of American exceptionalism has been evident for decades.

Most Americans don’t own a gun and yet gun owners are more likely to think of themselves as “a typical American” (72% vs. 62%). Indeed, gun owners are more likely to say they “often feel proud to be American” (64% vs. 51%).

The most vocal among the 24% of Americans who own a gun are using their weapons to intimidate the whole population. Through their arrogance, ignorance and selfishness, they seem to imagine they have a stronger claim on what it means to be an American than everyone else.

After the Charleston shootings, National Rifle Association board member Charles Cotton blamed the deaths on one of the dead, Clementa Pinckney, who as a state senator had voted against a law allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons without permits.

“Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead,” Cotton wrote. “Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

Gun owners like Cotton, regard guns as the protectors of freedom, and see gun control laws as threats to their own freedom. In practice, they prize their weapons more highly that the lives of the tens of thousands of Americans who get killed each year by firearms.

As Gary Younge writes:

America does not have a monopoly on racism. But what makes its racism so lethal is the ease with which people can acquire guns. While the new conversation around race will mean the political response to the fact of this attack will be different, the stale conversation around gun control means the legislative response to the nature of this attack will remain the same. Nothing will happen.

After Adam Lanza shot 20 primary school children and six adults in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in 2012 before turning his gun on himself, nothing happened. Seven children and teens are shot dead every day in America and nothing happens.

So these nine victims will join those who perished before them – a sacrifice to the blood-soaked pedestal erected around the constitution’s second amendment that gun lobbyists say guarantees the right of individuals to bear arms.

At some point, America as a nation needs to challenge its superstitious reverence for a piece of paper, and demonstrate that it is no longer willing to see the lives of so many of its citizen’s needlessly wasted.


Extremist activity: don’t even think about it in the UK pre-crime state

By Maria W. Norris, London School of Economics and Political Science

The UK government has announced plans to bring in a new extremism bill in yet another attempt to strengthen its counter-terrorism powers. If enacted, the bill will join dozens of other pieces of legislation aimed in the same direction.

This latest addition to the already swollen terrorism statute book takes the UK further down a dangerous path, giving the government power to punish citizens even before they commit a crime.

It is hard to imagine that just 15 years ago, the UK did not have a single permanent piece of terrorism legislation. The threat of the IRA was handled with temporary provisions that were renewed each year, rather than with permanent measures.

The government powers that have accumulated since then have a direct effect on the presumption of innocence – a fundamental legal principle. Most terrorism powers now essentially distribute punishment before someone has even been charged – let alone convicted of a terrorism offence.

The new extremism bill seems to be made up primarily of such administrative measures. It includes banning orders and employment checks aimed at enabling companies to look into whether a potential employee is considered an extremist. The UK does not currently have a working definition of extremism so there is no consensus on what activities, attitudes and beliefs could lead to someone to be labelled an extremist.

Significantly, the new bill includes the creation of extremism disruption orders. These would give the police powers to apply to the high court to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. Those activities might include the risk of public disorder, harassment, alarm, distress or creating “a threat to the functioning of democracy”.

This is particularly concerning due to its vagueness. What exactly is a threat to the functioning of democracy? Not voting, or encouraging people not to vote, as comedian Russell Brand did in the run up to the 2015 election undermine the democratic process – is that enough for Brand to be subject to such measures?

These powers, dubbed extremism ASBOs by some, were first proposed last March, but were vetoed by the Liberal Democrats. The idea is to “stop extremists promoting views and behaviour that undermine British values” but by criminalising belief and behaviour without the need for a trial, these powers mark another step towards making the UK a pre-crime society.

[Read more…]


German police arrest four alleged right-wing extremists suspected of planning mosque attacks

Wall Street Journal: Police arrested four alleged right-wing extremists early Wednesday suspected of planning attacks on mosques and asylum seekers in Germany, the country’s top prosecutor said.

The Federal Prosecutor’s office said the four suspects procured explosives to carry out terrorist attacks in small groups on targets including mosques, accommodation for asylum seekers, and well-known Salafis—people who follow an ultra-fundamentalist branch of Islam.

According to the prosecutor’s office, 56-year old Andreas H., 39-year old Markus W., 22-year old Denise Vanessa G. and 47-year old Olaf O. are suspected of forming a right-wing terrorist group with other suspects called “Oldschool Society,” or OSS, no later than November last year.


Kenya’s wrongheaded approach to terrorism

Hussein Khalid writes: The merciless killing of more than 140 innocent students at Kenya’s Garissa University College last month by al-Shabab terrorists requires a serious government response — both from Kenya and the United States. Unfortunately, my government has decided to double down on a long-standing counterterrorism strategy that includes human rights abuses and the indiscriminate targeting of the country’s Muslims. This is guaranteed to make the situation worse, not better. As Kenya’s loyal partner, the United States must persuade Nairobi to drop this unsound strategy.

The Kenyan government is cracking down on those who have sought to engage in counter-radicalization efforts simply because they have dared to question its tactics. Without presenting any evidence, Kenya’s top police official recently tried to label my nongovernmental organization, Haki Africa, which documents and challenges human rights abuses perpetrated by Kenyan security forces, as a possible associate of al-Shabab. Our bank account was frozen simply because of the work that we do. Another organization, Muslims for Human Rights, was similarly targeted.

This action was just the latest in an increasingly worrying trend of harassment and intimidation of civil society organizations. Such a heavy-handed approach is more than unjust; it is also ineffective and counterproductive. By alienating an important and sizable Kenyan community, the government is losing a key ally in its fight against violent extremism. If this pattern continues, I fear the security situation in my country can only get worse. [Continue reading…]


The parallels between Zionist and Palestinian militancy

The Times of Israel interviews Bruce Hoffman, author of Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle For Israel 1917-1947: Former Downing Street Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell negotiated with the IRA for nearly a decade under Tony Blair’s New Labour Government to bring about the Good Friday Agreement and peace to Northern Ireland. Hoffman cites Powell’s book, “Talking To Terrorists,” three times in his new work.

In conversation a year ago, Powell admitted that powerful Western governments throughout the 20th century — particularly the British — operated with appalling hypocrisy by initially claiming that men like Nelson Mandela, Martin McGuinness, and Menachem Begin were terrorists, then, in the blink of an eye, portraying these men as honorable statesmen and forgetting about past atrocities.

Crucially, Powell admitted, states use the word “terrorist” as a form of insult and to help hold the balance of power when certain dissident actors threaten their legitimacy. And if so-called terrorists are using violence for purposes governments like, well, they tend to skip over that, Powell said.

In recalling this conversation to Hoffman, he nods his head in agreement.

“Look, that is absolutely right,” he says. “Terrorism is resorted to for practical reasons because there is no other tool available. And those who use terrorism, and then subsequently become the targets of terrorism, understand its power and how difficult it is to counter it. Not just militarily. But especially in terms of international perception. And that’s where Begin really was a master strategist.”

Hoffman, like Powell, says he is not championing terrorism. But as a realist, he claims the point of his book is not to get bound up by moral judgments when speaking about the subject.

Given that Israeli politicians fundamentally understand how Jewish terrorism played such an effective role in helping bring about the State of Israel, is it naïve to think they might have more of a sympathetic understanding of why Palestinians currently use terrorism to try to achieve their political objectives?

“Well it’s far more simple than that,” Hoffman replies. “No country that is created where terrorism has played some role wants to admit it, for fear of that weapon being used against them. And that’s what is really at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” [Continue reading…]


We must talk to terrorists to restore their humanity — and ours

By Simon McMahon, Coventry University; Heaven Crawley, Coventry University, and Math Noortman, Coventry University

The twin towers, Madrid, July 7, Charlie Hebdo… the list of terrorist political acts and their victims feels endless. When people are killed and lives threatened for political motivations, demands for immediate reprisals and military counter-measures usually follow suit.

Military force and policing is our default tactic – and talking to terrorists, by contrast, feels counter-intuitive. After all, surely talking to murderers, criminals and fanatics will only legitimise their aims and tactics.

And yet, from Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress to Gerry Adams’ Sinn Fein to Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation, history shows that talking with terrorists has often been a prerequisite for peace.

A recent debate organised by Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations brought together a former terrorist, the daughter of a victim of a terrorist bomb attack and experts on extreme violence to discuss whether we should in fact talk to terrorists.

The resounding conclusion was that there is no choice other than to talk to terrorists to bring their violence to an end. But, for genuine dialogue which addresses root causes as well as violent symptoms we need to shift our own ways of thinking too. We need to talk with those who are defined or labelled as terrorists, not simply to or at them.

[Read more…]