Social Question

zensky's avatar

When you read "militant" do you think "terrorist" or "freedom fighter" - or does it require context?

Asked by zensky (13357points) December 5th, 2012

Hamas is a terrorist organization, primarily funded by Iran, situated in the Gaza strip, periodically sending rockets into Israel (indiscriminitaely) and its men to seek out 72 virgins by blowing up buses and coffee shops.

This is indisputable, as both the US and UN, even the EU agree they are a terrorist organization.

TIME magazine calls them the militant group Hamas. Here is a recent example.

I don’t want to get into ME politics per se – I just want you to respond to and think about the Q.


Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

41 Answers

Response moderated
filmfann's avatar

Context always required.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

When I hear militant I’m reminded of a phrase from a novel about the Vietnam War, I think it was Sand in the Wind. The phrase was “Killing for peace is like fucking for chastity”. Peace does not come from the barrel of a gun. Mao or Ho was wrong about a lot of things. I’ll have to look that up.
Edit: It was Mao, the full quote was Peace comes from the end of a barrel of a gun.

zensky's avatar


glacial's avatar

I know it isn’t accurate, but in my mind, I tend to associate the word “terrorist” with a lack of organization – so, pretty much the opposite of “militant”. But has TIME used the word incorrectly here? I doubt it.

Edit: In other words, I don’t think the word “militant” in any way describes the reason the people are fighting or the context within which they are fighting. In contrast, the words that you are asking us to associate with it are about purpose and context.

burntbonez's avatar

It requires context. All terms are terms of propaganda. If we take them at face value, we are fooling ourselves.

The problem Israel faces is a demographic one. In a year or two, Jews will be a minority in Israel. There are about 1.7 or so million Jews in Israel now, and about 1.5 million Arabs who are residents of the nation. If you count all the Arabs in Palestine, the Jews are a small minority.

As they learned in the most recent conflict, when you are a minority, you can kill ten times or twenty times as many Arabs as Jews get killed and you still lose. And it doesn’t matter whether you are called militants or terrorists. Demography doesn’t care about names. The force of population always wins.

wundayatta's avatar

You’re ignoring history, @burntbonez. What happens on the ground, matters. Israel needed a way to open things up for the Gazans, and this gave them a way to lose by winning. Or win by losing. You’re right that it’s all propaganda in terms of what words we use.

But what do you think is going to happen? If demography is destiny, then surely the Jews must deport as many Arabs as possible from Israel proper, and perhaps they have to find a way to kill them. If they don’t, then they are a doomed land, by your logic.

glacial's avatar

@burntbonez Were you listening to CBC radio this morning, too? :)

zensky's avatar

There is a demographic problem – but only if the government doesn’t change and pursue peace and land exchanges. But the numbers are incorrect. Of the 8 plus million Israelis – some ¾ are Jewish. Look it up. If things don’t change – there will be fewer Jews than Arabs in 20 years or so.

burntbonez's avatar

Hmmm. Of course, the data I got was from a Palestinian-American Lawyer, and I may not remember it correctly. But she made it seem like the populations were very close, and that the balance would change in a few years, not two decades.

(I wasn’t listening to CBC)

CWOTUS's avatar

The question I guess that I have, as a two-arms’-length observer (and a casual observer at that) of ME politics, is:

Is Hamas a “movement” with both political and terrorist wings, as the IRA was in the UK for some years? Or is it a terrorist organization that has co-opted a political jurisdiction, as frequently happens in the world?

I’m also certain that people in some parts of the world, having no more evidence of or experience with the USA other than running from drone attackers or digging out bodies from the rubble, would consider the USA to be “a terrorist organization”.

I know of at least one Jelly who’ll be kicking herself that she didn’t write that first, too.

zensky's avatar

Like I said – about 75%: Jewish 76.4% (of which Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish 23.6% (mostly Arab) (2004)

From CIA factbook here

@CWOTUS – the latter. And surprise: I think Israel should attempt to talk with them – as they were elected democratically and represent the Gazans. They, however, call for the destruction of Israel in their charter and are not interested in peace at all – as opposed to the PLO – now known as the observer state of Palestine. I am glad of this – and hope it speeds up the peace process.

zenvelo's avatar

When I hear “militant” I only think of armed and non-governmental, it does not connote a freedom fighter or a terrorist.

My use of the phrase Freedom Fighter is a very limited scope – those fighting a power structure in their own homeland that is not only dictatorial but cruel, and cruel to all, not just one demographic fighting another. Think the French Resistance.

And terrorists don’t have any ties to geography but to some philosophy, and lash out indiscriminately at anyone although seemingly with a ‘target” in mind.

glacial's avatar

@zenvelo Does “militant” reallly imply non-governmental? I would not have thought that.

zenvelo's avatar

@glacial Governmental would mean an Army, or the Armed Forces. Consider Hutus and Tutsis. They are militant against each other.

zensky's avatar

militant sounds like military to me – and stems from the same root: present participle of mīlitāre to serve as a soldier. (source

And the military I associate with government.

burntbonez's avatar

My memory must be wrong. Maybe it was the overall population of the area, including Gaza and the West Bank where the population is approximately equal, now.

There is some issue about citizens vs residents, too.

zenvelo's avatar

What comes to mind when I hear “militant” is the Black Panther Party, who were not terrorists, nor were they “Freedom Fighters” per se, but were militant in defending their rights. They thought of themselves a freedom fighters, but the oppression of blacks in the 1960s was structural racism, not a philosophical goal (compare to apartheid in South Africa).

And they were not terrorists, although the FBI attempted to characterize them as such. Their opponent was the existing white power structure, not white people in general.

glacial's avatar

@zenvelo To be honest, I often think of the US in general as “militant”. Can’t get more governmental than that.

From the OED: “Militant. adj. Engaged in warfare, warring. Also: disposed towards war; warlike.”

Strauss's avatar

I’ve always thought that one side’s terrorist is another side’s freedom fighter.

ucme's avatar

It puts me in mind of budgie seed, daft, but there you go.

JLeslie's avatar

When I here militant it has a negative connotation to me. I do not confuse it with a military man. Militant sounds more rogue, maybe even unsanctioned by an offical body like a government. It would depend on the context of the article probably exactly how I would interpret it. Terrorist is a tricky word in America now I guess. Say terrorist and many people automatically picture Muslims, especially associated with Al Quaeda. We also tend to think of terrorists as living in secret and launching surprise attacks. Hamas is a known enemy, voted in at this point, and a military threat ongoing. I am not defending calling them militants vs. terroritsts, just trying to think through the subtleties in the interpretation of the words. I have certainly seen Hamas called a terrorist organization in American magazine and newspaper articles.

I was trying to think what other groups might be called militants rather than terrorists from an American perspective. Maybe the Guerrillas in Colombia?

Lastly, militant can be a state of mind I think. War oriented. There are soldiers and individuals who want and prefer a state of peace. Then there are others who seem to like war, think it is the only way, pursure it. I think of the latter as militant minded. I don’t know if that is a proper way to use the word though.

glacial's avatar

@ucme I now have the impression that you are a milletant dilettante.

incendiary_dan's avatar

As someone who regularly uses the term “militant” to describe my political philosophy (and not in the snide way some folks use the term to deride others), I recognize that it is distinct from the “terrorist/freedom-fighter” spectrum. It is merely a range of tactics. As a rule, I draw the distinction based on the legitimacy of the targets and the effort taken to minimize civilian casualties (since infrastructure is usually the only legitimate target).

And it is disputable, since reporters inside Gaza have been reporting Israeli strikes nowhere near missile launch sites, which are actually situated mostly in agricutural areas. The “Hamas uses human shields” bullshit is a lie couched in barely veiled racism. Hamas is a shitty organization, don’t get me wrong, but they are not the big bad terrorist group the media portrays them as. And the Palestinians are not firing indiscriminately, but are targeting government and military installations. They just have shitty equipment. In contrast, Israel has been purposely targeting civilian areas it knows are not military installations, and some government officials have specifically called for genocide against Palestinians.

glacial's avatar

@JLeslie, @incendiary_dan I am confused as to why you would imbue “militant” with any particular philosophy or tactic. War can be waged in many different ways and for many different reasons.

@incendiary_dan I can see how you might call your political philosophy “militant” if that philosophy is that the citizenry should be armed and organized. But I don’t understand how “legitimacy of the targets” can possibly make your philosophy “militant” or not. Edit: but perhaps I have misunderstood, and you are talking here about the distinction between “freedom fighter” and “terrorist” and not the distinction between “militant” and not.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@glacial Your correction is correct, I was talking about that particular spectrum. I mean militant in terms of “accepting of the use of force”.

incendiary_dan's avatar

It should also probably noted that the term “terrorism” originally only referred to activities perpetrated by governments, and if we’re honest, it’s still the vast majority of who commits terrorist acts. Insurgent groups typically understand that they need to have the public’s opinion at least slightly in their favor.

JLeslie's avatar

My here should be hear.

@glacial Not so much a particular philosophy of the soldier or person. That is why I added to the end that I think of it as someone who is aggressive in a warlike manner, whether they be civilians or soldiers, whether they are associated with a government army or not. The beginning of my comments was just trying to explain how I am accustomed to seeing the word used.

@incendiary_dan The Israelis warn civilians when they are going to be firing. The Arabs tend to hide, work, and live among civilians, do you dispute that? They do it on purpose so they can cry Israel, America, whoever, kills women and children. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is horrific for civilians to be caught in any sort of crossfire, but in Israel and Palestine basically everyone is a soldier. All adults anyway. Watch the documentary Precious Life and see that the Palestinian women who is having her sick baby helped in Israel is quick to say she would have no problem letting him be a suicide bomber when he is old enough. She takes it back later that she would be just fine with losing her son, but explains that it is what is expected. I think she probably would not stop it even if it broke her heart. She is militant by being passive in that case. I understand why the Palestinains are frustrated, but sign a fucking peace treaty, see how it goes, and then if they want to ask for more in years they can, after they show the world they can be peaceful, progressive, productive. And, who is stopping other Arab nations from taking in the Palestinians to have a better life? My Palestinian friends here in America live a wonderful American life, with all the freedoms America gives to everyone. It seems to me the Palestinians will not compromise, they want all of Israel, and so do some of their Arab and Persian friends. I don’t mean all Palestianins, I would assume there are Palestinians who want peace, who want some sort of diplomatic agreement to be reached.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@JLeslie I do dispute that. It’s entirely untrue. You’re buying into fallacious bullshit.

CWOTUS's avatar

The words “militant” and “terrorist” these days are mostly pejorative, having little real meaning in terms of “understanding”, and serving mostly to inflame or appease the listener / reader.

There was a time, and I can recall the time, when “militant” was primarily an adjective, generally having nothing whatever to do with weaponry or combat, which meant “strong” or “forceful” (in terms of argument or advocacy).

That usage is now mostly quaint and passé, in favor of the word’s use as a noun, in which case it means “a fighter” (if it’s someone you tend to favor or agree with, in which case “honored”, “patriotic” and “heroic” are the implied modifiers), or “a terrorist” if it’s someone on the other side of a border. And in that case the implied modifiers are “wicked”, “evil” and “loathsome”. And the sad / funny thing about them is… they tend to do the same things, it’s just a question of whose ox is being gored.

It’s sort of the same path to misuse that the formerly honored word “comrade” has followed.

JLeslie's avatar

@incendiary_dan I will agree at times I don’t agree with how agressive Israel is, but that Israelis want to kill civilians is so absurd to me. I don’t mean that there is not one Israeli who does not want to bomb them all and take them off the map, but overall, I believe Israelis to want peace and for all killing to stop. I don’t believe the government or the people as a general statement want to murder Palestinians. Have you been to the region? Watch that movie I mentioned, it is out of the mouth of the Palestinian woman herself. I don’t want to derail this thread down a long line of answers about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, so if it is ok with you, lets just let that part of our discussion lie for now.

glacial's avatar

@incendiary_dan I would easily call anti-abortion groups who bomb clinics terrorists as well. It’s a term that doesn’t apply only to governments.

Thanks for the clarification – on re-reading your post, I thought that might be it. :)

JLeslie's avatar

@glacial Would you use militant also to describe the abortion clinic bombers?

glacial's avatar

@JLeslie No, I wouldn’t.

flutherother's avatar

Context is everything; people rarely become militant for no reason.

Coloma's avatar

“Militant” to me is not associated with terrorists, although it certainly could be.
Militant to me is anyone that is over the top, extremist, about anything. It could be fly fishing, parenting, or politics, matters not.
“Militant” means closeminded and ignorantly aggressive IMO.

basstrom188's avatar

You could also say that Israel is a terror state funded by the US. I suppose then that makes Hamas “freedom fighters”.

Linda_Owl's avatar

I agree with @Yetanotheruser , one side’s terrorist is another side’s freedom fighter. It is a matter of view point.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, as always, perception IS reality.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Minor typo in title corrected via internal edit.

flutherother's avatar

@Coloma Many people don’t take the trouble to perceive and for them labels are reality.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther