Friday, November 14, 2014

UPDATED: Would You Hug A Terrorist?

There is no question that here in the West, we like to treat death almost as an embarrassment; we sanitize it, hide it away in hospitals and palliative care units, and conduct our lives with a kind of cognitive dissonance, believing on some level that while it happens to others, somehow an exception will be made in our case.

Not for us the graphic horror of many deaths: severed limbs, exposed entrails, torrents of blood. One need only look at how photos of the Boston Marathon victims were doctored to realize the truth of our aversions.

Unfortunately, in the many war-torn areas of our fractured world, especially the Middle East, people do not have that option. Their lives are often a daily series of bombardments shattering their communities and their lives that cannot withstand even the greatest efforts at denial.

Why are we so isolated from their suffering, their maiming, their deaths? Modern technology, of course, allows countries like ours to attack from a distance, using drones, long-range missiles, etc., the resulting images just fuzzy war-video game images that are broadcast to us. It is all too easy to dissociate from real life and its deadly consequences.

Fortunately, there is a movement entitled Hug A Terrorist that is seeking to combat the depersonalization that permits us to accept obscene terms such as 'collateral damage' with equanimity. It was started last summer by two Palestinian-Syrian girls as a response to the carnage in Gaza to show that the people who are labelled terrorists are often just innocent, ordinary people, many of them mere children:

Yesterday, McMaster University in Hamilton hosted an event inspired by that video. You can click here to watch the news report.

While it garnered widespread support, there were those who objected to it, such as local Harper MP David Sweet, who tweeted that he agreed with [the]sentiments ... [but] considered the campaign "outrageous and poorly timed."

Others felt even more strongly:
[A] handful of other Mac students watched the activity. Wearing a yarmulke, 3rd-year student Zach Harris said he thought the campaign made light of terrorism.

"It belittles the word," he said.

Another nearby student, Sarah Kohanzadeh, said she thought students passing by were uncomfortable with the campaign.

Neither Harris nor Kohanzadeh went across the hall to talk with the pro-Palestinian students, they said. Both of them belong to the university's Israel on Campus group, but said they were watching the campaign in the Student Centre independently of the group.

"We're trying to stay low," Kohanzadeh said.

Jacob Klugsberg, a 4th year student, said he found the campaign offensive in using the concept of terrorism "ironically or in a joking way." He said he did walk across the hall to talk. He said he hopes the campus can be a place where discussions happen to move toward "lasting peace."
Happily, unlike in the 'real world,' disagreements did not devolve into violence.

UPDATE: Ira Rosen, of the Hamilton Jewish Federation Public Relations Committee, takes grave exception to the event:
This stunt is morally reprehensible and deeply offensive and casts the very real human suffering caused by terrorists as a joke. It is an insult to the memory of Canadians, indeed to all people, who have fought and died at the hands of terrorists.
You can read his full response here.


  1. It takes courage to look at our world without blinkers, Lorne.

    1. Would there were more of it in this world, Owen.