Besides fighting our obvious battles with terrorism, we have to fight on one other front, the battle for public opinion. The terrorists are very clever and their principle weapon against us, other than bombs, is propaganda. That is the one element Arafat has which distinguishes him from other terrorists, he’s got P.R. Arafat is a Bin Laden with P.R. and this works in Europe, North America, and it definitely works in the U.N.
The terrorists always cite a few main ideas in their propaganda speeches. They say, “We’re not the terrorists, you are the terrorists! You’re the guys who are killing civilians; in fact, you are killing more civilians than we are killing. Anyway, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” and so on. We have all heard this type of propaganda.
The first thing we have to do is dispel this deliberate obfuscation. Terrorism is not defined by the identity of its perpetrators, or by its cause, real or imaginary. Terrorism is not defined by what they profess to be their goals; terrorism is defined by one thing alone, by the nature of the act!
Terrorism is the deliberate and systematic attack on civilians. It is not the unintentional harming of civilians that accompanies every war. In 1944 the British air force set out to bomb the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, a perfectly legitimate target. But the British pilots missed, and instead of hitting the Gestapo headquarters, they hit a children’s hospital nearby and 83 children were horribly blown to death. That incident was not called terrorism, but instead was acknowledged to be an unintentional accident.
In contrast, the terrorists we know don’t hit children by accident, they hit them deliberately, again and again and again. They bomb our coffee shops, our hotels, our busses; they put children in their line of fire and purposefully squeeze the trigger. During these acts of terrorism, they kill soldiers too, but essentially aim to kill innocents.
Terrorism is quickly followed by a deliberate attempt by terrorists to hide behind their own civilians, seeking to purchase immunity. Israel has shown much restraint. We have an enormous air force that we do not use, or use only for pinpoint strikes. In fact our reaction is very different from the way Britain and the United States acted in Afghanistan. They first cleared it out; they gave proper warning, and then leveled any civilian area where the terrorists could encamp themselves. In the end they sent in the ground troops, and even then on a limited basis because they did not want to incur casualties within their own ranks.
Israel did not use her air power in order to prevent civilian casualties amongst the opposition. Israel went in, putting our soldiers at risk and some died.
It is important not to fall for the lie that Israel targets civilians. Terrorists hide behind their civilians for immunity. We do however target terrorists for our very survival; unfortunately, on occasion unintended civilian causalities result.
The terrorists also say, “Well, maybe we do attack civilians, but it is because we have no other choice. We’re frustrated by the deprivation of our national or civic freedom. If you want to really fight terrorism, you don’t fight it, but get rid of the root causes of terrorism.” I am sure you have all heard this argument. They say, “To solve terrorism, get rid of the deprivation.” This means, to give into the terrorist demands, all of them, and then terrorism will disappear.
This argument can only be foisted at the beginning of the 21st century, when you have vast numbers of people whose sense of history extends back to breakfast.
In the modern period of the 19th and 20th century there have been endless conflicts for national liberation, for civic freedom and civic equality. If the root cause of terrorism was the deprivation of these freedoms we’d expect to see rampant terrorism in those struggles, but we hardly see any at all. In the 19th century there were many nations who fought for their national liberation. The Poles fought against the Russians, the Greeks against the Turks etc., but they never attacked women and children and defenseless civilians. In the 20th century Gandhi didn’t use terrorism against Britain in his fight for India’s independence. Martin Luther King didn’t use terrorism fighting for civil equality for all Americans. Those two leaders actually preached non-violence.
The people of Eastern Europe didn’t use terrorism or fighting to bring down the Berlin wall. Even the worst occupation in history, the Nazi occupation of Europe never saw the French resistance resort to murderous terrorism. There were plenty of opportunities as the wives and the children of collaborators and even the wives and children of German officers were stationed in occupied France within reach.
Why is it that so many nations didn’t feel the need to use terrorism? The answer is very simple, because they were true democrats (with a small ‘d’). They believed in the democratic ethos which says that every person is born with inalienable rights; that a baby is born with inalienable rights-the first one being the right to life and it doesn’t make a difference if it’s a Jewish baby, an Arab baby or a Tibetan baby. Because of that inalienable human right, they had to curb the way they waged their struggles.
There are limits to the use of power; there are moral laws that govern human action. This is what the democratic mindset stipulates. The mindset of a terrorist is different, those who practice the deliberate slaughter of the innocent, they don’t believe in any rights of men. They believe something entirely and diametrically opposite. They believe in a higher cause so totally, that it allows them to forgo conventional morality. It could be a racial cause, or an ethnic cause, or a political cause, it doesn’t make any difference, the cause is so total that it calls you to brainwash your disciples so that they abandon conventional morality, crush humanity to the ground and blow up a bus full of babies if necessary.
This behavior is called totalitarianism, the root cause of terrorism. In modern times, from the day that Baqunin put this theory on paper, it was taken up by Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, the Ayatollahs, the Taliban in Afghanistan and eventually Arafat in Arafatistan. It’s all the same idea, the cause changes, but the system is the same. Totalitarianism involves the complete obliteration of morality for the sake of a twisted cause. This is the root cause of terrorism.
In the thousands of acts of the Jewish underground forces, maybe two incidents could be construed as terrorism under our definition. There’s a famous telegram in which Jabotinsky, the ideological father of the Irgun, cables from London: He said, “I understand there was an action in which two women and two children were killed. Is it true? If it is true, was it deliberate or accidental? If it was deliberate, immediately put those responsible on trial.” Can you imagine Arafat sending a telegram like that?
Begin used to call the British military authorities and tell them to take civilians off the trains because they would be blown up. Could you imagine Arafat doing that?
Arafat glorifies these killers, he lionizes them, he says they’re heroes. He names public squares in their honor. He has suicide kindergarten camps that teach three-year-old children to become human bombs.
These terrorists are not the products of oppression; they are in fact the carriers of this oppression. We can clearly see what happens when those who practice terrorism do come to power. They do not establish democracies, but instead establish dark, dank, corrupt dictatorships and use terror against their own people as well as against their enemies.
Terrorism is the carrier of oppression, it is not the result of oppression, and it is certainly not the result of any oppression we have done, because we have done nothing. They are changing the facts of past history. Arab propaganda uses the oldest technique in the book. Called the reversal of causality, the Arabs substitute the results of their aggression for its causes. They say that they’re attacking us because of the settlements-fine, except that there wasn’t a single Israeli settlement in Judea, Samaria or Gaza in 1967 when they first attacked us. That was how we got into those territories in the first place; our being there in recent times is a result of Arab aggression, not the cause of their aggression. As people believe them, this version takes on a ‘facade of truth.’ Similarly, between 1948 and 1967 when you asked the Arabs why they were attacking Israel, they said, “It is because of our refugees.” But there wasn’t a single Arab refugee in the Middle East in 1948 when the Arabs attacked the embryonic Jewish state.
More recently, only two years ago, when an Israeli Prime Minister offered (scandalously to my mind) unbelievable concessions-willingness to dismantle all of the West Bank and Gaza, all of Judea and Samaria thus uprooting dozens of settlements-Arafat just rejected it. It reminds me of Oliver Twist, but he didn’t even say, “Please sir, I want some more.” He said “More! More! Akko, Haifa, Ramla, Lod.” Because the ideological banner that Arafat has for his particular kind of totalitarianism, is not a State next to Israel but a State instead of Israel. He preaches to his own people the doctrine of destruction of Israel using the technique of suicide and mass murder.
What can we do against this endless vilification and distortion of the truth? We can only uphold the truth, the facts of recent and ancient history, the facts of today and yesterday. These are the only weapons we have against this vilification.
When I came to serve as Israel’s ambassador in the U.N. I was asked by a former soldier of mine to come and visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Simchas Torah. During that conversation, the Rebbe said, “When you go into that house of lies (that’s what he called the United Nations) remember that in the darkest hall, if you light one candle it will shed a light that will be seen by all from a great distance. What you must do is light a candle of truth against all those lies.” And that’s exactly what I have tried to do ever since.
I think each one of us has the opportunity in our daily lives to dispel myth and distortion, either in a letter to the editor, in conversations we have with our children, or in a phone call. Possibly the worst and most pernicious affect of Arab propaganda is its affect on our own people. So become educated with the facts and then stand up for the truth.
Light a candle for truth.