Let’s Be Clear on What We Are Witnessing: Terrorists, Not Freedom Fighters


Jadejanandraja, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Hamas and the pro-Palestine rioters in the US laying siege to campuses are terrorists, by definition, not freedom fighters. They both target civilians with violence and threats of violence to bring about political change.

There is an old saying: “The difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist is victory.” The idea being that the victor gets to write the history and can convert terrorists to heroes. A similar saying is, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” The meaning here is that terrorist or freedom fighter is a matter of perspective, and that if you were trying to gain your freedom, you would see the terrorists as freedom fighters. Both of these sayings are wrong, however. Terrorism is a malign methodology, which can be directed at a variety of goals from achieving independence to bringing about Armageddon, or preventing deforestation. The ends do not justify the means, and they certainly do not change the nature of terrorism.

One of the problems with terrorism is that it lacks a single, universally accepted definition. In the US, various federal agencies, intelligence agencies, law enforcement, state and city governments, and courts all operate on differing definitions of terrorism. On a global level, foreign countries and international organizations also have differing definitions of terrorism.

The academic consensus definition of terrorism is one of the most widely accepted, and it incorporates the primary elements present in most other definitions of terrorism used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Terrorism involves the use of violence or the threat of violence against civilians or non-combatants. The goal of these violent actions is to achieve political, ideological, or religious objectives. Terrorists seek to intimidate or coerce the government or society into altering policies to better suit the terrorist organization. Finally, terrorism is usually committed by non-state actors.

By the above definition, the American colonists who fought against the British would be freedom fighters, not terrorists. The reason is that they targeted British soldiers, not British civilians. The colonists formed a new national government and created a uniformed army. Consequently, it could be argued that they were not non-state actors.

The 9/11 terrorists, by contrast, did not wear uniforms, were non-state actors (arguably), and specifically targeted civilians. Furthermore, the civilians they targeted had no authority to enact the political changes the terrorists demanded. If US soldiers had targeted British government officials—civilians with decision-making authority—this may not have met the definition of terrorism because the colonists would be attacking the people in power to make decisions. The 9/11 terrorists, by contrast, were hoping to influence those who could make decisions by killing those who could not.

The October 7th Hamas attack on Israel was terrorism because it almost exclusively targeted civilians and those civilians had no ability to change government policies.

There is another saying about terrorism which helps to define its goals and separate them from the goals of a freedom fighter: ‘Terrorism is a few people dying and a lot of people watching.’ In the American Revolution, the colonial army wanted to defeat the British army. Their goal was not to terrorize or wound soldiers in order to coerce the British government. The September 11th attacks in the US and the October 7th attacks in Israel were clearly intended to strike fear and were not intended to significantly cripple the army or to win a military victory.

While some may claim that Hamas are freedom fighters because they want Gaza to be independent of Israel, they qualify as terrorists because the methods they use match the definition of terrorism. They intentionally kill civilians. They also use rape and the taking of hostages. Furthermore, the Hamas Covenant calls for the annihilation of Israel and the Jews, which again, does not match the definition of a freedom fighter. The US colonists never had the elimination of Britain and the British as a goal.

The pro-Palestine protestors are supporting terrorism while also engaging in activities that qualify as terrorism. They have laid siege to universities, threatened and intimidated Jewish students and civilians while calling for death to all Jews. Calls to action are not protected under free speech, and if they are directed at a specific ethnic group, can be considered hate speech. In this case, the intent of these calls is to alter policy; therefore, they should be considered acts of terrorism. The protestors have also engaged in violent confrontations with the police, all in the name of bringing about a change in Israel’s domestic policy.

Under US law, it is illegal to provide material support to terrorists. Consequently, anyone funding these protests should be held accountable. The professors seen linking arms to prevent the police from entering the campus and arresting the protestors should be charged with obstruction of justice, RICO, and aiding terrorism.

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Dr. Antonio Graceffo, PhD, China MBA, is an economist and national security analyst with a focus on China and Russia. He is a graduate of American Military University.

You can email Antonio Graceffo here, and read more of Antonio Graceffo's articles here.