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Sample Critical Thinking Paper on the Concept of Genocide from a Historical Perspective

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Sample Critical Thinking Paper on the Concept of Genocide from a Historical Perspective

Introduction

The question of whether the decision by Israeli to wage battles and killings against Palestine in 1948 was justified forms an integral discussion on the nature of wars in Europe. It leads to the question of the possibility that Israel was an active participant in propagating genocide against parts of the Arab world. Numerous discussions seek to accuse and acquit Israel of any acts of violence. Such an intention in the view of Martin Shaw should not be viewed from the perspective of the settler-colonial dispute but as an extension of violence towards exclusion and promotion of nationalistic values, which had defined different wars in Germany.

Thesis statement

Genocide is both an intended and purposive act against a selected population with the objective of advancing nationalist values with little consideration of the lives and rights of the attacked population.

 

 

Significance

The main objective of this study is to engage in a critical discussion concerning the concept of genocide and its applicability throughout history. This will help in understanding different instances of war that have characterized the nature of conflicts in the European world in the pre and post-World War years. In addition, the study will also provide a platform upon which different aspects and scholarly views will be discussed to enable the development of a conclusive view on matters related to the practice of genocide.

Scholar Perspectives of the Concept of Genocide in European Wars

While arguing from the perspective of the Armenian genocide of 1915- 1916, Bloxam (143) asserts that genocide has no prior blueprint that will define the process of organization and implementation of different attacks and killing. Instead, genocide can only be envisioned whenever a group of people belonging to a given nationality, ethnic or spiritual group, begins the process of radicalizing their members on extremist ideologies that threaten the existence of another community (Bloxam 144). This will give rise to tensions between the two communities and eventually lead to mass murder and destruction of property. Barta (238), while arguing from the perspective of settler-colonial genocide, views Australia as a nation founded on genocide. This is because he views the first contact between the aboriginals in Australian, and the white settlers as characterized by different aspects of brutality. High levels of brutality that threaten the existence of a specific population qualify as genocide because of the intentions of the attacking the tribe. According to Barta (237), the invasion of the white population in Australia led to the killing of a large population of aboriginals who rejected the desire by their colonial masters to take over control of different aspects that had been developed for many years. Being relatively weak compared to the European settlers, the aboriginals were subjected to harsh living conditions.

Consequently, a large population of these individuals was decimated by disease and hunger as some of them succumbed to injuries sustained during the attacks. Barta (237) asserts tha the Europeans claimed tha the deaths resulted from natural calamities, such as hunger, and diseases. However, it is possible to argue that these were circumstances caused by the European settlers who had the desire of weakening and completely eliminating a population that was considered a threat to their conquest. Genocide from this perspective does not only involve direct actions of mass killing but also actions dedicated towards weakening a specific group of individuals with the objective of realizing massive deaths (Bloxam 145).

Israel invasion of the Arab world, especially in 1948, has been a subject of debate considering whether it was an act of genocide or an intention to establish a nation within the Arab world. Both Israel and Palestine were directly involved in a war that claimed causalities from both sides of the conflict. This leads to the question of whether the attacks against Israel by Palestinians also qualify as genocide despite the attacks being orchestrated and executed by the Israelis. This in the view of Shaw and Bartov (247) must only be understood in relation to the intentions of both sides of the war. Israel, for instance, had the primary goal of eliminating every aspect of the Arab population to secure land for its growth. The Palestinians in an attempt to defend their nation from any possible attack were involved in the war, hence mass killing and destruction of property. Israel in this case must be viewed as a country that intended to destroy Palestine and the surrounding countries as a way of expanding its national agenda (Shaw and Bartov 247).

The involvement of any community in a war aimed at advancing its own ideologies at the cost of those by other nations forms the basis of genocide. The process of determining whether an act of genocide was committed against a population can also be assessed in relation to the objects of attack. In any war, the parties involved often attack the military and the military equipment. Any form of attack against blameless civilians and destruction of property that is essential for the survival of the civilians must be perceived as an attempt of genocide. This is because civilians are often perceived as non- combatant in any war and an attack on a defenseless individual must be perceived as an intention against a generation, a race or an ethnic group.

According to Moses (82), the concept of genocide can be understood better from a historical perspective when addressed in relation to the Holocaust. This event qualifies as an act of genocide since it was aimed at a specific population at that time, the Jewish community. These individuals were subjected to different levels of brutality including murder. The suffering and the traumatizing effects of the Jews was not only considered a threat to the existence of a population but also a threat to humanity. Germany according to Lemkin (81) was operating on the basis of inferiority and superiority complex. Through Nazi doctrines, the Germans had been radicalized to identify themselves as a superior population compared to other groups in the society. This led to high levels of hate against those considerd as inferior. Eventually, the German population, through its leadership, began the process of eliminating inferior human beings from the surface of the earth. Genocide from this perspective is therefore a policy upon which the participants could be held responsible charged with accusations on the basis of their threat to human existence (Kimmerling 57). The Holocaust, the attack against Palestine, and the invasion by the whites of the aboriginal’s land in Australia, qualify as acts of genocide because they were coordinated plans characterized by different actions with the aim of destroying the essential foundations of life. In addition, these plans were also aimed at annihilating the target groups (Kimmerling 58).

These perspectives of genocide when understood in relation to the thesis statement holds the idea that for an activity to qualify as an act of genocide, it must be targeted against a specific group of people. For instance, the Holocaust was targeted on the Jews, Israel attacks on Palestine, and the white setters’ attacks on aboriginals in Australia. These were planned although the level of execution was varied across different communities. The genocide does not have a homogenous approach on how it is to be realized but the end result is often characterized by destruction of the foundations of life and the mass killing of the targeted population.

Representative and Relevant Evidence

According to Lemkin (81), the relevance of the practice of genocide can only be understood when perceived from different events in the society. These include the economic, political, social, physically, and biological perspectives.

Political

The desire to realize political relevance and power in any society has often been cited as the major cause of violence and genocide in different communities. In Germany, for instance, the Holocaust was conceived as an idea aimed at the realization of political dominance of Germany over all the other countries in Europe (Lemkin 81). The expansionist ideology and the extermination effects that followed were all aimed at maintaining the hegemony of the country after its decline and near collapse at the end of the First World War. This in the view of Moses (4) was the approach that the European colonialist used to gain power in the developing counters that they had conquered. Genocide was not only used as an intimidation procedure, but also as an attempt by the colonial powers to ensure that their subjects were completely under their control to facilitate the process of exploitation.

Social

A society is often designed to operate in accordance with defined procedures; these include the language and cultural artifacts. Complete destruction of any society in the view of Lemkin (83) would involve the destruction of a language and the cultural meanings given to specific aspects within the society. Genocide when perceived from the perspective of colonialism can be said to have been exacerbated by the existence of numerous ethnic communities that were in opposition of the colonial rule. The plan to disintegrate this institution could only be accomplished through the killing of the population that was in opposition. Lemkin (79) argues that this perspective brings with it two levels of understanding of genocide. The first understanding is that an act of genocide often leads to the destruction of property, which includes the national pattern of the oppressed group. The Holocaust, for instance, was aimed at the destruction of the national identity of the Jewish population. This can be realized through the introduction of radical ideologies on the oppressed people. The second aspect of genocide that is connoted is the complete eradication of the oppressed group of people.

Biological

This aspect of genocide is often perceived in terms of the birth rates and death rates of different members of the population. Genocide form this perspective, according to Lemkin (88), often characterized the activities of the oppressor against the oppressed. During the Holocaust and the reign of the Nazi regime, the Germans were encouraged to give birth to increase the population of the group that was perceived as largely superior. The oppressed who were majorly the Jews had males and females deported to different concentration camps with an objective of reducing the birth rate hence increasing the possibility of complete eradication of the Jewish population (Levene 313). The separation of males and females in the colonial years characterized the activities of the European settlers against their subjects in Australia and in the Third world countries. Forced labor and undernourishment decreased the birth rate, and was considered as a threat to the wellbeing of the oppressed population in terms of generational continuity (Lemkin 81).

Counter-Argument and Rebuttal

Genocide in the view of Bartov can be said to have lost its meaning considering that numerous parties have been involved in different proportions. It becomes difficult to develop a definite connotation to these concepts due to the existence of numerous aspects that can be used in the development of the definition (Shaw Bartov 246). This argument by Bartov creates the perception that just because a concept has been applied in various formats allows it to lose meaning as intended by its original initiators. The argument by Bartov in the view of Pappe (9) misses the point on the extreme nature of these activities. Despite the possibility that the act has been committed in different proportions, one defining feature of genocide is that the perpetrators always have a definite plan on how well they will realize their intended objectives. In the case of ethnic cleansing in Palestine by the Israeli in 1948, Pappe (9-10) the Israeli leadership was aware of the techniques that they were going to use and the possible consequences.

Other countries, such as Britain have been accused of killing more than 1 million Germans during the Second World War. This in the view of Bartov (247) presents a case of multitudes. Bartov asks question regarding proportionality in the definition of genocide. However, in response to his rebuttal, Shaw argues that the concept of genocide does not become meaningless when understood from different perspectives. Instead it attracts more and new meanings, which emphasize on its relevance to the understanding of the history of war in Europe (Shaw and Bartov 248).  The concept of genocide in the view of Levene (394) must always be centered around the realization by one center of power that another entity is a threat to the existence and the development of its national values and structures. This necessitated the need for its destruction and complete eradication. The hostilities in Eastern Anatolia, especially during the reign of the Ottoman Empire were characterized by numerous instances of genocide. This was largely because of the presence of multi-ethnic group with the desire of promoting their own ideologies at the expenses of those propagated by other groups (Levene 393).

            Bartov while attempting to identify the differences between ethnic cleansing and genocide argues that in the former, the desire is only to acquire a portion of the territory of the perceived enemy while in the latter the perpetrators often target an end of the existence of the target population (Shaw and Bartov 252). Inasmuch as the assertions by Bartov may be considered essential in understanding different aspects of brutal wars, it would be important to understand genocide from its definition and intention (Shaw and Bartov 252). According to Levine (311), both genocide and ethnic cleansing are all acts of war with a definite target. The objective is often to eliminate the enemy from a specific area of interest. This meant that Bartov’s attempt to relieve Israel of the accusations of genocide against the Palestine misses the point. The Israeli leadership planned the attack with the objective of eliminating the Palestinians through genocide. Ethnic cleaning therefore just as genocide are all aimed at eradicating a population to promote the interest of the attacker (Shaw and Bartov 255).

Settler-colonialism and interstate wars have often been cited as the major causes of genocide within and outside the European state. This is in consideration to the Second World War, and the clashes that characterized the way of life prior to the beginning of the First World War (Kimmerling 18). This is an allegation that scholars, such as Wolfe (387) have argued to be based against the European society. Inasmuch as settler- colonialism and the wars in the European world contributed to most instances of violence and genocide, there were also situations where the natives, especially in the colonial years embraced the European colonizers and accepted their rule (Wolfe 388). In other instances, genocide has been practiced without the involvement of colonial or European powers. In Rwanda in 1994, for instance, more than 800, 000 people were killed in one of the shortest but most brutal instances of ethnic cleansing in the war between the native Rwandese (Wolfe 388). The main cause of genocide whether in civil or interstate wars is often the existence of different racial regimes, which encode and exacerbate the production of unequal relations between their subjects. High levels of discrimination and the desire to establish authority against other factions of power have been considerd as important in the process of understanding genocide and its effects on the attacking and targeted population (Wolfe 387-388).

Genocide in the view of Schaller (531) does not encompass the immediate destruction of an ethnic or religious population. Instead, Schaller (531) argues that it is a process characterized by two processes, which include the destruction of existing national structure and patterns of the oppressed, and the imposition of new patterns by the oppressors. This approach can be regarded as one founded on the basis of colonialism. However, it eliminates the brutality in terms murderous attacks against the oppressed. The concept of genocide does not only involve a destruction of national structures, but also exempts of destruction of elements that define life. Destruction of property without the loss or a threat to the loss of life cannot be perceived as an act of genocide since these oppressed individuals are not threatened with extinction from the surface of the universe (Shaw 3-4).

Conclusion

The concept of genocide can be understood better from a historical perspective when addressed in relation to the Holocaust. This event qualifies as an act of genocide since it was aimed at a specific population at that time. Any form of attack against innocent civilians and destruction of property that is essential for the survival of the civilians must be perceived as an attempt of genocide. This is because civilians are often perceived as non- combatant in any war, and an attack on a defenseless individual must be perceived as an intention against a generation, a race or an ethnic group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Barta, Tony. Relations of Genocide: Land and Lives in the Colonization of Australia. in M. N.

Dobkowski and I. Wallimann, eds, Genocide in the Mod­ern Age: Etiology and Case Studies of Mass Death, Greenwood Press, New York, 1987

Bloxham, Donald. “The Armenian Genocide of 1915-1916: Cumulative Radicalization and the

Development of a Destruction Policy.” Past & Present, No. 181 (Nov., 2003), pp. 141-191

Kimmerling, Baruch. The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Society, and the Military.

Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Print.

Lemkin, Raphael. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government,

Proposal for Redness. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944

Levene, Mark. “Why is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide?” Journal of World

History 11. 2 (2000): 305- 336  

Levene, Mark. “Creating a Modern “Zone of Genocide”: The Impact of Nation- and State-

Formation on Eastern Anatolia, 1878-1923.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, V12 N3, Winter 1998, pp. 393-433

Martin Shaw, “Palestine and Genocide: An International Historical Perspective Revisited,” Holy

Land Studies, 12.1 (2013), 3-5.

Martin Shaw & Omer Bartov, “The question of genocide in Palestine, 1948: an exchange

between Martin Shaw and Omer Bartov,” Journal of Genocide Research, 12:3-4 (2010): 243-259.

Moses, A . Conceptual blockages and definitional dilemmas in the ‘racial century’: genocides of

indigenous peoples and the Holocaust, Patterns of Prejudice. Taylor & Francis; London, 36.4(2002): 7-36,

Moses, Dirk. Genocide and Settler Society in Australian History. Journal of Genocide Research

  1. 1 (2000): 89-107

Pappe, Ilan. The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. “Journal of Palestine Studies” 36.1 (2006): 6-20

Schaller, Dominik. “Raphael Lemkin’s view of European colonial rule in Africa: between

condemnation and admiration.” Journal of Genocide Research 7. 4 (2005): 531–538.

Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native. Journal of Genocide

Research  8.4(2006): 387–409

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