On the weaponization of the language of “terrorism”

At Jewish Voice for Peace, we are watching with deep concern the legal and political manipulation and weaponization of the language of “terrorism,” particularly against Palestinians working nonviolently for their rights, freedom, and equality.

In both Israel and the U.S., the accusation of terrorism is used to stoke fear, dehumanize whole communities, and violently repress, incarcerate, bomb, deport, surveil, invade, and occupy those communities and their homelands. Trump’s Muslim Ban comes out of the context of decades of this Islamophobic “war-on-terror” rhetoric which mirrors Israel’s decades of demonizing Palestinians.

History teaches us that — from Nelson Mandela to Assata Shakur — the label of terrorist has always been far from neutral. And in the post-9/11 era, rampant anti-Arab and Islamophobic sentiment has only intensified the political manipulation of this term. Indeed, since 9/11, foundations, governments, and other philanthropic institutions have included language for their grantees that asks them to commit to not working with “terrorist organizations.” In all too many instances, “terrorism” has become a racist dog whistle for all Arabs and Muslims. Over the years, this language has become ubiquitous to the point where many have become used to its casual use.

We are now in a time where we see more and more efforts to weaponize the charge of terrorism against all who question or resist oppression. This is a dangerous step toward fascism that we can not ignore.

Noting this shift, dozens of nonviolent Palestinian organizations have signed on to a shared statement committing to refuse signing onto such conditional funding demands, thereby refusing money from the European Union and other institutions. The money these groups receive is not inconsequential. In some cases, these grants would provide the support needed for these organizations to stay open. This is an admirable and noteworthy stance. Palestinian people living under Israeli apartheid show us again and again how to resist with dignity.

We share the concerns noted in their December 2019 statement “Against Terrorism and Against Conditional Funding: Statement of the Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding,” in particular about the increased efforts that seek to prevent engagement in the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign (BDS); the defense and promotion of the right of return; and programs and projects in areas such as the Gaza Strip. As we see escalated attempts at lawfare — seeking to derail, chill or halt activism in support of Palestinian rights — we must make clear our opposition to these efforts and join together with our allies and partners to curb the damage they seek to do to our interconnected movements for freedom.

We join with our Palestinian allies to urge the EU to reconsider these conditional funding clauses and allow the essential work of these Palestinian organizations to thrive.



Jewish Voice for Peace is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 500,000 online supporters, over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.


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