The Reign of Absurdiocy – international terrorism” – By Uri Avnery

The Reign of Absurdiocy 

28/11/15 – Uri Avnery

There is no such thing as “international terrorism”.
To declare war on “international terrorism” is nonsense. Politicians who do so are either fools or cynics, and probably both.

Terrorism is a method of operation. It is often used by oppressed peoples, including the French Resistance to the Nazis in WW II. We would laugh at anyone who declared war on “international resistance”.Terrorism is a weapon. Like a cannon. We would laugh at somebody who declares war on “international artillery”. A cannon belongs to an army, and serves the aims of that army. The cannon of one side fire against the cannon of the other.

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military thinker, famously said that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. If he had lived with us today, he might have said: “Terrorism is a continuation of policy by other means.” 

Terrorism means, literally, to frighten the victims into surrendering to the will of the terrorist.

Terrorism is a weapon. Generally it is the weapon of the weak. Of those who have no atom bombs, like the ones which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which terrorized the Japanese into surrender. Or the aircraft which destroyed Dresden in the (vain) attempt to frighten the Germans into giving up.

Since most of the groups and countries using terrorism have different aims, often contradicting each other, there is nothing “international” about it. Each terrorist campaign has a character of its own. Not to mention the fact that nobody considers himself (or herself) a terrorist, but rather a fighter for God, Freedom or Whatever.

(I cannot restrain myself from boasting that long ago I invented the formula: “One man’s terrorist is the other man’s freedom fighter”.)

MANY ORDINARY Israelis felt deep satisfaction after the Paris events. “Now those bloody Europeans feel for once what we feel all the time!”

Binyamin Netanyahu, a diminutive thinker but a brilliant salesman, has hit on the idea of inventing a direct link between jihadist terrorism in Europe and Palestinian terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories.

It is a stroke of genius: if they are one and the same, knife-wielding Palestinian teenagers and Belgian devotees of ISIS, then there is no Israeli-Palestinian problem, no occupation, no settlements. Just Muslim fanaticism. (Ignoring, by the way, the many Christian Arabs in the secular Palestinian “terrorist” organizations.)

This has nothing to do with reality. Palestinians who want to fight and die for Allah go to Syria. Palestinians – both religious and secular – who shoot, knife or run over Israeli soldiers and civilians these days want freedom from the occupation and a state of their own.

This is such an obvious fact that even a person with the limited IQ of our present cabinet ministers could grasp it. But if they did, they would have to face very unpleasant choices concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So let’s stick to the comfortable conclusion: they kill us because they are born terrorists, because they want to meet the promised 72 virgins in paradise, because they are anti-Semites. So, as Netanyahu happily forecasts, we shall “live forever by our sword”.

TRAGIC AS the results of each terrorist event may be, there is something absurd about the European reaction to recent events.

The height of absurdiocy was reached in Brussels, when a lone terrorist on the run paralyzed an entire capital city for days without a single shot being fired. It was the ultimate success of terrorism in the most literal sense: using fear as a weapon.

But the reaction in Paris was not much better. The number of victims of the atrocity was large, but similar to the number killed on the roads in France every couple of weeks. It was certainly far smaller than the number of victims of one hour of World War II. But rational thought does not count. Terrorism works on the perception of the victims.

It seems incredible that ten mediocre individuals, with a few primitive weapons, could cause world-wide panic. But it is a fact. Bolstered by the mass media, which thrive on such events, local terrorist acts turn themselves nowadays into world-wide threats. The modern media, by their very nature, are the terrorist’s best friend. Terror could not flourish without them.

The next best friend of the terrorist is the politician. It is almost impossible for a politician to resist the temptation to ride on the wave of panic. Panic creates “national unity”, the dream of every ruler. Panic creates the longing for a “strong leader”. This is a basic human instinct.

Francois Hollande is a typical example. A mediocre yet shrewd politician, he seized the opportunity to pose as a leader. “C’est la guerre!” he declared, and whipped up a national frenzy. Of course this is no “guerre”. Not World War III. Just a terrorist attack by a hidden enemy. Indeed, one of the facts disclosed by these events is the incredible foolishness of the political leaders all around. They do not understand the challenge. They react to imagined threats and ignore the real ones. They do not know what to do. So they do what comes naturally: make speeches, convene meetings and bomb somebody (no matter who and what for).

Not understanding the malady, their remedy is worse than the disease itself. Bombing causes destruction, destruction creates new enemies who thirst for revenge. It is a direct collaboration with the terrorists.

It was a sad spectacle to see all these world leaders, the commanders of powerful nations, running around like mice in a maze, meeting, speechifying, uttering nonsensical statements, totally unable to deal with the crisis.

THE PROBLEM is indeed far more complicated than simple minds would believe, because of an unusual fact: the enemy this time is not a nation, not a state, not even a real territory, but an undefined entity: an idea, a state of mind, a movement that does have a territorial base of sorts but is not a real state.

This is not a completely unprecedented phenomenon: more than a hundred years ago, the anarchist movement committed terrorist acts all over the place without having a territorial base at all. And 900 years ago a religious sect without a country, the Assassins (a corruption of the Arabic word for “hashish users”), terrorized the Muslim world.

I don’t know how to fight the Islamic State (or rather Non-State) effectively. I strongly believe that nobody knows. Certainly not the nincompoops who man (and woman) the various governments.

I am not sure that even a territorial invasion would destroy this phenomenon. But even such an invasion seems unlikely. The Coalition of the Unwilling put together by the US seems disinclined to put “boots on the ground”. The only forces who could try – the Iranians and the Syrian government army – are hated by the US and its local allies.

Indeed, if one is looking for an example of total disorientation, bordering on lunacy, it is the inability of the US and the European powers to choose between the Assad-Iran-Russia axis and the IS-Saudi-Sunni camp. Add the Turkish-Kurdish problem, the Russian-Turkish animosity and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the picture is still far from complete.

(For history-lovers, there is something fascinating about the re-emergence of the centuries-old struggle between Russia and Turkey in this new setting. Geography trumps everything else, after all.)

It has been said that war is far too important to leave to the generals. The present situation is far too complicated to leave to the politicians. But who else is there?

ISRAELIS BELIEVE (as usual) that we can teach the world. We know terrorism. We know what to do.

But do we?

For weeks now, Israelis have lived in a panic. For lack of a better name, it is called “the wave of terror”. Every day now, two, three, four youngsters, including 13-year old children, attack Israelis with knives or run them over with cars, and are generally shot dead on the spot. Our renowned army tries everything, including draconian reprisals against the families and collective punishment of villages, without avail.

These are individual acts, often quite spontaneous, and therefore it is well-nigh impossible to prevent them. It is not a military problem. The problem is political, psychological.

Netanyahu tries to ride this wave like Hollande and company. He cites the Holocaust (likening a 16-year old boy from Hebron to a hardened SS officer at Auschwitz) and talks endlessly about anti-Semitism.

All in order to obliterate one glaring fact: the occupation with its daily, indeed hourly and minutely, chicanery of the Palestinian population. Some government ministers don’t even hide anymore that the aim is to annex the West Bank and eventually drive out the Palestinian people from their homeland.

There is no direct connection between IS terrorism around the world and the Palestinian national struggle for statehood. But if they are not resolved, in the end, the problems will merge – and a far more powerful IS will unite the Muslim world, as Saladin once did, to confront us, the new Crusaders.

If I were a believer, I would whisper: God forbid.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 11/30/2015 at 1:12 am

    ” … But if they are not resolved, in the end, the problems will merge – and a far more powerful IS will unite the Muslim world, as Saladin once did, to confront us, the new Crusaders.”

    History – Saladin:

    • De castro  On 11/30/2015 at 3:58 am

      Ha ha….Saladin ? Come on Clyde…how naive.
      You are by your comments “festering” exactly what is being “suggested” above.
      Is it “fear” that forced the Japanese surrender WW2. !
      The choice is ours ….
      Live in fear
      Die for freedom…..most will choose the former.
      Few will choose the latter….Che et al…..
      Jihadists also believe this “nonsense” that freedom is worth the sacrifice of lambs to be slaughtered in the name of their allah ! Were not humans sacrificed to appease the gods of tribal living.
      Can go on and on but then it will highlight the “stupidity” of fear even more.
      God is not to be feared.,..if god exists..he/she/IT should be revered..not feared.

    • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 11/30/2015 at 1:29 pm

      Clyde, thanks for the link.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/01/2015 at 6:26 am

    de Castro: I cut a paragraph from the article for your benefit …. it appears you failed English comprehension:

    “THE PROBLEM is indeed far more complicated than simple minds would believe, because of an unusual fact: the enemy this time is not a nation, not a state, not even a real territory, but an undefined entity: an idea, a state of mind, a movement that does have a territorial base of sorts but is not a real state.” – Uri Avnery

    • De castro  On 12/01/2015 at 7:20 am

      ISIS is such… invisible enemy…..a fanatical belief.
      After ISIS we will have ISIS MK2…get the drift.!

      Now we are using drones to intimidate/subjudicate an invisible enemy….with devastating “collateral damage” in military jargon. Technology “abused”…shameful/disgraceful behaviour by homosapiens.

      Que sera

  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/10/2016 at 10:27 am

    Uri Avnery was part of the Irgun – he was shot and injured twice – fighting the British …. Avnery is still alive and writing a weekly column at 93, this year.

    Editor’s note: The Weekend Edition is normally pulled from the daily Stansberry Digest. But this week, we’re taking a break from our regular schedule to share this important essay from Bonner & Partners Chairman Bill Bonner. In it, he ponders the myth of the “enemy”…

    The Real ‘Terrorists’ Are in Washington
    By Bill Bonner, chairman, Bonner & Partners
    Saturday, December 10, 2016

    Elizabeth received a strange letter from her congressman.

    “We have to be on guard against our enemies – and not be afraid to name them.”

    A brave, forthright stand?

    But wait, he didn’t name the enemies.

    That left us wondering: Who are our enemies?

    Muslims, Jews, Arabs… Russians, Iranians, North Koreans… capitalists, the “Deep State,” Yankees… liberals, conservatives?

    And what does he mean by our?

    A politician’s enemies are more likely to be our friends than our enemies. Our most dangerous enemies could be the feds themselves!

    But people love simple and preposterous lies. They much prefer them to the truth.

    Truth is elusive. Difficult to discover. Infinitely nuanced. Hard to hold on to. Each tiny bit of truth comes at a high price. A love lost. A marriage ruined. A business bankrupt. Money wasted. And a sorry soul burning on some ash pit in hell.

    Nor does truth make you feel good. Like a magnifying mirror, it shows blemishes. You squirm in your seat when you see it. Often, you want to turn off the lights.

    Not so with myth. It comes right over to you, fawns over you, airbrushes your photo, and Botoxes your face. It flatters you with weak light and strong angles.

    It pretends you are the noble master and it is merely the humble slave… willing to do your bidding.

    Today, we will look at popular myths.

    The myth of the “enemy” is always a hit with the masses.

    Politicians love it, too. It encourages taxpayers to turn over more of their wages – for their own protection, of course.

    It invites citizens to give up their liberties – in this time of grave danger!

    It rousts up the population to think and act with a single mind… united to meet the common foe, under the brave and unflinching leadership of our patriotic politicians.

    And woe to the person who resists. He is “soft” on our enemies. Or an outright traitor.

    Apparently, terrorists – particularly foreign-born terrorists – pose a substantial threat.

    Of course, there are always terrorists…

    Robespierre invented the term when he referred to himself by that word. By then, terror had become official policy in revolutionary France, proclaimed by the National Convention on September 5, 1793:

    It is time that equality bore its scythe above all heads. It is time to horrify all the conspirators. So legislators, place Terror on the order of the day! Let us be in revolution, because everywhere counter-revolution is being woven by our enemies. The blade of the law should hover over all the guilty.

    There are always people who are willing to use violence in pursuit of political ends. After all, that’s the name of the game.

    Violence is what politics is all about…

    If no violence were involved, it would be no different from the rest of life – with its give and take, its persuasion, its bargaining, its negotiating, and its civilized commerce.

    Without violence, a meeting of the Committee of Public Safety in 1793, or a joint session of Congress in 2016, would have no more importance than, say, a gathering of the Kiwanis club or Elvis impersonators.

    Politics is different. The politician – no matter how mild-mannered – always has a loaded gun in his britches. The terrorist merely brings it out and waves it around.

    From Zionist zealots in Judea… to the Sons of Liberty in Boston… to Irish irredentists blowing up London subway stops… to the KKK in the South after the War Between the States.

    In 1920, the Irish Republican Army attacked more than 300 police stations – symbols of British rule – and killed a dozen policemen. They also burned down the docks at Liverpool.

    In 1946, the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel, killing 91 people. The head of the group, Menachem Begin, went on to become prime minister of Israel.

    Born in 1970, Germany’s Red Army Faction [RAF –
    Baader-Meinhof Gang] launched 296 bomb attacks – in addition to assassinations, kidnappings, arson, bank robberies, and shoot-outs with the police.

    But wait. What’s this? What about all those millions of terrorists who want to attack us? Are these foreigners really worth worrying about?

    Here’s immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute:

    In a new analysis I just published at the Cato Institute, I look at every single terrorist attack committed on U.S.A. soil by an immigrant or tourist from 1975 to the end of 2015 and apply some basic risk analysis.

    Turns out, Americans should not be so worried: The chance of being killed in a terrorist attack committed by a foreigner is about 1 in 3.6 million per year.

    And the numbers are skewed by one outlier event – 9/11. That single attack accounts for 98.6% of all the people killed on U.S.A. soil by foreign-born terrorists in the past 41 years.

    WORRY about terrorists?

    It’s hard to believe there aren’t greater threats lurking somewhere else.


    Bill Bonner

    Editor’s note: Our greatest threat isn’t overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s not in Russia or China. It’s right here in our country, walking the halls of our government buildings and along Wall Street.

    Bill calls it the “Deep State” – a shadowy group of unelected officials who control many parts of our everyday lives. Yet most people don’t know it exists. So Bill recorded a special warning to alert every American citizen.

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