Terrorism in our world has existed since the first century. The Zealots of Judea, also referred to as dagger-men by the oppressing Romans, initiated underground operations against the Roman forces and any Jews they believed to have been collaborating with the enemy. Their reasoning? The Zealots believed they could not remain faithful to the dictates of Judaism while living under Roman rule. Did they win their “war” against the Romans? Not quite. Their end came as the result of their mass suicide, committed at the fortification of Masada.
The Assassins, and independent faction of Shia Islam, were the first group that would turn to the assassination of enemy leaders through the skill of a lone assassin. Due to the groups low numbers, sending in an army was not an option. The lone assassins were committed to the cause, often laying down their own lives to see their objective reached. This faith in their actions, to the point of their own death, revered as a sacrifice to the cause, often inspired fear, but also respect and awe within the enemy’s ranks.
As our species evolved, so too did the means by which we could effectively use terrorism as a form of political warfare. With the rise of kingdoms, states and nations came fantastic leaps in organization, communication and political authority.
It would be the French Revolution where we would see the words terrorist and terrorism enter our vocabulary, through 1795’s Reign of Terror that was brought about by the revolutionary government. This revolution would be the example for future states in the oppression of their populations and citizens.
During the 19th century there was an increasing wave of nationalism throughout the globe. Tying people, beliefs and borders together gave citizens only two choices; they could assimilate or rebel. One such conflict of these times still remains unresolved today as the struggle of Irish Nationalism continues.
It would be the Russian Narodnya Volya (Peoples Will), a terrorist group from the 19th century, that would be the first group to display the traits that we have come to associate with terrorism today. Perhaps the main trait was their tendency to increase acts of violence in direct correlation to any mounting political pressure enforced on the group.
The main event that brings us into our modern age of terror was a 1968 hijacking of an EI AI airliner by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The plane was hijacked based on its carrier’s Israeli nationality. This was also the first time the world would witness hostages who were deliberately used as bargaining chips for demands against the Israeli government. This event remains one of the most significant in the internationalization of terror, whereby cooperation amongst such extremist groups means more effective results through the sharing of training, information, support and operations.
September 11, 2001 remains the largest and most significant act of international terrorism in our history. I think we all saw and perhaps more importantly, felt, just how powerful terror as a weapon of war can be. It was the day the world changed. The day we all realized just how thin our perceived safety blanket had become, in this new and modern age of terror.
It’s not right to respond to terrorism by terrorizing other people. And furthermore, it’s not going to help. Then you might say, “Yes, it’s terrorizing people, but it’s worth doing because it will end terrorism.” But how much common sense does it take to know that you cannot end terrorism by indiscriminately dropping bombs?
HOWARD ZINN, Terrorism and War