Genesis Of A People

March 25, 2021 Category: History, Religion

Appendix 3:

A Tale Of Power Asymmetry

Proponents of RZ often take their position on ostensibly humanitarian principles.  According to their own topsy-turvy narrative, the plight of (Jewish) Israelis is one of unilateral victimization at the hands of a horde of anti-Semitic, religious fanatics–a characterization that is summarily applied to ALL Palestinian goyim (read: Arab Muslims in the Levant).

This vulgar caricature is used to rationalize a program of collective punishment–that is: punishment of all Palestinians.  This is a matter of holding an entire ethnic group–including women, children, and demonstrably innocent bystanders–accountable for the iniquitous actions of a subset of their population.  In this case, the collective punishment entails:

  • The slaughter of civilians: Military strikes (bombing campaigns); as well as the piecemeal murder / imprisonment of unruly protestors
  • Theft of land: Violent eviction; and the systematic destruction of homes
  • Brutal oppression: The chronic humiliation; and programmatic deprivation of civil rights
  • Draconian laws: Restrictions on movement; and mitigated access to public goods.

The relentless oppression of Palestinians is undertaken in the name of “security” for (Jewish) Israelis; and for (Jewish) Israelis alone.  After having endured such traumas–carried out with impunity–day after day, year after year, decade after decade, resentment within the persecuted population inevitably reaches a boiling point.

Whenever a contingent of disgruntled Palestinians lashes out in desperation (attacking—and sometimes killing—a handful of Israelis), the act is accurately deemed “terrorism”; yet it is then attributed to ALL Palestinians (as if every man, woman, and child were culpable in the act).  Meanwhile, when the Israeli government slaughters THOUSANDS of Palestinian civilians (indiscriminately destroying homes, hospitals, and vital infrastructure in the process), thereby causing unspeakable suffering, death, and destitution amongst MILLIONS of people, it is deemed a perfectly-justified act of self-defense.

Thus we are asked to assess this massively-lopsided interaction, of reciprocating violence according to a double standard.  According to this (contorted) heuristic, it is only the Israelis who are the victims of “terrorism”; while what THEY are doing must be categorized according to entirely different criteria. 

It is plain to see that militancy and religious fanaticism on EITHER side of a conflict is wrong (especially insofar as it perpetuates violent aggression against innocent bystanders, irrespective of the identity of those bystanders).  However, in this scenario, it does not follow that there is parity in moral culpability.

Let’s leave aside the perfidy of collective punishment, and attend to the moral implications of power-asymmetries; coupled with disparities in moral culpability. Add to this the disproportionate response, and there is an imbalance in transgression as well.  Imagine one day coming across the following scene:

A large, muscular man is viciously beating a small, frail man.  The former has the latter pinned down, and is striking him with tremendous force…over and over and over.  

The smaller man–supine and mostly constrained–scratches in desperation at the dominant man; but to very limited avail.  As he squirms to liberate himself, he manages to land a few feeble strikes here and there–some of which draw a bit of blood.

The burly assailant has a jackboot on the smaller man’s throat as he pummels him without mercy, using much superior power.  He seems to be increasingly offended the more the other man fights back, and is irked by the scratches he has received on his ankles and forearms…even as he inflicts ever-more-severe injury on his struggling opponent.  He repeatedly yells: “Why don’t you accept a truce?” between each punch.

The smaller man is clearly determined, and very stubborn.  Writhing on the ground, he continues to franticly claw at the larger man–who apparently becomes more aggravated by each abrasion.  The more the smaller man flails, seeking to retaliate in any small way he can, the more the larger man feels justified in carrying out his ferocious onslaught.  After all, this pesky varmint IS clawing at him; so must be subdued!

Evidently, the larger man is incensed due to some grievance with his tiny antagonist.

This is not a brief encounter; it is ongoing: The weaker man continues to lash out spasmodically as the stronger man bears down systematically.  You remain in stunned silence—witnessing the protracted ordeal persist for what ends up being quite a long time.  The brutalization is clearly way out of proportion to what the larger man would require if he were merely seeking to restrain the (much smaller) man.  You stand aghast, bewildered…until, after a significant period of time, you finally opt to intercede.  

A reasonable reaction to such a (disturbing) scene would be to address the larger man.  This is for two reasons: One: The significant asymmetry in strength.  Two: The obvious disparity in damage being wrought. {A}  The onus is therefore doubly on the larger man to bring this lopsided altercation to an end.

“Please stop,” you plead.  “What in heaven’s name are you DOING?”  The larger man ignores you; so you persist by asking him why he is doing what he is doing.  His response is as follows:

“Behold the scrapes on my ankles and forearms from this man, injuries I have incurred as he continues to lash out at me.  I keep telling him that striking another person is unjust; yet he stubbornly persists in his assault on me.  By beating him so severely, I am merely protecting myself…and teaching him a lesson.”

You retort, as any reasonable person would: “He is, indeed, stubborn.  And I see that he has scratched you a bit.  But he is obviously fighting back because of the position you have put him in.  Note the repeated blows–far more severe–that he is incurring from YOU.”

The large man’s rejoinder: “I will only stop beating this man when he stops scratching at me.”  He turns back to the smaller man and, holding him down with augmented hostility, proceeds to pummel him.  The smaller man struggles in vain, barely having time to take a breath–let alone respond to this rhetorical question–before the next devastating blow lands.

Frustration mounting, the smaller man continues to flail on the ground, his meager attempts to fight back only managing to further incite his assailant.  He manages to inflict one more scratch on the larger man before incurring yet another devastating blow as reprisal.  Bones are now breaking.  It is astounding the smaller man is still conscious.  You throw your arms up in exasperation.

Question: Why is this scenario ridiculous?

Striking another person is, indeed, unjust—irrespective of who is doing the striking and who is struck.  Two wrongs don’t make a right; so the larger man is correct in this respect.  As a general rule, drawing blood as reprisal for injury has dubious moral grounding.  This holds water EVEN IF the retaliation seems to be in response to a far greater assault; and EVEN IF the lesser aggressor seems to have few other options available to him (e.g. after seeking help from the wider global community, which stands idly by). {B}

But let’s continue this parable.  Imagine that you THEN discover how the altercation began.  You find out that the larger man had arrived in town a while ago; and that he had been seizing and/or destroying most of the smaller man’s property ever since; and that—even now—he CONTINUES to do so (in between meting out routine beatings to keep the smaller man in line).  After claiming the proximal turf for himself (which, we are informed, had been the smaller man’s home going back many centuries), the smaller man confronted him; whereupon the present row ensued.

The altercation has continued ever since, without relent, in roughly this manner…even in the midst of FURTHER property theft by the larger man. {C}

The excessive use of force could not be more blatant.  So you continue to plead with the larger man: “You need to stop this.  Please.”

His response, as he persists in his assault of the smaller man is as follows: “Why are you just asking ME to stop?  What about the gashes on my ankles and forearms that I have incurred from this man?  Don’t you see what he is doing?  You should be telling HIM to cease and desist.  Then I’ll no longer have the need to pummel him.”

“But you are hurting him much more than he is hurting you,” you point out.  “He is in the less advantaged position, and is merely trying to fight you off.”  You add: “This only began when you showed up…and started stealing his land, invading his house, and persecuting his family.”

The final reply from the larger man is as follows: “The blows I strike are justified; as he is the criminal here, not I.  I am a the TRUE victim in this scenario.  After all, I am merely retaliating against his retaliation.  Yet he obstinately persists in his defiance.  What is preventing him from just giving up and leaving town?  He chooses to stand his ground, to remain in my way.  So why don’t you blame HIM for this imbroglio?  What do you have against ME?”

The absurdity here is plain to see. {D}

This predicament is actually even worse; as this parable assumes the Palestinian collective is homogenous; and thus has a shared (i.e. evenly distributed) responsibility.  In other words: Even if we were to grant—against all reason—that the large man is perfectly justified in his (rash) handling of the situation, it still assumes that collective punishment is justified.  (This basically amounts to equating all Palestinians with Hamas.)  In fact, it is only the militant Salafis who tend to engage in the meager retaliations; yet ALL Palestinians are punished for it.

All this is often accompanied by an incredulous shrug on the part of RZs: “Why on Earth do they resent us so?  What’s the heck’s their problem?  The only possible explanation is anti-Semitism.”  To be clear: When religious fanatics within the ranks of Levantine goyim (mostly Muslims) engage in collective punishment, it is equally invidious; and invidious for the exact same reasons.  But anti-Semitism amongst some fraction of Palestinians does not make ALL Palestinians guilty (let alone deserving of such tribulation).  Moreover, venality on the part of some Palestinians does not warrant the heinous treatment of the entire Palestinian population that has occurred since 1948; and especially since 1967.

In sum: Responsibility is to be placed on the much larger party, who has inflicted far more harm, who’s actions (ethnic cleansing, land theft, brutal oppression) instigated the conflict in the first place; and continues to incite resentment.

This verdict is not only due to the massive power asymmetry AND the huge disparity in harm done.  It is also due to the huge difference in moral culpability from the get-go.  Indeed, both parties are guilty of assault; yet the overwhelming preponderance of transgression is clearly on one side.  Hence it is that party to whom we must address our entreaty to cease and desist.  Moreover, it is incumbent upon that party to undertake measures in the way of restitution.

The prognosis for this hypothetical episode is a no-brainer for any sane person; so why is it so difficult for ostensibly “liberal” people who are apt to apologize for RZ to see the verdict when the same logic is applied to the present conflict in the Levant?  Factor in the iniquity of collective punishment, and the prognosis is even more obvious.  (To reiterate: Not all Palestinians are perpetrating crimes; yet virtually all are being punished.)

The explanation for such heedlessness is relatively straight-forward: Double standards are endemic to hidebound ideology.  Self-righteousness entails applying different criteria for moral judgements to others than those that one applies to oneself.  The problem is that when the logic of Exceptionalism is applied everywhere, it ends in contradiction; or simply devolves into a Kafka-esque nightmare.

{A  See my essay: “King Bibi”.  Note the Israeli Government’s conflict with Gaza in 2014, in which a few dozen Israelis (mostly military) and over 2,300 Palestinians (mostly civilians) were killed.  Preposterously, the outrage focused primarily on Gazans as the culprits.}

{B  We can disregard, for a moment, the logistical discrepancy in this metaphor: The fact that each character in this allegory represents an entire ethnic community.  It doesn’t.  It is only a small subset of the smaller man that is lashing out by clawing in desperation; while it is the sovereign government of the larger man (i.e. a nation-State) with full U.S. support, that is issuing the brutal beating.  Felicitously, the majority of the world’s Jewish people do NOT support such opprobrious policies, nor the RZ ideology underlying it.}

{C  Note on the metaphor: The larger man has selected this particular party as his antagonist not merely because he happens to BE THERE, but–more saliently–because he does not share the same ethnicity.}

{D  This metaphor could also be used to describe the Kurds vis a vis the Turkish government or the Tibetans vis a vis the Chinese government.}

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