COMBATING TERRORISM AND PROTECTING CIVIL LIBERTIES

by Jared Feldman

 

The Jewish Community continues to enjoy the unprecedented freedoms and opportunities of life in America.  Preservation and advancement of democratic values are central hallmarks of our community relations policies, because these ideals best foster the well-being and security of all citizens.  However, events of recent years – most dramatically the terrorist attacks of September 11- have demonstrated that our national security can only be maintained through difficult choices, vigilance, and sacrifice.  Sometimes, measures undertaken to combat terrorism are in tension with vital civil liberties as well as other American values.  This conflict between rights and security is particularly difficult given the present onslaught by Islamic terror organizations.

 

While our community is far from being monolithic on these issues, which are debated vigorously, certain core principles pertain.  We are mindful that the safety of our society and justice require the physical security government is created to provide.  As a community that has been a target of hatred and attacks, we recognize the need to support all reasonable measures for defense and to root out terrorism.  At the same time, we recognize that the maintenance of strong legal checks over exercise of governmental power, particularly of the executive branch, are essential to the preservation of our freedoms.

 

The JCPA:

  • Continues to support those actions of the President of the United States and of the Administration which do not endanger Constitutional rights, to apprehend, try, and punish those responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to eliminate the havens and harbors of terrorists internationally, to prevent future terrorist attacks on the United States and its citizens and interests, and ultimately to eliminate terrorism.
  • Strongly believes that adherence to fundamental principles of fairness and due process in investigating terrorism as well as apprehending, trying, and punishing those responsible for terrorist attacks is important not only to safeguard the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution but also to preserve the moral authority of the United States.  We are particularly concerned about the treatment of United States citizens, including questions of indefinite detentions, denial of legal counsel and trials that are closed in their entirety.  At the same time, JCPA believes that these valued protections must be applied in a balanced manner in light of what is reasonable under current circumstances, and in light of the necessity to ensure the security of all Americans.

 

  • Believes that the war on terrorism must engage the root causes of this growing danger, namely the teaching of hatred and violence, especially that which permeates segments of the Islamic and Arab worlds, and which have frequently operated with acquiescence or outright support of foreign governments.

 

The community relations field should:

  • Encourage public support for the Administration’s efforts to apprehend and punish terrorists and to prevent future terrorist attacks.
  • Ensure that the political climate remains open and free, such that public discourse evaluating governmental action in the war on terrorism continues to be a valuable part of American democracy.
  • Continue to monitor the manner in which the war on terrorism is conducted to ensure that these important efforts do not infringe upon our fundamental freedoms. 
  • Encourage the intensified use of diplomatic and other channels to advocate for elimination of anti-Semitic, anti-American, and pro-terrorism rhetoric, and advocate to make this a goal of U.S. foreign policy.
  • Raise the issues of anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and terrorism with coalition partners, including in dialogue with the Arab American and Muslim-American communities, and encourage internal and public pronouncements which unequivocally reject terrorism and deliberate attacks on civilians as acceptable means of political expression.              

About the Author


Jared Feldman