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Beyond enemy images: politics and the Other

“Who is the enemy other?” asked Jeffrey Murer in an openSecurity agenda-setting article. Identifying the ‘enemy’ lies at the heart of security policies and practices - but who is the enemy and how do we know them?

Over the past year openSecurity has explored these issues in the collection below. Now, Jeffrey Murer reflects on this series and entreats us to find the other in ourselves.



Sri Lanka’s twin challenges

The Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Colombo was the occasion for renewed demands that the state account for the brutal ending of its war with the Tamil Tigers in 2009. But Sri Lanka's appalling human-rights record does not only apply to its violent past: today too civil-society organisations are under heavy authoritarian pressure.

Beyond enemy images: politics and the Other – a retrospective

Jeffrey Stevenson Murer reflects on openSecurity's collection of articles, which have explored the creation of the other as 'enemy', externally and in ourselves.

Conflict and narrative

It's being painted in small, nervous brushstrokes now, but if the 3,000 or so people in attendance at the Combatants for Peace Memorial Day ceremony are any indication, it seems there is a new complicated narrative being written.

Wake up calls: why aren't we up yet?

The bombings in Boston brought to mind familiar images from past American tragedies and its wars abroad. But why are we still shocked?

How the clash between Islamism and Zionism not only affects the Middle East but also the west

The author in his latest book, Dangerous Liaisons: The Clash between Islamism and Zionism (2013), contends that the antagonism between Islamism and Zionism in the west is a significant threat to integration and social cohesion. More attention should be paid to this ethno-religious political clash that has already seen its first proxy war

The desert's fertile soil: threats of instability still growing in the north

Claims of a French victory in Mali assume that groups aimed at an Islamic state. But western intervention in another 'front' on the war on terror yet again threatens future conflict, leaving northern populations vulnerable to the grievances that caused the insurgency in the first place.

Nuclear weapons, basketball diplomacy and war in Korea

While North Korea's nuclear threats towards the US remain in the realm of the absurd, the government's latest denunciation of the armistice agreement dangerously raises tensions between an inexperienced leader in Pyongyang and an untested president in Seoul.

Toxic images or imaging the other

In the aftermath of the Toulouse killings of March 2012, the French state projected a set of 'toxic images' clearly demarcating the republic's enemy in young, Muslim men. 

Playing chicken with the Islamic Republic

Threats of attack and sanctions have proven to be a double-edged sword, inflicting real damage on both the Iranian regime and its democratic opposition, with real costs for the fragile European economy and America’s strategic power.

Nuclear assurances: when a fatwa isn’t a fatwa

Ayatollah Khamenei issued a fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. What does its disregard mean for his ability to project authority to both international actors and domestic audiences?

Split of a soul: when politics shoots at culture

The 2011 referendum granting South Sudan independence served as a decisive verdict on the history of decades-long civil war as well as the foundational tenets of the modern international community. Adil Babikir evokes lost narratives of national unity that once resounded in both Sudan and South Sudan through a single name: Mongo Zambeiri.

Resisting the other of the ‘war on terror’: lessons from Japanese internment camps?

Though intended to be temporary in nature, Agamben argues that the ‘state of exception’ has become a permanent fixture of democratic governance. This ‘war’, declared by the US and its allies against a tactic, and therefore unbound by time or space, is ongoing.

Joycean nightmares, Parnellite politics, and the Northern Irish riots

Attributing the violence associated with Northern Ireland's 'flag riots' to the peace process itself is a capitulation to the view of Northern Ireland as unable to escape the nightmare of its history, leaving questions of social responsibility endlessly deferred.

Algeria, Mali: another front in the “Global War on Terror”?

Algeria partnershipWhat the Islamist terrorist threat has become is an incoherent pretext to intervene militarily on the part of the west. The only principled position to adopt therefore is the rejection of both, for the self-determination and sovereignty of the peoples.

The creation of an unbridgeable divide

Syria's civil war is now strongly characterised by militias identifying along sectarian lines. The growing divide between Sunnis and Alawites has profound implications for Syria, and the Middle East.

Israel in trouble: review of The Gatekeepers, by Dror Moreh

As Israelis go the polls on 22 January, Israeli democracy is in real trouble. At least that’s the message from a group of Israeli security mandarins at the centre of the Oscar-nominated documentary film The Gatekeepers.

Iran and the repercussions of US policymaking

Western analysts often and articulately point out why the United States fears Iran. But what does Iran have against the United States? Do we understand why Iran is taking such a belligerent course?

What do we mean by Islamism?

The British media and political landscape have done much to obscure a proper in-depth understanding of Islamism, the ideology, as separate from the Muslim faith. Two books can be a small help - everyone should read them.

Breaking the vicious circle - reconciliation in OSCE areas

Work must be done to overcome divides even many decades after official agreements to end violence have been signed. But the process is neither simple nor direct, with social media as easily a tool for vitriol as for furthering understanding of others. What, and who, can help?

Violence, space and memory in the new Northern Ireland

Violence in Belfast in September and December 2012 bears witness to the collision of the 'old' and the 'new'. As Northern Ireland embarks upon a decade of centenaries, the question arises: who hosts memory - and how?

Headscarfs and homosexuals - feminist ideals in xenophobic politics

When the protest against a lecture by the controversial Islamist Bilal Philips risked being hijacked by Danish populist forces, it was a vivid reminder of what happens in practice, despite declarations by right-wing populist leaders.

Confronting militarist mindsets in Israeli society: interview with New Profile founding members

In an increasingly right-wing political environment, addressing the place of the military in Israeli society means going through the cracks rather than lobbying government. International connections help, but it's outreach, not funds, that count.

Out of nowhere? The Taliban and Malala

Amidst calls for justice through the barrel of a gun and hopes Pakistan's army will break ties with the TTP, does an emphasis on the narrative of Violence against Women play into the very binaries that legitimate the Taliban's existence?

Let Vietnam live!

John Berger was in England for Oxford Vietnam Week (Jan. 25 – 31, 1967), when he said, ‘The simple issue around which all the history of the rest of the century will concentrate: are we in the privileged quarter of the world, going to continue to exploit the other three quarters?’  In republishing his speech in full, Let Vietnam Live! – may we wish the author many happy returns of the day.

Pakistan’s disappearing Hindus

The political system works against minorities in Pakistan, dovetailing wealth, power, and sectarianism. While Pakistan's Hindus feel the effects keenly, the elites have adjusted to the political apparatus rather than challenging it.

The US and Iran on a dead end path to war?

Unless strong political leadership and decisive diplomatic efforts are quickly shown on all sides, war between the US and Iran will become increasingly probable due to the elimination of all other policy options.

Anti-Islam film protests: a reification of public debate?

Beyond their regrettable cost in terms of human lives, "Innocence of Muslims" and the subsequent protests that spread across the Arab world ultimately entrap the world in a binary entrenchment reminiscent of the civilizational justifications for the War on Terror.

Depoliticising victims in Northern Ireland

The recent riots in Belfast seemed to hark back to the ethno-religious conflict many presumed over: Northern Ireland is being rebranded within the neo-liberal fold. But deeper issues may be deferred by the rhetorical constructions of peace. The prospect of dealing with victimhood in a meaningful way is being erased.

Armenia and Azerbaijan: what can societies do when political judgement errs?

Instigating dialogue across entrenched conflict built on ethnic stereotypes is long and precarious. The pardon given to Ramil Safarov of Azerbaijan is a blow to the sense of trust built painstakingly in the region. Now peacebuilders have to weather the storm.

The importance of the Bitterlemons obituary

Each of the key players perceives peace as desirable but not at any price. This is the message of the exchanges of views aired in Bitterlemons over the years. We still need to enable discourse that is ‘equal and fair’. 

Bitterlemons down but need remains

The closure of well-known zine Bitterlemons, providing fresh perspectives on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, poses the question: is there is still a need for voices from the region and writers with expertise on the topic? To that, I would answer an emphatic “yes.”

Bitterlemons, the next stage

An innovative Israeli-Palestinian collaboration offering regular analysis of middle-east affairs is ending regular publication after eleven years. Its co-editors, Yossi Alpher and Ghassan Khatib, explain why.

Breivik court verdict: security lessons?

Now that the legal question of Anders Breivik’s sanity has been resolved it should be possible to focus more closely on his political motivation and the security lessons that arise from this case. This should help inform a debate about how best to tackle the growing problem of far right violence in Europe and the US

Stop sanctions against Iranian students in the Netherlands

Iranian students in ‘sensitive’ studies should not be seen as posing a threat. They are usually not secretive nuclear scientists, but scientists, artists, architects, economists. These students, amongst the brightest minds from Iran, find themselves caught up in a broader xenophobic context.

The audit of a political campaign versus Marine Le Pen: Jean-Luc Melenchon in Henin-Beaumont

After a strong showing in the 2012 French Presidential election, Jean-Luc Melenchon took on Marine Le Pen in Henin-Beaumont, a former mining community near the northern town of Lille, in the French legislative elections held in the same year. These were his thoughts as expressed in his popular blog on coming third in the first round.

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