Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When the Prophets of What Constitutes Genocide Have Spoken All We Can Do Is Say Amen...

Thus saith Prophet Michael Ratner, ..."I'm a lawyer. I've looked at genocide. Genocide has two elements. One element is the mental element, the intent to destroy the whole or in part a national or ethnical or racial or religious group. Palestinians are clearly a national and ethnic group. And you don't need to kill them all. You just need to have the mental intent to kill part of them. For example, it would be enough to have the mental intent to kill the leadership of the Palestinians or to kill people in one region. No doubt about that. [Second g]enocide requires that there be acts of genocide--killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm, or inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction, in whole or part, of the people you're trying to destroy. There's no doubt again here this is "incremental genocide", as Ilan Pappé says. It's been going on for a long time, the killings, the incredibly awful conditions of life, the expulsions that have gone on for from Lydda in 1947 and '48, when 700 or more villages in Palestine were destroyed [an accurate statement up to a point that raises the question of where Ratner and Pappe are/were when the aborigines of North America, the Caribbean, South America, Australia, and New Zealand need/needed them], and in the expulsions that continued from that time until today. It's correct and important to label it for what it is."

What is good for the goose is good for the gander? I guess this means that the Arab promise to push Israel into the sea and the mental anguish such intent and the intent to destroy (i.e, kill) the whole or part of the racial, ethnic, or religious group (Jews in this instance) constitutes genocide. I guess this also means that the Yom Kippur War, a secret attack on Israel in 1973 during one of the holiest of Jewish days, a secret attack with the intent to eliminate (i.e., kill, destroy) Israel is genocide too. Holy crap, Batman!

The problem here, of course, is that Ratner and Ratner's guru, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, have a far too broad and elastic conception of genocide. Let's take the second part of Ratner's definition of genocide first. Generally speaking scholars of genocides have maintained that population declines are central to genocides. 60% of Europe's Jews were genocided by the Nazis and their fellow European travellers via mobile killing machines and death camps primarilly in Poland. 25% of "westernised" Cambodians were eliminated via execution, forced labour, and starvation. The population of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, however, have increased yearly since 1970 (a fact that also raises questions about the concentration camp metaphor many critics of Israel use to describe Gaza and the West Bank). What is happening in Gaza and the West Bank, in other words, does not meet the criteria for genocide as it has traditionally been defined.

The fact that population has increased in Gaza even during Israeli attacks over the years is, of course, why Ratner and his fellow travellers have to rely on the mental anguish part, the first part, of their definition of genocide. It is here, of course, that Ratner's definition of "genocide" wanders into the really big muddy. The notion that a genocide is occurring "incrementally" despite the fact that significant numbers of the group supposedly being genocided have not been genocided and are still alive is a surreal one. Yes, what is happening to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is horrible. Yes what is happening is sad, at least for some of us. Yes what is happening is humans acting, as they so often do, inhumanely. Yes what is happening produces mental anguish. But is this genocide? How do we quantify or even qualify the notion that mental anguish is genocide particularly since the populations of Gaza and the West Bank are not declining? Are the collective mental anguishes of national, ethnic, and religious groups the stuff of genocide everywhere and in every place? If so it means that there has been a lot of genocide on this planet. How can we call this genocide when it is not resulting in what has traditionally been considered central to any definition of genocide, population declines in specific groups? I, for one, don't think we can. Is intent consistent with what we understand about the role socialisation plays in constructing identity and community? Finally, how can we even determine national character let alone place guilt on the heads of a national group? What percentage of Israelis, if we ignore the issue of socialisation, would have to agree with the policies of their government for us to lay blame? Hey, once again we are back to numbers.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't think Israelis are saints or that the Palestinians are sinners or vice versa. I think that both sides are typically human and that there is enough blame to put on all sides. What I don't think, however, is that the Palestinians or the Arabs or the Muslims are inherently saintly because, in one version of marxist soteriology, they are oppressed. This notion is as problematic, as silly, and as wrong as what another variant of marxism claims, that the working class is the essence of good and the motor of history in the modern world, the world after feudalism. Many marxists are prisoners of their own socially and culturally constructed ideological "reality". They are, in other words, typically human, far too sadly typically human.

I should note how slippery prophetic critics of Israel can be. And it is here that the rubber really meets the road. Some argue, for example, that Israel is violating international law in Gaza. And they admittedly do have a case. At the same, however, they deny that the UN resolution creating the state of Israel is a valid international law. I would say we have a case of situational fetishisation here. Israel, they claim, is a legacy of the Balfour Agreement of 1914, an agreement that occurred some 34 years before the founding of the state of Israel and which was little important in founding of the state of Israel. Rather it was the Holocaust, the refugee crisis in Europe that came about as a result of the Holocaust, and the guilt many felt as a result of the Holocaust (never again) that was the reason for the creation of the state of Israel by the UN. The Balfour Agreement, in the wake of World War I, was no match for the Britain's need for Middle Eastern oil. An additional strategy of many marxists use is to argue that the international agreement establishing the state of Israel was a product of Western imperialism and colonialism and can hence, not to mention miraculously, be dismissed as nonbinding in international law a result. This, of course, is solipsism of the worst kind. Proponents of such views bind themselves to the international laws they agree with and demonise those they detest. Can you say double standards? Here ideology is the king of politically and ideologically correct (i.e., our brand of marxist) thinking, a common phenomenon one finds not only in some marxism but in some religious fundamentalisms.

Inconsistency when it comes to international law, by the way, is not the only mental gymnastics this soteriology of oppressed good, oppressor bad perspective demands. Those who sanctify the "oppressed" must forgive the "lowly of the world" their ethnocentrisms and their "terrorisms" and demonise those of the evil oppressor within the target of their gaze. And the similarities between "secular" meaning systems and "religious" meaning systems just keep on coming.

Ratner and his fellow travellers fall into a similar sort of ideological and melodramatic soap opera trap when it comes to Israel and Palestine. Since Gaza's population is not declining--declining population, as I noted, is central to every definition of genocide even Ratner's--they have to play a game of mental gymnastics by arguing that genocide is occurring incrementally in Palestine even though demographic data does not bear out their contention. Ratner and company, as a result, have to claim the gift of prophecy. Even though population has not declined since 1970 they uniquely know it will at some point. My problem with this, I don't even know what to call it, a flight of fancy, is that not even lawyers or academics can, as far as I know, foresee the future. This means that inevitably we must ask why, flying in the face of demographic data, the prophets of Palestinian doom are making such claims? Clearly, they are making such claims because they are defenders of the Palestinian cause and they want the world to come to Palestine's rescue. Ratner et. al, in other words, are apologists, polemicists, demagogues, and propagandists. The only clothing these false prophets are wearing, always wear, in fact, is that of the apologist, the polemicist, the demagogue, and ultimately the propagandist.

Let me close by noting that what I have written here if in outline is seen as the dementia of a feeble mind according to some of my marxist acquaintances. I guess I wasted time, energy, and money getting an education, an education that has done nothing to negate my inability to think correctly. What are we to do with a feeble minded, ignorant of logic, philosophically incapable stuck up idiot like me? Hey what can I say. I'm a midnight girl in a sunset town. Cleanse us midnighters! We think, after all, that Facebook is not the place to engage in scholarly investigations of a historical character given the semi-Twitterish nature of that beast.

Note to self: don't assume that when someone posts something about some topic they are extensively familiar with the historiography of the subject they posted about.

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