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Raging Beast Arrow Vol 1 No 1 Contents
About borderlands Volume 1 Number 1, 2002

 


"The Raging Beast Within Us All"?
Civil Liberties and the "War on Terror"


Minerva Nasser-Eddine
University of Adelaide


.... The world did change substantially after September 11 last year and this is part of it and we’ve just got to put up with this and if you’re one of the people who’s been raided, I’m sorry, you haven’t been hurt. You may have been traumatised a bit and you may have had your windows broken and your door knocked in but they came and repaired it later, they did that. That doesn’t always happen by the way. In situations where maybe State police are involved and chasing after people who are suspects, doesn’t always happen but it has in this case so there’ll be no evidence, you’ll probably get a new front door out of it and some nice new glass and all that sort of thing but if we err on the side of alarm well I think it is part of that price we’ve got to pay.

Howard Sattler, Sydney Radio Announcer,
comments after interview with Attorney-General Daryl Williams.


1. As a concerned Australian I seek to question whether this is in fact the price ‘we’ have to pay for borderland protection. Do we need to remain silent and accept State and Federal government’s proposed policies on national security that are increasingly resembling the tactics of a police state under the pretext of fighting the ‘war on terror’? Will a new door, window or the replacement of other damaged material possessions mend the shattered sense of security experienced by some segments of the Australian community? Have we reached a new crossroads in Australia’s multiculturalism where in the past it has been tolerated, celebrated and recognised but never really accepted as inclusionary within the broader realms of Australian society—and most importantly, within Australia’s sense of community. Since the horrid terrorist events of September 11, 2001 and October 12, 2002 many nations have sought to legislate to protect their borders from the ‘terrorist threat’. National security must be defended, but at what cost to our civil rights? Will democratic nations in fact practice ‘state terror’ in order to justify such needs and consequently undermine the very tenets of democratic society which we have become accustomed to, and which nation-states such as Australia built on? Are the proposed legislative changes and terror tactics used by our intelligence services in recent times another form of racism which target some of the most vulnerable segments of society? Has the conditioning of language and the manufacturing of consent moulded public opinion in a way that reflects government policy—thus leaving little room for cultural sensitivity or understanding, let alone real analysis of the turbulent times we are living in?

2. These questions, and indeed the answers to them, epitomise the very core of a democratic and multicultural nation such as Australia, its existence and ultimately its future. However, the very nature of our existence is no longer dependent on Australia’s domestic policy and its citizens, instead like the majority of nations we are part of the global village participating, effecting, shaping, and existing as a nation amongst many. It is within this global environment that the traditional notion of state sovereignty is being challenged—affecting the fabric of society within Australia and other nations of the world. Due to the global reach of telecommunications we are more conscious and aware of the injustices, illnesses, disasters, tragedies and triumphs of our own community and the world outside. It is within this context that we must view the tragedy of September 11, a day in modern history that has culminated as a consequence of a multitude of factors stemming from historical overtures to modern day events. The following paper seeks to paint an overview of three broad multi-faceted and multi-levelled complex issues that reached a climax with the destruction of the Twin Towers—Orientalism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and neo-conservatism—and which have been instilled into the Western psyche by the mainstream media and public relations institutions, particularly in the past decade.

Orientalism in the New Millennium…

3. In the days following the tragic events of September 11, 2001 a public US grand strategy began to be formulated and applied within the realms of a neo-imperial vision. An arrogant paternalistic setting was embraced, emphasising morality, justice, civilisation and threats to civilisation—legitimating force to quash not only the enemies of the American state but indeed those of ‘the free and civilised world’. The US has repeatedly told the world it is willing to act unilaterally and strike pre-emptively because we are told it is both crucial and necessary to fight ‘the forces of evil’. History, the politics of identity, and patriotic fervour are being invoked while perceptions and representations of the Other, the enemy, the "evil doer" stir emotions of fear, anger, bigotry, racism, ignorance and—most dangerously—the homogenisation and collective demonisation of Arabs and Muslims throughout the world. Freedom, democratic ideals and principles are being invoked but, ironically, the US and its allies are moving against such principles and in fact curtailing basic civil rights in pursuit of their own respective national agendas and doctrines of security, all of which have racist overtones.

4. A central proponent of nationalism and national security doctrine is the need to invoke righteousness, history and a credible enemy that becomes the marginalised ‘Other’. It is within this context that at every opportunity given the US and its allies continue to remind their fellow citizens that they continue to be at war. By doing so not only do they seek to remind their fellow country-people that they remain on a heightened state of alert; the psychological pressure and ongoing reminders of the abhorrent events of September 2001 (in the case of the US) and October 2002 (in the case of Australia, which saw the death of 88 Australians in a Bali holiday resort) remain fresh in people's minds, terrorising them and retaining them in a state of anxiety and non-normalcy.

5. Historically, in a build-up towards conflict the issue of morality arises, as does claim and counter claim as to which side holds the high moral ground. Since President Bush stated that "you are either with us or against us" the world has been divided into the civilised allies and the uncivilised ‘evil doers’, the ‘civilised’ obviously take the high moral ground and henceforth any action they may take is justified in accordance to morality and natural justice. In turn, the ‘war on terror’ gave the US and its allies an opportunity to link its traditional political foes to acts of terror, hence the ‘axis of evil’ which has since expanded to include other legitimate governments, political organisations and individuals (as well as some questionable organisations with shady histories and ideologies).

6. Increasingly the division has highlighted the double standards and hypocrisy of the Bush Administration’s policies. States such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and less traditional allies such as Russia and China—which clearly need to be pressured and internationally scrutinised on their domestic strategies in curtailing the ‘terrorist’ threat—are not listed due to their alliance to the US and its national interests. At the same time countries which have a historical record of defying US interests are indeed targeted. Many governments, particularly in the developing world, are supporting the ‘war on terror’ not so much because of their high priority in stamping out terrorism but to save themselves from the wrath of the United States and its allies.

7. This state of tension and hypocrisy also stifles debate about the root causes behind terrorist attacks, lessons learnt, and the direction of the ongoing war on terrorism. In addition, it falls into a great paradox where opposing sides completely fail to understand or comprehend the security fears and most importantly the grievances of the ‘other’ side: this is evident amongst the Israelis and the Palestinians/Arabs and is increasingly becoming true of the Americans and their allies in regards to Al Qaeda, Ussama bin Laden, Iraq etc. The perceived and real threat become misconstrued, continual mutual mistrust grows, historical arguments are forthcoming and regression to primordial cultural, religious and bigoted views (re)emerges. As much as this author rejects Huntington’s thesis on the clash of civilisations, the current developments, manufacturing of consent and dominance of language and perception are moulding the political and economic grievances expressed through the September 11 terrorist acts into a conflict between religions and culture—that is, between Islam and Judeo-Christianity.

8. Aiding this progression are the religious leaders and spokespersons of the 60 million strong voting bloc in the US made up of neo-conservative Christians. They are demonstrating that their religious extremism is just as fanatical as the line bin Laden preaches. Pat Robertson, former US Presidential contender, reportedly said on the Christian Broadcasting Network in November that: "Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse". Jerry Flawell, a Baptist minister and leading voice of the Christian right, in an October television interview described the Prophet Mohammad as a ‘terrorist’; Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart called the Prophet Mohammad a "sex deviant" and a pervert and demanded that Muslim students in the US be expelled and that "we ought to tell every other Muslim living in this nation that if you say one word, you’re gone", whilst, Dr. Reverend Robert Morey has allegedly called for the destruction of Mecca, Medina, and the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem, as the only solutions to the ‘Muslim problem’. (Reuters 13/11/02, The Guardian 15/11/02, Shehadeh 11/02) It is no secret that this lobby group is closely affiliated to President George W. Bush and the detrimental impact it is going to have on developments is yet to be fully realised.

9. Being aware of the possible ramifications of both the rhetoric and the close alliance, and seeking to strengthen its coalition of (non-Christian) allies, the US Government and its allies have attempted to allay fears amongst their respective Arab and Muslim constituents and allies—to assume them that these ethnic and religious groups were not being deliberately vilified. For example, President Bush has referred to the ‘peace loving nature’ of Muslims and their contributions made in American and world society, in keeping with his record in mirroring the US President, Australian PM John Howard repeated similar lines a few days later. (Howard, 13/12/02) Earlier reassurances were attempted by government officials, for instance, following the ASIO raids the Attorney-General, Daryl Williams stated the following:

The ASIO/AFP investigations are not targeting the Islamic community. The investigations are focusing on individuals who the authorities believe may be able to assist in assessing whether there is any Jemaah Islamiyah influence in Australia. We are not targeting any community group, we are not targeting any religion and we are definitely not targeting the Islamic community. The Islamic community itself is just as shocked and outraged by September 11 and October 12 as the rest of the Australian community. (Attorney-General doorstop, 31/10/02)

10. However, government action, perception and national strategy in fighting terrorism have not necessarily matched the above sentiments that may be seen by some as empty rhetoric aimed at their Arab and/or Muslim constituents or an attempt to appease their Arab and/or Muslim allies. By no means is it an easy or simple position for Western governments governing multicultural countries to be in where cultural sensitivities are at their peak and world security has been shaken at the very core of its belief system. However, occasional statements such as these do not replace the multitude of statements and adopted strategies by governments’ pre and post September 11, 2001. This is highlighted by two examples: The recent comments made by the Rev. Fred Nile MP advocating banning the chador in public areas and the little immediate response or condemnation generated from Federal and State politicians was deafening. Juxtaposing his remarks to the immediate criticism and outrage by the same politicians towards the announcement that some Victorian institutions of education took the decision to ban Christmas events/celebrations (in order to be more culturally inclusive) further demonstrates the hypocrisy and obnoxious attitude being conveyed by public figures—the very public figures who are supposed to be educating and assisting in dispelling such attitudes in multi-cultural and multi-faith societies such as Australia.

11. Semites, in this case Arabs, and Muslims have long been victims of discrimination and misunderstanding. For centuries, Islam has been depicted as a "demonic religion of apostasy, blasphemy, and obscurity" (Said 5:1981) and as "medieval, outmoded and worthless" (Watt 1960). Such references are made in today’s age, despite them dating as far back as the Renaissance and the post-Enlightenment period. Popular Western visions of Islam are usually based on selectivity and stereotyping of Muslims and Arabs. Various labels concerning Islam and Muslims have re-emerged in recent decades, Muslims are seen as ‘fanatics’, ‘terrorists’, ‘inhumane’, ‘militants’, ‘backward’, ‘fundamentalists’ while Islam ‘subjugates women’, is ‘anti-West’ and ‘anti-modern’, against humanity, reason and Enlightenment. These images give rise to Western perceptions of Islam as alien and hostile towards Western civilisation. When this image of Muslims, Islam and Arabs (as Islam is almost always synonymous with Arabs) is reinforced through our media, through our education systems and through public relations institutions we begin to formulate a perception of Islam, the Middle East and the Other prior to any form of ‘terrorism’ occurring. Thus, when the barbaric acts of September 11 occurred and President Bush emphatically stated in response to his own question why do they hate us? "They hate what we see right here in this chamber ... They hate our freedoms" (Bush 20/09/02) And earlier stating: "This is the world’s fight. This is civilisation’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom" (Bush 15/09/02), it is difficult for most in the West not to automatically conjure the image of the ill perceived Muslim and/or Arab as the enemy, the Other.

12. A formula is hence created:

Ussama bin Laden + Al Qaeda = Arab Muslim x Arabs + Muslims (1.5 billion) = Enemy Terrorists (the Other)

13. Thus although governments may emphatically state words of praise towards the Arab and Muslim communities, call for tolerance, condemn acts of discrimination and vilification, and state that Arabs or Muslims should not be targeted for the actions of some extremists, these statements do not do enough to undo the centuries of bigoted thought and hostile perception of these two segments of society. The comments are not ongoing, there is little conscious effort or strategies in place to educate the broader community about the contributions Arab and Islamic civilisations have made to world society, nor do they seek to demonstrate that over 90% of Arabs and Muslims are against any form of extremism, terrorism or domination, or highlight the rich contributions Arab and Muslim migrants have made to countries such as Australia. The perfect opportunity arose with the recent passing of Ramadan. Besides NSW Premier Bob Carr, which significant Federal Minister or state Premier visited a mosque to pass on his well wishes to the growing religious Muslim community in Australia and further advocate harmony and understanding? To my knowledge, neither Messrs Howard, Ruddock, Downer or Hill attempted such a visit, and if it indeed did take place we need to question the role the media plays in news coverage and moulding the publics perception in times of crisis or peace.

14. Because in many respects multicultural countries, post-September 11, are paralysed with fear: mainstream society begins to question, visualise and associate themselves differently with members of the Arab and Muslim communities. A fear of the unknown, misperceptions and ignorance predominate; while members of the Muslim and Arab communities tend to take one of two paths. They become rejectionists towards the bin Laden’s of the world, and more disturbing they become disconcerted towards their own culture and attempt all avenues of assimilation revoking their ethnic, cultural or religious identity and heritage in order to become part of the ‘melting pot’ which remains exclusive rather than inclusive of all people. Others become more extremist in their views and practices, feeling further isolated, victimised, marginalised and discriminated against. There remains a significant minority within both segments of society who seek to educate, enlighten, sensitise and establish a dialogue of reconciliation, understanding and advancement, however, within the context of the climate of fear and insecurity the world is currently experiencing and the neo-conservative policies of Western governments post-September 11 these voices are largely drowned out through the emerging ‘thought police’.

15. Overall, the damage had been done by invoking implicit and explicit notions of racism and eurocentrism in the immediate aftermath of September 11. The language being used ("the freedoms and values that form the foundation of western society are anathema to bin Laden") is similar to that adopted at the turn of the 20th century to justify colonialism, and it is within such narrative global relations, security, sovereignty and the identity of any given nation state has been duly affected.

16. Initially there seemed to be a real need to understand and comprehend the attacks on the US and the most frequently asked question post-September 11 is "Why do they hate us?" but the question itself is misleading and dangerous. Falling into the divisive dichotomy of ‘us’ and ‘them’, it presupposes a general ‘they’ that seems to encompass the entire Arab and Muslim world. It does not distinguish between the terrorists and the vast majority of people who condemn violence and injustice, and for those who seek to explain that such abhorrent acts are neither part of their religious belief or indeed their political culture or psyche. When Americans, and others, do ask very few actually seem to be willing to hear the answer. Eyes glaze over if the response is not couched in nationalistic, cultural or politically acceptable terms. (Al Hewar 09/01) For example, Magistrate Brian Deegan, the father of Bali victim and Sturt footballer Josh Deegan, attempted to make sense of the terrorist actions and in turn Australia’s role in pursuing the line of the United States. Instead, Mr Deegan was dismissed as a ‘grieving father’ by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on two separate occasions who demonstrated little patience to his very important questions. (Howard 22/11/02) Similarly, political backbenchers and minority leaders have been quietened by being tainted as ‘un-Australian’ and caring little for national security by firstly questioning Australia’s role in the ‘war on terror’ and secondly by asking why September 11 and the Bali attacks occurred.

Representations: abusing the "war on terror"

17. One of the first problems that arise in the ‘war on terror’ is that no clear, concise and convincible definition has been forthcoming. Rather terrorism evades definition and terrorism is all encompassing: ‘terrorism is modern barbarism‘, ‘terrorism is a form of political violence’, ‘terrorism is a threat to western civilisation’, ‘terrorism is a menace to western moral values’, ‘terrorism is a threat to our freedom, democracy and ideals’. (Al Hewar 09/01) In turn all parties have used the tools of language and imagery to impact on the world’s perceptions and misconceptions of the other. Every article written and every commentary undertaken speaks of terror, terrorism, and terrorists. Analogies saturate media coverage of the ‘fight against terror’ which ‘is an international struggle of the free world against the forces of darkness who seek to destroy our liberty and our way of life’; terrorists "goal is to destroy everything connected to the values shared by democratic governments and western societies"; "the goal of terrorism is to break the will to be free"; "to strike at the heart of the wealthy, developed western world, expose the weak points of an open and democratic society, and undermine the security of its residents". (Al Hewar 09/01) Terrorism has defied definition; terrorism has become different things to different people. And because of the nature of the September 11 attack an enemy was not tangible in the traditional sense. Thus there was a need to create an enemy along traditional notions of security, although the events of September 11 demonstrated how theories of security have changed dramatically since. The world is no longer dealing with neatly compartmentalised states, nations or clearly defined groups of people as enemies, thus to attempt to fight the ‘war on terror’ via traditional means will be ineffective in the long term.

18. Countries such as China, Russia, the Philippines, and Israel have successfully gained the support of the US to fight their own domestic battles under the moral authority of fighting terror. An Israeli newspaper, Ma’ariv stated just that in its editorial two days after the attacks on the US: "Israel now has a rare opportunity to turn public opinion its way and take the diplomatic and military steps that it has avoided to this point from fear of the international reaction". The editor feels that "after seeing the Palestinian celebrations the world now has a better idea of who we are dealing with". (Ma’ariv 13/09/01) Indeed, no longer is the US administration criticising the barbaric Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) action in the occupied territories, rather than issuing statements condemning aggressive military behaviour the US proclaims "Israel’s right to self defence", "its right to attack terror from its roots". (US State Department Briefing 25/06/02) Under the guise of fighting terrorist forces Israel currently has a free reign in the occupied Palestinians territories, it publicly shares the belief that by eliminating a person (read Arafat), a government (read the Palestinian Authority) and terrorists (resistance fighters) their fight on terror will be successfully resolved. This is far from reality. Removing Arafat, his cronies or heads of resistance cells will not eliminate all nationalistic Palestinian fervour or identity which has survived and grown over the last four decades. If, indeed, Arafat is Israel’s bin Laden then "how does the world address the historical problem of land confiscation and occupation by Israel?" (Jerusalem Forum News) Arafat may be replaceable but Palestinian nationalist identity is not.

19. Thus Sharon’s claim that Arafat is Israel’s bin Laden is far from convincing, and purely delaying the inevitable—that is the need to negotiate a real, just and equitable peace agreement between these two peoples. The war between Israel and the Palestinians are the remnants of colonialism which has yet to be extinguished by either player or any of the external parties which have fanned it over the years.

20. However, like many nations around the world Israel has found this opportunity to cash in on the ‘war against terror’ for its own national interests and security, using the tools of language and imagery to shape the world’s conceptions and misconceptions of the other. For example, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon stated that: "One must understand we have been facing Arab terror now Palestinian terror, for over 120 years.... No doubt, Arafat is a terrorist. We have to understand that. He is a terrorist, a host of terrorist organisations". (CNN 21/09/01) This assertion has been repeated so frequently that many Western governments are repeating this same accusation and asserting blame of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict predominantly on the Palestinian Chairman. This is despite the ongoing border closures, ethnic cleansing, target killings, collective punishment, the uprooting of olive and citrus plantations, malnutrition of Palestinians, and the denial of equitable water distribution for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation over the years which has caused extreme poverty, and contributed to the cycle of violence, anger and despair. At the Likud Party Convention held in mid-November, Israeli Foreign Minister and party leader contender Benjamin Netanyahu told the convention the first thing he would do if elected PM would be to expel the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. "The first thing that needs to be done in the next government is to expel this man. I, as prime minister, promise you: I will expel Arafat. We will remove him from here. I think that this is a necessary condition for defeating terrorism. Only if we remove Arafat there will be an opening for peace. Only if we remove him will there be a possibility of reconciliation with our neighbours, not in a Palestinian terrorist state but in free self-government, living beside us in peace." (Sydney Morning Herald, 14/11/02)

21. It is ironic that the US and its allies—who are supposedly fighting for the freedom of the civilised and democratic world—are themselves promoting very undemocratic and uncivilised practices in the Middle East region and within their respective nations. The Bush Administration has called for ‘regime change’ amongst the Palestinians, Iraqis and implicitly elsewhere in the region, despite the fact that some of these leaders, regardless of how underdeveloped their democratic tools of governance, have created some form of political legitimacy amongst their populace regardless of how power was attained. The double standards that have existed in the Middle East particularly by the US has been a thorn on the side of many Arabs and Muslims throughout the world. The selective approach to enforcing UN Security Resolutions on some member states and not on others has infuriated and deepened the hostility towards the US over the years. As has the support of puppet regimes who practice vile and horrific violations of human rights on their populace, remain corrupt and unaccountable and yet are unconditionally supported by past and present US administrations. These very policies have contributed to and assisted in breeding extremism in the region.

22. Unconditional support remains for Israeli policy in the region. US Senator Hillary Clinton mirrors the thoughts of many US politicians: "Yasser Arafat bears the responsibility for the violence that has occurred; it rests on his shoulders" ... she says her role as a US Senator is ‘to support the Israeli people". (Fisk 7/03/02) American allegiance to freedom, liberty and democracy to all has proven to be selective and conditioned by US interests. In parallel, mainstream Western media has been a major player in narrating the thoughts, perceptions and understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has further deepened the divide between Arabs and Muslims and the rest of the world.

23. Laying blame, the manufacturing of consent and the conditioning of language (‘terrorist’ as opposed to ‘militant’, ‘collateral damage’ as opposed to ‘human casualties’, ‘occupation’ as opposed to ‘settlements’, ‘victims’ as opposed to ‘caught in the cross-fire’, ‘rubber bullets’ as opposed to ‘deadly ammunition’, political assassinations as opposed to ‘a clean shot’) highlight the injustices on a daily basis. While the almost satirical situation when Israeli tanks encircle Arafat’s badly damaged headquarters in Ramallah after days of bombarding it, the international community is told by the US "Israel has a right to defend itself", or that Israelis are threatened by the Palestinians and yet the statement is juxtaposed with an image of a 10 year child throwing a stone at an armoured vehicle, or US military aid in the form of an Apache helicopter is aiming its missiles at high density population dwellings all in the name of ‘self defence’—all these images and developments contribute to the anger and frustration of the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. The power of the media, the image and distorted reporting have played a significant role in the escalation of the Arab-Israeli conflict on moral grounds internationally. A most recent example being the reporting of a combat operation which killed 12 armed Jewish soldiers and settlers in Hebron. The loss of human life was quickly dubbed as the ‘Sabbath Massacre’ by many news outlets around the world drawing condemnation from the Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief and US Secretary of State Powell despite the fact that news was emerging contradicting the initial reporting from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. (Abunimah & Parry 16/11/02; Andoni 11/02; The Age 19/11/02) With the misreporting of these events the media has contributed to the demonisation of the Palestinians and fellow Arabs and further rendered a fair and equitable diplomatic solution unviable.

24. For example, multiple war crimes are being committed against the Palestinian people and internationally we watch due to the effectiveness of language domination. Increasingly we are hearing the terms ‘transfer’ and ‘resettlement’, the prominent American daily, USA Today wrote: "The simple answer... would be to create a vast separation from Israel, resettling the Palestinians in Jordan, where 80% of the population is Palestinians". Clearly, ‘transfer’ is ethnic cleansing and ethnic cleansing is a war crime. Robert Fisk asks "If American newspapers are prepared to print such an option and if Israelis are asked to give their opinion on it, what is Mr Milosevic doing in The Hague?" (Fisk 11/03/02)

25. On a regular basis both government sanctioned and non-government human rights organisations such as Middle East Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem and others report on the travesty of events and the horrors facing Palestinians and yet little, or no, voice of criticism is heard targeting the Israeli government for its actions. For example, when B’Tselem (an Israeli based human rights organisation) accused the Israeli army of using Palestinian civilians as human shields in a report released on November 14, 2002, how many international new agencies took it upon themselves to report the findings? By highlighting these facts it is in no way trying to be dismissive of the need to acknowledge Israel’s security needs, or other human rights abuses taking place in the Middle East or the rest of the world for that matter, but there is a need to make Israel ("the only democracy in the Middle East") accountable for its actions towards its citizens and those it is occupying as well as complying with all international law, conventions and UN resolutions. No one can be above the law and it is this very notion that is being stated, time and time again, by bin Laden, by suicide bombers and by peace advocates alike.

26. It is here that the sheer hypocrisy and lunacy of the state of world affairs become more explicit and overbearing. Daily we witness the alleged "defenders of ‘civilisation’ no longer even pretend to be bound by law, by moral codes designed to quell the raging beast inside us all and draw us on toward higher notions of justice, liberty, and the integrity of the individual. Instead, they exalt in their desecration of these ideals—and are exalted for it". (CounterPunch 15/03/02, The Guardian 12/03/02) It is not just US and allied support for nations such as Israel which are curtailing democratic tenets but the infringement of civil liberties is also on the rise within Western democratic nations themselves under the pretext of fighting terror and in defence of national security.

The ways of the ‘civilised’ world…


27. The US, UK, Canada, Europe and NZ have all reported cases of racial profiling and the curtailment of civil liberties in the array of anti-terrorist legislation introduced as a consequence of September 11. The US President admitted to ‘rendering’ operations, that is, capturing suspected terrorists in secret operations throughout the world and ‘rendering’ them without due process, legal hearing and arrival to a third country which allows torture to extract vital information—no extraditions, no legal counsel, no due process. (Counterpunch 15/03/02) A recent FBI report counted 481 attacks against people of Middle Eastern descent, Muslims and South Asian Sikhs. That number was up from 28 in 2000, an increase of more than 1500%. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) found more than 700 hate crimes. (Washington Post, 26/11/02)

28. Further racial profiling is invoked by new INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) criteria labelled ‘Special Registration’ which is explained as: "a system that will let the government keep track of non immigrants that come to the US every year". (INS Website) This is all well and good however upon examining the finer detail the following is found: citizens or nationals from Call-in Group 1 countries (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and the Sudan) and the more recent addition Call-in Group 2 (Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunis, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen) need to be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated when they enter the US. This will apply to almost everyone from the Middle East, although none of these listed nationalities have been implicated in the September 11 terrorist acts whilst Egyptians and Saudi Arabians (who allegedly carried out the September 11 events) remain free of such treatment. Is it any surprise that these two countries are also America’s most loyal allies in the Middle East?

29. The Guardian has reported numerous incidents of violations of basic human rights merely on the suspicion that a person fits the racial profiling of a suspected terrorist. One that sticks in the mind is that of a 50 year old British Asian woman who wrote to the US immigration service of her ghastly experience:

At the end of January, she flew to JFK to visit her sister, who is suffering from cancer. At the airport, immigration officials found that on a previous visit she had overstayed her visa. She explained that she had been helping her sister, who was very ill, and had applied for an extension. When the officers told her she would have to return to Britain, she accepted their decision but asked to speak to the British consul. They refused her request, but told her she could ring the Pakistani consulate if she wished. She explained that she was British, not Pakistan, as her passport showed. The guards then started to interrogate her. How many languages did she speak? How long had she lived in Britain? They smashed the locks on her suitcase and took her fingerprints. Then she was handcuffed and chained and marched through the departure lounge. "I felt like the guards were parading me in front of the passengers like their prize catch. Why was I put in handcuffs? I am a 50 year old housewife from the suburbs of London. What threat did I pose to the safety of other passengers? (The Guardian 5/03/02)

30. Even more disturbing is the following report:

Last week, a correspondent for the Times found 30 men and a woman camped in a squalid hotel in Mogadishu, in Somalia. They were all African-American of Somali origin, who had arrived in the US as babies or children. Most were professionals with secure jobs and stable lives. In January, just after the release of Black Hawk Down they were rounded up. They were beaten, threatened with injections and refused phone calls and access to lawyers. Then, a fortnight ago, with no charges made or reasons given, they were summarily deported to Somalia. Now, without passports, papers or money, in an alien and frightening country, they are wondering whether they will ever see their homes again. All these people are victims of a new kind of racial profiling which the US government applies but denies. (The Guardian 5/03/02)

31. These above incidents are just two of the many experienced by members of the Arab and Muslim communities in the US. Questioning and surveillance of the Arab American and Muslim communities, have become common practice and many have reported incidents that Muslim women have been strip-searched at airports and men being dragged out of bed at gunpoint in the middle of the night. Thanks to the recent USA Patriot Act ‘evidence’ against the accused remains shielded from the suspect and thus giving no, or little, ability for defence. There is the assertion that many are considered guilty until proven otherwise. (The Guardian 5/03/02)

32. On the other hand, there have been significant victories to civil libertarians in the US. For example, the Federal Appeals Court in Cincinnati declared that the Bush administration acted unlawfully in holding hundreds of deportation hearings in secret based only on the government’s assertion that the people involved may have links to terrorism. The ruling written by Judge Damon J Keith for the unanimous three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stated:

Democracies die behind closed doors.... When the government begins closing doors it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation. (The New York Times 27/08/02)

33. In another victory a Federal judge ruled that the Bush administration had no right to conceal the identities of hundreds of people arrested after September 11, and she ordered that most of their names be released within 15 days of the ruling. The US administration was secretly detaining people, mainly immigrants, in connection with the investigation. Judge Gladys Kessler of Federal District Court said while it was the obligation of the executive branch to ensure the physical security of American citizens:

the first priority of the judicial branch must be to ensure that our government always operates within the statutory and constitutional constraints which distinguish a democracy from a dictatorship. Unquestionably the public’s interest in learning the identity of those arrests and detained is essential to verifying whether the government is operating within the bounds of law.

34. She added:

As of this moment the public does not know how many persons the government has arrested and detained as part of its September 11 investigation, nor does it know who most of them are, where they are and whether they are represented by counsel. (The New York Times 3/08/02)

35. Estimates in fact vary as to the number of people detained ranging from 751 (the official government figure of immigrants detained) to 1400 to 14000—a figure suggested by Arab-American anti-discrimination organisations. The variance in numbers is a testimony to Judge Kessler’s comments, and with little assistance from the US administration it is difficult to ascertain how accurate the figures are and how many people are infact being detained. Some of them were held for over 7 months and were either deported or released without charge. US citizens of Arab background have been incarcerated without charge because of the emergency legislation enacted since September 11. Their plight is unknown; their exact whereabouts is unknown, or little, of this number have been formally arrested; civil liberties lawyers and family members are not aware of their well being due to the isolationary and secret nature of the methods being enforced. (Boyle 25/11/01) The latest reports indicate that the majority of the over 900 people detained by the US government after the September 11 terrorist attacks have been deported, released or convicted of relatively minor crimes. Many of the crimes people are being charged for bear no direct connection to terrorism. (The Australian 12/12/02)

The Australian Case Study…


36. The new and proposed Australian Federal counter-terrorism laws include: the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002; the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 (ASIO bill); Criminal Code Amendment (Suppression of Terrorist Bombings) Act 2002; Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act 2002; Border Security Legislation Amendment Act 2002; and the Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Act 2002. After the Bali bombing the Criminal Code Amendment (Offences Against Australians) Act 2002 was introduced to make it an offence to murder, commit manslaughter or intentionally or recklessly cause serious harm to an Australian outside of Australia. It also ensures there are no loopholes in terms of prosecuting terrorist acts involving murder overseas. (Attorney-General, Second Reading)

37. Besides the latter addition the government has had difficulty demonstrating that existing criminal laws are inadequate to prosecute people who commit such crimes, particularly in the case of the ASIO bill. Such accusations have been forthcoming on the Australian political landscape since the introduction of anti-terrorist legislation by the Federal government. Various state ALP forums have expressed concerns with the proposed legislation as have the smaller political parties (the Democrats and the Greens), civil libertarians, prominent lawyers and members of the public. In fact, 421 individuals, community groups and eminent lawyers participated in airing their concerns about the government’s proposals, almost all arguing that "the bills will erode rights and freedoms that are a fundamental part of our democratic way of life". (Faulkner: Hansard 25/11/01)

38. The proposed legislation included these provisions:

citizens to be held incommunicado without charge for indefinite periods and with no legal representation;

non-suspects can be held incommunicado detention for up to 48 hours merely on the premise that they may have information that would help with their inquiries—this includes journalists, lawyers and politicians;

provisions allowing children as young as 12 to be detained, strip searched and questioned incommunicado;

the ASIO Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill removed any protection against self-incrimination and the right to silence – meaning people who refused to give information would have been jailed for five years;

detained suspects would have no right to a lawyer;

the scope of the law could criminalise social movements, union activity, civil disobedience and dissent;

Powers for the Attorney-General to ban organisations "likely to endanger, the security or integrity of the Commonwealth or another country". People who are members or assist proscribed organisations face up to 25 years imprisonment.

Possessing things connected with terrorist acts: A person possesses a thing if: a person possesses a ‘thing’; and the ‘thing’ is connected with preparation for, the engagement of a person in, or assistance in a terrorist act. The person possessing the ‘thing’ can face up to 15 years imprisonment.

No sunset clause was incorporated into the proposed bills, thus deemed permanent;
In order for the Bills to be legislated State governments need to amend their own constitutions in order to hand power over to the Commonwealth.

39. Despite the opposition expressed to this package of legislation from the outset by politicians and members of the public alike, the government has attempted to push large numbers of bills through the committee process, displayed little regard for the parliamentary committee process, little respect for public participation (seeking 21 bills to be commented on in a matter of 2.5 weeks!) and demonstrated its lack of tolerance towards public scrutiny and the democratic process. However, there is a need to openly debate and criticise the draconian legislation being proposed by the Federal government which will virtually turn Australia into a police state. A joint Government and Opposition committee slammed the Attorney-General’s controversial new ASIO laws as "unconstitutional and an attack on civil liberties". In its unanimous report into the legislation, the Committee, made up of four government and three Labor members, said the bill in its original form would "undermine the key legal rights and erode the civil liberties that make Australia a leading democracy".

The key recommendations made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS, and DSD in their May 2002 Advisory Report on the Bill stated:

People should only be held for a maximum of seven days (168 hours), after which they should either be charged or released;

Detained citizens should also be given protection against self-incrimination;

ASIO warrants should only be issued by federal magistrates. For detention exceeding 96 hours, the warranters should be issued by a federal court judge – not a member of the administrative appeals tribunal;

the right to a lawyer through a pool of lawyers with security clearance to which detained people should have access;

imposing penalties for ASIO officials who failed to treat detainees humanely;

the Director-General of ASIO must seek consent from the Minister prior to requesting a further warrant;

The word ‘immediately’ be inserted into subsection 34D(2)b(i), so that it is clear on the face of the legislation that a person must be immediately brought before a prescribed authority;

the amendments provide that admissions made during detention under a warrant will not be admissible as evidence against the person in criminal proceedings for a terrorism offence;

no person under the age of 14 may be questioned or detained, and a special regime for questioning and detention of people between 14 and 18;

That detention be only for the purpose of questioning and not for the purpose of detention without charge;

imposing a sunset clause of three years so the act would terminate after that time;

giving detained people the right to judicial review after 24 hours of detention, and every time a subsequent warrant was sought.


40. Additional recommendations include:

That a single detention period, under a single warrant, last no longer than a total of 20 hours of questioning, broken into three periods of four hours, eight hours and eight hours;

no person can be subject to more than one session of 20 hours of questioning in a seven-day period, and only after seven days can a second warrant be sought to continue questioning. No person already subject to 20 hours of questioning can be held in continuous detention.


41. On the afternoon of Friday 13, December 2002 after a marathon 27 hour sitting of both Houses of Parliament the ASIO bill was held over for debate. It will ultimately decided upon when Parliament resumes in 2003. Prime Minister Howard refused to accept the Senate amendments to the ASIO bill after two failed readings, and subsequently accusations from both the government and the opposition were being thrown about asserting blame on the other for not accepting the ASIO Bill at this time.

42. One national weekend paper concluded the previous day’s events in the following manner:

The Prime Minister decided if he couldn't have his ASIO bill, he wouldn't have any bill at all. If ASIO couldn't have the unfettered right to pick up, on special warrant, people as young as 14, anywhere, any time, detain them in secret, tell nobody, question them for as long as a week, charged with nothing, suspected of nothing, with no legal right of silence under threat of five years' jail, guilty of nothing except maybe having information they didn't even realise they possessed, then ASIO would have no new powers at all. John Howard took his bill and went home for Christmas. (The Weekend Australian 14-15/12/02)

43. The minor parties and independents played a major role in the legislated amendments with the intention of watering down the ASIO Bill but not passing it in its current form. Although the government conceded to the sun-set clause amendment it was not willing to renege on issues pertaining to detention timelines. Thus the blame game commenced and the Government's post-Tampa accusations of Labor being soft on terror reemerged. Phillip Coorey commented that Labor’s stand in the last week of Parliamentary sitting in 2002 may "begin to inspire people again that Labor does stand for something. It was character building stuff and definitely not the ‘me-tooism’ of which Carmen Lawrence spoke." (The Advertiser, 16/12/02) However, this analysis can be challenged and one can argue that the federal Labor party and Labor state governments have differed only slightly from the federal coalition’s stand on the war on terror and subsequent ‘anti-terror’ legislation.

44. Existing State Labor governments are largely from the centre or right factions, traditionally they have a much stronger stand on law and order issues, many have been elected on these election issues, and with a number of impending state elections many state government’s cannot be seen to be ‘soft’ on terror and national security by questioning or watering down Federal requirements. Otherwise they will be at the risk of facing torment from the liberal opposition about their willingness to make their state, and the nation, a target for terrorists, as was actively pursued by the federal liberals during the last federal elections and ultimately risk losing governance. This may explain the Labor governments back-down in South Australia. As a consequence of September 11 and the Leaders Summit held in Canberra in April 2002 it was agreed that state power will be handed over to the Commonwealth. In order to pass the federal legislation package being proposed by the federal coalition the States need to amend their constitutions to hand over power to the Commonwealth. Historically, the referral of power is not returned to the States, and taking this on board the South Australian legislation initially included a clause stating if the federal legislation is to be further amended then it will require the approval of four states to do so. The amended legislation has retracted this clause upon the shadow attorney-general, Robert Lawson’s request. Has he been consulting with the Federal Liberal party and Attorney General and in turn placed pressure on the Labor Party in South Australia to conform. (Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, 891 ABC Radio, December 2002)

45. In NSW state laws have dramatically increased police power. For example, police will have the power to search without a warrant and without reasonable suspicion under proposed new terrorism laws released by the NSW Premier Carr. The powers could be invoked by police with the authorisation of the police minister and would last for up to seven days before a terrorist threat or for 48 hours after a terrorist threat. (Sydney Morning Herald 19/11/02) Thus these changes in State parliaments are in most probability going to accepted and enacted where the federal legislation has failed to date. It is the Labor state politicians who are proving to be endorsing federal liberal policies with more determination than their federal counterparts. And although federal Labor has assisted in toning down federal proposed laws they have in no way curtailed the legislation far enough to match the concerns addressed by civil libertarians, human right activists and prominent lawyers.

46. Two cases can be made to back this claim: firstly, Simon Crean stated a number of times on Friday December 13 that John Howard "vetoed the toughest legislation against terrorism and in terms of powers for ASIO in this country". He also gloated that the proposed Labor amendments allowed ASIO to have more powers than the CIA and Mi5, the respective security intelligence organisations in the US and UK). (Doorstop, Crean 13/12/02; ABC 7.30 Report 13/12/02) Shouldn’t we be concerned that both the government and the opposition are willing and proposing legislation that gives such power to security organisations in a country such as Australia? Why is this really necessary? Damien Lawson, spokesperson for the Federation of Community Legal Centres, added that: "no other Western country has gone down this route. While the UK and US have introduced preventative detention it is restricted to terrorist suspects, not innocent people who are merely alleged to have information about a matter of interest to intelligence agencies". (Press Release 13/12/02) Why is Australia taking more draconian measures then the United States? Why are our parliamentarians seeking to set a world precedence on such a repressive law to be found in a allegedly democratic and free nation such as Australia, a country which many in the world usually aspire to?

47. Second, like federal Labor’s stand on border-protection and their mirroring of coalition policy during the last election the ‘amendments’ put forward in the ASIO are very similar, although slightly less draconian, to the coalition’s legislation. Labor has proposed a ‘questioning regime’ in place of detention—however when scratching the surface a ‘questioning regime’, as the Green’s Dr Bob Brown asserted "is simply detention by another name". (The Greens—Press Release 11/12/02) Crean stated that the Labor Party has proposed a ‘questioning regime’ where people can be questioned for up to 20 hours. (Media Briefing 13/12/02), although on the face of it the Labor proposal seems reasonable however former opposition leader Kim Beasely argued earlier that morning in Parliament that the questioning can take place "for up to two to three days". Thus, one can conclude from such comments that the 20 hour ‘questioning regime’ commences during interrogation and excludes detention time.

48. There are a number of serious issues of concern about the proposed ASIO legislation that remain. Firstly, the implications of the double standards regarding national security need to be questioned. When developing world countries enforce such legislation or practice the infringement of civil liberties, Australia and the ‘democratic’ world are at the forefront condemning such actions, whilst when the roles are reversed countries such as Australia are justified in adopting these inhumane and undemocratic methods. Therefore, how can our role as mediators in future conflicts be seriously endorsed?

49. The intended anti-terrorism legislation will infringe the civil liberties of Australians. Australia as a Western democracy cannot be seen to be advocating democracy to developing nations (East Timor, Indonesia, Palestine etc) and yet curtailing its citizens rights. This is especially the case when the after the September 11 terrorist attack approximately within a period of 2 hours, Arabs, Muslims, Saddam Hussein and Ussama Bin Laden were not only put into the mould of ‘the usual suspects’ but also convicted on a basis of collective ethnic-religious identity.

50. Australia is following other Western democracies in ‘Israelising’ its policies towards suspected terrorists or informants. The House of Commons in England and Congress in the US have past draconian legislation since September 11, 2001. The latter has proposed to allow FBI and other law enforcement agencies the use of torture to extract the necessary information. As many cases have demonstrated in past years such methods are far from successful in obtaining truth, but rather obtain information based on duress, fear, oppression and undignified practices enacted upon the detainees. In the past human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have expressed grave concerns about the UK Terrorism Act 2000 due to the serious human right abuses potentially enabled by this legislation, including torture, cruel, inhumane degrading treatment and unfair trials. Although Simon Crean attempts to excuse the repressive powers given to the police and police minister in NSW by differentiating between police powers and those of an intelligence organisation:

NSW laws are about arrest and search powers for the Police. The Bill we are talking about is detention powers for ASIO. We want them to be questioning powers, but there are fundamental differences between a policing authority and an intelligence gathering authority. Police have these powers in NSW to use against suspects. This Bill is about questioning detention for non-suspects, and it is too harsh a regime in those circumstance (ALP Media Briefing 13/12/02).

51. In reality both Acts are draconian and the powers entrusted to the security forces do not belong in Australia. Whichever way it is window-dressed if the police have the power to stop and strip search children between the age of 10 and 18 years without a warrant, it draws on the practice of degrading inhumane behaviour that can be in serious breach of our international obligations. Is this where Australia is headed? Today we will have anti-terrorist legislation enforced but what or who will stop federal and state governments legislating to legalise torture and other vile abuses of human rights?

52. As signatories to the UN Declaration of Human Rights and other conventions we need to be exemplary proponents of such treaties and not work towards their reversal. One can argue that Australia is already in breach of such conventions with the Christmas island detention centre and its policy of detaining children. People who commit heinous crimes and grave human rights abuses must be brought to justice, however, as the UN commission on Human Rights has affirmed "all measures to counter terrorism must be in strict conformity with international law, including international human rights standards." (http://www.un.org) There is concern that some of the measures in the proposed legislation, if implemented, may contravene internationally recognised human rights standards—including the rights to liberty, fair trial and freedom of association—and facilitate the violation of individual human rights. Furthermore there is legitimate concern that under the proposed legislation, asylum seekers who have been labelled as ‘suspected international terrorists’ will be denied an individual assessment on the merits of their claim. The Howard government is contradicting itself by supporting on the one hand the racial hatred act and established the Living in Harmony campaign, yet on the other hand they are, with this proposed legislation, introducing a climate of paranoia and fear rather than harmony.

53. The reason many immigrants have come to Australia is because they were desperate to escape the security agencies in their respective countries to begin with. Australia opened its arms to many people who have built this country, are we in turn to reflect the abhorrent behaviour of these ‘motherland’ states? What guarantee can the government, politicians and security agencies give the Australian public to reassure them that further infringements on civil liberties will not be forthcoming, and the legislative powers will not be targeting a particular segment of the Australian community?

54. As always when draconian laws such as these are implemented it is the most vulnerable in society who are victimised. This has been evident in Northern Territory and Western Australian legislation pertaining to crime, whereby Australia’s indigenous population have the highest rate of incarceration and "mandatory sentencing" provisions have existed. Similarly, the implementation of anti-terrorism laws will target Australian’s of Arab and/or Muslim backgrounds resulting in their further scapegoating, racial and religious vilification, ghetto-ization, and repression. Yesterday’s targets were Australia’s indigenous population, today it is the Arabic speaking and Muslim communities. Who are the victims of tomorrow?

55. Politicians, academics and Americans alike are labelled as unpatriotic, anti-American and as supporting the ‘forces of evil’ if they question the contradictory and incoherent US policy on terrorism, the impending strike on Iraq, the ongoing abuse of basic civil rights of Arab and Muslim Americans, America’s open support of Israel, and the treatment of suspected Al-Qaeda detainees in Cuba. (American Council of Trustees and Alumni) As outlined, this phenomena is largely found within the countries that invoke the principles of democracy. These governments are attempting to stifle debate by stating that a war is being fought and consensus is needed domestically, but as Mark Twain pointedly stated "patriotism means being loyal to your country all the time and to its government when it deserves it", thus by openly debating and questioning issues as they arise does not equate to one being unpatriotic, an apologist or supporter of the perpetrators of September 11. To insinuate this is indeed bordering on dangerous ground and challenges the very foundations of liberal democratic nations.

56. Let us recall that the McCarthy period commenced during World War Two when The Alien Registration Act was passed by Congress on 29 June 1940. This Act made it illegal for anyone in the US to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government. It required all alien residents in the US over 14 years of age to file a comprehensive record of their personal and occupational status and a statement of their political beliefs. Within four months 4,741,971 aliens had been registered. The main objective of the Alien Registration Act was to undermine left-wing political groups in the US. The House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which the Congress established in 1938, became the vehicle to investigate people suspected of ‘unpatriotic behaviour’. (Shehadeh 3/12/02) Does this mean that the new Department of Homeland Security in the US, the new National Counter-Terrorism Committee (NCTC) in Australia, and ASIO will become the new centres of fear amongst the community?

Neo-McCarthyism in the post-September 11 world...

57. In fact, the developments of the past 15 months have demonstrated the neo-Macarthyist period we are embarking upon in the Western world and given little reassurance that civil liberties will not be increasingly curtailed. Two months after September 11, Lynne V Cheney (wife of Vice President Dick Cheney) parttook in a report entitled Defending Civilisation: How our Universities are Failing America and What Can Be Done About it. Within it she lists American academics who have publicly stated that the real reasons behind the attack on the US need to be examined. Such comments are viewed by Cheney as un-American because they refused to ‘make judgement’ and "some even pointed accusatory fingers, not at the terrorists, but at America itself". In her article these academics were exposed to public naming and shaming. A similar process has been adopted by Daniel Pipes, a self-promoted ‘expert on the Middle East’ who has set up the Middle East Forum to "monitor how academics teach Middle East studies at US universities". The forum claims to collect their writings and expose factual errors, biases, and intolerance. The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen, in her article entitled "Free Speech Takes a Beating" (October 30, 2002) she commends Pipes for his website and the need to promote diversity within and outside of academia. This is all well and good but why is Daniel Pipes’ Arab-bashing acceptable while any attempt of real discussion on the Arab-Israeli debate is passed over as being Anti-Semitic, viewed as untimely and in most cases stifled? Such an occurrence was recorded recently in Australia when federal Labor backbencher Linda Irwin MP called for a discussion and an Australian stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, her motion was ridiculed and debate stifled by the members of parliament. (Hansard 11/11/02)

58. Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has also been unable to escape such ridicule and condemnation by Israeli supporters and the Jewish diaspora for his recent comments in an interview with The Guardian. He stated that the Arab-Israeli conflict is corrupting Israeli culture, comments which have caused grief in Israel and divided the diaspora Jewish community. On the 35 years of military occupation, he said: "I regard the current situation as nothing less than tragic. It is forcing Israelis into postures that are incompatible in the long run with our deepest ideals". He spoke of being ‘profoundly shocked’ at reports of smiling Israeli servicemen posing for a photograph with the corpse of a slain Palestinian. "There is no question that this kind of prolonged conflict, together with the absence of hope, generates hatreds and insensitivities that in the long run are corrupting to a culture". (Sydney Morning Herald 28/08/02) The problem is that any attempt of analysing the Arab-Israeli conflict in a historical academic factual manner is automatically seen as being anti-Semitic. Anti-Zionism must be seen in the light that it was intended, against the political movement established to reconstitute Jews as a nation but it cannot be equated with Judaism. (Lilienthal 14/07/86)

59. The problem stems from the fact that Orientalism is being enacted out in the world today against Arabs and Muslims. Whilst Taliban suspects are imprisoned at Guantanamo bay in harsher conditions than exploited animals, little regard is given to their well being. The US government gained a victory when a federal judge ruled that the 560 plus prisoners detained at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba were beyond the reach of the US courts. (The New York Times 3/08/02) US actions are almost suggesting that the US has every right to treat these people this way because they come from an uncivilised place and thus are uncivilised. Because of this ‘uncivility’ they don’t know any better way of being treated and do not deserve to be treated in a dignified manner or entitled to rights as those practised in the ‘civilised’ world. US capitve John Walker Lindh is not an accident of process but policy, as George Monbiot argues, after all President Bush "couldn’t treat a white American like the captives in Camp X-ray and expect to get away with it". (The Guardian, 5/03/02) That is, because Lindh is American he is part of the ‘civilised’ realm and therefore cannot and should not be mistreated in his duration of detention. Similarly, due to formal protests from the German government two Germans were released, although it is interesting to see that the two Australian citizens— Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks, who remain in Camp X-Ray—do not deserve similar treatment.

60. This brings me to my final point. Should we not consider the depth of terrorism, in particular what differentiates state terror to that of an individual or group? Israel’s state terrorism is defined by US officials as ‘self defence’ while individual nationalistic Palestinian resistance suicide bombers are called terrorists. Similarly US military strikes in Iraq’s ‘no-fly zone’, on dozens of poor Afghan villagers celebrating a wedding, or the carpet bombing of the Tora Bora compound are considered as ‘acts of self defence’ whilst Al Qaeda strikes are rightly seen as terrorist. Are the US and its allies above the law? Is a white Anglo human life more sacred than that of an Afghan, Palestinian or Iraqi? Do the words of Ze’ev Schiff, a military commentator of the Ha’aretz newspaper, ring true, that: "human life, including the lives of children, has become very cheap"? (Ha’aretz 4/09/02) And why aren’t we ever told "whether all these people killed were in fact terrorists, or proved to be terrorist, or were about to become terrorists. They are all assumed to be dangers by acts of simple, unchallenged affirmation". (Al Ahram 08/08/02) Edward Said wrote recently that "Ideas about terrorism have thus taken on a life of their own, legitimised and re-legitimised without proof, logic or rational argument." (Al Ahram 08/08/02) The question is are we willing to legitimise or delegitimise the various forms of terrorism in the name of national security interests?

61. Robert Fisk seemed to confirm this when he commented on Michael Elliot’s article in the TIME Magazine that "not all terrorists are alike":

There are, he claimed, ‘political terrorists’ who have ‘an identifiable goal’ and ‘millenarian terrorists’ who have no ‘political agenda’, who ‘owe their allegiance to a higher authority in heaven’ so there you have it. If they’ll talk to the Americans, terrorists are OK. If they won’t, well then it’s everlasting war. (The Independent 13/06/02)

62. It is statements such as these that tend to scare members of the marginalised communities into less cooperation especially when they feel their respective communities (Arab, Muslim) are being targeted and they themselves are suspected of aiding terrorist and being unpatriotic. Chris Puplick, President of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, sums up the build-up towards September 11 amongst the Arab and Muslim communities well:

The level of ignorance and fear that is manifested as racism towards the Arabic and Islamic communities at present is particularly frightening. These communities have borne the brunt of successive waves of opprobrium in debates about boat people, asylum seekers and queue jumpers, the Tampa and ‘children overboard’, the tragedy in the Middle East, the war on Iraq, ethnic crime—the ‘Lebanese gangs’ and ‘Muslim rapists’—and the debate about responsibility for September 11. So in this hostile, backbiting argument, we see the lords of the media dance holding the Australian Muslim community as answerable for the actions for Muslims worldwide. Alan Jones derides the Muslim community for not commenting on the stoning of a woman in Nigeria. Yet I have never heard Jones demand that our American community come forth to protest against the death penalty whenever it is applied in the US. (Sydney Morning Herald, 05/09/02)

63. This constant blame the victim mentality is only provoking anger, hardship, anxiety and fear amongst members of the Australian Arab and Muslim communities. By accepting and backing US foreign policy in the Middle East the Howard Government has made Australians vulnerable to attack as the Bali incident demonstrated, and recent pre-emptive strike comments made by Mr Howard entrenched this further. Australia was once seen as a neutral objective player in international affairs and particularly by people of the Middle East region but its change of policies in the past decade has seen it as closely aligned to the US and UK more than ever. Independent Dr Bob Such, member of the South Australian House of Assembly recently summed up the issues in the following address to Parliament:

One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. In this country we need a lot more sophisticated debate about the issue of terrorism. It is starting to emerge now. We saw it recently with Josh Deegan’s father questioning some aspects of Australian foreign policy and the actions of the federal government. That is healthy debate which is coming out of a personal tragedy for the Deegan family and others. Australians tend live the "she’ll be right", easy going, lackadaisical approach. Sadly, I do not think this is feasible or possible. We have to get more streetsmart in terms of understanding different cultures. Our teaching and understanding of the different cultures and faiths and so on is not that great. There is no way that we can deal with issues of terrorism or any other international aspect if our people do not have a basic understanding of the cultures, languages, customs and traditions. (Hansard 27/11/02)

64. It is through education, dialogue and cross-cultural understanding that progress can be made and attempts at undoing the injustices suffered by many innocent people in the last several decades can finally be addressed. Rather than taking a leaf from the book of US strategy in its war on terrorism Australia after the Bali attack needs to reconsider its alliance with the US, seek to reconcile itself with its own marginalised communities and neighbours and be at the forefront of finding a just, peaceful and comprehensive resolution to the decades-long war in the Middle East.

65. Australia needs to regain its credibility and reputation as a neutral, objective, culturally diverse, welcoming, liberal and magnanimous nation at the forefront of human rights application and diplomacy. Australia needs to reconsider its current stand and the citizens of Australia need to quash the government’s attempt to silence and intimidate debate, freedom of speech and association. Neo-Macarthyism, discussion of pre-emptive strikes and the curtailment of civil liberties in the name of national security are not the traits of a civilised, free, democratic and liberal society but one indeed mirroring the raging beast released in the destruction of the Twin Towers back on the morning of September 11, 2001 which continues to shadow us today.


Minerva Nasser-Eddine is a doctoral student at the University of Adelaide, where she recently completed a thesis on "The Effects of Globalisation on Middle Eastern Identity—A Lebanese Case Study". She has an MA from Australian National University’s Centre for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies, and is the Director of Al Hikma Middle East Advisory Agency. Since 1999 she has been the South Australian representative of the Australian Arabic Council (AAC), and is a board member of the History Trust of South Australia. Email: Minerva.Nassereddine@adelaide.edu.au

Bibliography

Books:

Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of An Image, Edinburgh University Press, 1960.

Edward Said, Covering Islam, Routledge & Kegan, 1981.

Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters, Routledge, NY, 1991.

Hansard (Parliamentary proceedings):

Federal:
See House of Representative debate, Hansard , November 11, 2002.
Attorney-General, Criminal Code Amendment (Offences Against Australians) Bill 2002, Second Reading Speech.
Senator John Faulkner, May 16, Speech to the Senate

State (SA):
Dr Bob Such (Fisher), 27 November 2002, house of assembly

Media Briefings:

Australia:
ALP—Media Briefing, 13 December 2002
Attorney-General Doorstop, 12.45, 31 October 2002.
Attoney-General—Media Briefing, 13 December 2002
Attorney-General, Press Release, 13 December 2002.
PM—PM Howard at a Joint Press Conference with Ian Macfarlane. Parliament House, Canberra, 13 December 2002.
The Greens—Media Release 11 December 2002

US:
Richard Boucher, US State Department spokesperson, 25 June 2002.

Radio

Howard Sattler, 2SM Radio, interview with Attorney-General Daryl Williams, 11.10 am, Nov 2002.
Mr Howard being interviewed on Radio 5AN Adelaide, 22 November 2002
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson being interviewed by the Morning program on 891 ABC Radio. December 4, 2002.

Newspapers/News Services:

Al- Ahram Weekly, Said, Punishment by detail", 8-14 August 2002
Robert Fisk, "America’s Morality has been distorted by 11 September, 7 March 2002
Haaretz, September 4, 2002
Ma’ariv, 13 Sept. 2001
Reuters, 13 November 2002 http://www.Reuters.com,
Sydney Morning Herald, 19 November 2002
Sydney Morning Herald, November 14, 2002. http://www.smh.com.au
SMH , Ignorance, Fear are Turning to Frightening Racism’, September 5, 2002, by Chris Puplick, President of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board
SMH , Jonathan Freedland, August 28, 2002, Israel’s ‘corrupting’ war under fire—from Chief Rabbi
The Advertiser, Dec 16, 2002
The Age, John Ward Anderson, Mooly Moore, "Sharon calls for more Settlers", November 19, 2002.
The Australian, 12 December 2002.
The Guardian , George Monbiot, March 5, 2002, "War on the Third World: An Insidious Result of September 11 is that the US Treats many Non-Whites as Terrorists"
The Guardian, "US Sends Suspects to Face Torture", March 12, 2002.
The Guardian, November 15, 2002, "Why President Bush is Using Appointee’s to Distance Himself from Embarrassing ‘Christians’ http://www. whtt.org/articles/021119.htm,
The Independent, Bush’s Titanic War on Terror by Robert Fisk, June 13, 2002
The New York Times, Adam Liptak, August 27, 2002, ‘Court Backs Open Deportation Hearings on Terror Cases’
The New York Times, August 3, 2002.
The Weekend Australian, "Brown pricks, PM deflates" by: Alan Ramsey, 14-15 December 2002
Washington Post, November 26, 2002 http://www.washingtonpost.com
Internet:
"Are we Fighting God’s Will", by Musil Shehadeh, 14-20 November 2002, Issue no 612 Palestine Chronicle, http://palestinechronicle.com
"September 11, 2001—What was Lost", Al Hewar, Fall 2001, http://www.alhewar.com/fall_2001_editorial.htm
"Eqbal Ahmad Talks About Terrorism", Al Hewar Center, http://www.alhewar.org/SEPTEMBER%20011/eqbal_ahmad.htm
James Packard Winkler, Occupation and Terrorism: Politics Out of Gun Barrel", Jerusalem Forum News
"Those Secret Snatches Render Unto Ceasar" by Chris Floyd, March 15, 2002, http://www. counterpunch.org
Those Secret Snatches Render Unto Ceasar by Chris Floyd, March 15, 2002,
http://www. counterpunch.org
Interview with Francis A Boyle. Bush’s Constitutional Coup: Kanagaroo Courts and Disappearances, Centre for Research on Globalisation, 25 November 2001.
INS http://www.ins.usdij.gov/
The Latest New ‘War on Terrorism’ by Michael Shehadeh, Counterpunch, December 3, 2002.
Semite and Anti-Semite: A Confusion Stifling American Freedom" by Alfred M Lilienthal, July 14, 1986. http://www.alfredlilienthal.com/antisemite.htm
See Ali Abunimah and Nigel Parry’s article "Israel falsely claims ‘massacre’ of ‘worshippers’ in Hebron, The Electronic Intifada, 16 November 2002;
Ghassan Andoni, "While Carrying our Beloved to their Graves we are becoming Experts in Distorting Images", The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People, http://www.rapprochement.org;
United Nations http://www.un.org

Speeches:

George W Bush, Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, 20 September 2001. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html
Radio Address of the US President to the Nation, 15 September 2001.

TV:

Interview with PM Ariel Sharon on CNN—Sept 21, 2001Report
Defending Civilisation: How Our Universities are Failing America and What Can be Done About it, A Project of the Defense of Civilisation Fund, American Council of Trustees and Alumni, February 2002.

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© borderlands ejournal 2002

 

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