Thursday, October 19, 2006

A phrase came to me the other day: "The Moral Burden of Anti-Genocide". And then, another phrase, "Israel in Palestine, Rwanda in the Congo".

The record of Israel in Palestine and Rwanda in Congo is problematic. Both Israel and Rwanda are definitive post-genocide states.

The ruthlessness of Israel in the occupied territories, in its war with Palestinian terrorists and guerrillas is well-documented; what divides opinion in the state of Israel is whether this is an occasion for liberal regret or bitter realism.

Likewise the Rwandan military has been criticised by the UN for coldly being diverted by economic priorities in eastern Congo as it pursued remnants of the Interahamwe.

Israel's neighbours have mostly weak national security structures, and have often suffered from serious internal security challenges. The same is true of the DRC, Rwanda's neighbour.


Ben Gurion said, he who applies a moral calculus to the question of Zionism, cannot by definition be a Zionist. Will a Rwandan who applies a moral calculus to his country's policy in the eastern DRC be counted a patriot?

Never Again must search out not only the precursors and preconditions for genocide, but also track the long-term effects of genocide on the survivor peoples and the consequences for their political destiny.


Two pointed questions may be asked, so as to ensure we look at the issues on a large enough scale. Neither has any answer.

Does a people which has suffered genocide face a higher or a lower moral bar when its actions are considered in the court of international opinion?

Is the exercise of a brutal realpolitik by the leaders of a people which has survived genocide more excusable, or less excusable, after the fact of genocide?

These questions can never be answered. It is fruitless to ask them, even. They cause only more moral uncertainty, and encourage the wicked.

But they do make one shining point clear.

The moral burden of anti-genocide is one of the most terrible, grand and solemn moral burdens that can be imposed on any people.

Unlike the moral burden of empire or war, it can never be freely chosen.

No comments: