Sociocide, Palestine and Israel

By Johan Galtung

Testimony for Russell Tribunal on Palestine – New York City, 7 Oct 2012

Honorable Members of the Jury!

Sociocide is a new concept that has not found its place in positive international law. But Genocide, the unspeakable crime of massive killing of members of a genus, a nation, for no other reason than membership, has. And Ecocide, the unspeakable crime of killing Mother Earth who nourishes us all, is finding its place via the constitutions of some countries in Latin America.

Sociocide, the killing of a society’s capacity to survive and to reproduce itself, should become equally and prominently a crime against humanity. A society is a self-reproducing social system. So are human beings, with our basic needs for survival, wellness, identity, freedom. Society is also an organism, with a lifespan far beyond that of individuals. For humans to survive as humans their basic needs have to be met. For that to happen the society has to survive. For the society to survive the basic social prerequisites must be met:

* for security, against violence, killing, wounding the members;

* for economic sustainability, against their starvation, illness;

* for identity culturally, a meaning with life, against alienation;

* for autonomy politically, to be a master of their own house.

As society unfolds so do humans, and vice versa. Life breeds life.

This also holds for nomadic societies based on hunter-gatherers. Monasteries are incapable of self-reproduction biologically when based on one gender, but are highly viable societies based on recruitment.

Under modernity, identity is carried by the nation, with four characteristics: an idiom, a religion – world view, a history – of the past, present and future–and geographical attachment. Time, Space, with the means to communicate and something to believe is crucial.

Under modernity the state is the key executor of all the above.

Sociocide is the intended wounding-killing of a society by eliminating the prerequisites for a live, vibrant, dynamic society.

Sociocide molests the human members. In the longer run, lethally. Sociocide is what Western, and not only Western, colonialism has done for centuries, denying others their autonomy, imposing their own identity–language and world-view–moving others out of their own historical dialectic and into history as Western periphery, denying them the land they are attached to with their hearts and minds.

And their bodies for security and sustenance, for food, water, health. Israel is a part of that Western tradition, with one exception: the Jewish past, hidden in the fog of myths. But some past it was, and on those lands. So I myself have been and am a supporter of a state with Jewish characteristics, not a Jewish state for Jews only, within 1967 borders; having argued so strongly in Arab countries. However, I believe neither in a one-state nor in a two-state, but in a six-state solution: a community modeled on the 1958 European Community; Israel with the five Arab border states: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine fully recognized according to international law.

But Israeli politics has been and remains in the tradition of Western settler colonialism, bringing in more settlers, deepening the colonialism. So let us bring in the criteria of sociocide.

Security. The Palestinians are denied the right to have a military; any effort to defend themselves against occupation is to Israel a casus belli. Moreover, to Israel, nonviolence as an alternative approach to Palestinian security is met with military means, as a war. And the task of the Palestinian police is to protect Israeli settlers against Palestinians, not to protect Palestinians.

Sustenance. Depriving Palestinians of enormous swaths of land through the nakba, erasing and confiscating Palestinian villages, denying them the good soil, the water, with no end in sight.

Idiom, world-view. By and large is left untouched, but is asymmetric: Arabs have to learn Hebrew, not vice versa; no respect for Islam.

Time. Absolutely crucial. Public reference to the nakba becoming illegal, Palestinians are deprived of a major part of their past; with no monuments and none of their symbols in public space. The present is an unending harassment that impairs coherent life. And still worse: futurelessness through massive uncertainty. Israel never declares where those recognized and secured borders are located (Nile to the Euphrates?); being unpredictable, the future shrinks to survival.

Space. Sacred space, our land, not soil as resource, also shrinks below a minimum and makes Palestinians strangers in their own lands.

State. Denial; there exists only a weak “Palestinian Authority” with no “final state”. Instead of that there is exploitation of Palestinians, efforts to colonize their minds as second class citizens, Israelis using Palestinians only for the most menial tasks, fragmenting them territorially inside-outside Israel, promoting divisions between the West Bank and Gaza, inside the West Bank, and also by the Wall. Palestinians are in general marginalized.

Is Palestine the victim of sociocide by Israel? Indeed!

Security, sustenance, time, space, state, idiom, worldview, not five out of seven. Not dead, but badly wounded. No healing in sight.

Gaza is alive; but armed attacks against Israel however understandable are counterproductive. Nonviolence conveys the future one wants to see, with care, given the Israeli response. Use bi- and multilateral diplomacy, increasing international legitimacy of a Palestinian state, promoting the nation through UNESCO, and the state through the UN.

But above all working for a positive vision of the future. A live Palestinian state with all prerequisites met is indispensable. But so is an image of a community with Israel, now autistic and possibly in a process of socio-suicide, increasingly isolated. With equitable cooperation, mutual empathy and traumas cleared, in the South African way.

The USA and Israel were born in the same way, as God’s chosen people with promised lands, using sociocide and genocide (the USA). With no policy change they may also decline and fall in the same way. Even so soon.

Originally published here.

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