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October 03, 2008

'It’s terrorism, not war,' judge tells PLO

U.S. District Judge George Daniels reaffirmed that terrorism is one thing, acts of war another. In doing so, he rejected a claim by the Palestinian Liberation Organization that attacking civilians was legitimate “military” activity.

According to an Associated Press report (“NY judge: PLO can’t disguise terror as war,” washingtonpost.com, Sept. 30, 2008), Daniels ruled that a 2004 lawsuit seeking up to $3 billion on behalf of victims and their families can go to trial. The judge “rejected the PLO’s argument that two machine-gun attacks and five bombings” in Israel between January 2001 and February 2004 were not terrorism but acts of war. The Jerusalem-area assaults “killed 33 people and wounded hundreds, including scores of U.S. citizens,” AP reported.

Daniels stressed that the definition of terrorism, a crime under international law, encompassed attacks targeting “public places — not military or government personnel or interests.” He noted that the PLO’s use of bombs on city streets, at a crowded bus stop, in a passenger-filled civilian bus and a cafeteria at Hebrew University were intended “to cause far-reaching devastation upon the masses,” revealing a “merciless capability of indiscriminately killing and maiming untold numbers in heavily populated civilians areas.”

Rejecting the Palestinian claim, the judge asserted that such actions “upon non-combative civilians, who were allegedly simply going about their everyday lives, do not constitute acts of war.” Rather, they meet the legal definition of “international terrorism.”

The suit, AP reported, was brought under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991, “which provides U.S. residents, their survivors and heirs civil remedies in U.S. courts if they are injured by international terrorism.” Judge Daniels also rejected the PLO claim it was entitled to sovereign immunity as if it were a national entity.

The court’s legal clarity should help reinforce the journalistic principle of describing actors and actions by their proper names. Terrorists are not soldiers, and terrorism is neither warfare nor legitimate “resistance.” It’s a violent crime. And terrorist are not to be camouflaged or excused by their self-descriptions or apologias — militants, fighters, martyrs and so on — but accurately labeled as criminals. That the AP dispatch appeared on washingtonpost.com may be ironic, The Post commonly avoiding both the legal and journalistic definition of terrorism in reporting such acts by Arabs against Israelis, but it is regardless a valuable reminder. -- RS

Posted by ER at October 3, 2008 03:55 PM

Comments

Great piece of writing! Especially, "The court’s legal clarity should help reinforce the journalistic principle of describing actors and actions by their proper names."

Posted by: Andy at October 3, 2008 11:41 PM

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