Article written by: Zaakir Ahmed Mayet, Chairman of the Media Review Network
Follow Zaakir: @ZA_Mayet
Has society fallen into the age-old trap of becoming the fickle public? This was the message conveyed in the timeless classic of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar when Mark Antony gives his funeral oration with the eternal words “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”. Through the subtle but poignant words of Mark Antony did the populous turn into a mob which went on the rampage seeking out those who betrayed the great Caeser. The power of words to shape public opinion is the message derived from this particular scene and this continues to the present day. Mass media has become the Mark Antony of the day according to Maxwell & McCombs who state that the media (mainly the news media) is not only successful in telling us what to think but they are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about.
This power to shape public opinion and manufacture consent as noted by Professor Noam Chomsky was evident for all to see with the build-up and rhetoric which accompanied the war on Iraq. In the lead-up to the destruction of one of the most ancient civilizations in history, the words terror and Iraq became synonymous. From wild west Bush with his gung-ho approach and Texan accent to embedded journalists , the only words being fed to the public were ‘terror’. So prominent was the usage of this word that George Bush, whilst giving a presidential address in Cincinnati in 2002, used the word ‘terror’ and its derivatives 35 times during his address. Fourteen years later and no less than 8 countries being ravaged by war, homelessness and squalor gifted to its peoples by Western militarism; have we truly understood the concept of terrorism?
To date there is no global consensus on a standardised definition of terrorism however the closest benchmark the public has to this nebulous concept is the definition provided by the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change which described terrorism as any action that is “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants when the purpose of such an act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act”. This definition clearly includes countries such as the United States, Israel, France and other colonial entities which would be guilty of State Terrorism. The evidencing of shock and awe techniques directed against a civilian population with the distinct intention to harm is clear in the wikileaks reports and footage, in the coverage of the daily acts of violence inflicted by Israel against occupied Palestinians and many other clear examples. In a world which prides itself on the rule of law, the perpetrators of State terrorism have failed to be held to account. The International Court of Justice issued 36 warrants of arrest publicly all for black males hailing largely from Africa with only one exception. Yet the Western world’s perpetrators of mass State terrorism such as the United States and Israel have escaped unscathed.
There is another conspicuous duplicitous standard within the framework of individual or non-state actor terrorism. On the 31st July 2015 in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank , which has been subjected to brutal occupation and state terrorism by Israel , slept the Dawabsheh family. It was on this fateful night that little Ahmed Dawabsheh lost his mother, father and brother to the petrol bombs that were flung into his home by Zionist settlers. His scars are not only a physical manifestation of the horrors that were brought upon him and his family but also a constant reminder of how he became an orphan. Amiram Ben-Uliel aged 21 was found as being one of the key figures in these murders. He belongs to a group known as the hilltop youth which, according to the Israeli publication Haaretz , are extremists. This is a clear case of terrorism as per the definition. The elements of harm, intimidation and such act directed towards civilians are all present as well as the graffiti sprayed on the Dawabshe home stating “revenge”. This speaks to a deep ideology underpinning the settler movement and its attempts to terrorise indigenous Palestinians into leaving. Despite being charged with murder of three people, Ben-Uliel was released after 10 months in prison. Settler behaviour is systemic and the Dawabshe tragedy has merely highlighted this conduct. In 2014 there were 307 acts of reported settler terrorism as per Human Rights Watch. The question however that remains is “why is the mainstream media whitewashing terrorism?”. A brief perusal of mainstream media will evidence the preference of the term ‘settler violence’ as opposed to ‘settler terrorism’. This subtle but crucial packaging of content softens the actions of Israel’s settlers as a form of violence and not terrorism thereby making it more palatable to the public. This exception is not granted to people of colour and particularly not those who happen to follow the religion of Islam.
This begs the question: is the mainstream media softening the image of colonial terrorism and have we as a populous failed to recognise and correct this subtle yet damning insinuation? The double standards, principles and laws with so many underlying discriminatory tones that only apply to certain people have been indoctrinated and entrenched within our mindsets, dictating our everyday opinions and what we accept as the norm. It is time for us to challenge this grossly unjust system, and to recognise that a lot of the people claiming to be most righteous fit the definition of terrorism in a remarkably uncanny way.