Subject: ON HIERARCHIES, DEPENDENT, ILLEGITIMATE AND IMAGINARY.
20 January 2007
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
"The only thing new in the world," wrote U.S. President Harry S Truman at the beginning of the Cold War, "is the history I didn't know." This was an uncharacteristically wise statement from a man who, in 1941 (before Pearl Harbor), had expressed the wish for U.S. military support of Nazi Germany "to kill as many Russian Communists as possible" and then a switch to U.S. military support of the Soviet Union, "to kill as many German Fascists as possible". The history Truman didn't know was vast, but he knew that he didn't know, and that was a decided advantage over President George W. Bush and his current entourage of neo-liberal advisors --both Republicans and Democrats.
Today, cultivated ignorance and selective amnesia can be considered, like patriotism, to be "the last refuge of a scoundrel," to borrow an expression from Samuel Johnson.
But for those of us who think that learning lessons from history is still important, a knowledge of what to look for (an epistemology) when studying the past is essential. One fruitful approach to the study of history is to carefully examine hierarchical relationships that have existed in real life. In this approach, the writings of Professor Anthony Wilden are useful.
Dependent hierarchies, according to Professor Wilden, must pass the "extinction test," which is to say a lower level must be shown to rely totally on the level above it for its very existence, if the relationship is to qualify as a dependent hierarchy. Thus, in the most general terms, we find the four essential levels of life as follows :
And indeed, as we have seen, each level is the necessary environment for the level beneath it. [See Bulletin #284.]
Illegitimate hierarchies, on the other hand, can not pass this "extinction test". Nevertheless they do exist, albeit precariously. They owe their existence exclusively to the use of force and the threat of violence. For example, in essential economic relationships, instead of finding the following dependent hierarchy :
(photosynthesis, air, water, land)
(production, distribution, consumption)
(creativity, human mental and physical capacities)
we experience in our daily lives the illegitimate, and inherently unstable, hierarchy of :
The latter is not a legitimate hierarchy, and it does not pass the "extinction test". It is a real hierarchy nevertheless; it actually exists because it is maintained by force and the threat of violence.
Imaginary hierarchies do not exist in the real world. Some examples of these fictive hierarchies are as follows :
Imaginary hierarchies such as these are occasionally promoted to create tactical support in pursuit of real ruling class interests (provided that enough people can be mobilized to adopt such a perspective long enough to successfully achieve the strategy developed by "the powers that be" --an aim which often goes against the real social class interests of those who have been recruited as foot soldiers). The U.S. presidential election of 2004 is one illustration of this use of imaginary hierarchies by the Republican strategist Karl Rove.
We invite our colleagues and friends of CEIMSA to look at the 6 items below which we have recently received and to tune in to the18 January Democracy Now! pod cast which gives an update on the "necessary" violence against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Seen from the perspective of maintaining illegitimate hierarchies, we believe, the items below will bring a clearer focus to the read/listener in America and Europe, who may wish to better understand where he/she is located in the international economic hierarchy, which necessitates tactics of militarism and violence on a daily basis in order to achieve an appearance of legitimacy and, as a system, to fulfill its goal, i.e. survival.
Item A. is an excerpt from Simon Fraser University Professor Anthony Wilden's book, Man and Woman, War and Peace: The Strategist's Companion, in which he reproduces a graphic description from military history to explain the violent abuse of a young woman's body as a medium of communication between male soldiers in the era of the Vietnam war.
Item B. is a video link, sent to us by University of Pennsylvania Professor Edward Herman, showing an interview with two veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces who are now militants in the Israeli anti-war organization, Breaking the Silence.
Item C. is an article for The Electronic Intifada, on "genocide in Gaza and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank", by Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe.
Item D., from NYU Professor Bertell Ollman, is an educational link to "Dialectics for Kids", where the definitions of words, such as "opposites" and "contradictions", might provoke some debate among children and other progressive thinkers.
Item E. is a political cartoon from Gordon Poole, offering a window to the Italian political order and the use of humor as a time-tested weapon of democracy against dishonesty.
Item F., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Fred Grimm describing the mental torture of terrorist suspect Jose Padilla during his 3 ½ years in the Navy brig at Charleston, S.C.
And finally, from the January 18 edition of DEMOCRACY NOW! : THE WAR AND PEACE REPORT, we offer this pod cast on "Entry Denied: Palestinian-Americans Among Thousands Blocked by Israel from Occupied Territories"
The Israeli government has effectively frozen visitation and re-entry of foreign nationals of Palestinian origin to the West Bank and Gaza. We go to Ramallah to speak with two coordinators of the “Campaign for the Right of Entry and Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” We’re also joined by a leading Israeli human rights attorney and a Palestinian-American film maker recently detained by Israeli officials and deported.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Anthony Wilden :
Man and Woman, War and Peace: The Strategist's Companion, pp. 211-214
Subject: Torture and Rape, the human body as a medium of communication between men.
Wilden on torture
Torture is gang rape taken to its pathological conclusion. The torturers are competing with each other over who has control of the victims' bodies and what they do to them. Here again someone's body is being used as a medium of communication between men, as a channel of the discourse of the Other.
Excerpt from Nam, by Mark Baker (pp.169-170)
"What you got there?", said the soldier. "Hey, you VC?" What do you got?" It was a 'baby-san' and a 'papa-san' , a teenager of about fifteen or sixteen and her father, about forty, he told Mark Baker in Nam.
"They had a can of pears! American pears in a big green can marked with a big U.S. on it is large print. We say, 'Isn't this some shit. Here we are in the field, we don't know what pears is. They got pears! And we don't have pears.' I'll never forget the guy's faces in the unit from the GIs up to the captain. We are shit in the field, and the guys in the rear have given these gooks pears, man.
"The GIs gave you pears? Oh, yeah? For that, we're going to screw your daughter.' So we went running, taking the daughter. She was crying. I think she was a virgin. We pulled her pants down and put a gun to her head.
Guys are taking turns screwing her. It was like an animal pack. 'Hey, he's taking too long to screw her'. Nobody was turning their back or nothing. We just stood on line and we screwed her.
"I was taking her body by force. Guys were standing over her with rifles, while I was screwing her. She says, 'why are you doing this to me? Why?' Some of the gooks could talk very good. 'Hey, you're black, why are you doing this to me?'
Baby-san, she was crying. So a guy just put a rifle to her head and pulled the trigger just to put her out of the picture. Then we start pumping her with rounds. After we got finished shooting her, we start kicking them and stomping on them. That's what the hatred, the frustration was. After we raped her, took her cherry from her, after we shot her in the head, you understand what I'm saying, we literally start stomping her body.
And everybody was laughing about it. It's like seeing the lions around a just-killed zebra. You see them in these animal pictures, Wild Kingdom or something. The whole pride comes around and they start feasting on the body. We kicked the face in, kicked in the ribs and everything else.
Then we start cutting ears off. We cut her nose off. The captain says, 'Who's going to get the ears? Who's going to get the nose? So-and-so's turn to get the ears'. A good friend of mine --a white guy from California-- he flipped out in the Nam. The dude would fall down and cry, fall down and beg somebody to let him have the ears. Captain says, 'Well, let So-and-so get the ears this time. You had the last kill. Let him get it this time'. So we let this guy get the ears. We cut off one of her breasts and one guy got the breast. But the trophy was the ears. I had got a finger from the papa-san. That was about it, what I got from the incident. We let the bodies stay there mutilated."
from Ed Herman :
Subject: Burning Conscience: Israeli Soldiers Speak Out
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2007
A searing interview with Avichai Sharon and Noam Chayut, both veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces and members of Breaking the Silence. Sharon and
Chayut served during the second intifada, an on-going bloodbath that has claimed the lives of over three thousand Palestinians and nine-hundred-fifty
Israelis. After thorough introspection, these young men have chosen to speak out about their experiences as self-described "brutal occupiers of a
Video available at :
from Sid Shniad :
Sent: Monday, January 15, 2007
Subject: Palestine 2007: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank.
For version with photos and links, see :
Palestine 2007: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank
by Ilan Pappe
The Electronic Intifada, 11 January 2007
On this stage, not so long ago, I claimed that Israel is conducting genocidal policies in the Gaza Strip. I hesitated a lot before using this very charged term and yet decided to adopt it. Indeed, the responses I received, including from some leading human rights activists, indicated a certain unease over the usage of such a term. I was inclined to rethink the term for a while, but came back to employing it today with even stronger conviction: it is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip.
On 28 December 2006, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem published its annual report about the Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories. Israeli forces killed this last year six hundred and sixty citizens. The number of Palestinians killed by Israel last year tripled in comparison to the previous year (around two hundred). According to B'Tselem, the Israelis killed one hundred and forty one children in the last year. Most of the dead are from the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli forces demolished almost 300 houses and slew entire families. This means that since 2000, Israeli forces killed almost four thousand Palestinians, half of them children; more than twenty thousand were wounded.
B'Tselem is a conservative organization, and the numbers may be higher. But the point is not just about the escalating intentional killing, it is about the trend and the strategy. As 2007 commences, Israeli policymakers are facing two very different realities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the former, they are closer than ever to finishing the construction of their eastern border. Their internal ideological debate is over and their master plan for annexing half of the West Bank is being implemented at an ever-growing speed. The last phase was delayed due to the promises made by Israel, under the Road Map, not to build new settlements. Israel found two ways of circumventing this alleged prohibition. First, it defined a third of the West Bank as Greater Jerusalem, which allowed it to build within this new annexed area towns and community centers. Secondly, it expanded old settlements to such proportions so that there was no need to build new ones. This trend was given an additional push in 2006 (hundreds of caravans were installed to mark the border of the expansions, the planning schemes for the new towns and neighborhoods were finalized and the apartheid bypass roads and highway system completed). In all, the settlements, the army bases, the roads and the wall will allow Israel to annex almost half of the West Bank by 2010. Within these territories there will be a considerable number of Palestinians, against whom the Israeli authorities will continue to implement slow and creeping transfer policies -- too boring as a subject for the western media to bother with and too elusive for human rights organizations to make a general point about them. There is no rush; as far as the Israelis are concerned, they have the upper hand there: the daily abusive and dehumanizing mixed mechanisms of army and bureaucracy is as effective as ever in contributing its own share to the dispossession process.
The strategic thinking of Ariel Sharon that this policy is far better than the one offered by the blunt 'transferists' or ethnic cleansers, such as Avigdor Liberman's advocacy, is accepted by everyone in the government, from Labor to Kadima. The petit crimes of state terrorism are also effective as they enable liberal Zionists around the world to softly condemn Israel and yet categorize any genuine criticism on Israel's criminal policies as anti-Semitism.
On the other hand, there is no clear Israeli strategy as yet for the Gaza Strip; but there is a daily experiment with one. Gaza, in the eyes of the Israelis, is a very different geo-political entity from that of the West Bank. Hamas controls Gaza, while Abu Mazen seems to run the fragmented West Bank with Israeli and American blessing. There is no chunk of land in Gaza that Israel covets and there is no hinterland, like Jordan, to which the Palestinians of Gaza can be expelled. Ethnic cleansing is ineffective here.
The earlier strategy in Gaza was ghettoizing the Palestinians there, but this is not working. The ghettoized community continues to express its will for life by firing primitive missiles into Israel. Ghettoizing or quarantining unwanted communities, even if they were regarded as sub-human or dangerous, never worked in history as a solution. The Jews know it best from their own history. The next stages against such communities in the past were even more horrific and barbaric. It is difficult to tell what the future holds for the Gaza population, ghettoized, quarantined, unwanted and demonized. Will it be a repeat of the ominous historical examples or is a better fate still possible?
Creating the prison and throwing the key to the sea, as UN Special Reporter John Dugard has put it, was an option the Palestinians in Gaza reacted against with force as soon as September 2005. They were determined to show at the very least that they were still part of the West Bank and Palestine. In that month, they launched the first significant, in number and not quality, barrage of missiles into the Western Negev. The shelling was a response to an Israeli campaign of mass arrests of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in the Tul Karem area. The Israelis responded with operation 'First Rain'. It is worth dwelling for a moment on the nature of that operation. It was inspired by the punitive measures inflicted first by colonialist powers, and then by dictatorships, against rebellious imprisoned or banished communities. A frightening show of the oppressor's power to intimidate preceded all kind of collective and brutal punishments, ending with a large number of dead and wounded among the victims. In 'First Rain', supersonic flights were flown over Gaza to terrorize the entire population, succeeded by the heavy bombardment of vast areas from the sea, sky and land. The logic, the Israeli army explained, was to create pressure so as to weaken the Gaza community's support for the rocket launchers. As was expected, by the Israelis as well, the operation only increased the support for the rocket launchers and gave impetus to their next attempt. The real purpose of that particular operation was experimental. The Israeli generals wished to know how such operations would be received at home, in the region and in the world. And it seems that instantly the answer was 'very well';
namely, no one took an interest in the scores of dead and hundreds of wounded Palestinians left behind after the 'First Rain' subsided.
And hence since 'First Rain' and until June 2006, all the following operations were similarly modeled. The difference was in their escalation: more firepower, more causalities and more collateral damage and, as to be expected, more Qassam missiles in response. Accompanying measures in 2006 were more sinister means of ensuring the full imprisonment of the people of Gaza through boycott and blockade, with which the EU is still shamefully collaborating.
The capture of Gilad Shalit in June 2006 was irrelevant in the general scheme of things, but nonetheless provided an opportunity for the Israelis to escalate even more the components of the tactical and allegedly punitive missions. After all, there was still no strategy that followed the tactical decision of Ariel Sharon to take out 8,000 settlers whose presence complicated 'punitive' missions and whose eviction made him almost a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the 'punitive' actions continue and become themselves a strategy.
The Israeli army loves drama and therefore also escalated the language. 'First Rain' was replaced by 'Summer Rains', a general name that was given to the 'punitive' operations since June 2006 (in a country where there is no rain in the summer, the only precipitation that one can expect are showers of F-16 bombs and artillery shells hitting people of Gaza).
'Summer Rains' brought a novel component: the land invasion into parts of the Gaza Strip. This enabled the army to kill citizens even more effectively and to present it as a result of heavy fighting within dense populated areas, an inevitable result of the circumstances and not of Israeli policies. With the close of summer came operation 'Autumn Clouds' which was even more efficient: on 1 November 2006, in less than 48 hours, the Israelis killed seventy civilians; by the end of that month, with additional mini operations accompanying it, almost two hundred were killed, half of them children and women. As one can see from the dates, some of the activity was parallel to the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, making it easier to complete the operations without much external attention, let alone criticism.
From 'First Rain' to 'Autumn Clouds' one can see escalation in every parameter. The first is the disappearance of the distinction between civilian and non-civilian targets: the senseless killing has turned the population at large to the main target for the army's operation. The second one is the escalation in the means: employment of every possible killing machines the Israeli army possesses. Thirdly, the escalation is conspicuous in the number of casualties: with each operation, and each future operation, a much larger number of people are likely to be killed and wounded. Finally, and most importantly, the operations become a strategy -- the way Israel intends to solve the problem of the Gaza Strip.
A creeping transfer in the West Bank and a measured genocidal policy in the Gaza Strip are the two strategies Israel employs today. From an electoral point of view, the one in Gaza is problematic as it does not reap any tangible results; the West Bank under Abu Mazen is yielding to Israeli pressure and there is no significant force that arrests the Israeli strategy of annexation and dispossession. But Gaza continues to fire back. On the one hand, this would enable the Israeli army to initiate more massive genocidal operations in the future. But there is also the great danger, on the other, that as happened in 1948, the army would demand a more drastic and systematic 'punitive' and collateral action against the besieged people of the Gaza Strip.
Ironically, the Israeli killing machine has rested lately. Even relatively large number of Qassam missiles, including one or two quite deadly ones, did not stir the army to action. Though the army's spokesmen say it shows 'restraint', it never did in the past and is not likely to do so in the future. The army rests, as its generals are content with the internal killing that rages on in Gaza and does the job for them. They watch with satisfaction the emerging civil war in Gaza, which Israel foments and
encourages. From Israel's point of view it does not really mater how Gaza would eventually be demographically downsized, be it by internal or Israeli slaying. The responsibility of ending the internal fighting lies of course with the Palestinian groups themselves, but the American and Israeli interference, the continued imprisonment, the starvation and strangulation of Gaza are all factors that make such an internal peace process very difficult. But it will take place soon and then with the first early sign that it subsided, the Israeli 'Summer Rains' will fall down again on the people of Gaza, wreaking havoc and death.
And one should never tire of stating the inevitable political conclusions from this dismal reality of the year we left behind and in the face of the one that awaits us. There is still no other way of stopping Israel than besides boycott, divestment and sanctions. We should all support it clearly, openly, unconditionally, regardless of what the gurus of our world tell us about the efficiency or raison d'etre of such actions. The UN would not intervene in Gaza as it does in Africa; the Nobel peace laureates would not enlist to its defense as they do for causes in Southeast Asia. The numbers of people killed there are not staggering as far as other calamities are concerned, and it is not a new story -- it is dangerously old and troubling. The only soft point of this killing machine is its oxygen lines to 'western' civilization and public opinion. It is still possible to puncture them and make it at least more difficult for the Israelis to implement their future strategy of eliminating the Palestinian people either by cleansing them in the West Bank or genociding them in the Gaza Strip.
Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer in the University of Haifa Department of political Science and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa. His books include, among others, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (London and New York 1992), The Israel/Palestine Question (London and New York 1999), A History of Modern Palestine (Cambridge 2003), The Modern Middle East (London and New York 2005) and his latest, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006).
. BY TOPIC: Israel attacks Gaza: "Operation Autumn Clouds" (1 Nov 2006- )
. BY TOPIC: Massacre in Beit Hanoun (8 November 2006)
. BY TOPIC: Israel invades Gaza: "Operation Summer Rain" (27 June 2006)
. BY TOPIC: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
. A rare voice: An interview with author Ilan Pappe, Christopher Brown (11
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from Bertell Ollman :
Subject: Re: ON LEARING AND LEARNING TO LEARN IN THE MODERN ICE AGE.
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2007
Hi Francis -
Check out "Dialectics for Kids" on Google. There is a lot there for the next discussion with your kids on dialectics.
from Gordon Poole :
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2007
Subject: Italian political cartoon againt U.S. military escalation in Iraq.
I enclose a cartoon by Vauro, whom most would perhaps agree is Italy's best political cartoonist. The main caption reads: "Doubling the size of the Vicenza military base. New job openings." The two new recruits at the "US Army Recruitment Office" are Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema and Prime Minister Romano Prodi. The cartoon was published on the front page of the January 18 issue of il manifesto.
If you prefer people not to send you images or whatever, please let me know.
Thanks for circulating your well-chosen essays, articles, and other material.
from Information Clearing House :
18 January 2007
The accused was held in extreme isolation for 1,307 days. Held in a nine-by-seven-foot cell. The only window blacked out. He was the lone prisoner on the two-tier cellblock. He was given food through a slot in the door. He slept on a steel mattress. No reading material. No calendar. No clock. Nothing to connect him to the outside world.