Thursday, April 7, 2011

constructing the prototypical terrorist

To look at the actions of Congress, one could be forgiven for thinking Israel is the 51st state.

Noura Erekat is a Palestinian human rights attorney and activist who is an adjunct professor of international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University, among other things.

She has written an outstanding article titled "Constructing the Prototypical Terrorist in America: Arab, Muslim and Palestinian" that I highly recommend. You may find her use of the word "other" as a verb unusual. By that she means the making into "the other", or outsider, of certain groups of people.

To whet your appetite, here is an excerpt...(boldface mine)

Congress’s response to the settlement row in Spring 2010 exemplifies Israel’s status as “insider,” as opposed to political ally. In the aftermath of Vice President Biden’s embarrassing visit to the Middle East where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed the US’s calls to halt settlement expansion scores of Congressional members from both sides of the aisle lined up to chastise the Obama Administration for its public handling of the affair. Despite being the source of US foreign policy, no less than twenty-three members expressed terse disapproval either in press statements or from the House floor. Several dozen other members sent four open letters to the Obama Administration as well. Significantly, the lawmakers’ choice of language mirrors an AIPAC press release dated March 14, 2010 and therefore nearly every member echoed the sentiment that Israel should not be treated like any other country but rather with heightened sensitivity and special treatment. Representative Todd Tiahart described President Obama’s public position as “disrespectful,” and characterized Secretary Clinton’s decision to “openly question” Israeli policies as “inappropriate” as the US has a “moral and strategic obligation to support this beacon of democracy in the Middle East.” (March 13, 2010) No other member better captured the centrality of Israel within the US national identity as did Representive Mike Pence who explained that “[t]he American people consider Israel our most cherished ally and we her closest friend and guardian…[a]s I just told the Prime Minister, I never thought I'd live to see the day that an American administration would denounce the State of Israel for rebuilding Jerusalem…[t]he American people and the American Congress in both parties support the State of Israel.” (March 23, 2010)

The lawmakers’ choice of language and tone both reflects Israel’s insider status and works to construct its critics as threats to US national security. While the description of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East, works to distinguish Israel from its authoritarian counterparts, it also acts as a marker that others Israel’s Arab and Muslim neighbors. Their written and oral statements condemn the US President in defense of a foreign state; describe their relationship to Israel as moral; describe the US as Israel’s guardian; and affirm the immutability of the US’s relationship to Israel irrespective of circumstances. This behavior is more reflective of a family dispute than a diplomatic affair and works to reify the boundaries circumscribing American national identity wherein Israel enjoys the privileges of inclusion.

read the whole article. Erekat makes the case that Congress has created a legal situation where entire groups of people that Israel has determined are not to its liking are easily attacked and convicted in the United States by prejudicial laws the pre-dispose judges/juries to convict simply for defendants being members of one of the groups.

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