Defining Terrorism

Tags: Living Israel, Terror

By Hersh Batkin

In recent months I’ve sold hundreds of travel insurance policies. I have an agreement servicing the clients of a travel agency in Israel, dozens in the next two months alone.

Part of my job is to analyze and explain the details of the various policies, each of which must be understood independently. The language can often be technical and one must read the document in a particular order.

The travel insurance policy clearly covers terrorism and excludes war. I’ve become accustomed to explaining to my clients that Israel has longstanding agreements with her neighbors Jordan and Egypt and that war is very unlikely. Terrorism, however, is always a concern and is covered by the insurance plan.

Once the rockets started falling during the recent conflict, I was shocked to find out that my clients wouldn’t have coverage.

I contacted the insurance company and found out that cases of terrorism, policy-wise, are determined by a declaration of an act of terrorism by the US government.

Now, I knew this in advance as it’s written in the policy’s definition section. I was unaware, however, that for political reasons our country had yet to declare the Gazan rocket fire an act of terrorism. I assumed that objective reality was the basis of the analysis, i.e. if a terrorist group attacks civilians, it’s called terrorism. Rather, it seems their status is up to governmental discretion.

I am frustrated, not only because this affects me professionally, but because I feel betrayed as an American. To be honest, I love Israel. I am certainly critical of many of its political issues, but at the end of the day, Israel is part of my Jewish identity. But this issue seems beyond politics.

A clear definition of terrorism ensures, in my view, the dignity of all the parties involved. Certainly for the Israelis, defining indiscriminate rocket fire as terrorism will legitimize their efforts to defend their citizens from danger and hasten the return to normal life outside of bomb shelters.

Additionally, the Palestinians benefit by us calling terrorism, terrorism. Their militant behavior makes them look medieval and backwards, and their own dignity as a people is at stake when this is their method of protest.

As bystanders, we shouldn’t be forced to legitimize their actions only to call attention to the wrongs they have suffered. By demurring from a declaration of terrorism, we only hurt the Palestinian quest for legitimacy; they will only become convinced that their behavior is appropriate.

I feel it is important to clearly define these rocket attacks as terrorism. Once we draw the line, we can talk about real issues and build a real lasting peace for everyone while ensuring dignity for all.

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Hersh Batkin is a partner at Lampe-Batkin Associates in Greenwich, CT, a third generation independent property and casualty insurance agency.

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Tags: Living Israel, Terror