Terrorism

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 1299
  • Published : March 31, 2013
Open Document
Text Preview
The word terrorism seems as though it would be easy to define. It is a word nearly everyone is familiar with, and yet it is difficult to grasp a clear definition of what the term entails. Terrorism, as used in today’s media covers a wide range of violent acts. It can be synonymous with violence, radicalism and extremism, but this was not always true. The meaning of the term has changed multiple times throughout history. This is one of the reasons it is difficult to have a firm definition of ‘terrorism’. What was once understood as terrorism may not still be so, and with many definitions circulating it is understandable that different groups would choose to apply different descriptions today. The word terrorism is often mixed with other political and military jargon tossed around by the media. The west is often quick to label groups as terrorist, without taking into account the background of the struggle. In contrast; “many non-Western nations have proved reluctant to condemn as terrorist acts what they consider to be struggles of national liberation” (North Atlantic Assembly Papers 34). There is a divide over what should be classified as terrorism. Hamas is a Palestinian national liberation movement that struggles for “the liberation of the Palestinian occupied territories and for the recognition of the legitimate rights of Palestinians.” (Hroub 17). Hamas developed out of Palestinian anger against the Israeli occupation. They have employed acts of terrorism in an attempt to drive the Israeli influence from Palestine, most notably in the use of suicide bombings targeted against civilians. But Hamas is more than just a terrorist organization; in 2006 they achieved “a landslide victory in the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council” (Hroub vii). A consideration of historical perspectives of terrorism and its actions, all justifiable to its perpetrators, as well as an analysis of modern international perspectives demonstrate the challenge in defining terrorism One reason terrorism is so difficult to define is because the meaning of the word has changed so often throughout history. There have been countless definitions provided, each attempting the describe “terrorism”. It is a word that is all too common, yet few can produce an explanatory definition. Originally, “terrorism” was a term linked with the ideals of virtue and democracy. During the French Revolution, the régime de la terreur of 1793-94 was an instrument of governance designed to intimidate and dissuade counter-revolutionaries (Hoffman 15). The revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre believed that terror was necessary in times of revolution to introduce democracy; “virtue, without which terror is evil; terror, without which virtue is helpless. Terror is nothing but justice, prompt, severe and inflexible; it is therefore an emancipation of virtue.” (Palmer 126). He believes that while the purpose of these acts is to instill fear, and that they could be classified as “terrorism”, but the term does not carry the negative connotation that it does today. Like modern terrorism, the desired outcome of the actions is the justification of those actions. In July 1794, Robespierre and his followers were executed and the régime de la terreur ended. “Thereafter terrorism became a term associated with the abuse of office and power – with overt ‘criminal’ implications.” (Laqueur 11). Up until this point, the point of view of the revolutionaries had been that the use of terror could be seen as a completely justified method for maintaining order, if the goal was virtuous. But with the revolutionaries gone, it was seen that those who used terror as a method of swaying people were little more than criminals. The French Revolution succeeded in spreading throughout Europe feelings of dissatisfaction with monarchy. In 1857 Carlo Piscapane revolted against Bourbon rule. His rebellion failed but he was remembered for his theory of spreading ideas through actions; “The...
tracking img