Friday, August 04, 2006

It's Not Terrorism--It's The Law!

The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal: Best of the Web noted a court case reported in the New York Sun that deals in part on the definition of terrorism:
The Jordan-based Arab Bank yesterday asked a federal judge in Brooklyn to dismiss a lawsuit brought by thousands of Israelis who claim the bank fueled terrorism by providing payments to the relatives of suicide bombers.

Lawyers for the bank said that the 4,000 foreign citizens who are plaintiffs should not be allowed to have their case heard in the American court system. They argued that terrorism against Israel does not violate any "international norm." Lawyers for the bank said that some 80 countries, most Islamic or African, do not consider Palestinian Arab suicide bombers to be terrorists. [emphasis added]
Unfortunately, it appears that there are some judges who agree. One of the lawyers for the bank, Kevin Walsh, quoted from the opinion in U.S. v. Yousef (page 59), a Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that
there continues to be strenuous disagreement between States about what actions do or do not constitute terrorism, nor have we shaken ourselves free of the cliché that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
The same opinion also quotes Justice Robert Bork that "[N]o consensus has developed on how properly to define ‘terrorism’ generally.” (p. 58)

One of the sources of the confusion comes from an expected source:
under one of the various United Nations resolutions addressing terrorism, armed and violent acts do not constitute “terrorism” if committed by peoples seeking self-determination in opposition to a violently enforced occupation. See, e.g., Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations Among Co-operating States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, Oct. 24, 1970 (note 42, page 60)
The Arabs are no help either:
The Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (Cairo, Apr. 22, 1998), reprinted in International Instruments Related to the Prevention and Suppression of International Terrorism, 152-73 (U nited Nations 2001), while condemning terrorism, takes a uniquely restrictive approach to defining it, stating that offenses committed against the interests of Arab states are “terrorist offenses,” while offenses committed elsewhere or against other peoples or interests are not. (note 42, page 60)
I guess it is too much to ask to expect this to be a loophole:
The Convention further defines as legitimate (non-terrorist) “[a]ll cases of struggle by whatever means, including armed struggle,” unless such struggles “prejudic[e] the territorial integrity of any Arab State.” Id. at Art. II(a). [emphasis added]
Considering the repurcussions of Hizbollahs attack on Israel as it affects Lebanon, shouldn't Hizbollah's actions be classified as terrorist?

The Thursday edition of Best of the Web includes an email from another lawyer representing the bank:
On the issue of terrorism, Arab Bank has repeatedly, and forcefully, stated its opposition to terrorism in all forms, and that it finds suicide bombing to be an abhorrent act. The Bank's legal argument that the Alien Tort litigation has no place in U.S. courts in no way contradicts its strong opposition to terrorism, nor should it reflect on the views of its lawyers, who also stand strongly against acts of terrorism.
The plaintiffs have their work cut out for them.

The article notes that though the judge in this case, Judge Nina Gershon, rejected the Arab Bank's motion to dismiss similar lawsuits last year, this lawsuit is different. Last year, the plaintiffs were American victims of terror under a different law; in this case the plaintiffs are Israelis.

At stake: considering this argument used by the Arab Bank's lawyers, a victory for the bank will be one more victory for moral relativism.

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