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The fine line between resistance and terrorism

English | العربية

Dr. Haifa AlMaashi

Director, Geo-strategic Affairs Division

Tag: Security
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On May 8, 2008 the US Congress approved a decision to omit the adjective "terrorist" coupled with the name of Mandela from the American national databases, followed by a similar decision of the U.S. Senate and the transformation of Mandela in the eyes of the U.S. government and the American people from terrorist to a revolutionist and fighter against racism. He became a symbol of resistance, and after his death became a legend in another peaceful struggle along with Mahatma Gandhi. It is ironic to see that the attendants of his funeral are the same ones who depicted him as terrorist for decades.
Before being a terrorist, Nelson Mandela was also in the eyes of his own people and supporters a revolutionist and a fighter when he decided to stand against racism in South Africa since 1944. Mandela contributed to the movement of the Association of Young African National Congress, which later turned to the National People's Congress and the National Congress Party AU. However, the U.S. government gave the world the green light to declare that Mandelas terrorist file became clean.
The U.S. government is also whom decided to declare the Taliban a terrorist organization, after it recruited it over the years to defeat its archenemy the Russians during the Cold War. The US is now negotiating with the Taliban to start a peaceful dialogue to save the U.S. military from drowning completely in Afghanistan.
The Washington administration has agreed in the second term for President Obama to negotiate with the political representatives of the Taliban before further talks with representatives of the Afghan government itself. Some will see this trend as the uprising of the power of the Taliban and the failure of the United States to quell its strength in nearly two decades. The U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has started these negotiations in 2008, then after just one year Obama ordered a military attack on the Taliban, which means the U.S. government is oscillating in the characterization of their relationship with the Taliban, according to its interests primarily and then the interests of its allies.
When the United States decided to insert Al Nusra Front in the list of terroristic organisations in the midst of the continuing Syrian crisis, demonstrations took place inside Syria, calling Al Nusra, Al Nusra and "We are all Al Nusra Front because in the eyes of many of the Syrian opposition it was a resistance front. However, subsequent developments in the Syrian conflict confirmed that Al Nusra is closer to a terrorist group than to a resistance, especially in the light of its mysterious confrontation with the Army of Iraq Daesh, which was also classified as terrorist group by the international community.
It seems that the U.S. government as a major international power since the start of the nineties and the entry of the second millennium played a crucial role in determining the features of terrorism and terrorist or of resistance and resistor. The first classifications are in accordance with its vision in combination of that of its allies and friends, and perhaps also declared exclusive right on these classifications in the wake of the September 11, 2001 events. 
But the U.S. government is no longer the only one to decide to ascribe a terrorist status or withdraw it, especially after the escalation of political tension globally and the emergence of new political movements, or changes in the intellectual attitudes and political practices of the veteran political movements, and different attitudes in determining the aggressor from the rightful owner. Within the scope of the Arab world, numerous examples emerged in defining the status of terrorism, for example in Iraq who were considered by some resistance militants against `the American presence now many consider them as terrorists and the change in the conflict in Iraq from a resistance to what was called as "American occupation" to what the whole world agreed to call sectarian terrorism, whether by Shiite groups or Sunni groups has resulted in thousands of victims. The Hezbollah, which was regarded as a Lebanese resistance against the Zionists began systematically since 1982 to 2000 in southern Lebanon, now has become in the eyes of many Arab and international regimes, specifically after its leading role in the Syrian war to a terrorist party. In Tunisia, the Tunisian Prime Minister Ali al-Aridi declared Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist organization on August 27 after obtaining evidence of responsibility for the killing of Tunisian soldiers and politicians and seculars including Shukri Belaid and Mohamed Al brahmi. Perhaps the most recent example in this series is the decision of the Egyptian government to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, after it claimed responsibility for the events in El Dakahlia, which saw 16 dead and 140 wounded. But Mansoura accident was only the straw that broke the camel's back. Where the Egyptian government took prior steps to codify this status through the abolition of the legal existence in the political arena of the Brotherhood Organisation as a political party and then stop issuing the organizations newspaper "Freedom and Justice and many observers to the Egyptian conflict, both local and international have seen that the Egyptian government has the right to take such action because of the insistence of the organization to continue the demonstrations and protests that have hindered the  normal daily life in Egypt.
If we all agree as many experts and political analysts do, that the terrorism is based mainly on the adoption of the violence that causes harm to innocent people and public property, some of these movements and political groups deserve to be labeled as terrorism and deserves to be restrained. However is the resistance against the political forces vying for control of land and people, obstructing the right of self-determination, considered terrorism?
If we accept this logic, history may take us back to years to confirm that what has been done by the Arab revolutionists to the expulsion of the colonizer was not legitimate resistance and the famous uprising of the Palestinian people was not also a legitimate resistance. This is completely contradicting the facts.
The fine line that separates between resistance and terrorism is the use of force, specifically arms in the confrontation, although some classified this as the power within the armed struggle if the goal is the resistance and terrorism if the purpose is the assault on others unjustly and causing unrest and strife.
Popular Movement for the Liberation of Sudan, which was founded in the eighties of the last century after a long political history in the South, and by demands for secession and independence may not be considered as an ideal model in the recent interpretation of the meaning of resistance, after infighting between factions of the movement, which erupted at the end of last year and warned a civil war between the southerners. However, the beginnings of the movement confirmed resistance to ethnic, religious and cultural division between the north and the southern provinces and even succeeded in gaining independence in July 2011 after a referendum confirmed the decision of the people to choose secession.
The shift from resistance to terrorism may include a change in a number of elements: a change in defensive tactics and a change in objectives and in the intellectual doctrine. It may require a gradual change in the different stages. Therefore some of the political organisations and parties which tend toward the use of violence to achieve its political goals against the popular will, can be classified in a terroristic context, especially if its political practices have caused political and security upheaval.
After the announcement of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group by the Egyptian government, doubts began stretching to other movements and Islamic parties in the Arab world,and perhaps Hamas is a clear example of the vibration of Arab attitudes toward the classification of this movement being considered in the eyes of some resistance movement against Israel before being an Islamic movement. The movement leaders announced that they have no links with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but does not deny the united intellectual faith with the organization and this in turn has raised many concerns among the Islamic movements of the possible trend of some Arab regimes to consider the movement a terrorist in the next period of time, especially since there are many Palestinian political groups opposed to the movement inside and out of Gaza that consider Hamas a terrorist movement. It is noteworthy that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had announced in 2012 that it is time to remove the movement of Hamas and the other Palestinian factions from the list of "terrorism" and stressed that they are national liberation movements to defend itself against the Israeli occupation.
This example is just one example of the extent of merging concepts between different parties, both on the Arab or the global level on the nature of resistance and the nature of terrorism, which gives the subject greater importance to the fact that the announcement of granting this status, whether resistor or terrorist to certain political forces might contribute to the establishment of precedents in domestic and international laws, which may indicate the importance of the search for a new international consensus in the classification practices of terrorism in the political spectrum, so we avoid ambiguity in the interpretation of the intellectual concepts of terrorism and resistance, which may be reflected on political practices.

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