Why terror thrives

Is it beyond our capacity to define attacks against civilians as a crime against humanity?

turkey terror 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
turkey terror 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Someone set out to kill a lot of people on Sunday night in Istanbul, Turkey - and did. Two bombs were exploded, 10 minutes apart, along a pedestrian mall in a residential neighborhood. The first explosion attracted a crowd; the second, which could be heard a mile away, was intended to kill those drawn to the site of the first attack. Some 17 people lost their lives and over 150 were wounded. Turkish president Abdullah Gul said the attack showed "the ruthlessness of terrorism." Indeed it did. Terrorism, meaning the systematic use of force against civilians to demoralize, intimidate or subjugate countries or peoples, has been a scourge of humanity from time immemorial. The assault against an El Al plane at Munich Airport on February 10, 1970 was not the first instance of a civilian airliner being targeted. That appalling distinction goes to a Puerto Rican communist who hijacked a US airliner to Havana in 1961. Cuba gave him asylum. It was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, however, that trailblazed attacks on airliners with its September 7, 1970 hijacking of three planes "to call special attention to the Palestinian problem." Sure enough, the Palestinian cause has since became synonymous with anti-civilian warfare, from the Munich Olympics' massacre in September 1972 to the Arab fratricide inside Gaza this weekend. And the slaughter of innocents is now part of the Islamists' struggle against "infidels." What the Palestinians began in the early 1970s is now paying "dividends." This past weekend, for instance, Muslim attackers killed 49 Hindu civilians in western India, in 17 separate attacks. The modus operandi, as in Turkey, was a small explosion followed by more bombs set off to kill rescue service personnel and bystanders. Yesterday, at least 25 Shi'ite pilgrims were killed and 52 wounded when female suicide bombers (presumably Sunni Arabs) attacked a religious procession in Baghdad. Terrorism is now so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. And always, obscenely, the onslaughts are carried out "in the name of Allah." TRAGICALLY, the international community has only itself to blame for making terrorism permissible as a tool of war - depending on who is blown up, and who is doing the blowing up. This distinction was first articulated by the world's most coddled terrorist, Yasser Arafat, on November 13, 1974, when the PLO chief made his debut appearance at the UN General Assembly: "The difference between the revolutionary and the terrorist lies in the reason for which each fights," he asserted. "Whoever stands by a just cause and fights for liberation from invaders and colonialists cannot be called terrorist... The Palestinian people had to resort to armed struggle when they lost faith in the international community...." The family of nations responded with a standing ovation. Although Arafat would make a number of tactical flip-flops on the use of violence against innocent civilians, he ultimately rejected gains he could have made at the negotiating table - at Camp David in 2000, for instance - in favor of unleashing the second intifada. One can only fantasize about how much safer the world would be today had the UN, instead of legitimizing Arafat's terrorism, charged him with war crimes. Would disgruntled Muslims have established al-Qaida's global network - or Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, Al Shabaab in Somalia, or the Army of Muhammad in India - had the international community sent a different signal all those years ago? But not only did Arafat get a green light from the international community, the world has since helped nourish self-defeating Palestinian tendencies toward violence, intransigence and radicalism. Seldom have the Palestinians been told to choose between violence and political accommodation. When the Quartet gave Hamas precisely that choice, the Palestinians stood their ground. Far from penalizing them, the world went wobbly - the most recent example of this being a UK parliamentary committee, headed by Labor MP Ann Clwyd, which wants to "dialogue" with Hamas and lift sanctions against Gaza's Islamo-fascist regime. VIOLENCE may be endemic to mankind, yet the community of nations nevertheless managed to outlaw poison gas and criminalize genocide. Is it beyond people's capacity to, belatedly, define deliberate attacks against civilians as a crime against humanity? Wouldn't the world be a better place if terrorists found no sanctuary, no financial backing and no diplomatic cover - because, simply, no "reason" justified their actions?