on the Martin Kramer genocide charge:
The question about Kramer’s insane burblings is not whether use of the word “genocide” is analytically appropriate to describe what has been going on in Palestine for the last 60+ years. The question is if Kramer’s argument met the legal definition of genocide, a different matter. Here’s why. “Genocide scholars” and international lawyers have been scurrying around the library and poring through their law books and social-science textbooks for decades trying to muster up a coherent understanding of genocide. For now, we use the 1948 Convention, and Electronic Intifada referred to it (I assume) because it has cachet in academic and legal liberal circles, where unearthing instances of “genocide” is very important business, especially when they’re committed by enemy states or Africans. They isolate “Genocide” as a unique evil, because of its tacit referent: the Holocaust, when a state consciously chose to destroy (several) others. Nazism and the Holocaust occupy a special place in our moral imaginary, and leaving aside the instrumentalization of the phenomenon and these events, referring to them, and deploying the concept “genocide” is meant to provoke a very specific reaction and a very specific judgment: here is one more apologist for Israeli atrocity who has crossed the line by advocating genocide, and should be censured. Cool with me. We should keep pushing back the line of what the academy will tolerate or let pass without criticism or rebuke.
On “genocide” more generally, here are the lines directly in front of what EI quoted: “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.” Quickly looking over this definition—international lawyers and genocide scholars have refined it endlessly—the problems are obvious. No one is dumb enough to declare “intent” anymore, and what could “causing serious…mental harm” with the “intent to destroy…a national [etc.] group” possibly mean? No matter the protestations of people working on creating a usable definition, defining genocide tends to founder on its legal incoherence.
But even that is a false issue. Elevating “genocide” is a direct result of elevating the Holocaust and placing Nazi evil and Jewish suffering on a pedestal. It counter-poses Nazi evil with justified acts like terror-bombing Tokyo or incinerating Hiroshima, not to “destroy…a national…group,” but to win a war or intimidate the Soviets, respectively, or in the case of the mass murder of the American Indians, to clear the frontier and create a country.
In this construction, the lunatics are those who kill to destroy an ethnic group. To reach some reasonable goal by utterly insane means is fine. That this ideology has the effect of sanitizing American and, arguably, Israeli mayhem is another part of it. At the end of the day, genocide is a way of labeling mass-death with a word that evokes Auschwitz, and is an exercise in demonization rather than analysis or conceptualization. This is a problem insofar as it demonizes Nazis, rather than placing their crimes on a human spectrum of atrocity, that our own crimes may and have approached, even if bereft of certain particularly disgusting features of Nazi industrial massacre. Still, I don’t find the word very helpful. It’s descriptive and evocative rather than analytical. But insofar as using what Anees calls a “strong word” to rouse the emotions of people who will respond to it, in this case, let’s use what we have.