September 26, 2003

Middle East Activist Gallery

Reuters and AFP news services refer to Palestinian Hamas members as "activists." (See here and here.) Let's take a look at these "activists" and compare them with Israeli activists.


Palestinian Activist Photo Gallery


Israeli Activist Photo Gallery





Advice to Reuters and AFP: Knock it off.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 26, 2003 12:58 AM
Comments

Good point.

Posted by: Pug at September 26, 2003 05:53 AM

Maybe Palastine has a much colder climate?

Posted by: RDB at September 26, 2003 06:10 AM

If the Palestinians have so many guns, and every picture of every rally is chock-a-block full of them, why is it that the only way they can kill people is to blow themselves up? You'd think these "armies" would be fighting the Israelis.

Posted by: Brandon at September 26, 2003 09:15 AM

Er, my understanding is that there are armed and unarmed wings of Hamas -- that some folks are crazies with AK-47s, and some folks are charity workers and politicians who aren't entirely sure of which way one points the things.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 26, 2003 10:58 AM

Kimmit, I assuming you're joking... I have been to Ramallah and to Jenin and Hebron and Nablus. I can promise you absolutely everyone knows what Hamas is about--in ALL its guises.

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at September 26, 2003 11:21 AM

Kimmitt,

Reuters calls gun-wielding terrorists "activists." I am not referring to "charity workers." And neither is Reuters.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 26, 2003 11:28 AM

Kimmitt--
Are you suggesting by your response that the "armed" forces ('crazies') of Hamas are using their guns, e.g., to shoot enemies, while the "charitable" wing uses methods that don't require AK-47s?

Posted by: Alene Berk at September 26, 2003 11:28 AM

Hey, at least that second guy has his finger off the friggin trigger.

Posted by: Doc at September 26, 2003 11:49 AM

I am appalled. I don't read Hebrew, but I'm sure those Hebrew signs read "Death To Palestinians."

The Israel "activists" are running around with torches (obviously about to burn Palestinian villages to the ground and steal their land), defacing a peace sign, holding up wooden stakes to do an Abner Louima on somebody...

Posted by: Oberon at September 26, 2003 01:04 PM

Er . . . okay.

Back to the question at hand: I think I agree that "activist" is poor phrasing. The militant wing of Hamas is organized as a paramilitary organization, so "officers" and "members" are probably better words.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 26, 2003 01:33 PM

Kimmitt,

Are you also incapable of using the word "terrorist"? I haven't made that assumption before, and I'm not accusing you of having this problem now. Just asking for a clarification. I am surprised to see you put an ax-wielding maniac in a ski mask in the category of "officer" rather than "activist."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 26, 2003 01:36 PM

How about "An Officer and a Gentleman"? (ducking)

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at September 26, 2003 02:18 PM

Now I get it. The warlike Hamas 'activists' are protesting the pacifist policies of Arafat's government, while the pacifist Israeli 'activists' are protesting the warlike policies of Sharon's government. That's the ticket. Right, Kimmitt?

Posted by: Joel at September 26, 2003 03:10 PM

How could this possibly be so confusing?

Kimmitt - the guys with ski masks and AK-47s who like to murder children? They're the terrorists. Focusing on their position within Hamas, IJ, etc., is as relevant as catagorizing them based on the patterns of their bandanas.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 26, 2003 03:14 PM

OBL is an officer, but not a gentleman. The distinction is crucial.

Posted by: d-rod at September 26, 2003 03:19 PM

For example, this is what your "officers" and "members" are up to.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 26, 2003 03:19 PM

Honestly? Yes. The word "terrorist" has become so debased and emotionally laden that I'd have a hell of a time using it in a news article.

In addition, "officer" gives a much better sense of what the guy actually does in the organization than "terrorist," as, well, most of the military wing of Hamas could be described as "terrorists," so we don't get a lot of information.

It's the selective application that bothers me; if terrorists are non-state actors who seek to use fear caused by violence to influence policy, Israeli settlers who participate in reprisal raids on the Palestinians are terrorists; Eric Ruldoph is a terrorist; the Taliban were not terrorists (as they were essentially state actors), et cetera.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 26, 2003 06:19 PM

if terrorists are non-state actors who seek to use fear caused by violence to influence policy, Israeli settlers who participate in reprisal raids on the Palestinians are terrorists; Eric Ruldoph is a terrorist; the Taliban were not terrorists (as they were essentially state actors), et cetera.

Yes, roughly (I might quibble with the "to influence policy" part, but we're talking actions, not intentions). What's so hard about that?

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 26, 2003 06:29 PM

...because the term, as currently used, has no denotation, only connotations.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 26, 2003 06:59 PM

Christopher Hitchens wisely notes that terrorism has changed over time. His defines modern Al Qaeda style terrorism as demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.

The same can apply to Hamas, since their stated goal is to destroy Israel and put the Jews to the sword.

They are terrorists, Kimmitt. There is no need to flinch at the word.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 26, 2003 10:21 PM

What's wrong with this?

Main Entry: ter·ror·ism
Pronunciation: 'ter-&r-"i-z&m
Function: noun
Date: 1795
: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion
- ter·ror·ist /-&r-ist/ adjective or noun
- ter·ror·is·tic /"ter-&r-'is-tik/ adjective

That sounds like exactly what we're talking about. It denotes. That connotations occur is inescapable, as with any other important concept.

Anybody who participates in this kind of behavior is a terrorist. It doesn't matter if they're Palestinian, Israeli, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, White Supremacist, Black Nationalist, Timorese, Javanese, Leftist, Rightist, Centrist, whatever. If you deliberately inflict death, pain and suffering on noncombatant populations--whether the reason is to acheive a goal that's political, nationalist or religious--you're a terrorist.

This concept is not related to an individual's position within an org chart. It is a description of their actions. I don't care what the guy does within the organization; I care what the guy does to innocent men, women and children.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 26, 2003 10:26 PM

Because that's not how it's used -- if it were, we'd be calling the Russians terrorists for how they act in Chechn'ya; the Indians for their Kashmiri atrocities; Eric Rudolph for his assassinations; and so on and so on.

As it currently stands, "terrorist" means "someone who does something violent that the current Administration does not like -- probably Muslim." That's not the kind of sloppy language and thinking which gives the public the tools they need to understand what the hell is going on in the Middle East.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 27, 2003 12:35 AM

Kimmitt: As it currently stands, "terrorist" means "someone who does something violent that the current Administration does not like -- probably Muslim."

Who has defined terrorism in this way?

And are you still unwilling to say that genocidal, axe-wielding, suicide-bombing, theocratic fanatics are not terrorists? Or have you simply chosen to dodge this word to make some kind of anti-Republican point?

This sort of thing should not be partisan.

Come on. Just say Hamas is terrorist and I'll lay off. And please say it without stinging a "but" along afterward.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 27, 2003 12:56 AM

I still have issues with a two-party Hamas, one side political, one side terrorist. If you support people who target civilians you are a terrorist. Why are we allowing Hamas to define itself as two parts, one not responsible for the other.

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at September 27, 2003 05:13 AM

It depends on what the definition of 'is' is.

Way to play semantics Kimmitt. Clinton would be proud. It's pretty sad you can't even call terrorists 'terrorists'.

Posted by: Court at September 27, 2003 06:27 AM

By definition, a non-regular striking civilian targets is a terrorist. A state army doing so is not terrorism, by defintion, but is quite terrifying... When people call military action "state-sponsored terrorism," it makes my teeth hurt.

The media is misusing these phrases more often than not. Right-wing media calls the individuals planting bombs to attack U.S. military targets in Iraq "terrorist." That is, in fact, false. One can call them "militants" or even "guerillas" at that point.

We were discussing this very issue on my weblog (inspired by Mister Totten some weeks ago) and one of my frequent posters came up with this definition that I found quite nice:

You can graduate to militant when you've worked up the infrastructure (and balls) to attack military targets.

It really is a clear definition of what makes a terrorist, and it is a precise term of military science.

And on a totally unrelated note to Mister Totten: what's your opinion of the Goose Hollow neighborhood? I'm looking at a house there. You can respond to that offline, if you wish to respond at all.

Posted by: scotty the body at September 27, 2003 06:53 AM

Actually, OT though it be I'd like to hear that response as well. The missus and me have been considering a move up to the cloudy northwest, specifically PDX, and any firsthand perspectives and accounts are always interesting to me.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 27, 2003 08:48 AM

Again, if the media consistently used the term which I've laid out (and scotty has backed up), I'd be cool with it.

Hamas is most certainly a terrorist organization. However, the word has become debased enough in common usage that I do not believe it to be a useful one for news articles.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 27, 2003 08:51 AM

Terrorism is the deliberate targeting of civilians.

The 9/11 atack on the pentagon as a specific target was not terrorism.

Posted by: d-rod at September 27, 2003 09:34 AM

"Terrorism is the deliberate targeting of civilians."

"The 9/11 atack on the pentagon as a specific target was not terrorism."

I'm going to claim common cultural bonds with the pilot, crew and passengers of Flight 77 so as to give me the justification of taking the liberty of telling you, in their name, to kindly go to Hell. There's a reason why the terrorists used civilian airplanes for their attacks, and it wasn't just because they were easiest to get to. That was the other half of the message: that they could strike any of us, at any time. That not only our buildings and institutions weren't safe. That we were helpless pawns, suitable only for our screams as some sort of demented soundtrack for their twisted narrative.

Fortunately - very fortunately - the passengers of Flight 93 were able to provide an appropriate rebuttal to these lies, on extremely short notice.

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 27, 2003 10:26 AM

I don't doubt the terror in the plane, or the overall purpose of the terrorists. I'm talking about the target (the pentagon is a major military target) in this case, Moe.

Posted by: d-rod at September 27, 2003 10:36 AM

Scotty,

Goose Hollow is a great neighborhood. I used to live there, and my brother lives there now. It's really nice to be able to walk downtown, yet it's also quiet.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 27, 2003 10:39 AM

One further distinction between state and non-state actors. At least in theory, states can be held responsible, in a broad range of ways, from revolution to withdrawing ambassadors to invasion. Admittedly, WRT effectiveness, the mileage may vary. Non-state actors are inherently not responsible; there's no 'there' there.

Posted by: Alene Berk at September 27, 2003 12:12 PM

"I'm talking about the target (the pentagon is a major military target) in this case, Moe."

I'll withdraw the 'go to hell' comment, with sincere apologies: it was uncalled for. However, I can't agree that the attack on the Pentagon can or should be separated out as a non-terrorist act, both in this specific case (there were too many elements explicitly involving civilians woven in, from the stuff I mentioned before to even the effect it had on the local civilian environment*) and as a general example (it sticks in my craw to treat this, or the Cole attack, or the Beiruit Marine Barracks attack - or just about any other incident that you might care to name - in any way that would even suggest that the perpetrators of them had some sort of legitimacy, or even the right not to be shot on sight as a result of them).

No excuse to be rude about it, though: again, my apologies.

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 27, 2003 12:13 PM

d-rod: The 9/11 atack on the pentagon as a specific target was not terrorism.

Good Lord. Even if the Pentagon itself was a military target, the civilian airplane that crashed into was not.

Get a grip! What the hell is the problem with the left anyway? I just can't believe the shit I read these days, I really can't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 27, 2003 01:07 PM

I didn't intend to lend any "legitimacy" to the pentagon aspect of 9/11 or any other attack against the U.S. military. The attack on the pentagon was certainly a declaration of war.

My earlier comment concerning the "distinction" between officers and gentleman was, of course, meant as sarcasm. I think it is fair for Israel to target Hamas and other terrorist organizations from top to bottom, which will unfortunately involve some civilian casualties. We wouldn't let OBL off the hook because he is an "officer" of the political wing of al Qaeda, would we?

Out for now, I'll check back in tomorrow.

Posted by: d-rod at September 27, 2003 01:20 PM

Parsing the Geneva Conventions, protected persons, terrorism definitions- may be impossible in present circumstances. The old models don't really fit, because they were largely constructed to constrain states. The US was not at war with anyone when the Cole and the pentagon were attacked. An unaccountable amorphous ideologically tied collection of people declared war on us; we responded in self-defense.

But we haven't yet found a generally accepted satisfactory legitimizing descriptor for the relationship between this enemy and ourselves. Some feel bound by the old paradigm; some think we need a different one.

I think the attacks on the Cole and the pentagon were terrorist attacks, even though the targets were, in the technical sense, military. That view fits the new reality, as does Gitmo.

Guess I'm just a protofascist ;-)

Posted by: Alene Berk at September 27, 2003 01:48 PM

d-rod,

Okay.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 27, 2003 02:55 PM

Thank you so much Michael !

This is a fantastic illustration of the truth. Activists don't arm themselves and commit to war.

If Hamas members are activists, I guess you have two kinds of activists then.

  • War activists
  • Peace activists
Posted by: Jono at September 28, 2003 07:36 PM

I see those big Hamas rallies, and I wonder how Israel restrains itself from breaking out the cluster bombs.

Posted by: R C Dean at September 29, 2003 04:36 AM

Oberon - Well, I read Hebrew and those signs say nothing of the sort.. it's this type of provocative assumption that has no basis in reality which inflames a bad situation even further... in fact, you are looking at a youth group participating in a peace rally...

Posted by: Peggy at September 30, 2003 09:31 PM

As a moderate to Righty, I have to say that indeed Eric Rudolph is a terrorist.

I say it, and I doubt anyone could argue with it. Heck, show me someone who doesn't think Rudolph is a terrorist and I will show you a fanatic. Something Kimmett should recognize as a fellow Fanatic.

Posted by: James Stephenson at October 1, 2003 08:11 AM

why you dont show the pictures of camp jenin who were eraized by israel or the 300 palestinian children who where merdred(soory my english writing is bad)

Posted by: john at October 3, 2003 03:02 AM

john:"why you dont show the pictures of camp jenin who were eraized by israel or the 300 palestinian children who where merdred(soory my english writing is bad)"

Why don't YOU show us the pictures? Obviously you have seen them, right? Just get them and show us.

I notice how you don't bother disputing the Palestinians are terrorists. You're just pointing fingers like a child, "Yeah, but look what Billy did!" It doesn't take the blame off you, it makes it clear you need to be punished to learn that what you did is wrong, regardless of what other people do. Where I come from, it is wrong and illegal to steal, even if that person stole from you once before. That is a concept I don't expect you to understand.

Both the Palestinians and the Israelis are acting like children. Both are so selfish and exclusionary that they are killing each other over land and water that would be much more valuable if there wasn't a war going on. How stupid. Perhaps both sides deserve their fate, for refusing to act like adults.

The Israelis are certainly behaving badly, trying to address terrorism with military force, instead of addressing the underlying causes that lead to suicide bombers. Meanwhile, the Palestinian approach to problem solving is equally poor. If you have a problem with a government treating you like crap, you certainly won't win by convincing said government that you are a sworn enemy with no morality. Who really thinks suicide bombers will eventually bring happiness to the Palestinian people? Nobody who has ever studied history. That tactic DOESN'T work. The only way for the Palestinians to reclaim their land is if they do it with Israelis as their neighbor. And the only way for Israelis to be safe from Palestinian suicide bombers is to convince the Palestinian people that there is hope for a better life. Why not become a suicide bomber against the oppressive regime, when the alternative is to live your days in grinding poverty and oppression? When living becomes a far better option than dying, the terrorist thugs will lose their power.

Sorry, but I seriously doubt either side will ever change. Each day this conflict goes on, the harder it will be for these people to ever forgive each other. See the English and Northern Ireland. I say, if it hasn't worked in 25 years, it isn't going to, and there may no longer be a way to fix it.

Posted by: Henry at October 7, 2003 10:10 AM



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