What is a genocide?

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By VLADIMIR SAFATLE*

Genocide is not something linked to some absolute number of deaths, but rather to a specific form of policy of erasing bodies

On November 13th, fundamental names in contemporary critical theory, such as Jürgen Habermas, Rainer Forst, Nicole Deitelhof and Klaus Günther, decided to publish a text about the Palestinian conflict and its consequences, entitled “Principles of solidarity. An affirmation.”

Starting by attributing all responsibility for the current situation to Hamas attacks, defending the Israeli government's “right to retaliation” and making protocol considerations about the controversial and controversial nature of the “proportionality” of its military action, the text ends by stating the absurdity of presupposing “genocidal intentions” to Israel's far-right government, calling on everyone to be extremely careful against “anti-Semitic feelings and convictions behind all forms of pretexts”.

What initially strikes in a text written by someone who would be a legatee of the critical force of the Frankfurt School and its anti-authoritarian commitment is what has no right to appear when certain Europeans are calling for “principles of solidarity”. It would be worth remembering that, when the text by Jürgen Habermas and company was published, the world counted more than 10 thousand massacred Palestinians and the Israeli government continued to assert that it would not even allow a ceasefire to open humanitarian corridors.

We could hope that this would have the dignity of outraging us, that a text on solidarity, at this moment, would begin by saying that placing a population of 2,5 million people in a daily state of terror within an unacceptable logic of collective punishment is not no way to combat Hamas, but rather to strengthen it.

However, it is noteworthy how defenders of universalist principles of justice seem, in fact, ready to use them strategically when it comes to expiating their local ghosts of responsibility for past catastrophes. Unless communicative rationality has, after all, geographical boundaries and they forgot to warn us. But a theory that has never considered colonial structures and their modes of permanence and deployment is not prepared for the challenges of the present.

Because human rights activists, UN officials, diplomats from the most varied countries, who insist on the Israeli government's genocidal intentions, have every right to be heard and taken seriously. They are arguing that “genocide” occurs every time the organic link of populations to “genos“, what is common to us, is denied.

When the commander of the Israeli Armed Forces says that on the other side there are “human animals”, he expresses, in a pedagogical way, genocidal intentions. When Israeli government ministers claim that the use of nuclear bombs against Gaza is plausible and there is no other punishment than simple removal from future ministerial meetings, when we discover plans for mass displacement of Palestinians to Egypt, we are indeed facing expressions of intent genocidal. Such intentions must be named.

Genocide is not something linked to some absolute number of deaths, but rather to a specific form of policy of erasing bodies, dehumanizing the pain of populations, silencing public mourning that strips populations of their humanity and expresses historically reiterated processes of subjection. . When we talk about the Palestinians, we are talking about a stateless, landless people – and therefore, as Itamar Vieira Júnior so well remembered in Folha de S. Paul, without any freedom.

People who cannot count on international solidarity because they have been waiting for 50 years for the international law that defines ownership of their own territory to be respected and who, when they find themselves the victim of collective punishment in the XNUMXst century, find texts that do not even have the ability to remember that none of this started with the Hamas attacks.

Hamas is a terrible effect of a cause that deserves to be thought of in its correct historical horizon. Taking the effect for the cause is the best way to not solve any problem. Someone should remind the signatories of the text in question that critical theory requires listening to the history of the exiled and the defeated.

*Vladimir Safatle He is a professor of philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Ways of transforming worlds: Lacan, politics and emancipation (Authentic). https://amzn.to/3r7Nhlo

Originally published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul.


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