The only groups that we demand a strict adherence to nonviolence from are the marginalized and their advocates. We call their grievances ‘ideologies’ as a means of crushing any discursive avenues by which they can be addressed. And then, when what are sometimes the worst elements of their own society finally turn their isolation into violence, we call it terrorism.
"The war on terror” Lewis Lapham said in a 2011 speech at Stanford University, “is a war on an unknown enemy and an abstract noun--and it can't be won.” Terrorism is a nebulous term. It is an idea that, in a political context, we use it in order to describe a campaign of organized violence used against civilian populations by a group in order to obtain that group’s various political ends. The word itself is used so often in the media, as George Orwell noted in his essay Politics and the English Language, that its meaning has either been totally lost or changed forever. It is always in the service of war against this term ‘terrorism’ or to stop certain ‘terrorists’ that we justify the industrial slaughter of defenseless civilian populations all over the Middle East--and it is again being used to sell an atrocity happening right now more than 5,000 miles away from Boston in the Gaza strip.
As the situation for Palestinians deteriorates, keep in mind is that Gaza has been under siege by occupation forces for six years. Gaza has since been undergoing one health crisis after another thanks to that siege. The limits on what can come into Gaza put in place by the occupation forces don’t just affect the public health, either. At the siege’s peak in 2009, some 60 percent of the more than 1.6 million Palestinian households in Gaza were deemed “food insecure” by the U.N. -- which is a more diplomatic way of saying that they live in gripping poverty.
If you repeat a lie long enough in the right place it will eventually become true. Though Israel invaded Gaza on November 8th and was already, according to Amnesty international, breaking international law, the narrative seen in the New York Times and on CNN is that things had started over rocket fire sent into Israel on the 10th. In reality, however, things began to escalate when 12-year-old Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was killed while playing soccer with a friend in Gaza as a result of indiscriminate IDF shooting. The next day two rockets were fired into southern Israel that yielded no injuries; and the day after that the IDF attacked a playground and several civilian neighborhoods, killing seven. A truce was negotiated through Egypt between November 11-13, and swiftly broken by Israel on the 14th with the extrajudicial killing of Hamas leader Ahmad al-Jabari. Israel has since continued its disproportionate use of force against civilian neighborhoods, targeted water supplies in Gaza (a war crime), and is now making preparations for a ground invasion into Gaza.
Israel’s belligerent escalation prompted the U.N. security council to call an emergency meeting on November 14 in order to discuss this events in the Gaza. The meeting ended with most of the council’s members condemning Israel’s tactics, and will likely result in the council debating a resolution that would call for a ceasefire--the vote on which the U.S. will probably delay at Israel’s behest. The delay will result in even more civilian deaths. And, like Operation Cast Lead in 2009, will likely see it’s heaviest bombing in the final hours just before the ceasefire sets into effect. Sycophant politicians will continue spinning the legitimate anger of the oppressed into an excuse for the the oppressor to defend itself, and all the while the people of Gaza will go on living in what was once described by David Cameron as an “open-air prison” roughly the same size as Queens.
They have no army or navy, no air force, and no lobby in Washington with which to buy weapons and political favor. Their cries are not heard. And, even (or especially) when the most anathema factions around them take advantage of their rage, they are being victimized. They are not terrorists. They have a right to fight back. We have a duty to to at least recognize that before things get any worse. Until then the thought that we are making progress in any area other than our ability to design weapons to use against people that we’ve already dehumanized will mean about as much as the term ‘terrorism’ does.
In Camus’ words
Dans un tel monde de conflits, un monde de victimes et bourreaux, c'est le travail des gens qui pensent de ne pas être du côté des bourreaux.
[In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.]
Joshua Daniel Niland is a student at Boston University.