There is always a ‘but’

In the coming days, the world will most likely get to know intimately the terrorist who carried out the July 18th suicide attacks in Burgas (Bulgaria). As clues and rumors regarding his nationality, origins and motives will emerge a parallel discourse is likely to see the light.

Most of the times Israelis, are victims of a terrorist attack, may it be in Israel or abroad, what I like to call the “but” argument is likely to rise.

In Europe it is often used by a certain part of the population which sees the support of the Palestinian cause as a tacit reason to discredit and diminish Israel. In the Arab world, the “but” argument is much more present and represents a wider way of thinking the existing relation between Arab countries and the Jewish State.

The “but” argument goes as follow: “there has been a terrorist attack which caused x number of innocent Israeli victims, it’s horrible and we denounce it BUT Israelis do worse things every day to Palestinians and Arabs”.

This argument is vicious as it is slowly entering the European psyche while implicitly creating a situation in which Israeli victims seems to one way or another be responsible for their own death. A similar mentality was present in the silent majority which stood idly by in the1930s while the national socialists and their cronies started their barbaric and tragic endeavor.

The “but” argument has been present in all major recent attacks.

When Mohammed Merah, a French Islamist who received a jihadi training in Pakistan, shot to death two French paratroopers and four French Jewish citizens (3 of whom were young kids) the “but” was deafening. In these kinds of attacks, I always thought common sense and emotions should unite all people in denouncing unanimously the terrorist.

Matter of fact, I am wrong. The three children were innocent, but so are all the Palestinian children. Mohammed Merah is a ruthless killer, but he also is a marginalized and victimized youth of a French society that does not accept young people like him.  We should all unite and denounce these attacks, but let’s never say that a certain breed of radicalized Islam was in part the justification the terrorist used. And my personal favorite: We are all with the families of the victims but these attacks were orchestrated by the Mossad and the French secret services to help former President Nicolas Sarkozy win the reelection.

The same mentality is applied every time an anti-Semitic attack is carried out against random Jewish youth in France (or elsewhere in Europe). There is a certain feeling in the average person, hidden by the official declaration, which does not approve the fuss that this violence generates.

The case of the Toulouse killing is especially evocative of how distorted minds lose sight of the act in itself (a foreign trained terrorist shoots and kills 7 innocent persons) to focus on tangential and inconsistent details meant to limit the denunciation of the act and to implicitly safeguard the perpetrator.

Transferring the “but” argument to the Israeli-Arab conflict creates another set of illogical reasoning.

Each time Hamas or Islamic Jihad unleashes a rocket barrage against civilian targets, a certain brand of European politically correct thinkers and the Arab streets will say: it isn’t fair to blindly target civilians but 1) a great part of Israelis serve in the defense forces so are they really civilians? 2) the Palestinians are pushed to be violent to obtain political gains, 3) Israelis deserve to know some suffering.

This way of reasoning is extremely dangerous as it depersonalizes the victims, insert them in a bogus equation which would in some perverted way set them as equal as the terrorist who murdered them and is a first step to the justification of wider attacks against Israel and Jewish populations in Europe.

For those of us conscious of this “but” argument we need to be ready to counter it on every occasion. As a democratic right, everyone has the freedom to contest and disagree with specific policies implemented by a given State and these arguments are the key to a sound debate.

On the other hand, terrorist attacks solely aimed against civilians should never be subject to a “but”. In these situations, a person is either in favor or against the perpetrator.

About the Author
Riccardo Dugulin is an independant international affairs analyst. He holds a Master in International Security from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and has worked in leading think tanks in Washington DC, Beirut and Dubai and has held the position of security coordinator for a security assistance firm.