Israeli artillery flares illuminate a neighbourhood in the Palestinian town of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on January 10, 2009 as seen from the Israeli side of the border with Gaza.
March 31, 2009
The atrocious war that the State of Israel launched on Gaza (December 2008-January 2009) is just the latest incarnation of the Jewish-colonial settler project in Palestine. It also goes without saying that this project has been always animated by and interwoven with cultural practices and representations. "Cultures," as Thomas eloquently states, "are not simply ideologies that mask, or rationalize forms of oppression that are external to them; they also expressive and constitutive of colonial relationships in themselves," to put it otherwise, "has always, equally importantly and deeply, been a cultural process; its discoveries and trespasses are imagined and energized through signs, metaphors and narratives; even what would seem purest moments of profit and violence have been mediated and enframed structures of meaning." Thomas’ insight attests to the even broader view of the eminent anthropologist Talal Asad regarding the relationship between colonialism and modes of colonial knowledge. The gist of this view was aptly captured by David Scott and Charles Hirschkind. "In interrogating the colonial question in anthropology," they write that the major point for Asad was not "the attitude of anthropologists toward their native informants (however reprehensible that may be) but the ideological conditions that give point and force to the theoretical apparatuses employed to describe and objectify them and their worlds." Or, to put it otherwise, what matters most for Asad, as Scott and Hirschkind put it, is "the conceptual structure of the discipline and the relation of this structure to the conditions of power in which the discipline realized itself as authoritative knowledge…"
Along these lines, I would like to point out the following highly important and largely underemphasized development pertaining to recent Israeli wars, manifested mostly in the latest War on Gaza. These wars have been incorporated into and set in motion through the global cultural wars paradigm, better known as the 'clash of civilizations’ (henceforth, CoC). This development carries deep material implications due to its distinctive representation of Israel’s enemies. The latter is presented as an exceptional and utterly unique threat and therefore requires the deployment of exceptional force and techniques. More specifically, this representation resulted so far in two major consequences. First, it seems as apiriori authorizing and justifying virtually any level and type of cruelty Israel deploys and might deploy in the future against allegedly exceptional enemies it fights, as the War on Gaza vividly illustrated. Second, it untangles the entire 'Question of Palestine,’ from its colonial context. That is to say, the CoC paradigm, at least in its Israeli idiom, metamorphosizes the Palestinian struggle from an anti-colonial and anti-racist one into yet another facet of supposedly broader cultural war between 'Islam’ and the 'West’ or (Islamic) 'terror’ and the 'free world.’
What makes Israeli’s discourse of CoC even more discussion-worthy is the fact that Israel, especially since September 11, 2001, has conceived itself and has been conceived by many policy makers, think tanks, terror experts and media commentators in the world as the exemplar in fighting 'Islamic terrorism.’ The fact that this development enables and is enabled by the rehabilitation of an empire, emboldened orientalism, reinvigoration of racism, changing patterns of immigration, and the attacks against what is called 'multiculturalism’ in key European nations makes its consideration all the more important. Given such importance, it is unfortunate that, to the best of my knowledge, there is not even a single piece of research that has seriously examined the Israeli discourse on the CoC. Particularly, what elements does this discourse include and foreground and what does it exclude and backward? What are the broader ontological and epistemological foundations underpinning it? What are the major features of the social context and power configuration in which it unfolds? Finally, what are the ramifications of this discourse when adopted as a guiding principle for foreign as well domestic policies, especially in multi-cultural and multi-racial nations?
In this essay, I take an initial step in this enterprise. Specifically, I provide general outlines of the 'Israelization’ of the CoC and, highlighting its terribly crude nature, explain the sources of its increasing appeal in leading European nations and discuss how all this is changing official European position on the question of Palestine/ Israel. Finally, I bring into sharp focus the colonial context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine of which Israeli public discourse on CoC tries to gloss over.
Israelizing the CoC
The well known Anglo-Saxon Orientalist, Bernard Lewis, was the first to invoke the paradigm to best describe the relationship between the 'West’ and 'Islam in the Cold Warera. Yet, this paradigm was immeasurably popularized by Samuel Huntington, the late Harvard political scientist, in his now (in)famous treatise of the same title, The Clash of Civilizations. The bedrock of Huntington’s CoC is simple (or rather simplistic). "In the post-Cold War world the most important distinctions among peoples," Huntington tells us, "are not ideological, political, or economic. They are cultural." That is to say, cultural differences will eclipse ideological divides as the primary source conflicts with global consequences. Or simply, "the clash of ideologies will give way to a clash of civilizations—and between "the West and the Rest" in particular." Hence, according to Huntington, cultural wars will be the trademark of the 21st century. However, following the September 11 attacks, the CoC paradigm has become virtually synonymous with a supposedly global confrontation between the West and its archetypical enemy—Islam. More bluntly, "September 11, 2001 further consolidated an understanding of the world drawing sharp oppositions between 'us’ and 'them,’ and positing Islam as the "new enemy for a new world order."
Since its first publication in 1993, Huntington’s paradigm of global cultural wars has received enormous attention not only in the United States but also in Europe and Israel. In the latter, the CoC paradigm was received with great enthusiasm and without the slightest skepticism. Furthermore, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 it has been deployed by Israeli politicians, military officers, media pundits, and to a lesser extent, by academics as a serious descriptive and analytical tool in general and assumed to explain virtually any encounter between Israel and its 'enemies’ in particular. Against this backdrop, rewording Tomoko Masuzawa out of context, "we can say everybody in Israel today, in effect, seems to know… what CoC means, more or less, that is to say, generally, vaguely."
Consider, for example, Benny Morris, a historian at Ben Gurion University. According to him, "the war between civilizations is the main characteristic of the 21st century. . .[and]Bush is wrong when he denies the very existence of that war." Yossi Peled—Major General, former head of the IDF's Northern Command and a newly elected Knesset Member (following the Israeli parliamentary elections on February 10th, 2009), echoed this position by maintaining: "Ever since the attack on the Twin Towers, I have lived with the sense that we are at the beginning of a war of cultures." Likewise, it goes without saying that Israel conceives itself unmistakably as a part of Huntington’s West. Indeed, according to Oren Nahari, editor of the foreign news desk on Israeli public TV (Channel 1), Israel is, "the 'wall,’ the 'messenger’ of 'Western Civilization’ in the Middle East." Similarly, Benny Morris reiterates: "we are on the front line [of the clash of civilizations]. . . We are an extension of the West in the Middle East, which is also how Herzl saw the future Jewish state, and so we are the object of a large part of Islamic attack." This (un)civilizational thinking, as I referred earlier, was unleashed in latest Israeli War on Gaza. The proclamation of the then Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni following a meeting with France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy on January 1, 2009 is exemplary. In this proclamation Livni asserted that War on Gaza, "is not the Israeli problem but in a way Israel is in the frontline of the free world and being attacked because it represents the values of the free world, including France." In other words, Israel, we are told, not only had been "attacked" and therefore had been "forced" to respond with massive cruelty. Most importantly, it was attacked due to what it is and not what it does. In the same spirit, Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the third largest political party in Israeli Knesset—Yisrael Beiteinu and designated Foreign Minister, suggested in an interview with Haaretz newspaper that Israel should "explai[n] to the West that we are its frontline. That if we fall, God forbid[s], the West will fall too." Finally, Ben Dror Yemini, a leading columnist in the second most circulated newspaper in Israel—Maariv, contended that Israel should intensify its hasbara (a Hebrew word that literally means explanation or explication, though in Israeli current usage it basically means propaganda) to the world by highlighting the following: "The confrontation in the Gaza Strip is not between Hamas and Israel, but rather between al-Qa’ida, Iran and radical Islam, and the free world."
What is thedividing line between the above two allegedly opposing worlds? According to the leading political commentator of Haaretznewspaper—Yoel Markus, the dividing line is terribly simple: "Jewish tradition sanctifies life, whereas our adversaries belong to a society that sanctifies death and suicide…" Haifa University historian and Head of the Herzel Institute for the Research and Study of Zionism—Yoav Gelber, shares wholeheartedly Markus’ view. He maintains that the CoC generally and the Palestinian-Arab conflict in particular can be, at root, attributed to the unbridgeable difference between: "a culture that sanctifies life and a culture that encourages suicide and fosters martyrs…between a culture that examines exceptions and a culture that glorifies the murderers of children as freedom fighters." Against this background, Benny Morris thus tells us that the current global CoC is not only a matter of bin Laden and al-Qa’ida, but a more all-encompassing Armageddon: "This is a struggle against a whole world that espouses different values."
The above mindset is, obviously, animated by and predicated on racializing Muslims in general and the Palestinians in particular. In the case of the latter such operation,
"creates a specter of a people, desperate and beyond negotiation, inflamed by political and/or religious extremism, indifferent to human life including their own (a very important comin representations of the 'war on terror'), willing and able to employ the young, the old, women and children in 'battle' (in an echo other imperial encounters with guerrilla resistance), motivated by mythical and/or religious goals and thus beyond reason or limit in their ."
In other words, the violence of 'our’ enemies, as the Israeli narrative goes, emanates from their exceptionalist culture and religion and therefore negotiation with them is an absurdity. Furthermore, this type of enemy constitutes not only a concrete, immediate and monumental life-threatening danger. 'Our’ civilization and values are under attack by their barbarity. Therefore, we, Israelis and Westerners, secular and reasonable (and excuse the redundancy), are all in a state of utmost exception, and incomparable measures should be deployed to defend our lives and way of life. In this order of things,
"Israel teaches occupying forces to view themselves as the embattled party under attack, forced to respond with excessive : due to facing an irrational enemy that seeks 'our’ annihilation; part of a moral crusade to defend 'our’ values and way of life; and in to beat back a new global threat ('Islamic fascism’). . . [This enemy] any kind of in response. There is no limit to what can be done to fend off creatures…"
This way of thinking, obviously, underwrites assertions such as Benny Morris’ that "[t]he Americans may have been wrong to invade Iraq, and we may have been wrong to go to war with Lebanon. All this pales into insignificance when we look at the huge struggle between the crazy radicalism that wants to control the world and the West that must protect itself." In other words, hundreds of thousands of people who were murdered or maimed with the most sophisticated military machines on the planet, in addition to the tens of thousands of those who were abducted, tortured and raped pales into insignificance in the minds of Morris and his ilk. This is, of course, not to mention the massive forced uprooting, destruction of civilian infrastructures, personal properties and the sources of livelihood that these wars had occasioned.
Still there is more in Morris’ 'civilizational’ toolbox. In the context of monumental, one may even say metaphysical, clash between cultures, Morris wears the hat of a psychiatrist and offers the following diagnosis of the Palestinian people and society: "At the moment, that society is in the state of being a serial killer. It is a very sick society." He also benignly concerns himself with the need to "heal" future generations of Palestinians. "Maybe over the years," he muses, "the establishment of a Palestinian state will help in the healing process…In the meantime, until the medicine is found," he prescribes the following 'course of treatment’: "they have to be contained so that they will not succeed in murdering us." When his interviewer pressed him to explain if this means, "To fence them in? To place them under closure?" His answer was positive: "Something like a cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another."
However, in reality Morris is breaking through an open door. His recommendations are already being implemented "on the ground," particularly in everything concerning the death camp called Gaza. More pointedly, Israel’s continuous siege and throttle policy against Gaza and its people, writes the geographer Oren Yicogently, is in actuality a part of a broader strategy of,
"…political geography of mass incarceration increasingly evident in Israel/Palestine. Under this regime large populations are locked into specific areas against their will, and often against international law, and are then subject to the mercy of their wardens. As the [Israeli] leaders’ statements [during the War on Gaza] show, it seeks to lock them in the tiny strip and punish them with enormous force. At the same time Israel is further institutionalizing the geography of incarceration… Typically, when the conditions of imprisonment become unbearable a rebellion erupts, and is suppressed by violent collective punishment, which in turn sets the conditions for the next uprising."
Moreover, Morris’s beast thinking, was echoed even more vehemently by Eli Yishai (Israel's Deputy Prime Minister) during latest Israeli War on Gaza: "We have a great opportunity now in Gaza to smash and flatten them… we should destroy thousand of houses, tunnels and industries, and kill as many terrorists as possible…"
This way of thinking (and behaving) obviously cannot be sustained without, to use words of Edward Said slightly out of context, "[wi]thout a well-organized sense these people over [there] not like "us" and [don’t] appre"our" values—the very core of traditional Orientalist dogma.. [that] spirits away… suffering in all its density and pain…" Or, in the words of Tamas Pataki, "the terrifying unconcern for the lives and livelihood of [those on the 'other side’] would seem inexplicable without reference to an underlying racist (and race-related) contempt."
Finally, this mindset is shared and propagated by many Zionist neoconservatives in Europe and North America. Take for example the answer of the British actress, Maureen Lipman, to a question posed to her in an interview with the BBC Radio on July 13, 2006, whether the Israeli onslaughts against the Palestinians in the south and the Lebanese in the north were not somewhat disproportional to the attacks of Hizbullah and Hamas respectively. Lipman’s answer was: "'s proportion got to do with it? It's about proportion is it? Human life is not cheap to the Israelis. human life on the other side is quite cheap actually because strap bombs to people and send them to blow themselves up." Asad, after quoting Lipman, comments a characteristically illuminating way, "What Lipman meant by speaking of human life was, of course, not human but Jewish life. Indeed, it was not only that human life "on other side"—that is, Arab life—was quite cheap but precisely because it was cheap that it could be so treated by the Israeli army." Likewise, it should not come as a major surprise that amongst the leading voices in the United States and Canada who "openly, publicly, and with detailed analysis supported, endorsed, rationalized, theorized and sought to legalize the systematic torturing of people…" as part of the 'war on terror’ are the Zionists Alan Dershowitz and Michael Ignatieff. Systematic torture is considered by them "'the lesser evil’…their civilization, they argued, was in danger, and they had to defend it against barbarians."
Clash of Civilizations, Europe and Palestine/ Israel
Israeli public discourse on the CoC and its racialization of the Palestinians seem to fall on open ears in key European nations. However, this is not due to its intellectual rigor or exceptional explanatory power. Rather, this discourse is alluring due to its convergence with very particular foreign as well as domestic agendas that enjoy a vogue since September 11, 2001. Pertaining to foreign policies,
The "rehabilitation of empire includes acceptance of Israel's terms of reference
—yes, what we do is very regrettable, but it is the least bad . The 'war on terror' resurrects imperial ambition as a regrettable necessary ideological project and this cultural and political shift key western nations serves to further consolidate support for and Israeli accounts of the necessity of violent occupation."
Israeli public discourse on the CoC likewise is equally alluring when it comes to the domestic issue of (Muslim) minorities’ status and demands in leading European countries. England under Tony Blair’s government is a case in point. The latter’s "of the 'war on terror' and its terms," writes ,
"signaled a shift away from previous attempts to accommodate minority cultures. Now, we are pressed to believe, the is up. Multiculturalism has not worked and, in fact, could never . Instead we must learn the ugly lesson that 'our' culture and their 'culture' are absolutely incompatible - our ways of life cannot be reconand, more than this, the presence of this alien other is a direct to our own survival…is this account of the impossibility of coexistence—because of 'us', but due to the murderous nature of 'them'—that echoes and Israel's portrayal of the Palestinians…[More specifically], [a]particular representation of the Palestinian struggle to transform political conflict into impassable cultural conflict, a matter of 'race', not politics. At the point when western nations as Britain are learning to erase the idea of racism by suggesting that problem is really integration—meaning that minorities must learn to get along, accept the will of the majority and not annoy or people - Israel offers a model for transforming the justified of the racialized other into evidence that this otherness is , impassable and can only be contained and disciplined in the of the enlightened western state and its (full) citizens.
Moreover, this mode of thinking seems not only to validate Israeli claims regarding the Palestinians but the Israeli discourse on Muslims minorities in Europe as well. In Israeli mainstream discourse, Europe is conceived as particularly vulnerable to the 'Islamic threat’ (in Israel, Europe and are most often invoked as interchangeable terms; yet, again, the focus is on Europe). The Israelis, as self-appointed guardians of Western civilization, seem to believe that it is on themto remind Europe of the nature of the Islamic threat she faces. This task has become particularly urgent, according to Benny Morris, due to the "Muslim penetration into the West and their settlement there [which] is creating a dangerous internal threat." threat, Morris further 'illuminates,’ mirrors the challenge encountered by "the Roman Empire of the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries. . .[In both cases] [t]hey let the barbarians in and they toppled the empire from within."
Another example in this regard is the historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and former Advisor on Arab Affairs for the Israeli government—Moshe Sharon.In his tellingly titled essay ", Beware!—Muslim Europe in the Making" Sharon proclaims,
"Modern Muslim activists detected that Europe after World War II, began to show signs of old age frailty and weakness, and the mighty West in general proved to be surprisingly vulnerable. Islam emerged as a strong power waiting to be used. . . They soon discovered the ease with which they can use the European democratic system, the liberal ideologies, leftist intellectuals, the media, and even the governments, to achieve their objectives."
Finally, Sharon’s colleague at the Hebrew University—Raphael Israeli, joins the chorus and further 'illuminates’ on the Muslims' perniciousaims and methods in Europe: "[T]hey [Muslims] use Western vocabulary (freedom, tolerance, democracy, human rights, etc.) to impress upon their [European] hosts that while they wish to play by the rules of their adoptive countries…" Muslims’ ultimate goal was and still, according to Israeli, is "to dominate through victory and enslavement of the others when the [raphic] so ."
Moreover, cardinal to the behavior of Muslims generally and their inherent (innate?) hostility towards non-Muslims in particular, we are told, is Islamic division of the world into the 'realm of Islam’ (dar al-Islam) and the 'realm of war’ (dar al-harb), with the governing principle of Jihad. Sharon again:
"Dar al-Harb – 'the Land of War’ – [is] the term always used by the Muslims for all the territories not yet under Islamic rule. Legally speaking, it defines the relations between the Lands of Islam and the lands of the infidels. . .[that means]. .. all those who are not Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians. They are, therefore, regarded to be, both theoretically and actually, in a state of war with the Muslims. This war does not have to be declared, since in Muslim view, it is the only possible state of affairs between the two parties,"
According to Sharon, therefore, Muslims have no choice butto live in a permanent state of hostility and warfare with non-Muslims: "is part of the divine plan," he laments. "Allah made it incumbent on the Muslims, the Community of the Faithful, to subjugate the whole world and bring it under the rule of Allah. . ."Sharon then reminds his readers: "should be noted again that Islam is a warring religion. . . The Muslims left their mark on world history first and foremost in this military capacity. They can do the same in this age, changing strategy and tactics, but remaining on the same course."
Putting paramount ill-will, bad motives and racist or quasi-racist statements aside, a sophomoric knowledge suffices to demonstrate that Israeli discourse on Islam is predicated on a series of assumptions that cannot stand up to even the minimal scrutiny of social science analysis. Prime among these assumptions is the privileging, or granting of apriori superiority to religionover any other dimensions in Muslims’ identity formations, such as class, gender, national belonging, language and politics. Furthermore, Islam as presented in Israeli public discourse remarkably resembles a computer program with the Qura’n and the hadiths (the oral teachings of the prophet Muhammad) are its operating codes. Accordingly, deciphering these codes is enough to know who is a Muslim and what the latter should (or should not) do. The broader epistemology underlying this way of seeing things is, to quote Peter Worsley in another context, that "ideas can be isolated in some pure, original, embryonic, or archetypal form…; thereafter, they are seen as being [simply] 'taken up'…[and] 'translated' into action…" Yet, as Worsley himself recalled more than four decades ago:
'the effective impact of a message by no means simply depends upon the internal of its intellectual structure or the coherence of its argument. depends quite as crucially upon the skill and force with which is communicated, the authority of the communicating agent, its to the wants of what Selznick calls 'constituencies',… in brief, the power of an ideology has as much to do with its social as it has to the 'pure' appeal of a set of ideas."
In other words, major 'global’ developments and transformations provided Israeli discourse on CoC is alluring quality. One of the major results of these transformations is a major shift in the official European position regarding the issue of Palestine/Israel in recent years. The current position is "gravitating closer to a US-Israeli framing of a war on terror, a 'clash of civilizations,’ with a subtext of concern about the rise of Islam." In truth, it is difficult today to identify substantial differences between the American-Israeli stance and that of the Europeans in everything concerning the Palestinian question. European governments, for instance, supported (and continues to support) the terrible siege on Gaza, provided justification, if only indirectly, for the latest Israeli War on Gaza in its unqualified acceptance of the Israeli narrative that this war was a defensive war and Israel has the right to defend itself, accepted the American-Israeli conceptualization that the fundamental problem in Gaza is not the mass imprisonment and the attempt to break the political will of the Palestinian people in order to accept Israeli colonial dictates but "smuggling weapons", and finally major European nations enlisted their massive naval power not to, heaven forbid, impose sanctions on the occupying forces, which were engaged in wholesale killing and imposing a siege on 1.5 million people, but to end this smuggling.
Put it otherwise, the massive show of support for Israel by the BritishPrime MinisterGordon Brown, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Czech Prime MinisterMirek Topolבnek, manifested in their (in)famous meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem on January 18, 2009 in spite of the massive killings and iconic destruction in Gaza, cannot be disconnected, I would argue, from the whole issue of CoC and the 'Islamic threat’ in and to Europe. Likewise, this meeting indicates that European support for the Palestinians is increasingly predicated on, "shallower emotional and humanitarian grounds… helping people survive, hoping economic improvement is enough, and forgetting the old issues of substance, and Israeli occupation" More broadly, what is gradually disappearing not only from Israeli and American discourses on "terrorism" and cultural wars but also from the European’s is the now "outdated" concepts of colonialism and colonial occupations.
Israeli Colonial Occupation of Palestine
Any serious examination of contemporary reality in Palestine/Israel in general and the most recent Israeli War on Gaza in particular, is merely impossible without placing them within their appropriate context: colonialism. By doing so, we can already recall that Israeli 'political geography of mass incarceration,’ most vividly illustrated in the terrible siege on Gaza.
"…is not a new phenomenon: European colonialism widely used mass incarceration of indigenous groups, condensing them in reserves and Bantustans, to enable Whites to freely exploit land, minerals and labor. Today too, racist governments attempt to deal with the existence of 'unwanted populations' by applying methods of spatial containment and violent 'punishment,’ as evident in the cases of Chechnya, Kosovo, Kashmir, Darfur and Tamil Elam in Sri Lanka. The key to this spreading political order is the prevention of the rebelling region from gaining state sovereignty, leaving it 'neither in nor out’ of the state’s control system. As a non-state entity, resistance of the jailed to colonial power is often criminalized, leading the state’s righteous claim that it has 'no choice' but to further oppress the anti-colonial struggle."
Furthermore, maintains Yiftaheal aptly,
"Gaza is a severe case, but it’s not unique. Since its establishment, Israel's ethnocratic regime has worked incessantly to Judaize the country by confiscating Palestinian lands, constructing hundreds of Jewish settlements and restricting the Palestinians to small enclaves. This began with the military government inside the Green Line until 1966, and the establishment of a 'fenced area' for the Bedouins in the south, which operates until today. Since the 1990s, the ghettoisation of Palestinians continued with the marking of areas A-B-C in the occupied territories, with the advent of closures and checkpoints, and finally with the construction of 'the wall’—all helping to fragment Palestine to dozens of isolated enclaves. The long-term geographical impact of the Judaization policy has been dramatic—the Palestinians in Israel, for example, constitute 18% of the population, but control less than three percent of the land. In the entire area between Jordan [River] and [the Mediterranean] Sea, the Palestinians constitute just under 50%, but control only 13% of the land."
Colonialism, viewed from the vantage point of those who are forced to live under their yoke, is not therefore "insignificant" (in Morris’ words) or an "exception" (in Gilber’s usage). It is rather a comprehensive and systematic destruction of any sense of normal life. Going one step further, one can argue that occupations are set in motion through "epistemic rationalization and political administration of death." In other words, following Michel Foucault, we could say that if the main object of (bio)power is life, then colonialism can best conceptualized as (thanato)power, or power of which the main object is death. Examining the relationship between (bio)power and (thanato)power from the perspective of the colonized, the Palestinian sociologist Honaida Ghanim, clarifies:
"From the viewpoint of power's victims, the moment that power is directed to destroying, eliminating and dismantling their group, the decision about their life becomes a decision about their death. In other , this is the moment when (bio)power is transformed into (thanato)power. In this sense, thanatopower is not an independent or form of power, but is always already a supplement of biopower, which is called to action at those delicate moments of passage from callife to calculating death, from managing life to managing death, from the politicization of life to the politicization of death. At this of transformation from the bio to the thanato, the old archeform of power to 'make die and let live' reappears under the new form of' giving death and bargaining living', best reflected in our times the new form of military occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, the colonial occupation of Palestine…"
To put it otherwise, the colonies were and still are, as the case of Gaza painfully attests to, the 'laboratories’ where virtually limitless and unrestrained violence is deployed, where the exception is the rule, hierarchy between 'higher races," and 'lesser people’ (read native) is presupposed and 'naturalized.’ "such, the colonies," writes Achille Mbembe, "are the zone where the violence of the state of exception is deemed to operate in the service of "civilization." That is to say,
"colonies might be ruled over in absolute lawlessness stems from the racial denial of any common bond between the conqueror and the native. In the eyes of the conqueror, savage life is just another form of animal life…The savages are, as it were, "natural" human beings who lack the specifically human character, the specifically human reality, "so that when European men massacred them they somehow were not aware that they had committed murder."
Following closely the Israeli responses to the War on Gaza, as mainly manifested in the mass media, one cannot escape the impression that for the majority of Israeli generals, commentators and politicians, rewording Achille Mbembe, the Palestinian savages are, as it were, "natural" human beings who lack the specifically human character, the specifically human reality, "so that when Israeli officers and soldiers massacred them they somehow were not aware that they had committed murder." Or, "[t]he slain children and the bodies rotting under the ruins [in Gaza], the wounded who bleed to death because our soldiers shoot at the ambulance crews, the little girls whose legs were amputated due to horrible wounds caused by various types of weaponry, the devastated fathers shedding bitter tears, the residential neighborhoods that have been obliterated, the terrible burns caused by white phosphorus, and the mini-transfer - the tens of thousands of people who have been expelled from their homes, and are still being expelled at this very minute, ordered to cram into a built-up area that is constantly growing smaller and is also under sentence of incessant bombing and shelling," had been presented by Israeli officials in an Orwellian tactic par excellence as eventually will strengthen the "peace process." If we return to Benny Morris and his European and American like-minded colleagues they probably will advise us to see these atrocities as necessary, though regrettable, collateral damage and reasonable price for humanizing the barbarians and defending Western civilization in the age of global cultural wars.
Dr. Issam Aburaya, a Palestinian citizen
of Israel, is an Associate
Professor of religious studies at Seton
in the US.