Guerrillas (Was Irish Stew (1823) & Madrid Stew/Tapas (1968))

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 9 14:02:13 UTC 2002

At 8:36 PM -0400 4/8/02, James A. Landau wrote:
>Following these violent activities, the Irgun proceeded to something
>unheard-of:  they disbanded and turned themselves into a peaceful political
>party (the Herut party, forerunner of the Likud Party.)  When their old
>leader Begin became Prime Minister, it was via the ballot box, not "at the
>point of a rifle".
>I am not clear what point you are trying to make.

As mentioned, that we tend to forget that those with whom we
empathize engage in activities that, were they performed by others,
would be branded as terrorism, and that "guerrilla" is also not a
politically neutral label.  (See below.)

>  The Irgun managed to do
>everything, which means wherever you draw the line between guerrillas and
>terrorists, the Irgun manages to be on both sides.  Furthermore, they WERE
>indigenous, which ruins any comparison with the Palestinians, who are hardly
>indigenous to Tel Aviv.
>>  We also don't normally describe resistance
>>   fighters in Nazi-occupied Europe as guerrillas.
>I doubt this statement.  A random look into Winston Churchill's _The Second
>World War_ (volume VI _Triumph and Tragedy_ book 1 chapter 18, pages 245-8 of
>the Bantam paperback):
>"A comprehensive agreement was signed on September 26.  It laid down that all
>guerrilla forces in the country should place themselves under the orders of
>the Greek government...The Greek guerrilla leaders declared that none of
>their men would take the law into their own hands...The only chance of
>averting civil war was to disarm the guerrillas...A draft decree for the
>demobilization of the guerrillas..."
Yes, but
(i)  That was Churchill, writing in the late 1940's.  I'm thinking
more in terms of current usage, where "guerrilla" has been colored by
association with (inter alia) the Vietnam war and various other
long-term clashes between third world anti-colonial and/or
pro-Marxist movements vs. Western/colonial powers and/or forces
allied with them, to the point where "rightist guerrilla" or
"pro-Western guerrilla fighters" seem almost like oxymorons.  (For
the AHD4, a"guerrilla" is 'a member of an irregular, usually
indigenous military or paramilitary unit operating in small bands in
occupied territory to harass and undermine the enemy, as by surprise
raids', but in my experience "paramilitary" is used more for rightist
and/or government-allied irregulars in places like Colombia, while
"guerrilla" is reserved for leftists.  If I'm right, this at some
point should be part of the relevant entries.)

(ii)  The same guilt-by-association has turned "guerrilla" into a
more negative term in mainstream reporting, so that applying it to
the Irgun would make the average reader of today believe that the
applier is a critic of Israeli government (although not as much as
calling them terrorists).  Recall how some of these labels were used
by different American factions during the conflicts between the
Sandinistas and Contras through the 1980's.

(ii)  Churchill was talking about Greece.  I've heard the Yugoslavian
resistance fighters described as guerrillas too, but much more
rarely, if at all, members of the Resistance in France, Holland, and
other parts of Western Europe.  I think there's an element of the
"exotic" involved.  A case for prototype lexicography (like
"Yankee"), I'd say.


More information about the Ads-l mailing list