Andes Strindberg Journal Essay

9034 words - 37 pages

In the U.S.-led “global war on terrorism,” al-Qa`ida and its militant affiliates have come to serve as both symbol and explanatory matrix for a range of disparate militant groups in the Middle East and beyond. Included among these are the Palestinian rejectionist factions and the Lebanese Hizballah, despite the fact that their roots, worldviews, and agendas are inimical to those of al-Qa`ida. This article argues that the scholarly and political effort to lump together diverse resistance groups into a homogenous “terrorist enemy,” ultimately symbolized by Osama Bin Laden, is part and parcel of neocolonial power politics whereby all “native” struggles against established power structures are ...view middle of the document...

S. political demonology, found themselves pushed to the head of the list of key enemies in the new war. In January 2002, Bush talked of “a terrorist underworld” that included “groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad,” and exhorted the world community to “eliminate the terrorist parasites.”4
It mattered little that neither Hizballah nor any Palestinian faction had been involved in the attack against the United States or that their longstanding policy positions explicitly rejected the ideology and modus operandi represented by al-Qa`ida as well as attacks against the United States on American soil. Sayyed Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, the senior-most Shi`a cleric in Lebanon with significant ties to the resistance, immediately condemned the 11 September attacks as religiously unjustifiable.5 Hizballah’s deputy secretary general Shaykh Na`im Qassem contrasted Bin Laden’s al-Qa`ida organization with
what he called “the true base” for armed struggle: popular support for a project of national liberation, as opposed to a grandiose war for Islamic world domination.6 Ramadan `Abdallah, the secretary general of Islamic Jihad, called the attacks morally reprehensible and politically unwarranted.7 `Imad al-`Alami, a senior member of Hamas politburo, declared his organization’s support for the U.S. right to pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice.8 The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), along with all other significant secular Palestinian rejectionist factions, denounced the attacks.9
Much of Western punditry nevertheless scrambled to make sense of the 11 September atrocities by ignoring such differences, focusing instead on a selection of iconic but superficial parallels. Al-Qa`ida’s airplane hijackings, suicide attacks, rogue state sponsors, and so forth were used to conjure images of the historic and current activities of Hizballah and the Palestinian rejectionists. Thus, given the global political importance of the new war, it seems useful to examine its underlying narratives and assumptions by comparing and contrasting key aspects of the ideology, activities, and agenda of al-Qa`ida and its affiliates, on the one hand, with those of Hizballah and the Palestinian rejectionist factions—principally the Islamist organizations—on the other.
The U.S. designation of the Palestinian rejectionists and Hizballah as enemies of the United States following the 11 September attacks owes much to the power of the stereotypes and simplifications on which the American war rhetoric was constructed. In this discourse, the entrenched notion that all those classified as “terrorists” somehow share a “terrorist code of ethics” and work toward some transcendent “terrorist objective” is grafted onto the equally ingrained Orientalist ideas of “the Arab mind” and “the nature of Islam.”10 The result is a range of interlocking neo-Orientalist imaginings of a global Arab-Islamic terrorist cabal, a monolithic and evil Enemy Other, and the negation of...

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