The Students Against Terror concert and rally occurred Oct. 14 on West Campus, complete with a live webcast funded by groups including the Freeman Center and Hamagshimim: The University Zionist Movement. Its organizers claimed it was completely apolitical, leading me to wonder just how naïve they think we Duke students are, and later I was saddened at how many of us were. Many groups condemned the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference as a supporter of terror because of its lack of an explicit denunciation of terrorism. As they zealously asked students to join them in their denunciation of terror, I wondered if my refusal somehow inversely allied me with terrorists in the same way.
Even the idea of having an event against terror that was apolitical seemed ludicrous to me because the very meaning of the word “terror” involves politics. Webster’s Dictionary defines “terror” as “violence committed or threatened by a group to intimidate or coerce a population, as for military or political purposes.” Furthermore, the designation of those acts that are popularly deemed as terror and those that are not has inextricable ties to political motives and power, despite if they share the common result of violence against civilians. Vague references to terror, and the resulting fear the word evokes, have also been used in politically manipulative ways. Even Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was once regarded as a terrorist organization.
As I read the flyers asking me to stand against terror, I wondered if that included standing against the United States and its history of promoting terror worldwide: From backing the contras and their death squads in Nicaragua, to physically and sexually abusing military detainees and civilians in Iraq. I wondered whether it included Israeli military forces that have shot innocent Palestinian civilians and bulldozed private homes—of course not—it only included “the usual suspects” of terror. The concert’s failure to mention any instances of anti-Islamic terrorism and speaker Brigitte Gabriel’s reference to Arabs as “barbarians,” made it clear who the real terrorists were.
When The Chronicle recounted the concert in “Anti-Terror hits political note,” Rachael Solomon and the coordinators of the concert replied with an especially disappointing editorial response. Concerning Gabriel’s comment, they would not take fault, stating “we believe in free speech.” I don’t even think I need to elaborate on the hypocrisy this reveals in light of Solomon’s recent call to investigate the entire Chronicle staff. Mollie Lurey’s statement, “I’m not going to criticize anyone for being emotional,” shocks me as I think about the response to those who’ve made statements refusing to wholeheartedly condemn Philip Kurian’s words. President Richard Brodhead felt it necessary to condemn The Chronicle and Kurian’s column saying, “I felt it was also part of my job to defend another core value: our collective right to live in an environment free from any form of prejudice.” I’m still waiting for him to condemn the Students Against Terror concert in defense of the Arabs who were offended by the event.
The coordinators further claimed that The Chronicle “set up a false ‘us vs. them’ picture” and that the concert represented a wide array of viewpoints implying no competition between it and the PSM. Considering that the Star of David was prominently displayed on the podium and one of the bands sang “If you’re gonna carry pictures of Arafat/Ain’t nobody gonna support that,” it was easy to sense a less than subtle stance being articulated. If the organizers of this rally really wanted to promote inclusive dialogue and fulfill their stated goal of education, they would have had their event at a time that didn’t conflict with PSM, so people could attend both.
The goal of Students Against Terror to “create an atmosphere of unity” failed miserably, doing little more than add to campus polarity. Perhaps if the organizers had clearly stated their motives, which managed to shine through anyway, rather than couching them in clever marketing, they wouldn’t have smeared the integrity of their efforts. The coordinators were particularly cowardly in their attempts to mislead curious students who know nothing about the complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into thinking the event represented a view untainted by politics.
In discussing this and all political struggles, we must recognize the value of human life on all sides. The bottom line is, the loss of a life should be treated with the same gravity, regardless of if it’s taken by a suicide bomb or by a military tank. Only then can we truly abandon politics to celebrate the greater notion of humanity.
Amelia Herbert is a Trinity senior.
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