Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

A Call for Genocide?

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” – Dante

I’ve tried many times to write about why I refuse to take what some of my American friends believe is a more “neutral,” or non-objective stance when it comes to Israel and Palestine, but each time I find myself frustrated by the options, and end up deleting the post. As you may or may not know, I subscribe to the theory that a bi-national (one-state) solution with complete and total equality for Israeli Jews and Palestinians is the right answer. I also write often from a very non-objective stance, because yes, I have a strong agenda: equality and human rights. And yes, I know and believe that Hamas has done some horrible things too (derivative of the situation that has existed in Gaza for over 60 years), and no, I won’t answer the “why do you care so much about Palestine/Arabs?” question because I think it’s stupid.

Here’s one of the many reasons I refuse to take a neutral stance: At the Herzliya Conference, Harvard Weatherhead Center Fellow Martin Kramer made a speech, later followed by a blog post, that referred to Gaza’s young male population as “superfluous young men.” You can view the video in its entirety there, but here’s the most important quote:

Aging populations reject radical agendas, and the Middle East is no different. Now eventually, this will happen among the Palestinians too, but it will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. Those subsidies are one reason why, in the ten years from 1997 to 2007, Gaza’s population grew by an astonishing 40 percent. At that rate, Gaza’s population will double by 2030, to three million. Israel’s present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim—undermine the Hamas regime—but if they also break Gaza’s runaway population growth—and there is some evidence that they have—that might begin to crack the culture of martyrdom which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men. That is rising to the real challenge of radical indoctrination, and treating it at its root.

It sounds like Martin Kramer, who refers to himself as an “authority on the Middle East,” just called for genocide against the Palestinian people. The international definition of genocide is as follows:

It defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” by (bold is mine):

* Killing members of the group.
* Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
* Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
* Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
* Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

From where I’m standing it appears that Martin Kramer quite clearly supported verbally, and possibly called for, imposing measures intended to prevent Palestinian births, in an effort to slow the Palestinian population’s rapid growth and thus prevent more “superfluous young men” from turning to extremism. Also known as incitement to genocide.

I’m not the first to say so – Ali Abunimah did here (as did the site he co-founded, Electronic Intifada), Media Matters’ MJ Rosenberg blogged it here, and Philip Weiss here. Of course, Kramer is aware of that, but rather than address the issues, he chooses to smear all of the aforementioned commentators as “people who daily call for Israel to be wiped off the map of the Middle East,” which could not be farther from the truth (I’m not entirely sure about Rosenberg, but Abunimah and Weiss are both supporters of a bi-national state in which Israeli Jews and Palestinians would both live equally–a main tenet of modern, secular, anti-Zionism efforts).

This is why I’m so frustrated. I honest-to-God simply do not understand how anyone–anyone–regardless of identity or belief, regardless of whether or not they support one state or two states, and regardless of whether or not they believe Israel is divinely the land of the Jews can believe that advocating against births within an ethnic community is okay. It baffles me.

So try, whomever you are reading this, for a moment, to simply forget everything else and answer this one question: Is calling for sanctions and diminishing birth rates amongst a single ethnic population supporting genocide?

If so, then please don’t remain silent.

20 Comments

  1. Most definitely, Kramer is calling for genocide. From the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948. http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html

    ‘Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’

    The following acts shall be punishable:

    * (a) Genocide;
    * (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
    * (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
    * (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
    * (e) Complicity in genocide.

    The Convention calls for punishment of ‘persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.’

    The US ratified the Convention in 1950 – Kramer should be prosecuted.

  2. Agree completely. This guy Kramer is deranged. Shame on Harvard for permitting his bigoted and racist spewage.

  3. and have you noticed that he does not enable comments on his blog? he’s a coward too.

  4. Look, I think his comments were repulsive -but they do not fit the legal definition of a genocide

    It’s not enough to “impose measures intended to prevent births within a group” – if it were a lot of family planning programs would be legally considered genocidal -the measures must be prevented “to destroy, in whole or in part” the Palestinians – basically we’re talking about forced sterilization programs here. His comments were tasteless but cheering for reduced Palestinian population growth does not meet the legal definition of genocide

    • So then you disagree with the legal definition of genocide?

      Forced sterilization programs are not the only means of curbing birth rates; limiting access to food and health care (which Kramer appears to commend as a policy toward Gaza having the ‘benefit’ of reducing birth rates) counts too.

      I think the problem here is our inability to look at the definition of genocide in favor of thinking only in terms of Genocide with a capital G. Just like “terrorist,” the word is highly politicized – was the Armenian genocide a Genocide or not? The simple answer is that policies toward the Armenian people were genocidal. It does not matter whether or not it rivals another genocide. For that matter, Berlusconi’s policies toward the Roma border on the genocidal, just like Kramer’s calls for reduced Palestinian birthrates by certain measures do.

      I’m not remotely advocating for Kramer to be indicted, but for Harvard to take notice of the behavior of one of their Fellows and consider removing him from the academic community, which he does not appear to benefit.

    • RalphThat is precisely what I am siynag, no states where religion is established. not one. Most of the Negev was gained in the Six days war. Yes, the northern part of Israel, but what was ceded back to Egypt was not. Despite the fact that there is nearly as many arabs as Jews in Israel, if you look at the Israeli Parliament you will no doubt notice there is not a parity in representatives. No member of the Israeli Cabinet has been Arab. That is Apartheid.All of the Apartheid moves in the West Bank were legally voted by the Israeli Parliament. The Arabs in Israel do not see a big difference between living in Israel, in the Gaza, or in the West Bank. Yes the legal rights of those is Israel are more nuanced. The legal rights of Arabs in the West Bank are almost non existent. Their homes can be expropriated at any time, their movement is heavily restricted, and they can be help indefinitely without a formal charge. That’s Apartheid. The struggle here is between a population that mostly emigrated from Europe and Russia and Arabs who have lived continuously in the region for two thousand years. The locals did not decide to create the Israel State (or for that matter most of the Arab countries), Europe did. Therein lies the problem for both Arabs and Jews. Trying to live in a coloring book whose lines were drawn by Europe.

  5. but you see, from the prespective of kramer and such whch are the majority of israeli jews (and if it matters, I’m considered one of them) talking about an Israel as something different than “jewish state” is the same as “calling to earase Israel of the map”.

    other than that – I, like aslak abouve me am not sure if kramers calling can be defined as a calling for genoside. nor do I think it matters – it is horrifying either way.

    • ugh. sorry about the typos

    • but you see, from the prespective of kramer and such whch are the majority of israeli jews (and if it matters, I’m considered one of them) talking about an Israel as something different than “jewish state” is the same as “calling to earase Israel of the map”

      While I am aware of that, I think it’s highly problematic, because the rest of the non-Jewish, non-Israeli world assumes that means “wipe Israel off the map by violent measures.” Frankly, I don’t think Israelis are blind to this fact, and use it to their advantage.

  6. Jillian,
    No, I don’t disagree with the legal definition of genocide – I’m saying that I think you have misinterpreted what the legal definition is. The legal definition requires an ” intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” I’m firmly opposed to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and I think it constitutes a crime against humanity (collective punishment). However, I do not think the policy is genocidal because the intent to destroy the population is not there -what the Israelis are doing is trying to manage the conflict by turning gaza into an open-air prison -this is a crime but it is not genocide. The same can be said for Kramer’s statements -they’re vile but I do no think he has the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the population of Gaza or the Palestinian population.

    • I understand where you’re coming from, in that Kramer’s comments are not necessarily a direct call for destroying (in whole or in part) the Palestinian population, and perhaps I should have been more clear; there are people, many of whom were in attendance at the Herzliya conference, who would take Kramer’s statements as such, and have the power to do so.

      That said, Kramer appears to be cheering on the potential ‘benefit’ of curbing Palestinian population growth. His attitude and intent are, in my view, vile, and a few short steps from eugenics, even if he is never to go that far. They are dangerous views.

      I would prefer not to resort to sensationalist measures and propaganda, and hope that my post has not been interpreted as such, however, it feels necessary to take extreme measures in drawing attention to such statements, especially in a climate where Kramer is able to simply play such criticism off by pulling out the “wipe Israel off the map” card.

  7. Jillian, I agree -and obviously it is always extremely dangerous when talk about demography becomes a key element in a conflict. The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking when taken to its extreme is ethnic cleansing or genocide -that was true in Bosnia in the 90′s, Palestine in 1948, Rwanda in 94 and the Kosovo conflict. It definitely is a plausible scenario for Israel/Palestine too.

    • Thank you Aslak. My frustration lies in the lack of honest discussion around this subject–the immediate response by most is that Israel is incapable or unwilling to commit genocide because of the Holocaust, and any accusation that they could consider it is met with counter-accusations of anti-Semitism. Not only is this poor politics, it’s just wrong: Experiencing oppression has nothing to do with propensity to oppress.

  8. Absolutely – although I think ethnic cleansing is far more likely than outright genocide. “Transfer” is really just another word for ethnic cleansing after all and it is being supported openly by the Israeli far right. Also the legal discrimination faced by Arabs in East Jerusalem may not go so far as to be ethnic cleansing -but it stops just short of it -all that’s needed is one more step. In a sense the groundwork is already laid.

    • I agree that ethnic cleansing, by means of transfer, is far more likely. It doesn’t matter though – no matter which term you used, you’re shut out by the media.

  9. Without a doubt terry

  10. Kramer itself may not be blind to this fact, most of Israelis, I believe, truly are. Our regime here is a racist one and many of the racist doesn’t even realize that

  11. I do not dispute that Kramer may be calling for measures that amount to genocide.

    But he also cites 40% population growth per decade. That’s a problem which Palestine will have to take measures to solve. It is a huge growth rate, and puts enormous stress on social infrastructure of all types, from education to housing. It also tends to reduce political stability, for better or worse, and decrease the average education level of the population.

    My quick checks suggest that this 40% figure may be debatable, but there is no question that Palestine has an abnormally high birth rate. The 2007 UN census reported that population growth in Gaza was 38.5% from 1997-2007, and 30% in the Occupied Palestinian Territory overall. Average number of births per mother in Palestine is 5.6, according to a 2009 report in the Guardian.

    That’s hugely high. No developed nation has anything near this birth rate, and for good reason. It’s simply unsustainable.

    I do not support imposing population controls from the outside, or politically motivated calls for lower birth rates. But the fact remains: this is a real problem that Palestine will have to deal with sooner or later.

    – Jonathan

    References:
    UN census report: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/VDUX-822SWX?OpenDocument
    Guardian figures (unsourced): http://www.guardian.co.uk/country-profile/israel-and-the-occupied-palestinian-territories

  12. What social infrastructure and education? Most problems in Palestine can be traced back to a lack of education, a lack of civilization and extreme desperation. That includes the exceptionally high population growth, terrorism, and extremist religious views.

    Once a tolerant society, now it’s ruled by religious fanatics. Those who can, have left. They tend to be the ones who can think.

    What’s amazing is that Israeli’s can talk about this with a straight face, while claiming that the Palestinians have some sovereignty and control over their own fate. They can’t even control their food supply, and are spoon fed, literally.

    Semantics aside, the spirit of what was said is quite obvious to all who wish to read.

  13. Hi Jillian,

    Thanks for the great post! It’s a bit old now, but I just came accross a piece from Walt on Foreign Policy. Mild as you would expect but better than nothing!

    http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/02/27/kramer_versus_kramer

    Thanks again, and keep posting!

    Merouan

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