Le meurtre de Theo van Gogh est suivi par une série d’actes de violence contre des institutions musulmanes. Cet article refléchit à la situation. J’ai aussi établi un tableau détaillant les actes de violence contre des personnes de la vie publique ou politique en Europe. Contient deux liens vers des articles en français.

  • 2004-11-10

This happened on Monday the 8th in Eindhoven: Dutch Muslim school hit by bomb (ici un lien vers un article en français). And today, another Muslim primary school in Ude was set on fire (in Dutch). The article says that graffiti saying “Theo R.I.P” and drawings of the “white power” sign were found on the walls of the school:

Op de muren van de school zijn teksten ontdekt die verwijzen naar de moord op cineast Theo van Gogh. Volgens ooggetuigen zou de tekst luiden ‘Theo R.I.P (rust in vrede)’. Ook zou bij de tekst een ‘white power’-teken staan, het wereldwijde symbool van blanke racisten.

Edit: An excellent overview about the events in the Netherlands by goodnewsfortheinsane at Viewropa.

Isn’t it obvious that this is not an adequate, acceptable, or even excusable response to Theo van Gogh’s killing? Those people’s concept of peace is very different from mine.

Yes, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has the right to live her life in safety, to call Muhammad a “lecherous tyrant” if she wants; everyone else has the right to agree or to disagree. Her rights are at present in jeopardy, still, so are the of Dutch Muslim school children.

Right now, a different kind of politically inspired violence is on the minds of most people in the post-industrial societies: random mass killings, mostly by explosives. This state of the world has created a shortcut, crystallised in the term “terrorist”. Much is said and written as if there was an alien, entirely separate sub-species of human beings, of people to whom psychology, sociology, and other frameworks for human behaviour don’t pertain. “Evil” people.

The danger of this shortcut-thinking and attitude lies in its power to occlude the fact that “terrorists” are created. And for any given level of atrocity there will be people around who are, given the right incentive, and circumstances, ready to commit it. Under some circumstances, more of them. (The moment you first heard of suicide bombings done by teenagers and children, didn’t you wonder how on earth their life must have been for them to consider this as their highest hope and desire?) When there is a demand, the supply will be there.

As a remark, I wonder, too, about the lexical shift from “terrorism” (already a fairly abstract term) to “terror” (originally a term for an emotional reaction to a particular kind of trauma). Maybe I’ll write about this in a later entry.

Back to the first kind of public violence, spectactular killings of figures of public life or politics (which is what happened in the Netherlands). They have been with us for a long time. To focus on one particular group and to organize a witch-hunt among them is not only detestable, but also relies on a misguided understanding of the facts. I have assembled a list of this kind of attacks in Europe, over the last five years. The list is certainly incomplete. I have included unsuccessful attempts that I know of, but excluded everything that has to do with ongoing wars (Chechnya), attacks on random people and killings of police officers (because the line is hard to draw between a killing for political reasons and a death of a police officer in the pursuit of his or her duty).

Disclaimer: I am not a specialist on these questions. I am in the process of thinking about this, not spouting solutions or even anything resembing a definitife analysis. Please tell me about any errors or examples I ought to include (or leave out).

So here is my tentative list of killings and attempted killings that have targeted individuals for political reasons, or have been perpetrated on representatives of a state for whatever reasons, in Europe, over the last five years:

when? who was targeted? by? perp. member of a violent political organisation?
02/2000 Fernando Buesa (Spanish left-wing politician) ETA members yes: Basque separatists
06/2000 Stephen Saunders (UK defense attache in Greece) 17 November group members yes: Greek Marxist revolutionaries
11/2000 Ernest Lluch Martín (Spanish left-wing politician) ETA members yes: Basque sepraratists
06/2001 Santiago Oleaga Elejabarrieta (Spanish/Basque newspaper editor) ETA members yes: Basque sepraratists
09/2001 Zug Cantonal parliament (CH): 14 politicians killed, 15 injured Friedrich Leibacher no: general dissatisfaction with society, violent antecedents
03/2002 Marco Biagi (Italian univ professor and gov advisor) Red Brigades members yes: Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries
03/2003 Nanterre city council: 8 politicians killed, 20 injured Richard Durn no: dissatisfaction with left-wing community (short stints as a volunteer for the Green party and the Human Rights League), psychiatric antecedents
05/2002 Pim Fortuyn (Dutch right-wing nationalist politician) Volkert van der Graaf no: vegan and animal-rights activist who seems to have considered F. as a threat
07/2002 Jacques Chirac (French pres.)—survived shooting Maxime Brunerie yes: member several right-wing extremist/neo-nazi groups (GUD, then UR); formerly local leader of the Front National youth organisation
08/2002 Bertrand Delanoë (mayor of Paris) survived stabbing Azedine Berkane no: “hates politicians and homosexuals”, psychiatric antecedents
03/2003 Zoran Ðinđić (prime minister of Serbia) Zvezdan Jovanović, Milorad Ulemek yes: Zemun clan of Serbian mafia, connections with pro-Milosevic ultra-nationalists
09/2003 Anna Lindh (Swedish foreign minister) Mijailo Mijailovic no: psychiatric antecedents, possibly dissatisfaction with Sweden’s stance on Serbia
12/2003 Romano Prodi and other EU officials survivied letter bombs ? maybe: Italian anarchists suspected
07/2004 Paul Klebnikow (Russian newspaper editor) ? doubtful; Russian mafia suspected
11/2004 Theo van Gogh (Dutch film director) name not released yes: Islamist fundamentalists

Update: assassinations and attempts added after this entry was first published are indicated in green.

32 victims (counting only the dead) in less than 5 years. Apart from the fact that all the perpetrators were men, their background and motives vary greatly. Maybe those of us who believe in the possibility of living together in and between societies that respect and, as an ultimate goal, guarantee civil rights and liberties for everybody ought to meditate on this, and on what is happening right now.

It is urgent to find out what to do to stop Islamist fundamentalists from laying bombs, or anyone from oppressing women in the name of a religion. It is also urgent to stop people from doing this sort of thing (en français). Comprehension help: pédé is French slang, meaning about the same as fag. The perpetrators in this case were, btw, friends with Maxime Brunerie (voir above). When François Chenu was already incapaciated on the ground, one of them jumped on his head with both feet.

4 comment(s) for 'Violence'

  1. (Comment, 2004-11-10 03:42 )
    #1 — Björn Lindström

    That list seems very incomplete. You’ve missed at least two in Sweden alone.

  2. (Comment, 2004-11-10 03:56 )

    I know that this list is totally inadequate. Could you point me to those I’m missing?

  3. (Comment, 2004-11-10 05:12 )
    #3 — Björn Lindström

    Here’s the two from the top of my head:

    10/1999 - Björn Söderberg, a syndicalistic union activist, was murdered by Hampus Hellekant, Björn Lindberg Hernlund or Jimmy Niklasson, all members of the neonazi movement, after acting against racial prejudice at his place of work

    12/2000 - Daniel Wretström, a 17-year old boy with connections to the neonazi movement was murdered by Khaled Odeh, who was apparently not a member of any violent politcal organisation

  4. (Comment, 2004-11-10 05:21 )

    Thanks a lot! I did see the first one, which wasn’t included because of the (arbitrary) cutoff year 2000. As for Daniel Wretström, the list is intentionally restricted to attacks on people who are/were political icons. I am undecided: There are numerous killings by neonazis; the one you cite sounds like a reprisal against this, not like an attack on an institution. I’m open to other opinions on that.