Judging the actions of terrorists
In the most recent issue of the Disorient, a section was included
that listed the number of Israelis killed versus the number of Palestinians
killed in the current intifadah. The section claimed that 1256 Palestinians
had died through the end of March, while 202 Israelis had been killed.
Although the numbers were merely listed and not part of an article, the
intent was clear: to show that Israel is the brutal, oppressive government
and that the Palestinians are victims.
This is a prime example of moral equivalency. The suggestion is that
Israel is at fault because more Palestinians have died in the conflict.
However, such a conclusion ignores the fact that Yasser Arafat and the
Palestinians started the intifadah, not the Israelis.
But numbers don't make a victim. For example, American soldiers killed
more German soldiers in WWII, but I would hardly characterize the as Nazis
More importantly, such a conclusion trivializes the importance of the
conflict. If 3,000 people died in the September 11 attacks, and the U.S.
responded with military action in Afghanistan, does our fight become morally
unjustifiable after the 3,001 Afghani death? U.S. military action was
not an act of revenge; an eye for an eye. It was intended to eliminate
the means of terror, and the numbers dead do not reflect a justification
for the war.
Recently, the White House changed a small but important piece of its
rhetoric. People who strap explosives to their chests and detonate them
in public places will no longer be called suicide bombers, but homicide
bombers. This nomenclature is much more accurate and ends another disturbing
bit of moral equivalency.
Most people probably don't care what you call them, but the distinction
is important to make because words are important. The title of "suicide
bomber" suggests self-destruction and is linked to martyrdom. But
the intent of these bombers is not to take their own lives-that is incidental.
Their goal is to kill as many innocent Jews as they can. They are not
making a demonstration of self-inflicted injury to protest a cause; they
are killing others without giving value to their own lives.
These are not the monks who set themselves on fire to protest the Vietnam
War. To equate those suicides-violent acts of protest affecting only the
monks themselves-to the attacks of Palestinian homicide bombers-where
the objective is to kill others-is ridiculous. Terrorists do not deserve
that level of respect.
And that is what they are: terrorists. They are not "freedom fighters."
To that statement, many will respond, "Who are we to judge whether
or not they're freedom fighters?" This is a rhetorical statement
that implies our position as "no better" and therefore unfit
to cast judgment. "Who are we to judge?" is intended as a conversation-ender
from those who support moral equivalency, the idea that American or Western
culture is no better than any other, and may in fact be worse. In reality,
it is the soft bigotry of low expectations masquerading as respect for
The homicide bombers are terrorists. Who are we to judge this? We are
a liberal democratic society based on freedom of speech, press, religion,
and peaceful assembly. We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness. We are successful economically, politically, and socially.
We accept all people from all countries on Earth, regardless of race,
creed or political belief, so long as they are willing to live here in
The freedom fighter label would be so much easier to believe if they
were fighting on behalf of a nation that would enforce or even endorse
freedom. However, considering that the Palestinians' biggest supporters
are repressive Islamofascist regimes, such a claim is difficult to validate.
Need an example? The BBC and other sources recently reported that the
Mutaween, Saudi Arabia's religious police, beat back schoolgirls who were
trying to escape from a fire in their school because they were not wearing
the head scarves and robes that are required of them in public. Fifteen
Is the United States better than Saudi Arabia? You bet. Who are we to judge? We are a secular democracy with respect for the individual, who would rather allow schoolgirls to live than burn for lack of the proper clothing.