Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Our local South Florida newspaper sounded the alarm. The headline was ominous. It read, “Reward for ‘Turtle Terrorists.’ ” The piece described a dastardly crime that took place recently on Anna Maria Island.

A man and a woman were spotted on a “joyride.” Witnesses said they were on what seemed to be a motorcycle, all-terrain, or other three-wheeled vehicle. The couple was said to be laughing as they aimed for and hit marked sea turtle nests on the beach. Three chicks were killed and five nests were damaged.

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The Sea Shepard Conservatory offered a $2,000 reward for information resulting in an arrest. Manatee County Crime Stoppers offered a reward of up to $1,000. The Holmes Beach Police Department has coordinated the effort. Civil penalties in the range of $25,000 and criminal penalties of up to $100,000 plus a year in prison could result if the nests were purposely damaged.

Paul Watson, founder of the conservation group, called the couple, “Florida turtle terrorists.”

It’s ironic that the title of terrorist has been bestowed upon a couple whose alleged actions resulted in the death of three turtles. The president of the United States hesitates to use this word in describing those who have caused mayhem around the globe, in acts that can only be described as terrorism in its consummate form.

At home, in Fort Hood, Texas, U.S. Army major Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan went on a Jihadist-style rampage, fatally shooting 13 and injuring more than 30 while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” U.S. government agencies have referred to this incident as “workplace violence.” Deadly attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, Paris, and Copenhagen have been vaguely termed “heinous and cowardly acts.”

Judaism has stringent laws regarding lashon hara, negative speech about others. However, all restrictions are off when the failure to disclose could result in serious harm.
That is why the prohibition is juxtaposed with the admonishment “You shall not stand idly by your fellow’s blood.” Sometimes failure to tell it like it is can lead to disaster. We need to be aware of what is happening in order to deal with the threat.

The time has come to call radical Islamic terrorism by its proper name. It is not a random form of “violent extremism.” Certainly the cataclysmic events of 9/11 were not just strikes on American buildings.

The first step in dealing with a threat is to call it what it is.

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Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.