Abdel al-Bari Atwan is the editor-in chief of the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, and has been named among the 50 ‘most influential Arabs’ by Middle East Magazine. His pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist politics can be best summed up by his fanciful boast a few years ago that he would dance in the streets in London’s Trafalgar Square if Iranian nuclear missiles were to hit Tel Aviv.
In fact, Atwan’s satisfaction when contemplating the murder of Jews wasn’t theoretical, and certainly was not a one-off.
In March 2008, for instance, Atwan said that the Mercaz HaRav Jerusalem terrorist attack, in which a Palestinian gunmen murdered eight students (aged 15 to 26), was “justified”, and that the celebrations in Gaza following the attack symbolized “the courage of the Palestinian nation”. Atwan also praised the 2011 Palestinian terror attack on civilians in southern Israel which resulted in 8 dead and 25 injured, and was even critical of Mahmoud Abbas’s recent condemnation of the abduction of Israeli soldiers, in an essay which praised Hamas for its achievement in releasing over 1,000 prisoners as part of the Gilad Shalit deal.
As my colleague Hadar Sela recently noted, Atwan is regular guest on BBC’s Newsnight. He is also, unsurprisingly, a frequent contributor to ‘Comment is Free’ – having penned 12 essays at the Guardian blog over the past two years.
Most recently, MEMRI reported, Atwan told Egypt’s Channel 2 on June 2nd that Osama Bin Laden was only “half a terrorist,” since his organization’s attacks against American forces in Saudi Arabia could not be considered terrorism, before adding:
If you support the Palestinian resistance, you do not consider [Bin Laden's attacks] terrorism. But if you are with America, Europe, and Israel, you do consider it terrorism…It depends on your definition of terrorism.
Here’s the video:
According to Atwan, who in 2010 characterized the late al-Qaeda leader a “great man“, the question of whether or not Bin Laden was in fact a “terrorist” depends on your definition of the term.
As we’ve reported on multiple occasions, ‘Comment is Free’ correspondent Glenn Greenwald has advanced similar arguments, alternately decrying the “meaninglessness” of the word, suggesting that the term is ‘racially loaded’ and that it typically represents rhetorical propaganda exploited by the U.S. to justify ‘state violence’ against Muslims.
However, lost in the “debate” about whether fanatics like Bin Laden are terrorists is the much more important truth regarding the ideology which inspires their tactic of terror. The West opposes al-Qaeda, and other Islamist extremist groups, not merely because they support the use of violence against innocent civilians, but also due to the fact that their political objectives include replacing liberal, democratic governments with Taliban-style tyrannical regimes antithetical to democracy, religious pluralism, gender equality, and sexual freedom.
As those like Atwan and Greenwald continue to engage in such cynicism and sophistry – in an attempt to make us debate the narrow question of the meaning of the term “terrorism” – it’s vital to remember that we fight such enemies not solely due to the extremist (terrorist) methods they employ, but because their political vision is diametrically opposed to the progressive values we cherish.