Translating Gaza Gender And Conflict In A Diasporic World


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  • Translation requires 1) understanding of a source text; 2) knowledge of and sympathy with the intentions and interests of the text’s authors, and 3) an ecocentric constructivist approach with allows one to remain within the parameters of meaning while adjusting arguments to suit a new or different audience.
  • As a translator and international relations theorist for just over a decade, my goal here is to understand the complexity of world affairs as expressed in the ‘text’ of Israel/Palestine and convert it into audience-friendly material. This presentation translates the ongoing conflict in Gaza as: an indicator of a shift in the nature of conflict to a focus on gender, demographic and identity factors; an example of the results of sociological and economic phenomena that continue to influence the nature of conflict worldwide; a possible catalyst for fundamental change in the nature of international law and global governance.
  • While the Jewish holocaust must be put into the context of massive death tolls associated with colonial/imperial projects worldwide, it marks a change in the scale of concerted, calculated attempts at genocide. In many cases, genocide was a result but not a motive of imperial action. There remains a question mark around the idealist assurances that this type of action will not reoccur. In fact, recent examples of genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda/Congo, Guatemala, Sudan suggest the opposite. I argue that this is primarily because the types of ‘moral exclusion’ that permitted this type of violence have multiplied rather than fallen in the post-WW II and post Cold-War period, despite the Rights Revolution of the post-WWII period.
  • I begin my historical discussion of the present crisis in Palestine in 1880. This year marks the approximate start of the Zionist movement, initiated in Austria as a response to a significant rise in anti-semitism following an economic crisis in 1870s Europe. (See for more this crisis and implications for the present Scott Reynolds Nelson (2008) ( Jews in Europe were using the type of diasporic/transnational networks that many migrants employ today. They were made scapegoats of the crisis and attacked in both the 1880s and 1930s/1940s as agents of the economic decline in the North. As a major economic crisis looms, I argue that a similar type of backlash against migrants and related ethnic minorities is likely to be a source of major conflict. While many have pointed to globalization as a deepening of transnational social ties, also evident according to authors such as Rosenau is a deepening of reactionary identity discourses. Evidence of this response to the current economic crisis is already manifest in violence and protests in Eastern Europe and Great Britain. This is rendered even more complex by the feminisation of labour migration, and the probable exposure of women to the brunt of this backlash against ethnic transnational networks and ‘cheap’ migrant labour.
  • At the heart of my argument is a critical realist perspective that includes the geopolitical implications of identity discourse- in particular white supremacy- as a phenomenon that varies with hegemonic crises and technoeconomic shifts. White supremacy is a system of entitlement which is the direct result of imposed patriarchal structures in modern Europe which have been exported to the imperial periphery through education, religion and other forms of social media. It also involves the artificial and unstable dependence of ‘white’ subjects on state welfare, consumer culture and complexes of superiority. This system of entitlement is often challenged in the event of economic or political crises. These crises are then met, not by resistance against the state, but by increased violence against persons characterised as non-white or migrants, often regardless of social or economic standing. This system and the moral exclusions it generates can have real consequences for ‘ethnic minorities’ in both autocratic and democratic states, as was evidenced by the Jewish experience in 20 th century Europe.
  • Israel/Palestine presents an interesting example of a cultural conflict engendered by a geopolitical paradigm. Israel’s support from the United States of America is directly associated with the geopolitics of energy/oil in the Middle East. However, it is my argument that the enjeux of the Palestinian conflict itself are predominantly socio-cultural. As is demonstrated in the next two slides, reproduction and social reproduction by Palestinians may be the primary threat (greater than the threat of physical damage) to Israel’s sovereignty. Amnesty International’s 2005 publication The impact of guns on women’s lives indicates a trend of the increased gendering of violence in armed conflict in the 21 st century (p.36). I am suggesting that the Palestinian conflict indicates that the deaths of women and children, and damage to hospitals, schools, farms, homes and other spaces of social reproduction may not be ‘collateral damage’, but the primary strategic arena of contemporary conflict. We are witnessing a form of demographic and psychological warfare, not only on Gaza, but on the Palestinians within Israel and in the West Bank. Also very present in the conduct of such conflict is the Knowledge or Media war, a struggle for the interpretation of events taking place on the ground being fought out on the internet and other forms of instantaneous media.
  • The status quo in the Middle East in an inherently unstable solution to a historically justifiable Zionist reaction to European supremacist discourse, anti-semitism and genocide. Its existence is based largely on the geopolitics of energy and the interests therein of multinational corporations and major core states. The instability of the situation is being aggravated by Israel’s blatant aggression, and a subtle shift in the strategic calculus in the region and elsewhere may prove very dangerous for both Jews and Palestinians. I argue that this shift is already occurring at various levels. On one hand, OPEC and OIC represent a growing share of the world’s population and access to the key resource of petroleum is increasingly controlled not by the TNC interests that influenced the development of post-WWII order, but the member-states of OPEC and OIC themselves. This further constrains Israel’s policy space, its geostrategic interest in peace and increases its dependence on the US-Israel relationship. On the other hand, while solutions to the Palestine question have been often framed as a choice between a two-state settlement or a variation of the Arab League’s early ‘United State of Palestine’ option, I believe that both solutions are being rendered unacceptable to a Zionist Israel by key demographic trends in the area.
  • I/PT= Israel and Palestinian Territories. In 2002, the total fertility rate (TFR) in Palestine of 5.9 children per woman was more than twice as high as in Israel (2.9), which is reflected in their respective rates of natural increase (3.5% annually versus 1.5%). The TFR in the Gaza Strip was one of the highest in the world at 6.6 births per woman (2001). Similar trends can be seen within Israel: Jewish women have a TFR of 2.6 compared with 4.7 for Muslim women (2001). The health status of Israelis is much higher than that of Palestinians. For example, life expectancy in 2001 was 71 years in the Gaza Strip and 72 in the West Bank, compared with 78 in Israel. In 2001, mortality rates were higher in the Palestinian Territories than in Israel, four versus six deaths per 1,000 population, respectively. This is due to the radically different age structures resulting from the different levels of fertility. While 28 percent of Israel’s population is under 15 years of age, almost half of the Palestinian population is under 15.
  • If the social reproduction of the Palestinians improves (i.e. Reduced infant mortality and longer life expectancy through better health care and social infrastructure), the disparity shown by these projections may prove to be even greater. It is very probable then that unless Palestinians themselves are drastically reduced in number and fertility, the democratic state of Israel will contain an Arab, Muslim voting majority in less than a generation. In this case, even a two-state solution in this case may be considered incompatible with ‘cultural sovereignty’ on the part of the Zionist movement.
  • The major question to consider then becomes whether the economic and political decline of the United States witnessed over the past few years represents hegemonic decline. The USA’s worsening financial position, and the threats to its currency and energy security posed by the Peak Oil scenario may mean that the relationship between Israel and the United States may become less feasible to maintain. The animosity of Venezuela and Bolivia to Israel’s actions in 2009 is important in that it marks a shift in the attitudes of two major non-Muslim, non-Middle-Eastern producers of oil and natural gas towards the state of Israel. Israel is facing an aging population and its own desperate need for immigrant labour. It is facing the possibility of a major shift in the geopolitics of energy from the increasing importance of political control over oil-exporting states. Added to this is the new global political economy of renewable energy which may change the focus of global power from the calculus of hydrocarbon availability to that of renewable energy sources. By 2049, the Middle East may no longer be central to the energy equation, there may be cause for concern in terms of the fate of both the Jewish people and the Palestinians.
  • While rhetoric and protests abound, these realities constrain the concrete response of governance structures and civil society groups at the global, regional and national levels. The weakness of the response at all levels is due to the fact that despite various initiatives at the supranational, international and regional levels to legitimate a peace process, the underlying geopolitical, social and demographic crises that produce the Mid-East/Israel Palestine issue have yet to be fully addressed. International Judeophobia, one of the major sources of the Zionist movement, has not be eradicated or even properly addressed. Israel also remains at the centre of the energy geopolitical struggle, which inevitably constrains the response of other oil-producing countries in the region and has been at war with all countries with which it shares borders. The added threat of nuclear power in the Middle East, especially Israel and Iran, is a source of provocation, armed escalation and insecurity for the entire region and has pushed the public and political discourse to the right within Israel.
  • My suggestions for civil society actions in light of the scenario presented above include seemingly counter-intuitive steps. The first is ensuring multiple, accessible and long-term safe havens for Palestinians, but Jews in particular. An exodus of Palestinians without resolution in Israel/Palestine will validate the strategies being used against their population and may only prolong the suffering of Palestinians remaining behind. The second is civil society action to address Europe’s role in the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the continuing struggle against white supremacist discourse, judeophobia and islamophobia in the West. Economic and political concessions should be given to both Israel and Palestine in light of the European holocaust. A possible step is the politico-economic inclusion of Israel as part of Europe, following the example of regional football governing body, UEFA. The third is the widening and deepening of international law provisions and enforcement for violence against women and children is necessary, given the predicted increase in attacks on social and physical reproduction as terrorism/militancy. Provisions within the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 were virtually non-existent as is the case of the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1949) and the Tokyo Tribunal (1946-1948). The 1949 Geneva Conventions also barely mention issues of sexual violence, while the 1974 Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict omits any reference to sexual violence. In the two Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention, only one sentence in each strictly applies to sexual violence (Source: Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Women Strategizing Justice, 2008 ). Existing provisions include the UN CEDAW treaty and the protocol on Rights of Women in Africa in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (2003- not yet in force); and non-treaty HR standards such as the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995).
  • The fourth is pressure for the celebration as opposed to the tolerance of religious and cultural rights of all major global religions. Metropolitan Canada as well as Caribbean societies such as Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana can be very useful as models in this regard. This step should be concomitant with the further guarantee of the economic and political rights of migrants, especially female migrants and their offspring through bilateral and multilateral negotiations on labour migration of all types as shown in the Colombo Process and by the recent international relations of states such as the Philippines and Mexico. The sixth is the memorialisation and discussion of various holocausts in the modern era as key instances of violations of human security and their causes, while increasing pressure on similar contemporary forms of structural and physical violence as a form of reparation. Among these should be pressure for non-centralised renewable energy sources, and the imposition of stricter measures for the use of non-renewable energy.
  • The preceding seven actions will help to shift the calculus of global power and that of the Middle East. They also provide the basis of an alternative solution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine: a post-Euclidean option, where both Israel and Palestine exist as states sharing the same borders. (Euclid’s axioms include, inter alia : a ‘straight line can be drawn between any two points’, and ‘the whole is greater than the part’. However, a straight line cannot be drawn between two points in the same place, nor can a part which is the same as the whole be considered smaller.) Citizenship and institutional development will then be considered as territory, which geographical expanse will be shared rather than divided. This form of reconciliation is also in line with the ‘contact hypothesis’ in social psychology, which states that more high quality contact between groups promotes inter-group reconciliation. An inevitable outcropping of this will be consultation/debate for the management and protection of the resources of Israel/Palestine as a global commons, which could be an example for other resource commons in the global South.
  • The alternative is what we are currently witnessing: a game of words between idealists and realists, a fruitless orthodox postcolonial debate and increasing human insecurity for both Palestinians and Jews. There is need for a new type of (post)colonial debate which focuses on human security and development rather than state security as the basis for international public and private law (see HCCH initiatives on the abduction of children). European colonial borders abound in Africa, North and South America and dominate the discourse of state and nationhood until today. While it is useful to recognise priority in migration to various geographic areas, the historical realities of European colonialism make it necessary for multiple states/nations to be allowed to coexist in the same borders. This is a complex but ultimately feasible solution for negotiations between indigenous Fourth World and cosmopolitan First World nations such as is the case in Australia and Canada/Turtle Island as well as Fourth World/Third World nations such as Bolivia, Mexico and Israel/Palestine.
  • Translating Gaza Gender And Conflict In A Diasporic World

    2. 2. Historical Context Geopolitics/Identity/War Alliances/Alternatives Seven Actions + 1 UNDERSTANDING GAZA Israel/Palestine as catalyst to a revolution in Global Governance?
    3. 3. Step 1: Jewish Holocaust• - Russian Gulag (14-40 million)• - African/Native American Holocaust (50-200+ million/500 yrs)• - Darfur; Guatemala; Belgian Congo; Rwanda/Congo; Ottoman; Philippines; Australia; Ireland• - Jewish Holocaust-Pogroms (6+ million)• - Almost singular in intent- Extermination• - Never Again??
    4. 4. Identity and Civil War• 1880- Jews among the first/most successful using diasporic networks now used by most of the (Global) South.• World War I- Continuous Depression/Recession (‘02-04, ‘07-08, and ‘10-12)• World War II- Great Depression• World War III- State/non-State warfare based on civil war on ‘minorities’/’migrants’/’terrorists’?
    5. 5. European Anti-Semitism - White Supremacy and Global Crises – - Gender/Patriarchy – - Entitlement/Education – - Superiority Complex – - Success of Ethnic Group/Diaspora Irrelevant – - Dependence on State/Welfare – - Religious Intolerance – - Consumerist Identity – - Increased violence against ‘Migrants’ in crises
    6. 6. Step 2: ‘Gaza’ as War• - Israel/Palestine Civil/International War• - Stakes/Enjeux = Cultural Genocide• - (Social) Reproduction as Terrorism?• - Collateral Damage not Collateral?• - Demographic/Psychological Warfare• - Media Warfare
    7. 7. Geostrategic Alliances• OPEC and OIC• TNCs and post-WWII Global Governance• UN/ Anglo-American Middle East ‘Solution’• AL/‘United State of Palestine’ ‘Option’
    8. 8. Age Structure: I/PT 2000
    9. 9. Age Structure: I/PT 2050
    10. 10. The Renewable Disaster• Hegemonic Decline of USA?• Energy and Peak Oil• Venezuelan and Bolivian Expulsions• Changing Global Political Economy of Migration and Renewable Energy
    11. 11. Step 3: Civil Society Response• Governance and Civil Society – - Global (supranational) – - International – - Regional...• Underlying crises remain… – - International Judeophobia – - Hostile region- Wars with all neighbours – - Nuclear Security/Insecurity
    12. 12. Seven Actions• 1) Safe Havens for Jews/Palestinians (Canada/ Caribbean)• 2) Pressure Europe to address judeophobia/ islamophobia / Holocaust legacy (UEFA?)• 3) Extreme penalties for war crimes against non- combatant women and children; and combatant children (ICC?)
    13. 13. Seven Actions4) Pressure for celebration of religious/cultural rights of Muslims, Christians and Jews.5) Pressure for economic and political rights of migrants, esp. women.6) Pressure for reparation/remembrance of Russian/Native American/African and Jewish Holocausts.7) Pressure for renewable energy, incl. CSR.
    14. 14. An Eighth Action? • ONE HORSE, TWO RIDERS • Post-Euclidean State Borders• Citizens/Institutions as ‘Territory’ ‘Global Commons’
    15. 15. Conclusion• New type of (post)Colonial Debates- UN• Borders/Territory as Citizens/Institutions : Challenge for International Public/Private Law HCCH- Hague Conference- Children; ICJ• Post-Euclidean States: Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Palestine/Israel (Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, USA, Sri Lanka/Tamil Nadu; Cyprus; Australia, Philippines)
    16. 16. Resources•••••••••••
    17. 17. TRANSLATING GAZAPlease send comments andsuggestions to:Chanzo Greenidge, Ph.D.Diplomats,