The age-old adage, “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter,” captures a supposed ambiguity in terrorism. Indiscriminate violence in the advance of political motives, terrorism, has become ubiquitous in the modern world. It reshapes the societies, political landscapes, and individuals that it touches often with stark echoes of the past.

On 9/11, modern American society changed. From the Global War on Terrorism to the Patriot Act to security lines at the airport, 9/11 has shaped the experiences of America’s youngest generation. These hallmarks of the modern American security apparatus have come into
being as a result of terror. The early memories of a country at war, discoveries of home-grown terrorists, and weapons check before travel are common experiences in the lives of those in Generation Z.

Throughout the decades, acts of terror and extremist violence have continued to shape the lives of young people in the United States. Between 1994 and 2021, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies reported over 1,000 terrorist actions and plots. Though these
acts of terror occur on different scales, they have fractured the world: degrading conceptions of others, surging hate, and invasive new security measures are all impacts of this reality.

Similar to the acts of terror which came before it, 10/7 has changed the contemporary reality for Jews around the world. The resulting hostage crisis, Israel-Hamas war, and surge of antisemitism have shaped the contemporary experience for all. Many have friends and family who were kidnapped or killed, even more have complex emotions about the war, and all have seen a tsunami of anti-Semitic incidents. Not only has the carnage of 10/7 cleaved university campuses, it has deeply impacted young Jew’s relationship to Israel. Many of us don’t have a space to voice criticism of government actions during the war.

Even with famine looming in Gaza, many pro-Israel individuals position any criticism of Israel’s government as anti-Israel. However, those who love a country should hold it to a high standard—loving a country means wanting it to be its best. But in a campus climate where many celebrate 10/7, and now 9/11, and overlook Hamas’ antisemitism, terrorist sympathizers have stolen the voices of legitimate critics of Israel.

Let me be clear, there is no justification for terrorism. The murder of civilians is always reprehensible. Gender based violence is always reprehensible. And, terrorism is always reprehensible. While there is, and should be, space for disagreement about policy perspectives, the excuse of terrorism is inexcusable.

In wartime Israel, people are deeply scarred by brutal terrorism on 10/7 and before. Just as 9/11 is ever-lurking in the American mind, even for those who were not yet alive, 10/7 will leave its mark in the Israeli mind. And just as the United States responded to terrorism with a set of wars that directly killed over 400,000 civilians, Israel responded to terrorism with a war whose caustic toll has yet to be seen. Though violence begets violence, it is rarely the best policy. After all, just wars often have unjust endings.

Source: Human Rights - written by young jews from 40 countries with support of B'nai B'rith International Portugal and International Observatory of Human Rights