Palestine and Israel: Surviving Genocide or Just Exaggerating?

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Pablo Edronkin

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Certain rather nasty terms became common after the Holocaust of WWII; words like genocide and euthanasia became common in everyday language, but the fact that they have very serious undertones means that they should be used them with more responsibility than what is common today, in situations that some people want to compare with what happened during the Nazi regime, probalby to dillute their own guilt or responsibility.

Indeed, there have been very violent actions around the world since 1945, but not all of them have been cases of genocide. However, perhaps for political reasons, the word has been applied to several of them in some sort of tabloid-like appeal to the public consciousness, and while it is true that massacres, ruthless wars and other murderous and unjust situations should be known by the public, that doesn't necessarily imply that every such case is that of a genocide. This doesn't mean that perpetrators of violent deeds should be left unpunished, but the misuse of words with such serious meaning should not be taken lightly because their overuse makes them lose their subjective meaning. In other words, hearing them too much makes them appear in the minds of the public and especially younger generations as just part of the enormous and largely valueless input of information that we receive every day, and like in those action movies that some years ago started perhaps with a car blasting but now and because of public demands, they must show a whole city block going in flames to call the attention of moviegoers, words like genocide are becoming less relevant. The use of such words should be responsibly reserved to cases that specifically fall into the definition of genocide as a crime against humanity of certain characteristics. Using them in a tabloid fashion, even to wake up people about something serious happening somewhere around the world is as irresponsible as accusing someone of the wrong felony.

Then, it is yet to be seen if the felony has taken place or if facts are being misrepresented. After all, the Nazis justified the invasion of Poland in 1939 on an alleged Polish attack that never existed, and President Bush attacked Iraq on the presumption of the existence of ghostly weapons of mass destruction.

Genocide is the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national or ethnical group. Deliberate and systematic are here two very important words; it is not enough that a national or racial group is allegedly being driven to extinction, persecution or intolerance are not enough to define a genocide; the whole thing has to be planned and managed, like the final solution exercised by the Nazis against the Jews and other ethnical groups. The Jews suffered many pogroms during their long history, but as awful as they were, they did not qualify for genocide except in a few cases like when they were driven out of their land back in Roman times, or, of course, during the Holocaust because those attempts were systematic and deliberate in the truest sense. Additionally, deliberate attempts to get rid of Jews have been commonplace sin ancient times and always ended being seriously damaging for those societies that attempt such performances (See The Mother of All Mistakes).

And speaking of the Middle East, what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinian has often been described as a genocide, and while it is certainly a harsh treatment what is enforced there, the elements of premeditation and systematic action of extermination are lacking. This doesn't imply that there are no arbitrary or cruel acts, like in any war, but there is, for example no official policy of the government of Israel that literally specifies that Palestinians are to be slaughtered following specific patters. Retaliatory actions like the one just finished in the Gaza strip - terrible as they are - are not directed towards Palestine as a whole, and the most evident proof of that is that while the Hamas groups was being attacked in Gaza nothing happened in the West Bank. Had that operation been directed towards the Palestine people as a whole, the people in the West Bank and even Palestinians inside Israel would have suffered a similar fate. The actions of the IDF, brutal as they were, targeted Hamas and in the meantime inflicted a lot of collateral damage, but they were not a deliberate and systematic attempt to exterminate Palestine.

It could be argued that it was just a step in a larger campaign, but with the same sort of lofty arguments we could say that our planet is in fact standing on the back of an elephant, only that we cannot see it because it is so large that not even astronauts on the moon were able to see it and distinguish its backbone from the Milky Way. That Palestinians and Israelis don't like each other is a fact; that there is some serious hatred going on is also a fact, but things should not be misrepresented. The sate of Palestinians today is a consequence of several tragic situations that started with their own war declaration on Israel the very day both nations should have started their existence. The mistake of Palestinians was not to make a claim to their own independence but the ways in which they did that. They are now victims of both the Israeli actions as well as their own.

Moreover: Genocide implies necessarily the passiveness in terms of cruel action by part of the victims; if the opponent is actually fighting, depending on the scale and characteristics of the fight one could say that it is a struggle for survival or just a fight. German Jews rounded up by the Nazis for extermination before anybody else didn't threw rockets or bombs against law-abiding Germans. In fact, well-known excuses were fabricated by propaganda experts to justify the actions of the SA against Jews because there was no really good or honest reason to go after them. However, when one considers the apparent genocide of Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis, reading things like the Hamas charter, the document that defines the mission statement of the group should be read, is really enlightening as of the nature of the whole issue. In one part it says, quite literally "...Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it…" and this is a sentence that speaks for itself. In fact, it states that the alleged victims of a genocide are planning one on their own so where is the moral ground to claim that they are the victims of a similar thing going on?

There are, of course some hard-core Israelis that on a personal and even political basis think about Palestinians in a similar way: both in Israel and among Palestinians there are people that hate each other so much that left to their own devices they just might attempt genocide, and others that understand that peace is the only way to survive in the long run; but that's were similarities end because you cannot find any sort of similar document in Israel that states similar goals. Israel doesn't have a constitution like the United States, it guides itself by Biblical rules - many Muslim countries apply also religious principles as the basis for their legal and political organisation, such as the Islamic law, and countries like Britain also doesn't have written constitutional documents so there is nothing special about not having a constitution in modern terms. The bi difference in this case is that there are explicit and repeated documents written by groups such as Hamas - now a virtual government in Gaza - stating that they want the obliteration of Israel and the Jews, but there are no similar or analogous Israeli documents providing for the extermination of Palestinians. In fact, there are many moral debates on the actions of Israel within Israel itself because there are concerns there on the fact that since they had been victims of persecution and genocide, they don't want to become the perpetrators of similar deeds. Just go say to the folks at Hamas' HQ that maybe, they should consider changing their charter. The only debate will be about who shots you first, and this is a fact for dissent among them is swiftly dealt with summary executions.

Taking this into account, the fight of Israelis against Hamas-represented Palestinians is not genocide because of the intention of the organisation: A deliberate attempt to wipe out Israel, not to claim a Palestinian land. This means, that Israelis that read something like the Hamas charter have every reason to defend themselves; that doesn't mean, of course, that violating international conventions is right but their actions have to be measured by the standards of the fight that they are on to preserve their existence. Then, the fact that Hamas has organised itself as a militia bespeaks of a systematic plan. Their actions against Israel are not random and so justifiable as plain, passionate hatred, but directed by leaders following a chain of command, and if anything is still missing, it has to be said that they deliberately target civilians inside Israel: Their rockets and bomb attacks are very rarely directed towards military installations. By far, their weapons are specifically aimed at civilian targets.

I have hears some people saying that if they throw rockets against Israelis, it should be for a good reason. Well, aside from the fact that this chain of though is a moral justification for terrorism, one would ask why then wouldn't the Israelis have good reasons to raze Palestinian towns? You can't complain about an alleged crime if you commit the same crime.

It is important to separate in this case the quest of Palestine as a nation in order to have their own land and groups like Hamas that misrepresent them, and while their existence has been justified on the fact that Israelis have taken actions against Palestinians in the past, this is a false argument because even if all those actions were crimes, they don't justify doing the same or similar things. Aside from that, there is abundant proof that many allegations related to possible Israeli war crimes were proven false in the end. So, while there have been indeed cases of brutality, they could not be considered systematic or deliberate, and if Israeli retaliation seems also brutal, it has to be taken into account that there is no soft-handed way to treat individuals or organisations that are planning a genocide against you like Hamas specifically and openly states. As terrible as they were, the bombing raids over Germany and Japan during WWII grew up of strategic and military needs.

Moreover: A quest for liberty cannot be used to justify deliberate attacks on civilians like those directed by means of hundreds of rockets launched from places like Gaza and into Israel. At best, it could be claimed that two brutal enemies are engaged in a fight, but so far this is no genocide by part of Israel, with all its mistakes and deserved critics. But the Israeli armed forces should be seen as equally brutal to those of the Allied nations during WWII: There were among them many violations and even war crimes committed against the Axis nations as well. The two nuclear attacks on Japanese soil were even more brutal than any Israeli campaign, so seen outside their context such historical facts would lead an observer to think that the UK or U.S. were the same as Hitler's regime, but once you put the facts where they belong contextually, it becomes evident that those actions, as unpleasant and revolting as they were, indispensable to win over regimes that openly and manifestly were keen on committing genocide. A surgeon that cuts with a surgical knife cannot be put at the same level as the assassin that carries a blade to kill, even if both end up with blood in their hands.

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