Colloquium: Can terrorism be justified?

By Tomis Kapitan (DeKalb), 15.30 – 17.00 h, room b4.140, TPM-building, TU Delft


If terrorism is understood to be politically-motivated violence directed against civilians or noncombatants, then there is widespread sentiment that it can never be justified. To the contrary, I argue that there may very well be cases where recourse to terrorism satisfies the standard jus ad bellum and jus in bello conditions for just war, provided that the jus in bello discrimination principle is interpreted as calling for the immunity for those who are ‘innocent’ of the grievances that motivate the violence in the first place. Such cases occur when a community is faced with an existential threat from an aggressor that itself uses terrorist tactics and whose own population publicly supports the aggression. I illustrate this argument in relation to the contemporary conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs.