29 January 2004
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
MURDERERS AND FREEDOM FIGHTERS
By Louis Rene Beres
Professor of International Law
Department of Political Science
Moments after the latest bus bombing in Jerusalem this morning, the group claiming responsibility, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, identified its action as an expression of "freedom fighting."
Plainly, however, there is no cause on the face of this bleeding planet that can ever warrant the deliberate mutilation and murder of defenseless civilians riding on a municipal bus.
Those who can find cause for celebration amidst the mangled and burned bodies of young children must always be called by their correct name.
By any reasonable standard of civilized human behavior these celebrants support a uniquely unheroic form of slaughterer, a contemptible dreamer who discovers sheer ecstasy only in massacre and who sees in unrestrained terrorism a gloriously sacrificial form of religious worship.
What is plainly evident to reasonable human beings is also an incontestable part of current international law.
Supporters of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens frequently claim that the insurgent force is directed against an "occupation, " and therefore warrants "any means necessary."
From the standpoint of authoritative international rules of behavior, this claim is entirely incorrect.
Even where the use of insurgent force may be justified - and in the case of the Palestinians such justification is hotly debatable - deliberate attacks upon noncombatants are always illegal. Indeed, there is no more ancient and sacred principle of law than the immutable imperative to protect the innocent.
"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
There is no basis in law for this especially facile and shallow expression. The issue here is not one of subjective interpretation. On the contrary, there do exist precise and settled criteria that are readily available to distinguish the terrorist from the freedom fighter.
According to international law, any insurgent who intentionally causes the explosive incineration of men, women and children at lunch or at prayer or at a wedding ceremony or on a bus is a terrorist. Period.
It is true that certain insurgencies can be judged lawful.
Yet, even these insurgencies MUST always conform to the laws of war.
The ends can never justify the means in international law. Never. Where the insurgent group resorts to unjust means, as in the case of exploding a public bus, its actions are unambiguously terroristic.
How shall we know precisely when insurgent means are just or unjust?
The determinable standards that must be applied in judgment are known in law as JUST CAUSE and JUST MEANS.
These standards, and these standards alone, allow us to differentiate lawful insurgency from terrorism.
National liberation movements that fail to meet the test of JUST MEANS are not protected as lawful or legitimate.
Leaving aside the very doubtful argument that Palestinian organizations meet the standards of "national liberation," especially after the prior Barak Government offered the PA/PLO control of over 97% of West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and Gaza, it is assuredly clear that they do not meet the standards of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity.
These formal standards, applicable under the Laws of War, have been applied to insurgent organizations by the common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and by the two protocols to these Conventions of 1977.
They are binding upon all combatants by virtue of both customary and conventional international law.
The ends CAN NEVER justify the means.
As in the case of war between states, every use of force by
insurgents must be judged twice, once with regard to the justness
of the objective (in this case, the avowed objective is a
Palestinian state built upon the charred ruins of a dismembered
and once with regard to the justness of the means used in pursuit of that objective.
A Palestinian organization that deliberately targets indiscriminately with intent to maximize pain and suffering can never claim to be "freedom fighters."
American and European supporters of a Palestinian State presume that it will be part of a "two-state solution," that is, that the new Arab state will exist side-by-side with the existing Jewish State.
Yet, this presumption is dismissed everywhere in the Arab/Islamic world.
Indeed, the "Map of Palestine" at the official website of the Palestinian National Authority includes all of Israel.
There are not two states on this map; only one.
Palestinian insurgents who resort to terrorism against Israel will never acknowledge that a Jewish State has any right to endure.
Why should this should be so difficult to understand today, when even the most "moderate" Palestinians themselves have been so cartographically honest on their own website?
Terrorist crimes, as part of a broader category called CRIMEN CONTRA OMNES (crimes against all), mandate universal cooperation in apprehension and punishment.
In this connection, as punishers of "grave breaches" under international law, all states are expected to search out and prosecute, or extradite, individual terrorist perpetrators.
In no circumstances are any states permitted to characterize terrorists as "freedom fighters."
This is especially the case for the United States, which incorporates all international law as the "supreme law of the land" at Article 6 of the Constitution, and which was formed by the Founding Fathers according to the timeless principles of Natural Law.
Palestinian terrorists are not "freedom fighters."
They are "Common Enemies of Mankind" who exceed all moral and legal authority in their persistently barbarous attacks upon Israeli citizens.
They should always be called by their correct name.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D.,
1971) and is the author
of many books and articles dealing with terrorism and international law. Prof. Beres is the academic advisor to the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies. Email: BERES@POLSCI.PURDUE.EDU