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A typology of terrorism

By       Message Elias Davidsson       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Originally the term "terror" was used by the state against its own population. The concept arose in relation to the "re'gime de la terreur" in France after the revolution of 1789. Today, the term is understood differently. From today's perspective, one can distinguish between three main types of terrorism:

* Authentic terrorism,
* Overt state terrorism,
* Covert State Terrorism.

(1) Authentic terrorism

In contrast to organized military violence, terrorist attacks are not committed in order to conquer a territory or destroy a regime. Their purpose is to send a forceful message to the general public. Terrorism is, therefore, understood by experts as a psychological operation, or as a form of communication, aimed at drawing public attention to a particular situation through a dramatic and often deadly act.

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Authentic terrorism manifests itself by three crucial characteristics:

(a) The violent act is accompanied by concrete and plausible (or meaningful or realistic) political demands. These are made either explicitly (by the perpetrators or their organizations) or they can be inferred from earlier political demands made by the same organization.

(b) The violent act is claimed by a real, bona fide, organization, that pursues a declared political program, is run by known and accessible persons and that seeks political recognition by others.

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(c) The organization that claimed the violent act also engages in political and non-violent struggle. Militants who carry out acts of terrorism on behalf of the organization are therefore often honored or celebrated by their community as freedom fighters, heroes or martyrs.

Classic examples of authentic terrorism are attacks by Palestinian groups in Israel, the purpose of which is to press the internationally supported demand for the withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces. Although terrorist acts, i.e., the indiscriminate killing of civilians, is universally condemned as a crime, the cause for which they fight may be legitimate.

If a terrorist act does not manifest the three aforementioned features, it is right to doubt its authenticity.

(2) Overt state terrorism

The oppression of one's own population, such as in the Third Reich or by various dictatorships, can be described as overt state terrorism. Numerous institutions of the Third Reich were tasked with intimidating the population and brutally destroying any resistance. The Nazi State did not attempt to conceal its brutality. On the contrary, it displayed its terroristic features openly as a means of intimidation. Overt state terrorism also includes carpet bombing and comprehensive economic sanctions.

(3) Covert State Terrorism

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Covert state terrorism, also known as "false-flag" terrorism, refers to attacks staged to appear authentic but secretly staged on behalf of a State. The purpose of such operations is to generate popular revulsion against those blamed for the attacks and their alleged leaders. Such revulsion is used to justify government policies, such as a war of aggression or the establishment of a police state. Covert state terrorism is a method of psychological warfare.

Governments and politicians do not relish admitting that covert state terrorism takes place. This explains, for example, why despite a resolution of the European Parliament of 1990, in which Member States were urged to "dismantle all clandestine military and paramilitary networks" and "draw up a complete list of organizations active in this field [...] and their links, if any, with terrorist action groups and/or other illegal practices", most European states ignored this demand.

Covert state terrorism appears in various guises. The pure type of such attacks is one that will be carried out exclusively by agents of the State -- police and/or military -- against its own citizens. A second type involves individuals - frequently small-scale criminals - who in return for a reduced sentence, are willing to participate in "black operations." Such individuals are helped by professional handlers to carry out their part: They are given equipment, are driven around, promised safe passage, etc. They serve as patsies whose photographs will be published worldwide as the fall guys. They are typically "eliminated", so that they will never reveal what actually took place. Another type of covert state terrorism is that carried out by an intelligence agency within a foreign country in order to cause internal strife or damage relations between that country and a third country. The Israeli secret operation Susannah in Egypt in 1954 (also known as the Lavon Affair) belongs to this type.

Covert state terrorism is based on Hegel's dialectical method: Action ---> reaction ---> solution. The plotters wish to adopt a measure or policy that faces public resistance. So they first orchestrate an action causing public anger; the public then reacts by demanding a forceful response; the plotters then respond to the popular demand by adopting the desired measure or policy, such as bombing another country or increasing police powers.

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Elias Davidsson was born in Palestine in 1941. His parents were born in Germany but had to emigrate to Palestine due to the Nazi persecution of Jews. Elias lived his first years Baq'aa, a neighborhood of Jerusalem, where Jews, Christians and (more...)

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