Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The State and the Stateless

The anonymous psychoanalyst blogger at puts forward this analogy by Robert J. Lewis to illuminate the Palestinian/Israeli relation:

Let us hypothesize a small man, weighing 150 pounds, who is unarmed. Facing him is an Arnold Schwarzenegger type, 250 pounds of sinew and muscle, who also has a machine gun slung over his broad shoulders. Since the two don’t like each other, you would expect the smaller man, as an act of self-preservation, to act in such a way so as not to rile the bigger man. But instead, throwing caution and IQ to the wind, the little man begins throwing rocks -- some of which are sharp enough to lacerate -- at the bigger man. He repeats the rock throwing the next day and then the next, seemingly intent on making a rite of a wrong. A neutral observer would conclude that only someone intellectually deficient would expect his bigger and more heavily armed adversary, now bleeding, to do nothing indefinitely, that at some point the big man is going to say enough is enough and pick up the little guy and hurt him bad, which is what he is doing now, in Gaza – without apology.

Though his commentary following (which I highly recommend, by the way) is insightful and bears accurately on the genocidal fantasy of Jewish extermination incited in all Arab cultures, it leaves out of account something Hannah Arendt developed in her post-war reflections on the twentieth century disasters of Stalinism and Nazism.

These totalitarian regimes hit on a technique reminiscent of a good chess move--i.e., one that accomplishes both an offensive and a defensive objective. The bi-focal and multi-functional move made by the Russians and the Germans in the 1930's was to create a class of "stateless peoples", undesirables, who were made culpable for the suffering of the true volk (and whatever the Russian equivalent was)--Jews primarily, but also Gypsies and Slavs. These people were driven out, propertyless and without rights, and most importantly, without citizenship. They were essentially made non-persons, since a human being before the awful edifice of the modern fascist state is nothing more than his legal status, as defined by the state. Thus, the home country was rid of "useless mouths" and putative troublemakers, and at the same time made to be the enemy's problem by their sheer numbers. Thousands--even millions--of such stateless people wandered across the borders of eastern and western Europe during the '30's, causing hardship and suffering at both the individual scale as well as the national and political scales of the countries, nominally Christian, forced to deal with unwanted refugees. The doubling of the effect was diabolical, emotionally and psychologically crushing these unwanted people while at the same time inflaming the local populations to acts of hatred and violence against the hapless intruders.

And it is this technique--if it were a chess move it would gloriously bear someone's name-which has been learned to great effect by the Islamists across the Middle East, who, following the example of their fascist teachers, have made of the Palestinians stateless people. If there were truly a Pan-Arabism afoot, or anything like an Arab brotherhood, wouldn't you think their Palestinian brothers--who are full-fledged Arabs after all--would find a home in Jordon, or Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Syria, the Arab country without either excessive oil wealth or exceedingly generous Western (read American) subsidy. Why has not a single Arab nation come to the rescue of the Palestinians, to help build an actual nation--the sine qua non for the chimerical "two state solution"? No, what has been going on, and what continues under the tutelage and tyranny of Hamas and Iran, is the stateless persons move perfected in the 1930's.

And the inarguable logic in it is this: when something is working for you, you stick with it.

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