Génocide symbolique/Symbolic Genocide
From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)
Lev Grinberg, Political Sociologist, Ben Gurion University | La Libre | April 2004
(Translated from the original French)
The murder of Sheik Ahmad Yassin by the government of Israel is part of a major move carried out by the government of Israel, which can be described as symbolic genocide. Unable to recover from the Holocaust trauma and the insecurity it caused, the Jewish people, the ultimate victim of genocide, is currently inflicting a symbolic genocide upon the Palestinian people. Because the world will not permit total annihilation, a symbolic annihilation is taking place instead. Sad, depressing, and demanding a reaction. As a son of the Jewish people, as a concerned Israeli citizen, I condemn this abominable act and call upon the international community to save Israel from itself; in particular, I call upon the European Community to interfere in a direct and active manner, to prevent the anticipated mutual bloodshed. The complex connection between the Jewish people and Europe has not been cut off yet, and it is time for action. Not out of guilt about the past, but out of a sense of responsibility for the future.
What is symbolic genocide? Every people has its symbols, national leaders and political institutions, a home land, past and future generations, and hopes. All these symbolically represent a people. Israel is systematically damaging, destroying and eradicating all of these, with unbelievable bureaucratic jargon. “Target bank” is the term officially used by the IDF for the list of liquidation of Palestinian leaders and activists. Already months ago, the Minister of Defense has argued that Arafat should be exterminated, and now, following the “successful operation” of the extermination of Sheik Yassin, this inane idea is posited once again as a legitimate public debate. Arafat has been imprisoned in Ramallah ever since December 2001, and no one has yet managed to change Israel’s position and allow the elected President of the Palestinians some freedom of movement. Arafat’s caging in Ramallah has come to symbolize the imprisonment of the entire Palestinian people in towns and villages by IDF blockades controlling their every movement.
The Palestinian land is being robbed by the settlements, dissected by road blocks and now officially dismantled by what the bureaucratic jargon terms a “security fence”, which is in fact the dismantling of the last land reserves left for the Palestinian people to dream about as the territorial basis for an independent state. Consistent in its actions, under the guise of laundered terms such as the “road map” and the “peace process”, the government of Israel is inexorably exterminating not only the Palestinians’ leaders, but also their physical future and hopes for independence. Sharon’s excuse is that no negotiations should be held in times of terror attacks; but when the Palestinians announced a unilateral ceasefire, in December 2001 and in July 2003, he still refused to promote the “peace process”, and the temporary respite was finally broken by a return to the “focused exterminations” policy.
The reactions of European countries, who have expressed their “concern over the continuation of the political process” following Sheik Yassin’s assassination, is simply ridiculous, actually rewarding the government of Israel which is not interested in any political process to begin with. What peace process are we talking about? What, in political terms, has actually happened since Sharon’s government was formed in February 2001? There were the Mitchell Report, the Zinni Plan, The Tenet plan, followed by Bush’s Address and the Road Map plan, which demanded reforms from the Palestinians and in return promised them a “temporary state” in 2003 and an “independent state” in 2005. What’s left of all these? A Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, was elected, and the government of Israel has humiliated him until he resigned. Abu Ala was elected to replace him, and what was the progress with him in power?
Another kind of reaction centered on Israel’s right to defend itself. What can this self-defense possibly mean after 37 years of occupation? How can actions designed to preserve the occupation regime be termed defensive? The only legitimate defense is that of Israel’s legal borders, from within its borders, not by occupying territories and denying the freedom of an entire people. Terrorism is a reaction. A terrible, cruel, inhuman and immoral reaction, and certainly stupid from a political point of view, but it is a reaction. The cause must be treated, not just the effect.
All this talk about “peace process” and “right to defend” are nothing but a deception designed to cover up the symbolic genocide carried out by the government of Israel. First it destroyed the authority, institutions and infrastructures of the Palestinian Authority, and now it is destroying what’s left of its hopes: it is killing leaders and ordinary citizens, men and women, children and old people, arguing that the “liquidation targets” are hiding behind the citizens. The government of Israel is turning the Palestinians into a nation of Shahids (martyrs), and the Middle Eastern conflict into a holy war-jihad-crusade.
This is a dangerous policy. It poses an existential threat to the Palestinian people, but also to the state of Israel and its citizens, thereby endangering the entire Middle East. The government is dragging the people into a confrontation fueled by the urge to take revenge, instead of building a future. In the absence of a Palestinian Authority and a Palestinian force to defend it against Israel, the only solution is international intervention and the dispatch of a UN (and not US!) peace force to protect first of all the Palestinians, and, indirectly, the Israelis as well. As long the Palestinians are in danger, we too are unprotected, because they react in terrorist acts. I have no doubt that such an intervention would be construed as a Palestinian victory, and that the government of Israel will not like it, to say the least. But without a sense of substantial political achievement on the Palestinian side, there is no chance that the conflict will ever ebb. It is only then that we can begin, under an international umbrella, to finally talk about a permanent solution. Without first breaking the circle of bloodshed and violence and the cycle of tribal revenge, there is no chance of that ever happening. It is the responsibility of the world, and primarily of Europe, to stop the government of Israel. The world has the means to do so, and it’s time to show some will as well. A few months of economic embargo would suffice to convince the majority of Israelis of the wisdom of international intervention. Silence under the present circumstances means acquiescence.