Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Palestine, UN-NY. USA, 7 October 2012

1. Sociocide in general

A society is like a human organism capable of reproducing itself beyond the life-span of its cells.  For that it needs an environmental and human-made material base, a structure–an interaction pattern–and a culture carrying the code of that structure.

Sociocide as a category stands for killing a society–or at least wounding it badly–by harming its material-structural-cultural base[i].

Genocide stands for killing a genus, a people; a criterion being whether children, women and pregnant women in particular–often spared in ordinary wars–are killed to destroy the reproductive capacity.[ii]

Ecocide stands for killing nature, with reproductive capacity.

Omnicide stands for all three; as described in the Old Testament. Cold War mutual Assured Destruction–MAD–by nuclear war, came close.

But slavery and colonialism, stealing people and resources, carving up societies in the “scramble for Africa” (Berlin 1884-85), imposing culture, were neither divine, nor close, but real sociocide.

The ways of killing a society depend on how we define society.

The classical approach in sociology is through reproduction: biologically; economically for the basic needs of the population not to starve, dehydrate, freeze, overheat or die from preventable-curable diseases; culturally for the transmission of its culture to the next generations by museums-monuments-schools etc.; politically for decisions about biological reproduction, economy, identity and security from external and internal violence or the threats thereof.

Societies outlive their individual human members, but like them have limited life span between birth and death, with stages similar to childhood-playing, adolescence-learning, adulthood-functioning, old age-retiring.  For humans the life span depends on how well basic individual human needs are met.

They can be met by hermits and hunter-gatherer nomads with only a material base, but today by increasingly complex interwoven societies.  Sociocide runs history backwards, and may add ecocide, for omnicide.

We postulate four basic human needs: survival, wellness, identity (meaning with life), freedom (options, choices for all three).  Some expressions covering all: well-being (not only somatic[iii]), dignity.

The antonyms, or negations, would be: death, illness, alienation, repression.  And malaise, humiliation.  Living on the knees, begging.

For a society to meet basic human needs basic societal needs for reproduction, security, sustainability, identity, autonomy must be met. The society must reproduce and sustain itself, reproduce identity and master its material base for these purposes.  A society must be alive for its members to be alive.  These basic societal needs depend on the world context like basic human needs on the social context.

A monastery meets the last three but, unisex, not the first.

In an increasingly connected world sustainability does not mean self-sufficiency, autarchy, but possibly self-reliance, relying on its own production as far as possible, getting the rest from trade.  So also for identity and autonomy.  But economic, cultural and political exchange must be on equal terms.  If not dependency-exploitation lead to a badly wounded society, a social pathology with dwindling material-economic-cultural-political base; unlike a monastery.

And that gives us two types of sociocide.  First, by war:

Sociocide 1: Depriving the society by conquest-occupation of the material base needed for reproduction, security. sustainability, identity and autonomy; to avoid death misery, alienation, repression.

Second, the more covert method, through exploitation-dependency:

Sociocide 2: Depriving the society by exploitation-dependency-of material base, economic sustainability, cultural identity and political autonomy, increasing death, misery, alienation, repression.

Nos. 1 and 2 differ only in the method: conquest vs exploitation, occupation (colonialism) vs dependency (imperialism). The Four Horses of the Apocalypse, summarized in The Revelation 6:8 spell out the effects: war, famine, disease, wild animals (today micro-organisms).  War depletes, pollutes, steals land and other resources; exploitation gets resources by unequal exchange.  Result: killing, famine, disease.

Let us then open for a more societal approach to society:

Society = Structure + Culture = State + Nation

The focus is less on a set of individuals, more on its structure, the tissue of inter-connected parts.  People are allocated into those parts telling them what to do, when and where and how.  And, on its culture, also an ever-changing product of generations of work for good and for bad, imbuing people with identity, meaning, with the why.

That gives us two other ways for a society to die or be killed:

Sociocide 3: Through destructuration, dissolution of the social tissue, aka atomie, atomization; and through deculturation, absence of compelling norms beyond survival and self-benefit, aka as anomie.

State and Nation are modern carriers of structure and culture.

“State” stands both for a country and for an authority structure inside the country.  There is territory in the concept, resources, for the State to have ultimate power to meet the basic societal needs.

A “nation” is a cultural group with shared language, world view, history–of past-present-future–and geography through attachment.  Nation defines identity basics: language, world view, time, space.

Land links Nation for identity to State for protection.  States come and go, nations remain even when deprived of the land of their dreams.  Next year in Jerusalem–.  With increasing physical and mental mobility land, territory may in the future be less important in defining a nation and the other three more, but we are not yet there.

A focus on State-Nation makes sociocide more concrete:

Sociocide 4: Depriving the people of State is to deprive them of ultimate authority over the basic societal needs to meet the basic human needs; depriving the people of Nation is to deprive them of ultimate identity through land-space, world view and history-time:

* the past, by sacred space being in the hands of others;

* the present, by endless frustrations-conflicts;

* the future, by not being in their own hands.

Based on sociocides 1-4 above we may now arrive at a unified list of dimensions, a “generic sociocide”:

SOCIOCIDE is a process killing a society:

[1] by depriving it of material base, land and other resources;

[2] by structurocide: territorial-social fragmentation , atomie, no State for ultimate authority over its own house;

[3] by culturocide: depriving them of language, world view, history, land attachment by expulsion, anomie, no Nation for ultimate identity;

[4] depriving them of their past, as concrete memory;

[5] depriving them of their present, as renewal;

[6] depriving them of their future, as dream, vision;

* by not meeting basic societal needs:

[7] for security against violence, killing, wounding;

[8] for sustainability economically, against misery, illness;

[9] for identity culturally, against alienation;

[10] for autonomy politically, against repression.

Material base, structure-State, culture-Nation, societal needs.

Colonialism did most of that, as Islam expanded east and north from Arabia, and as Christianity expanded south and west and east, from Rome, Byzants-Moscow, Spain, Europe.  They imposed spatial maps, exported their structural time dialectic, imposed their own culture, language, religion-world view to the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia as strong overlayers over the indigenous.  Except for East Asia.

Sociocide has so far been treated like homicide: there is a victim, and a perpetrator.  However, comparing societies to individuals brings up other ways in which societies come to an end.  One would correspond to suicide, sui-sociocide, ending it at its own hands, e.g., by migration from the material base, individually or in groups too small or special to carry enough structure and culture.

Most humans, however, end their lives through aging, accumulating diseases; so do societies.  The material base may dwindle for lack of care or repair after natural calamities, so may the population.  There may be destructuration with excessive individualism, atomie, or the opposite: too hierarchical, oppressive structures choking initiatives.  There may be deculturation, anomie, for the same reasons, including–as for aging individuals–a lack of meaning inspiring continued life.  The societal needs are what politics is about, exercise of leadership for Toynbee’s adequate response to security, sustainability, identity and autonomy challenges.   Some leaders are up to it, many are not.

That leads to the same positive question as for individuals: how do societies keep in good health?  How do we prevent sociocide, how do we keep societies alive, including not succumbing to sui-sociocide?

The answers are given above.  Prevent sociocides 1-4 by staving off not only invasion-occupation, but also exploitation-dependency.  The former is forbidden by the UN Charter, Art. 2.4; the latter is not.  The thinking had not yet come that far; moreover, the Anglo-American drafters had used the former to establish the latter.    To protect a society from sociocide calls for autonomy at a high level.

But, as mentioned above, not all sociocides come from the outside.  There may also be endogenous causes.  The list of 10 points under generic sociocide indicates not only what to watch out for, but also what to improve, making the material base-structure-culture more sustainable through diversity, symbiosis and equity for all three.

2.  Palestine-Israel in particular

We are exploring a continuum, degree of sociocide with ten parts. In short: material base, structure-State, culture-Nation, basic needs.

The question is whether Palestine is the victim of sociocide with Israel as the perpetrator.  On the spectrum between life and death for a society life is defined by the basic societal needs with population, structure and culture–under modernity with State and Nation–intact, reproducible; death by their absence.  Where do we stand?[iv]

[1] depriving them of material base, land, resources: YES

[2] structurocide: territorial-social fragmentation, atomie, no          State for ultimate authority over its own house: YES

[3] culturocide: depriving them of language-world view-history-   attachment to land by-expulsion, anomie, no Nation for ultimate           identity: NO but;

[4] depriving them of their past as memory; YES, by expulsion;

[5] depriving them of their present: YES, by harassment;

[6] depriving them of their future as visions: NO but;

by not meeting basic societal needs:

[7] for security against violence, killing, wounding: YES;

[8] for sustainability economically against misery, illness: YES;

[9] for identity culturally, against alienation: NO but;

[10] for autonomy politically, against repression: YES.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10, a badly wounded Palestine; but not dead.           Israel deprived the Palestinians of a State, but not of a Nation.  Palestinian autonomy inside Israel, like the Welsh in the UK, is no substitute; autonomy in a (con)federation with Israel may be.  Jordan as a Palestinian state is no substitute, the strong geographical attachment is not there.  Jordan cannot be the Palestinian state.[v]

With the deep attachment of two nations to much of the same territory any solution–one state, or two–has to be symmetric.

The expulsion from the land where they and their ancestors lived hurts, but does not kill, national identity.  Arabic, official language in Israel, is still there, so is the special mix of Islam, Christianity and secularism. The past as concrete memory etched into landscapes. villages, towns, is badly hurt, with less to attach to. “No but” enters; two linked to identity–as nationalism for Fata’h and islamism for Hamas?–one to visions, now more than ever, caused by the conflict itself.  But, certain “facts on the ground” stand in the way.

European-Arab colonialists buried indigenous languages and world views under overlayers of European-Arab speech in the Americas-Africa-Asia and the other two abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam.  Thus, in Latin America they talk Spanish-Portuguese, are Christian-secular, with history from 1492 and a geography of colonial states.  And with nothing of the “we have been here before” legitimacy the Jews had in the Middle East (but so has Islam, in Spain, Al-Andaluz, etc.)

From Judaism, the first abrahamic religion–updated by Zionism to territory-based, semi-secular 19th century geopolitics–colonialist invasion and exploitation might be expected.  Moreover, Antiquity Israel was a victim of sociocide by Egyptians, Babylonians and Romans–with elements of sui-genocide, the suicide of hundreds ending the Masada 74 CE rebellion.  Jews have been victims of European genocides and the shoa enormity.  Victims may imitate perpetrators.

The Zionist project was the answer, giving birth to a new society based on the old from Antiquity.  To create Israel Zionism had “four principal objectives: (1) to transform the transnational Jewish identity centered on the Torah into a national identity, like ones then common in Europe; (2) to develop a national vernacular based on biblical and rabbinical Hebrew; (3) to transfer the Jews from their countries of origin to Palestine; and (4) to establish political and economic control over the “new old land”, if need be by force.”[vi]

Indeed: invasion-occupation of the material base for the societal needs of Palestinians and a State; but with the Nation mainly intact.

If (1)-(4) are needed to create a new society, Israel, then what is needed to kill a society?  The negation of giving birth, (-1)-(-4):

Preventing a unifying national identity; outlawing a national language in favor of local vernaculars; sending the population back “to where they came from”; depriving them of political-economic control over land to which they feel attached, “if need be by force”.

Israel did not do (-1) and (-2), but to a large extent (-3) and (-4), negating Kant: “what you want for yourself you should give to Other”.

And Israel negated the 1917 Balfour Declaration addressed to Lord Rothschild of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine:

“it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status of Jews in any other country”.[vii]

Revisionist Zionism fought the Balfour Declaration, in favor of (1)-(4) with unstated final borders and their negations for Palestine. The goal of hard, revisionist, Zionism was (is) “a Jewish state”; soft Zionism wanting the conviviality found in the Balfour Declaration, as “a state with Jewish characteristics”.[viii] And that partly explains where we are on the spectrum of sociocide: a compromise position between soft and hard zionism; unstable, can move in either direction.

Zionism led to nakba: the Israeli conquests in Palestine in 1948, in 1967 of Gaza and beyond to today’s Israel with the West Bank-East Jerusalem occupied, and Gaza under siege.  And then, Zionism, being that dynamic, prognoses are permitted, even mandatory?  Potentially also beyond the Jordan river to the whole British Mandate.  And even further, to “the river of Africa and the Euphrates”; emptying the land of Arabs, for Jews only?  Expelling Arabs to “where they came from”?   To what extent was the birth of a new-old Israel at the expense of the death of Palestine?  Reality is an oscillating[ix] in-between.

The 1948 nakba expulsion emptied much land, razed villages, fragmented Palestinians into second class Israeli citizens, refugees in huge camps, a vast diaspora and others; then a West Bank more fragmented by settlers-colonizers and the Wall, and Gaza made unsustainable under siege.  Structurocide, carried by no State.  But culturocide?  Only partial, and not carried by no Nation.

What remained of Palestine–the best soil and water resources taken, and the coast-line controlled–was unsustainable economically.  Palestinians became dependent on jobs in Israel–the “slave market”–eroding identity and autonomy further.  Most of their economic assets were one way or the other exploited and controlled by Israel.

The land conquest came to a preliminary halt after 1948 nakba and the 1967 expansion, but then continued through occupation by settling large parts of the West Bank, and the demarkation by the Wall; with considerable similarities to South African apartheid Bantustans.

The destructuration with no overarching State makes talking with one voice, at times needed, impossible; and solutions become fragmented, limited to themselves, and their families.

The deculturation erodes an overarching Nation (by a possible loyalty oath for Palestinian Israeli citizens?), taking away the past by taking the land; making the present endless, 24/7, harassment, the controls being one example; leaving the future without a road map. Negotiations, like the “Oslo Peace Process”, led nowhere. The right of return (“about numbers we can discuss”) for Palestinians is ruled out.

The 7 wounds on this sociocide scale are all linked one way or the other to the absence of a real Palestinian state that can protect a material base, for security, sustainability, identity and autonomy.

To change this “facts on the ground” can be countered with “facts in the world”; in the UN system as resolutions[x], in the state and NGO system as boycott; legitimizing Palestine, delegitimizing Israel.

Sociocide is the Death of Palestine.  What could Life look like?

For Palestinians to decide; but others have only the right to propose, not to impose.  One vision: 1-2-6-20, might look as follows:

* 1 Palestinian State fully recognized, autonomous foreign-security-finance policy with 4 June 1967 borders modified to connect the West Bank and Gaza–a capital in East Jerusalem, some right of return; for * 1 Palestinian Nation with its own idiom, world view, space, and its own past-present-future time; meaning

* 2 states, Israel and Palestine, cooperating equitably[xi]; in a

* 6+ states community, Israel with the 5 Arab neighbors, in a Middle East, or East Mediterranean, Community; in a

* 20+ states Organization for Security and Cooperation in West Asia;  based on the 15 November 1988 Palestine National Council resolution,  UN-UNSC-Arab League resolutions; Germany-France/EEC/OSCE as facts.

Does Life for Palestine mean Death for Israel, the zero sum vision entertained by extremists?  The vision above is Life together with security through peace, as opposed to Death together pursuing an ephemeral peace through security policies leading but to violence.

The Zionist project outlined above has been fulfilled: there is a transnational Israeli Jewish Nation, centered on a simplified orthodox judaism with a modernized Hebrew serving as national vernacular; with massive transfer of Jews from their countries of origin to Palestine; and a Jewish state with military-economic-political-cultural control. With State and Nation come structure and culture; overfulfilled to some, to others underfulfilled, without secure and recognized borders.

But Israel depends on US support for UNSC vetoes, military hard-and software, with AIPAC as king-pin.  Germany offers submarines, nuclearized by Israel.  Israel depends on Jews anywhere for economic support; also to pay the settlers.  Israel is semi-autonomous, on support.  That support may be withdrawn; the South Africa scenario.

Sociocide may be waiting down the road for Israel, as it was for white-dominated South Africa.  The outcome was a one state solution, based on one person, one vote.  The name of South Africa in the Middle East is (British mandated) Palestine, meaning a one state solution, with many good arguments in its favor in addition to that precedent.   Because of the elements of legitimacy in soft Zionism it is not the vision outlined above.  But Zionism=Soft+Hard should celebrate what they have, embrace the almost universal acceptance of 4 June 1967, say to Palestine your turn, giving to Palestine what Israel wanted itself.

Instead they see anti-Semitism all over–real-imagined-provoked– confused with legitimate dialogue, used to legitimize hard Zionism.  Often off the mark anti-anti-Semitism becomes counter-productive and used against Israel.  The synergy of autism listening only to itself, sociocide wounding Palestinians through ever more expansion, changing legitimacy balance in favor of Palestine, may prove lethal for Israel.  Being autonomous they are the masters of their on policies.  Sociocide  may spell sui-sociocide for Israel given that a Middle East Community could accommodate both, with cooperation for mutual and equal benefit, harmony through empathy, reconciliation of deep traumas, and a rolling agenda of resolution of conflicts.

However, for that they all have to come out of in-box thinking.  We are probably moving, slowly, in that direction with increasing awareness of reality and its alternatives.

[i].  I first used the term in Environment, Development and Military Activity, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1982; see particularly sections 1.3, 2.3 and 3.3.  Also TOWARD PEACEFUL WORLDS, A Guide to Peace – prepared for MEMORIAL, Caen.

[ii]. .  The Nazis did this, and so did their Prussian predecessors against the Herero in today’s Namibia.  It should be noted that a people may also commit sui-genocide by failing to reproduce with at least 2.1 live births per woman, down to, say, 1.4; if not balancing with net migration.

[iii]. .  The WHO defines health as a state of physical, mental and social well-being.

[iv].  The same question can be asked for Sahraoui, also Muslims, at the other end of North Africa as victim of Spain, Morocco, France and generally EU perpetration, none of them Jewish.

[v].  The Welsh and Jordan options see Palestinian nationalism as below Jewish nationalism: autonomy inside somebody else’s state, or a state on some other territory, should be enough.  The Zionist saga is dedicated to the idea that they are not; why should they be sufficient for the Palestinians?

[vi].  Yakov M. Rabkin, A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism, London, New York: ZED Books, 2006, p. 5.

[vii]. These clauses were prescient and can be read as a warning against committing sociocide both ways.

[viii].  Thus, the line drawn here is not between Judaism and Zionism; “next year in Jerusalem” has always been a part of a Judaism with salvation in Zion (Jerusalem).  The line is drawn between the soft–Balfour, Jewish humanism, Einstein, Buber–approach and the hard–the terrorism led by three later to be prime ministers of Israel, including killing Folke Bernadotte.

[ix].  We are thinking of occupying Sinai, leaving Sinai, occupying Gaza, leaving Gaza, some on and off on the West bank and in East Jerusalem; partly due to the struggle between soft and hard Zionism inside Israel, partly to outside pressure.  But the net result(ant) so far is occupation-expansion-siege.

[x].  Added after the 7 October presentation: the UN General Assembly vote 29 November 2012, 138 to 9 (41 abstentions) in favor of Palestine as a “non-member observer state”, was a major nonviolent legitimate break-through along this line.

[xi].  Examples:

* security: joint patrolling, UNPKF on both sides of borders;

* sustainability: joint water regime and desalination plants;

* identity: ecumenism in the Old City, with Vatican status;

* joint autonomy: Council of Ministers and Commission like EU.


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