This submission is confronted with two main questions. First, whether members of the Irish Republican Army, Hamas and various protest movements in the Arab world are terrorists or freedom fighters? Secondly, at what point does a political contest or method cross the ethical line between legitimate or illegitimate? The submission shall answer both questions consecutively in the ensuing discussion.
The IRA, Hamas and various protest movements in the Arab world may have nuances that easily qualify them as freedom fighters. However, by the nature of the aggression and attacks they engage in, the organizations and their members squarely fall within the domain of terrorism and terrorists respectively. One need to consider the main motive that informs most of their attacks. Take for instance Hamas in the Israel-Palestine war. Hamas members’ main aim remains to kill and occasion suffering to the Israelites. To Hamas members, the ideology is anti-Israel and the war for the land has since been replaced with the need to clear the Israelites. Secondly, one needs to examine the nature of support they receive from their international allies. Iran and Syria do not necessarily believe in the Palestinian right to the land. Rather, their conception lies in the ideological differences they have with the state of Israel as well as the people of Israel. As such, the former would rather have the Zionists state destroyed and attacked. All these lead to the deduction that the Hamas movement is largely terrorist-based rather than a fight for freedom.
One also needs to consider the activities of the Arab spring revolutions. The nature of weaponry at their disposal far surpasses what ordinary guerilla fighters for freedom would possess. A good example is seen in the latest case of Syria where both sides of the divide, the pro-government and the anti-government, were accused of using chemicals in the pursuit of their courses. This point to a direction where the main objective has since changed from obtaining control of the respective territory to that of occasioning untold misery which includes death to the civilians. The murder of one’s own citizens has been observed as one of the glaring signs of wanton terrorism by a government on its people. It is, therefore, the position of this submission that these organizations going by the nature of their activities are terrorist groups rather than mere freedom fighters.
There is a thin line between legitimacy and illegitimacy of political contests. This is even complicated in the context of modern times where access to weapons of mass destruction has become possible. However, a political contest will remain legitimate to the extent that it respects humanity. The judgment as to whether a contest respects humanity or not is seen in the nature of the attacks and aggression the parties engage in. Parties who use the war only where necessary and do not indiscriminately attack civilian populations retain the legitimate tag of a political contest. However, a party crosses the line and the contest becomes illegitimate the moment it resorts to indiscriminately attacking civilian populations often with the intention of occasioning misery including death. Such parties are charged with crimes against humanity whose prosecution for some countries falls under the International Criminal Court. It is, therefore, incumbent on a party engaging in war or any struggle for that matter to ensure that crimes against humanity are not committed in the process. It is essential to appreciate the fact that the Security Council may equally refer persons from non-signatory states to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
Abboud, Samer Nassif and Benjamin J Muller. Rethinking Hizballah: Legitimacy, Authority, Violence. New York: Ashgate Publishers Ltd., 2012.
Art, Robert J and Louise Richardson. Democracy and Counterterrorism: Lessons from the the Past. New York: US Institute of Peace Press, 2007.
Schaffner, Brian F. Politics. New York: Cengage Learning, 2010.
Shay, Shaul. The Axis Of Evil: Iran, Hizballah, And The Palestinian Terror. New York: Transaction Publishers, 2005.