On Friday, I mentioned the brutal murder of Sariya Ofer by Palestinian Arabs, who beat him to death with metal bars and axes.
The police have arrested several Arabs, two of whom have confessed. But the police have not said whether the motive was ‘nationalistic’ — in other words, terrorism — or criminal.
There is no difference, in any sense.
Since the time of Mohammed, criminal activity against infidels has been a form of warfare. Islamic banditry and piracy strangled Mediterranean commerce in the second half of the first Millennium of the Common Era, so much so that it lead some writers to argue that it was the major factor that brought an end to the classical era and ushered in the dark ages.
The so-called “Barbary Pirates,” whom the US Marines fought on the “shores of Tripoli” continued the tradition. These pirates, who captured ships primarily to take infidels as slaves, also raided coastal areas for the same purpose. The similarity with today’s terrorists — for example, the adoption of Western technology — and the huge scope of the problem are notable:
Corsairs captured thousands of ships, and long stretches of coast in Spain and Italy were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants, discouraging settlement until the 19th century. From the 16th to 19th century, corsairs captured an estimated 800,000 to 1.25 million people as slaves. Some corsairs were European outcasts and converts such as John Ward and Zymen Danseker. Hayreddin Barbarossa and Oruç Reis, the Barbarossa brothers, who took control of Algiers on behalf of the Ottomans in the early 16th century, were also famous corsairs. The European pirates brought state-of-the-art sailing and shipbuilding techniques to the Barbary Coast around 1600, which enabled the corsairs to extend their activities into the Atlantic Ocean, and the impact of Barbary raids peaked in the early to mid-17th century [and continued until the French conquest of Algiers in 1830].
In today’s Israel, Muslim banditry takes the form of arson, theft of agricultural products, animals and equipment, stealing cars, robbery, burglary, rape, etc.
The Palestinian Arabs are characterized by a pervasive sense of victimization and lost honor which serves to ‘justify’ criminal actions (“they stole my land so I can take their cars”). There is the element of satisfaction that comes from humiliating their enemies, as violently as possible. Then we add a cupful of personal gain, along with the ability to present harming Jews as an idealistic act done for ‘the Palestinian cause’ even if the initial motivation was just to steal a car or rape a woman.
So can we really distinguish between crime and terrorism? Should we bother to try?