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‘Democracy’ and ‘terrorism’ and the parameters of thinkable thought

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At a recent academic conference devoted to the historical analysis of culture, I spoke to a young Israeli colleague about the highly problematic nature of the term “terrorism.” As I spoke, he looked at me with genuine bafflement and then said, “I don’t understand what you are talking about.”  And I really think that at that moment it was the case.

For this thirtyish resident of the self-proclaimed Jewish state there were—despite his professed interest in the historical evolution of languages and social ideologies—no semantic mysteries to be plumbed in this matter. No, for him, a terrorist was what the opinion-makers of his country had long told him it was: a person with malign and, more importantly, wholly irrational desire to harm members of his blood-bonded collective.

I then went on to explain that the powerful have long used the term terrorist to delegitimate the often quite understandable use of violence of their less lethally endowed adversaries, adducing a list of historical examples ranging from 19th century colonial Ireland to the South Africa of the 60s, 70s and 80s, where, of course, the now sanctified Nelson Mandela was considered the number one “terrorist” threat to the geboorteland.

Being a smart guy, he soon began to realize where this was going:  to a place where his simplistic moral views of good and evil, rooted in cartoonishly ahistorical notions of causality, would not hold up too well.  Not surprisingly, he changed the subject at the next socially appropriate juncture of the conversation.

It is an experience I have had time and again over the years not only with Zionists, but their ideological first cousins, American Exceptionalists. Think of it as a form of tactical retreat designed to prevent the further exposure of what spies sometimes refer to as “sources and methods.”

To engage in a discussion over the power of naming—which is to say, the descriptive shorthand used to generate more or less apprehensible (though not necessarily accurate) renderings of the enormous complexity of lived reality—is to admit the existence of the game. And to admit the existence of the game is to call attention to how power elites have long used it to deprive the less fortunate of the ability to craft an accurate and compelling narrative of their plight. The partisans of established power instinctively understand that they have nothing to gain, and everything to lose, in such dialogues. Hence, their vigorous attempts to head them off at the pass.

So, what are those of us on the other side to do when those comfortable with the status quo will not engage us on the very important matter of language usage?

Before answering that query, it might be useful to establish what we definitely SHOULD NOT do in such matters. First and foremost we need to stop engaging in the widespread fantasy, especially prevalent among liberals, of believing that “somehow, some way” (it never ceases to amaze me how vague liberals can be on the operational details of their efforts within wars of ideas where the other side plans each move with great forethought and precision) we can substantially advance our cause from within the nomenclature the other side has established, and which it actively manages.

As long as we accept the blithe use of terms like “terrorist” to refer to Palestinians fighting for basic dignity and freedom, or, going in the opposite direction, accept the matter-of-fact description of Israel as a “democracy”, we lose the game. Why? Because those terms, and instructions for their effective deployment within dialectical confrontations, have been carefully designed by people like Frank Luntz to leave no room for a true dialogue of ideas. Indeed, their prime purpose is to stop sincere interchanges right in their tracks. So, as a first step we need to stop expending our energies on arguments taking place within their parameters of thinkable thought.

One thing we CAN do is to politely, but firmly contest such usages in our everyday conversations. No need to get aggressive. Rather, when, in a dialogue, your interlocutor refers matter-of-factly to Palestinians as terrorists, or as people who widely “embrace terrorism” and who are bent on “ throwing Israel into the sea” you simply refer to the same people, as “resisters” “patriots” or “lovers of freedom” when it comes your time to speak.

Having grown used to employing such pejorative terms without reserve or circumspection for a long time, many will get annoyed. But if enough of us do it over time, they will begin to feel a lot less cocksure about their self-image as speakers of self-evident and unambiguous truths.

A version of this technique was used in Catalonia in the first years of the new Spanish democracy. During the nearly four-decade dictatorship of Franco, the use of Catalan in public spaces had been prohibited. With the coming of democracy in the eighties, linguistic and cultural activists made a point of always responding in Catalan (a more or less mutually intelligible language) to those that addressed them in Spanish.  At first, this rankled the hell out of those who saw Spanish as the unquestioned first language of that cultural space. Over time, however, most came to accept it as at least the co-equal of Spanish in their immediate surroundings.

Much more important in the long run, however, will be the construction of a readily apprehensible epic of the Palestinian experience of resistance and survival, and the creation of institutions—understood here in the broadest possible meaning of the term—that remind people of this very particular history.

Zionists have excelled at this practice during the last century.  Granted, they have had many friends in the media to help them along.  But, in the end, all such attempts to instrumentalize the past of a collective—an absolutely ubiquitous and essential element of all movements of national mobilization—begins with the psychological decision on the part of that movement’s partisans to invest themselves with the power to name, and from there, the power to generate their version of who has done what to whom over time.

For example, Yad Vashem has a special section devoted to the Righteous Among the Nations whose purpose, as the organization’s website makes clear, is to honor what they portray as the relatively few gentiles that rose above the generalized “indifference” and/or “hostility” toward the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust.

Not much shyness or ambivalence about naming there. With enormous self-assurance, the management team at Yad Vashem presumes that it is very much in its purview as representatives of a people who have suffered massive and grotesque destruction, to spell out who among the much larger collective of gentiles acted in morally acceptable fashion.  Much like the US government in the post September 11th era, they effectively put a great mass of people in the position of being guilty until proven innocent. And in this realm who holds the exclusive keys to their symbolic exoneration, a.k.a. the right to be “unnamed” as morally suspect? Quite conveniently, this same institution, the Zionist state.

Let me be clear, I fully support the Zionist right to engage in these acts of moral discernment.

What I am challenging is the decision among many of us outside the pale, so to speak, to allow Zionists to view claim this pursuit as their near exclusive prerogative.

For example, what if those that support the Palestinian right to live in peace and dignity were to begin identifying and honoring “Righteous Jews”, that is, those people from Israel and the diaspora who have bucked the widespread social pressure of their communities to accept the logic of settler colonialism rooted in ethnic supremacism not only as normal and unremarkable, but as a great and admirable historical enterprise?

Sound jarring? Provocative?  A little too “in your face”?

It shouldn’t.

The fact that it probably does conjure up these feelings in many reading these lines confirms just how much of our universal moral patrimony, our inherent individual and collective right to forthrightly “name” calculated acts of inhumanity in our midst as we each see fit, has been ceded to a small group of people with the incredible nerve to repeatedly present themselves and/or the group they belong to as having the Last Word™ when it comes to measuring the true comparative import of the targeted destruction of one nation by another, or deciding  how others should or should not (e.g. the case of the nuns at Auschwitz) be able to commemorate such horrific tragedies.

The Zionist establishment and its legion of paid and unpaid hasbarists have very seldom shown any reticence about playing dialectical hardball with those they perceive as their enemies, nor of using any and all linguistic tropes at their disposal to keep those inclined to criticize Israel’s consistently atrocious behavior toward the Palestinians back on their heels in a defensive posture.

I think it is time for us to demonstrate in a more coordinated and concrete fashion to our Zionist friends that the “name game” is now—and will be for the foreseeable future—much more of a two-way street.

Thomas S. Harrington

Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of the recently released Livin’ la Vida Barroca: American Culture in a Time of Imperial Orthodoxies.

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43 Responses

  1. ET on August 25, 2016, 1:23 pm

    International Law is contractual law between nation-states:
    1 International Law does not expire
    2 International Law is fulfilled or superseded
    3 UN Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80 UNGA 181 Terms of UN Trusteeship cannot be superseded through:
    3.1 UN Resolution in breach of Article 78 vis-a-vis A/RES/67/19_UNGA 181
    3.2 Neither bi-lateral agreement that breaches Vienna Convention on Laws of Treaties Article 53 jus cogens vis-a-vis multi-laterals of UN Charter & I_973 Geneva Article 49
    3.3 Nor any International Regional Agency breach of Vienna Convention on Laws of Treaties Article 5 vis-a-vis Article 53
    3.4 1.1.1 UNGA 181 is in effect
    I Breaches of Laws of Armed Conflict are War Crimes:
    1 Palestinian National Resistance are 100% Laws of Armed Conflict lawful belligerents in pursuit of affirmation of International Law of, but not limited to the following
    1.1 UN Charter UNGA 181, UNGA 273, UNSC 242, A/RES/43/177, UNSC 1397, & A/RES/67/19
    1.2 Laws of Armed Conflict (IV) Hague Convention, (IV) Geneva Conventions, Genocide Convention, Principles of Nuremberg
    2 Israel_Palestine Peace Agreement shall be qualified by Vienna Convention on Laws of Treaties, Article 53 jus cogens, vis-a-vis multi-laterals of UN Charter & I_973 Geneva or be invalid
    2.1 VC_LOT Article 53
    3 Sionist Absurd premise that the objective of any Israel_Palestine bi-lateral negotiations could be to breach International Law
    3.1 Israel_Palestine Peace Agreement is not a free pass for War Criminality
    3.1.1 Amnesty is offered to Israeli leadership that purpose to enter into International Law compliance
    4 Whereof the State of Israel leadership that purpose to continue their respective breach of International Law & the following shall be held accountable for War Crimes
    4.1 Absurd premise that any IDF war operation could be a LOAC Act of Reprisal to force Palestinian National Resistance Leadership to comply with UNSC 242 & LOAC when UNSC 242 & I_973 Geneva mandate that State of Israel vacate their Article 33 collective punishment siege at Gaza & vacate their Article 49 ipso facto war criminal settler citizenry at West Bank
    4.2 Principles of Nuremberg, Principle VI, (c) Crimes Against Humanity: Political persecution of Palestinians in an attempt to dispossess them from their UNGA 181 National Rights of sovereignty in connexion with
    (a) Crimes Against Peace: Breach of 1949 Armistice & non-compliance with Chapter VII Article 39’s UNSC 242
    or (b) War Crimes
    (i) Systemic Breach of I_973 Geneva Convention Article 49 transfer of Israeli Citizenry into occupied UNGA 181 State of Palestine West Bank Territory
    (ii) Genocide Convention: IDF siege vis-a-vis the People of UNGA 181 State of Palestine Gaza Territory
    4.3 War Crimes

  2. Yakov Hirsch on August 25, 2016, 5:27 pm

    “For example, what if those that support the Palestinian right to live in peace and dignity were to begin identifying and honoring “Righteous Jews”, …

    I loved this piece Thomas, but felt i should introduce Mr. Jeffrey Goldberg to you and show you what happens to him when he sees one of your “lists.”

    “In the middle of an otherwise forgettable death-to-Israel speech in Washington last week, the more talented half of the Mearsheimer-Walt Judeophobic combine placed on display, once again, his compulsive need to make lists of Jews. This time, Mr. Mearsheimer (a suspiciously Jewish-sounding name, though I’m told he’s German-American) lists those Jews he considers “righteous,” meaning that they seek the destruction of the Jewish state:

    • gamal on August 25, 2016, 6:03 pm

      “a suspiciously Jewish-sounding name”

      oh no! he internalized Anti-Semiticism and sadly, judging by his utterances, its clear where they shoved it.

      he still has a head, just saying.

      “Mearsheimer” it does sound faintly fecal, can one say that, i am wearing my Mankini and am ready for a good Frenching.

      I am too depressed to talk to Americans after Bill Blum’s latest idiocy. I started this shit after B. Ehrenreich janjaweed racism.

      i am retiring.

    • Citizen on August 28, 2016, 6:52 am

      @ Yakov Hirsch

      And this time, Mr. Goldberg (a suspiciously Germanic-sounding name, though I’m told he’s Jewish-American) lists those Germans he considers “righteous,” meaning that they seek the destruction of the German state.

  3. RoHa on August 25, 2016, 5:31 pm

    正名, again.

  4. ritzl on August 25, 2016, 5:48 pm

    Great article.

    This lays out why I object so much to the use of “the occupied territories.” It’s a phrasing/framing intended to completely negate Palestine and Palestinian identity in conversation. As Annie pointed out/corrected me a while back it’s Israel-occupied PALESTINE. Or just occupied Palestine.

    As mentioned in thus article, specific names have power and meaning, and autocorrect the opposite message in real time. Not using proper names (Palestine) accepts and perpetuates the overt dismissiveness of the oft-repeated generic framing.

    This is particularly important when most Americans believe it is Palestine that is occupying Israeli territory.

    Sorry to be repetitive but with Avigail’s article and this one there seems to be an uptick in the discussion of effective language surrounding this multi-generational travesty. This seemed relevant.


    • mariapalestina on August 26, 2016, 12:39 pm

      I always refer to it as Illegally Occupied Palestine.

      • echinococcus on August 26, 2016, 1:01 pm

        There is no legally occupied Palestine, though.

      • ritzl on August 26, 2016, 2:27 pm


        In three words or less you completely change the conversation.

      • klm90046 on August 27, 2016, 9:15 pm

        I look at it this way:-

        There is Stolen Palestine, aka Israel,

        and there is Occupied Palestine, or the West Bank and Gaza.

      • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 5:09 pm

        The nuance would be lost on most Zionists. The only clear differentiation would be brought by designating them pre-1967 and post-1967, imho.

  5. pabelmont on August 25, 2016, 5:51 pm

    Terrorist (per Israeli): a person with malign and, more importantly, wholly irrational desire to harm members of his blood-bonded collective.

    This is VERY odd !

    In USA and most places, a “terrorist” is a person other than a public official or soldier who performs violence for the very rational purpose of inducing a government to change a policy (e.g., to induce France to leave Algeria, inducing Israel to leave the OPTs) or inducing a population to change a behavior (such as how it votes).

    I am not sure that we (in USA) even have a word (unless it be “hate criminal” or “sociopath” or “violent madman”) for “someone who uses violence in a malign and wholly irrational way to harm members of an identifiable group of people”Certainly the right word, in the USA, is not “terrorist”.

    • Stephen Shenfield on August 27, 2016, 9:40 am

      The Israelis ‘piggyback’ on the standard definition of ‘terrorist’ given by pabelmont in order to win support for their efforts to suppress ‘terrorism’ defined ethnocentrically. This involves ignoring the fact that even on the standard definition there are plenty of Jewish terrorists — in particular, the settlers who use terror ‘to induce a population to change a behavior’, i.e., to induce Palestinians to get out of Palestine. It also involves expanding the meaning of ‘terrorist’ to cover Palestinian insurgents attacking military targets.

      There is also the controversy over whether to recognize that a state terrorizing civilians to induce them to change a behavior — say, to stop supporting Hamas — is also committing terrorism. Isn’t there such a thing as ‘state terrorism’?

      Concerning ‘righteous Jews’ there is the alternative term ‘Jews of conscience,’ which I think has certain advantages.

  6. JWalters on August 25, 2016, 8:31 pm

    Individuals who have frequent problems getting along with others also dodge any discussion of themselves regarding these problems. It’s a common pattern. The truth is too painful for their mind to go there. Acquiescing may seem “kind” in the short run, but in the long run it simply enables them to continue abusing others.

    In addition to using terms that are more accurate, I would suggest hammering on the FACTS behind those more accurate words. A central such fact is the Nakba. There is a reason the Israeli-controlled U.S. media have buried for decades the story about Israel’s slaughter and dispossession of Palestinians. It is 100% incompatible with the official Israeli story.

  7. echinococcus on August 25, 2016, 9:23 pm

    The worst in the matter of giving in to Zionist terrorism is the use, also by many otherwise supporters of Palestinian resistance, of “Israel/Palestine”, “Israel proper”, “Israel’s declared borders” etc. All this really goes under the chapter heading “Zionism Lite”.

  8. Kay24 on August 25, 2016, 10:14 pm

    Norm Chomsky on Obama’s love for Israel:

    EF: On the subject of success, to what extent can we say there’s been any in Israel and Palestine?

    “NC: We’ve seen zero success there. If we put aside words and look at actions, the Obama administration has been the most supportive administration of Israeli expansion so far. While the rest of the world condemns the illegal settlements, the US is still supporting the Israeli government in this point. There is still military, diplomatic, economic and even ideological support for continuing the settlement programme. Obama’s most remarkable move, one of the few that actually received some public attention, was his veto of the UN security council resolution in February 2011 which literally endorsed official US policy. The resolution called for limiting settlement expansion while the Obama veto claimed it was a drawback to peace. In fact, we’re currently seeing negotiations with Netanyahu over increasing extensive US aid, which basically feeds settlement expansion. Gaza has just been subjected to brutal and savage attacks by Israel with US support.”

    • Boomer on August 26, 2016, 9:09 am

      re: “Obama’s most remarkable move, one of the few that actually received some public attention, was his veto of the UN security council resolution in February 2011 which literally endorsed official US policy.”

      I don’t know if it was his most remarkable action in this regard, but it is certainly noteworthy. No embarrassment or apology accompanied it, just sanctimony.

      • inbound39 on August 29, 2016, 7:56 am

        When Obama first came into power he made definite moves to push Israel to leaving Palestinian Territory and ending the Occupation. After his Cairo Speech which put Israel on notice he disappeared for about a fortnight. When he reappeared he was talking by the Zionist rule book. I would like an honest explaination from Obama about what happened to him after the Cairo Speech and what pressure was put on him to cease pressuring Israel and why he made such an about face.

      • Kay24 on August 29, 2016, 9:26 am

        Inbound, Obama has turned out to be a real disappointed. He did make that great Cairo speech with stars in his eyes, but now he has thrown daggers at the real victims – the Palestinians by giving their tormenter even more aid and weapons. The lunatic leader of the zionists has insulted this man many times, and even tried to sabotage his policies (Iran). Yet, he seems to be dedicated to serving the zionist masters like most of our leaders do.

        I am sorry I cast my vote for this man who is also known to kill civilians with his endless drone attacks.

      • eljay on August 29, 2016, 9:37 am

        Barry O. was a disappointment right out of the gate, starting with his “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards” absolution of the previous administration’s war criminals of their war crimes.

      • Kay24 on August 29, 2016, 10:36 am

        I doubt we will ever get a President with a strong spine, who can take the zionists on and ask them to go to hell, taking those zionist corrupted Americans with it, in our lifetime. I am tired of the wars, attacking Muslim nations, and interfering in other nations, and most of all sleeping with Israel. When you hear Drumpf the American idiot speak, you realize this country has gone to the dogs. The ugliness is unfortunately harsher than the good we do in the world.

      • inbound39 on August 30, 2016, 5:32 am

        Kay24 and eljay……all very disappointing really but I think with Obama we saw publically for the first time how a President seeking compliance from Israel and wanting to put things right can so quickly be shut down by the Zionists. Frighteningly quick and Obama had to sit on his chuff and do nothing when Netanyahu et al hurled insults. How humiliating is that? The only thing that can turn this around quickly is by mobilizing the American public against it. I would put money on the fact the majority don’t support what is going on.

      • Kay24 on August 30, 2016, 9:32 am

        Inbound, turning the American people around is asking for a miracle, unfortunately. With the media toeing the zionist line, it would be a hard task. Maybe it should be done in the grassroots, with large billboards and posters all over the country, simply pointing out that we do not give per US citizen the sum of money we send per citizen of Israel, and that the billions we give only encourages the Israelis to keep the occupation going.

  9. Michael Rabb on August 26, 2016, 4:55 am

    yes, genocide’s a crime, no matter Jews’ doing it. and yes you can and should say it even (or especially ) if you’re Jewish !

  10. Boomer on August 26, 2016, 10:13 am

    Thanks for this, Professor Harrington. I’m looking forward to reading your book.

  11. Raphael on August 26, 2016, 10:59 am

    I think perhaps those American Jews; that defend the PLO from a tribal mentality in the name of the American Jews; in themselves create a collectivist violence; that will naturally create a defensive reaction by a typical fundamentalist right wing AIPAC Zionist, or their supporters.

    When I was living in Israel, as a half Jew; I had to become a Zionist because I fell in love with Israel. Not, because of fear I would be kicked out of the club. I was never a member of the club; but because of my outsider status I have no group mentality to defend, such as that of Zion-ism. Zion-ism is simply some formalistic ways to organize people. But, they are designed for those that no discussions can be done between insiders, and outsiders such as Arabs and Jews. So, it is waste of time even going there.

    The Arabs are a source of “cheap” labor, and strangers with guns, period. When I was in Israel, I did not encounter words like a Arab is a terrorist, it would be bad for business… the tourist business.

    If you really want a genuine encounter with fundamentalist Zionist and American Jews about protecting the rights of PLO Arabs (labor workers)… start talking about the economy, and Arab contributions to that economy. Or, if addressing a Arab PLO group… do the same, talk about PLO rights and how fundamentalist right wing Zionists can help the economic machine, for Arabs.

    The way it is now American Jews sound like their auditioning for some movie; in which they want to play a part in the movie as PLO Arabs in the Middle East… when they sit around talking about the Jews in Israel (the Zionist this the Zionist that) over a cup of coffee. It might help in getting funding from deep pocket Arab oil princes from the Middle East when they sit around saying to themselves… see they think like us…those American Jews; but it will do nothing to address the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews.

    • Mooser on August 26, 2016, 11:45 am

      Ah “Rafael” what a wonderful picture of a Zionist (or something, who the hell knows) you render us.
      It’s the exquisite social and human awareness which impresses so immediately and forcefully when reading your comments; “Rafael” I tell myself’ “is a man who has seen through things to the center, and isn’t shy about it.”

      “the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews”

      Yeah, all of ’em. All “the Arabs”, and “the Jews”.

    • Froggy on August 28, 2016, 6:28 pm

      Raphael :: When I was living in Israel, as a half Jew; I had to become a Zionist because I fell in love with Israel.

      The French used to call people like you ‘collaborators’.

      I know what they tell the pupils in those execrable ‘holocaust’ courses taught in British and American schools. They teach the kids that people in occupied countries informed on Jews they because they were anti-Semites. That wasn’t it at all.

      The truth is worse. These traitors made a choice to assist the Nazi occupiers in destroying Jewish lives, and the lives of the people who were assisting them, because they knew the Nazis would reward them for their information. IOW, they traded human lives for their own enrichment.

      The man who turned in my grandfather was rewarded by being given my grandfather’s large and very valuable farm. Other collaborators were rewarded by being given money, food, clothes, jewellery and other property.

      This peculiar notion that most people have that the terrified and beleaguered citizens of occupied countries would expose themselves to the Germans with no expectation of reward just because they hated the Jews is both ignorant and naïve. The collaborators were opportunists who were happy to turn in Communists, homosexuals, Jews, Slavs, Roma and Sinti, and all the other people that the Nazis deemed undesirable.

      You sold yourself cheaply. You didn’t even get a watch. You embraced Zionism to make yourself feel good.

      Do you have any idea how pathetic you look?

      • inbound39 on August 29, 2016, 8:02 am

        Collaborator fits Froggy. He amended his position for selfish reasons and ignored the plight of the Palestinians under the Zionist Jackboot. Had he not done so he could not have continued to live in a manner he was rapidly drawn to out of selfish motivations.

    • eljay on August 29, 2016, 10:56 am

      || Raphael: … When I was living in Israel, as a half Jew; I had to become a Zionist .. Not, because of fear I would be kicked out of the club. … but because of my outsider status I have no group mentality to defend … ||

      Not sure why you would need (or think you would need) a “group mentality to defend”, but when you were living in Israel has half a not-Jew you could have become an Israeli who advocates and upholds the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality instead of becoming a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist Israeli.

  12. hophmi on August 26, 2016, 12:27 pm

    So you expect me to take the view of an ivory tower linguist in Hartford more seriously than someone who lives in a place where his friends and family members have likely been targeted and attacked.

    I can see why he didn’t much care for your radical political viewpoints. They’re not very credible.

    • Mooser on August 26, 2016, 1:50 pm

      “So you expect me to take the view of an ivory tower linguist in Hartford more seriously than”

      Hmmm, not going for the “ivory tower linguist” views, huh?
      Okay, would you believe a 19th Century German-Jewish journalist with megalomaniacal pretensions and lot’s of good old European racism ?

    • Misterioso on August 26, 2016, 2:07 pm



      To the best of my knowledge, Professor Harrington and other citizens of Hartford are not belligerently, illegally and brutally occupying another people’s homeland, confiscating their lands and water resources, imposing collective punishments, carrying out extrajudicial killings and torture, destroying their homes and olive/fruit groves, imprisoning them without charge, etc. If the good professor and his fellow citizens were behaving in the same manner as Israel is in occupied Palestine, I’m sure they would also be confronted with escalating resistance and rightly so.

      For the record, eminent Israeli journalist, Bradley Burston, aptly sums up the horrors Israel inflicts on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem:

      “Occupation is Slavery”
      EXCERPT: “In the name of occupation, generation after generation of Palestinians have been treated as property. They can be moved at will, shackled at will, tortured at will, have their families separated at will. They can be denied the right to vote, to own property, to meet or speak to family and friends. They can be hounded or even shot dead by their masters, who claim their position by biblical right, and also use them to build and work on the plantations the toilers cannot themselves ever hope to own. The masters dehumanize them, call them by the names of beasts.” (Haaretz, Feb. 26/13)

    • inbound39 on August 29, 2016, 8:04 am

      Choosing the ramblings of a corrupted Zionist supporter is always beaten by the thoughts of an educated Harvard professor who as part of his training would have been taught to look at things objectively.

  13. MHughes976 on August 27, 2016, 3:14 pm

    The question of judging at first hand rather than from some distant ivory tower seems rather different from the question of language and choice of words. I actually think that terrorism is a perfectly useful word and that those who resist an occupying or conquering power can be terrorists: resistance is full of moral problems as some WW2 literature shows. But first hand experience comes both ways, on the side of the resistant Palestinians, called terrorists but clearly victims of a situation where they lack normal rights, no less than on the side of Israelis encountering resistance, called victims of terrorism but clearly involved in maintaining the existing situation which advantages them. Distant or ivory tower judgement has its place in trying to balance the immediate judgements on both sides.

  14. Citizen on August 28, 2016, 6:55 am

    Thomas S. Harrington, you get an A+ on this piece. Thank you!

  15. John Douglas on August 28, 2016, 9:16 am

    Great article. I’ve written somewhere that discussions about foreign policy in the west would clarify and shift if the word “terrorist” were simply eliminated (Hamas fighters rather than Hamas terrorists, etc.). Okay, too much to ask. How about then a campaign to eliminate the free ride that terrorizing governments get from the fact that the standard definition of “terrorism” excludes government forces. The slogan?: “Governments can be terrorists too.” Begin by using the term against governments everyone is instructed to hate and let it seep out from there. Frank Luntz would advise it if he were on the right side.

    • Citizen on August 28, 2016, 3:13 pm

      That Luntz character is a real piece of work, eh? He looks the mendacious craftsman part he actually is too.

  16. Boomer on August 28, 2016, 1:04 pm

    Apple recently issued a patch for its mobile devices to block spyware sold by an Israeli company called NSO. Evidently the company sells similar spyware for Android and Blackberry devices. NSO says it sells only to authorized governments for use against “criminals” and potential “terrorists” (e.g., an activist targeted by the UAE.) It is another example of the power of such labels. There are criminals and potential terrorists, for sure, but there are also repressive regimes that are quick to label their enemies with such words.

    This story also is a reminder that many members of our political and business elites may be compromised by blackmail, as well as by being bought. Of course, it isn’t only NSO that can do this. One of the big networks (CBS, I think) a while back featured a Congressman who was concerned about SS7, another long-standing, well-known weakness in the global telephone switching system that makes phone conversations vulnerable.

    re NSO:

    re SS7:

  17. Amy1 on August 28, 2016, 11:15 pm

    The article rightly provides the parallel American usage of the term “terrorist” and the hysteria surrounding it. Terrorism in the modern context( in application) refers to Muslims committing acts of violence against non Muslims for political and religious purposes. It’s interesting to note that even an act of violence committed against soldiers be they American or Israelis, constitutes terrorism by default because the term is no longer sought to distinguish between combatants and civilians but focuses entirely on the perpetrator. I have never seen any “white American” who has engaged in school shootings to be referred to as a terrorist nor are people who commit hate crimes against Muslims to be identified as such. Then there is this fluid identity of those that are referred to as terrorists so we have the likes of Nelson Mandela being called a terrorist by Dick Cheney and co among many others and there are those allies-turned-terrorists who had deep connections with Washington but were there to merely serve as political pawns once as heroes and then as terrorists. Israeli- American interests converge when it comes to preserving this definition of terrorism. Israelis have always called the Palestinians or “Arabs” as they used to refer to them, as terrorists as a people to delegitimize any substantial source of resistance and the Americans have done the same as well when it comes to defining “the other” they have been at war with. Any such label maneuvered by governments to lump an entire segment of society in the desired category should be challenged or as David Cameron described in the UN that even those harboring dissenting views to the established political narrative of their state are no better than breeding grounds for terrorists. So there is a deliberate effort on the part of world governments to be the ones defining terrorism as they see fit and their’s is the one forming the public discourse.

  18. Naftush on August 29, 2016, 8:15 am

    Kudos to Prof. Harrington for labeling his construct a “name game”. Condemnation for calling it a two-way street. A dead end is more like it. Shredding human beings on public buses and in supermarkets and the like doesn’t square with the pursuit of peace and dignity, and documenting the Holocaust in a museum sponsored by the state of the Holocausted nation doesn’t square with “dialectical hardball” and the nefarious doings of “paid and unpaid hasbarists.”

  19. Kay24 on August 29, 2016, 9:22 am

    All this and then you get Wapo trying hard to help the zionist criminals who keep bulldozing and wiping out abodes in tiny villages that poor people live in, by blaming those who try to help them. Here is a good example of how to show contempt for the victims and their living standards, and help a vicious occupier eat them.

  20. Sulphurdunn on August 31, 2016, 5:25 pm

    A young girl is killed when she attempts to stab an IDF soldier at a checkpoint. Video of the incident supports the contention that the soldier acted in self-defense. When interviewed, the girl’s mother says she became despondent after her unarmed father and brother were killed by IDF soldiers during a demonstration against the occupation. Afterward, her home was invaded and ransacked in the middle of the night by armed soldiers. She was arrested and harshly interrogated for several days. Later, her home was bulldozed. The next day she attacked the soldier. Was the girl a terrorist?

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