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Terror Deterrence and Cultural Relativism

29 August 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

With the capture of the suspected Arab-Israel Bakri ring as active accomplices in the Mt. Meron bus bombing, the discussion in Israel has taken on new proportions concerning how to stop home grown terror.  Three steps have been suggested to severely curb domestic Arab terror:  the destruction of the terrorist’s home, the expulsion of his first line relatives to Gaza (parents, spouse and children) and the revocation of Israeli citizenship.  The Israeli Arab community objects that these steps are unusually harsh and discriminatory, pointing out no one has suggested the same steps to be taken against Jews involved in terror activities against the state of Israel.

It is true, the same steps have not been suggested for Jews.  The most publicized case pending involves residents of the West Bank (Judean) settlement of Adora who allegedly sold weapons and ammunition to Palestinian terror groups.  Their motive was apparently greed, but Israeli terror victims are just as dead.  In their non-equal demand for punishment many Jews in Israel are demanding the death penalty should those accused be found guilty.

Different deterrents are needed for different populations, each one must suffer the harshest punishments allowed by law.  This should serve as a warning to others from those populations not to follow in the footsteps of the perpetrators.  The understanding of ‘equality before the law’ is an issue of culture and values. 

Cultural relativism has many facets and is often the darling slogan of those who consider themselves ‘politically correct’ to explain away errant behavior by certain groups.  In a deeper understanding punishments (as well as reward) are only ‘relevant’ when based on the values of those societies.

And the Achilles heel of each society must be sought out, exposed and exploited when battling terrorism.