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When Do "Accidents" Become Terrorism?

It's hard for me to imagine what it must be like to be an Israeli, wondering when the next terrorist attack will occur. A horrible strike took place last week:

Hamas has been bombarding areas just beyond Gaza with increasingly powerful rockets.

Last week one hit the town of Sderot. It blew the legs off a little boy, killing him and another child he was playing with.

Israel says no state could sit back and allow its most bitter enemies to rocket its homes and schools.

I want to be clear about this: of course it's terrorism when Hamas kills innocent Israeli children with rockets.

The same story, though, also describes Israel's response:

It sits on the east side of the Jabaliya refugee camp -- the side that the Israeli army punched into just over a week ago.

The wrecked neighbourhood echoes to the sound of machine gun fire.

A 16-year-old girl called Islam Dawidar was baking bread with her mother in a room in the Abed Rabbo Street house when one of those bursts of fire came in through the window.

"I heard shouting and I came in, and she was lying on the floor covered in blood," said her father, Maher Dawidar.

"We called an ambulance, and it came in 15 minutes, but she was already dead." ...

More than 70 Palestinians have died since the Israelis launched operation Days of Repentance.

The Israeli human rights organisation, B'tselem, says more than 30 of them were civilians -- like Islam Dawidar.

If the death of this teenage girl was an isolated incident -- if such deaths happened rarely, if they were properly investigated, if apologies and reparations were offered -- then it would be an accident, tragic yet not terrorism. But when such deaths happens repeatedly -- not dozens of times but hundreds and even thousands -- when do they cease to be accidents? When do they become a deliberate disregard for human life? When do they become terrorism -- not just state-sponsored, but state-executed?

While considering that last question, consider this passage from the same story:

The Israeli army has dropped leaflets on Jabaliya telling the people of the camp that groups like Hamas are making their already grim, often poverty-stricken lives worse.

They would not have the Israeli army on their doorstep, if it was not for the violent campaigns waged by the militants.

So let me see if I can put all this together and simplify the message of the Israeli government to the Palestinians:

We're sorry about your civilian deaths. But we wouldn't be accidentally killing your civilians if you'd stop your terrorists from deliberately killing our civilians.
This is a good time to remind ourselves of the definition of terrorism:
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
So would someone on the other side of this issue explain to me why they believe Israel's actions fail to qualify under this definition?


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