Palestinians: Freedom fighters or Terrorists?

I am in a heated argument with some people (at another message board) on that subject.
My position is that the actions of Palestine people (suicide bombings and such) are terrorist actions.
Most of the others say that Palestine people have no other choice, and suicide bombings is their only way of resistance against Israel, and that makes them freedom fighters.

What’s the straight dope on the subject?

Is it freedom fighting when you hijack a cruise ship and murder an old man in a wheelchair?


If the old man in the wheelchair was responsible for the deaths of many people, and was very likely to be responsible for many further deaths, yes.

Uh, go back to the part where I mentioned the cruise ship.


Mssr.Gibson refers to the bold strike carried out in the name of freedom and liberation on the Achille Lauro. Not that sweet old man the Israelis popped.

The straight dope, in my opinion, is that there’s a false dichotomy here.

“Terrorist” refers to the tactics used in the struggle. “Freedom fighters” refers to the objective sought to be achieved. It’s perfectly possible to use terrorist tactics in pursuit of the objective of freedom; in fact it’s very common.

Whether we choose to label fighters as “terrorists”, focussing on the means they use, or “freedom fighters”, focussing on the objectives they seek, says more about us and our attitude to them than it does about them or the substance of their struggle.

The best thing I have heard all day. I agree.

But is bombing restraunts their only way of resistance?

Hmmm. I’m not sure that there’s a false dichotomy, not sure at all.

For instance, the PLO charter, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc, all state that the genocide of every Jew in Israel is their goal.

As such, I hardly think you can call their terrorist actions “freedom fighting”

Genocidal terrorism aimed at political ends? Sure…

But if they were really fighting for freedom, we’d hear a hell of a lot less about busses and nightclubs being blown to pieces.

Irrelevant, to my mind. Bombing restaurants is a terrorist tactic, regardless of whether other avenues of struggle are open. And bombing restaurants is a terrorist tactic, regardless of whether the objective sought is the national liberation of the Palestinian people, or the genocidal destruction of the Israeli people, or anything else.

I’m not saying that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc are freedom fighting organisations. I’m just saying, in general terms, that it is perfectly possible (and very common) to be both a freedom fighter and a terrorist.

I’m not saying that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc are freedom fighting organisations. I’m just saying, in general terms, that it is perfectly possible (and very common) to be both a freedom fighter and a terrorist.

The fact that Hamas and others resort to terrorism (as they unquestionably do) does not, therefore, prove that they are not freedom fighters. A study of their (stated or apparent) aims and objectives may well prove that, however.

I don’t see why you assert that “if they were really fighting for freedom, we’d hear a hell of a lot less about busses and nightclubs being blown to pieces”. Why are people seeking their own freedom unable to resort to such tactics? There are plenty of historical examples of freedom fighters using terrorist tactics.

(Sorry about the overlapping posts; I hit the “submit” button too soon.)

I have a pretty simple mind. Really, just ask anyone around here who has had the opportunity to read anything I’ve posted and they’ll tell you. So instead of passing us such tidbits of Kung-Fu (the series) wisdom could you possibly be a little less cryptic? If I call the PLO terrorist instead of freedom fighters what exactly does it say about me?


With all due respect, the OP clearly states that the issue is not Terror vs Freedom Fighting per se, but what exactly the Palestinians are engaged in.

As such, if you are saying that Hamas et al are not freedom fighters, then that does go to the OP, namely, that they’re terrorists and not freedom fighters.

And, I would argue, freedom fighting and terrorism are not the same thing and that they do indeed have quantifiable differences in motive and execution.

Terrorism aims to instill terror into a civilian populace and/or inflict damage upon the socio-economic fabric of a society (as contrasted with simple guerilla warfare)

Freedom fighting, as it would imply, has the end goal of freedom.

Since Hamas is: organizing strikes against purposefully non-military targets in the cause of religious genocide
Since Hamas is not: organizing the Palestinian government into a transparent and accountable entity which is democratic and values human rights

It must be assumed that they are not fighting for their own people, and are, indeed, fighting against the right of a specific religion to own territory in the region. Thus, they’re terrorists, thugs, killers without morals or ethics.

To drive this point home, the biggest threat to Palestinian freedom and prosperity is their own leadership which has a vested interest in keeping them poor and militant. In that situation, true Palestinian freedom fighters would be fighting their Mafioso government.

Freedom fighters don’t murder women and babies.

I would guess most terrorists think of themselves as freedom fighters and so do their supporters.

ETA have killed many innocents using bombs and terror. They use terror to draw attention to their goals and try to make the public put pressure on their government to give into their demands. The IRA did the same except on a much larger scale.

Hamas and the like are close enough to the above description while being way more radicalised IMO. All 3 come from a background were legitimate reasons for anger exist. Some have taking this anger and become terrorists.

To their supporters they are freedom fighters.
To their detractors they are terrorist scum.

I disagree.

I think it’s pretty simple too…

People who are fighting for their own freedom will commit actions designed to get them freedom. That will be the goal.

How on earth does the cold blooded murder of women and children help bring about freedom? Especially since the groups who carry out the terrorism have gone on the record as saying genocide is their aim…

I guess what I’m saying is, just what does a group have to do to lose the ‘freedom fighter’ label?

If they admit, in their own literature, that their fight is not about freedom does that do it?
If they admit, in their own literature, that their fight is about genocide, does that do it?
If they orchestrate a campaign against specificaly non-miltary non-government targets, does that do it?

In short: Doesn’t a group have to actually be fighting for freedom in order to be called a group of freedom fighters?

But if every Jew was killed and Israel ceased to exist wouldn’t that leave the Palestinians free of Israeli oppression?

Again it doesn’t matter what they do it’s how they see themselves and how their supporters see them. They are terrorists, murderers, killers, immoral fuckbags to you and me but to other people they are brave fighters fighting the good fight for god and country.

They see themselves as freedom fighters because they see themselves under the the opression of Israel.
Regardless of wether they try to assassinate Israeli politicians or people in a pizza restaurant, they see both as legitimate targets.

See, though… we can argue that their supporters, in willful ignorance of the facts, see them as freedom fighters. All well and good.


If they put down their guns tomorrow and signed a peace treaty, there would be a Palestinian sovereign state. Europe would be one great big orgasm. Even Bushco would jump on the bandwagon.

So if they want to be free of Evil Zionist Oppression ™, all they really need to do is stop fighting.

Killing every Jew in the ME wouldn’t accomplish that goal, it’s simply genocide dressed up as freedom fighting.

The test for this is: Would Hamas and groups like it conduct terrorism even if there was an independent and sovereign Palestine? (I think the answer is yes)

As their goal is , in writing, genocide… and they’ve stated that even pre ’67 Israel is fair game for terrorism, I think the case can readily be made that they’re not interested in peace, or freedom, or even getting back the so called ‘occupied territories’.

Their goal is genocide, and they’ll dress it up in any pretty words that are necessary to gain sympathy.

what I honestly don’t get is: where do you draw the line.

Doesn’t a group actually have to be fighting for freedom to be freedom fighters?

Or do they simply have to perceive some sort of injustice?

For instance.

Were the Nazis freedom fighters? (they thought that Aryans were oppressed by the mere existence of ‘lesser’ races)

Were they freedom fighters?
Why or why not?