Latest posts by Ryan Bellerose (see all)
- A Letter To Palestinian Supporters Tempted To Co-Opt Native American Struggles - October 1, 2015
- Indigenous Status Matters: Here’s Why - September 20, 2015
- Silverstein, Why Are You Such A Richard? - September 8, 2015
- The Sky Is Not Falling: One State Will Not Destroy Israel - September 2, 2015
- Why Matisyahu Put The Nail In The Coffin Of BDS - August 29, 2015
There is a constant invoking and misuse of the term “genocide.”
It seems everybody wants to claim their people went through a genocide as if it’s some sort of badge of honor and not a horrific event, but the constant invoking of the term for peoples who have not even remotely undergone one, devalues it and legitimizes it. It is the modern day version of “crying wolf”. In fact, by using it so constantly and for conflicts in which it has no place, it has made the word commonplace and no longer a word that denotes horrific and intentional targeted loss of life.
Now I am certain some people will be upset, nobody likes to be called out on appropriation or for exaggerating, especially not when it comes to tragedies, however when invoking a word that speaks of acts so horrific that they beggar belief, they need to understand those of us who have undergone actual genocides, are not amused to see people appropriating our tragedies or using them to exaggerate their own.
I believe there are certain elements in the world today who have very cynically used the term in order to gain credibility with oppressed and marginalised indigenous peoples. This is not to say that they do not have legitimate grievances or their situations are ideal. However it is absolutely truthful to say they should not be using the term in such a cavalier manner especially in order to gain commonality with indigenous people who have undergone actual genocides from which we are barely starting to recover. It’s this deliberate misuse of language in order to obfuscate issues that leads to people forming opinions based on false information.
In order to understand Genocide, one must understand something integral. Genocides, by their very name, mean the attempted destruction of an ENTIRE people. Genocide should never be invoked unless there is an intentional vast reduction of a population, the word itself needs to be respected as an event that is so beyond everyday life that when it is said it is invoked with horror as well as respect for the many who lost their lives. Genocide ALWAYS results in a huge number of deaths and always is an attempt by one culture to destroy another.
There are no such things as “small genocide, slow genocide, partial genocide” or other terms that are used to piggyback on the suffering of peoples who have undergone an event like this.
It’s incredibly important for people to speak up when we see someone abusing or misusing terms like genocide, for the simple reason that it attacks the very nature of our claims of having undergone one. As of right now, I challenge anyone to name me one genocide that resulted in population growth. Not one time in the entire history of the planet has this happened. because by its nature genocide is violent, destructive and ALWAYS results in the vast reduction of population as well as displacement of the people it has been perpetrated against.
The mechanism for genocide is almost always the same: physically violent methods of death combined with policies to dehumanize the victims and prevent their recovery as a people. This is because in order to achieve a Genocide, the party conducting the Genocide must have a deep hatred of the group it is conducting the Genocide on. It’s a truism to say the concept of “othering” is an integral part of this process. Sadly religion is often a huge contributor to this as well.
In the modern world, there must also be the considerations of modern media, social media and perception, however for the only places that could be considered modern perpetrators of genocide, public perception is not really a concern as the countries involved, Syria, Libya, several African countries and China, are not overly concerned with public perception.
There is also a concerted effort to malign the country of Israel, as conducting a genocide, however when we examine the facts on the ground, that argument quickly falls apart. Like the claims of indigenous status, the claims of Genocide by the Arabs calling themselves Palestinians rest on ignorance and exaggeration and, when examined rationally, do not stand up.
First, lets go back to the etymology of the word Genocide. Greek Geno meaning “people”; Cide meaning “killing or destruction” so while operation Protective edge has thus far resulted in 200 Palestinian deaths, the fact the IDF took extreme measures to avoid killing civilians, including documented cases of calling off attacks due to too many civilians in the area, shows categoriacally this is not a case of genocide. Perpetrators of genocide attempt to maximise casualties not prevent them. This is pretty much common sense, however it seems that someone needs to say it.
The rise in population of the Palestinians from 750 thousand people in 1947 to well over 5 million worldwide today, would also seem to show that claims of genocide are wildly exaggerated. How does one explain the shipments of large amounts of food, water and supplies as well as the supplying of electricity to the Palestinians by Israel even during times of conflict? These are all easily sourced and verified. The disparity in casualties actually speaks more to cultural and religious differences between the two peoples. Whereas the Jews have spent billions on the Iron Dome and their shelters, the Arab Muslims have spent their money on weapons and massive homes for their leaders. The idea that Israel is conducting a genocide based on the disparity in numbers of deaths is fallacious and facetious, and to be honest, ridiculous.
One has only to look at the casualties in Syria to see what an actual attack on civilians results in. Widespread death and destruction on a massive scale. The fact after over 1000 sorties hitting launch sites in a densely populated urban area, the IDF has only killed 200 people suggests to anyone with a working brain, that either the Jews are really bad at war, or they are actually very good at precise attacks and at warning civilians to leave. Something no other superpower involved in an asymetrical conflict has ever bothered with.
By even entertaining Palestinian claims of genocide, we are delegitimizing the word Genocide, as well as assisting in the dehumanizing of an indigenous people who have returned to the lands they were displaced from and built a thriving nation state. One could argue the only case of this having been done in the history of the world. BECAUSE almost every other people who have undergone a genocide, have passed the tipping point and had to leave or were displaced from the lands on which the genocide was conducted.
Here’s a quick checklist I devised for you to see if your people have in fact undergone a genocide.
1. Has your population been reduced so drastically that your people are a fragment of their former population and have difficulty recovering, often taking several decades to even return to its former numbers, if it recovers at all?
If yes then you have undergone a genocide if not then please refrain from using the word ever again.
That’s it, if you had any trouble with answering the question then you have not undergone a genocide. Period, full stop. Let me repeat for the mentally infirm:
EVERY POPULATION THAT HAS EVER UNDERGONE A GENOCIDE IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND HAS HAD A VAST REDUCTION IN POPULATION THAT RESULTED IN THE PEOPLE EITHER DISAPPEARING OR STRUGGLING FOR DECADES TO EVEN APPROACH ITS PRE-EVENT NUMBERS.
This is not rocket science, so to speak, this is fact.
I know the people misusing this word often do so intentionally, they are the people who often make invalid comparisons anyway, so doing this achieves two goals: it exaggerates their own issues while minimizing the issues of the people who underwent a genocide.
Ryan Mervin Bellerose: Metis nation of Alberta, and member of the Paddle Prairie Metis settlement. Survivor of Genocide.