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itsalways1312somewhere wrote

I doubt it. They had so many other chances to learn this, why would now be different?


fortmis OP wrote

because of how magnified this situation is. Everyone is watching Israel fully ignoring anyone who doesn't support them


Tequila_Wolf wrote (edited )

I read a cool book a long time ago, called something like States Of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities And Suffering, by Stanley Cohen.


Blocking out, turning a blind eye, shutting off, not wanting to know, wearing blinkers, seeing what we want to see ... these are all expressions of 'denial'. Alcoholics who refuse to recognize their condition, people who brush aside suspicions of their partner's infidelity, the wife who doesn't notice that her husband is abusing their daughter - are supposedly 'in denial'. Governments deny their responsibility for atrocities, and plan them to achieve 'maximum deniability'. Truth Commissions try to overcome the suppression and denial of past horrors. Bystander nations deny their responsibility to intervene.

Do these phenomena have anything in common? When we deny, are we aware of what we are doing or is this an unconscious defence mechanism to protect us from unwelcome truths? Can there be cultures of denial? How do organizations like Amnesty and Oxfam try to overcome the public's apparent indifference to distant suffering and cruelty? Is denial always so bad - or do we need positive illusions to retain our sanity?

States of Denial is the first comprehensive study of both the personal and political ways in which uncomfortable realities are avoided and evaded. It ranges from clinical studies of depression, to media images of suffering, to explanations of the 'passive bystander' and 'compassion fatigue'. The book shows how organized atrocities - the Holocaust and other genocides, torture, and political massacres - are denied by perpetrators and by bystanders, those who stand by and do nothing.


fortmis OP wrote

This looks interesting! I wonder though, how much denial plays into the current situation cause the way I perceive it, everyone knows that Israel is "breaking international law" and completely disregarding human life (even many pro-israelis won't deny it and instead see it as necessary for the cause) -- but now we are experiencing a warped reality in which even seeing this and knowing this isn't enough to make the powers that be force israel to stop.


ruminator wrote (edited )

The reason that denial is so violent is that it involves knowing first. Recognition of the thing being denied before that is either rationalized or repressed. Disavowal is one language for this process.

Interestingly trauma is marked by the same pattern. It fucks everyone up. This is why Fanon considers the colonizer to be both oppressor and the subject of trauma.


fortmis OP wrote

but doesn't denial entail a sort of lying to oneself? people aren't denying that Israel is massacring Palestinians , they're not pretending that what they know to be happening isn't happening. they're just accepting it as a means to an end, or an inevitable way of the world.


ruminator wrote (edited )

They have created mechanisms to rationalize/repress what is happening. “Means to an end” logic is one way of doing that. Describing Palestinians as “subhuman” is another way. These are two examples of rationalizations. Repression is more complicated because it involves intense forms of “hiding from oneself”, so the person may/may not be conscious of this.

The big point the book (and several of us) are making is that denial does not necessarily entail total rejection (although this is certainly one of its forms). It can also be the lies we tell ourselves so we do not have to apprehend the full force of the harm we have done/are doing. In this way, rationalizations are often then a symptom of denial. The thing one needs to maintain their coherence (“I am good”, “I did this harmful thing for the right reasons”)


fortmis OP wrote

ok, i see what you mean, this makes sense. maybe my problem is that i don't want it to be referred to as denial because it feels so much more aggressive than that.

could have to do with my personal associations with the word denial, and the illusions it seeks to maintain. to me, in gaza, there is no illusion. we are all seeing what is happening, the photos, videos, numbers, testimonies speak for themselves. Israeli propaganda is, imo, weaker and flimsier than ever. Western diplomacy is falling apart at the seams, an absolute embarrassment for the US. If there is denial, even in the form of rationalization, as you say, it doesn't seem to be holding very well.

am i making sense, can you see what i'm getting at? I'm trying to say that i think denial is too generous a way to describe what's happening right now.


ruminator wrote (edited )

You are making so much sense. I fully understand not wanting there to be any explanation that throws anyone/anything into relief. I am with you in this feeling, and the endless angst.

The second thing I’ll say is that for me denial is the most violent thing that people and societies do to each other. Oppression, authoritarianism, etc.. it’s all at the heart of denial (and vice versa). That denial provides “safe cover” for those enacting it is precisely what makes it doubly cruel.

And yet, one can see right through it. For me, that is both the lesson and the the aim. To expect denial, to observe/feel its violence whenever it unfolds, but also then…to refuse it.


Tequila_Wolf wrote

I wonder too. I think denial includes what you've just described.


fortmis OP wrote

i just sorta responded to this above but ya, idk if I am missing something here but I don't see denial. when people say, for example, israel is bombing people in their homes, the response isn't "no they aren't," it's "yes but they warn them first." Or when Israel lays siege to a hospital, trapping hundreds of patients inside without supplies, the response isn't "no they aren't," the response is "yes, but Hamas is hiding underneath."


kano wrote

Blocking out, turning a blind eye, shutting off, not wanting to know, wearing blinkers, seeing what we want to see ... these are all expressions of 'denial'.

I think if you take this definition given in what tequila_wolf quoted before, what you are talking about these are all under the definition of denial.

Israel pays lip service to 'avoiding civilian casualties' as part of it whole PR strategy. but they justify civilian casualties by writing them off as terrorists, or human shields. So the killing of Gazans goes from being ethnic cleansing or genocide, to being collateral damage in the fight against Hamas.

In earlier times before everyone had a phone and internet access and hella journalists or whatever they might be able to get away with denying it outright. but this is kind of hard to do nowadays I think, so these rhetorical strategies to turn all Palestinians into 'legitimate' targets and people accepting these ideas is probably form of denial. Its seeing what we want to see or what others want us to see.


kano wrote

I've been trying to decide how to answer this question for like a day now and I'm still not sure exactly what you are asking.

But I think that if anyone pays attention to stuff that happens in the world like at all, it should be clear that there is no international law and human rights. This is an extremely horrifying and shocking event. and I remember we were talking a month ago, back when there were still more dead Israelis than Palestinians. and we were talking about how that was going to change, and its still getting worse now.

I think its likely that this is an event that could contribute to radicalising some people, but not everyone, although its still escalating and I guess the consequences of larger general conflict could be pretty severe. Europe and the USA still have the power to decide what 'goes' I guess in terms of international law which is why Israel could violate for the last decades.

But I think it shouldn't take something as extreme as Israel's attack on Gaza to make it clear that human rights are privileges and that international law is optional if powerful countries are on your side.


fortmis OP wrote

But I think that if anyone pays attention to stuff that happens in the world like at all, it should be clear that there is no international law and human rights.

super true, still i feel strongly that even though this isn't the first massacre and forced displacement even this year, there's something about the way this is playing out, real-time on everyone's screens that feels "unprecedented" (in quotes cause i'm so exhausted by this word lol) -- which is why i wonder if (and hopefully this clarifies my question) there will be a noticeable shift in how people talk about international law, human rights, and even the UN going forward -- seeing as invoking all three of these things has little to no effect on how the situation is unfolding and how israel acts.

i don't even really mean a "radicalization" so much as a... deflation? maybe? a kind of "womp womp" of international law -- the little hole in the bouncy castle that causes it to pathetically collapse in on itself. I mean the UN has never looked more useless imo


kano wrote

Ok I kind of get what you are saying more now I think.

We have this strange situation where people who work in the UN and the head of the UN are condeming Israel for the atrocities it commits in Gaza at the moment, and pushing for aid to be allowed into Gaza and I think UN officials have referred to Israel's attack on Gaza as genocide. but powerful countries in the UN structure are completely behind Israel. So we do have a contradiction, here but I'm not sure how much it matters. I see the League of Nations previously, and now the UN as a tool that powerful countries can use in order to keep the rest of the world in check. So in this sense the UN has power, but when people in the UN itself want something to different to powerful countries, the impotence of the UN can b seen.

I don't know if its very important then. If less powerful countries like withdraw from the UN because it doesn't have the power to make a difference to what israel does in Palestine, then we still have a global heirarchy of power and international law will remain the same: don't cross the powerful countries.

so sure, to us the UN looks impotent or useless, but for the powerful countries its not really a problem.

To me it seems like all the footage that we can see of destruction in Gaza and escalation and emboldened settlers in the West Bank, just inspires Israel's media offensive or PR campaign or information management to reach new heights in misrepresenting what is happening, and the large Western media laps this up still. I'm in my bubble and I'm not really sure that most people would even be prepared to call this genocide or war crimes or whatever. (I have no idea). In Germany the mainstream conversation is solidarity with Israel. so I don't know if the way this is represented or talked about in mass media even facilitates questioning stuff like international law or human rights.

And I mean I think its probably clear that I think this, but this is probably one of if not the worst single event I've seen in my lifetime in terms of how horrible and fucked up it is, but I don't really see 'international law' or 'human rights' or views of these in the mainstream changing overall as a result of it. although maybe I'm just a cynical pesimist.

When I said radicalisation I was thinking more of individual people on an individual level. I think that 9/11 and the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq for me personally contributed a lot to my political view today, so that's why I think this episode probably will affect other individuals in a similar way, but I don't really see a systemic change coming from this at this point. (Although I'm not really ruling out that the situation escalates further and gets bigger and more regional, and who knows what happens at that point).


Blackapocalypsexdd wrote

I don't see people relying on international law. I do see them fighting for human rights however.


fortmis OP wrote

The two concepts are so similar tho, no? some grand global golden rule that we must all adhere to, that's meant to "keep states in line."


ruminator wrote

Immanuel Wallerstein and Samuel Moyn (just his book on liberal utopias) are both good resources for take downs of IL (including IHRL) and HR, which as you rightly note are deeply imbricated.