A Very Brief Word on Talking to "Terrorist Organizations"

by Gedalyah Reback

Any distinction between a “military wing” and a “civil/humanitarian wing” of an armed paramilitary organization, whether or not someone calls it a “terrorist organization,” is simply absurd. Drawing these distinctions only serves the agendas of governments seeking to assert themselves as political powers to mediate between, and hence manage conflicts between waring powers.

In terms of the Middle East, this convoluted distinction exists regarding groups like Hizbullah. This group graces the list of known “terrorist organizations” kept by several countries, namely Israel, the US and Canada. But the UK and Australia only list their “armed wings” as terrorist groups. But this division is nonsense.

If a politician living in a country where it was politically unpopular to talk to the United States wanted to initiate some dialog, it would be inarguably absurd to say he would only speak with the people who run Medicaid because they represent the “civil/humanitarian wing” of the US government.

Such distinctions are political, arbitrary, and totally asinine. They are merely subjective, and give governments excuses to speak with groups that make displacing and annihilating other people a priority for their organizations. Politics and international relations often take place in this uncomfortable vacuum where idealists have to bite the bullet and establish relationship with tyrannical governments like in Burma, or genocidal regimes like in Sudan. But such relations do not grant any more legitimacy to a government, or militant group. All these governments and all these groups have multiple departments and several ministries. They all represent the same group.

Consider this the next time the British want to have dialog with the “political wing” of Hizbullah, or NGOs funnel money to an organization through its “humanitarian wing.” These are policies of political convenience, not idealism.

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