|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
29 Nov. - 5 Dec. 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
The limits of terror
Since the 11 September attack, the US has developed a new definition of terrorism: now, this terms refers exclusively to any act of material or moral violence directed against the US or its interests anywhere in the world. This definition, inevitably, encompasses Israel; and so the only criterion for defining international terrorism has become whatever either of the two countries considers violence. The circumstances, and the responsibility of the US or Israel, have no bearing on the definition.
This definition of terrorism is now implemented in an authoritarian way, whether in relation to the attacks on Afghanistan or the policy of assassination and destruction Israel is implementing against the Palestinians. The rest of the world seems willing to accept the American definition of international terrorism, for no one has attempted to oppose it in practice. Governments the world over have been blackmailed into condoning the US's participation in the massacre of Afghans following the fall of the Taliban, even though the US has yet to find Bin Laden or Mullah Omar.
Most governments have also been silent about the horrors Israel inflicts on the Palestinians every day. The European envoys recently touring the region kept their mouths shut, happy to accept Colin Powell's speech about the American "vision" for the region as yet another of the perpetually postponed efforts to achieve peace.
The new definition of terrorism has clothed anti- terrorist procedures in new guises. Having arrested over 1,100 Arab and Muslim "suspects" resident in the US, the CIA is casually demanding that other governments work as its proxies, and arrest "suspects" of its choosing outside the US as well, before handing them over to American investigators. According to the American press, 360 such suspects have been arrested in 51 countries, for no reason other than a possible connection with Al- Qa'eda. If the governments in question refused to comply, CIA agents were directed to storm intelligence headquarters and steal the documents they wanted.
In the hum of tension America's militarism has created, the war on terrorism has become a weapon to break the will of governments and peoples who resent US intervention in their affairs. Most Arab governments willingly cracked down on anti- American elements, and America has demanded that they persuade the religious authorities to support the campaign against Afghanistan and calm their constituents' antagonism toward the US.
It is easy to understand, in light of these developments, why Sharon's statements were so defiant and contemptuous, after Powell's address and the arrival of American delegates in the Middle East. Now that America has defined terrorism by placing itself and Israel above the rest of the world, Sharon can continue to terrorise the Palestinian Authority and people with ever more force, using the most barbaric violence against innocent civilians. Following the US's example, Sharon can furiously oppose the Arabic media's criticism of his policies. He has even called on US companies to boycott Abu Dhabi's satellite channel and force it to discontinue a television serial that mocks him. Among other scenes, Sharon is shown singing "I am a terrorist" as footage of Israeli soldiers massacring Palestinian civilians rolls in the backgroun d.
Has Pax American a dawned at last?
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