Posts Tagged ‘ palestine ’

What is Terror? The Personal and the Political

Activist Tami Peterson talks about her own personal experiences of terror and its relevance to the student movement, in this beautifully articulated piece. Thanks to Tami for letting me share this.

There’s been a lot of talk about “terror” and a lot of people saying that what happened with the siege of the aid ship and the wars that continue to rage in Afghanistan and Iraq are nothing to do with students and should not be of concern. Well I’m a student and these issues do matter to me, and not only do they matter they effect me dramatically both personally and politically. While I don’t expect people to agree with me, I do expect to not have my experiences discounted. So for all of my fellow students who cannot speak out about their experiences of terror and the private outrage they feel that their experiences and views are considered “not relevant” I share my own:
What is terror? For me it’s something incredibly personal. The memory of my heart thumping, chest pumping, stopping and my blood running cold. It’s shouting, screaming, chaos. It’s watching people jump out of buildings twisting and turning grotesquely before hitting the ground, burning paper fluttering slowly down like a confetti parade and fireballs high above your head. It’s desperation. It’s “MISSING” notices which fill the square a few days later. It’s knowing most of them weren’t “missing” at all. It’s looking down into grey dust and seeing shoes and glasses and not remembering if I saw a body. It’s that police officer who saved my life by screaming at me to run the other way and not knowing if they perished themselves. It’s looking into the face of death and thinking “Ok, that’s it, I’m dead” and then always feeling a bit guilty that I actually made it. It’s the shopkeeper being threatened for being a “fucking terrorist” the next day as I stood there impotent. It’s the shame I felt at not having jumped to his defense. It’s the cowardice I felt at having hid my political books in a box under my bed the next day just in case they finally did make use of that file they’ve had on me since I was sixteen. It’s the fear of not having any idea which titles would be considered subversive. It’s yet another apocalyptic nightmare where I am trying to escape from more terror, bombed out city landscapes and US military jets never knowing if they are there to protect or harm. It’s the eternal sound of a screeching descending plane, PLANE #2, as it heads towards the WTC, a sound which relives itself daily, hourly in the flight path above my head. It’s wondering if the fear I feel upon looking up will ever leave or if I am stuck with it forever. It’s the inability to live without feeling terrible anxiety at low level noise, a horrendous rumbling like when they fell, a rumbling so loud it reverberates forever in my brain. It’s the embarrassment of jumping when there’s a sudden noise. It’s the shame of being unable to take a bus without a panic attack after 7/7 for weeks. It’s the shame of being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s the embarrassment of nearly passing out on the stairs during a fire drill because of having a flashback. It’s being monitored on the health registry watch list just in case we all get sick from breathing in the dust. What is terror?

What is terror? For me it’s something incredibly political. It’s the understanding that government officials on the television are telling me, yet again, that that horrible day is somehow a justification for the unleashing of shouting, screaming, chaos, descending planes onto others and that the context doesn’t matter, because it’s all to fight terror. It’s the feeling of helplessness that this appears to be accepted. It’s the mental images I get of people, people, people, huddled, scared, crying, thinking they will die, it is nightmares come to life. It is the apocalypse made real, but for others. It’s the media pumping out yet again more justification for terror. More terror, pure terror. It’s leftists telling me that they didn’t condemn 9/11 because there are lots of bad things happening in the world. It’s people telling me they shouldn’t condemn Israel’s attacks on Gaza because Israel is always against terror and the Palestinians are always terrorists. It’s my government telling me that I should support sending terror to Afghanistan and Iraq in order to end terror. It’s people calling me a supporter of terrorists because I oppose terror while using the actual terror that I’ve experienced as a reason for calling me a terrorist supporter. It’s every attempt by a regime to impose terror on its people. It’s every attempt by a group to terrorise others in an attempt to claim they are responding to terror by using terror. It’s getting screamed at as myself and other protestors stood on the streets of NYC to oppose the US war in Afghanistan because they say we support terror. It’s my great frustration with their belief that I was standing there to support terror when I was trying to oppose it. It’s fellow demonstrators yelling at me on anti-war demos because I tell them that their conspiracies about 9/11 are offensive, particularly when they don’t give a damn about supporting workers dying from the toxic dust. It’s Muslim students being harassed for being “terrorists” when they have never touched a weapon by those who have been trained in weaponry. It’s women having the hijab ripped off by racist thugs on trains. It’s people I love being considered suspected terrorists in the name of protecting me from terror. What is terror?

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reflections on holocaust denial

So, after Wes Streeting’s and the NUS’s condemnation of our government still attending the Durban II UN anti-racism conference, after some countries walked out after some apparently ‘anti-semitic’ remarks… it got me thinking.

First of all, what was actually said?
The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to Wes, denied the Holocaust. So.. what did he actually say? Well, according to his official speech (and the English translation thereof…) he said: “Following world war two, [powerful states] resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish suffering and the ambiguous and dubious question of the Holocaust” – now, this is pretty much holocaust denial. But, according to the French translation, he deviated from his original speech and said “the abuse of the question of the Holocaust” instead of “ambiguous and dubious question of the holocaust”. These obviously give the two sentances entirely different meanings. It is telling that the conventional press has reported the first, more antisemitic, quotation rather than the second. To actually understand completely the finer nuances of what he said we would have to speak Farsi, failing that, i would go with the French translation.

Now, we all know that ahmadjinehad has blatently denied the holocaust before, so perhaps the finer nuances of what he did or didn’t say isn’t important. What is important to me is the monopoly on knowledge that we have here. Let me explain.

We all know that history has a bias towards white, middleclass, heterosexual, judeo-christian men. If it wasn’t, there would be no need for LGBT or black history month… the fact that most historians are white, middleclass, etc.. means that they choose not to record or not to find interesting the bits of history, the sequence of events that include issues that doesn’t directly effect them. What we learn from this is that history and the way we view it is socially constructed, people choose what is interesting to them, their own political perspective, and write it down. History as such is also complete pot luck. Some perspectives on events will be ignored, or not last, or indeed be destroyed at a later date because it does not match someone else’s view on that history.
Now, its pretty obvious that the actual events described as the holocaust happened, and it was tragic and awful. So many Jews, gays, intellectuals, travellers, eastern Europeans, and other minorities died needlessly. Now, how we deal with this knowledge, what perspectives we as a society find most important is interesting.

As some helpful poster on ednet pointed out, the actual questioning of how the knowledge of the holocaust is used today is hardly a new thing. Norman Finkelstein, the Jewish historian whose parents survived concentration camps, is quoted as saying that the state of israel is “one of the world’s most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record, (and has) cast itself as a victim state”( in order to garner)”immunity to criticism” (by using the knowledge of the Holocaust).
Is it OK for people to use the memory of the holocaust to ease israel out of being accountable for its oppression of Palestine and its recent war crimes in Gaza? Finkelstein himself has been described anti-semitic. Just like any other pro-palestinian critic of the state of israel is constantly fielding the suggestions and accusations of anti-semitism, i guess.

And, so, with Holocaust denial being a crime in some countries in Western Europe, it seems to have far more reaching consequences than just being called racist, but actually having to do time for having a certain view on a historical event? How is this crime defined? Would a Holocaust denier be someone who, like Finkelstein, questions how the holocaust is used? or would it be someone who has to outright say that the holocaust categorically didnt happen? What is the use of such a crime? Why is it important to have it on the law books? do governments have a right to legislate about history? is it a form of thought-control?
i dont know the answers to those questions, obviously, but there are interesting to think about nonthe less.

It seems to be an interesting result of the ‘Holocaust Industry’ (Finkelsteins phrase) that some far-left German political groups have taken on defending Israel. They seem to see themselves as anti-fascist, and see fascism as anti-jew, and so align themselves with Jews and the state of israel, and defend it till the end of the earth, even when faced with with Israel’s oppression of Palestine.

What is real fascism? Well, i would say that to be anti-fascist is to be anti-oppression. that is, anti racism against jews, and iranians, and everyone else. Its anti all oppression, whereever you find it.
So, remember the holocaust… it was tragic, and is the true face of fascism, but dont let you feel unable to not criticise the oppression that is happening, right now, against the palestinians. Or anyone else for that matter.

Words over…