The word ‘terrorist’ gets bandied around a lot these days. It’s been around for a while in modern post-Second World War times and has been used against all types of groups and people ranging from the activists of the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland to the separatist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. But since 9/11 it has been almost exclusively used in the mainstream media and by right-wing commentators to describe Arab and Islamist fighters that have dared to raise their hand against the US, Israel or any of their Western allies.
Palestinians who defend themselves against Israeli Zionist aggression and persecution are labelled ‘terrorists’ and the various organisations that they belong to are referred to as ‘terrorist organisations’. Hizbollah fighters, who for years fought against the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, are called ‘terrorists’ and Hizbollah itself is designated a ‘terrorist organisation’ by six nations: Israel, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.
There are, of course, many other Islamic organisations around the world that have also been labelled ‘terrorist organisations’ and their members, therefore, are also labelled ‘terrorists’. Even Iraqi insurgents have been labelled ‘terrorists’ by the US and their allies.
Islamic fighters that have not been identified as belonging to specific groups or organisations are usually pigeon-holed into the catchall ‘al Qaeda’ terrorist slot regardless of whether they are actually al Qaeda ‘members’ or not. Fighters that fall into this category include non-Iraqi Arab and other foreign Islamic fighters that have found their way into Iraq to help the Iraqi resistance rid their country of the US and other ‘Coalition of the Willing’ invaders. In short, the word ‘terrorist’ has become a propaganda euphemism used predominately by the US, Israel and their Western allies to denote and identify those that they consider to be ‘the enemy’ in their conveniently titled ‘Global War on Terrorism’.
The US and their allies have also very carefully cast those that they view as ‘terrorists’ into a specific mould. Taking great care to avoid using actual officially recognised definitions of ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorists’, the US and their allies instead use a comparative model within which to frame those that the US and their allies tell us are ‘terrorists’. During public discussion and speeches the word ‘they’ is often used. It is a collective term usually used just after the word ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ has just been used, and is used to distinguish ‘them’ from ‘us’. Most people for example would be familiar with the phrase often used in speeches by coalition leaders; “’They’ do not have the same values as ‘us’”. The word ‘values’ is cleverly invoked here because all peoples instinctively value their own ‘values’ above other people’s values but, while realising that people do have different values that are not necessarily any worse or better than ours, when the word is used in a derogatory context, such as in defining an enemy, the immediate implication is that the ‘enemy’ is somehow inferior to ‘us’.
Israel has a tendency to invoke the word ‘terrorist’ in a most vehement and extreme way to describe Palestinians that resist Israeli occupation in the West Bank and who resist Israeli aggression and incursions into the Gaza Strip. As previously mentioned, Hizbollah in Lebanon are also referred to by Israel as ‘terrorists’. All actions by either the various Palestinian resistance organisations or Hizbollah are referred to exclusively as ‘terrorist’ activity. The use of the word in this context is designed to demonise those that the word is used against. The word ‘terrorist’ is the antithesis of the term ‘freedom fighter’ or ‘resistance fighter’, both terms that are used predominately throughout the Arab and Islamic world to denote those that the West define as ‘terrorists’.
But for all of the West’s propaganda and rhetoric when invoking the term ‘terrorist’, are those that they label ‘terrorist’ any more ‘terrorist’ than the soldiers of the forces of the US, Israel and their allies? Indeed, could not the actions of the forces of the US, Israel and their allies be far more appropriately labelled ‘terrorist’ when one considers the more destructive and murderous activities that US, Israeli and allied forces engage in within the territories that they occupy or strike in to?
Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza lob Kassam missiles toward some of the Israeli townships that are within range, mostly in the Negev. They do it in the hope that Israelis will become so fed up with this that they will curtail their activities of aggression in the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza. Most Kassam rockets, which have no guidance system, fall harmlessly in the desert. Every now and then, one or two hit a building and occasionally kill or injure an Israeli civilian. The Israelis label those that both organise and launch the rockets as ‘terrorists’. It should be noted here, however, that the Palestinian attacks against Israel are in RESPONSE to Israeli aggression and not, as the Israelis attempt to portray, acts of aggression from the Palestinians that the Israelis are responding to.
Remember, it is the Israelis that have pushed the Palestinians off of their lands and it is the Israelis that occupy the West Bank and it is the Israelis that have sealed off the Gaza creating an oppressive massive ghetto into which they can launch indiscriminate attacks against resisting Palestinians at any time often killing many innocent civilians. Indeed, it should be noted that far more innocent Palestinian civilians are killed by Israeli terrorists launching attacks inside the Gaza than there are Israelis killed by Palestinian fighters who are resisting Israeli terrorism.
There is another aspect of Israeli operations against Palestinian resistance that would attract instantaneous outcry from Western leaders and the Western mainstream media if the Palestinians perpetrated the same activity against Israel. And that is so-called ‘targeted assassinations’. Can one imagine the reaction if, say, the Palestinians had a guided weapon that that they could use anywhere in Israel and strike down any Israeli politician or senior IDF personnel at will? Can you imagine how the US and the Western world would react if the Palestinians killed, say, Israeli Defence Force Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in a ‘targeted assassination’? Would such an attack against an Israeli responsible for the deaths of scores of Palestinians be considered any the less a ‘terrorist’ attack than the ‘targeted assassination’ of the wheelchair-bound spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, in March 2004? Such an action by Palestinians would not be tolerated by the West and instantly labelled as ‘terrorist’ yet when the Israelis commit the same terrorist act against an old and frail man in a wheelchair it is applauded. This is staggering hypocrisy, yet so many in the West whose minds have been numbed by the relentless propaganda espousing the self-righteousness of the West are unable to see it.
Ever since the Israelis began the ethnic cleansing of Palestine they have always used ‘self-defence’ to excuse their own terrorist activities while accusing those that have fought back as being ‘terrorists’ themselves. The Israelis believe that because their terrorists are part of the bona fide military force of a sovereign nation that the label of terrorist cannot be applied to them. There are two problems with this misconception when it comes to considering what are and what are not terrorist acts. First, the legitimate forces of a sovereign nation have certain legal obligations under international law, many of which Israel has contravened. Secondly, there are many questions of morality that must also be considered when invoking the label ‘terrorist’ and, again, Israel cannot be considered to have acted morally when launching targeted assassinations and killing innocent civilians and many children. Nor can they be considered to have acted morally when collectively destroying the homes and agricultural and horticultural facilities of entire families and communities as they have done in the West Bank and the Gaza. These are both illegal and immoral activities that, had the Palestinians done this to the Israelis, would be considered terrorist acts.
For the Israelis there may well be a third problem that will arise as the unintended consequence of US policy relating to the declaration that a sovereign nation’s defence force arm is a terrorist organisation. If the US pushes through their threatened legislation declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a ‘terrorist organisation’ then the precedent will be set for any nation to call the legitimate forces of any other nation a terrorist organisation – including Israel’s enemies declaring the IDF a ‘terrorist organisation’.
Part two will take the discussion further by examining in closer detail why Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including mercenaries, can also be considered as ‘terrorists’.