Shamir on Terrorism (1943)

published in MER152

The following excerpts are from an article by Yitzhak Shamir, prime minister of Israel from 1983-1984 and 1986-1992. The article first appeared in the LEHI underground organization journal Hehazit (The Front) in the summer of 1943.

All the chatter, indeed the entire complex people have against the resort to terror, may be rebutted via easily understood arguments -- exposing the true face of those who advocate the “legal,” the “democratic” way, showing how much terrorism is in fact concealed under these guises. But we wouldn’t wish to take this easy road, and we will therefore here disregard that option and allow citizens on both left and right to keep their illusion that their own methods, and those of the government, do not constitute terrorism. We instead take it upon ourselves to defend the hardest position, i.e., to reduce the concept of “terrorism” to its narrow form of menace and assassination of one’s enemy using mines, bombs and so forth. All of proper society, both left and right, as is known, is always “shocked” to the depths of its corrupt soul by such deeds, and stands ready to aid the ruling regime in bringing these anarchist terrorists to the scaffold and eliminating them. But this same society is not willing to do so if, for example, 769 passengers from the Struma are legally murdered, along with tens of thousands of others who might have been saved but were not. That’s not terrorism -- that’s, at worst, a “bad law” or “brutality.”

Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat.

We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah, whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: “Ye shall blot them out to the last man.” We are particularly far from having any qualms with regard to the enemy, whose moral degradation is universally admitted here. But first and foremost, terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play: Speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier. The real terrorist hides behind his stacks of papers and of laws he himself legislated. [Our terrorism] is not aimed at persons, but rather at representatives, and therefore it is effective. If, in addition, it shakes the Jewish population out of its complacency, so much the better. Thus, and only thus, will the battle for liberation commence.

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