To be somewhat cynical, terrorism is when people you don’t like are blowing things up. Then they are unprincipled cowards afraid to come out and fight fair. However, when our side does it, we tend to be more forgiving, viewing them as freedom fighters against injustice – people with their hearts in the right place who just got crazy or something like that.
In the U.S. Revolutionary War, the Brits would march onto open field in their bright red coats, and were appalled (and slaughtered) when American insurgents, rather then meeting them on the battlefield like real men, hid in trees, sniping away, picking them off one by one. I’m sure the Brits viewed those snipers as we view car bombers now.
The IRA, for better or worse, probably invented modern urban terrorism. They couldn’t drive the Brits out using head-on force, so they resorted to blowing up their cars and offices. It’s an effective tactic, as it unnerves the opposition, may turn the populace against the oppostion, and only takes a few dedicated people carry out.
Many/most of the founding fathers of Israel had a price on their head from the Brits (those Brits sure get around!) in the years before the forming of Israel. Jewish underground groups like the Irgun and Hagannah were blowing up buildings with innocents inside as a deliberate tactic to drive out the British.
Ugly stuff. Maybe one big difference between terrorism and warfare, is that in warfare, the combatants avoid killing civilians while terrorists deliberately do so.
I can not imagine what life in for a Jew in Israel must be like now. How could you feel comfortable, say, going to a restaurant? Or even just walking down the street? Does that person walking towards you have bombs strapped to him? The economy of Israel has to be cratering.
So, a few hundred Palestinian zealots willing to die who are seriously disrupting an entire vastly more powerful country. That’s the power of terrorism. It evens the odds.