Look beyong alliances, ideology to fight war against terror

Tehseen Ahmed Column

In his Tuesday letter, Richard Goldberg wrote, “Now is the time to stand with our allies against terrorism and, together, continue the just fight to rid our world of barbarism and inhumanity.” As if the experience of massive loss of life is unique to our two nations. As if the suffering known to the rest of the global population until now has not qualified to fit into this category of “terrorism” and thus can not let them partake in our larger, more worthy brand of victimization.

As if the state-sponsored massacres, misery, torment and systemic human rights perversions of innocent peoples in Kashmir, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, China, Tibet, Afghanistan and yes, even Palestine, pales in comparison to the magnitude of what the United States and Israel have known. As if only Israel has the qualification and capacity by virtue of common experience to genuinely share in our grief and scorn for “barbarism and inhumanity.”

The “just fight” against terrorism that Goldberg’s letter and Leoor Baskin’s Monday column call us to would in any other context be valiant and upright. Yet the basis for their call dangerously rests on an exclusive, isolationist, self-righteous and arbitrary interpretation of who merits the title “victim” and who earns the label “terrorist.” This dichotomous carving up of the world subscribes to an absolutist view of Good and Evil and ignores and discards the legitimacy of others who suffer, particularly in this context, the people of Palestine.

Yes, we (we, not just you) mourn the loss of Israeli lives victimized by suicide bombings, and rightly so. But it is an insult and anathema to any claim to respect human life if we, in that same breath of grief, ignore the fact that “scores of men, women and children, without distinction” (to borrow a phrase from Goldberg) have too been massacred in Palestine, and by most estimates, in larger numbers. It is morally repugnant to dismiss the economic devastation and sweeping poverty that pervade more than 2 million Palestinian homes because of the Israeli government’s economic chokehold.

In the past year, 800 Palestinians have died and 20,000 were wounded. In the past three days, Israeli government-sponsored missiles have killed 20 Palestinians, including five children on their way to school. Just weeks ago, a bomb planted by the Israeli government in a residential Palestinian neighborhood killed five young boys. Within the past week, the Israeli military launched two pre-dawn military operations with heavy explosives in Palestinian refugee camps, bulldozing and demolishing more than 500 homes, most with people inside, as reported by the army.

Yes, terrorism exists, but in both camps. Yes, unjust and grievous suffering exists, but in both camps. The way to shatter the exponentially escalating cycle of violence and terrorism is to first shatter the conceptions and attitudes that entrench it. If we continue to see ourselves and our allies as residing on a higher plane of suffering than others, it will bode poorly for our own future and fight against terrorism. At the end of the day, massive numbers of human casualties still qualify as a horrific and unconscionable loss of life, but Goldberg and Baskin seem to believe that geography determines whether a people’s suffering falls into this category or that of “terrorism.”

An exclusive vision of which type and whose suffering is worthy of our compassion – of who is expendable so as to preserve the lives of those who claim a “legitimate” right to life – buys into a fascist mentality of justified mass murder for the protection of what we arbitrarily deem a more legitimate population. It’s the same mentality that infested the minds of the perpetrators of Sept. 11.

So, let’s wage a war, a genuinely “just fight.” Let’s fight against barbaric and inhuman ideologies. Let’s stand in solidarity with everyone who has been victim to and opposes terrorism, not just our allies or whomever we consider legitimate and worthy enough to loathe terrorism.

Only then can we bring the process of ending terrorism to fruition.