Monday, March 30, 2009

On the deligitimization and denial of suffering

It's not every day that one sees what appears to be the same news story being told three times in the same day. Especially when it's not about the same events.

Three I ran into today are of particular note.

The first (Haaretz) talked about how the Israeli Defense Force closed their inquiry into soldier's accounts of wrongdoings in Gaza in the most recent conflict, Operation Cast Lead. Reports of vandalism, wanton destruction, and murder published by the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz were dismissed as hearsay and the army decided to close down all inquiries into the soldier's claims.

The second (also Haaretz) desribes how a Palestinian youth orchestra which recently played a concert for Holocaust survivours was disbanded. Calling the Holocaust a "political issue", the conductor who led the witting musicians to play for the survivours was sacked. Adnan Hidni from the Jenin Camp explains: "The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves... We lost our land, and we were forced to flee and we've lived in refugee camps for the past 50 years."

Finally, the third article coms from the New York Times. Arab leaders at the Arab League summit at Doha, Qatar, stood behind Omar al-Bashir, recently endicted by the Interational Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
While the ICC is recognized only by Jordan, Djibouti and the Comoros among the Arab states, their defense of al-Bashir was nonetheless clear. According to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, “As for their weak pretexts about fabricated crimes committed by Sudan, we can discuss it with them after they bring those who committed the atrocities and massacres in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq to the court implicated for the same crimes, but ones that are not fabricated, but rather proven with documents and incidents."

Now why did it just feel like I've read the same article thrice?

In each context there are very different reasons for denying or negating the importance of what would normally be considered horrendous acts. In the case of the first article, the IDF has a vested interest in maintining their reputation and not getting bogged down in going after soldiers who were either acting completely as they were expected to. As I have remarked earlier, the war in Gaza is not premised on going easy on Hamas (or the Gazans, their actual or potential supporters). In striking fear (some would say terror) into their hearts Israel hoped to re-establish their dominance through deterrence. Denying the use of what would otherwise be perceived as unnecessary, cruel, illegal, and immoral force is a PR move reinforcing their claim that the IDF has the "most moral army in the world."

(What this article didn't have, but, might as well have had, was a quote by some high-level general saying "when the Palestinians/rest-of-the world decide(s) to investigate the crimes of Hamas, we'll investigate the crimes of our soldiers").

The second and third article are more clear in their statements: "our suffering (or the suffering of our friends) is more important than yours, and we refuse to legitimize the suffering of others that may, in any way, harms us and benefits you."

Do claim that the Holocaust is a "political issue" is as ridiculous as it is true. Its veracity is beyond refute, though the historical and continued importance of the Holocaust in the founding myth of Israel is critical. To admit the suffering of the Jewish people would supposedly harm the Palestinian perspective that the Jews are the agressors and delegitimize the notion that Palestinians have justified in fighting against such agressors.

With respect to the Arab summit, no leader wants to admit that his friend and ally is responsible for horrendous wrong-doings, especially when his own state is equally guilty, though perhaps not to the same degree. Syria's (alleged) role in Rafik Hariri's assassination, not to mention the majority of the Arab world's record on human rights, is cause enough for being worried that the ICC doesn't get a foot in their backyard, not to mention the PR they'll get from sheltering a fellow Arab leader. However, Assad put it most succinctly when demanding that Western power be taken to task for their dodgy dealings before the horros of Darfur are considered.

Again and again and again the truth (or, in the IDF case, the investigation into the truth) of actual human suffering and the dismal truths of the world are ignored, politicized, and dimissed as less significant than those perpetuated against the denier. That suffering is a fact, yet becomes political, and that people all-too-easily pull the "let ye who has not sinned..." card is frustrating, sickening, and fully counter productive to any sort of peaceful reconciliation, though I doubt the IDF, Palestinians, or Arab League really cares about peace, which involves comprimises all parties are unwill to make or political capital ready to be lost. The world occasionally fumes when Turkey refuses to recognize to the Armenian genocide, Japan its WWII acts, Russia the starvation of Ukranine, etc. and these are all events that happened over generations years ago.

If it is our nature to refuse to admit our wrongs to our enemies, except when either defeated or when they are all dead, I see little hope for anything resembling a full peace, except that which comes by the sword. To put politics before the facts, while perhaps useful, is shameful nonetheless and betrays any hope of that vapours dream, honest politics.

1 comment:

  1. The first thing one needs then, are the gonads( or lack there of) to start banking some moral credit, by admitting their dirty deeds to those wronged. Seems hard, is hard but the after effects are nice. once you got that you can accuse others and be taken seriously saying ..sure we are not perfect and will commit attrocities again, no doubt, but we are in principle opposed to such conduct and will hold accountable whomever in our group dumb enough to do it and get caught. you should do the same and if you don't we might get some international group to do it for you