Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Expulsion as an Option of Dominant-Minority Relations: Israel and the Occupied Territories

"Expulsion" is defined as "an effort to drive out a group that is seen as a social problem rather than attempting to resolve the problem cooperatively. This policy often arises after other methods, such as assimilation or extermination, have failed" (Parrillo, 2008, p. 137).

A good example of expulsion, in combination with extermination, occurring right now is the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territory of the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces. In the aftermath of the 2009 Gazan War (in which the death tolls were substantially higher among Palestinians), Isreal's sanctions have become even more ugly. A fairly balanced, rationale perspective from The Independent, "Leading Article: A costly misjudgement by Israel":

Confused though the picture might be, however, what has so far emerged conforms to a pattern that has become all too familiar. Confronted with a situation it saw as threatening, Israel applied massive armed force – force that would appear, at least, to have been out of all proportion to the circumstances. Acting apparently without warning, Israeli forces closed in when the boats were still in international waters, 40 miles from the coast. At that point there was no immediate threat, as most people would see it, either to Israel's blockade, or to its national security – and these are not necessarily the same thing.

Yes, it can be argued that the aid flotilla was conceived by the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) as a deliberate provocation. The presence of elderly people and at least one baby on the boats does not detract from that. And yes, it can be argued that the plan to breach Israel's sea blockade of Gaza was foolhardy. Israel insists that its blockade is designed to thwart arms shipments destined for Hamas. It was never going to stand idly by as the ships came within reach of the coast, however peaceful FGM's leaders might have professed their intentions to be.

The catastrophe and the shame is that this is not the first time such an unequal confrontation has taken place. Time and again, Israel has found itself applying military force and swiftly prevailing, only to lose whatever moral high ground it had at the outset. No one – at least no one in an internationally recognised government with the possible exception of Iran – disputes Israel's right to defend itself if its security is threatened. But since Hamas seized control of Gaza three years ago, Israel has repeatedly shown itself at its worst. It is not only the vast imbalance between Israel's professional military might and the armed fighters of Hamas. Nor is it only the suffering caused to Gaza's residents and the apparent irrationality of many aspects of the blockade – including the ban on building materials needed to repair the war damage.

Above all, it is Israel's abject failure to devise ways of defending itself other than by overwhelming military force. Faced with mass demonstrations or aid shipments that are cast by their organisers as peaceful, Israel still has no answer beyond a call to arms. It cannot, therefore, be surprised when most of the rest of the world then judges the means to be excessive and disproportionate to the ends.

As clearly stated, it is Isreal's dominant power (i.e., "gunboat diplomacy") in the form of militarisitic might that is a central variable in this violent mix. Irrespective of who fired the first shots in this latest tragedy, the ongoing imbalance in death tolls (even on ships hoping to provide humanitarian aid) demonstrates how discimination can mainfest in its most extreme forms (explusion and extermination) when power disparities widen.

As the global community continues to watch, or simply condemn Israel, the social dynamics that enable these tragedies will persist.

Academics Blogs

No comments:

Post a Comment