Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Terrorism and Freedom Fighters

Terrorism. Freedom Fighter. What's the difference? Really the only difference is who is doing the naming.

I am currently reading a book by Robert Pape, called Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. It's the book I have been waiting to read my whole life, and it's the book that I should have written first. I guess that's to say that I really agree with Pape, his analysis and research are so important, and I wish I were as smart as him. He shows that suicide terrorism is used almost exclusively by sub-national political groups, as a last resort, in a effort to expel a foreign military power from land that the sub-national group calls its homeland. This book has gotten me thinking a lot about terrorism recently, and about the use of the word. Then I read Paul Woodward's post about the use of the word terrorism by Zionists. Here's Paul, on use of the word terrorism:
The word has only one purpose: to forestall consideration of the political motivation for acts of violence. Invoke the word with the utmost gravity and then you can use your moral indignation and outrage to smother intelligent analysis. Terrorists do what they do because they are in the terrorism business — it’s in their blood.
Read the italicized again.

That's exactly what happens when the word terrorism is used. You can only get skin deep when you use terrorism to describe the use of violence. Using the word terrorism assumes the acts of terrorism are born in vacuums, rather than spawned and festered through a constructed web of social, political, economic, and psychological factors used to subjugate and repress a group of people.

Woodward goes on to link the use of terrorism with Zionism.
We live in an era in which “terrorism” — as a phenomenon to be opposed — has become the primary bulwark through which Zionism defends itself from scrutiny. Keep on playing the terrorist-naming game and the Zionists win.

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