Re.: Mohammad Alam article in Counterpunch

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Thu Jul 18 14:37:14 MDT 2002

Among the members of this list, we are aware of the loaded definition of
the term “settler”.  So Mohammad defends its use.  The dictionary
supports such a definition with concepts of colonization, etc.  But the
general population of the United States harbours connotations of both
such terms as benign.  The popular early history of the USA was borne
out from the Thirteen Colonies.  The people need to accept a more
historically informed definition of “settler” and “colonist” –and
“farmer”, too (especially as opposed to peasant and farmworker)–or we
should use more descriptive language, or augment our usage of the terms

As in the familiar old fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes the process of
naming can be most revelatory.  Especially the stripping away of the
camouflage concealing capitalism’s duplicity about democracy, such
naming and analysis takes critical thinking to a higher level.

One of my favourite T-shirts—one I wear rarely to increase its
longevity—is the shirt I picked up from the Brooklyn College
Multicultural Action Committee (MAC) in the early 1990s.  It had the MAC
logo on the back, and on the front was a colorful picture of Christopher
Columbus coming ashore before some natives.  It was produced to coincide
with the 500th anniversary of--well, the caption says it best:
graduate teaching fellow at the U of Oregon, I wore it for Columbus
Day.  The professor for the freshman Western Civilization course
upbraided me for it before my fellow fellows at our weekly meeting.  I
did not want to jeopardize my job, and degree, so I only responded that
it all depended on one’s point of view and let it go (forgive me for not
wholly trusting claims of academic freedom and objectivity, etc.; I was
also studying the McCarthy Period at the time).  I wore the shirt to
classes and put it away until the next year.  I still have it.

I’m sure we know that Hitler’s lebensraum policy was based on studies of
American colonization, expansion, and settlement?  So was Zionism.
“Settlers” and “colonization” fit squarely in such weltanshaauuungen:
all of a piece.  But it does little good if only we few know that.  To
challenge the typical, passive assumptions of the terms in question, we
should transpose them to more appropriately provocative terms, or fully
and historically define them every time.

I hope I do not appear to niggle.
I do not think that a perception of Palestinians as “dogs” or subhuman
“animals” could be accepted by the liberal humanist principles touted in
the Untied States.  But US policy supports Zionist thinking that accepts
and defends those that promote that very assumption.  Such a
contradiction, such hypocrisy, should be unacceptable; if it was known,
I think it would be. The connections must be made.  Overall, Mohammad’s
article in Counterpunch did much progressive work in our cause for
making those connections.

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