“I am a terrorist. At least that is what they call me. I grew up hearing the same word being repeated so often that I thought terrorists were the good guys for a second. They are apparently not.”-I Am a Terrorist: Memories of Gaza by Sarah Ali
Who is a terrorist? How do we decide what is terrorism? Where do we draw the lines between terrorism and seemingly universally acknowledged virtues like patriotism, standing up for truth and justice? Then a bigger question arise, who decides what terrorism is? Who decides which people are liable to be called as terrorists and who are not? For instance, if we take Robin Hood in the folklore stories for example, he was condemned as an outlaw by the King but to the poor he was their savior. If you agree that Robin had no right to rob the rich and to give the poor then you would too condemn him as a terrorist. On the other hand, if you put yourself in the shoes of the oppressed people of the kingdom who saw the king as a tyrant, who was looting them from their rightful money then you would agree Robin Hood was a savior for the people. For some strange reasons, we tend to agree with the poor and oppressed people’s way of thinking. Hope you remember this part.
The black people’s movement in USA in the late fifties and sixties saw an uprising which was unprecedented in the history of USA. Four hundred years prior to that, the black people worked as slaves for the system of the “White man”. If you agree to these “White man” that they had the right to bring these African savages forcefully and use them as slaves then you would agree that this black men’s movement was a criminal movement. On the other hand, if you believe that, the black people in America have as much right like any other human being then you would agree with the black people’s movement. Even though the goal was the same, the distinctive leaders of the movement had various views of achieving this goal. Malcolm X put that beautifully, “I’ll say nothing against him (Martin Luther King). At one time the whites in the United States called him a racialist, and extremist, and a Communist. Then the Black Muslims came along and the whites thanked the Lord for Martin Luther King.” No doubt the Black Muslims unprecedented leader was hated even more by the US elites. While Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream…” Malcolm X said, “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” We remember both of them today with respect.
Nelson Mandela fought his whole life against the apartheid regime of South Africa. The white racists called him a terrorist and put him to jail for nearly three decades. Even British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronal Reagan described him as a terrorist. While Mandela was still in prison and Margaret Thatcher visited South Africa, a reporter asked her if she would visit Mandela in the prison. She replied, “The prime Minister of England does not talk to terrorist.” Few months later when Mandela was released from prison and became President of South Africa and Margaret Thatcher wanted to meet him he replied back, “Terrorists don’t receive the Prime Ministers of England.” You can imagine what poor Margaret Thatcher’s shock upon hearing it was!
During the liberation movement in subcontinent, those who stood up against the British regime were depicted as traitors and terrorist. But the people of the subcontinent, who saw that this imperialist, colonialist people, who came half way across the world and took over their possession had no right to do so, held those who stood up against them as freedom fighters.
So we see, many political leaders or even large group of men, were depicted often as terrorists by one group and hailed by the others. Sometimes these men sought peaceful nonviolent ways to achieve their means like Gandhi or cried out for freedom like Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death”. It depends on whose view you agree with. Also we see history tends to support the masses, those who were oppressed. Those who were in the power and abused their position, it was them who stood in the wrong side of history.
Do we face such dilemma even today? Yes, absolutely. Take for example the Palestinian people in general and certain armed groups in particular. Evidently all the big parties like Hamas, Fatah, PFLP has their own wing of armed forces along with Islamic Jihad (are you flinching?). All of these groups are listed as terrorist organization according to US and European Union. Remember the earlier rule we applied? Let’s examine their case. And when I say examine, I don’t mean going over every single incidence of suicide bombing alleged or proved, rockets which were fired or not fired. No. I mean the concept. Do the Palestinian people have the right of armed resistance? And by doing so does that make them terrorist?
“Suppose that a man leaps out of a burning building… and lands on a bystander in the street below. Now, make the burning building be Europe, and the luckless man underneath be the Palestinian Arabs. Is this a historical injustice? Has the man below been made a victim, with infinite cause of complaint and indefinite justification for violent retaliation? My own reply would be a provisional ‘no,’ but only on these conditions. The man leaping from the burning building must still make such restitution as he can to the man who broke his fall, and must not pretend that he never even landed on him. And he must base his case on the singularity and uniqueness of the original leap. It can’t, in other words, be ‘leap, leap, leap’for four generations and more. The people underneath cannot be expected to tolerate leaping on this scale and of this duration, if you catch my drift. In Palestine, tread softly, for you tread on their dreams. And do not tell the Palestinians that they were never fallen upon and bruised in the first place. Do not shame yourself with the cheap lie that they were told by their leaders to run away. Also, stop saying that nobody knew how to cultivate oranges in Jaffa until the Jews showed them how. ‘Making the desert bloom’—one of Yvonne’s stock phrases—makes desert dwellers out of people who were the agricultural superiors of the Crusaders.” – Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir
So what the luckless men, the Palestinians must do? Should they enter into more negotiations like OSLO to anesthetize themselves, so that the masses remain unaware of their morbid condition? Should they leave their struggle and try to find their refuge elsewhere? That would be the dream of the Imperialist for sure, but the land of Palestine is not just another land. It’s the holy land, a land which is build upon consciousness. It is a land where Muslims, Jews and Christians have always lived peacefully save the time during Crusader invasions and in the modern time the Zionist invasion. And the Zionist ideology, which is based upon racial supremacy, brought its havoc upon the defenseless Palestinians.
“The Palestinian Intifadas did not start out of the blue, and the next day Palestinian resistance groups were throwing homemade rockets at settlements and Israeli towns. Ten years ago not one single Palestinian (not even those with the wildest imagination) could have foreseen that certain kinds of rockets will be used in the struggle. But Israel made it possible. By crushing stone throwers, Israel was, albeit not directly, saying to the Palestinians, “you better think of other weapons”. And Palestinians did.
Therefore, the two intifadas developed not according to the laws of necessity and inevitability or in regards to a certain theory of evolution: a stone, a Molotov cocktail, a gun and then homemade rockets. Israel developed it. As we were throwing stones, thinking that that would deter and curb the ills and evils of the occupation, Israel was growing fiercer and fiercer: evolving from shooting to injure, to Rabin’s bone-smashing policy, to shooting to kill, to collective destruction, to mass killings.” -I was Mustafa Tamimi by Reefat Alareer
But it would be a mistake in our part to deal the Palestinian problem as a regional problem. It is not. The oppressors who are sustaining it are not based only in Tel Aviv. They are occupying all the key posts in the US politics; they hold the power from White House to Senate and Congress. They run the world monitory system; they are the owners of Banks in the West. Media is in their pocket, politicians are their employees. Do I sound like a conspiracy buff? Why is it then Israeli relentless attack and gross violation of Human Rights, those Rights which these same people wearing ties and black suits while having a sip of English afternoon tea prescribed the whole world to follow, are now themselves ignoring? Why it is that no UN resolution can ever be implemented or actions can’t be taken against Israel, while they could attack Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya? Why it is that Israel’s nukes, chemical and biological weapons go unchecked while even building a nuclear facility by Iran becomes threat for international security? How come it finds money to wage war in different countries, supply Israel with relentless aid while can’t even take care of its unemployed people? Why it is we here more of war than of peace? Why it is all the countries are attacked are Muslim countries? Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya are all Muslim countries the last time I checked. Is it because they happened to be in the wrong time in the wrong place or because they have all the resources that world Imperialist sick or is it because they happen to have wrong sorts of believes which made killing of them somewhat permissible. May be that is why killing of a Kashmiri in India, Chechen in Russia or Rohingya in Myanmar doesn’t hit the headlines. Why it is European Union is quick to condemn a rocket fired or not fired from Gaza that happened to damage some grass but remains silent when scores of innocent people have died over the years. If you see, all these forces are in cahoots to achieve their common aim of global dominance. The colonialism never left us; it just upgraded to a more sophisticated form. Divide and rule, had always been their policy. Whether it is Fatah-Hamas conflict, KSA-Iran tension or the internal struggles with in Libya in the recent past and now Syria in the present, we see their naked involvement. And while we have mastered to delude ourselves from the reality, and has preferred fighting with each other over simple reasons, the enemy has kept gaining on us. Since we face the same threat, since we all believe in the same God given rights that every man has a right to enjoy, it is only common sense that our approaches should be united.
“I think that an objective analysis of events that are taking place on this earth today points towards some type of ultimate showdown. You can call it political showdown, or even a showdown between the economic systems that exist on this earth which almost boil down along racial lines. I do believe that there will be a clash between East and West. I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.” -Malcolm X, January 19, 1965
So bearing this entire thing in mind, how do we approach to solve this should be a matter of intelligence. But we shouldn’t be advocating for nonviolence to solve all our problems just for the sake of avoiding violence. Nowhere in the world, had people gained any justice by singing we shall overcome or putting their faith on the goodwill of their oppressors. Palestine is the meeting place of all ideas. This is a land built upon consciences, not upon racist dogmas. It is a land where people of all faith should have their access, not any exclusive group of “chosen people” who place their values purely based on genetic basis rather than virtues. Such ideologies are bound to crumble.
Finally while making my point, I can’t but help myself ponder on these lines, a calm resentful voice of the oppressed echoing to every corner of humanity inquiring its existence….. “I am living in a world whose concepts are no longer clear to me. A world where the criminal walks free and the victim is called a terrorist. A world where killing a 5 year old kid is permissible. A world that once left me baffled about what is right and what is wrong. I have always thought that we could figure out who the terrorist is simply by looking at who dies on whose side. I was wrong. Israel has the ability to kill Palestinians at night and call them terrorists the next morning.
Now on a second thought, I think I am a terrorist. I mean I want the Israelis out of the refugees’ lands, and I call the IDF a group of coldhearted murderers all the time. This obviously makes me a terrorist. Haneen did not know what a cold-hearted murderer is! Haneen was a little kid whose life was snuffed out because an Israeli soldier felt like killing somebody and she just happened to be that somebody. Haneen was an unfortunate human being who was born Palestinian and accordingly guilty. She did nothing wrong to Israel. She was a 5 year old girl who was split into little pieces while in bed. Haneen was too young to die. Who cares about Hansen’s death anyway? She was a terrorist, too.” – I Am a Terrorist: Memories of Gaza by Sarah Ali