Tag Archives: Genocide

Genocide As The Losers’ Choice

I have recently argued that “those who felt there was not enough time to save the world, went on to commit genocide“. Of course that’s not part of an effort to justify anybody or anything, rather a step forward towards recognizing genocidal conditions before the killings happen.

Is genocide a crime for idealistic losers then? Yes it is. Read for example from “Genocide – A Comprehensive Introduction, 2nd ed.” by by Adam Jones, Ph.D., Routledge/Taylor & Francis Publishers, August 2010 (p. 37):

in his 2006 book The Order of Genocide, political scientist Scott Straus [wrote that] “a dynamic of escalation was critical to the hardliners’ choice of genocide. The more the hardliners felt that they were losing power and the more they felt that their armed enemy was not playing by the rules, the more the hardliners radicalized. [In Rwanda they] chose genocide as an extreme, vengeful, and desperate strategy to win a war that they were losing.”

Straus’ book is on Amazon. Interestingly, at page 155 it reports that among the main reasons why they committed genocide, 47.9% of interviewed Hutus mentioned: Insecurity, war, “kill the Tutsis before they kill the Hutus”.

Actually, there is a clear link between the Shoah, the beginning of Nazi Germany’s defeat and a general initial state of panic from Hitler to all, about lack of time and resources. From Wikipedia:

the German defeat in front of Moscow in November–December led to a sharp change of emphasis. Euphoria was replaced by the prospect of a long war, and also by a realisation that food stocks were not sufficient to feed the entire population of German-occupied Europe.[8] It was at this time the decision to proceed from “evacuation” to extermination was made. Speaking with Himmler and Heydrich on 25 October, Hitler said: “Let no one say to me: we cannot send them into the swamp. Who then cares about our own people? It is good when terror precedes us that we are exterminating the Jews. We are writing history anew, from the racial standpoint.”

The point about insecurity has indeed become a historical trait of modern genocide. Writes Malcolm Bull in the London Review of Books (“Ultimate Choice“, Vol. 28 No. 3 · 9 February 2006, pages 3-6 – it’s the original source that inspired my quote above):

Reasoned defences of most genocides can be constructed on the basis of a conjunction of the just war and social exclusion arguments, for if there is an identifiable social group engaged in total war against you, then it has to be neutralised. The Armenian genocide in 1915 was justified on these grounds, for the Armenians were expected to fight with the Russians in the event of an invasion of Anatolia. Stalin’s classicide was an attempt to deal with counter-revolutionary elements who might have sided with the Whites in the event of a renewed civil war or foreign invasion. A defence of the Holocaust might be constructed along the same lines: the attack on Bolshevism was a just war against an outlaw state ‘driven by slavery and the threat of human sacrifice’; it became a total war in which Jews would probably have taken the Soviet side; their pre-emptive internment was therefore a natural precaution, and their execution an unfortunate necessity at a time of ‘supreme emergency’ when the Red Army threatened the Fatherland. If you accept the just war and social exclusion arguments, then these genocides can only be criticised on the basis that they relied on shaky political analysis. They were, in effect, misjudgments, failures of statesmanship, perhaps.


Genocides do not occur in stable, peaceful environments, but at moments of crisis when the state is in danger. So societies only go over the brink when the perpetrators of the genocide are radicalised by war.

Analogously, when the Center on Law & Globalization extracted from the work of historial Mark Levene “Nine Common Features” of genocides. here’s what they chose as feature #3:

3. The government or regime believed it was in extreme danger and that crisis was looming,

Finally, in “State Power and Genocidal Intent: On the Uses of Genocide in the Twentieth Century” (part of “Studies in comparative genocide“, edited by Levon Chorbajian, George Shirinian, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), Roger W Smith
makes an explicit link between trying to make the world a better place, and genocide (p. 8):

contemporary ideology [of genocide]…aims at transforming society. With us the attempt has been to eradicate whole races, classes and ethnic groups…in order to produce a brave new world free of offensive human material…what Camus called a ‘metaphysical revolt’ against the very conditions of human existence: plurality, mortality, finitude and spontaneity. It is , as it were, an attempt to re-establish the Creation, providing for an order, justice and humanity that are thought to be lacking…often motivated by a profound desire to eliminate all that it perceives as being impure. […] How else explain the constant references in Nazism to purification and the Cambodian references to the cleansing of the people?

And so to go back to the original point…is genocide analysis at all applicable to people so desperate about human-induced climate change / global warming, they might get tempted into exploding a little more than fictional children and football players? Yes, in more than one respect. Unfortunately so.

Palestinian Politicide – aka Israeli Suicide

(a previous version of this blog “Sad Word of the Day: ‘Politicide’” was published first on Sep 4, 2003)

It was almost five years ago when cruising through a Books etc bookshop I finally found a word I had been looking to invent myself for quite some time.

In fact, on the one hand I know from several first-hand sources, plus plenty of newspaper reports and analyses, of the systematic destruction of the Palestinian identity by Israeli policies. On the other hand, I do not think this can be described as a “Palestinian Genocide“.

Unless there is a massive media cover-up including, the situation in Palestine simply does not reflect the common definition of Genocide. For example, there is no killing of Palestinian people for the mere fact of them being Palestinians. The risk is that to talk about a “Palestinian Genocide” means to demean both the victims of genocide (a word that would be watered down), and the Palestinians (whose situation would be completely misunderstood, with the cause fought not even theirs)

Politicide” is the right word instead: that is, the destruction of the political identity of a group of people .

The word “politicide” of course comes from what looks like a long tirade against Ariel Sharon, published by Baruck Kimmerling as a book. It is originally defined

[…] a process that has, as its ultimate goal, the dissolution—or, at the very least, a great weakening—of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate social, political, and economic entity […]

Kimmerling, who has died in 2007, was by the way a complex figure if there ever was any: a self-proclaimed Zionist with leftist views, critical of Israeli policies and outspoken in considering Jewish settlements in the West Bank as colonialism).

Kimmerling’s book has been reviewed and criticized a lot, of course. But in the case of the Palestinians, “politicide” does explain many an action by current and past Israeli governments, including the cancellation from history of Palestinian villages, the delegitimisation of Palestinian institutions, the demeaning treatment of migrant workers, and so on (I understand the dividing wall has been painted in places to make Palestinians literally disappear from view).

Importantly, the concept of “politicide” as defined above is not limited to a war, or even a crisis situation. It has nothing to do with Israel’s right to exist, or its internal political system. And it harms both the victim and the perpetrator.

In fact, as commented by Jonathan Freedland on The New York Review of Books on Dec 21, 2006 (my emphasis):

[…] [Sharon] saw desperately late the threat that his pursuit of the settlement project posed to the very Jewish state he had devoted his life to protecting. Even putting aside the morally corrosive effect of occupation on the occupier, Sharon understood only at the end the problem represented by Israel ruling over a territory that would eventually contain equal numbers of Jews and Arabs. Either the state would be democratic and no longer Jewish or it would have to become what Kimmerling calls a Herrenvolk democracy, an apartheid term used to describe a regime in which citizens enjoy full rights while noncitizens enjoy none. Sharon apparently did not see the simple demographic realities until his final years in office […]

As he prepared to tell the Likud central committee in September 2005, before his opponents cut off his microphone and prevented him from speaking: “We cannot maintain a Jewish and democratic state while holding on to all the land of Israel. If we demand the whole dream, we may end up with nothing at all. That is where the extreme path leads.” […] 

As things stand at the moment, Israel does not look sustainable at all: even if there were a complete military victory tomorrow, with Hamas and Hizbullah routed out into the Arabian desert and Fatah reduced to the rank of a puppet government, there would be a painful choice to be made between transforming Jewishness into apartheid, or embracing full democracy by losing its identity to include hundreds of thousands of people with no social, political and economical identity.

And a non-Jewish or a non-democratic Israel would be no Israel any longer.

(for the record, I do believe in the continuous existence to this day of a clear-and-present-danger of Genocide (and I mean it!) against the Israeli population)