Today I received an email from a friend which had an interesting article attached. It was about terrorism and how definitions of terrorism change depending on which side you're on - an illustration of the saying "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" and also how one man can at one time be seen as a freedom fighter and then in other political circumstances be seen by those same people as a terrorist.

My friend sent it to me, I assume not to piss me off, but because she thought I'd be sympathetic to the general tone or aims of it.

but when I first opened the email, I saw the first lines of the article describing how the "Jewish underground in the 1930s and 1940s" was understood as "TERRORISM" (in capital letters). I knew where this was heading, and shaking, I closed the email to read some others.
My first reaction was to resolve to write to my friend and the person who had originally sent her the email, both of them not Jewish, and clarify the history behind that first line. I do agree with the first line. The Jewish Underground of the 1930s and 40s were understood as terrorists - by the British, especially. The article then went on to say

Eqbal Ahmad: "Then new things happened.

By 1942, the Holocaust was occurring, and a certain liberal sympathy with the Jewish people had built up in the Western world. At that point, the terrorists of Palestine, who were Zionists, suddenly started to be described, by 1944-45, as "freedom fighters." "
The implication is that the liberal West suddenly turned sympathetic to the Jewish people, over the Palestinians, because of the Shoah, the Jewish Holocaust.

My understanding of history is that Palestine was under British control (mandated to Britain - effectively a colony of Britain) until 1948 when the UN passed a resolution to create the State of Israel. That resolution was likely to have been passed on the grounds of the atrocities of recent history. Until 1948, all Jewish Underground terrorism was against the state, that is, against the British. This may be why it was widely understood as terrorism and why the first prime ministers of Israel were proud of their 'terrorist roots'.

My first reaction to these opening lines of Eqbal Ahmad's presentation was to feel under attack. He seemed to be reinforcing the idea that Jewish people are the real terrorists and because he was tracing back to a time before Israel existed, all Jewish people were implicated in that terrorism. He seemd to be trying to deflect hostility from Muslims to Jewish people, in other words, scapegoating. So I shut down the email and felt annoyed and angry, attacked and once again, I believed that all Muslim people hate Jews and I am right to fear them on the grounds of my ethnicity. I momentarily found my reactionary upbringing, one based on fear and hatred, had surfaced once again.

I have now read the article through and though I think the opening lines are dodgy from my perspective (and there are a few other peoples who would be annoyed at the simplistic, journalistic reductions to victim-perpetrator), overall the article is incredibly interesting and wasn't heading at all where I thought. I saw red at the opening lines and if I hadn't over-ridden my first impulses, I would have just left it, deleted the email and went on with my day feeling attacked and misrepresented. I had to get to grips with my feelings about one or two points in a long presentation in order to see the overall direction and value in the presentation. But that kind of thing can be hard.

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