Friday, July 21, 2006


Israel as genocidal state vs The role of racism in Israeli policy

I hope I'm not being facetious , or even condescending if I say that I'm somewhat puzzled by this post.

But before addressing it in a later post, let me first say something about this one, or perhaps just inspired by it. I can agree with Norm that "[t]he discourse of Israel as a genocidal state" is foolish, foolish rhetoric - at best. Israel has never committed genocide, there is no obvious prospect of Israel ever committing genocide. Israel knows better than most societies what genocide is, and if the lesson many Israelis have drawn from the Holocaust is that Jews must never allow themselves to be the victims of genocide again (whatever it takes), many others have drawn the conclusion that noone should ever be the victims of such a crime - precisely because they are crimes against humanity, not just against Jews.

And when Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says, by way of contributing to that sorry discourse, that "the [Israeli] politicians, generals and soldiers on this mission, and their supporters, are consumed with burning revulsion for all their non-Jewish Semite neighbours", I think that's a truly remarkable generalisation. I think of the Israeli soldiers I have met and count as my friends, and, although we didn't talk politics too much, I struggle to see them in that picture.

On the other hand one doesn't need to know a lot about Israel (and I don't claim to know a lot about Israel) to think it plausible that racism, in all its shades and manifestations, plays some significant role in bringing about, in making possible, the policies it pursues, the action it takes. From the (relatively marginal) voices on the right of the Israeli political spectrum calling for expulsion ("transfer") of the Palestinians, to ex-Labor PM Ehud Barak's remark to the effect that Palestinians, or perhaps Arabs in general

are products of a culture in which to tell a lie...creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category

and stretching to include non-Israeli supporters, including progressives and liberals such as Maureen Lipman, whom I was appalled to see making this defence of Israel's actions in Lebanon:

human life is not cheap to the Israelis and human life on the other side is quite cheap actually, because they strap bombs to people and send them to blow themselves up.

it seems to me that Israeli racism has a legitimate and significant part to play in an analysis of the Arab/Muslim-Israeli conflict. (Anti-semitism playing an obvious, and more regularly highlighted, role on the other side).

(I should say that I don't think there's anything I've said here that Norm would necessarily disagree with, at least on the basis of what he's posted at Normblog. I started this post intending to write about Norm's later post but got carried off in this direction. In any case it's not a bad amuse-bouche before I set about disagreeing with him more explicitly.)

wake up and smell the dead in the name of peace
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