Is Israel the First Morally Justified Oppressor?

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To ask that question is of course to answer it.

We know by looking back historically on periods of oppression by one people on another that there has not been one example of morally justified oppression.

But in the moment, the argument is routinely made, and accepted. In The players may change, but the game remains the same: The use of racism to justify the massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza, Jenin Younes draws the parallels between Israel and all other oppressive regimes. Younes:

In the digital age where a wealth of information is available at the tap of a keyboard documenting background facts that are disputed by no serious historian—the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their land, and the continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinians–it is difficult to understand how otherwise reasonable, fair-minded people can continue to support and justify Israel’s aggression against this helpless group of human beings. While the reasons underlying this anomaly are many and complex, ultimately Israel uses the same tool that has been used for centuries to justify various forms of oppression of an ethnic group, from enslavement of blacks and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans in the United States to apartheid in South Africa: the dehumanization of the oppressed by portraying them as inherently inferior in some aspect, and the insistence that, regardless of its acts, the oppressor is morally superior and therefore justified. [emphasis mine].

Can there be any argument that is not what is happening in Israel today?

Here’s Netanyahu, distinguishing Israelis from Palestinians:

We sanctify life, they sanctify death, they sanctify cruelty, and we mercy and compassion.

How can sweeping statements like that, whether in the positive or the negative, possibly be true of an entire people?

Younes:

In the end, these comments, like Netanyahu’s quote above, reflect an age-old attempt to differentiate the “other” and thereby justify inhumane treatment, including in this case dispossession, occupation, oppression, and collective punishment. While to so many it is simply “obvious” that Palestinians and particularly Palestinian Muslims are simply violent and deserving of such treatment, it would behoove those promoting this view to remember that it was always “obvious” to those justifying oppression that the other was inferior. Those justifying slavery in the United States truly believed that those of African descent were morally and intellectually inferior. The Holocaust was justified by the “knowledge” that Jews posed an existential threat to the Aryan race. The ethnic cleansing of Native Americans was justified due to their ostensible inherently violent nature, and moral and intellectual inferiority. Unfortunately, history provides us too many examples and clearly, too many fail to learn.

I’ll add my spin to this. The massacre of Native Americans took place largely in the late 19th century. I went through childhood in the ’60s, some three-quarters of a century later. Even then, the dehumanization of Native Americans was alive and well. We would play “Cowboys and Indians” on a regular basis. The Cowboys always were the good guys, the side we all wanted to be on. Indians were something lesser, beasts that had to be tamed. Hence the expression “wild Indian,” still in use today in some American circles.

Fast forward to 2012. Mitt Romney, a personal friend of Netanyahu, visited Israel. On his trip, he spoke of the superiority of the Israeli culture to the Palestinian culture. The intended takeaway: Israelis are superior, and therefore morally justified in what they do. Romney, by the way, showed the same willingness to dehumanize a class of people in his now infamous 47% remarks.

When I read the comments on my Facebook page by the Israel supporters I know, the dehumanization of Palestinians, the argument that they are something lesser, is always there. As it has been throughout history.

So, no, Israel is not the first morally justified oppressor. It’s just the one making that argument today.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Oh yes we can. As deep throat said in watergate “Follow the money!” He who pays the piper calls the tune!

    • To try and blame Israel and the Middle East on money is to miss the entire point. It isn’t a petty little thing like Watergate or Irangate or oil or any of the dozens of little political issues with which we are familiar. These are religious and blood fueds that, it can be argued, go back for a thousand years or more. Israel fights for it’s existance and the Palestinians fight for a homeland. You can’t buy those. If it was about money, it would be so much easier.

  2. The discussion above is why the good old usa will have to impose a peace settlement in the middle east. Israel is a client state of america now(though it seems the other way around!) We should start discussing what and imposed peace settlement would look like.

    • I wish it were possible for the United States to impose a settlement on the Middle East, but we have neither the power nor the influence to do so. We have minimal influence over Israel, even less influence among the Arab counties and no influence whatsoever with the Palestinians and Iran. Yes, our military can shred any Army over there, but we need one of the other countries to let us stage our Army for the attack. And once we have defeated the Army, what then? We haven’t been successful at nation building since Japan and Germany after World War 2, and we had to burn them to the ground to get their attention.

      No, we are not going to impose anything on the Middle East. My prayer is that we don’t even get involved when that final battle comes because it will be cataclysmic.

  3. Israel supporters. Since Israel will win every battle ;but the last one and many people in Israel no this. If the pro Israel lobby wants to protect Israel then demand The united states force a peace settlement. The settlement will favor israel more then it should ‘but palestinians will have accept it and live with it.

    • You don’t understand the basic problem: It is written in the Palestinian Charter and is the Policy of most Arab and Persian Countries that there can be no peace until Israel is destroyed. With extremism like that there isn;t much room for negotiation. Just talk to any Palestinian and suggest peaceful coexistance with Israel (but be careful when you do it).

      • “Just talk to any Palestinian and suggest peaceful coexistance with Israel (but be careful when you do it).”

        There, Crackerhead, you did it. You spoke of all Palestinians as if they all are of the same mind. That’s the mindset that facilitates collective punishment and oppression.

        And, yes, I have spoken to Palestinians. I felt no need to be careful in doing so. Palestinians are people, just like the rest of us. I don’t fear them.

        As you know, I was kinder to you than my fellow writers were. I’ve given you a chance, but have concluded from your comments that there is no purpose in further dialog with you.

        • I genuinely am sorry about that, Bob.

          I suspect being shot by a Palestinian has colored my view of them. Several years back, when I was in the Army, my area of specialty was North Africa and the Middle East. I was on an exchange tour with the Israeli Army. One Sunday morning, I was sitting at an outdoor café enjoying some tea and reading one of the local Arabic newspapers when three young Palestinian men opened fire. They killed 8 and wounded 20 before they were killed. I was one of those wounded.

          I also spent a significant amount of time in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt, Sudan and Yemen. The common theme they all shared was Israel must be destroyed before the Palestinians can have a homeland. It is written into the Palestinian Charter. How can there ever be peaceful coexistence?

          • Okay, you identified what you think is coloring your view of Palestinians. It’s understandable from an emotional perspective, but not from a rational one. There are 6 million plus Palestinians, with differences among them as large as those within any group. You had a horrifying encounter with 3 of those 6 million, or .00005 percent of them, and you admit to generalizing that experience. From all appearances, you’ve let the emotional part of you dominate the rational part of you, and it’s impairing your ability to be objective.

            You may want to research what you’ve said about the Palestinian Charter. I don’t believe it’s as clear cut as you maintain.

            Regarding the statements you’ve made about your time in Arab countries, it seems that you’re taking your generalization of Palestinians and expanded it to all Arabs, a population that is well into the 9 figures, I think.

          • You are correct; it is not rational to paint all Palestinians with the same brush. I have just never met any that were not firebrands seeking the destruction of Israel. I also realize that there have been several open ended efforts at modifying the Palestinian Charter to eliminate the references to Israel as an “illegal state” and calling for its destruction. None of them have been successfully completed but they have been attempted.

            As to the other Arab Nations I was assigned to, I was there either as an exchange officer or as an Embassy Officer. I usually only dealt with the policy makers and higher ups in the government and the military. Whenever the subject of Israel came up – which was often because they wanted to lecture me about the American support of Israel – they told me there could be no real peace in the Middle East until Israel was destroyed. Again, it is not rational to think that all Arabs think that way, but I never met one who didn’t. Nor did I ever read anything that contradicted that attitude.

            Now, all of this was 20 years ago and things could have changed, but I don’t see anything that indicates it has. If anything, with Iran developing nuclear weapons, it is more unstable than ever. I am not an Israel advocate, but as a military man, I have an admiration for an army that has overcome and sustained against such overwhelming odds. And I know that when Israel is finally pushed against the sea because of nukes from Iran, they will use their many nukes and go out in blaze.

  4. “…it is difficult to understand how otherwise reasonable, fair-minded people can continue to support and justify Israel’s aggression against this helpless group of human beings.”

    “Helpless”?!! In the last two weeks, they have launched a daily average of 180 rockets into Israel.

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