“You have to die, so that I can live.”

Last night, I watched a rather depressing documentary on SBS called The Anatomy of Evil. It was about people who perpetrate genocide. I’ve been morbidly fascinated with this question for a while now, as I’ve explained in an earlier post. I’ve never quite been able to fathom how people could shoot/gas/blow up an innocent civilian.

This documentary consisted mainly of interviews with former members of the Einsatzgruppen and Serb paramilitaries, each of whom conducted ethnic cleansing of villages by lining up people and shooting them at point blank range. Some interviewees were unrepentant, and said they’d “do it again if it was necessary”. Some still regarded the people whom they had shot as sub-human. A few regretted their actions and felt less than human.

The director, Ove Nyholm, concludes that the trigger which compels ordinary people to behave like this is anxiety and fear of a threat. In such circumstances, people put aside normal feelings and become ruthless. This is a survival mechanism, and can actually be a positive thing. People can survive in terrible circumstances through sheer willpower. But in the scenario where a group of people who live alongside you are identified as the threat, there is a risk that you will become ruthless towards those people and cease to see them as human. Add to that a wartime context where violence and killing is condoned and people are forced to follow orders, and the results can be deadly. And there’s the notion of retaliating for past wrongs. One of the most unpleasant interviewees featured in the documentary cited the fact that his family had been driven from Kosovo by Albanians in the past, and that he felt satisfied and a sense of righteous revenge when killing villagers and burning down their houses. Another interviewee said that he became a member of the paramilitary group after his own parents had been brutally killed.

It occurred to me too that this analysis can also help explain other wars and ethnic and religious conflicts which do not involve genocide as such, but where innocent civilians are killed.

Take, for example, terrorist attacks. The way in which terrorists become galvanised to kill innocent people is by considering wrongs done to their own people, and desiring to take revenge. I recall that during the Israeli incursion into Lebanon, someone forwarded a Powerpoint slide of dead Lebanese civilians, including a young boy. The purpose was obviously to provoke outrage against Israel. If I was a radical Hezbollah supporter, I am sure that such pictures would be used to whip me into a state of righteous indignation and revenge. And I am sure that an Israeli defending the incursion into Lebanon would ask me to consider Israeli civilians injured or killed by Hezbollah rockets, or Hezbollah terrorist bombs. They might also point to the suffering of Jewish people in the past in Europe as a reason as to why Israeli territory should be staunchly defended. Personally, I consider the loss of life on both sides to be tragic. Neither side can be said to be blameless, but by the same token, the natural human propensity for revenge makes the outraged response of each side understandable. This is why I am so reluctant to “take sides” in discussions on the Middle East, although I am a firm believer that the State of Israel has a right to exist in its original boundaries.

Conflict is fuelled by the notion that the other group represents a threat to the way of life or security of the group. Sometimes, as in Israel, Northern Ireland or Cyprus there are settlers and occupying forces. Sometimes there are competing claims to the same piece of land, or the same holy site (as with some mosques which are targeted by Hindu militants in India). Sometimes the particular ethnic group wants to be separate from the rest of the country, as with Basques in Spain, Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and elsewhere and Tamils in Sri Lanka, because they feel that their way of life and culture is not adequately represented by the government of the particular country of which they are a part. Sometimes, the victimised group is a minority who have been made a scapegoat for a nation’s ills (as with Jews and Gypsies in Nazi Germany, who were targeted because they were different).

When terrorist attacks are mounted, there are retaliatory attacks, often by armed forces. So the US felt justified in attacking Afghanistan because its innocent citizens had been killed by a terrorist plot which had been planned from Afghan territory. One can understand this. The perpetrators had been sheltered by the Taliban regime. But the problem with attacking terrorist or guerilla groups with military force is that they tend to blend back into the normal population, so when you attack them, there is a risk of killing and wounding innocent civilians, which further fuels the fires of righteous outrage.

I don’t know what the answer to all this is, I just know that we should be wary of those trying to whip up moral outrage, whatever side they are on. Take the Cronulla riots in Sydney. Those organising the rally whipped up moral outrage against young men of Middle Eastern background who had been harrassing beachgoers. Yes, it’s true, harrassing innocent people at the beach is a bad thing. As a result of the rally/riot, several people “of Middle Eastern appearance” were beaten and attacked. Bashing people who happen to look like they come from the Middle East is also a bad thing. Then young men in Lakemba whipped up moral outrage to fuel a retaliatory attack. Attacking the houses and cars of people in Maroubra is another bad thing. The thing is that it’s all bad, and it’s mostly innocent people on both sides who suffer.

Perhaps it’s just instinctive that the “ruthless” switch is tripped when we feel that our safety, territory or way of life is under threat. Perhaps we need to recognise that it’s all just part of the way we’re hardwired. Of course one is outraged by injustice suffered by one’s family, friends or compatriots. How much worse would it be if someone in your family or friendship group is killed by a particular group? I’m not sure how I would cope in those circumstances. As Nyholm said in the documentary, he had to acknowledge that he had doubt as to how he would behave. I don’t know either. I’ve never known how I would behave if I were in the Milgram experiment, although I hope that I’m ornery enough to disobey orders. I do hope that if my “ruthlessness” switch was tripped, I would be able to recover my reason and morality. As one of the interviewees said, the scary thing is not that man becomes a beast, but how long he remains a beast.

Perhaps we need to consider that old piece of Klingon wisdom: “Revenge is a dish best served cold”. (Seriously, its first recorded use in that form is in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan…the things you learn from Wikipedia!) When our moral outrage switch is tripped, perhaps we need to be aware that our “ruthlessness” switch may also be switched on at the same time, and guard against taking out our anger against anyone who is or may be associated with the group who is said to be morally outrageous. It is difficult to look into the heart of human darkness, but I am glad that I had the courage to watch this documentary.

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19 Comments

Filed under Cronulla riots, good and evil, human rights, Iraq, middle east, morality, Political, politics, psychology, religion, terrorism, tolerance, torture, Uncategorized, USA, war

19 responses to ““You have to die, so that I can live.”

  1. Forget the Klingon recommendation. On revenge:Marcus Aurelius in Meditations (Book 6, Item 5) said something translated into the following (pick your favorite)
    * Failure to imitate is the best revenge
    * The best kind of revenge is, not to become like unto them
    * The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrong doer.

    There was also the story of a Jew in a concentration camp, who gave thanks to god every day, because his god had not made him like the guards.

  2. Thanks for a good piece of thinking on a very difficult subject.

    “If I was a radical Hezbollah supporter” Surely anyone can be influenced to feel the moral “hatred” against those who would kill innocent civilians.

    Like your trip switch analogy.

  3. LDU

    First, you’re an eloquent writer.

    Second…

    “They might also point to the suffering of Jewish people in the past in Europe as a reason as to why Israeli territory should be staunchly defended”

    I’m not sure whether you’ve come across it, but in his book, The Holocaust Industry, Norman Finkelstein puts forth a good argument against this claim.

    “although I am a firm believer that the State of Israel has a right to exist in its original boundaries”

    And where do you suggest people living in those boundaries prior to their occupation move to? Or should they just succumb?

    Morals…

    I think the moral stance of an occupied people is always superior to that of the occupier.

    I remember when members of Australian Jewry were sanctified on our TV programs when their role in the bombing of Lebanese villages were made public. I also remember when some Australian Lebanese went to Lebanon to help their family against the bullets being fired by Australian Jews, they were immediately labelled as members of a terrorist organisation.

    The loyalty of Australian Jews in the Israeli army is never questioned. When an Australian Arab happens to be affiliated with any resistance organisation (in no way affecting or delivering harm to Australia) they’re immediately bough under the spotlight and columns would be written about their un-Australianness and expelling them from Australia.

    In my view, acts of terror have to be viewed in perspective.

    I’d like to read, if you don’t mind, your opinion on the following:

    i) Should Iraqi and Afghan citizens who aren’t happy with coalition forces occupying their territory be classified as terrorists if they physically express their discontent?

    ii) Should Palestinians be classified as terrorists if they target Israeli interests in a struggle for their peoples emancipation?

    iii) Do you believe in making a distinction between legitimate acts of resistance and terrorism?

  4. When it come to dealing with terrorists the choice is simple, submit to their demands or kill them, if they demands are entirely beyond the pale (like accept Islam or die) then the act of killing them is no expression of evil at all it is an act of self defence.

    When it comes to the state of Israel the real problem is at which point do you say that an act of conquest legitimises a claim to a piece of land. The Islamic claim to the Levant is based upon their conquest in the first millennium but the Jewish claim to the land pre-dates that by perhaps two millennia.
    I have always maintained the view that If you accept that Islamic conquest legitimises the Palestinians claims to that land then you have to accept that the modern Israeli control of the land is likewise legitimate, on the borders they control NOW.

  5. Hmmm. Do get hold of these two books: Amin Maalouf On Identity and Jonathan Glover, Humanity: a moral history of the 2oth century.

    Great post, LE.

  6. After reading this article,I want to go out to see the movie with my boy firend.
    Goodbye and Good Luck.

  7. LDU

    Iain,

    You have to compare an apple with an apple. The issue at hand is modern history, not ancient.

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  9. LDU the ethical conundrum that I am talking about is not at all negated by considering precursors to the present situation spanning three thousand years.l just want you to consider the question it’s self, at what point does a conquerors claim to territory become entirely legitimised in your eyes? is it 1000 years? Five hundred ? One hundred ? Fifty? As I see it if you accept that any conquers claim can be valid then you have to accept that any who displaces them by force of arms has an equally valid claim to the territory under contention.
    Please explain why this should not be so.
    🙂

  10. LDU, I understand that the Palestinean people have a legitimate grievance, just as the Cypriots who were ousted from their homes have a legitimate grievance.

    But what is a fair response? More than 50 years have gone by since the State of Israel was formed. Do you just shift out everyone who lives there, including those Jewish Israelis who were born there and regard Israel as their home? Many Jewish people who live in Israel would not leave unless you physically forced them to move or killed them. Do you physically force them or kill them? In my mind, Israel’s response to the Palestinian issue would be to recognise that people had been wronged in the first place, and to make reparation. I believe that there have been some efforts towards this, but a major sticking point has always been who gets Jerusalem.

    Some Israelis might argue that the Arab States and Palestinian paramilitaries started the problem by refusing to accept the UN’s initial partition (which gave Palestinians their own territory), and invading Israel in 1948. I don’t think it’s relevant whose “fault” it was. What has happened has happened. Regardless of who caused it, the fact is that people were forced off their land (or fled) and cannot now return. I think it’s time to move on from blame and fault.

    Taking Iain’s point further, let’s think of an analogy close to home. One could extend your argument to say all settler Australians should vacate Australia because the land was wrongfully taken from indigenous people. There is no doubt that the land was taken by force in many circumstances, and indigenous people were killed, died of disease or were horribly dispossessed from lands on which their forebears had lived not just for hundreds of years, but for millenia. So, by that logic, indigenous people could argue that they had a right to forcibly remove us from their land – we are recent interlopers. However, most don’t argue that, for a variety of reasons.

    Perhaps I am an idealist, but I think that reconciliation is the answer, rather than either side taking further retaliatory action. As an outsider, I can see that each act of retaliation just makes the problem worse rather than fixing it. Reconciliation is a difficult thing . It means seeing one’s deadly opponents as real human beings with families and the same concerns as anyone else. It means forgiving people for wrongs which may have been committed against your group in the past. It also means sharing access to resources, to land and to holy sites. I can see that there are some would never want to share, and I don’t know what the answer is to that. What’s that saying? “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

    As for the question of whether people should rebel with force against an occupying army: that is an extremely difficult question. I recognise, of course, that there are some times when it is legitimate to use force.

    My problem is when innocent civilians are routinely and deliberately targeted, rather than the occupying army. I can understand it if an Iraqi guerilla shoots at an American solider because he is unhappy with the state of his country. The solider and the guerilla have made a choice to become involved in conflict, and that’s a risk they both have chosen to take.

    But what about a bomber who deliberately kills scores of Iraqi children by detonating a bomb in the vicinity of a US soldier who is handing lollies out to those children? That, to my mind, is terrorism as opposed to legitimate rebellion. Terrorism is the deliberate targeting of innocent people who have not chosen to become involved in the conflict (except by their unfortunate proximity to the act of terrorism or their citizenship of a particular country). Such attacks like some of the ones in destroy the fabric of one’s own people: far more Muslims than non-Muslims are killed terrorist attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such attacks also make the occupying army start to distrust ordinary civilians – if an ordinary civilian is likely to blow you up, the solider is less likely to give a person who shouts “I’m innocent!” a second chance.

    What if the army accidentally drops a bomb on the wrong village and kills a school full of innocent children? That is not terrorism, that is just a horrible, awful mistake, because it was an accident. Conversely, what if an army deliberately targets civilians in order to break down morale of those whom they are fighting? The latter is terrorism to my mind.

    In so saying, I recognise that the line is difficult to draw. What if you were a guerilla who could assassinate a fascist dictator by detonating a bomb when the dictator was visiting a home for orphans? What if a resistance fighter/terrorist is at home with his children, and the army could kill him if they also slaughter the children? I don’t know the answer to these questions.

    I knew I’d open a can of worms by raising the Israel-Palestine issue, and by stating my own support of the right of the state of Israel to exist (it was legally and properly created by the UN, after all). I also believe that a state of Palestine should exist, just as was envisaged in the initial partition by the UN, and that the area in Jerusalem should be internationally controlled (as a world heritage site and holy site for many religions). But sadly, I think any solution imposed would create unhappiness and resentment, and each side would feel hard done by.

    I welcome any comments on my views.

  11. LDU

    Iain,

    “what point does a conquerors claim to territory become entirely legitimised in your eyes?”

    Putting the conquest into perspective (how was the world during the incident) i’d suggest a reasonable amount of time depending on each particular situation.

    With the Zionist conquest of Palestine, 60 years doesn’t make it in my opinion.

    Legal Eagle,

    In regards to Cyprus, I support the returning of land occupied by the Turks. And the thousands of people who were driven out during the invasion have a right to return. The Turkish Cypriots who were born on occupied land can either go back to Turkey or live under the rule of non Turkish Cypriots.

    Back to Israel…You don’t shift the Israelis out. You put forth two options:

    i) As you say, they should accept the initial wrong was committed by Zionists and European Jewry against Palestinians.

    ii) Once this wrong has been accepted, they can either live under Palestinian rule with the return of all Palestinian refugees from neighbouring countries and or their descendants; if any Israeli isn’t happy with the return of the Palestinians, then they should move elsewhere. The United States and UK should compensate individuals who decide to leave.

    “…Arab States and Palestinian paramilitaries started the problem by refusing to accept the UN’s initial partition ”

    Were the Palestinians supposed to compromise their territory in the face of foreign invasion to appease their invaders?

    I don’t think you can compare the colonisation of Australia with that of Palestine. They are of two very different time periods. Belonging to different worlds with different trends. If Australia were to be founded in 1948 the would be different.

    Reconciliation is good. A good starting point would be the ceasing of any settlement activity and their dismantling by the Zionist regime. No more confiscation of Palestinian property. No more house demolitions. The retrials of all Palestinians held in Israeli dungeons. No more annexation of east Jerusalem. Removal of the wall. No more collective punishment. Removal of all check points. Withdrawal of the army from all territories and free movement to all Palestinians. The current Israeli government along with the US and UK should compensate all Palestinian families from the occupied territory and Palestinians returning from exile. They should also concentrate on Palestinian education and health care. Then, new elections should be held, and there should be an equal participation of Jewish and Arab candidates reflecting the new population.

    Whoever at this point in time is the governing party may propose for a name change for the state. I’d be positive the Kassam rockets would stop firing too.

    “But what about a bomber who deliberately kills scores of Iraqi children by detonating a bomb in the vicinity of a US soldier who is handing lollies out to those children?”

    A bomber who does that has no excuse. That would not constitute resistance.

    I’m not sure whether you keep up with news from Iraq but there have been incidents when coalition forces were responsible for such attack.

    Last year two British soldiers disguising themselves as Iraqis by wearing the keffiyeh and robes were detained in Iraq after they detonated a bomb in a civillian area for no apparent reason. The British army forcefully broke into an Iraqi police office and removed these two soldiers. They didn’t face any tribunal for planting a bomb in a civillian area and the whole even was hushed up overnight.

    Now, I’m not sure how many other incidents similar to the above are perpetuated by coalition forces. Incidents that don’t make it to the news.

  12. LDU
    Putting the conquest into perspective (how was the world during the incident) i’d suggest a reasonable amount of time depending on each particular situation.
    This piece of gobldy gook means precisely nothing and if anything it is just an attempt to sidestep the issue.
    Why is sixty years in sufficient? surely that is three generations at least, will seventy years be enough ? or eighty? come on don’t be shy and please explain what factors put it into “perspective”.
    But the fact that you don’t deny my suggestion ownership by conquest is valid in all cases means that your seeking to refuse to accept the Israeli claim to the land of their forefathers has a darker more sinister reason.
    😉

  13. LDU

    Firstly Israel is a recent creation; 1948 isn’t long ago. No other country, in recent history and within the same time period, has become a country through the brutal process the Zionists used to force Israel down our throats. The closes would be India-Pakistan and the partition of India and Pakistan doesn’t even compare because this partition involved one people.

    Second, Israels creation is unique due to the fact that you have a completely foreign race (European Jewry) being planted amidst another local race. Again, this hasn’t happened in a long time.

    Third, another 150 years should pass for Israel to enhance its claim to the land.

    “But the fact that you don’t deny my suggestion ownership by conquest is valid in all cases means that your seeking to refuse to accept the Israeli claim to the land of their forefathers has a darker more sinister reason.”

    Dark and more sinister reason my rear end.

    The world doesn’t function according to the promises God made to Moses. If it does, then God also said he’ll expell them from the land if they disobey him and he’ll ban them from trying to repossess it.

    To say that it’s the land of their forefathers (because God gave it to them) is to also say that the same God took it away from them and they no longer have claim to it.

  14. LDU, you say: Were the Palestinians supposed to compromise their territory in the face of foreign invasion to appease their invaders?

    This is where we fundamentally differ. If the UN partitions territory over which two different groups have a claim, and gives a portion to each group, in my opinion, neither group is an “invader”. The history shows that both groups had been promised that they would get the land, and it was an attempt to satisfy both groups. So the Israelis were not invaders, they have been legally granted the initial piece of land by the UN. One can query whether the UN made the right decision or not, but in my opinion, it’s a bit like domestic property law – the starting point is that once title is registered it is valid.

    If you think about it in a domestic property law context, even if the initial claim were not valid, 60 years would be more than enough to adversely possess land – the usual amount of time is 15 or 20 years. I’m a property lawyer in real life, I can’t help thinking like one.

    I think a “mixed” state would be a disaster – unfortunately, after the events of the last 60 years, I very much doubt the two groups could live together happily. If one group outnumbered the other in a representative parliament, they would oppress the other and make them into second class citizens (whether the majority were Jewish or Palestinian). Then we’re back to square one.

    My solution is the “King Solomon” solution: each party loses some of its land, each party gains some, and neither gets the disputed territory of Jerusalem which has caused so much trouble.

    However, LDU, I don’t think we’ll ever agree on this. But what my post is asking you to do is to open your mind, and consider that the other side may have a valid argument. I would say the same to a pro-Israeli who wished to deny the claims of Palestinians.

    Another point: I don’t see why Australia and Israel are not comparable – 200 years is still a very short time, particularly if the indigenous population have lived there for at least 20,000 years previously, if not 80,000! Why is the historical context different? I would say that was an obligation for colonisers to recognise the claims for the indigenous population over property, and indeed, international law at the time of settlement of Australia said as much. There were three different ways of claiming territory, being conquest, cession and occupation, and only the third did not require the coloniser to compensate or recognise claims of the colonised, because it was presumed that the land was empty (as you will see if you read paragraph [33] in Mabo).

    The problem with Australia was that the indigenous system of ownership was so different to what they knew that they thought indigenous people didn’t own property at all…and they thought the land was empty so they didn’t bother to compensate them or consider their claims. Then 200 years later, we finally realised that was wrong in Mabo. And three cheers for that!

    Finally, if a soldier deliberately targets civilians who are unarmed and uninvolved in conflict, he or she is a terrorist. That is not legitimate either. So if any soliders in Iraq did that, I would say that he or she should be gaoled, just as a terrorist would be. I don’t care what side you’re on, I just care about the fact that you deliberately target civilians.

  15. LDU

    Legal Eagle,

    I don’t see myself as not having an open mind. I was an ardent supporter of Israel right until my second year of uni.

    The way I see it, the situation isn’t all too complex. Palestinians had always been on the land, European Jewry started ariving in small numbers in late 1800s/early 1900s. This still wasn’t a problem and there is footage and many accounts proving that there wasn’t much hostility between Arabs and Jews. There are Jewish organisations which will confirm this.

    The problem begins when European Jewry arrives in their masses (their connection to the land is solely spiritual, as European Jews were largely descendants of European converts to Judaism.) This would be a cause of concern to any people, not only Arabs.

    The Palestinians didn’t manage Auschwitz and didn’t have any role in the persecution of European Jews. Yet they had to pay for it and 6 million Palestinians are still stateless today.

    I do believe that Jews should have a state of their own. Germany should’ve given them Bavaria.

  16. The problem begins when European Jewry arrives in their masses (their connection to the land is solely spiritual, as European Jews were largely descendants of European converts to Judaism.) This would be a cause of concern to any people, not only Arabs.
    Where on earth did you get this nonsense? the reason that the Jewish people retained a distinctive culture was because they did not tend to intermarry with Gentiles and those who did usually had to denounce their faith to do so. I think that you could count the number of people who “converted ” to Judaism before the most modern era with just a few fingers.!!!!
    The history of the Jews is one of retaining their culture in the face of great prejudice and discrimination ever since the Romans expelled them from their homeland in the first century AD.and ever since that time they have longed for a return to their homeland, hence the saying”next year in Jerusalem ”
    The Palestinians are the descendants of the Islamic invaders and they have not “always been there at all” and in fact if they belong anywhere they belong in Jordan .

  17. I think there was also some suggestion that they should get part of Africa, but the problem was that this was not the land from which they had been evicted by the Romans, and not the land with which they had a religious connection. The same could be said of Bavaria – and then you get radical Bavarian Neo-Nazis trying to get them out of there, saying it was their land…just transplanting the problem to another land?

    Of course the Jewish population intermingled with the natives – there’s a reason why some German Jews have blue eyes and blonde hair, but most Ethopian Jews look African. I once met an Indian Jew who looked Indian (they are a very small minority in India). However, there are some genetic markers which show that most of the Jews stem from the same group of people. It is true that some of the Russian Jews are descended (in whole or in part) from converts, and it’s a bit of a vexed issue – I have heard an ultra-radical Jew say that Russian Jews are not “real Jews” because of this. (He said this at a lunch where there were no less than three Jews with wholly or partly Russian forebears at the table…pleasant guy, huh?)

    If a militant Jew came on this blog and said, “No Palestinians should be allowed back to Israel ever, they are all just terrorists with no rights who should be pushed off the land”, I’d ask them how they’d feel if the Palestinians succeeded in pushing them off the land, and they were still alive 50 years later. Would they feel aggrieved? Would they still feel they had a claim to that land? I’m sure that they would. Would they want to use force to get the land back? I suspect that they would – look at the reaction of Jewish settlers who were pushed off their settlements by the Israeli government. There are bad people on both sides who would kill innocents to get their land back, and use any means necessary to effect that. Take the assassination of the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, which I believe was not only an act of terrorism, but also made peace so much harder to achieve. Incidentally, I do strongly believe that the settlement of Palestinian territories by small groups of Jewish settlers is wrong, and such settlements should be removed…they are not entitled to that land. I don’t care what the Torah says or what the prophecies are – the question is what land was validly granted by the UN.

    I know it’s not an easy issue, and there are no easy solutions. All I want is for people to put aside the emotive stuff, and to try to put to the back of their mind the wrongs done to their own people, and to calmly consider the position of the other side. That way, perhaps some reconciliation or peace can be reached.

  18. LDU

    Rattled your cage did I Iain? There are no Palestinians? Pfffft…Palestinians have their own distinct culture, including food, dance, music, dialect and don’t mirror any other Arab culture. To deny their existence is beyond me.

    Legal Eagle, there was also suggestions of giving the Jews the Kimberley region of Western Australia. This plan was know as The Kimberley Plan.

    As you mentioned we can go back and forth forever. I’ll conclude by saying that apartheid-like regimes and rules always fall. The French’s fourth republic in Algeria, British India, South Africa and even in America where black people won their right to drink from any fountain and ride any bus.

    I don’t think historical trends will spare Israel.

  19. I’ve heard pro-Israelis try to argue that the Palestinians are not a people who are entitled to the area, in that they are later Islamic invaders, and relative latecomers to the area, and pro-Palestians try to argue that Jews are not a people who are entitled to the area, because they are descended from the original Jews who were expelled.

    Neither argument impresses me much: the important thing is that the two groups believe that they have legitimate competing claims, and quibbling over whether each group “really” is legitimate gets us nowhere.

    On the one hand, I can understand why the Israelis would want to control the access of Palestinians to their territory (because of terrorist bombing of civilians). That being said, I saw an interesting Palestinian movie about the indignities of the check points, and the injustices caused by it. If I had to go through that every day, I might hate Israelis too. To make a wall and to limit the travel of Palestinians might save Israelis from being bombed by suicide bombers, but it also increases the resentment, poverty and difficulties suffered by the Palestinian people. In the long run, both suicide bombing and the partitioning just actually exacerbate the problem.

    But how to get people to behave civilly (no bombings, no apartheid, no army incursions?) I don’t know. It has the flavour of a horrible ongoing cycle.

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