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Defining and Defeating Terror

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Noah Weinberg

The founder of Aish HaTorah lays out a 3-point plan to restore sanity and defeat the evil scourge.

There is worldwide consensus on the need to fight terrorism. To succeed in defeating the terrorist threat, we need a three-pronged approach:

First, we need a clear and unambiguous definition of "who is a terrorist." Otherwise, we're stuck with saying that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

Second, we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to fighting evil.

And finally, we must take proper action.

Defining Terror

Objective definitions are the basis for all rational, intelligent thinking.

What if I ask, "Are you a bafoostik?"

You'll say, "What's that?"

"Just tell me, are you or aren't you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Nobody cares much about being called a bafoostik. But before bringing out the tanks and missiles, we must first define "who is a terrorist." And apparently, the definition is not so clear.

At the same time that the U.S. hunts down Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, the State Department demands that Israel cease its targeted killing of Palestinians who mastermind near-daily terror attacks.

And last week, as world leaders offered condolences on the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi, the Danish Foreign Minister said there is no difference between the assassination of this democratically elected leader, and Israel's targeted killing of suicide bombers and their sponsors.

Syria, the sponsor of Hizbullah and countless other terror groups, is now honored with a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Confusing rhetoric abounds in the media as well. BBC policy permits the use of "terrorist" primarily when an attack occurs on British soil. Reuters' 2500 journalists are instructed to never describe an attack as "terror." And last week, a guest on CNN's "Larry King Live" explained that Bin Laden's men are "terrorists," whereas Palestinian suicide bombers "are martyrs who give themselves for a cause."

So once and for all, let's get a clear definition of terrorism.

"Terrorism is to purposefully harm innocent civilians, for the purpose of terrorizing them to accept your demands."

This helps clarify why George Washington was a legitimate "freedom fighter." He did not urge the massacre of British civilians or depict Great Britain as a fascist horror that God wants to destroy. Nor did he destroy British places of worship or publish maps showing a Europe wiped clean of England.

No true freedom fighter will harm innocent people, no matter how desperate the situation.

The difference is clear. No freedom fighter will take hostages or harm innocent people in order to achieve his freedom, no matter how desperate the situation. One cannot do evil to achieve good.

By their own definition, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, PFLP and Arafat's Tanzim are terrorists. They proclaim from the mosques and rooftops their wish to kill every Jewish man, woman and child – with drive-by shootings, lynching, and suicide bombings.

Israel is hunting down these Arab terrorists, who are actively engaged in planning and executing additional terror against Jewish civilians. Imagine the audacity of those who try to make the victims of terrorism into the terrorists themselves.

When it comes to terrorism, we must have a clear definition, take a firm stand, and work to educate others.

Opposing Evil

The next step is to recognize that absolute evil exists, and it must be fought.

This is a difficult task for a multicultural and free society that is encumbered with a broad definition of "tolerance." The media, universities and politically correct pundits declare that everyone is right and there are no absolutes.

Actually, this is a distorted definition of tolerance. Tolerance means a commitment to working out disagreements through mutual understanding and discussion, not violence.

So let us be clear: To murder innocent people is evil – absolutely. To terrorize is evil – absolutely. This is true whether the perpetrator is white, black or yellow, Christian, Jew or Moslem.

Would the pacifists prefer that we all live in a conquered world, living under the Talbian laws or those of Osama bin Laden?

We cannot fight evil if there is no evil. Evil must be called evil – throughout the media, government and in public discourse.

And in order to defeat evil, we have to be dedicated to "good," as fiercely as our enemies are dedicated to "evil."

Take Action

In 1861, with civil war raging, Abraham Lincoln united Americans in a day of prayer. And now, President Bush has issued a call to pray for the safety of our soldiers.

We all yearn to see evil defeated. So we turn to our loving Father and ask Him to guide us in the proper course of action, and to oversee its success. Surely our God has the power to get this done.

Action must go hand-in-hand with prayer. Action shows that your prayer is serious.

In our individual lives, when faced with a crisis of health, wealth, success or aggravation, at the same time that we pray, we act. Nobody would dream of asking God for a good job and then sitting down to wait for a knock on the door. You'd scour through the classified ads and make a real effort.

In the current crisis, what action shall we take? How can we begin to make a difference?

Spread clarity. Educate others about the true definition: A terrorist is anyone who purposely harms innocent civilians.

The next step is to write letters in support of all politicians and reporters who speak this truth. At the same time, we must oppose those who favor appeasement and legitimize terror.

Finally, we have to close ranks. The entire civilized world has to be completely united in this struggle for survival.

But around what will we unite?

A profound tool for unity is the concept of monotheism. Any human who believes in a loving, all-powerful God – the basis of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – also believes in a God Who wants mankind to live in peace and brotherhood.

At this decisive time in world history – as the forces of evil try to divide and terrorize us into submission – each of us should turn to the Universal God, Creator of us all. We ask for the courage, wisdom and dedication to enable us to win this struggle against the evil scourge of terrorism.

Together with wise action, we will surely succeed in bringing peace to the planet, and in seeing humanity fulfill its ultimate purpose.

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