Jun
04
2010

Why the Biggest Killers See Themselves as Victims

Glenn Greenwald (Salon, 6/3/10), in a compelling blog post on "Victimhood, Aggression and Tribalism," quotes Noam Chomsky from Imperial Ambitions:

In one of his many speeches, to U.S. troops in Vietnam, [Lyndon] Johnson said plaintively, "There are three billion people in the world and we have only two hundred million of them. We are outnumbered fifteen to one. If might did make right they would sweep over the United States and take what we have. We have what they want."That is a constant refrain of imperialism. You have your jackboot on someone's neck and they're about to destroy you.

The same is true with any form of oppression. And it's psychologically understandable. If you're crushing and destroying someone, you have to have a reason for it, and it can't be,"I'm a murderous monster."It has to be self-defense. "I'm protecting myself against them. Look what they're doing to me." Oppression gets psychologically inverted; the oppressor is the victim who is defending himself.

This is, in fact, one of the standard justifications for violence of the strong against the weak–up to and including genocide. (See FAIR Blog, 2/2/09). That's why when Israeli security forces kill more than 3,000 civilians in Gaza since 2001 and Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza kill 27 Israelis over the same time period, people can argue with a straight face that Israel's self-defense needs require it to impose a crushing blockade on Gaza that has forced 10 percent of the population into chronic malnutrition.

That the blockade's actual purpose has little to do with self-defense is illustrated by the wide array of prohibited goods that have nothing to do with security, as Peter Beinart pointed out in the Daily Beast (6/1/10; cited in Yglesias, 6/3/10):

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations greeted news of the flotilla disaster by repeating a common "pro-Israel" talking point: that Israel only blockades Gaza to prevent Hamas from building rockets that might kill Israeli citizens. If only that were true. In reality, the embargo has a broader and more sinister purpose: to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported, the Israeli officials in charge of the embargo adhere to what they call a policy of "no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis." In other words, the embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve.

This explains why Israel prevents Gazans from importing, among other things, cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, French fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks, empty flowerpots and toys, none of which are particularly useful in building Kassam rockets. It's why Israel bans virtually all exports from Gaza, a policy that has helped to destroy the Strip's agriculture, contributed to the closing of some 95 percent of its factories, and left more 80 percent of its population dependent on food aid. It's why Gaza's fishermen are not allowed to travel more than three miles from the coast, which dramatically reduces their catch…. There's a name for all this: collective punishment.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.