funeral of terror victim Hadar Buchris

Mourners at the funeral of terror victim Hadar Buchris, 21, in Jerusalem on November 23, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Highlighting a terrorist attack should bring forth anger and thus action against the perpetrators. In some cases, however, it draws sympathy for the terrorist.

For weeks now, we have been reading various reports and innuendos that place the blame for the many terrorist attacks that have plagued Israel in the past few months on the Israeli victims. Perhaps the most outrageous example of this type of outlook, though, came recently from the Swedish foreign minister who somehow placed the blame for the recent dreadful terrorist attack in Paris on Israel. The murders of countless numbers of people in Iraq and Syria – in fact, throughout the world – by ISIS (and groups associated with ISIS) are now the fault of Israel? The issue is not how ludicrous this is, but how someone could even contemplate and attempt to sell it.

The Foreign Minister actually gave the answer. When people “see that there is no future: [they] must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.” The belief of these individuals is that such violence – in fact, terrorism itself – is always the result of oppression. It is important to fully understand this causal sequence. According to individuals such as this foreign minister, it is not that terrorism can be a result of subjugation, that maltreatment can lead to terrorism. The argument would seem to be that the sole cause of terrorism is another’s tyranny. As such, if a person acts in such a manner, it must be because this person is oppressed or is sympathetic to others living under such oppression. So the real cause of the Paris terrorist attacks has to be the oppressor that led to this desperation of terrorism – and what better candidate for this role than Israel? (Please don’t confuse these individuals with the facts.)

Palestinian Authority Exploits False Perception

The Palestinian Authority (PA), in fact, actually seems to recognize this perception and apply it. When we read about how the PA glorifies its terrorists – fully in the public domain, presented so that the whole world can hear about it – we may wonder why they do this. Such pronouncements, from our perspective, would only speak most negatively about the PA. Is this not the way we believe the vast majority of people of good will would also respond to such information? Is it not, thus, somewhat bewildering for the PA to make such public pronouncements? Are they not thereby presenting themselves in a negative light?

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom (AP)

The answer is that they know that there are individuals out there who will read into every terrorist attack how the terrorist must have been so oppressed in order to have committed such an act. The result is thus not anger and disgust in response to the terrorist and terrorism, but anger and discuss against the deemed ‘true’ cause of this terrorism, the unbearable weight of suffering that this terrorist must have experienced, which caused him/her to desperately have done such an act. The PA knows that every story of terrorism – especially couched in the language they use such as ‘martyrs’ – will spark sympathy from certain individuals who will cry about how mercilessly and unjustly these individuals must have been treated to retaliate with such violence. The terrorists were obviously provoked!

We must wonder how people could have such a simplistic misunderstanding of terrorism. There is, of course, some truth in an assertion that crime can be the result of inequality but it is a foolish jump to assume that all criminal activity is the result of persecution. This is, in fact, doubly so in the case of terrorism where the terrorist does not even perceive himself/herself to be performing a crime but, in fact, sees himself/herself as acting, not as a personal response, but in a portrayal of absolute objective righteousness. (This is an idea I hope to further explain and address in a future post.) A true understanding of the roots of terrorism demands a recognition of a greater complexity than many wish to consider – so these individuals, such as the Swedish foreign minister, maintain the simplistic view of blaming the perceived oppressor regardless of how inappropriate and even dangerous. The fact is, though, that they do, and the result is a highlighting terrorism that, rather than creating a focus against the terrorist, actually can create commiseration with the terrorist.

Highlighting a terrorist attack should bring forth anger and thus action against the perpetrators of such heinous behavior. What we must begin to recognize, though, is that in the minds of some, strangely, it actually brings forth sympathy for the terrorist. The challenge is what to do. I am not sure. Yet we must be aware of this unexpected and bizarre consequence. 


Article by Benjamin Hecht

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht is the founding director of Nishma, which fosters the critical investigation of contemporary issues. For further info, see and You can follow Rabbi Hecht on Twitter @NishmaTorah.