Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SCREAMERS and the Nakba

Wikipedia also includes the Palestinian Nakba of 1948. But one cannot tell whether the editors regard the Nakba as a case of ethnic cleansing that leaves no room for ambivalence, as in the examples of Nazi Germany or the former Yugoslavia, or whether they consider this a more doubtful case, perhaps similar to that of the Jewish settlers whom Israel removed from the Gaza Strip. One criterion this and other sources generally accept in order to gauge the seriousness of the allegation is whether anyone has been indicted before an international tribunal. In other words, where the perpetrators were brought to justice, i.e., were tried by an international judicial system, all ambiguity is removed and the crime of ethnic cleansing is no longer 'alleged'. But upon reflection, this criterion must also be extended to cases that should have been brought before such tribunals but never were. This is admittedly more open-ended, and some clear-cut crimes against humanity require a long struggle before the world recognizes them as historical facts. The Armenians learned this in the case of their genocide: in 1915, the Ottoman government embarked on a systematic decimation of the Armenian people. An estimated one million perished by 1918, but no individual or group of individuals has been brought to trial…This book is written with the deep conviction that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine must become rooted in our memory and consciousness as a crime against humanity and that it should be excluded from the list of alleged crimes.  -Ilan Pappe, THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF PALESTINE

The film SCREAMERS, featuring the heavy metal band System of a Down, is a unique counter-example of the denial about the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians at the hands of the various Zionist militias who later became the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the State of Israel.
I emphasize here the symmetry of these instances because they both bear almost identical markers.  For example, both populations and their fates were dictated by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the tanzimat.  Both tragedies began almost simultaneously.  Palestine began to become a center of international power-playing by the Great Powers in the 1890's, when France and Britain recognized the geo-political value of the region.  Twenty years later, these same empires recognized that Turkey would be a natural geographic hindrance to the spread of the Bolshevik Revolution, and utilized it geo-politically despite the lobbying of a variety of bodies for the relief of the Armenians.  And today, both the Armenian genocide and the Nakba are officially denied by the United States, for obvious political reasons related to the fact that both perpetrator nations are major client states that fund the military-industrial complex in the Gun Belt of the Western United States.
However, this film carries a certain mark of failure that prevents it from being a true milestone.  The film makers are adamant to stress the 'universality' of genocide, as opposed to a certain complex of 'uniqueness' of their tragedy, as Norman Finkelstein has noted in his work on the 'Holocaust Industry'.  The film includes footage of Nazi death camps, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.  But, notably, the film, which is apt to attack the hypocrisy of the relations between the US and Turkey and how that prevents recognition of the Armenian genocide, totally ignores the nakba and the dispossession of Palestinians.  This is striking also because, while System of a Down can achieve a certain level of respect by emphasizing anti-genocide efforts, they are unwilling to confront a truly hot-button topic.  Part of this has to do with the fact that ethnic Armenians are Orthodox Christians, and so it is much easier for audiences to find a level of solidarity with Central Europeans who bow before the Crucifix instead of towards Mecca.  Another fact, much more damning, is that the cause of the Armenians is much less radical than that of Palestine.  Except for the government, almost everyone in the West is willing to discuss the genocide without facing accusations of being 'anti-Turkish', Orientalist, Islamophobic, or racist.  By contrast, if a scholar tries to honestly and fairly appraise Zionism and Israeli history, they almost certainly face accusations of anti-Semitism, at the least, and being a supporter of jihadist terrorism, in the most extreme cases.  Ironically, of course, the nakba included Palestinian Orthodox Christians who were in direct communion with the Armenian Orthodox Christians that the Young Turks purged!

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