Victims Become the Aggressors the Process of Essay

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Victims Become the Aggressors

The process of dehumanization is one that is repeated quite often in literature. Unfortunately, if we look at the history of mankind, we find that it is part of human behavior that regularly appears -- typically as some type of process in which one group asserts their superiority, whether moral, racial, physical, or all -- over another group. This paradigm of dehumanization occurs in covert and over ways, may be focused on a group of people (religious or ethnic minority) or against behaviors that are considered anti-societal (the disabled, homeless, etc.). Looking at history, one can find numerous examples of this sort of behavior -- the "other" taken to the extreme so that individuals are identified as being inferior, incapable of actualization, or barbaric. Sometimes this is an excuse for colonialism, sometimes for war, sometimes simply to subjugate people for organizational or state interests (Keen).

What, then is it about a population of ordinary human beings; shopkeepers, butchers, professors, that can be stirred up to hate and fear, using a mixture of propaganda, rhetorical images, popular culture, and political diatribe to engender either political, physical, or psychological subjugation of another group? Bertrand Russell, in his "The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed," Chapter 5 of Unpopular Essays, notes "There's no rational reason to believe that one segment of mankind is morally superior to another. But many moralists like to think better of groups to which they do not belong, and especially oppressed groups such as 'subject nations, the poor, women and children" (Russell).

One can easily apply both of these rubrics to events within the contemporary world. How is it, for instance, that a group of people so ostracized for centuries could, within the space of fifty years, turn from the very embodiment of a displaced people -- the diaspora, to one of the more harsh, and even somewhat totalitarian, societies in the modern sphere? We are speaking, of course, of the nation of Israel, new to the world since 1948; a small parliamentary republic on the eastern short of the Mediterranean Sea who, with its 76% Jewish population, tends to oppress the Palestinian minority groups, particularly in the city of Jerusalem. That this group, so public about their mistreatment by the great European powers, particularly during the Holocaust during the reign of National Socialism in Germany, could turn the tables is quite the modern conundrum. Indeed, the vision of the Holocaust is never even allowed to cool, yet the plight of the Palestinians remains perplexing at best, egregiously unfair at worst.

Essentially, the Arab-Israeli conflict that refers to the political and cultural tensions between the Arab peoples and Jewish culture in the Middle East is not something new, but one that has existed for centuries. In fact, the argument is an historical one -- who has the "right" to the land known as Israel, Palestine, Judea, and a host of other names over the past 2,000 years? The interpretation of the "right" to the land comes down to the interpretation of the Bible or the Koran. The Jews believe that the Land of Canaan (eretz Yisreal -- or Israel) was part of the covenant from God as the promised land of the Israelites. Although displaced throughout much of the modern era by the Ottoman Empire, an 1896 manifesto called The Jewish State refers to the area as the Biblical Promised Land. This Promised Land was given by a greater authority than man, and therefore is seen as a "Jewish Homeland" (Hazony).

Central to this concept is the city of Jerusalem, capital of the Ancient Hebrew Empire, and home of a number of religious sites. However, Muslims also claim the right to the area based on their interpretation of the Koran. Contrary to the Jewish claim that the land was promised to the decedents of Abraham's younger son, Isaac, the Islamic view says that the land was promised to all of Abraham's decedents, of which Arabs also claim lineage. Muslims especially revere a number of sites in the area, particularly in Jerusalem, a city that is one of the top holy cities in the Islamic faith. Muslims believe they have a right to the area because their Holy Prophet, Muhammad, passed through Jerusalem on his first journey to heaven, claiming all the areas as Holy to the true followers of God (Lewis). That both sides have similar claims (based on their reverence for the Prophet Abraham) is astounding. Think of it -- a conflict of this duration and severity coming down to the interpretation of which of a long-dead religious philosopher's children are the true inheritors of a divine proclamation that promised a small stretch of mostly barren desert to a dually chosen people. One almost dare ask if it was the same deity giving the same stretch of land to the same people -- albeit an interpretation of who acts as tenants -- a people that occupied it in the pre-Roman era, or a people that occupied it from the Byzantine period onward?

So, what is the actual root of this conflict that would allow for such fervor? The most basic issue is an interpretation of which of the alternative religious structures forms goodness. Since both are monotheistic religions with a similar prophetic structure and hierarchy, it clearly depends on the socio-political interpretation -- who has the most influential power base and friends in the global community? Then there is the psychological factor -- guilt if you will, for the Holocaust and millions of displaced Jews, which some call the diaspora thesis (Biale Chapter 2).

The actual formation of the State of Israel was rather complex, and not within our pervue to argue here. Suffice it to say that Palestine, as a British Protectorate, became the focus of international debate and attention after World War II, particularly after the revalations during the Nurmberg Trials. Most of Palestine, including Jerusalem, then became Israel, and the process of forming a new nation occurred. There are at least three major arguments that clearly show that Israel has been far from the benign and helpless victim of international pressure, and has been more the aggressor and antagonist in the Middle East.

For instance, in 1948 Zionist activities began attacking Arab town that were considered "disputed" or border regions at least five months prior to any Arab armies arriving. The Arab military only intervened to defent the portion of Palestine with was allocated to Arab states by the United Nations. However, by the time the 20,000 Arab army arrived, Zionist forces numbering a bit over 60,000 had already occuped 1/3 of Arab land, eventually to hold one-half. Most speculate that had Arab armies not arrived when they did, all of Palestine would be Jewish territory (Covarrubias and Lannsford).

Additionally, prior to the Israeli State, Jews purchased about 7% of the land prior to 1948, the rest was owned by Palestinians documented by the British Mandate. Palestine had more than 600 villages and numerous cities with agritculture being the main source of income; particularly exporting citrisu products. The Palestinian farmers and population did not leave willingly, but were resettled, forced out of their homes, many of whom had been there for generations. In fact, over the last 5,000 years, Jews have owned major sections of Palestine for less than 10% of the time -- it just so happens that the last 50 years they have been an occupying power with more backing, ammunition, and international authrority (Chomsky).

Finally, within the geoplotical spectrum, there is a clear inequality of treatment, basci rights in land ownership, educational opportunity, basic human services (utilities, etc.), marriage and immigration issues between Palestinians living in israel, Israeli Arabs, and Jews. This is particularly true of those Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, most…[continue]


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