SFDebate : Listen, Speak, Discuss, Understand


This House would Classify Israel as a Terrorist State

This was our most intense debate yet. In the weeks leading up to the debate, even the title aroused passions and consternation. Several people found the title distastful These were some responses from some potential attendees :

I want to draw a distinction between provocative debate topics and personal attacks(person or state): the former is to be cherished, the latter to be avoided. It really isn't right, at any level, to make broad attacks on individuals or on individual states. - L
The title assumes that Israel's actions are on the level of terrorism and the question they ask is should that make it a terrorist state...the argument is not about policy, but about the legitmacy of Israel. - J

So, how did it turn out?

We had 14 people at the meeting, including 3 palestinians, and one lebanese. - Unfortunatly, despite our efforts to reach out to the Jewish community, through AIPAC, the Israeli consulate, JCC, and SFHillel, no Israelis joined this debate. This was a shame. At the outset, 10 people were in favor of the motion, 1 was undecided, 2 were against.

George and Jon kicked off the debate with two great opening speeches. The meat of the group discussion centered around the definition of "What is a Terrorist State." I've tried to summarize our discussion....

Is Israel a State?
Yes : Two members of the group argued that Israel was not even a state. Jon countered that regardless of it's creation or borders, the reality was that Israel was generally accepted as a state by most of the world. Group mostly concurred. Israel is a state.
Is there such thing as a terrorist state?
Is a terrorist state an oxymoron? Does statehood exempt a government from being labelled as terrorists? James : If Israel was not a state with a seat in the UN, would it's actions make it a terrorist organization? Keli observed : when states carry out terrorism, is it not just renamed as war? James countered : Who is Israel at war with? There are rules for war.
So, then, what is a terrorist (state)?
The group worked long and hard to come up with a definition of a terrorism... whether by an individual, collective, political organization, or state. Here goes...
Terrorism : Ongoing policies or pre-meditated actions to terrorize psychologically or physically civilians for political gain.
Eduardo : It's unfair to single Israel out as a terrorist state
Most of the group agreed and went further. Other states do qualify as terrorist states. Sudan in regards to it's support of the genocide in Darfur. Russia could possibly be accused of state terrorism in Chechnya. US expansion into the west during the 1800's could be classed as state terrorism. Eduardo pointed out that if we go that route, every state is a terrorist. Alex countered that we had identified only a handful. Few people would classify Switzerland as a terrorist state
Is a 'state sponsor of terrorism' the same as a terrorist state?
Yes. The Khartoum (Sudan) governments support of Janjaweed terrorism in the Darfur region would make them a terrorist state. Conciously funding groups to practice terrorism was the same as being a terrorist. [Hence, Is Iran a terrorist state? If Israel a terrorist state, does that make the US guilty by association - Ed]
Does Israel have a right to defend itself?
Issa : What does it have to defend? Stolen land? Stolen water? Why do they need F16's to bomb civilians? Who are they at war with? George contrasted Israeli reactions to terrorism to that of Spain and the UK with ETA & IRA
What point is there in labelling Israel as a "terrorist state"?
James : We are at war on terrorism. The US & Israel currently refuse to recognize Hamas, because we define them as terrorists. If we are at war on terrorism, it is only reasonable to assess whether claims that Israel is also a terrorist state bear any truth. "This house believes Israel is evil, beautiful, or has a right to exist," would all have been valid debates, but terrorism is a cornerstone of US foreign policy, and it's definition and application deserves to be clarified and applied to our friends as well as our enemies.
Does a country founded by terrorists make it one?
It was argued that because Israel grew out of terrorist organizations such as Lehi and Irgun, that Israel is a terrorist state. No. The US could not be considered a terrorist state because it was started by what the British would have referred to as 'terrorists.' Nelson Mandela & the IRA were other examples of former terrorist organizations that are now part of legitimate governments. Being labelled as a terrorist requires one to be actively engaged in 'ongoing' acts of terrorism.
So, Is Israel a Terrorist (state)?
Jon defended Israel. All governments can be exclusionary : He cited, the Chinese against the Uighurs; South African apartheid; Sudan; Serbia. That dosen't make them terrorists. Israel was facing legitimate security issues, and they were doing their best to handle them. Israel does not have a policy of wantingly killing innocents.
George summed up for the motion. He laid out the outstanding UN resolutions. He listed the huge numbers of civilians killed by Israeli forces. He listed the injustices of the palestinian people, and the hardships that they currently lived through. He highlighted that Israel was actively expanding settlements in the West Bank despite its obligations in the Oslo accords, resolution 242 and the 4th Geneva convention. In short, Israel was actively involved in ongoing policies designed to terrorize the palestinian people through violence and humiliation for the political gain. Therefore Israel is a terrorist state.

Motion Approved : 11-2 This House WOULD classify Israel as a Terrorist State