Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Shoah

Which is the preferred Jewish term for the holocaust, has been in my mind since "The boy in striped pijamas" has been a study material in my daughter's grade Eight English. My initial thought was that it was based on a true story of a very naive 9 year old son of a German wartime camp commandant befriending a Jewish boy, eventually both meeting a horrible fate. I saw but a few scenes of the movie when it was being watched at home, but it haunted me all the same, preventing me from a good night's sleep. This did not get better until I read some reviews of the book and movie, realizing that it was actually a plausible but possibly very unlikely fictional scenario- being a clever allegory to the naivety of the German populace to the existence of extermination camps.

I have since realized that I have never truly studied the holocaust at all, relying on what other people tell me, and whatever I learned at school on studying Anne Frank's diary. In particular, the demographic effects make a lot of sense to me now. The Jewish peoples were, pre Shoah, renowned for their reliance on diplomacy and negotiation skills to get them by. By the mere fact that the only remaining European Jews were paranoid, hawkish and primary victims of WWII atrocities, directly or indirectly. This goes some way to explaining the perceived paranoia, hawkishness and victim mentality of Israel. I don't want this to be perceived as a justification for anything immoral the Israeli forces may or may not do for whatever provocation, but a realization that it is a natural demographic consequence in general terms.


Chris Fellows said...

You should read 'White Nights' by Menachem Begin. If you read no other book this year.

Chris Fellows said...

Also, the anti-Zionism of 'The Economist' (a pox be upon its loathsome spotty behind) has poisoned your mind.

No other country has given away 'land for peace' in the same insane pollyannaish way as Israel. It is the opposite of paranoia. No other country has responded as mildly to repeated invasion and terrorist attacks. It is the opposite of hawkishness. No other country has been singled out by the 'United Nations' and 'enlightened opinion' for abuse: it is not a victim mentality if you are being victimised.

A further more significant demographic consequence is that Israel is a much more Asiatic country than it would otherwise be. The European Jews who would have settled Eretz Israel were murdered, and refugees from the Middle East and North Africa - with political and cultural ideas from a millennium of living in Dar-al-Islam- make up a larger part of the nation.

Chris Fellows said...

"I admitted that we are not all born heroes, and that a world in which everyone would be like him, that is, honest and unarmed, would be tolerable, but this is an unreal world. In the real world the armed exist, they build Auschwitz, and the honest and unarmed clear the road for them; therefore every German must answer for Auschwitz, indeed every man, and after Auschwitz it is no longer permissible to be unarmed." (Primo Levi, "The Periodic Table")

Marco said...

I would probably be starting to read it already had it been available as a download. My record on reading actual physical books has been quite pathetic lately. I have even let my online subscription to the Economist expire, as I no longer accept it as an authority on anything other than free market economic analysis. I only occasionally read the free online articles.

In regards to Zionism, it is implausible to get an impartial view in regards to the holocaust. I am still trying to get my head around the actual numbers. Separately, I am looking at the psychology of genocide, other victims in the second world war, and what history can tell us to expect in the future.

Current victimization of Israel is of a completely different scale, type and motivation than that of Nazi Germany. Especially if you look at the raw numbers of deaths comparatively between terrorism, invasion of Israeli territory, and retaliation for such, comparing the rhetoric of the leaders of Iran (eg. Destruction of Israel) with what they are actually doing (provoking retaliation), doesn't verify your "not a victim mentality if you really are being victimized" assertion.

Chris Fellows said...

No, if you are singled out in a disproprortionate way for condemnation by the international community for acts that every other nation gets a free pass for, you *are* being victimised.

Marco said...

I really don't mean to imply that Israel is not a victim now, nor am I implying that Israel plays the victim card.

I am not sure what you meant by Israel having given land for peace. A "deal" involving land for peace was a talking point in every US brokered peace talks I have ever seen. By the way you have written it, it implies they gave away the land, didn't get peace, and have not taken back land. This could be true, but it doesn't sound like an impartial look at the facts. When you say that Israel responded mildly to invasion, the invasions of Israel that I remember resulted in successful counter invasions where Israel taught its neighbors a military lesson.

In my original post I was saying that there is a perception of victim mentality, and the holocaust survivor demographic, and as you say, the Asiatic demographic give both the politics of Israel, and it's diaspora political instincts that are quite different to that of the typical, pre WWII European Jew.

Dr Clam said...

I guess I'm quite happy with the main point of your post, just reacted in Pavlovian style to a few button presses.

"By the way you have written it, it implies they gave away the land, didn't get peace, and have not taken back land. This could be true, but it doesn't sound like an impartial look at the facts."

Let me re-cap:

1979 or so, Sinai returned to Egypt; larger in area than the rest of Israel + occupied territories put together. Reward can be described as the 'coldest of cold peaces', with continuing incitement in Egyptian media and post-Mubarak destruction of embassy.

1994 onwards, withdrawal from most Palestinian population centres in West Bank and Gaza and establishment of self-government. Reward SFA.

200something, complete withdrawal from southern Lebanese territories. Reward SFA.

2005, complete removal of all Israeli settlements in Gaza. Reward SFA.

You should know all this stuff. It is as if Dr Clam lived in vain.

Marco said...

Fair enough. To me it begs the question as to why the land was Israel's to give? Although it may be normal in history for land occupied for whatever reason, despite perhaps part or all of the people living there not being citizens of the occupying country, to be considered fair ownership, there is no international law to govern that. Even Sinai was hardly Terra nullus in the way Australia was considered to have been. As far as the Lebanese territories go, Israel got rewarded no better than the Serbians got rewarded for withdrawing from Slovenia or Croatia. Also, I thought the deal was always for the Gaza strip to be considered part of Egypt, notwithstanding that Egypt neither cooperates nor trusts any of the counter parties involved including the PA.

Chris Fellows said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Fellows said...

The land was Israel's to give because it seized it in a pre-emptive war against enemies who were massing forces to kill it. The logic of "land for peace" was never "we give away something that is internationally recognised as ours in return for peace" but always "we have this by right of conquest, if you want it back, give us peace".

As far as the Lebanese territories go, Israel got rewarded no better than the Serbians got rewarded for withdrawing from Slovenia or Croatia. I don't know what you mean. There is peace between Serbia and Croatia. The border between the two is not heavily miliarised. The Croatian borderlands are not under the de facto control of a terrorist mini-state that keeps busy lobbing bombs into Serbia. Sure, Israel got rewarded no better: it got rewarded very much worse.

Egypt never annexed Gaza and never properly administered it when it was in occupation of the territory, instead using its hapless inhabitants as pawns to exacerbate the problem. I am sure Israel would be over the moon if Egypt were to reoccupy Gaza. The Israeli settlements there were unilaterally dismantled in the absence of any agreement.

I really thought you were up to speed on all of this stuff. I feel sort of crushed at the thought of all the posts that I thought at least one person got the point of, even if you didn't agree with Dr Clam's conclusions.

Marco said...

I do get the point of your posts about Israel completely.It is just against my nature to stand in judgement. Judgement implies two sides, when clearly my previous conclusions are that the simplest one can model the situation requires 3 entity interaction. Thus the judgements that Israel is a victim despite the pre-emptive nature of some of its military operations, the judgement that the UN is victimising Israel, and that there is not a state of peace between the countries etc, are not things that an impartial look at the available facts will allow me to decide. My questions were neither rhetorical, nor were they things that I had not been aware of the raw facts of, they were points that contradictory, though valid conclusions can emanate from the same set of facts, if one is only looking at two sides of a three sided dice.

Dr Clam said...

In which case, I don't get the point of your comment of 15/5/12 23:26 at all. Can you break down what your points were in simple happy language words?

Marco said...

In your comment you explained where land was given, in an overall argument that Israel was a victim, which I agree with, but I think it is entirely reasonable for the same essential facts to interpret that Israel, in an attempt not to be a victim militarily, causes collateral victims. Principally, a widespread view is that armies amassing for an invasion that never happens is a potential victimizer, while a preemptive strike and occupation of territory is an actual victimizer.

Had the holocaust not happened, my feeling is that the preemptive war resulting in the occupation of Sinai would not have happened that way.

Another way that it is looked at is the victim is the side with the higher body count, or the side with the least freedoms, or the side with the most destitute. Being ostracized by an international institution that is essentially one country one vote, but cannot actually enforce anything, is neither here nor there.

Dr Clam said...

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you.

"Had the holocaust not happened, my feeling is that the preemptive war resulting in the occupation of Sinai would not have happened that way."

Please explain. What would have been different about the strategic logic of the situation?

Marco said...

There is a continuum of possible strategies, between preemptive (aggressive, hawkish) on one side, and defensive and reactive on the other. One rule of thumb in battles is that it is easier to defend land than to conquer land. On top of that, it is easier to get international sympathy if attackers cross your border first.

The difference in the strategic logic is entirely within the instincts of the Israelis in positions of discretion. No faith was given to defensive strategies due to experiences of the survivors of the holocaust.

Dr Clam said...

Have you looked into the details? I do not think the continuum you refer to was really viable at the time. The logic of having a very small, vulnerable territory and the economic impossibility of maintaining mobilisation without action over a long term made no other course of action practical. I don't think psychology had much to do with it - and if it did, it was more sabra psychology than survivor psychology, as most of the leaders at the time were native-born or pre-war immigrants formed by the struggles with the Arabs and the British.

Of course, if indirectly the absence of the Shoah had enabled a very large postwar immigration of European Jews traumatised by the Nuremburg Laws (cf. the post-1991 immigration from the former Soviet Union) and hence a more populous and European Jewish state occupying a more defensible slab of the British Mandate of Palestine, then I would agree.

Marco said...

I would not have considered Israel to be that vulnerable. The 6 day war caught the Arabs completely by surprise. That implies an expectation that they would be allowed to make the first aggressive contact. Secondly, the occupation of land previously considered not to be Israel's, for whatever reason, was probably moot once the Arab forces were humiliated. Why would they need a buffer if they had proved their forces were capable of routing them anyway? I think the holocaust made all Jews feel more vulnerable than they actually were. Of course preemption probably resulted in less casualties for Israel, but at the cost of seeming to throw the first punch. Occupation of land probably made it easier to paint Israel as the aggressor.

Dr Clam said...

On your first point, what has happened to St. Marco, the Apostle of Game Theory? If your move surprises your opponent and results in victory, it is probably the right one.

On your second point, the obvious reason to hold on to the territory is *not to be placed in the same invidious position again*. Without some formal ramping-down of belligerence (like the treaties with Egypt and Jordan), the much-larger enemy states are perfectly free to mass armies on the indefensible borders again and force Israel into the same economically unsustainable mobilisation. 'Proving their forces were capable of routing them' had nothing to do with it. Every round is different. In 1973 Egypt had learned it lessons from 1967 and could not be defeated in the same way.

As for 'occupation of land made it easier to paint Israel as the aggressor', occupation of land makes Morocco easier to paint as an aggressor, and Armenia easier to paint as an aggressor, and Russia easier to paint as an aggressor, and Rwanda easier to paint as an aggressor. But who wastes column inches doing that? There is a double standard here that is the one man-made object visible from space. If I were lucky enough to be an Israeli, I would wake up every morning and say, four times before breakfast, addressing myself in turn to the four quarters of the compass: "F*** you, world opinion."

Dr Clam said...

Parenthetically, any chance of turning the 'prove you're not a robot' thingy off? Blogger seems pretty good nowadays at quarantining spam without it and I am so bad at it that I am starting to doubt my humanity.

Marco said...

I've turned off the word verification, but I fear if I also allow anonymous comments, robot spam will get out of hand quite quickly. I have been reading White Nights, and I have been reading more about Jewish history including the 6 day war. One thing I want to point out is that there is more than just "war" (between nation states) that needs to be won.

I think the US has had more of a hold on this concept in recent wars, by separating the issue of winning the war with winning the peace and of the difficulty of making peace with minorities of non-citizens living within your border. Tactics that win wars so effectively may contradict tactics that can win peace effectively, and World public opinion is a useful "weapon" for either winning a peace, or preventing a hated enemy from doing so.

Whether it be asylum seekers, Aboriginals or people that are non-citizens for religious reasons, the international opinion landscape is a non trivial complication with non-citizen minorities.

Following the "rules of war" (some would argue that all is fair in war) such as the Israelis did in the six day war, by only attacking military targets relevant to the threats made upon them, is not sufficient to gain ammunition to win the peace, nor to resolve the issue of having people within their borders, with ties to the lands they live on, but neither having the possibility of gaining citizenship to the country the land sits within, nor with neighboring countries that prefer to use them as pawns in a non conventional protracted war.

Dr Clam said...

I guess my main point here has just been to dispute your point that Holocaust psychology had anything to do with the way the Six-Day War and its aftermath unfolded. I read one book that was inclining me to agree with you, but I'm reading another one now that has gone into the strategy devised c.1949 for fighting any war with the Arabs that has pushed me back to thinking the course of events was constrained almost entirely by the 'state of play', in terms of geography and the balance of power. Will see if I can post a long quote if I can grab it off the Kindle...

Marco said...

I must admit that what I have read on Wikipedia does not support my view, at list with that war.

However, my philosophy that demographics changes things markedly when such a large segment of a source population is deleted in a very selective way, as it is with abortion.

Perhaps a scale of "attitudes towards other religions" for Jews born before the holocaust, and those born after may have a similarly controversial result with those linking crime and abortion.