Saturday, January 03, 2009

Nir Rosen (Guardian, UK): The State defines terrorism: It's what the Other does, not what we do

An occupied citizen attacks an occupying soldier, and she is the terrorist?

See below for selections from Nir Rosen's timely article on who is a terrorist.

But first:

It’s a lesson in human nature and a reminder of human history to see how night is turned into day and how the massacre of a captive people is justified in the West. (The world that Bush and Cheney have succeeded in bringing closer and closer to the level of their beloved Taliban over the last 8 years.)

In a personal note, my family narrowly escaped Hitler’s inferno and my brush with extinction perhaps contributed to the difficulty I had understanding how an educated people could engage in such a degree of self deception when their government embarked on massive crimes against the Other.

Over time I learned that tribal loyalty trumps everything, especially reality. Nevertheless, I might have hoped never to see a whole people treated like … I was going to say the way Hitler and his most vicious and barbaric colleagues in all of history treated their enemies, but even Hitler preferred to do so out of sight of the world’s notice. Well, one concession the Israelis have made to our sensibilities is that they have attempted to keep the media out of Gaza. Ok, score one for the Israelis.

The power of Zionism, the ideology of a purely Jewish state has risen, with the malicious assistance of Bush and Cheney, to unparallelled brutality and remorselessness. As one analyst has described it: “Organized Jewry is a quasi-sovereign power in this country, a menace to all of us.” The current assault on Gaza and the shameless response of its wall to wall supporters suggest that we may be seeing the monster of Zionism come out of its slouch in the darkness, emboldened now to confront us unabashedly with dripping jaw, seeking to destroy everything, including itself.

Meanwhile here are a few illuminating paragraphs from Nir Rosen’s latest article for the Guardian.

from Nir Rosen: “ Gaza: the logic of colonial power”

The Guardian. 29 December 2008

Terrorism is a normative term and not a descriptive concept. An empty word that means everything and nothing, it is used to describe what the Other does, not what we do. The powerful – whether Israel, America, Russia or China – will always describe their victims' struggle as terrorism, but the destruction of Chechnya, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – with the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed … these will never earn the title of terrorism, though civilians were the target and terrorizing them was the purpose….

Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors.

Attacking civilians is the last, most desperate and basic method of resistance when confronting overwhelming odds and imminent eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli civilians with the expectation that they will destroy Israel. The land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they respond in whatever way they can to apply pressure on Israel. Colonial powers use civilians strategically, settling them to claim land and dispossess the native population, be they Indians in North America or Palestinians in what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories. When the native population sees that there is an irreversible dynamic that is taking away their land and identity with the support of an overwhelming power, then they are forced to resort to whatever methods of resistance they can….

…Haaretz reported that a Palestinian woman blinded an Israeli soldier in one eye when she threw acid in his face. "The terrorist was arrested by security forces," the paper said. An occupied citizen attacks an occupying soldier, and she is the terrorist?

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