The "terrorist state" in the shadow of Gaza
The dictionaries have almost identical meanings, and the difference in language does not change this. "A state of extreme fear" and the reasons this state raises are included in the first meaning of the word "terror". It is a word derived from a Latin root. In Turkish, it used to be called "tedhiş" as a verb meaning "to be frightened, to fall". The words "tedhiş" or "tedhişçi" as an adjective was preferred for what we now use as "acts of terrorism" or "terrorist acts". According to the Turkish Language Association dictionary, the first meaning of tedhiş is "terror," and the second is "terrorizing, terrifying". The definition of "terror" in the same dictionary is: "To strike fear into an opponent, to take life, burn and destroy property; intimidation, terror".
Fear is undoubtedly a human emotion; people are afraid, but when does the state of terror, which defines the most extreme level of fear, occur? When fears reach the level of terror, and as a result, when people become unable to think or do anything when they become paralyzed? What distinguishes terror from simple fright? As the dictionary says, life-threatening acts or situations, such as "the taking of life, the destruction of property," transform fear into terror. Therefore, any action or event that causes or is likely to cause irreparable damage to life and property is "terrifying" or "terrorizing.
"Lawfulness" and terrorism
It is a well-known anecdote. It is told in The State of God by Augustine, one of the first Christian sages, perhaps the most important, who lived from antiquity to the Middle Ages. When the Macedonian emperor Alexander the Great accused a captured pirate of terrorizing the seas, the pirate replied: "How are you different from me? I have one ship; you think you are different because you have many large ships!"
The debate into which this anecdote will lead is a debate that concerns humanity today. What is the difference between an "emperor" or a prince, king, lord, sultan, shah, sultan, etc., and a pirate, a bandit, or a gang leader? According to Augustine and today, the answer to this question comes back to the concept of "justice". But the problem is not solved because it is necessary to define the concept of "justice," which, we must admit, is one concept most open to speculative evaluations. With the help of the "law" idea, we can define justice as "compliance with the law."
Indeed, the significant difference between the state and activities and organizations such as piracy, banditry, mafia, or gangsterism, which are forms of violence, is that the state must act "according to the law". The law only sometimes ensures justice. Compliance with the law only satisfies the sense of justice in some situations. This is also true. Therefore, when there is a dispute about what is lawful and what is unlawful, "conscience" matters in the decisions to be made by the judiciary, which will have the final say. According to the law and his conscientious convictions, the judge decides and should decide.
Besides justice, other benefits observing the law brings to the life of the state and society are as significant as justice. One of these is "order". Compliance with the law is often synonymous with acting under the rules that make up the legal order, although this is not always true. People living in a society can predict each other's behavior, and thus their relationships, to a large extent, thanks to the rules of law, and act accordingly. For example, in traffic, a red light is an order to stop; everyone knows this, and therefore, the driver of a vehicle stops his vehicle when he encounters a red light. Pedestrians know this, too, so they can cross the street safely. Even if there is a crosswalk and no traffic lights, pedestrians who know that vehicles have priority over pedestrians can safely step onto the crosswalk.
You may say, "I wonder?" or "No way!", right, because in some countries there is "traffic terrorism," people are "scared" in traffic because it is not clear who will follow the rules and who will not. A pedestrian who sees a red light for vehicles and a green light for himself throws himself on the crosswalk in terror because, at any moment, a speeding car could hit him; that vehicles do not respect the speed limit is another source of "terror". Here, "traffic terrorism" is a very appropriate term for a terrorizing situation that makes daily life difficult.
State terror and the terrorist state
What about "state terrorism"? We have said that what makes a state a state is the obligation to obey the law. In the modern world, this is called the "rule of law," which means the state must act under the law in all its actions. For this reason, because of the development of the modern state, there is a presumption regarding every move and transaction of the state. According to this presumption, called the "presumption of legality," if the author of an action or transaction is the state of the public authority, then that action or marketing is lawful. We can summarize it as "If the State has done it, it is lawful." Suppose you believe what the state has done is unlawful. In that case, you must assert this claim before the judiciary, have it recognized, have the action annulled or restored, and demand compensation for your damages.
The state's obligation to obey the law is not limited to national law focusing on public or administrative law, as I tried to show in the example above. With one or two exceptions, all modern states are members of the United Nations, and this membership declares that they must abide by international law. Therefore, states are obliged to act under domestic and international law.
A state cannot abide by the law domestically and may even be in the habit of breaking the law so much that the presumption of legality is meaningless. Such states are not uncommon. As with traffic terrorism, those who live on the territory of such conditions, those who are subordinated to such states, find themselves when they do not know how to use the powers of the state. Since the state, by definition, has a monopoly on the use of physical force and, in this sense, is powerful enough to cause irreparable damage to people's lives and property, such a situation is "terrifying" for the citizens of that state. It would not be wrong to refer to such states as "terrorist states" or "terror states".
However, the most common use of the term "terrorist state" is in international relations. It refers not only to states that engage in conduct prohibited by international law and cannot comply with their obligations under international law but also to states that, as an extension of that conduct, use force to the point of causing harm to life and property. In international relations, states cannot use force except for "defense", and when they choose to use force for defense, which is a state of war, they must act under the international law of war. States that violate these obligations are internationally called "terrorist states" or "terror states," which is not wrong.
State terrorism in Palestine
The UN plan for the dissolution of the British Mandate in Palestine, established at the end of World War I, was based on two separate, independent states, one Jewish and the other Arab, in that geography. In the over seventy years since the rejection of this plan, this "two-state" plan has not been abandoned. Over time, the UN has not only accepted the existence of a Palestinian state but has also adopted resolutions stating that Israel, founded by the Jewish community that accepted this plan, must withdraw from the territories it occupies, emphasizing the "prohibition of the expansion of the country's territory by war". In addition, the UN also opposed Israel's establishment of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, stating that this violated international law.
It is impossible to say that Israel is complying with these UN resolutions. At the same time, Israel, as a member state of the UN, must abide by UN resolutions and international law, including these resolutions. Could Israel's disregard for the rules and resolutions of international law be related to the constitutional order of Israel as a state? For historical, political, and ideological reasons, Israel does not have a constitution as we know it. Instead, it has several so-called "Basic Laws". From the point of view of a "constitutional state," one might even conclude that Israel is not a "constitutional state." This may be debatable. Still, according to the Basic Law, adopted in 2018 after much debate and controversy, the so-called "Nation-State Basic Law," Israel is defined as "the nation-state of the Jewish people".
This "legal" definition, approved by the Israeli Supreme Court, leads to the characterization of Israel as an "apartheid state" like the former South Africa. We should remember here that not only former South Africa but, ironically, "Nazi Germany" also had laws and regulations that codified apartheid, racism, and the Holocaust. All the activities that Israel is carrying out today under the pretext of Hamas, under the guise of "fighting terrorism," as is apparent in the Gaza issue, where millions of Palestinians have been imprisoned since 2007 under the pretext of Hamas, have no credibility in the face of this nature of the Israeli state and its rule-breaking attitude in the face of international legal norms. Let me not forget that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the Israeli domination, starting from the Golan Heights in Syria and extending to the Gaza Strip, is more reminiscent of an apartheid-sponsored terrorist state than a legitimate one. (It is impossible not to recall Hasan Huseyin Korkmazgil's lines, "Palestine is the other side of Dahav").
I want to end this article by adding that the characterization of a "terrorist state" is not limited to Israel.