Thursday, May 24, 2012

When is Genocide...

When is genocide…genocide? The basic definition is simple enough: ”The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” But like all definitions of complex subjects this definition leaves much to be questioned and refined. For example, does an entire group have to be the target, or can just part of a particular group? Does “destruction” mean the actual death of everyone in that category? Can the destruction be just getting rid of a group by driving them away from their homeland? Does genocide involve the destruction of every generation of the target? Is there a limit on how much time it takes to destroy the target? Is genocide the same wherever found? Can more than one group be involved in carrying out genocide? Is there such a thing as “cultural genocide?” How about “political genocide?” Is racism always involved? Answers to these questions and others are not as simple as may appear.

It is clear the Holocaust was an example of genocide, as was the Armenian genocide, although there may be some who deny them. There was also a Rwandan and a Sebrenica genocide. These would seem to be fairly clear-cut examples of the phenomena. What about the situation in Palestine? Are the Palestinians victims of Israeli genocide? There is little doubt that Palestinians are not considered the equals of Israelis, nor is there any doubt the Israeli government would be delighted if the Palestinians did not exist. At the moment there are approximately 1.7 million people crowded into the Gaza strip who are essentially at the mercy of the Israeli government. Their leaders are subject to periodic assassinations, the entire population is also subject to periodic bombings or other attacks. The conditions under which they live are unpleasant in the extreme and they are basically at the mercy of Israel with respect to everything from nutrition to health care to building supplies and everything necessary for happy, healthy lives. There is no doubt they suffer daily from discrimination and maltreatment. The children, in particular, suffer from the situation and are known to often have psychological problems. I confess I have not seen this personally as I have never been there, I only know what I see on the news, the internet, or in books on the situation. I believe if this situation is not ameliorated fairly soon the Palestinian population will be materially, psychologically, and permanently damaged. Is this to be considered genocide?

Those Palestinians still living on the West Bank are not much better off than those crowded into Gaza. Israeli settlers increasingly encroach on their land, sometimes bulldozing their houses and even destroying their orchards and fields, and then taking possession of them. Settlers are known to fire on and kill Palestinians, sometimes with the Israeli army standing by merely watching. Even Palestinian children are sometimes shot for little or no reason. Palestinian areas of Jerusalem are slowly being taken over by Israelis, some areas and roads are off limits to Palestinians, and all Palestinians and Arabs in general are clearly second class citizens.

Although there is talk, endless talk, about a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian “problem,” there seems to be no end to it. Talk of a two state solution with Palestinians having their own neighboring state go nowhere as Israel controls so much of their land it leaves nothing but a few random parcels here and there with no realistic possibility of being a viable state. The so-called one-state solution can go nowhere as it is clear there would be a Palestinian (Arab) majority living under apartheid. At best the situation can only be described as grim, and there seems to be no end in sight.

I don’t know whether this is properly labeled genocide or not, but there is no doubt Israel would like to be rid of the Palestinians. They slowly achieve this by assassinations, bombings, attacks of various kinds, and of course by systematically stealing more and more Palestinian land and water, thus making life for them increasingly impossible. They are allowed to get away with this largely because of the support of the United States, even though the International community and the United Nations has repeatedly charged them with war crimes and other violations, all of which are simply ignored by both countries involved in them. I do not think it entirely far-fetched to consider this a form of genocide, or perhaps semi-genocide, that is allowed to exist and continue over time mainly because the U.S. refuses to do anything about it. The reasons for this are complex but have mainly to do with the U.S. Congress that seems to believe Israel can do not wrong, the Palestinians are mainly at fault, and we only need to wait for Armageddon.

Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.

Woodrow Wilson

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