David C. Rapoport, 1999, "
" Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict, San Diego, CA:
Academic Press 3:497-510.
The phenomenon of terrorism may be quite ancient, but the concept is modern (p. 498). Examples of
ancient terrorists include the Assassins in early Islam, the Zealots in 1st century Judaism, and the Thugs
in 13th to 19th century Hinduism (501). During the French Revolution from 1789-1799 some groups used
acts of terrorism, and even created a culture of terror, as a desperate means to establish a democratic
order. However, only as late as the 1960s, did scholars begin to wrestle with the definition of terrorism
(499). Yet the media, especially in the U.S.A., confuses the issue to avoid being seen as blatantly partisan
by alternately applying different labels to the same account--- terrorists, rebels, guerrillas, and soldiers
There is also the problem that through time some individuals, formerly recognized as terrorist leaders,
have become something else, from George Washington of the American colonies to more recently Anwar
Sadat of Egypt, Yasir Arafat of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Front), Menachem Begin of Israel, and
Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
Clearly terrorism is not reducible to simply senseless violence or evil. Often underlying the desperate acts
of terrorism, apparently random and extraordinary violence against innocent civilians, is a desperate
frustration with prolonged injustices wherein no alternative remedy appears available and effective.
Terrorism is a form of violence that ignores conventional distinctions between guilt and innocence,
and/or, combatants and noncombatants. The victims of terrorism are a means to confront a target---
government policy or public opinion (500).
Since the 1880s, there have been four major waves of terrorism on the international scene, each with its
own particular characteristics, main purpose, and peculiar techniques. Each of the first three waves lasted
for only about three to four decades, and the fourth which began around 1979 is still in progress. There
was some overlap between the waves, and each left surviving organizations even if diminished in
The first wave began in Russia during the 1880s, triggered by unfulfilled massive reform movements, and
leading to systematic assassination campaigns against government officials. Subsequently, this political
assassination variant of terrorism spread into the Ottoman Empire with the Armenian revolutionaries, and
into the Balkans (pre-Yugoslavian region). Foreign states provided haven for refugees, while diasporic
constituencies provided moral and financial support for remaining terrorists.
The second wave began after World War II, and lasted for about two decades, as nationalist rebels sought
self-determination from the victorious states of the war and/or from colonial powers. But by the 1960s,
most former colonies gained independence, and with that political transformation usually terrorism
subsided (e.g., Ireland, Cyprus, Yemen, Algeria, and Kenya). Guerrilla techniques of hit and run,