The other day I happened upon a speech delivered by a professor affiliated with Harvard in which he seemed to advocate reducing the Palestinian population through means akin to genocide (and which match the legal definition of genocide).
The speech was delivered at the prestigious Herzliyah conference in Israel earlier this month. The Herzliyah conference, which has a focus on Israel's foreign policy and strategy, is a Middle East version of the Aspen Institute. Everybody who is anybody wants to be seen there.
One of the featured speakers this year was Dr. Martin Kramer. He is National Security Studies Program Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington (the AIPAC-created Middle East think tank) and incoming president of Shalem College in Jerusalem. (Shalem College is affiliated with the neoconservative Shalem Center which is funded, in large part, by Sheldon Adelson, the union busting and very rightwing casino billionaire.) Next month he will participate in two panels at the AIPAC conference, one with uber-hawk Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA).
Kramer's speech (which was well received) was delivered as part of a panel on "Rising To The Challenge of Radical Indoctrination." Each of the speakers addressed the question of how Israel (and the West in general) could prevail against the terrorist threat, with specific reference to the threat posed by radical Islam.
Kramer's speech was devoted to utilizing demography to defeat terror.
His point is encapsulated here:
"Aging populations reject radical agendas, and the Middle East is no different. Now eventually, this will happen among the Palestinians too, but it will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. Those subsidies are one reason why, in the ten years from 1997 to 2007, Gaza's population grew by an astonishing 40 percent. At that rate, Gaza's population will double by 2030, to three million. Israel's present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim to undermine the Hamas regime but if they also break Gaza's runaway population growth and there is some evidence that they have that might begin to crack the culture of martyrdom which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men. That is rising to the real challenge of radical indoctrination, and treating it at its root."
Writing here at The Huffington Post, at Media Matters Action Network (where I work) and at and Talking Points Memo, I characterized Kramer's remarks as tantamount to a call for genocide.
Here is my logic. Kramer first states the obvious. The populations from whom terrorists arise are usually young men without economic prospects. Kramer calls them "superfluous young men," a repulsive term but accurate in its own way.
Palestinian children, growing up under occupation in the West Bank, or locked in the Gaza ghetto by Israeli and Egyptian border guards and robbed of life's necessities by the Israeli blockade, are more likely to become radicals or terrorists than kids with some hope for the future.
People like me, who support ending the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza and implementing the two-state solution, often cite the need to give these kids something to live for.
Repression, occupation and joblessness breeds fanaticism and terrorism. No doubt about that. End the occupation, subsidize economic development, and you start defeating the radicals.
But Kramer, who supports the occupation, does not favor reducing the appeal of radicalism by improving the lives of Palestinians. He believes the solution is ensuring that there are fewer Palestinian boys who might grow up to be radicals. "Aging populations reject radical agendas, and the Middle East is no different," he said.
How do we accomplish this aging? "Now eventually, this will happen among the Palestinians too, but it will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status" (i.e., all Gazans and most West Bankers). He says that it is those "pro-natal subsidies" that are why the Palestinian population has grown.
But what are "pro-natal" subsidies? They are, one can assume, the aid provided by international organizations that keeps Palestinians alive and thereby enable to produce and sustain children.
Kramer elaborates in a subsequent piece. In response to the argument that the international community does not provide Palestinians with "pro-natal subsidies," Kramer explodes: "This is a lie. UNWRA (the United Nations agency that provides support for Palestinian refugees) assures that every child with 'refugee' status will be fed and schooled regardless of their parents' own resources...."
So the "pro-natal subsidies" to which he refers are food! That explains why he points to the success of Israel's current sanctions. "Israel's present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim-undermine the Hamas regime-but if they also break Gaza's runaway population growth-and there is some evidence that they have," that will break the back of radicalism.
Of course, there is only one way that the blockade can break "Gaza's runaway population growth." It is by denying Palestinians the wherewithal to live, to reproduce, and to keep their babies alive.
Is suppression of a particular population in this way genocide? Or must that term be reserved for the mass murder of grown adults and their children?
The answer can be found in the Geneva Convention on Genocide, to which Israel and almost every other country in the world is a signatory.
The Convention on Genocide bans "bans killing of members of any racial, ethnic, national or religious group because of their membership in that group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, inflicting on members of the group conditions of life intended to destroy them, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and taking group members' children away from them and giving them to members of another group."
And it is that -- withholding aid to prevent births within the group -- that Kramer advocates. He even calls the birth of Palestinian babies "extreme demographic armament."
Is he advocating genocide? Imagine if he called for eliminating subsidies (food stamps, etc) to prevent live births of African-Americans, Latinos or American Indians. Would it be considered advocating genocide then? To ask the question is to answer it.
Here is Electronic Intifada with the back and forth from Harvard.