Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
22 June 2007

On "terrorists" and intollerance in Jerusalem

It is reported that the Israeli police arrested an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man yesterday who they say was planning to bomb a gay pride march in Jerusalem overnight. An Israeli police spokesman said police found an explosive device in the man’s bag.

Several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews held protests against the gay pride march, calling it a profanity against the Holy City. The demonstrators threw stones at police and set fire to rubbish bins. More than 7,000 police were deployed to secure the march. The march went ahead as planned. An internet report states:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have rioted repeatedly in the past week, burning tires, assaulting policemen and damaging police cars. A 32-year-old ultra-Orthodox man was arrested Thursday morning carrying a homemade explosive device. Under questioning, the man said he wanted to plant the explosive along the parade route, said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld.

Marchers carried multicolored balloons and posters of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Three men wore matching pink T-shirts, shiny pink hats and carried pink lace umbrellas. On their shirts were written, “The Israeli Gay Party.”

Strange how homophobia can unite old enemies. I assume that the leaders of Hamas would also be rather upset if a gay pride march took place in Gaza. Some of Hamas’ members would probably enthusiastically cheer on the killing of some homosexuals in Jerusalem. I always find it sad that people who have been persecuted and oppressed – like those Orthodox Jews, the Hamas supporters, some Afrikaners – can turn around and condemn and persecute other groups for no reason than that they are different or affront some strange moral code.

Of course, it is also interesting that the news reports did not refer to the Orthodox bomber as a “terrorist”. I could not find any statements about the “war on terror” (what a ridiculous term) or the evil of those who unleash “terror” against gay men and lesbians. Is this, I wonder cynically, because the target was not “innocent”, “straight”, “pure” “Jewish” or “white” people, but only “filthy” and “perverted” homosexuals?

Or does the Western media reserve the term “terrorist” for those who are not “Western”, but “other” – usually black and/or Muslim? Will an Orthodox Jew ever be called a “terrorist” in the Western media? I doubt it.

It reminds one that concepts like “terror” and “terrorist” have been completely hijacked and politicized by George Bush and his cronies and have, in essence, become meaningless slogans used to brand opponents. Not that meaningless, I suppose, because many people still buy into the division between “our” freedom fighters and “their” terrorists.

When the US or Israel governments bomb civilians it is not called terrorism. It is “war” or anti-terror action. Maybe it is time that we stop using this meaningless but very intimidating term altogether.

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