Glenn Greenwald on terrorism and tribalism

In Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald discusses the definition of terrorism:

Former McCain-Palin campaign spokesman and current Weekly Standard editor Michael Goldfarb notes that Israel, a couple of days ago, dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on a Gazan home which killed a top Hamas leader . . . in addition to 18 others, including his four wives and nine of his children.  About the killing of those innocent civilians, Goldfarb writes (h/t John Cole via email):

“The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it’s not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions.”

… There are few concepts more elastic and subject to exploitation than “Terrorism,” the all-purpose justifying and fear-mongering term.  But if it means anything, it means exactly the mindset which Goldfarb is expressing:  slaughtering innocent civilians in order to “send a message,” to “deter” political actors by making them fear that continuing on the same course will result in the deaths of civilians and — best of all, from the Terrorist’s perspective — even their own children and other family members.

He goes on to discuss modern tribalism: the self-professed liberals who keep

self-righteously insisting that I imagine what it’s like to live in Southern Israel with incoming rocket fire from Hamas, as though that will change my views on the Israel/Gaza war.  Obviously, it’s not difficult to imagine the understandable rage that Israelis feel when learning of another attack on Israeli civilians, in exactly the way that American rage over the 9/11 attacks was understandable.  But just as that American anger didn’t justify anything and everything that followed, the fact that there are indefensible attacks on Israeli civilians doesn’t render the (far more lethal) attacks on Gaza either wise or just — as numerous Jewish residents of Sderot themselves are courageously arguing in opposing the Israeli attack.

Read the entire article here.

The link in Greenwald’s quote directs us to an article by Adam Horowitz in the Huffington Post that points out that the simplistic argument that this attack on Gaza is all about protecting Sderot falls apart when you realize that the citizens of Sderot are petitioning for negotiation, not attacks on Gaza:

Like Dershowitz I’ve been to Sderot: just over a year ago in November, 2007. Like him, I saw the devastating effects of the missiles from Gaza. Even though there had not been a death from these rockets in recent memory when I was there, I was not surprised to find that the missiles had inflicted an incredible mental wound on the residents. But I was surprised to find that although the people of Sderot who I met wanted the missiles to end they understood that militarism would not protect them. The people I met with were not calling for war, they were calling for negotiation. They knew that they would be the ones to catch the brunt of an attack on Gaza, not Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.

Both articles are well worth a read.

–L.L. Wynn

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