Tuesday, 3 June 2008

LEGACY OF LIBYAN FREEDOM FIGHTER - OMAR AL-MUKHTAR

Omar al-Mukhtar: the formation of cultural memory and the case of the militant group that bears his name

Authors: Hala Khamis Nassar ; Marco Boggero
Yale University, USA
Published in: The Journal of North African Studies, Volume 13, Issue 2 June 2008

Abstract
This paper investigates how the martyr figure of Omar al-Mukhtar (1858-1931) became a popular transnational icon in Africa, Asia and the Arab world. Originally part of the history of Cyrenaica, Omar al- Mukhtar became part of Arab culture during the struggle against colonialism and is now part of a suggested Arab 'imagined community'. The paper
explores how his memory has been shaped in new
and multiple ways in contemporary culture and politics of Middle
East and North Africa. Al-Mukhtar's historic character has crossed
the Libyan boundaries and the Cyrenaican leader became instrumental
not only in the history of modern Libya, but contributed to the
formation of different forms of Arab nationalism during their
struggle against colonialism. The authors investigate how the
construction of martyrdom developed and show that the pattern of
collective memory did not proceed unambiguously. Further, they
demonstrate how the martyr's legacy has been and is still utilised
for political mobilisation and make the case by studying the
activities of transnational insurrection groups - the 'brigades'
or 'forces of Omar al-Mukhtar' from its original inceptions to
recent occurrences.

Keywords: terrorism; suicide terrorism; Libya; Palestine; martyrdom;
nationalism; collective memory; colonialism; cultural studies

In order to explain and describe what is currently known about the
Omar al-Mukhtar Brigades, this article proposes and relies on both a
thematic and a transnational use of the theory of nationalism as
source of identity and an application of sociological concepts
regarding the study of martyrdom. Given the role of culture and
literature in the formation of the national identity made explicit,
for example, in the theory of imagined communities, it seems
interesting to develop the analysis of icons and myths, or martyrs
in this specific case; in other words, the heroes of Benedict
Anderson's novel. The approach rests on two key assumptions. First
and foremost, it is assumed that the concept of imagined communities
could legitimately be applied to at least some Arab countries.1
Second, it must be mentioned that the assumption is not, strictly
speaking, part of the original 'imagined communities'.2 Thus, the
article is divided into four sections. We begin by introducing Omar
al-Mukhtar in historical context. Second, we look at the official
collective memory and illustrate two cases. In the third and fourth
section, we show elements that suggest that Omar al-Mukhtar could be
part, together with other time-honoured heroes, of an Arab imagined
community and how the process of construction of martyrdom took
place in the 1930s. Given the available evidence, we outline the yet
unstudied Omar al-Mukhtar Brigades and offer some preliminary
hypothesis on the nature of the brigade's militant activities and
their symbolic nature.

Martyrdom and genocide in Cyrenaica

Omar al-Mukhtar was born in 1858 as Omar al-Mukhtar bin Omar bin
Farhat part of the Ghieth family and part of the Farhat clan, which
is a branch of the of the Manfaha Bedouin tribe from Burqa in Libya.
His father was known to be a courageous man and a fighter. His
mother was Aesha bint Muhareb who raised Omar and his brothers on
the teachings of piety and Islam. Later on he was assigned by Ahmed
Sharif al-Sanusi as a teacher in one of Sanusian schools.3 It is
reported that Omar al-Mukhtar had only one son al-Haj Muhammed Omar
al-Mukhtar.4 Only in 1931, after 20 years of fight, Omar al-Mukhtar
was finally captured. With a few thousand men he had faced a
colonial army of as much as 20,000, with airplanes and modern
weapons. His guerrilla techniques, based on small-scale, swift
attacks, followed by his retreating and vanishing in the desert
angered the Italians to the point that they resorted to the worst
methods. The Fascists bombed their enemies with poison gas,
inaugurated a policy of ethnic cleansing of the interior - which
drove out a population of 100,000 - hit their holy cities,5
expropriated the zawias, expelled the religious leaders. Finally,
they resorted to cutting the supply lines with the construction of
an enclosure wall - an endeavour of enormous proportion and cost. In
September 1931, he was captured. After a mock trial, Omar al-Mukhtar
was executed, publicly hanged as a bandit in front of his own people
at the camp of Soluch.6 Omar al-Mukhtar was the symbol of the
resistance against the colonial enterprise and became the martyr of
the Cyrenaican rebellion. Others had a huge part in the resistance
movement - Sayyid Idris, chief negotiator and future King of Libya;
Ramadan al-Suwayhli, head of the Republic Tripolitania; or Sayyid
Ahmed Sharif, military leader against the French from 1902 to 1912,
the British in Egypt and the Italians and the British in Cyrenaica
in 1916. Yet, Omar al-Mukhtar became the one hero of the resistance
to be remembered. But just how will his memory be constructed? How
was and how is his martyrdom interpreted and what kind of emulation
do militants who bare his name politically and culturally suggest?
The word martyr has a relatively clear etymological meaning
of 'witness'. On the other hand, its many definitions lend to
misuses and to possible misunderstandings and fanaticism.7 In
general, a martyr is one who chooses to suffer or die rather than
renounce his principles or beliefs. Authors often distinguish
between an active martyr - who actively seeks death and suffering -
and the individual who passively accepts the suffering imposed on
him (Weiner and Weiner 1990; similar distinction can be found in
Smith 1997, or in Khosrokhavar 2002). Omar al-Mukhtar's own
surrender to an unjust death sentence, for a man of 73 years old,
was in no way a mark of self-destruction. It was not an active
choice. Before the fake trial that condemned him to hanging, he
could have saved his life by submitting to the occupying colonial
forces. Generals gave him a choice and yet he did not succumb. His
martyrdom was rather involuntary or passive. The message may be, as
it often is, subject to different interpretations. It may be re-
coded and reinterpreted. An assumption could be made that militants
can be duped into thinking that they are imitating martyrs and
mistakenly assume that they voluntarily immolated themselves. The
example of Hussein, the martyred grandson of Muhammad, is
illuminating (Davis 2003). Although he was killed at the famous
battle of Kerbala, he did all he could to avoid fighting and make
peace. 'He even walked onto the battlefield holding a baby in his
arms and pleading for mercy.' And yet, as Davis points out,
the 'September 11 band believed they would be following in the
footsteps of Hussein'. Bearing in mind this distinction, the analogy
with Hussein to stress that Omar al-Mukhtar had no intention to
sacrifice himself. He submitted no orders to his guerrilla force to
continue a hopeless fight after his capture; he gave a freedom of
choice to each. Therefore, his martyrdom was involuntary. He may be
identified as a defensive rather than offensive martyr (Khosrokhavar
2002).

Collective memory

Martyrs are at the mercy of time. They do not immediately
metamorphose themselves into 'recorded myths'. Before they are
elevated to a higher status, they often turn into a different
category - e.g. traitor, criminal - or, sometimes, they are
forgotten for a long time. National identities translate their
different narratives of history through heroes and martyrs at
different epochs. By looking at two cases, diametrically different
in their end-result, reflect how the state distorted or manipulated
the martyr figure of Omar al-Mukhtar. In the first case, Libya, the
martyr was in and out of the official discourse for 40 years; in the
second case, Italy, it was (and still is) erased from school
textbooks and censored.

Libya's national hero

Amidst the flow of Fascist propaganda, the memory of the Cyrenaican
rebellion faded on both sides of the Mediterranean. Omar al-Mukhtar
was invoked in Libya after the war when nascent nationalism needed
an icon. In Lisa Anderson's analysis of early nationalist sentiment
in Libya, many patriots are sketched: Ramadan al-Suwayhli, Azzam
Bey, al-Baruni but few characters are so evocative like al-Mukhtar.
Yet, al-Mukhtar's death and living memory became threatening since
the revolution. The representation of the shahîd was evocative of
the Sanusi monarchy, ousted by the revolution, as well as conducive
to Cyrenaica's separatist feelings. A remarkable discontinuity has
been reflected in historiography and monuments. Lisa Anderson writes
that, in the course of the twentieth century, 'Libya has known three
distinct periods of political historiography: the Italian
preoccupation with the Roman legacy during their occupation, the
monarchy's attention to the development of the religious
brotherhood, the Sanusiya (); and the Qadhdhafi's regime emphasis on
the popular resistance to Italian imperialism' (Anderson 1991a, p.
73). Notably, after 1945, the 'same Italian preference for
ethnography and anthropology over history () would be reflected in
Libyan studies. A text like the Sanusi of Cyrenaica
became 'virtually the only historical text for twenty years'
within 'British-Sanusi interpretation to Libyan historical studies'
(p. 82). After the 1969, the revolutionary regime launched a new
approach to history. Soon, the new publications were less flattering
towards the Sanusi in spite of the praise for individual actors,
like Ramadan al-Suwayhli8 or Omar al-Mukhtar. al-Hudayri, a Libyan
author and a decent, claims that his books on al-Mukhtar, although
given as gifts to the Libyan libraries, were confiscated and never
made it to the shelves (Hudayri 2000b).

The second aspect is the discontinuity in public attention to
monuments and memorials. One can still find many Omar al-Mukhtar
streets in Libya. There is one Omar al-Mukhtar University, in al-
Bida in Libya and an ambitious construction project - the Grand Omar
al-Mukhtar, also known as the Great Man-Made River project which is
supposed to supply fresh and clean water from Libya's southern
desert. However, the monument built to commemorate his martyrdom in
Benghazi was demolished in 2000 by an order from Qadhafi, who also
ordered the demolition of al-Nadi al-Ahli (The People's Club) in
Omar al-Mukhtar Street in Benghazi. The club was known to have
members who are politically active and advocates of the al-Mukhtar
teachings.9 The recent comments on the trial and subsequent hanging
of Saddam Hussein fit this alternate pattern. In fact, the trial
brought forth comparisons with Omar al-Mukhtar.10 After the
execution, the regime proclaimed that a dual monument for both Omar
al-Mukhtar and Saddam will be created. Libya also declared three
days of mourning after Saddam's death and cancelled public
celebrations around the Eid al-Adha; flags on government buildings
flew at half-mast.

There are reasons for this ambiguity. On the one hand, as mentioned
above, the regime had to distance itself from symbols that could
fuel sympathy towards the Sanusi as well as ambitions of
independence for Cyrenaica. On the other hand, the martyr was and is
valuable for many reasons. First, Omar al-Mukhtar conveys a message
of traditional religious values in a time of continuous social and
economic modernisation. Second, it provides a message for specific
targets groups like the elders, particularly in rural areas, whose
childhood memory embrace at least part of the colonial period.
Studies in political development stressed the tribal and
traditionalist nature of the population.11 Third, Omar al-Mukhtar is
attractive to those segments of the population, particularly the
youth, which may be seduced by pan-Arab ideals. At a recent
inaugural session of a summit, Qadhafi called on African peoples 'to
be inspired in their work by the great actions of the continent's
great leaders such as Samori Toure, Omar al-Mukhtar and Gamal Abdel
Nasser and others who had through the history of Africa refused to
accept the life of slavery and oppression'.12 Finally, it represents
anti-western rhetoric and in specific times, subconscious reference
to the Palestinian cause. In his analysis of Qahdafi's speeches,
published by the Green Book Center in Tripoli, Vandewalle writes:

one is struck at the repeated and powerful references to notions of
a common history that has pitted Libyans against the West. () The
memories of the Fascists' brutality, the capture and hanging of Umar
al-Mukhtar, and the removal of the local population form their own
land in favor of Italian settlers have all provided constant focal
points of Qadhafi's rhetoric. (Vandewalle 2006, pp. 124-130)

The analogies of the occupation and, most recently, of the wall13
are obvious to the Arab youth familiar with the popularised history
of the martyr and aim at suggesting analogies between Fascism and
Zionism.

Collective historical amnesia

When Omar al-Mukhtar was executed, the Italian press, strictly
controlled by the regime, gave a pompous but somehow limited
attention to the event.14 Then, after the war, an admission of the
crimes of genocide - and hence the story of Omar al-Mukhtar - was
wrung with great difficulty from official Italian historians
(Bosworth 2002). It was the beginning of a national collective
amnesia that lives on until the present. Omar al-Mukhtar was but one
episode in the study of colonialism, on which Italian historiography
could hardly undertake a critical revision for a long time. Within
the difficulty of coming to terms with Fascism, the study of
colonialism in Libya itself, suffered of a specific and apparent
removal.15 Only in the 70s the military archives were opened.
Finally, a military historian published an essay dedicated to the
repression in Libya - later, a book called Colonialismo Italiano -
where he defined the Cyrenaican repression as a genocide -
mentioning the disturbing figure of 40,000 deaths out of the 100,000
deportees. In the 1980, Rochat's military study (1974), circulating
in English, Arabic and French translations, sanctioned, with Del
Boca's Gli Italiani in Libia, the new phase in research.16 In 1982,
however, the release of the movie The Lion of the Desert, a story of
Omar al-Mukhtar, was not authorised.17 Even today, it can be shown
only with a special authorisation. While Italy painfully uncovered
some truths on the horn of Africa.18 Some point out that it is still
the emblem of historical removal (Giannelli in Labanca and Venuta
2000). The manipulation of a symbol, or its utilitarian rhetorical
use, is partly suggestive of the 'Machiavellian, instilled symbols'
of a nationalist ideology (Anderson 1990, 1993) or in Hobsbawn and
Ranger's use of ancient material to 'construct invented traditions
of a novel type for quite novel purposes' (Hobsbawm and Ranger
1983). In Italy, in a negative sense, there was a state-imposed
constraint, part of a nation rebuilding process. In Libya, the
institutions of 'nation-building' - the museum, the map and the
census - asymmetrically mentioned the martyr. Thus, al-Mukhtar
monument had a peculiar history.19 Yet, Omar al-Mukhtar is alive in
the memory of Libya and one of its foremost 'founding fathers'.

The construction of a martyr

In this section we investigate how the mythologisation of the martyr
occurs. First, the martyrdom relied on a process of narrative
construction within a specific context and time. Then, the imagery
was immortalised in the literature, with public celebrations and
commemorations that took different forms. An accurate mapping of the
martyr's use, for which this article signals a work in process,
shows that Omar al-Mukhtar eventually became a symbol in Africa and
Asia, and in the Arab world in particular.

A climate of dissension

Unquestionable courage is not enough to elevate an unjust death into
martyrdom. Wide publicity and a climate of dissension are central to
the process of construction of martyrdom.20 In September 1931, the
name of Omar al-Mukhtar was constantly invoked across Asia and
Africa. Many funerals were held in Damascus, Palestine, Haifa,
Tripoli, and prayers for the dead were held many mosques. Sermons
called for boycotting Italian products and shops were closed.
Thousands of people went out to the streets demonstrating as a
reaction to his execution.21 In Tunisia as in many capitals of the
Arab world, memorial services were held and many intellectuals,
writers, and politicians participated and gave speeches.22 Memorial
services throughout the Arab world were perceived as a sign
reflecting the unity among Arabs and Moslems in their struggle
against foreign occupation and presence in the region.23 Notably,
these celebrations occurred at a time of heightened anti-colonial
disputes and sentiments. The capture and death occurred just weeks
before the World Islamic Congress in Jerusalem. Tensions were so
high that the Mufti had to guarantee that nothing provocative would
have been said. Particularly, he was instructed that nothing should
be said about the 'alleged Jewish encroachment on Holy Places () and
nothing on the subject of Italian action in Tripoli'.24 At the
Muslim Congress, the martyrdom of Omar al-Mukhtar provided a vivid,
present, and convincing image of how colonial powers were ousting
Muslims from their lands. It united the representatives in their
resolve against the danger of Zionism. Abderrahman Azam Bey tackled
the issue forcefully. A long applause marked the end of his speech
and five minutes of silence were called for.25

The same tension could be found elsewhere. It was reported that the
largest memorial event to be planned was organised by Hamad al-Basel
Basha in his palace in Cairo. Many dignitaries, intellectuals, and
political figures from all over the capitals of the Arab world were
invited but the event was cancelled and banned by the authorities.26
In the entire Islamic world, reactions abounded. The occasion of the
World Islamic Congress clearly provided the framework for a wider
social validation of Omar al-Mukhtar as a martyr. It was the main
channel of transmission of the narrative of martyrdom that
determined al-Mukhtar posthumous immortality. It is through
Jerusalem and the Muslim Congress that one commentator in particular
would elevate the hero to a higher status; and it was in Palestine
that we observe the first instance of an association of the martyr
with anti-Zionist narratives and feelings.

Publicity and censorship

Censorship and attempts to sidestep the issue did not discourage
supporters. The attempt to muzzle the debate during the days of
mourning did not undermine the popularity of Omar al-Mukhtar. In
Europe, only few newspapers covered the issue. The London Times
wrote an editorial in the aftermath of the execution.27 The Cri du
Peuple in Paris called al-Mukhtar the 'Abdel Karim of Cyrenaica'.28
However, the most effective exposure came from La Nation Arabe, a
polemical periodical with an avid readership. Its founder, Lebanese
intellectual Shakib Arslan, covered the story with the utmost
intensity. Arslan can be identified as the 'martyrologist', who
managed to 'chronicle the raw occurrences into events of social
significance'.29 He kept the name of al-Mukhtar in print between
1930 and 1931 by producing a number of articles of considerable
proportions. Particularly, the plight of the Cyrenaican population
was well described and accurate. The number of 80000 displaced was
reported, a good approximation of the truth.30 The same message was
repeated over an over again in the summer of 1931. On the very first
days after his death, Arlsan wrote a long article dedicated to Omar
al-Mukhtar. His article had two underlying threads. The first aimed
at justifying his fight: 'Omar al-Mukhtar was not a rebel', Arslan
reiterates. The occupying force had no legitimacy in the occupation
and 'the rebel is he who refuses to obey to the legitimate
authority'. Second, he constructed a narrative with a heroic
perspective. The romanticised celebration included the depiction of
a gallant soldier, captured by way of 'intrigue and corruption'.31 A
loyal fighter, it is claimed that al-Mukhtar never killed a single
Italian prisoner.32 Like many, he compared him with Abed al-Karim
and Abed-al-Kader. Last, he added a personal note about a meeting
they had in 1911, and a personal contact where al-Mukhtar had
foreshadowed his end.33 We can also retrace how the construction of
martyrdom traveled beyond the Arab world and reached Asia. The all-
embracing Islamic nationalism of Arslan often transcended the Arab
cause:

He patterned the imagery of protest on that used in the campaign
against the Berber dahir and cast his opposition in Islamic symbols.
He told his readers that when Italians captured Kufra, they turned
it into a tavern where they drank toasts to the extermination of the
Muslims.34

Shakib Arslan was a crucial character. The mere amount of publicity
he created in terms of articles, letters, and telegrams was
impressive, and his standing as a prophet of the Arab world was
unique. 'He was the "Arab-Lawrence", spreading the contagion of pan-
Arabism.'35 A master of eloquence, he provided the martyrdom with a
symbolic dignity, with dedicated Islamic references, and would
crucially contribute to the memory of the martyr. In the way that it
was originally constructed, sheds the light on how the martyr was
going to elicit support for a radical cause. Thus, through Arslan
and particularly during the World Islamic Congress, Omar al-Mukhtar
had a strong echo in Palestine. This was the peak in the process of
construction of martyrdom. In order to commemorate his name, the
Mayor of Gaza, Fahmi al-Husseini, decided to name the largest street
in the city Omar al-Mukhtar Street, which again, angered the
Italians, particularly the Consulate in Jerusalem.36 Beyond Libya
and Palestine, Omar al-Mukhtar became the name of streets, squares,
and universities. There are Omar al-Mukhtar Mosques from Khartoum to
Baghdad.37 If Arslan had constructed a quasi-literary immortality,
Ahmad Shawqi was to follow and become one of the most important
custodians of the memory of the martyr. The famous Egyptian poet
wrote his most popular elegy dedicated to al-Mukhtar. It is not a
coincidence that Shawqi was a close friend of Shakib Arlsan.38 In
the elegy, Shawqi talks about the heroic characteristics of al-
Mukhtar describing and comparing him to a desert warrior from
medieval Arabic poetry:

You, sword unsheathed and raised in the wilderness,

Which gives sharpness for ever to the swords of the Arabs,

Whose Bedouin deserts have been the scabbard of every sword

Which has been well tried against the enemy

And are the graves of the young Umayyad braves,

And their fathers, who live in memory and in God.39

The elegy inaugurated the imagery of the lion. 'A mean-spirited lion
whimpering in captivity' follows 'Africa being the cradle of lions
and their grave'. The word 'lion' is repeated seven times. Shawqi's
elegy set a trend among many modern and contemporary Arab poets.
Gibran Khalil Gibran also wrote an elegy dedicated to al-Mukhtar, as
well as Tunisian poet Mahmoud Abi Ruqaibah.40 Many Libyan, North
African and Palestinian poets either dedicated or wrote poetry about
Omar al-Mukhtar In the realm of popular culture, it is worth
mentioning the wide notoriety of the film The Lion of the Desert
(1981) starring Anthony Quinn, produced and directed by the late
Syrian director Mustapha Akkad. The film is still considered a
blockbuster in the Arab world and newspapers indicate it is
presently enjoying a renewed popularity.41

Icons, images, drawings and paintings of Omar al-Mukhtar have often
accompanied the written narrative of his life and death. Through one
main icon painter, Nicola Sayigh, and one of his students in
particular, we find some of the first vivid depictions of the Lion
of the Desert.

In 1933, a solo exhibition of oil paintings by his student Zulfa al-
Sa'di (1905-88) was shown in the Palestine Pavilion in the First Pan-
Arab Fair in the halls of the Islamic Supreme Council in Jerusalem.
The exhibited a series of lustrous portraits representing national
and historical heroes: Saladin, who liberated Jerusalem from the
Crusaders; 'Umar al-Mukhtar, the Libyan fighter who had been
executed by the Fascists two years earlier after leading a twenty-
year guerrilla war against the Italian occupation; and Sharif
Hussein of Mecca and Amir Faisal, who led the Arab revolt against
the Ottomans during World War I.42

Another important cultural articulation dedicated to the memory of
the martyr is that of public commemorations with large audiences,
like festivals. Special occasions and anniversaries were organised
in Libya and beyond. An interesting festival was organised by the
Jaffa Center for Study and Research in Cairo. In the year 2000, the
celebration was not only dedicated to al-Mukhtar but also to the
Palestinian intifada.

Omar al-Mukhtar and the Palestinian intifada

Given the construction of narrative of martyrdom that we have
described, it is not surprising that the memory of Omar al-Mukhtar
is particularly vivid in the Palestinian Territories. Notably, the
martyr figure is a very popular icon in the topography. As we
mentioned above with reference to Gaza, many mayors decided to
immortalise the martyr figure on street names. Nowadays, the
Palestinian Authority flies its national flag and host the
legislature in a grandly domed structure off Omar al-Mukhtar Street,
the main street that connects the central market of Gaza City to the
sea, and the name of one of its largest mosques. In a wider study on
the foundations of Palestinian national identities, it was found
that al-Mukhtar is one of the few historical characters belonging to
the recent political past to be commemorated in Palestinian-Arab
cities prior to 1948 (Azaryahu and Kook 2002, p. 210). Omar al-
Mukhtar left its deep marks on the Arab streets for generations and
in Palestine in particular.

There are several instances that show an association of the martyr
figure with Palestine and, more specifically, with the intifada
itself. Reuven Paz (see next section and Table 1) documents its use
as a symbol for the Omar al-Mukhtar Brigades. Many attacks occurred
at the beginning of the second intifada. Since 1989 the Jaffa Center
for Study and Research in Cairo organised the annual festival
commemorating the death of Omar al-Mukhtar. On the 5th of October
2000 the festival was dedicated not only to the 69th anniversary
marking the death of Omar al-Mukhtar but also to the Palestinian
intifada. The festival 'Omar al-Mukhtar and the Palestinian
intifada' was widely covered by the Egyptian press. The festival
followed closely the beginning of the Palestinian intifada, which
erupted on the 28th of September 2000 as a reaction to Ariel
Sharon's visit to Temple Mount in Jerusalem. More than 80 Arab and
Egyptian poets, intellectuals, and politicians attended.
Interestingly, both the late Shiekh Ahmad Yassin, the spiritual
leader of Hamas and Hassan Nasrallah the Hezbollah Shia Secretary
Leader in Lebanon were guests of honours. The speeches given in the
gathering can be found in a collection by al-Hudayri, The important
historical meeting on Omar al-Mukhtar and the Palestinian intrepid
intifada.43 Most of the speeches delivered focused on some specific
points. First of all, the urgent need for Arab and Islamic unity to
support the intifada and to liberate Palestine from the Israeli
Occupation. The participants urged the Arab youths to volunteer for
an open Jihad.44 At the same time, there was a call for boycotting
Israel's products and cutting off the oil supplies from the west.
Second, there was a strong call for reform, for the spread of
democracy, for legal and civil rights, and freedom of speech
especially with reference to media coverage on Palestine (Hudayri
2000a, pp. 34, 38). In addition the festival stressed the fact that
moral and financial support should be given to Omar al-Mukhtar
Brigades and lessons should be learned from their Jihad attacks
against the Israeli IDF (Hudayri 2000a, pp. 46, 22, 24). Martyrs are
central figures in Palestinian highly expressive culture and
historiography. Ted Swedenburg's in Memories of the revolt (2003), a
work on the anti-colonial revolt in Palestine, identifies symbols
from earlier times embedded in the modern-day struggle. He shows how
present narratives drew upon memories of prior insurgencies,
particularly the 1936-1939 revolt. Yet, it is striking that a non-
Palestinian martyr, such as Omar al-Mukhtar, is widely remembered,
and particularly evoked during the second intifada. The, Israeli
censorship policies continue to eradicate expression that could
foster Palestinian nationalist feelings, therefore, alternative
narratives were sought for. One could claim that Omar al-Mukhtar was
a viable alternative for the purposes of the struggle against
colonial policies and possibly, an icon with an emotional charge
equal to other local symbols and heroes. As 'Palestinian writing was
tightly regulated; the word "Filastin" or "Palestine" was sometimes
excised from the printed page, and it was illegal to display the
national colors (red, black, green and white) together' (Swedenburg
1990, p. 63), other martyrs elevated themselves into equally
evocative symbols. In the 1930s, at the time when al-Mukhtar was
metamorphosing into an iconic martyr, especially through the artful
writing of Arslan, his name became the mark of strong substitute
narratives in Palestine that were re-codified and revived during the
contemporary struggle.

Table 1.Incidents related to the Omar Mukhtar Brigades.
Event Year Location Event Affiliation

aMIPT: Whether the UNO was an independent organisation, or simply an
alias for the National Revolutionary Command (Omar al-Mukhtar), it
is likely that group has deactivated and will not be responsible for
further violence.
bArutz Sheva reported that the Haifa district court convicted Abu
Chanani, 28, of the murder of a woman. 'He and a friend wanted to
join the Omar al-Mukhtar terror group, run by Hizbullah in Jordan.'
Yet, this is the only mention available of a connection to
Hizbullah.

1 March 1986 Beirut Kidnappings (Reed, Ciccippio) OMB a.k.a.
National Revolutionary Command (Libya)
2 28 March 1986 Beirut Dynamite attack at John Kennedy Center
building near American University of Beirut OMB a.k.a. National
Revolutionary Command (Libya)
3 28 March 1986 Beirut Rockets at US Embassy in West Beirut OMB
a.k.a. National Revolutionary Command (Libya)
4 29 March 1986 Beirut British Airways office bombing (failed) and
rocket attack at offices of the American Life Company OMB a.k.a.
National Revolutionary Command (Libya)
5 April 1986 Beirut Rocket attack at British Ambassador's residence
OMB a.k.a. United Nasserite Organisation (UNO) (Libya)
6 August 1986 Akrotiri, Cyprus Mortars and small arms fire at
British base OMB a.k.a. United Nasserite Organisationa (UNO) (Libya)
7 Jan. 2000 Hadera Remote control bombing Unknown
8 Nov. 2000 Gaza strip Rafah crossing Shooting at Israeli civilian
car Fatah
9 Nov. 2000 Gaza strip-Kfar Darom Attack on Israeli army patrol
Fatah
10 Nov. 2000 Gaza strip-Kfar Darom Attack on Israeli army post Fatah
11 Nov. 2000 Israel Threats Fatah
12 Jan. 2001 Gaza strip-Kfar Darom Remote control bombing at Israeli
army Fatah
13 April 2001 Galilee Israeli citizens stabbed Fatah
14 Oct. 2001 Haifa Woman murdered Unknownb
15 2004 Various Threats Unknown
16 Sept. 2006 Iraq Road bomb Unknown
17 Nov. 2006 Iraq Road bomb Unknown
18 Dec. 2006 Iraq Mortar fire Unknown

Omar al-Mukhtar Brigades

Millitant groups are a peculiar and novel element that may reveal
elements of identity and nationalism. The investigation of the Omar
al-Mukhtar Brigades - later referred to as OMB - is elusive because
events span over two decades. The available data shows 18 cases or
incidents (see Table 1) and a cyclical pattern of appearances with
three waves that correspond to 1986, 2000-2001 and 2004-2006.

Sources and definitions

Many studies on terrorism stress the necessary caution in accepting
as 'data' empirical evidence that may be dubious and controversial.
We rely on secondary literature and news sources that are as
reliable as they can be. We also rely on different datasets
available to the public. The first is on international terrorism. In
its annual report, Patterns of global terrorism, the US State
Department tracks terrorist incidents. The second is the dataset of
the Rand Corporation. The third and more specific is the data from
the ICT, which focuses on the 'second wave' or the Palestinian
cases. As a matter of definitions, first of all, what we call
incident is not necessarily an act of terrorism; rather it combines
acts of guerrilla and terrorist acts. Terrorism is defined by the
State Department as a 'premeditated, politically motivated violence
perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or
clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience'.45
Non-combatants include both civilians as well as military personnel
who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty. Our
choice of the terminology suicide attacks or martyrdom operations
avoids the use of terrorism and stems from a narrow definition of
suicide operation.46 Second, whether threats should be included as
events could be put into question. Some may qualify violence in such
broad terms as to include any act that results in mental anguish;
other may restrict the definition to its physical dimension.
Assumptions must be made for tractability so we include threats as
incidents because of the inherent apparent connection between the
events of 2004 and 2006. If all these episodes of 2004 were of a non-
belligerent nature, the later incidents were violent. Third, we
define the OMB as a transnational group. 'When a terrorist incident
in one country involves victims, perpetrators, or audiences in two
or more countries, terrorism takes on a transnational character'
(Enders and Sandler; 2005, p. 467). The first incidents would be
transnational (Libyan interference into Cyprus), the second episodes
may be defined as such, and as for the third wave (2004-2006), we
lack evidences to make a decisive claim. Yet, for the sake of unity
of analysis, we nonetheless choose to apply the definition of
transnational.

The first episodes


In 1986, a National Revolutionary Command Omar al-Mukhtar appeared
for the first time and targeted both British and American interests
in Lebanon, claiming that it was retaliating against 'American
Aggression' against Libya:

On 3 August 1986, gunmen attacked the UK base at Akrotiri, Cyprus,
with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms fire. In
claiming responsibility for the attack, the United Nasserite
Organization invoked the Omar al-Mukhtar Martyr Group. A group using
a similar name claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the
British Ambassador's residence in Beirut two days after the US
raid.47

A third occurrence, in 1986, involved the capture of an American
hostage in Beirut, Frank Herbert Reed, by the 'Arab Revolutionary
Cells - Omar al-Mukhtar Brigade'.48 The hostage remained in custody
for 44 months49 but the responsibility claim, made five days after
the abduction, was never authenticated.50 According to the
Washington Post, the group is supposed to have kidnapped and killed
Peter Kilburn in 1986, reportedly in retaliation for the US bombing
Libya. Further, it has allegedly participated in the killing of
three British citizens in April 1986.51 As a matter of fact, the
Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) quotes
only four occurrences in 1986, thereby excluding these two latter
episodes. All these attacks on American and British interests were
part of the reaction to the Gulf of Sidra events and, largely
speaking, part of a turbulent time of terrorism, with a growing
networks supported by Qadhafi since the 1960s and 1970s.52 As such,
these incidents are quite distinct from episodes of Islamic
fundamentalism. They should not be confused with the episodes of
Libyan internal Islamic opposition (e.g. the LIFG) (Ronen 2002, pp.
79-89).

The second wave


Later, a Palestinian group began to use the name 'Forces of Omar al-
Mukhtar' in its attacks in Israel and the Occupied Territories.53
The cooperation between Palestinian groups and the OMB is reported
by Reuven Paz to have produced 'dozens of attacks' in 2001 even if
we were able to document only seven in the 2000-2001 period.
According to Reuven Paz:

In an article on the daily Al-Khalij, it is claimed that the Forces
of Omar al-Mukhtar belong to Hamas.54 This second group appeared for
the first time in April 1998 when, according to the Jordanian Al-
Dustur, it claimed responsibility for an attack on Israeli settlers
at Maon, in the Hebron area on 19 April. 'For four months, since
September 28th, 2000, the group claimed responsibility for dozens of
operations in 23 communiqus published on the website of 'The Free
Arab Voice'.55

They claimed responsibility, together with two other minor groups,
for an attack on a school bus near Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip.56
Then, the group issued a pamphlet in East Jerusalem in which it
threatened to kill Palestinians in Jerusalem accused of being
Israeli collaborators.57 At this point, it is unknown whether all
the incidents are related. Another point is whether the affiliation
to Hamas can be taken for granted. Yonah Alexander and some news
sources mention the group as belonging to Fatah.58 As a third and
last note, it is worth mentioning that the cell may have been taken
apart by the Israeli police in 2001. This would be confirmed by
police investigation, reporting the arrested six residents of the
territories were recruited to the 'Omar al-Mukhtar' cell whose
objective was to commit murders and attacks within the Green Line.59
This dismantling would also be confirmed by the fact that certain
types of attack came to an end in 2001.

The third wave

More recent events consist of threats directed to countries
supporting the intervention in Iraq, either directly or indirectly
(the Netherlands, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Turkey,
Australia, Poland, Bulgaria, San Salvador; all in 2004). In
September 2006, an attack with road-bombs and mortar fire against
American patrols was claimed by the OMB and by the Salah al-Din al-
Ayubi Brigades60 - part of an umbrella organisation that formed when
several Sunni resistance groups in northern Iraq joined forces,
according to the Rand Corporation.

Another concern here is to investigate if there is a consistency of
the violence displayed. Overall, there seem to be at least four
common features. First, most events present a low level of violence.
One vivid exception is one case of 'initiation test', consisting of
a murder of a woman in Israel. Second, there are no apparent
connections to the network of Al-Qaeda,61 or to forms of global
Jihadism.62 Third, the events associated to the OMB seem to suggest
a polarisation of the conflict. The three waves correspond to 1986,
2000-2001 and 2004-2006, i.e. the Lebanese civil war, the second
intifada, and the Iraq conflict. Fourth and last, there is no use of
martyrdom operations.

The phenomenon of suicide missions has become the defining act of
political violence of our age (Gambetta 2005, p. 13), the signature
tactic of the fourth wave of modern terrorism (Pedahzur 2006, p.
xv). It rose from an average of three per year in the 1980s to about
ten per year in the 1990s (Pape 2005). Hence, it seems relevant to
ask why there were no martyrdom operations. Militants select
narratives, symbols and traditions to inspire their collective
action. The choice of a symbol can render more intelligible motives,
beliefs and convictions. If the narrative regarding Omar al-Mukhtar
does not bring about a culture of martyrdom, one can speculate for
to the present day, there is no evidence of any suicide operation
conducted in association with the name Omar al-Mukhtar. Kalyvas and
Sanchez-Cuenca (in Gambetta 2005, pp. 209-232), discuss the issue of
why some organisations do not resort to suicide missions. Among the
explanations that they propose, one could apply to the OMB - i.e.
the normative choice. The authors would speak of self-imposed moral
constraints - either from a religious, ideological perspective or
other - that make the insurgents believe to be part of a just war.

More specifically, the incidents of 1986 and 2000-2001 coincide with
two of the peaks identified within Ricolfi's four waves of suicide
attacks (Ricolfi in Gambetta 2005, pp. 84-96). These are the Lebanon
war, the beginning of the first intifada, implementation of Oslo
agreements, and the eruption of the second intifada. At a time of
increased propensity for suicide missions, another question is then,
regarding the Palestinian incidents in particular, why the attacks
of the OMB did not imitate Hezbollah, Hamas or the Palestinian
Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and replicate martyrdom operations. In this
case, one could conceive of a cost related aspect.63 Suicide attacks
are a strategic choice, 'based on cost-benefit calculations by weak
groups with limited resources seeking to wage war against formidable
opponents' (Hafez 2006, p. 25). The cost is also human - the
availability of individuals. In this sense, the smaller the
organisation, the lower is the likelihood that suicide missions
would be adopted, either because the pool of possible members is
small or the cost of recruitment is high. The size of the OMB group
does in fact support this point. If militants emulate an iconic
historical figure, then it might be contentious to idolise Omar al-
Mukhtar to propose a 'mission of martyrdom'.64 If Mukhtar's own
surrender to a death sentence was in no way a mark of self-
destruction, then, it seems we could tentatively assume a self-
imposed moral constraint for the purpose of reading the OMB.

Conclusion


This paper investigates how the study of militant group like the
Omar al-Mukhtar Brigades can be placed in an historical and cultural
dimension. Transnational aspects characterised the process of
construction of martyrdom. The martyr figure was generated and
propagated in the Middle East in the 1930s and then reclaimed by
Africa. In African contexts, where some traditions and legacies are
imported, it is part of local traditions and one of the 'ideals of
popular resistance to colonialism'.65 Therefore, retention and
propagation of the martyr figure akin to an invented tradition. The
references to Omar al-Mukhtar are a mark of a specific identity and
a transnational 'imagined community' as he stands for justice,
fierce independence, pious leadership, fighting spirit and
determination. Under the weight of the later usage, in connection
with radicalism, the original message of justice and rectitude may
in the process of utilisation become partially obscured. Yet, the
idea of Omar al-Mukhtar as part of a national identity and
ideologies of belonging is a strong part of the conveyed message and
is continuously demonstrated through the examples of different
gradation, from the Palestinian context to the wider Arab countries.
The study of the Omar al-Mukhtar Brigades reveals the message of
resistance imbedded in the reference to the martyr. The dispersed
nature of the attacks associated with the iconic figure drove us to
consider relevant literature on politics as culture.


Acknowledgments

All translations from Arabic to English are by Hala Khamis Nassar.
Marco Boggero presented parts of this paper at the Africa Conference
at the University of Texas at Austin 2007 and he specially thanks
the participants for their comments. He also expresses gratitude to
Ellen Lust-Okar, William J. Foltz, Angelo Del Boca and Lisa
Anderson, Nicola Labanca, Giorgio Rochat, Lamin Sanneh, Sihem
Ghdira. Peter Bergen, Reuven Paz, and Gabriel Weimann.

Notes

1. Cf. Israel Gershoni, 'Old and new narratives', in Gershoni and
Jankowski (1997). Gershoni considers that the model of imagined
communities proposed by Benedict Anderson can be applied to some
Arab countries.


2. Benedict Anderson's Imagined communities (1993) is chiefly about
how nations are imagined rather than what they imagined themselves
as. Yet, a thematic interest can be found in earlier works and it
seems to be a complementary development to the study of nationalism.
Thematic essays have been written before the publications of
Imagined communities in 1983. Cf. 'The interesting cartoons and
monuments: the evolution of political communication under the new
order', in Language and power: exploring political cultures in
Indonesia (Cornell University Press, 1990). For the latest
discussion on Imagined communities, cf. Cheah and Culler (2003).


3. For a study of the Sanusiyah, cf. Evans-Pritchard and Edward Evan
(1954), or Ziadeh's Sanusiyah: a study of a revivalist movement in
Islam (1958), or Triaud's Lgende noire de la Sansiyya: une confrrie
musulmane saharienne sous le regard franais (1840-1930) (1995).


4. He is referred to as either Mohammed Sahle (according to the
trial papers reproduced in Santarelli et al., 1981, p. 259) or as al-
Haj Muhammed Omar al-Mukhtar (Hala Khamis Nassar; cf. Omar Mukhtar
in the culture and literature, forthcoming).


5. Kufra. Cf. Del Boca (1994, p. 198).


6. Cf. Chapter 8, 'Soluch like Auschwith', in Del Boca (1991, pp.
165-182).


7. The history of the concept of martyrdom is of relevance. Both
Islam and Christianity assimilate the concept of martyr to that of
the 'witness'. Yet, the term shahîd, often translated as martyr, had
originally a different meaning, it simply indicated the individual
who followed a suitable and devout manner of living. It is
originally referred to Jihad, but in terms of defensive and non-
violent resistance.


8. On Ramadan al-Suwayhli, head of the Republic Tripolitania, cf.
Lisa Anderson's Ramadan al-Suwayhli: hero of the Libyan resistance
(1993); or on the short-lived story of the Republic itself, the
first example in the Arab world, of the same author: The Tripoli
Republic, 1918-1922 (1982).


9. Accounts of the club or association can found in Khadduri (1963,
pp. 62-66). An early sketch of the members and publications is
provided, as well as the relevant distinction between the
Tripolitanian and the Cyrenaican branch. The writings of the
Jam'iyyat 'Umar al-Mukhtar were collected by one of its members,
Muhammad Bashir al-Mughayribi; cf. Watha'q Jam'iyyat 'Umar al-
Mukhtar, safhat min ta'rikh Libya (Cairo: Mu'assasat Dar al-Hilal,
1993). An interesting account is found in Baldinetti (2001).


10. Dr A'ishah Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi, a member of Saddam's defence
team and daughter of Colonel Qadhafi, said: 'What is happening today
reminds us of the sheikh of Moudjahidine, Omar al-Mukhtar, standing
before the fascist court. History repeats itself with new faces and
new heroes. If, God forbid, Saddam was to be executed, his life will
still be longer than that of his executors.' Text Transcripts from
Tripoli Great Jamahiriyah TV, 5 November 2006, available on Word
News Connect.


11. No recently updated publication appears to be available but for
a survey-based analysis of rural and urban Libya's political
development cf. El Fathaly and Palmer (1980), or for thematic
studies cf. Deeb and Deeb (1982).


12. Mena, Cairo, 1 June 2006. Transcribed text, available on World
News Connect.


13. A wall of 270 km of barbed wire was built against Omar al-
Mukhtar between Cyrenaica and Egypt (with a phone line, three forts,
six small forts and three air bases).


14. Cf. Santarelli et al. (1981, pp. 287-295). Of interest the
following comment: 'the death of Omar did not raise much interest
among anti-fascists or at least not enough to be used as an argument
of anti-colonial propaganda' (p. 300). On the other hand, the press
in the Arab world strongly reacted: from Cairo's Al-Ahram, to
Baghdad's Al-Akla Ul-Watani, from Morocco to Java. In Jerusalem and
Aleppo, the Druze prince Shekib Arslan became its defender.


15. Labanca speaks of 'blocco o silenzio', in Labanca and Venuta
(2000, p. 21). Rochat and Romano, quoted in Santarelli et al. (1981,
p. 13), Del Boca (1992).


16. Labanca and Venuta (2000, p. 27). Other important authors are
mentioned like Sergio Romano, Francesco Malgeri, Paolo Maltese, Eric
Salerno.


17. Some argue that cinemas refused to show it fearing the same
riots that occurred in France with the movie The Battle for Algiers.
Cf. Del Boca (1991, footnote 36, p. 184; and footnote 73, p. 392).


18. For a complete account, see Del Boca (1996), where the author
describes how its first revisionist attempt of 1965 brought him
scorn and insults.


19. The monument in Benghazi was erected and subsequently torn down;
it is claimed it will be rebuilt on a par with one for Saddam
Hussein. The mapping of monuments on Omar Mukhtar is ongoing and
part of a work in process on this research.


20. On how the idea of martyrdom lends itself to topical analysis,
cf. Weiner and Weiner (1990).


21. Al-Zawi (1970, p. 190).


22. Al-Zawi (1970, pp. 192-193). In one of the memorial services
held in Tunisia the young Tunisian poet Mahmoud Abi Ruqaibah wrote
an elegy for al-Mukhtar (Hala Kh. Nassar, Omar Mukhtar in culture
and literature, forthcoming).


23. Muhammad Bashir al-Mughayribi; cf. Watha'q Jam'iyyat 'Umar al-
Mukhtar, safhat min ta'rikh Libya (1993).


24. The Congress was called at the behest of Amin al-Husayni, the
Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, whose intentions and actions were closely
monitored by the British authorities. In this occasion, the Mufti
had guaranteed that nothing provocative would have been said about
the 'alleged Jewish encroachment on Holy Places () and nothing on
the subject of Italian action in Tripoli', telegram from the High
Commissioner to Palestine to the Secretary of State for the
Colonies, 21st November 1931. Reprinted in Burdett (1988).


25. La Nation Arabe, November-December 1931, p. 8. He adds that 'the
Italian government could not prevent an outburst of anger for the
wide repercussions in the Muslim world and requested the expulsion
of Azam Bey from Palestine'.


26. Al-Zawi (1970, pp.193-206).


27. London Times, 17 September 1931, p. 13.


28. La Nation Arabe, September-October 1931, p. 4.


29. Weiner and Weiner (1990, p. 21). The authors credit Methvin for
having studied 'martyrisers' and documented the process of
manufacturing martyrs (Methvin, 1970).


30. 'A formidable anti-Italian movement has spread across all the
Muslim world within the last three weeks, following the occupation
of Kouffra by Italian troops. The occupation was carried out with
barbarity and brought about the exodus of 80000 Arabs (). The
official denial by Italian representatives in Cairo, Jerusalem,
Baghdad, in the Indies have convinced none.' La Nation Arabe,
Juillet-Aout 1931, p. 23. The quoted 80,000 is the population
displaced from Cyrenaica but he writes of a quarter of a million as
the total population displaced by the Fascists. Cf. also 'Les Quatre-
vingt mille Arabes de Cyrenaique seraient-ils rapatris dans leurs
foyers?' La Nation Arabe, September-October 1931, pp. 48-50.


31. 'Il fut pris par la ruse et la corruption.' La Nation Arabe,
September-October 1931, p. 4. This is partly verified although air
reconnaissance also played a part (cf. Rochat, in Santarelli et al.
1981).


32. La Nation Arabe, September-October 1931, p. 3. This is obviously
propaganda. Though less cruel than their enemy, the soldiers of Omar
al-Mukhtar did kill some prisoners, even officers. The case of Lt.
Beati is documented.


33. 'Omar Mukhtar had never written to me. However, two or three
months ago he thanked me for an article that I had published on the
Italian atrocities and assured me that it was only part of the whole
truth. () He ended his letter by declaring he would fight until the
end.' La Nation Arabe, September-October 1931, p. 6.


34. Cleveland (p. 100).


35. 'He was the "Arab Lawrence", spreading the contagion of pan-
Arabism, shaping the opinions of Moroccan and Tunisian students in
Paris and issuing directives from Geneva that were followed in Rabat
and Constantine; he was the prophet and tribune of pan-Arabism, his
statement were taken as the bellwether of Arab-Islamic opinion.'
Desparmet and Jalabert, quoted in Cleveland (footnotes 77 and 78, p.
111).


36. Al-Zawi (1970, p. 191). When Fahmi al-Hussieni declared his
intentions to name one of largest streets in Gaza after al-Mukhtar,
the Italian Consulate in Jerusalem prompted a meeting between the
British Governor of Gaza and al-Hussieni. The Mayor of Gaza wrote a
letter to the British Governor saying 'Every city has a feeling, and
every municipality of a city has the right to reflect this feeling.
Just as the Municipality of Tel Aviv has the right to commemorate
Hertzl and Belford (), the Municipality of Gaza has the right to
commemorate a figure who is widely loved and respected among the
people of Gaza. If the memory of al-Mukhtar is insulting Italy that
is because of what Italy has committed and not the Municipality of
Gaza. Therefore, I believe that the Italian objection is not
appropriate. 20th of Ramadan 1350, Fahmi al-Hussieni, the Mayor of
Gaza City.'


37. Nassar.


38. Cleveland (p. 11). Shakib Arlsan had with Shawqi 'one of the
deepest friendships among the cultural elite'. (There are many
quotations that support this thesis in Cleveland.)


39. From the translation of Evans-Pritchard, cf. 'translation of an
Elegy by Ahmad Shauqi Bey on the occasion of the execution of
Sidi 'Umar al-Mukhtar al-Minifi', Arab World, February 1949.


40. Cf. the forthcoming work of Hala Khamis Nassar. For more poetry
dedicated to al-Mukhtar's memory, also refer to Omar al-Mukhtar fi
al-Tarikh wa al-Adab wa - fi-Uyun al-Shurara (Omar al-Mukhtar in
history, literature and in the eyes of poets, 1999). Al-Huda Press,
Cairo.


41. For the relevance of the movie to the public, cf. The Boston
Globe, 15 April 2005, where it is argued that the movie can be found
on every market in the Arab world. According to the paper, it is
enjoying a second life because it recreates an imperialist campaign
carried out in the grand manner. Other sources indicate that Omar al-
Mukhtar has become the 'TV face of the Iraqi insurgency'. 'The face
of actor Anthony Quinn, bearded and in Bedouin dress, looms into
view. Cut from a hugely popular 1980s film, the clip is instantly
recognisable to an Arab audience. He is playing Omar al-Mukhtar, a
desert folk hero who fought against the Italian occupation of
Libya. "We will not give up", he says. "We will win or die." A
jingle starts up and the picture fades, leaving a slogan: "Al-
Zawraa - Victory or Death!" This is the TV face of the Iraqi
insurgency, a 24-hour satellite channel that beams grisly footage
glorifying car bombings, mortar strikes and sniper attacks to
millions of homes in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.' The Irish
Times, 17 February 2007.


42. Boullata (2001).


43. Hudayri (2000a).


44. Hudayri (2000a, pp. 15, 34).


45. Department of State (2006).


46. Reference to Moghadam in Pedahzur (2006, pp. 13-23). This a
presuppose the narrow definition for expediency. A broader
definition, which assumes a time lag between the act of killing and
dying, could possibly allow for false negatives.


47. MIPT website, accessed 11 April 2006. Also, although they did
not penetrate the base's perimeter, the attackers wounded two women
before withdrawing. Available information strongly links Libya to
the attack, which was undoubtedly undertaken in retaliation for UK
support of the US April air strikes. It was claimed the base at
Akrotiri had been used by US aircraft involved in the raid.


48. The Washington Post, 3 November 1986. In a later article,
acknowledging lasting disagreements among intelligence analysts, it
is mentioned among the 10 main terrorist groups operating in Lebanon
and it is claimed that the Arab Revolutionary Cells or Omar Mukhtar
Brigades or Revolutionary Commando Cells are one and the same. The
Washington Post, 8 August 1989.


49. In the Lebanon hostage crisis, the last release was that of
journalist Terry Anderson, after seven years in captivity. Cf. his
account in Den of lions (1993).


50. 'Frank Herbert Reed, a director of a privately owned school
here, and Joseph James Cicippio, comptroller of the American
University and its hospital. A group calling itself the Arab
Revolutionary Cells - Omar al-Mukhtar Forces said it had kidnapped
the pair. The group is believed to be linked to the Palestinian
figure known as Abu Nidal.' The New York Times, 17 September 1986.


51. Authorities in Lebanon found the bodies of the three Britons in
Druze-controlled mountains about 10 miles southeast of Beirut. A man
called the Christian Voice of Lebanon radio station and said: 'We
are the June 23 Unit of the Omar al-Mukhtar Forces. We carried out
the attack this morning in retaliation for (Britain's) support to
the U.S. in the attack against Libya.'


52. For an interesting discussion, cf. Davis (1990).


53. Many of the attacks claimed by this group were actually carried
out by members of the Tanzim, although Hamas has claimed that this
group is in fact comprised of members of Hamas's Izz al-Din al-
Qassam Brigades, operating under a different name in order to avoid
investigation and prosecution. http://www.tkb.org/Group.jsp?groupID
= 277 (accessed 11 April 2006).


54. '() and not to Fatah-Intifadah. He explained how and why the
movement's military wing started to use this name for its
operations, rather than the more familiar name, "Al-Qassam
Brigades" '.


55. http://www.ict.org.il/articles/cooperative_terrorism.htm


56. Reuters News, 'Radical Palestinian group claims Gaza attack', 23
November 2000.


57. http://www.ict.org.il/articles/cooperative_terrorism.htm


58. Cf. Alexander (2003). AFP (12 July 2001) mentions the Forces
Omar al-Mukhtar as part of Fatah-Intifada's military branch of al-
Asifa (a spin-off from the Fatah faction of Yasser Arafat).


59. http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2001
(accessed in April 2006).


60. See Table 1. 'Salah al-Din al-Ayubi Brigades Issue Statement 77,
claim attacks on US forces', 20 October 2006, Jihadist Websites -
OSC Report, available through World News Connection.


61. Communication with Peter Bergen, May-June 2006.


62. For a definition, refer to Habeck (2006).


63. Technological costs in Kalyvas and Sanchez-Cuenca (Kalyvas and
Sanchez-Cuenca in Gambetta 2005, p. 225). Suicide attacks are a
strategic choice, based on cost-benefit calculations by weak groups
with limited resources seeking to wage war against formidable
opponents (cf. Hafez 2006, p. 25). The cost is furthermore human -
the availability of individuals. In this sense, the smaller the
organisation, the lower is the likelihood that suicide missions
would be adopted, either because the pool of possible members is
small or the cost of recruitment is high.


64. See the reference to Hussein on this point.


65. Cf. Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983), which shows how the repudiation
of foreign cultures and legacies led Ngugi, in the Kenyan
context, 'to embrace the tradition of Kenyan popular resistance to
colonialism' (p. 262). The term 'invented tradition' is meant to
include 'both traditions actually invented, constructed and formally
instituted and those emerging in a less easily traceable manner
within a brief and dateable period - a matter of a few years
perhaps - and establishing themselves with great rapidity'. Cf.
Hobsbawm (1983).

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3 comments:

Ojalanpoika said...

Jeru-salaam, -shalom & -salem from the Dudeson-country,

Could you kindly comment, whether my details are correct in my dissident essay in:
http://www.helsinki.fi/~pjojala/Expelled-Jews-statistics.htm ?

E.g. "...The population of Arabs under the Israeli government increased ten-fold in only 57 years. Palestinian life expectancy increased from 48 to 72 years in 1967-95. The death rate decreased by over 2/3 in 1970-90 and the Israeli medical campaigns decreased the child death rate from a level of 60 per 1000 in 1968 to 15 per 1000 in 2000 at the Westbank. (An analogous figure was 64 in Iraq, 40 in Egypt, 23 in Jordan, and 22 in Syria in 2000). During 1967-88 the amount of comprehensive schoold and second level polytechnic institutes for the Arabs was increased by 35%. During 1970-86 the proportion of Palestinian women at the West Bank and Gaza not having gone to school decreased from 67 % to 32 %. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in West Bank and Gaza increased in 1968-1991 from 165 US dollars to 1715 dollars (compare with 1630$ in Turkey, 1440$ in Tunis, 1050$ in Jordan, 800$ in Syria, 600$ in Egypt. and 400$ in Yemen).

Before the Second Intifada, there were nearly 200 Israeli companies listed in the Nasdaq, at the Intifada the count dropped to 70. (The number is still greater than from all the European countries combined). It is said that the dollars are green since the Americans pull them down from the tree raw and fresh. The start-ups are imported straight from the garage, and scaling up of production in the "conflict hotspot" has been considered impossible. But the new Millennium has brought a change in tide.

As an example, the supranational Intel transferred the mass production of Centricon-processors to Israel, where ~20% of citizens possess university decrees (ranking 3rd in the world) but where the environment respects patents and are not plagiating every item they produce to others like the rocketting China. Intel was also offered an overall tax rate of 10%, which is about three times lower than that of US..."

Recovering from hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of the brain,
Pauli.Ojala@gmail.com, evolutionary critic
Biochemist, drop-out (MSci-Master of Sciing)
Helsinki, Finland

faheem said...

It is indeed interesting how Omar Mukthar's popularity has inspired muslim movements across the globe. In case of South-Asia, Valley of Kashmir which has been fighting against its occupation by India and Pakistan, Omar Mukthar's portrayal in the Holywood Blockbuster, Lion of Desert-Omar Mukhtar, inspired the 1990s uprising in Kashmir. Film was very popular in Kashmir. Whenever it was screened in the theaters, people would come out and raise slogans against Indian state. It is not a co-incidence that State banned the screenings of the movie within first two weeks.

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