When Victims Become Bullies: The Case Against Political Power
“The Israelis tried to dehumanise the Palestinians, just like the Nazis tried to dehumanise me. Nobody should dehumanise any other and those who try to dehumanise another are not human.” – Dr Hajo Meyer, Auschwitz survivor
Israel has been bombing and terrorizing Gaza – again – for the last week. It’s not the casualties or the airstrikes or the backwards media narrative or the viciousness of the attacks that struck me; as horrific as they are, spending a cold, humid afternoon reading Antiwar.com, MondoWeiss, and The Electronic Intifada can truly test one’s limits of frustration and anger at the cruel and utter reality of the consequences of Israeli occupation and aggression.
But this is the Israeli government, after all, and no one should be surprised at this manufactured crisis. Just ask the survivors of the U.S.S. Liberty attack about the lengths Israel is willing to go to both commit and conceal acts of state terrorism. No, what is incredibly worrisome are the politics inside Israel and the lengths the Israeli government goes to keep their subjects from knowing the truth.
In Ha’aretz, Abeer Ayyoub describes how what is actually happening in Gaza does not reflect the Israeli government’s claims. It’s an open-air prison; blockaded, sanctioned, terrorized, starved and subjugated, ruled by the iron fist of foreign military law.
This reality is deliberately kept from inside Israel by a level of deception, lies and propaganda that rivals any totalitarian state, current or past. The way Netanyahu manipulated the media narrative in order to milk it for political gain – and drop 400 tons of bombs on Gaza in two days – is pure Machiavellian evil.
The Israelis, like us, live under a brutal, aggressive empire that consistently uses lies, sloganeering, and appeals to emotion to whip up war hysteria and fear. It might even be worse in Israel. Just imagine America circa 2002 – orange alerts, fear-mongering, propaganda – 24/7.
But what sickens me is how many Israelis have responded. Rather than lynching Netanyahu and the Likud Party for their lies and crimes, they’re lynching Palestinian teenagers in an “orgy of racist incitement.” Earlier this week, reports near Jerusalem show a Jewish mob shouting “death to the Arabs” while “flagging down taxis presumably looking for Palestinian drivers (they let cars pass once they see a driver is Jewish).What is this, Mississippi in 1956?
How quickly the victim can become the bully. How do Jews, a group that has been oppressed horrifically for thousands of years, become the tip of the spear for aggression, expansion, racism and bloodshed against innocent people? How do targets of Nazis become Nazis themselves?
Sure, American money, weapons and a permanent UN Security Council veto help. But it’s deeper than that. It’s about politics and power.
Without politics, it’s easy to justify a safe haven for Jews, their own country, and independence. With politics, this dream morphs into Zionism and the desire to not only remove aggression wielded against them but to employ it against others as well. Monopolized, cartelized political power creates an incentive to do grab onto it at all costs, never let it go, and use it often. Better to be making omelettes than to pick up broken eggshells.
There are examples here in America as well. The wounds of the crimes done to blacks and African-Americans in this country haven’t healed, and while things are slowly improving, the scars may never completely close. Surely, a representative of this oppressed minority class would use government force prudently and nobly seeing as how for centuries, is is blacks who were staring down the barrel of state muskets, bayonets, firehoses, and AR-15s.
But like the Israelis, from the top of the government down to a Jerusalem mob calling for blood, Obama has kneeled at the altar of Ares in exchange to switch spots with the hangman. With a little over two years left in office, Obama’s legacy will be defined by drone war, torture, assassinations, indefinite military detention, and the caging of whistleblowers.
Women, who up until about not that recently were essentially considered legal property of a husband or father, are not exempt either. While the libertarian feminists and anarchists of the time were trying to remove both public and private shackles, others wanted to impose new ones through the political process. A century later, we have the first female Secretary of State Madeline Albright calmly explaining how murdering 500,000 Iraqi children was “worth it” to achieve a desired political end.
Condoleezza Rice – classically trained on the piano, Stanford professor – worked her way to the most upper echelons of government power and used it to lie us into war. Susan Rice and Samantha Powers are following quite nicely in her footsteps, begging their boss to go to war in Libya and Syria. For “humanitarian” reasons of course.
And now Hillary, who actually makes the current Predator-in-Chief look calm and responsible, wants the power to nuke, kill, torture, tax, cage, and spy on anyone she wants. All you have to do is ask her.
Nobody, no matter how previously victimized by institutionalized violence, can be trusted with power. Not the best of us, and certainly not the worst of us. This is why violence in society , whether aggressive, structural, or isolated, is best mitigated by refusing to instituionalize it or think that it can be used to achieve peaceful, just ends. We should be always be Levellers.
This goes for libertarians as well. As a fairly fringe, but radically growing, ideology, frustrated at the wars and the bailouts and the drug war and the debt and myriad of horrors the state inflicts on us, it is tempting to look to political solutions. I am just as guilty of this; I fully supported Ron Paul’s presidential runs and dreamt of him ordering generals home and re-instating the Bill of Rights.
But politics is poison. Libertarianism is no exception; I have no right to force it on you, even if I think it’s the best system both morally and practically. We lead by the force of our example, from simple acts of peaceful agorism to building free, voluntary societies. Besides, state power is inherently reactionary, seeking to preserve the status quo and using lethal violence if necessary in order to do so. As Dan Sanchez argues in a recent article:
There is no need for principled libertarians to join the ranks of the state or to try to direct it through voting in order to cause the state to reverse-march. So long as there is ideological change shifting the frontier of potential resistance and the requirements for public legitimacy toward more libertarian demands, prudentially parasitic individuals within the state (many posing as libertarians) will come forth to call for limiting the state in order to preserve it. There is no need for actual libertarians to fill that role.
Reform is a state ploy for self-preservation; it is a parasite prudentially withdrawing an appendage to avoid counter-productively provoking its host. Libertarians need only induce reform by making the host more irritable, through ideological change and the resulting advance of the red line of potential resistance. Libertarians actually taking a hand in the reform is unnecessary, not to mention counter-productively corrupting and tarnishing to the libertarian brand.
Are there any doubts that even the most principled libertarian wouldn’t turn into a right-wing monster like everyone else when given political power? And do we really want Rand Paul holding the bag when the empire collapses and the Social Security checks bounce? The worst thing libertarians can do is win elections and wield power. Let the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas of the world be the face of empire.
The most victimized groups in human and modern history can not be trusted with political power. Philosophies, religions, ethics, or any other standard of culture, governance and law, plus politics, is the most dangerous thing in the world to peace and liberty. There are no exceptions. Metaphysics belongs to the marketplace, not to Mafias that calls themselves governments.