Saul Singer at PostGlobal

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer, a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post, is co-author of the forthcoming book, Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Middle East Quarterly, Moment, the New Leader, and bitterlemons.org (an Israeli/Palestinian e-zine). Before moving to Israel in 1994, he served as an adviser in the United States Congress to the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Banking Committees. He is also on Twitter. Close.

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer is a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post. more »

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Torture, Unlike Terror, Can Be Justified

Jerusalem, Israel - Torture is the flip side of terrorism. Some justify terrorism for the right cause, others say its always unacceptable. Similarly, some support torture under certain circumstances, others are always opposed. But there is a profound difference in these debates: While torture may be used to prevent terrorism, terrorism is never a tool to prevent torture.

There is a battle between those who see terrorism as justifiable in the name of the right cause, and those who regard the targeting of civilians as unacceptable under any circumstances. Similarly, there are those who claim that torture can never be justified, while others argue that it can be necessary to save lives.

On the contrary, terrorists, unsurprisingly, have no compunction -- as Glenn Reynolds points out -- in employing torture as well. Also, if terrorism did not exist, the need for torture would be largely eliminated, but if democracies did not employ physical pressure on terrorist suspects, this would not reduce, and could well increase, the global incidence of terrorism.

One of the hallmarks of a healthy democracy is that it is tormented by the moral and legal dilemmas posed by torture. Israel's Supreme Court has considered numerous cases on this issue, and our security services are limited in the measures they may take against terrorist suspects by the court's decisions.

For democracies, there are no easy answers regarding where to draw the line. We know, for example, that democracies will not engage in terrorism -- despite the libelous abuse heaped on the U.S. and Israel accusing them of just that -- even if terrorism were shown to be an effective way to fight terrorists and the states that support them.

Even the loftiest ends -- such as saving untold numbers of innocent lives -- cannot be used as a "blank check" to justify unlimited torture. In today's world, however, withholding all forms of physical and psychological pressure on terrorist suspects -- even for the limited purpose of prevention, not punishment -- would constitute a skewed moral calculus and a "luxury" that even the most human rights-conscious democracies cannot afford.

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