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The Racist Rhetoric of “Terrorism”

“I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare … If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.” (John McCain April 2008)

News Analysis From Organizer KD

In April John McCain spoke these words in response to Ahmed Yousef, a political advisor for Palestinian political party Hamas, who stated in an interview with WABC radio in New York that, “We like Mr. Obama” and “we hope that he will win the election.”  What is McCain suggesting in this statement?  Is he suggesting that it is better to be their mortal enemy than to consider any dialogue that could have potential to reach a resolution?  Given that the US State Department lists Hamas as a terrorist organization is it possible that McCain is playing the “terrorist card”?  That is, if someone or some organization is deemed terrorist then they are by nature incapable of engaging in rationale discourse.  They are wild animals that must be tamed, not human beings to engage with.

Following this logic, we don’t even need to know who or what Hamas is to judge them accordingly.  If they’re terrorists, they must necessarily be cold blooded and evil.  Therefore if they support Obama then Obama is certainly guilty by association; association with terrorists that is.  But let’s be frank, terrorists are definitely not white; they’re most likely Arabs and perhaps they’re even black or Latino, but they certainly aren’t white.  Look at the Oklahoma City bombing- political pundits were so quick to speculate that it was the work of Arabs- yet it was a homegrown white man named Timothy McVeigh.

Our association of the word terrorist with Arabs is something that has been burned into our brains for decades.  From Hollywood to the nightly news we see images of angry Arabs holding guns, hijacking planes, on their knees praising Allah, wearing Muslim headdress.  But we don’t have any meaningful context for these images; so many Americans can’t make sense of them.  We’re left with statements from George W. Bush like “They hate us because we are free.” or “They hate our freedoms.”  And when we see the world through the lens of such statements is it any wonder there is a mistrust and fear of Arabs in our society?

But whose interest does this fear and mistrust serve?  Who is setting the boundaries of this conversation?  When we accept the slander of terrorist as legitimate discourse we lose any chance of building bridges with people.  We move out of racism and hatred rather than openness.  This, my friend, is the web we must unweave.

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