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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

How should we respond to aggression and terrorism?

Your interchanging of the terms "aggression" and "terrorism" push me to assuming that you mean aggression to be a mode of behaviour between individuals, and terrorism as aggression on a mass scale. It is with this formulation that I respond to your question.

We have seen the ugly face of aggression erupt in our schools. We may refer to it as bullying, but it boils down to aggressive behaviour. We reject bullying because of the damage it causes, because of the lives it ruins. But it is wrong even if it does no harm. No one has the right to invade the protected space of another person's reality.

We have rightly embraced a zero tolerance approach to bullying, to aggressive and invasive behaviour. On the mass, international scale, we have gone wimpy. Instead of branding terrorism for what it is, we have just about taken that term out of popular parlance.

Terrorists have become insurgents, as if this minimizes the atrocities they have committed. All this is being justified with the argument that one side's traitor is another side's freedom fighter. Pardon me for not getting it. How does blowing up innocents for whatever reason become anything less than a despicable act of terror?

We realize that today's bully can become tomorrow's terrorist, but have somehow failed to accept that today's terrorist was yesterday's bully. The upshot of this is that our failure to condemn terrorism for what it is weakens the moral strength of our fight against today's terrorists-in-waiting.

If for no other reason than for the sake of moral consistency and clarity, we must realize that it is a straight line from aggression to terrorism. Our policies to both aggression and terrorism need to reflect that. Zero tolerance across the board - in thought, in word, in deed.

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen October 21, 2012

Sun, October 22 2017 2 Cheshvan 5778