[News] The binary imperialist world of terrorists and anti-terrorists

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Sep 18 13:30:48 EDT 2021

binary imperialist world of terrorists and anti-terrorists
Joseph Massad - September 17, 2021

In the last two decades, the US has divided the world between terrorists
and anti-terrorists. Whereas terrorism is not a new term and harks back to
the French Revolution, the US “war on terror” launched in 2001 has remade
it into a western obsession.

If colonial wars have been launched in the name of fighting the “barbarism”
and “heathenism” of non-Europeans since the 16th century, the new war on
terror has given “barbarism” a new name. Official justifications and
mainstream western press coverage justified the war by the fabrication that
Iraq <https://www.middleeasteye.net/countries/iraq> had weapons of mass
destruction and that it had had a role in the attacks of 9/11, in addition
to the laughable claim that US wars aim to bring democracy to non-white
people living under despotic rule.

US policymakers also understand that the goals of US wars are imperial
economic pillage and military supremacy, which they call 'democracy'

In the past week, newly released US documents are said to point to alleged
Iranian involvement
9/11, in preparation for more US aggression against that country. US
strategists realise that neither Iraq nor Iran
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/countries/iran> had a role in the 9/11
attacks, except that the 9/11 attacks provided the US with pretexts for war
designed for western public consumption.

US strategists also understand that the goals of US wars are imperial
economic pillage and military supremacy, which they call “democracy”. This
is no different from the motives of those who launched Europe’s colonial
wars over the last five centuries, which they understood perfectly as in
the interest of economic pillage and profit, which they called
More pronounced pedigree

In the imperial politics of the Middle East and especially in the
settler-colonial politics of Palestine and Algeria, terrorism has had a
more pronounced pedigree, which would play an important role in informing
the US war on terror.

Whereas the film *The Battle of Algiers, *depicting French barbarism
suppressing the Algerian anti-colonial revolutionaries, had been a
favourite of anti-colonialists around the world since it was made in the
1960s, the US Defense Department
used the film after 2001 as an educational training video for its military
strategists on how to suppress anti-colonial violence, defined as


9/11 attacks: US-Saudi relations are proof that the ‘war on terror’ was a

In Israel, just a few days after the events of 9/11, Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/14/israel.september11>, busy
suppressing the Second Palestinian Intifada, informed the Americans that
“everyone has his own bin Laden. Arafat is our bin Laden”. The Israeli
experience with the ongoing suppression of indigenous Palestinian
resistance came to function as a principal model for the US war on terror.

The history of the term “terrorist” in Palestine since the 1930s is most
illustrative in this regard. Early Palestinian resistance under British
colonial rule mostly took the form of legal appeals to the British,
organising and mobilising the population against land sales to Zionists,
and appealing to international actors to help in obtaining national

As this proved ineffective, by 1935 Palestinian peasant resistance erupted,
becoming an all-out revolt, which lasted from 1936 to 1939. The revolt
included strikes, demonstrations and guerrilla action taken against the
British and the Jewish colonial settlers. The British characterised the
guerrilla war of liberation as “terrorism” and suppressed it with massive
military action, including the re-invasion of the country, killing
close to 9,000
and wounding about 30,000
exiling dozens and executing more than 100 Palestinian revolutionaries.

The British organised joint British-Zionist death squads (known as the Special
Night Squads
<https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03086534.2015.1083220>) that
attacked Palestinian villages at night and shot and killed an untold number
of Palestinians.
Zionist terrorism

The Jewish colonists at the time began to use new methods to suppress
Palestinian resistance, including blowing up cafes with grenades (in
Jerusalem for example on 17 March 1937), and placing electrically timed
in crowded market places, first used by the Zionists against Palestinians
in Haifa on 6 July 1938. When, following the suppression of the Palestinian
revolt, the British had to limit their support for the Zionist project,
Zionist attacks turned against them.

[image: British soldiers enter the Old City of Jerusalem 1938]
British soldiers enter the Old City of Jerusalem to impose a curfew
following Arab rioting against Jews during the British mandate in
Palestine, 19 October 1938 (AFP)

The Zionist response included
blowing up a ship in Haifa in November 1940, killing 242 Jewish refugees
and a number of British police personnel; the assassination of British
government officials; taking British citizens hostages; blowing up
government offices killing employees and civilians; blowing up the British
embassy in Rome (1946); flogging and killing captured British soldiers; and
sending letter bombs and parcel bombs to British politicians in London,
among others.

Menachem Begin, the future prime minister of Israel, was the mastermind
behind a number of these attacks. Begin was unconvinced that the actions of
his group and those of other Zionist colonists constituted “terrorism”.
Following his group’s massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the village
of Deir Yassin in April 1948, his name had become synonymous with
terrorism. Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt
<https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/einstein/1948/12/02.htm>, among
others, described Begin’s group as not only “a terrorist right-wing,
chauvinist organisation”, but “closely akin to… the Nazi and fascist

Zionist violence against the Palestinians was seen more in the register of
European Jewish civilisation fighting primitive Palestinian barbarism

In his 1951 autobiography
Begin dissociates his group from terrorism. He was astute enough to
appreciate that “terrorism” is not an objective term agreed upon by all
parties, but rather a rhetorical strategy used by unequal enemies for
political ends: “The word ‘terror’ came to define the acts of
revolutionaries or counter-revolutionaries, or fighters for freedom and
oppressors. It all depends on who uses the term.”

Begin here is speaking of Zionist terrorism against the British, not the
Palestinians. Zionist violence against the Palestinians was seen more in
the register of European Jewish civilisation fighting primitive, indigenous
Palestinian barbarism. David Ben-Gurion
was clear on this issue when he insisted that “we are not Arabs, and others
measure us by a different standard… our instruments of war are different
from those of the Arabs”.
Sober assessments

But Ben-Gurion
understood well the nature of Palestinian resistance to Jewish
settler-colonialism: “If I was an Arab leader, I would never make terms
with Israel. That is natural; we have taken their country. Sure, God
promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not
theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but that was two thousand years
ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis,
Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we
have come and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”

Ben-Gurion’s understanding of Palestinian resistance was shared by Vladimir
the founder of Zionist revisionism to which Begin belonged. He too insisted
that “any native people - it’s all the same whether they are civilised or
savage - views their country as their national home, of which they will
always be the complete masters. They will not voluntarily allow, not only a
new master, but even a new partner. And so it is for the Arabs.”


Israel-Palestine: Nine days that shook the world

These sober assessments did not prevent Ben-Gurion and Israel from
proceeding with the conscious and planned destruction of Palestinian
society in 1948 and the deployment of a type of violence that Israel would
identify as terrorism if emulated by the Palestinians. Israeli official
propaganda since then has defined the wanton dispossession of the
Palestinian people as a justifiable moral act to redeem “the Jewish people”.

Indeed, to redeem Jews, Zionists not only introduced car bombs and market
and cafe bombings to the Middle East, Israel would also introduce plane
as early as 1954. The Israeli air force would often seize civilian
airliners in international skies and divert them to Israel, subject the
passengers to inspection, interrogation as well as incarceration.

Moreover, Israel remains the only party in the Middle East that shot down a
civilian airliner, as it did a Libyan plane
in 1973, killing 106 passengers on board. In the early 1980s, it
specialised in planting car bombs
<https://merip.org/1983/10/campaign-of-terror/> in Lebanon.

But as the Israelis and the Americans understand very well, the ongoing
discourse on terrorism is not about the victims of “terrorism” but about
the “perpetrators”. The fact that state armies more regularly target the
very same victims that “terrorists” target, yet are not referred to as
“terrorists”, clarifies that it is not the act of “terrorism” that defines
the actor as “terrorist” but rather the opposite: it is the perpetrator’s
conferred identity as “terrorist” that defines his/her actions as
“terrorist” in nature.
Conscious strategy

The massive violence the state of Israel has deployed since 1948 is a
conscious strategy to suppress all Palestinian resistance to the theft of
their country (which Ben-Gurion acknowledged as nothing but outright theft)
and was accompanied by official propaganda that the Israelis were, and are,
merely defending “their” country and its redeemed Jewish colonists against
terrorism. That Israel acquired the peremptory power as a state since 1948
to designate the indigenous Palestinians who resist it as “terrorists”
strengthened such claims even more.

The naming of the latest imperial invasions as the 'war on terror' … is
nothing short of the latest justification for colonial and imperial pillage

If conferral of the identity “terrorist” aims to give moral justification
for imperial and colonial violence in order to differentiate “legitimate”
state violence from anti-imperial resistance deemed “terrorism”, it has
failed to persuade its victims; and neither have efforts by imperialist
groups, such as Human Rights Watch
who insist on equating colonial violence with anti-colonial resistance,
especially in the case of the Palestinians and Israel.

Evidently, the US, Israel and other imperial European countries understand
well that the resistance of Palestinians, Algerians, Vietnamese, Iraqis,
Afghans, Yemenis, Somalis and other peoples around the world to colonial
and imperial invasions and bombings is a legitimate and moral self-defence
against imperial and colonial terror, which is why they have to launch
political propaganda campaigns and fabrications, and deploy the term
“terrorism” to depict such resistance as always immoral and illegitimate.

As for the naming of the latest imperial invasions as the "war on terror",
it should be viewed in this historical context - as nothing short of the
latest justification for colonial and imperial pillage that Europe and its
white settler-colonies have visited on the globe since the 16th century.

*The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.*
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