Russell Tribunal on Palestine Part III – Sociocide
October 8, 2012
One of the most interesting topics discussed by the tribunal was the question of sociocide, an academic concept which means the complete destruction of a people’s social and political structures as well as the destruction of a people’s identity.
Some of the experts called to testify in front of the tribunal pointed out that this is just one form of genocide, not separate from genocide, but rather a particular type.
Saleh Hamayel (which as he pointed out was the Hebrew last name given to his family by the occupying Israeli settlers) particularly testified on the Palestinian case for sociocide. He discussed the term sociocide and compared it to others like apartheid and politicide. It was his opinion, and the opinion of others, that the situation in Africa is more severe than South African apartheid on a number of levels.
“Apartheid is not accurate to describe fully what is being done ot he Palestinian people. As Desmond Tutu has said ‘I’ve seen many of the things in South African Apartheid being done to the Palestinian people, but I’ve seen many more things being done to the Palestinian people that were never done under South African apartheid.’” Saleh said in his testimony. He then went on to list examples. For instance:
- Palestinians are now a minority people, suffering under the oppression of a majority. After many have been dispossessed, and killed and after new settlers have continued to migrate to Israel, transforming the Israeli population from 200,000 a few years ago, to now over 600,000. Blacks in South Africa were a majority people, suffering under the exploitation and oppression of the white minority.
- Blacks in South Africa were exploited for their labor and thus included in the economy. Whereas the indigenous Palestinian people, more like indigenous people here in the United States, were excluded from the economy entirely. Their ability to thrive under any economic conditions has been systematically destroyed, creating some of the most devastating conditions for the Palestinian people that exist for human beings in the world today. When an oppressed group is not part of the labor force, genocide is the obvious track, he said.
- He also offered an example about swimming, and noted that Palestinians are not allowed to share beaches with Israelis. “Palestinians have not been able to swim in the same sea as Israelis for more than 17 years.” Saleh Hamayel added.
More than apartheid and more than genocide or politicide, a new definition is necessary to describe the desperate and terrible conditions of the Palestinian people, with Palestinians being destroyed both as a political/national group and as a society. This process has been ongoing, with both an initial massacre of many and then a series of policies to slowly destroy the minority that is left. Saleh Hamayel calls this sociocide. He argued that a unique situation needs a unique concept to define it.
From a strategic point of view, with a focus on stopping Israel from continuing to violate international law, the panel took the position that apartheid is sufficient and necessary as it is already defined as illegal under international law. In the comments many of the jurors did note that after visiting Palestine and seeing the conditions that Israel has subjected the Palestinian people to, that the situation in Palestine is much more severe than South African apartheid and much more severe than Jim Crow in the south. This coming from South Africans who lived through apartheid and from black Americans who live in the United States and who grew up in the south struck me as incredibly telling about the level of complete disparity that Palestinians are forced to live in.
Check out our other posts on the Russell Tribunal here.