On Oct. 27, Tech Hillel, Tech’s Jewish organization, sponsored a guest lecture given by Amos Guiora. Many college students in the United States may not exactly follow news reports discussing global conflict, counterterrorism efforts and international freedom and religion issues.
However, explanations and debates pertaining to these concepts have taken the media by storm. Television, the internet, newspapers and other modes of media constantly hawk the religious and political conflicts of the Middle East.
Guiora is a professor of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, where he teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, International Law, Religion and Terrorism and other courses dealing with international conflict.
He also served for 19 years in the Israel Defense Forces Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps), where he held multiple senior command positions, including Commander of the Israel Defense Forces School of Military Law, Judge Advocate for the Navy and Home Front Command and the Legal Advisor to the Gaza Strip. Some of Guiora’s areas of expertise include legal and policy aspects of counterterrorism, morality in armed conflict and the Middle Eastern peace process.
During the Tech lecture, the professor discussed his ideas of freedom from religion. Guiora’s lecture topics have utmost importance for Tech students, because not only does he provide intensive insight on the problems of freedom, religion and terrorism in the Middle East, but he also explains how these problems are affecting our generation’s lives, and our generation’s lives on an international scale.
“The messages is one, to be open to asking these kinds of questions. Two, to understand your responsibilities as future leaders to engage in discussion about these issues. Three, to understand the threats that are out there. And,four, to understand that there are threats, to ask yourselves how to we respond to these threats and how do we protect ourselves,” said Guiora.
One theme of the professor’s lecture discusses the limiting of religion within Israel’s and the Middle East’s borders. He explains that there must be restrictions of not just religion, but also free speech.
When these two crucial elements of life are strained, trust in government and terms of security subsequently will be challenged. Israeli citizens and other international states’ populations must address these obstacles and religious extremism.
“I think that by directly addressing religious extremism, the state would be making an effort to more effectively protect, for instance, national leaders in the way that Yitzhak Rabin (an assassinated Prime Minister of Israel) wasn’t protected. It will send a strong message to religious extremists that their words are unacceptable,” Guiora said.
“You know, there’s a theory in which I believe in that religious extremists, in whichever culture, what they are really doing is de-legitimizing the state, because they believe that religious law is supreme to state law,” Guiora said. “And if the state were to address this directly, it would send a powerful message to those that are de legitimizing the state. And I think that states, religious and secular alike, would be the beneficiaries (of that). The idea that sending a powerful message to religious extremists, one: it would more protect the state, and two: it would make it clear to religious extremists that there are limits.”
Guiora deems that the limiting of free speech and religion must be neutral between the state and the individual, in order to promote counterterrorism.
“So, counterterrorism is the ‘b’ word, which is balance. The rights of the individual are equally legitimate to national security rights. Individual rights are not a zero-sum gain. Some people articulate is as maximizing rights, I articulate it as balancing rights,” Guiora said.
“Some call it ‘what price freedom’. The line drawn is extremely difficult here. On the other hand, excess is very easy. Look at the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I’d say that the Bush administration largely engaged in the paradigm of excess. And did that lead to effective counterterrorism? I’d say probably not. But the line drawing is absolutely essential. I can say, based on my own experiences, is that it’s very difficult, because in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, the public, the media, leadership wants a tough response. And that’s when the balancing test has to step in. So the line drawn is difficult, but it’s essential,” Guiora said.
Another issue that can be examined is how American Jews currently relate to Israel. With the mounting terrorism and political and religious tensions, there appears to be a subsequent disparity between American Jews and Israel.
Guiora said, “I think that maybe 30 years ago, in very broad strokes, there was greater instinctual sympathy to Israel than there is today, there was greater instinctual understanding of Israel than there is today. And I think that on some level, there was a greater connection to Israel.”