August 15, 1997
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Isn't "terrorist" a relative term? What sort of values do terrorists teach their children? How much popular support exists for terrorists in their homelands? What's the difference between American and Middle Eastern terrorism? Could anyone be capable of a terrorist act? Viewer comments on Middle Eastern terrorism.
August 1, 1997:
A report on the attempted bombing of a Brooklyn subway.
July 30, 1997:
Clinton reacts to the Jerusalem bombing my militant Islamic group Hamas.
March 13, 1996:
A report on the international summit on terrorism.
March 12, 1996:
A report on terrorism and how to prevent it.
An Online backgrounder on terrorism.
A question from the Online NewsHour:
How does Middle Eastern terrorism vary from American terrorism, such as the Oklahoma bombing? Unlike American terrorism, is there a whole system of beliefs, religious or cultural, that promotes Middle Eastern terrorism?
Hala Jaber responds:
There is no such thing as Middle Eastern terrorism and American Terrorism. As I said in the first question, the literal definition of the word terrorist does not distinguish between intent, action and result. Needless to say, it is both culturally and politically relative, making it difficult to hold an international consensus on the definition. It may be easier to identify certain acts of violence as being ""terroristic," but the justifications or explanations of the objective, and how an act's outcome is viewed depends on a number of things including a person's or group's perspective; their political persuasion; the dynamics of international relations.
I disagree with the viewer who thinks that there is a whole system of beliefs, religious or cultural, that promotes Middle Eastern Terrorism. These acts which are labelled terroristic are a result of an accumulation of factors. Whereas the majority of people disagree with these methods, the people involved and their followers in the Middle East or the IRA or other groups around the world believe that they are being driven to take such actions as a result of the unfair and double-edged policies being practiced against their people.
Perhaps the IRA makes a good example and one which might be closer to home on how various people see various movements. Here in Britain, the government regards the IRA as a terrorist movement, in particular when it carries out its attacks in the mainland against civilian targets. Yet most Americans and more importantly the American government regards the IRA as a legitimate group with a legitimate cause. While the American administration condemns the terroristic methods used by the IRA, it nevertheless appears to understand the reason of cause of the IRA's grievance. Furthermore, and to the horror of the British government, the Clinton administration has only recently granted Jerry Adams, head of the political wing of the IRA, a U.S. visa and the right to collect donations from the Irish community in the States, even though these donations are known to be used by the IRA for military purpose.
Prof. Martha Crenshaw responds:
There is no generic terrorism; all incidents of terrorism depend on the political context in which they occur. There are conceptual similarities that permit us to make comparisons, but each conflict has unique qualities. That said, American terrorism also has a potentially supportive system of beliefs. The suspicion of the government that has motivated far right terrorism has deep social and historical roots. The "paranoid style" in American politics is not a new phenomenon. The Christian Identity movement, survivalist ideologies, millenialist religious cults, anti-gun control lobbies, and the militias provide a cultural milieu that can support violence--unintentionally perhaps, but real nonetheless.
Note also the catalyst of a drive for vengeance, a reaction to the Ruby Ridge and Waco confrontations, and the victim mentality of such groups. They think of themselves as resisting an all-powerful and monolithic government bent on taking away the basic freedoms of the citizenry. Timothy McVeigh may well have acted largely on his own, obeying the injunctions of the "leaderless resistance" doctrine, and he has maintained a strict silence about his motivations, other than an oblique reference that blamed the government. But he undoubtedly saw himself as upholding American values, even though the majority of us view such beliefs as a distortion. Similarly, the majority of Muslims feel that terrorism is based on a distortion of Islam.
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