Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits
But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds
Which Thou and I alone of living things
Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth
Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou
Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,
And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,
With fear and self-contempt and barren hope.
Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate,
Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,
O’er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.
Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,
And moments aye divided by keen pangs
Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,
Scorn and despair, — these are mine empire
(Shelley, Prometheus Unbound)
Before the reader gets upset and flustered, let me declare that I have never been religious in the 38 years of my life, although I am Muslim by birth. Furthermore, let me point out that there is no genetic evidence of multiple races that has any statistical significance, as announced by the Human Genome Project in April 2009. I believe extremely strongly that the human race is a single race and the various ‘race’-characterizations that have developed with European imperial expansion primarily are ideologies rather than scientific truth. Ultimately ‘racism’ is based not only on superficial differences in characteristics but on a power relationship: ‘race’ today is based on the model that essentially Hitler’s Germany had reinforced, the idea of master races and slave races. The historical ‘mismeasure of man’ had been addressed eloquently by Stephen Jay Gould partly as a response to “The Bell Curve” which attempted to find, by extremely flawed methodology, differences in ‘intelligence’ by race.
Racial hatred manifests itself in a dehumanizing and treating as subhumans certain groups of people. Racism cannot be justified without a feeling that certain groups of people are lower in the evolutionary chain than others. Indeed, racism is a metaphysical construction ultimately. The religions reinforce racism — Gore Vidal has written about how Christian evangelism has reinforced racism against African Americans in the US. Let me give examples of anti-Arab racism in Israel which are poignant because there is a widespread belief in America that Palestinians are violent antisemites, or racist against Jews which must be put in context as well. Here is an example of a rabbi who pronounces that the Palestinians must perish in a plague which is particularly interesting because he is the founder of the Shas party which is in Netanyahu’s coalition. And here is an example of a state-endorsed rabbi who supports violence against Palestinians as well. These are important examples because racism against Palestinians is an important part of the state ideology that mixes religion with nationalism in Israel. These are also less well-known aspects of (some parts of) Judaism. This is clearly not the Judaism followed by a majority but it’s significant. The case of Israel is special in that there is also a whitewashing of facts in the west about the creation of Israel: the forcible removal from their land of around 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 which is whitewashed in the west as a ‘voluntary’ leaving but Israeli historian Ilan Pappe investigated in some detail the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. One can detect provisions for forcible removal of Palestinians in Plan Dalet. This ethnic cleansing has left many Palestinians in neighboring nations still unable to find a home. It is often also falsely believed that there were no significant population in the region west of Jordan, which is also false, as can be verified from the demographics compiled by a distinguished Israeli statistician. This is a fundamental fact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is a source a great deal of rage and hatred. Israeli historian Tom Segev calls this episode an open wound in Israeli society. Thus in the Israeli narrative, which has been widespread in the west, there has been a shift to blaming the victims in a sense, for the source of Arab terror is not quite simply based on hatred of Jews but a reaction to harm done to the Palestinians in the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 and then again from the occupation of Palestinian lands from 1967. Then of course, Arabs were branded ‘terrorists’ for a larger American imperial agenda. The reaction perhaps to these claims is a comparison by some in Israel of a heightened comparison to Nazi German antisemitism, which requires consideration as well. Israeli nationalism cannot accept the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 without marring the foundations of the nation state, and indeed there is a law prohibiting the commemoration of the Nakba that is defied by some.
In the case of Israel, we have a complicated mess because of the tangle of events in the Second World War that led to the creation of Israel — thus on one hand there is the history of a victim population of a great crime in Europe who had followed a semi-idealistic path to a ‘land without people’ in what is Israel today which happened to have been populated for centuries by Palestinians. This idealism, however was a racist enterprise from its very beginning, as Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana relate here. We have here a clash of narratives at many different levels. In the end, the winners of the Second World War, which was essentially the American empire which is the power behind the creation of Israel. The fact that the American empire had little problem with racism throughout its history is exceedingly clear before and after 1948, for the nineteenth century Manifest Destiny in America was steeped in precisely the appropriation of land by ethnic cleansing . In this particular case, we have the unique situation of a colonial enterprise which had to erase the history of the native population to establish itself citing an ancient connection of the external population with the land that had been inhabited for hundreds of years. Thus we have the strange situation where we have a state that is repeatedly referred to as ‘the only democracy’ in the Middle East which is a democracy for Jews, half-a-democracy for its Arab citizens (who have much more limited rights, e.g. they cannot own land in 93 percent of Israel) and a brutal military dictatorship for the lands under occupation since 1967.
Now it is the general prejudice in America that Islam is a ‘religion of war’ and is fundamentally violent, and while this is a complicated topic, it cannot be denied that Sunni suicide terrorism had been fomented by militant Islamism that we have seen in the past couple of decades. On this issue, it is worthwhile to consider the violence compared between Christianity and Islam. The political component of American anti-Muslim racism can obviously be traced back for the entire century but it is partly inherited from the Crusades. An interesting view of the socially accepted anti-Muslim racism can be found in Belen Fernandez’ study of the work of the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
It is impossible to hate without narratives, without resentment, without some righteous rage. The religions promote hatred of the ‘other’ in many ways but primarily by making others have malicious or malevolent intention towards us. It is impossible to hate without a sense of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, a feeling that the others have intention to harm. We hate when we feel demeaned or harmed, as the resentment boils up. This is why it is almost certain to me that 9/11 was a false flag operation because it makes very little sense that the Islamists whose interests were localized in the “Islamic strip” would undertake a completely unlikely-to-succeed terrorist mission and yet be able to coordinate four airplanes to hit their alleged targets with accuracy and effectiveness in demolishing skyscrapers. That false flag was clearly designed to invoke anti-Muslim hatred from the American public and the Christian west generally.
Past wounds generate resentment and hatred, but these hatreds cannot be reinforced without separate religions that reinforce the divisions. The Crusades had lasted now for over a thousand years. The divisions have deepened making it more difficult to step out of the racism. Nationalisms are like religions in a similar manner. The us-versus-them divisions of national identity allow us to have less empathy for human beings, to consider them lower than us, less worthy of respect. Iraq veteran Mike Prysner eloquently argues that racism is the most powerful tool in the American military for their ability to operate dehumanizing people in ‘other countries’.
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