click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Defining and Defeating Terror

Defining and Defeating Terror

The founder of Aish HaTorah lays out a 3-point plan to restore sanity and defeat the evil scourge.


There is worldwide consensus on the need to fight terrorism. To succeed in defeating the terrorist threat, we need a three-pronged approach:

First, we need a clear and unambiguous definition of "who is a terrorist." Otherwise, we're stuck with saying that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

Second, we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to fighting evil.

And finally, we must take proper action.

Defining Terror

Objective definitions are the basis for all rational, intelligent thinking.

What if I ask, "Are you a bafoostik?"

You'll say, "What's that?"

"Just tell me, are you or aren't you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Nobody cares much about being called a bafoostik. But before bringing out the tanks and missiles, we must first define "who is a terrorist." And apparently, the definition is not so clear.

At the same time that the U.S. hunts down Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, the State Department demands that Israel cease its targeted killing of Palestinians who mastermind near-daily terror attacks.

And last week, as world leaders offered condolences on the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi, the Danish Foreign Minister said there is no difference between the assassination of this democratically elected leader, and Israel's targeted killing of suicide bombers and their sponsors.

Syria, the sponsor of Hizbullah and countless other terror groups, is now honored with a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Confusing rhetoric abounds in the media as well. BBC policy permits the use of "terrorist" primarily when an attack occurs on British soil. Reuters' 2500 journalists are instructed to never describe an attack as "terror." And last week, a guest on CNN's "Larry King Live" explained that Bin Laden's men are "terrorists," whereas Palestinian suicide bombers "are martyrs who give themselves for a cause."

So once and for all, let's get a clear definition of terrorism.

"Terrorism is to purposefully harm innocent civilians, for the purpose of terrorizing them to accept your demands."

This helps clarify why George Washington was a legitimate "freedom fighter." He did not urge the massacre of British civilians or depict Great Britain as a fascist horror that God wants to destroy. Nor did he destroy British places of worship or publish maps showing a Europe wiped clean of England.

No true freedom fighter will harm innocent people, no matter how desperate the situation.

The difference is clear. No freedom fighter will take hostages or harm innocent people in order to achieve his freedom, no matter how desperate the situation. One cannot do evil to achieve good.

By their own definition, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, PFLP and Arafat's Tanzim are terrorists. They proclaim from the mosques and rooftops their wish to kill every Jewish man, woman and child – with drive-by shootings, lynching, and suicide bombings.

Israel is hunting down these Arab terrorists, who are actively engaged in planning and executing additional terror against Jewish civilians. Imagine the audacity of those who try to make the victims of terrorism into the terrorists themselves.

When it comes to terrorism, we must have a clear definition, take a firm stand, and work to educate others.

Opposing Evil

The next step is to recognize that absolute evil exists, and it must be fought.

This is a difficult task for a multicultural and free society that is encumbered with a broad definition of "tolerance." The media, universities and politically correct pundits declare that everyone is right and there are no absolutes.

Actually, this is a distorted definition of tolerance. Tolerance means a commitment to working out disagreements through mutual understanding and discussion, not violence.

So let us be clear: To murder innocent people is evil – absolutely. To terrorize is evil – absolutely. This is true whether the perpetrator is white, black or yellow, Christian, Jew or Moslem.

Would the pacifists prefer that we all live in a conquered world, living under the Talbian laws or those of Osama bin Laden?

We cannot fight evil if there is no evil. Evil must be called evil – throughout the media, government and in public discourse.

And in order to defeat evil, we have to be dedicated to "good," as fiercely as our enemies are dedicated to "evil."

Take Action

In 1861, with civil war raging, Abraham Lincoln united Americans in a day of prayer. And now, President Bush has issued a call to pray for the safety of our soldiers.

We all yearn to see evil defeated. So we turn to our loving Father and ask Him to guide us in the proper course of action, and to oversee its success. Surely our God has the power to get this done.

Action must go hand-in-hand with prayer. Action shows that your prayer is serious.

In our individual lives, when faced with a crisis of health, wealth, success or aggravation, at the same time that we pray, we act. Nobody would dream of asking God for a good job and then sitting down to wait for a knock on the door. You'd scour through the classified ads and make a real effort.

In the current crisis, what action shall we take? How can we begin to make a difference?

Spread clarity. Educate others about the true definition: A terrorist is anyone who purposely harms innocent civilians.

The next step is to write letters in support of all politicians and reporters who speak this truth. At the same time, we must oppose those who favor appeasement and legitimize terror.

Finally, we have to close ranks. The entire civilized world has to be completely united in this struggle for survival.

But around what will we unite?

A profound tool for unity is the concept of monotheism. Any human who believes in a loving, all-powerful God – the basis of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – also believes in a God Who wants mankind to live in peace and brotherhood.

At this decisive time in world history – as the forces of evil try to divide and terrorize us into submission – each of us should turn to the Universal God, Creator of us all. We ask for the courage, wisdom and dedication to enable us to win this struggle against the evil scourge of terrorism.

Together with wise action, we will surely succeed in bringing peace to the planet, and in seeing humanity fulfill its ultimate purpose.

October 20, 2001

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 35

(35) FactsRule, May 2, 2011 9:20 AM

The Rabbi, z"l, was right about all but Islam.

Certain web sites have expended a lot of effort in order to expose Islam & the activities of it's adherents. It is perfectly clear that Islam itself is most seriously evil. The god of Islam is not similar to the God of any other people. I implore everyone, please, please investigate for yourself! Don't take my word for it. Look at Islam itself & judge for yourself. There are a few Muslims who are trying to get Muslim leaders to fundamentally change Islam in order to make it acceptable to civilization, something it is far from. Please see this video of a world renowned Islamic "scholar" whom Imam Rauf, the "moderate" who wants to build an Islamic center at Ground Zero, calls "a world renowned Jurist." Here are important thoughts on how Islam regards non-Muslims:

(34) don muntean, September 23, 2008 7:12 AM


Excellent article - it is so unfortunate that there are those who blur the lines - as noted - "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" - here in Canada it seems that the Liberals and the NDP view the Palestinian terrorists as freedom fighters. They have little to no grasp of the the Islamist ideology. They are the party's who shall "favor appeasement and legitimize terror" - as sad is it is - these Canadian political party's are on the wrong page with this matter. The Rabbi makes the very important distinction between freedom fighting and an irregular fighting, "Terrorism is to purposefully harm innocent civilians, for the purpose of terrorizing them to accept your demands" To even suggest negotiations with the anti-Israel anti-west Islamists indicates a complete lack of understanding. A very lamentable situation.

(33) Anonymous, July 29, 2008 3:32 PM

Clear ideas, Clarifies facts.

Dear Honourable Rabbi Weinberg:

Thank you profoundly for, your elegant, clarification of terms. There is a nefarious current, in so-called liberal democracies, in my opinion, that gloss over, integrally, any definition of terms deemed "offensive", to celebrity activists.

Celebrity activists, love the attention, provided globally, by adherents of sloppistic thinking, and romantic ideologies that would laud and find precious, the fruits of unspeakable acts of violence and destruction.

Ethical concerns, need to be, it seems, popularized by simplistic minds that deliberately obscure eternal values - Justice, Love of one's neighbour (no exceptions!!!).

Hatred seems to be a process inculcated and designed by befuddled 'activists', who would deny others the freedom to actively be the recipients of consequences of their inhumane, criminal, and psychopathic behaviours and ideologies.

Peace as appeasement to the criminals and murderers amongst Us, is not strength, but cowardice and the rewarding of nihilism, destruction, and blasphemic ideologies. To reward "life", or any culture which deems itself viable, in its pursuits of the as destruction, murder, and hatred of other members of the human species, of humankind, is a true act of sacrilege that affronts G-d's universe, and All of her/his creatures.

It would behoove the annointed "leaders" of all stripes to remind themselves daily, all humans are accountable, for their free, chosen behaviour and values.

To choose that Any portion of G-d's creatures is 'unworthy of life ect.(fill in the blank) is to blaspheme what OUR G-d, the One who reigns over the Human Species (without exception), has created in his image, and loves.

Yisroel is the eldest sibling of the human family, the other siblings in human kind, should remember that it is not the way of siblings to actively pursue willfull destruction, murder, and criminal terror on the family (humankind). To do so, to engage in hatred, violence, death, and other Forbidden acts of destructive chaos in our world, is to act against the G-d, who made it available to our species.

There are consequences, though they are not immediate.

Avayah, Chalom.

(32) Pep Gonzalvez, November 8, 2001 12:00 AM

What´s the diference?

Terrorism is killing anything whtat`s the diference?

(31) Anonymous, October 27, 2001 12:00 AM

I completely understand George Ginzburg's frustration with words, especially at this stage of events in Israel, and I am deeply grateful to him as someone who has put his life on the line to fight evil! The human race is better because of men like Mr. Ginzburg. The fact that Israel has existed for over 50 years is due to men like Mr. Ginzburg. He is a real hero. It seems especially urgent after the many evil events of this past year for Jews to follow his example, and take action for good.
However, for those of us who have not had our lives directly threatened by evil, as Mr. Ginzburg has even in childhood, words are important to motivate us to, as Rabbi Weinberg says, recognize that evil exists and take actions to fight it. We have been complacent. We have had the luxury of sitting back in our armchairs and discussing semantics, while others lost their lives to evil. We have allowed ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by the mainstream media, while others were being terrorized by evil. We have been seeing things as we wish they were and not how they really are, while Israel is on the verge of being cut in two, the easier to be devoured by evil. Many have been seeing the 'Palestinian' question through rose-colored glasses. I know I have been.
I used to think the 'Palestinians' should have their own country in the land that was theirs before the Holocaust Jews came. This was based on a passing knowledge, gleaned from the mainstream media. But, as Melanie Danan profoundly put it, "people find many more words to convince the world that lies are truth; whereas the truth is very often silent". So it was only recently that I learned that there are no such people as 'Palestinians'. They aren't even indigenous to the area like I was led to believe. They are imposters, posers, liars! They're just a collection of relatively recent Arab immigrants to that land. The majority came after the 1917 Balfour Declaration set aside that land for a Jewish homeland so they knew they were coming to Jewish lands. Obviously they came to prevent that. They came to steal the Jewish homeland even then! They are Yemenites, Syrians, Egyptians, Saudis, etc. Arafat himself is an Egyptian. His homeland is in Egypt, like many of the 'Palestinians'. They already have homelands to go back to. They have 21 large oil rich homelands from which to choose, all Arabic, all Muslim. Jews only have one homeland, small, beleaguered, and terrorized since its inception. If the Jews lose Israel, there won't be 21 homelands to go back to. There won't even be one.
The 'Palestinians' are not a 'people'; they're a bloodthirsty army of assorted Arabs hell-bent on Israel's destruction, hell-bent on cleansing the region of anyone who's not Muslim. They slaughtered 200,000 Christians, 'cleansing' Lebanon during their stay there. Now they are unequivocally out to cleanse the area of Jews. Their new 'Palestine' textbooks do not even show Israel on the map. Does anyone seriously doubt that the only reason they want Israel to split itself in two is to be in a better position to destroy it?
I don't quite know what to make of the hypocritical stance being taken by the U.S. that Israel "negotiate" with terror, that Israel's defence of itself will "only escalate the violence". It's obvious nonsense. Proper sustained defence would eventually erase the violence from within, just as a good police force keeps criminals in check. They claim that "Israel must live with the Palestinians". Why is this suddenly a given? Every other country that has hosted the 'Palestinian army' has expelled them for causing bloodbaths, insurrections, plotting evil. Why should Israel be the only exception? Should Israel be appeasing its own intended killers while it still has the ability to defend itself? Should Israel fear the response of other nations too much to defend itself against evil? God provides miracles. The miracle is that this time Israel can fight the evil ones trying to destroy the Jews. The miracle is that this time the Jews in the diaspora and the righteous of all religions can be mobilized to provide help and to influence world opinion. The miracle is that this time the evil has revealed itself while Israel still has a chance to act.
To dreamakersfoundation who said "israel must restore its palestinean brothers... to illustrate what peace really is" -- sadly that delusion has passed. This year Jews of Israel have been murdered, kidnapped, terrorized, and slandered by their 'Palestinian brothers'. This past year the world could no longer deny the 'Palestinians' true intent to wipe Israel off the face of the map. They can barely wait to change the map! In fact, they haven't waited. Their maps have already wiped Israel out of existence! The era of negotiating with terror, of appeasing terror is over. Had the truth been known from the beginning it suely would never have even begun.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment