Monday, 4 March 2013

Ethnocide Thursday December 6th 2012


1. There is no reason at all to consider the Jewish Holocaut as a prototype. If there have to be a prototype, it should be the Armenian(together with other Christians of Turkey) before , during and after World War I by Turkey. The reason being that it is the earliest holocaust within living memory that is well documented and as we all know is not popularized for political reasons. This being a good reason to bring it to the forefront by scholars so that more western countries may acknowledge it.

2. I was very interested in bringing to the fore front the concept that intended extermination of a group of people can be executed without mass killings ie genocide. However the term ethnocide is not an adequate one to cover all forms of extermination of certain communities. May be we should speak of ethnic cleansing, religious cleansing, sectarian cleansing...etc.

3. I was disappointed that the Iraqi model was not brought to the fore front, not because I am Iraqi but because it has unfolded in front of our eyes over the last ten years. During these ten years there has been sectarian cleansing, ethnic cleansing and religious cleansing of different communities. The cleansing of the Christian community irrespective of sect has been the most tragic for various reasons. To explain why needs a long discussion and I enclose a paper I presented at Frieburg last year to describe how in different ways the Christians were made to leave the country. As for its being planned and by whom, there is a lot of evidence that Muslim radicals have made it their duty to achieve it. I fear that what is happening in Syria may lead to similar result but I am more hopeful that Egypt will not go the same way.


 The Holocaust or Shoah as prototype: There has been a tendency to insist  that the Jewish Holocaust is unique and to use this supposedly extreme  prototype as a way of blocking any comparison of Israeli Government excesses  in the occupied territories. There are striking similarities in some of the
 actions that the Israeli Government through the IDF have taken in the West their destruction and theft of land and property, their treatment  of children in detention, their treatment of young men in custody (I
 remember the young men of the town being rounded up and branded on their  arms with indelible ink as they arrived at temporary detention centres in  Ramallah in 2001/2 as a minor illustration), in the ongoing dehumanisation of people in most encounters between Palestinians and Israeli organisation. However, to call this genocide on the same level as the Shoah would be a stretch, to my mind.

 Weighing impacts: I would agree that there is little to be achieved by 'weighing' the tragedy of genocide as if it were possible, in some objective way, to determine that genocide 1 is worse than genocide 2. At one level any such weighting would be essentially personal....would be it be ethical, possible , useful, necessary to determine the extent of the impact of genocide on the individual caught up in any such disaster..the picture of
 the naked young woman running away from the inferno behind her on the path between the rice paddies in the Vietnam war..would be enough to deny any value in 'weighting' of such tragedy in comparison to that of e.g. images of individuals in a gas chamber in a Nazi concentration camp....both are horrific examples of humankind's inhumanity to humankind and are equally inexcusable. In what sense does multiplying the number of such incidents increase the 'weight' of such a tragedy. There could be a weighting related to community impact but once you have acknowledged the intention to destroy such a community, what more is there to be it about the size of the community, I dont think so.

 The concept of ethnocide: This has more mileage and could be a way of labelling the deliberate policies of depopulation of a Palestinian Jersualem, the continual squeezing of the Palestinian Arab Israeli from the
 institution of the state of Israel and the squeezing of the livlihoods of Palestinian people in the West Bank as well as the imprisoning of people in Gaza. It is a deliberate policy of depopulation (or welcomed
 emigration...related to constructive dismissal) and it would be very diffcult to deny that. There are many other potential applications of ethnocide rather than applied to for example the killing of all the pigs in Egypt to help constructively dismiss the Christian population.

 The word ethnocide doesn't quite fit though, in my view. It may be too narrow. If ethnicity is about common national and cultural is not wide enough to include religious tradition which is often the subject
 of 'constructive and destructive dismissal' or wide enough to include all examples of physical difference like skin colour or facial features (sometimes associated with race) which can feature in prejudicial action or
 indeed any associated economic advantage or class characteristics which might be important. Religion and culture are, of course, easy bedfellows but they are not the same. Too often, our secular society insists that religion is simply a matter of choice of a set of clothes to be worn or is not normally like that for most people of faith. Difference in belief is not necessarily related to differences in culture
 although they often are.

 Core Personality Traits: I warm to the concept of core personality trait which might highlight the difference...but would have difficulty though in being clear whether religion would be core for everyone..what would you die for? might be an uncomfortable question to ask.....not for every religious person is the answer religion...think of the thousands who convert/have converted from faith A to faith B to reduce societal pressure and enjoy the benefits of the switch...but it is true for some...history is 'seasoned' with the story of many a martyr.

 Causes and Effects: In our discussion, I was not clear when we were talking about reasons for 'ethnocide' and 'genocide' or when were talking about definitions. Whether we were talking about 'cause' or 'effect'...and I am not sure we were clear. Wealth, status and power are often closely related and are as unstable as a cluster as each of these characteristics are in their own right. In other words power is associated with status and wealth...lose one and you are just as likely to lose the others. It seems that minorities that become successful at surviving in communities and acquire these three may get along well with the majority whilst the
 privilege of the these three characteristics is tolerated. If circumstances arise that destabilize one of those three, all become vulnerable. The 'Arab Spring' has been this key instability in the relationship between Muslim majorities and the comparatively better educated, economically successful, status aware Christian communities and perhaps we are now seeing something of the politics of envy.That is a comment on the economic aspect of the victimisation of Christian minorities and it is not deny that any such economic effect could well be wrapped in religious, cultural, national papers.

 Christian responses: Mary's question about Christian response and what now then...are for me questions about attitudes to our own wealth, status and power...can we afford as a western Christian community not to hear the prophetic voice of the 'Arab Spring'. Effective stewardship of our resources must mean some reckoning with the relative poverty of the world around us. We must get our house in order, we must recognise our own need to apologise and to take action that demonstrates our need for forgiveness. We might then have a more effective contribution to make to world peace and have some credibility as we seek reconciliation and compromise with others with whom we differ. i would love to be able to suggest actions 1, 2 and 3...but I am not sure, even if I could, that my heart is ready yet.

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