Tuesday 8 June 2010

The Israeli flotilla attack: victimhood, aggression and tribalism

The Israeli flotilla attack: victimhood, aggression and tribalism - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
Glenn Greenwald writes an excellent analysis of the attack and of the bigger picture.

Excerpt regarding victim-hood, aggression and tribalism:

What this really underscores is that the mentality driving both
Israel and the U.S. is quite similar, which is why those two countries
find such common cause, even when the rest of the world recoils in
revulsion.  One of the more amazing developments in the flotilla
aftermath is how a claim that initially appeared too self-evidently
ludicrous to be invoked by anyone -- Israel was the victim here and
was acting against the ship in self-defense
--has actually become
the central premise in
and (especially) American
about the attack (and as always, there is far more criticism of
Israeli actions in Israel
than in the U.S.). 

How could anyone with the slightest intellectual honesty claim that
Israel and its Navy were the victims of a boat which Jon Stewart said
last night
looked like "P Diddy's St. Bart's vacation yacht"; or
that armed Israeli commandos were the victims of unarmed civilian
passengers; or, more generally, that a nuclear-armed Israel with the
most powerful military by far in the Middle East and the world's
greatest superpower acting as Protector is the persecuted victim of a
wretched, deprived, imprisoned, stateless population devastated by 40
years of brutal Israeli occupation and, just a year ago, an unbelievably
destructive invasion and bombing campaign?  The casting of "victim" and
"aggressor" is blatantly reversed with such claims -- which is exactly
the central premise that has been driving, and continues to drive, U.S.
foreign policy as well.  In Imperial Ambitions, Noam Chomsky --
talking about America's post-9/11 policies -- described the central
mental deception that is at the heart of all nations which dominate
others with force (and if you're one of those people who hear "Noam
Chomsky" and shut your mind, pretend that this comes from "John Smith"):

In one of his many speeches, to U.S. troops in Vietnam, [Lyndon]
Johnson said plaintively, "There are three billion people in the world
and we have only two hundred million of them.  We are outnumbered
fifteen to one.  If might did make right they would sweep over
the United States and take what we have.  We have what they want."  That
is a constant refrain of imperialism.  You have your jackboot
on someone's neck and they're about to destroy you.

The same is true with any form of oppression.  And it's
psychologically understandable.  If you're crushing and destroying
someone, you have to have a reason for it, and it can't be, "I'm a
murderous monster."  It has to be self-defense.  "I'm protecting myself
against them.  Look what they're doing to me."  Oppression gets
psychologically inverted; the oppressor is the victim who is defending

Thus, nuclear-armed Israel is bullied and victimized by starving
Gazans with stones.   The Israel Navy is threatened by a flotilla filled
with wheelchairs and medicine.  And the greatest superpower the Earth
has ever known faces a grave and existential threat from a handful of
religious fanatics hiding in caves.  An American condemnation of Israel,
as welcomed as it would have been, would be an act of senseless
insincerity, because the two countries (along with many others) operate
with this same "we-are-the-victim" mindset.

* * * * *

A prime cause of this inversion is the distortion in perception
brought about by rank tribalism.  Those whose worldview is shaped by
their identification as members of a particular religious,
nationalistic, or ethnic group invariably over-value the wrongs done to
them and greatly under-value the wrongs their group perpetrates.  Those
whose world view is shaped by tribalism are typically plagued by an
extreme persecution complex (the
whole world is against us
!!!; everyone
who criticizes us is hateful
and biased!!!).
 It's just far more significant -- and far more destructive -- when the
groups convincing themselves that they are the Weak and Bullied Victims
are actually the strongest forces by far on the planet, with the
greatest amount of weaponry and aggression, who have been finding
justifications for so long for their slaughtering of civilians that, as
Israeli Amos Oz suggested
this week about his country
, there are virtually no limits left on
the naked aggression that will be justified.

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