On Forgiveness: The Individual Represents The State

I seem to find myself saying that we need to give love and then having to explain what that means, so I may as well start with it. Love is moral consciousness, that being loving is having the awareness and the need to create what is both right and good to all. Each time I wanted to write about forgiveness, it felt inappropriate as though I were not allowed considering that I still felt resentment, still fought with people, or that people thought I was bad or weird and therefore I did not have the authority to discuss such a subject. To be angry is wrong or as the Stoics believe ungoverned anger begets madness, and while the idea that anger and love are mutually exclusive, is there no such thing as injustice? The term humanity explains our capacity for benevolence, propriety and loving-kindness, but there are crimes against humanity and gross injustice that demonstrates our capacity for evil, to look the other way, to hate or abuse those who are vulnerable. There are many layers to anger, one being the socially constructed character where ‘masculinity’ is defined by this permission to display aggression while ‘feminine’ is restraining such emotions, thus when a woman displays anger she becomes ‘crazy’ because of this contrast just as much as a quiet man is labelled cowardly. The other is anger as primitive, egotistic, an unauthored state of mind that rises like steam in the heat of the moment from the reservoir of our deepest emotions and fears especially when we lose control, giving us a false sense of empowerment. Does a person scream because they seek to display power and dominate the situation, or do they scream because they feel they are not being heard or acknowledged?


The Individual

Unrequited feelings of rejection is one thing, but having the person that you have feelings for mistreat you is another. The hurt is considerable. I felt incredibly small and worthless, shrinking into the shadows that it soon became clear that my life was withering away.  ‘Stop. Leave me alone,’ I would mutter in desperation when his taunting became unbearable. I could no longer fight against all the games he played and the pretending he did that quite simply broke my heart. I needed him gone so the hurt could go with him. He was another monster in a series of people who had let me down, including my father. My father was a very aggressive man and his aggression stemmed purposefully because he was raised in an environment that told him how he should treat women, his wife and children and his fellow men and my father was the type to do what he was told. It is unfortunate that in the Turkish culture that he grew up in, what he was told to do were all wrong and where masculinity and ‘being a man’ were defined by your capacity for violence. The survival of the fittest. He often ruminated, however, how much he wished to have been educated and you could see deep within him that longing to shatter the chains of the cultural repression that forced him to be a monster and normalised and accepted his bad behaviour.

My mother could never tell my father that he was a monster that she instead took her aggression out on me and she would always do this when no one was around to witness her behaviour. Words like ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’ were hurled in my direction, opinions like ‘you are worthless’ and ‘never come to my funeral when I die’ were consistently launched before she would go to my father and others and claim that I abused her. I was mistreated and then blamed as though I deserved the mistreatment. It was much worse from my siblings who constantly taunted and belittled me in much the same manner, my eldest brother violent and my sisters cruel. I was ugly, stupid and had no purpose in life other than to serve and as this occurred from such a young age being the youngest in my family, I came to believe it. Violence is both physical and psychological.

It is incredibly difficult finding dignity and self-respect when people directly or indirectly tell you that you are not good enough and it is especially worse when it comes from the people that you love or admire, from your parents or siblings, your lover and your friends. We are taught from a young age that receiving any love or approval is conditional, that we need to obey and do what we are told, that right and wrong behaviour is defined by others, to make decisions and appear a certain way that is approved of by society that our identity is determined by this approval. We build on that, our efforts become all about performing the best according to what our environment dictates, to appear popular and congratulated and so we work hard trying to receive the love from others. When others tell us we are good, that must mean that we are good. When others tell us we are bad, we must be bad. It is about quantity, the more people like us or agree with us then we become more right and more worthy.

But what happens to our identity within all of this, what happens when we realise that all our efforts are simply trying to get other people to tell us we are good and it does not matter how artificial we are in our attempt to attain this? Do we exist, or is our real identity a Jungian ‘shadow’ or the unknown part of our personality that even we don’t completely understand? To realise that we – who we really are – does not actually matter, we come to see that our efforts is vanity, our relationships artificial, and that we are in fact alone because you cannot satisfy something that is insatiable. That is, within that existential nightmare where hedonism and aggression are suddenly permitted, can people recognise who we really are, can love – moral consciousness – be possible? If so, if we create meaning consciously and if our humanity is dependent on our moral fibre, how do we reach out and find that capacity to work against the grain? How can we give, rather than try to receive, love?

The State

In Plato’s The Republic, Socrates explains the individual soul by dividing its purpose into a triptych of 1. rational, 2. emotional and 3. instinctual or the appetites that compel us to pursue our desires. The analogy of the soul is an attempt to demonstrate that while we have those three functions, an individual is capable of being just or moral when they can find an equilibrium or balance between all three. This psychological account of the subjective self is similar to the Freudian division of the psyche, that to repress or restrain our desires can lead to a tumorous pathology elsewhere. Socrates further explains that the soul of the individual or what makes the individual capable of being just is aligned in similar vein to the function of a city or a state. Thus the individual represents the state; murder and mass murder function in much the same way, but on a larger scale.

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict epitomises continuity of aggression and violence and with the diplomatic difficulties between both parties when attempting to find a solution, forgiveness at political level becomes all the more difficult. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom gained administrative control of Palestine under the 1922 mandate that formalised British rule in the region by the League of Nations. The violence between Jews and Palestinians occurred at this time as decisions of who will sovereign the region became announced as discussions on the subject ensued. Palestinians were ignored until the British finally announced that it will be a place for Jewish settlement at a time where the Jews themselves were – through Germany and the holocaust – required protection. It did not help that Palestinian leadership under al-Husseini decided to strengthen relations with Germany, a British enemy at the time. When World-War II was over and the United Nations forged, the General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine was articulated as a way to divide the territories into what is known as the two-state solution, something that continues to be rejected by Palestinians. At the time, it was largely rejected by the Arab world that led to Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967, the former leading to ‘The Catastrophe’ or An-Nakba that resulted in what remains the longest refugees without a homeland in the world.

What happens to the identity of the Palestinians in all of this? The lack of acknowledgement, impoverished without proper leadership and guidance? The rise of the Palestinian Liberation Authority further perpetuated the anger and aggression, where the conditions within the occupied territories worsened to a point of leading to several ‘Intifida‘ or an attempt to remove the powerful grip that Israel had on the Palestinian people. In the context of international law, sovereignty is limited to a state with geographical boundaries, recognised by other states as having stable governance and a capacity for diplomatic relations defined by a permanent population or citizenship. Israel has successfully done this and have the right to be there, but symbolically they continue to struggle justifying – other than through a historical and religious context – their reason to be there. They have adequately and successfully developed a stable polity and society but borne out of aggression and violence such as building settlements in illegal territories. The victim – the Palestinians – are socially and politically in disarray and without adequate leadership and proper legislative boundaries that enable a ‘natural balance’ of the political soul to form a just society, factional differences such as that between Hamas and Fatah will continue to cause delays in reconciliation. They are left with the symbolic right to determination without any practical or organised capacity in our contemporary legal definition of statehood.



To Fight The Good Fight


How do you proceed when you have been hurt so much? How do you find forgiveness? When I experienced the violence both verbally and emotionally, that feeling of emptiness and heart-ache made it difficult for me to function adequately. I was sad and emotional. I lost a lot of weight and became very sick. I had to take care of myself through the difficulties and that resilience through the mental and physical difficulties is hard, because as the victim you should not be the one making the effort to improve. You took it from me and I want it back from you. Until I was able to find that inner voice and function with a healthy mindset, forgiveness within an unstable and unsettled subjectivity is impossible. As Tracy Chapman perfectly said, “unsettled hearts promise what they can’t deliver.” When I reflected on most of the hurt that I experienced from others, from those who were responsible to care for me and those who were irresponsible as people while my own personal life was in disarray, I was not able to see things objectively.

It was only after this, after having lost so much and building myself up again through all the hurt that I was able to understand why my parents and others mistreated me. They have the same pressure as everyone else, to work for and try and impress the people in their social environment or culture in order to gain their approval and recognition so as to form that meaning and identity. While they were making every effort to be recognised by their society, they were failing and became resentful themselves, attacking others in this highly competitive social dynamic thinking that by bringing other people down, they can climb up higher and feel greater worth. It is an artificial sense of empowerment where they feel some control because they feel they have no control. They become destructive and cannot articulate or explain their frustrations because they simply do not understand it.

Just like capitalism, aggression is as Rousseau claims, namely that people are good by nature but are corrupted by society. The Judeo-Christian concept of evil is this considering it opposes authenticity in moral consciousness and thus evil is our failure to think for ourselves and this is the root of our aggression and hatred. The narration by Jesus that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” is an explanation of just how difficult it is to recognise yourself and overcome the anxiety of letting go of social norms that stops you from ever finding the capacity to create meaning for yourself. It is in morality and creativity that meaning can be formed and why Kant concludes God as necessary (although I actually believe in the existence of God). It does not, however, suddenly mean those who have mistreated and wronged me are no longer responsible for their actions given the fact that they are ignorant.

I realised that I first needed to apologise to myself, to forgive myself for failing to find my own voice, my own identity through all that I had experienced. Despite the difficulties, when I reflect I see that most of the struggles that I endured were really my own self-defence mechanisms refusing to let go and move forward. Acknowledgement is something that is given and I needed to acknowledge myself through the echoes of all the hateful comments and attacks and transcend all that to appreciate myself and find that dignity and self-respect. To give love does not suddenly exclude you, you too are as much a part of humanity as anyone else and that enabled me to see me as a part of the world around me, to recognise and appreciate my consciousness and freedom to create what is beautiful; that is, what is good. I began to commit myself to helping people as I was taking care of myself at the same time, learning and increasing my knowledge or as said in Isaiah, “lengthen your cords, strengthen your stake.” I am still learning and I have indeed a great deal to learn, but it is a process that creates and improves, something aggression cannot do.

In doing so, I recognise all the suffering my mother went through, and I began to feel compassion for my mother and can see why she struggled, what she experienced and went through, all her hardship. It does not change that she wronged me, but I found forgiveness as though I could see a little girl in my mother and despite the tantrums, I wanted to hug her and kiss her. I saw in my father the intensity of the constructs of masculinity coerced by his environment that obstructed his genuine identity and a little boy afraid that he is not strong enough in a violent society that continuously threatened him and suddenly I wanted to embrace him and read him a book, to keep him safe from that harmful and toxic culture. Despite my father’s violence toward me and my mother, even he deserves the acknowledgement and by giving both of them that acknowledgement without giving up on me but that together we are a part of something bigger, the attitude of forgiveness is solutions-focused, forward or future-thinking to improve a situation and something aggression will never do.

Palestinians need to improve their government and themselves through the hostility and aggression, that despite the symbolic right to the land and a past laden with violence, they need to work through the reality that Israel is there and there to stay, to form a solid government toward the formation of a recognised state as accepted by international law. Palestinians need to acknowledge Israel and the Jewish people, however hard that may be. There is an absence of rationally defensible moral ideals that has made reconciliation and the effort to overcome the resentment in the region difficult. Working through the numerous issues takes time, but the primary effort relies on the Palestinians despite being the victims. They will then see with justice the reasons why Israel exists, why they needed to form a homeland, the history of the Jewish people and the reasons for their hostility. In the process, however, their conditions will improve and justice will be established. Love is something that we give and justice is something we create.




A Historical Comparative: Syria and Turkey

The transformation and development in Europe and the Middle East after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire is nothing short from one of the greatest historical modifications in human society. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, many heterodox and syncretistic religions of the Near East and Anatolia who had long experienced persecution that isolated them into an impoverished environment, found themselves tasting relative freedom and independence for the first time. For centuries, the Ottomans had poor relations with the Shi’i sects and both met with antagonism and ultimately violence, most notable with the conflict between the empire and the Safavids. Heterodox groups were never granted the status of millet that consequently left them unprotected and were often required to pay high taxes.

The region of Latakia is mostly inhabited by Alawis, yet because of the difficulty penetrating the mountains, the Ottomans could only mobilise authority in the region in the 1850’s where they introduced Sunni landlords and a mutasallim (district governor).[i] Like the Alevis, the Alawis have deep-seeded antagonism towards the Sunni elite and view them as the main oppressor. “The Ottomans and their Syrian walis repeated tried to impose their authority in and collect revenue from the Alawi and Druze areas.”[ii] Adding to this authority, numerous and violent fatwas were made against these heterodox communities in the region. “The Sunni ulema provided the religious legitimization for the persecutions. This in a fetva from 1548 the famous Seyhulislam Ebussuud Effendi declared the Qizilbaş [Alevi] heretics, the murder of whom being permissible by Islamic law.”[iii]

As Daniel Pipes clearly shows, Islamic intellectuals and theologians such as Hamza ibn Ali, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ahmad ibn Taymiya and Shaykh Ibrahim al-Maghribi freely spoke about the divine necessity to kill or confiscate property from the Alawi people.[iv] It is for this reason the Alawi community fled into the isolated mountainous regions for the next several centuries. Abject poverty and the fear of violence changed the structure of their communal psyche that enveloped an attitude of leaning toward exclusivity, establishing intense internal division and tribal allegiances. As it is crucial to under the history in order to understand the present situation in Syria and Turkey, I will compare the Alawites of Syria with the Alevis of Turkey following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, explaining the differences between the struggle for power and how the Alawi experienced a sudden change of social and political fortune that sharply contrasts with the Alevis of Turkey.




The Latakia province has been the geographical position of the Alawi community since the beginning of the 10th or 11th century.[v] Their escape into the mountainous region did not end persecution nor change their lesser social class/position amongst the Sunni majority, but for a time merely lay dormant. “A fatwa was issued in the fourteenth century by a distinguished Sunni Muslim scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, stating that they [Alawi] were greater infidels than Jews, Christians and many idolaters and that waging war against them should please Allah.”[vi] Because the mountains in the Latakia region were isolated and difficult to travel through together with a lack of water resources and difficulty tending the land, the Alawi people have always been poor. As a result, they became servants to the Sunni elite and were treated with ignominy and contempt.

There are no social links between the Alevi and the Alawi, the latter viewing all Turks whether Alevi or Sunni as offspring of the Ottoman regime. This is only justified with the Turkish-Israeli alliance and the occupation of the Golan Heights by Israel, as well as the Alexandretta/Hatay controversy.[vii] Like the Alevi, the door fr modernisation was opened after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Syria ambitiously developed transport, communication and roads that made urbanisation and information accessible. Syria is predominately rural; the success rate for implementing or expanding and finally assimilating the rural into urban life has been far more successful in Turkey. This could be because funding in Turkey was spread unanimously throughout the region, while in Syria priority was given mainly to the Latakia region.[viii]The 1950’s and 1960’s found the expansion of education dramatically increase. “The number of state schools grew from 658 in 1948 to 3,804 in 1964… foreign and private schools went down from 40 per cent of all schools in 1945 to 19 per cent in 1951, and almost nil in 1967.”[ix] Education allowed the Alawi to mobilise and prompted an increased desire to participate in political life, for reasons twofold: the fear of Islamist accession to power and the introduction by France for minorities to play a role in political decision-making.

Itamar Rabinovich discusses six important phases between the years 1918-1945 that defined the status of minorities in Syria.[x] Between 1918-1920, the presence of the Hashemite Emir Faysal, who sought power in the Syrian region, declared himself to be the King of Syria until the French presence and ultimate occupation that quickly put an end to his authority. In August 1920, the French established Greater Lebanon and by doing so enabled the Alawi and Druze to create their own semi-autonomous states. By 1925, Greater Lebanon was abandoned and Syria was once again re-established, although the Alawi and Druze states remained (until 1936). By 1936, a treaty was developed – though not ratified – that granted Syrian independence and incorporated the Alawi and Druze states into the whole territory (only fully implemented in 1944 – 1945). In 1941, the presence of the Vicky French came to an end when British authority took control with the support of the Free French troops; by 1943, the first elections were held.


France maintained that methods and strategies needed to be implemented in order to prevent the growing threat of theocracy. Edmond Rabbath wrote Unite Syrienne et Devenir Arabe and claimed that the Alawi and other heterodox communities are no different to Muslims, but merely ‘lag behind.’[xi] As a sharp contrast to Turkey, minorities in Syria were included in political life from the beginning of independence and the presence of the French opened the door to a new social consciousness for the Alawi community. Rabinovich claims that the unique relationship between the Alawites and the French are particularly important because Latakia contained a sizeable population of Christian and Bedouin communities.[xii] France also required assistance in an increasingly frustrated Syria and therefore provided Alawis with autonomy in order to receive unanimous support.

[T]he state of Latakia was set up on 1 July 1922. They also gained legal autonomy; a 1922 decision to end Sunni control of court cases involving Alawis transferred these cases to Alawi jurists. The Alawi state enjoyed low taxation and a sizeable French subsidy… In return, Alawis helped maintain French rule.[xiii]

When France provided the Alawites their own independent state, it established a political and social consciousness for the Alawites and consequently increased their participation in the social and political arena. “The ferment and the quest for social advancement at least for their offspring prompted numerous Alawi families to invest in education or to have a son enlisted in the French troupes speciales.”[xiv] Nevertheless, the change from French to British authority in 1941 created several issues that originally appeared detrimental for the Alawites. Afraid of deteriorating their political relationship with Emir Faysal, the British became suspicious of Alawis and instead supported Sunni nationalism and the sunnification of the heterodox communities. With the growing presence of Sunni domination, the Alawis revolted under the leadership of Sulayman al-Murshid, an elected Alawi leader who became a national figure. The rebellion was crushed and Murshid executed in 1946 with the support of British High Commissioner Edward Spears. It was at this stage that power in Syria was inherited by Sunnis, only increasing Alawi resistance for fear of repression and violence by the Sunni elite. It was only when the Druze revolt of 1954 was crushed that the Alawi became disillusioned by the political situation, but it nevertheless reflects the rise of Alawi consciousness and participation in national and political rebellion.[xv] Consequently, the ihkwan al-Muslimin or the Muslim Brotherhood were gradually developing a strong social and political ideology, leading the Alawites to strongly question the direction of their fate.

The most important change in Syria developed after the intentional collapse of leading Sunni landlords and the distribution of land ownership. However, “[t]he Alawis could not change this [poverty] situation by outing a few people as in Hama: a basic social and political revolution was required in their society.”[xvi] The Alawi needed more than merely eliminating the Sunni elite, particularly if regional politics played a predominate role in Surian political culture that could have left the Latakia region open to danger. Thus, Michel ‘Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Baytar founded the Ba’th party during WW2 and by 1947 began to heavily recruit youths in high school. Although Turkey was much more successful with their coercive population politics and family planning that attempted to distribute communities and push for social fragmentation, there was no direct impact against the traditional social units in Syria and regional loyalty remained strong. “This gave the Ba’th party a regional, minoritarian, rural imprint that impeded its growth as an effective nationwide organisation.”[xvii] Syrian political culture contains a unique blend of traditional, regional, social and economic mechanisms. The development of the nation as a whole has not yet saturated supranational methods of political decision making or sub national administrative divisions and many citizens continue to call themselves ‘Arabs’ rather than ‘Syrians’. According to Michael H. Van Dusen, many continue to identify with local and parochial loyalties. “In Syria, the legacy of the past, the decentralized cell structure of political parties, the role of local politicians in ideological recruitment, political commitments based on high school allegiances – all have tended to perpetuate a sub-national network of political loyalties in the independence era.”[xviii]

The politicisation process began to enlarge following the early years of independence when an explosion of ideological stances with various alternatives became available. The process of modernisation did not directly affect self-sufficient and agricultural lifestyles, which maintained its uniformity and gradually developed into larger agro-cities. An agro-city is a large economic unit where the city centre is the central position for the wider agricultural towns or villages surrounding it and provides both security and health services for the population while growing in economic prominence.[xix] At the same time, specific ethnic populations reside in specific agro-cities, and it is for this reason that political culture and attitudes often revolve around regional interests rather than national. It is also the primary reason for intra-regional tension. Although national rhetoric is continuously reiterated, particularly in relation to Israel, Palestine and pan-Arabism, local loyalties are dominantly applied and national parties are still unable to penetrate intra-regional interests. It is the nature of agro-city politics that reduce the possibility for expanded support.[xx] Yet, the power of the Ba’th party came predominate became of their political stance towards the peasantry and the alleviation of poverty, something many in Syria can sympathise with.

According to Pipes, several factors played a role with Alawi ascension into power, particularly with their growing presence in the army.[xxi] The first is that the military continued to uphold the attitude of employing minorities since the Sunni majority viewed a career at Homs (Military Academy) as degrading. Secondly, while Sunni rule became dominant, they were both afraid and at the same time ignored the power of the military and avoided the provision of large funding. Finally, because of their economic situation, the Alawis could not pay the fee to avoid sending their children to the army, while at the same time found that a career at Homs an excellent opportunity for a steady income. “Alawi power resulted from an unplanned by sectarian transformation of public life in Syria.”[xxii] Minorities were originally placed in the lower ranks of the military, however this actually benefited their ascension since, “[s]enior officers engaged in innumerable military coup d’état between 1949 and 1963, each change of government was accompanied by ruinous power struggles among the Sunnis, leading to resignations and the depletion of Sunni ranks.”[xxiii] To add to this, because of the growing instability and distrust, kinship bonds became the favoured approach and thus advantageous for the Alawis whose power became increasingly visible. Thus, with the growing instability, the Ba’th party moved into an aggressive coup d’état in 1963 that finally swept them into power.



Syrian Officials in the Baath Party with Salah Jadid

Salah Jadid controlled all military appointments in 1963 and he removed hundreds f officers and replaced them with Alawites.[xxiv] Although the Alawi community only make 12% of the population, they nevertheless gradually absorbed enough power to control the nation. In 1966, a neo-Ba’th movement organised a coup by a predominately Alawite administration until this was finally followed by the final coup in 1970 by Hafiz al-Asad against Salah Jadid. According to Pipes, Jadid lost his reign of power because – unlike Asad – Jadid supported the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) against the Jordanian government and was ultimately defeated. As noted by Tord Olsson, members of the al-Asad family play a chief role in political and military life in Syria.[xxv] This process began at independence and with the decline of the Sunni elite and land re-distribution after 1958, the structure of power dramatically changed. As social modernisation processes began to develop, education and career options became the primary objective for the Alawi community. Hafiz al-Asad became the president and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, his brother Rifat became commander of the defense unit surrounding Damascus, yet another brother Jamil became the leading member of the defence and who was later transferred to Geneva, while his cousin ‘Adnan was Commander of the Struggle unit. This has yet to change, as his son Bashar al-Asad is the current president of Syria who assumed office in 2000.

In order to maintain political power, the Alawi have sought to repress Sunni dominance – particularly in the military – by providing leading roles to Alawi and mediocre roles spread out throughout the country to Sunni. These changes in political dominance did not proceed without aggression. “They [Alawi] were given high representation (21.4%) in the military structure of the Regional Commands of the Ba’th, but the outlying traditional Sunni towns of Aleppo and Hama had no representation at all. These were the two main areas where major Sunni opposition to Alawi hegemony was strong and violent.”[xxvi] This has only made Islamist movements stronger that have shaken political stability. However, it cannot be denied that unlike Jadid, al-Asad attempted to reduce this tension by increasing his presence amongst the Sunni and positioning Sunni Commanders into leading positions.




Turkey experienced a complex transformation from a historical and religious sovereignty by the Ottoman caliphate with multi-ethnic diversity and extensive territorial power into the nation-state that it is today. The Young Turks sough to eliminate the Ottoman and Islamic caliphate system, which they believed to be outdated and a thorn to modern progress. The Ottoman decline became highly visible during the reign of Sultan Adbulhamid II, where totalitarian enforcement and pan-Islamic propaganda dramatically increased until he was finally deposed by the Allies during World War One. In 1920, the Treaty of Sevres was signed and the Ottoman Empire partitioned, which provided the Young Turks a perfect opportunity to implement their dream for an independent national identity.


Ziya Gökalp is a leading figure who influenced the modernist ambitions of the Young Turks (Committee of Union and Progress) and their nationalist plight to eliminate religion in political life. Gökalp wrote about the challenge and transformation of millet (nation), ümmet (religion) and muasirlaşma (modernisation) when developing a modern civilisation.[xxvii] By attempting to elucidate the difference between culture and civilisation, Gökalp became a prominent figure of Turkish nationalism and a supporter of political secularization, which sought to reduce the power of religious ideology and clericalism in political and social decision-making. Only when religion is separated from the State can modernity truly develop, but this does not imply the complete eradication of religion nor was Gökalp a supporter of individualism.

Gökalp believed that the egoistic and utilitarian individualist ideals found in some western societies should never be the basis for building altruistic, tolerant, and public-oriented social norms in Turkey. Accordingly, individualism was a bankrupt social and political philosophy and a “threat to equilibrium and harmony of society but also to the individual himself.”[xxviii]

Similarly, Louis Dumont claimed that ‘equality’ and ‘individualism’ is an idea of an ideal but in no way natural like the hierarchy or caste system, particularly in India. “This individualistic tendency, which became established, generalized and popularized from the eighteenth century to the age of romanticism and beyond, was in fact accompanied by… organic solidarity.”[xxix] This “purblind provincialism” or the ideology of individualism has instead made the understanding of natural nomalism even more difficult.

Nevertheless, Gökalp’s triptych involved explicating the relationship modernism has with being a Turk and a Muslim. Is there an inherent challenge between Islam and modernity, or do the gates of ijtihad need to be re-opened in order for Islamic reform to take place, allowing modernity to flourish? Gökalp reject the şeriat or Islamic jurisprudence because he believed it to be inadequate and rigid to the ever-changing processes of modern society and claimed that şeyh-ül-Islam (Islamic officials and religious courts) and the medrese (religious schools) need to be transferred to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education respectively. The Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) remained the only single party to rule until Turkey transitioned to the multi-party system in 1946. The fall of Nazi Germany and their fascist regime had the greatest impact for this political modification and it was generally acknowledged that in order to accomplish a modern society, Turkey required less totalitarian restrictions. Consequently, Islamic political groups found an opportunity to voice their concerns and sough for religious influence to help shape social and political life. Thus synergy between maintaining political secularism and democracy vis-à-vis Islam has become an important issue when discussing Turkish laicist politics.

As a bridge between the East and the West, Turkey has attempted to set the example by removing religious influence in political life, but this has only been possible through the constitutional court, several military coup d’état and even capital punishment. By 1950, the Democratic Party (Demokrat Partisi) swept into power under the leadership of Adnan Menderes marking the first political change since 1923. The main reason for this transformation was rural frustration at the economic conditions and political antagonism toward Islam. The Demokrat Partisi relaxed on harsh demands against religion and introduced major economic and social changes. Although serious economic policies in rural Turkey were initiated by the Demokrat Partisi, paradoxically it was because the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi consciously kept village life intact that the modernisation process was propelled. For instance, migrants who had left the village to seek employment in an urban environment could easily return to their village or their family could send food and other resources to help them manage, had they experienced poverty or failed to integrate.[xxx] If the collectivist approach had been implemented earlier and villages pushed to assimilate into the modernization process from the beginning, it could be argued that the development Turkey experienced would not have been accomplished successfully.

That the Kemalists left the villages’ social structure intact did not stem from an incapability to disturb their lives (they were undisputed masters of the land and of the armed forces) but was a deliberate, self-conscious action… the Republican People’s Party and their predecessors had a very clearly worked out rural policy, which was based on development through rural communities’ existing social life, and was not intent on destroying it.”[xxxi]

This, however, appears to contradict the situation in Dersim and other rural areas where direct policies were created during the sing-party administration who attempted to absorb communities into the Turkish nationalist ideal. The Village Law (Law no. 442) began as early as 1924 that sought to disperse villages to help the process of modernisation.[xxxii] Mandatory regulations and measures for small villages with a population of up to 2000 were coerced in order to push changes, particularly with education and hygiene. The Village Law had an ideological character that gave little consideration to the actual social and economic situation, and although the process of development included building roads and investing in schools, many communities were forced to leave their village upon instigation by the Turkish government in order to drive the assimilation process. When the Democratic Party took power and the Village Inventory (Köy Envanter Etudleri) became fully established, “[b]etween 1962 and 1968, showed that four decades after the Village Law took effect, there were mosques in 79 percent of villages, but only 55 percent had a school, 43 percent had grocery store, 32 percent had a meeting room for the community council and 30 percent had a water pipe (these were all mandatory requirements).”[xxxiii]

The standard model for a rural (Sunni) village is a mosque in the centre of a village with houses built around it, and with the increase of mosques in Alevi villages following the implementation of the Village Law, concerns about the decline of secular ambitions and an increase of Sunni domination were raised. Alevi intellectuals often claim that their tradition naturally supports modernism and Kemalism.[xxxiv] The Young Turks idealized the Alevis as ‘true Turks’, preserving national Turkish culture and religion against foreign (Arabic) influences,” though they ignored that many Alevi themselves were not in fact ethnically Turkish.[xxxv] Mustapha Kemal became the long-awaited Mahdi for the Alevis who completed the task the Qizilbaş had expected the Safavids to complete during the early sixteenth century. Cemalettin Efendi (from Çelebi) who was revered by the greater majority of the Alevis in Anatolia as the direct descendant of Haci Bektaş claimed to support Atatürk after meeting with him; he later became the second deputy of Atatürk, while other Alevi tribal leaders particularly from the Dersim region rose to leading positions.[xxxvi] Those areas influenced by Cemalettin (for instance Sivas and Tokat) still continue narratives that are noticeably Kemalist.[xxxvii] However, some Alevi groups who did not view Cemalettin Efendi as a figure of authority refused to support the Kemalist revolution, such as the Koçkiri tribe (perhaps because of their Kurdish ethnicity). Thus, these postulations about the self-evident unity of Alevilik with Turkish nationalism has been challenged by Hamit Bozarslan who states that continuous reproduction of myths – such as a natural alliance with secularism – are often left unquestioned by researchers.[xxxviii] It is paradoxical to assert that the dynamic structure of Alevism contains eternal qualities, consequently leading to inefficient research and perhaps even false conclusions. The apparent link between Alevism and democracy or equality is thus a false conclusion that must be analysed with a different sociological and historical attitude, since the internal social mechanics of Alevi society contain various levels of hierarchical authority and domination as well as differences in religious attitudes (such as Bektaşi) and ethnic heritage (such as Kurdish).

The Koçkiri and Dersim rebellions are primary examples that contradict the weak notion of an eternal position between Alevism and Kemalism. Dersim is a region located within the Tunceli province (Eastern Turkey) and contains a political history of defiance, particularly against the Ottoman Empire. “Aside from his assimilation policy, what brought Abdulhamid into evil repute among his heterodox subjects were the activities of the Hamidiye Cavalry in the Eastern provinces. Actually established by the Sultan to provide a bulwark against the Russians, the cavalry attacked the Alevi tribes in the region and confiscated their land.”[xxxix] Prior to the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the Kurdistan Teali Cemiyeti formed with the hope of creating an independent Kurdish State and with incitation by Britain, organised the first Koçkiri uprising in 1920. This was followed by the Sheikh Said Piran rebellion in 1925 arranged by a different Kurdish national group, the Azadi. “Said, leader of the 1925 ‘Sheikh Said rebellion’ was a Nakşibeni Sheikh,”[xl] thus Said Piran and his brother Sheik Abdurrahman (who attacked Palu and Malatya in 1927) where Sunni Kurds. Nevertheless, the Ararat Rebellion led by Ihsan Nuri Pasha, who in 1927 claimed independence from turkey until a series of campaigns by the Turkish forces crushed the rebellion and revolt.


While the Grand National Assembly was introduced to stimulate parliamentary and legislative authority during the Turkish War of Independence, discussions about the possibility for an independent administration for the Kurds had been made to reduce the pressure the Turkish National Movement was facing at the time. The Treaty of Lausanne failed to recognise ethno-linguistic groups – such as Alevis, Kurds, Laz and Circessians – although  it identified Jews and Christians as legitimate minorities and while it ended the war and finally established the Turkish Republic, it left Kurdistan as nothing but an imagined concept. This, therefore, led the Turkish government to purport Alevis as belonging to the majority and therefore disqualified from any rights. This consequently furthered violence where in 1937 the Qizilbaş Zaza people led by Seyid Riza rebelled against the Ataturk administration. Seyit Riza is often viewed as a symbol representing the Kurdish plight in Dersim. The distrust between tribes – for instance the Kurmanci – and the growing pressure of violence that later killed his two sons, Riza concluded that the new Turkish authorities were corrupt and consequently rebelled, leading to his eventual execution. In 1937, the government approved of a military operation in Dersim that “resulted in the annihilation of at least 10% of the population[xli] and the Tunceli Law (Tunceli Kanunlari) found thousands of people intentionally dispersed into other villages through the country to reduce the prospect of rebellion.

According to Borzalan, it was not only the Tunceli Law (a law that authorised the deportation of the Dersim population) but also the mass deportation and eventual genocide of Armenians that led to the Dersim rebellion. “They refused to go to war against the Russians during the world war and saved tens of thousands of Armenians from death.”[xlii] Over a decade of peace was suddenly converted to violence after a speech by Mustafa Kemal who pushed for an ‘Internal War of Independence’ against Dersim. It is fair to say that coercive policies in Dersim actually preceded the 1936-1938 rebellion. “A document dating back to January 1930 ordered the assessment of villagers with ‘foreign’ names and ‘foreign’ inhabitants, as well as the dispersion of these ‘foreigners’ over Turkish villages in order to make them Turks… In 1932 a law was passed in Turkish parliament that ordered the deportation and dispersion of Kurds to force their assimilation with ‘Turks’.”[xliii] In 1934, the Settlement Act was created to force an acculturation process particularly in the rural areas of Turkey, but it provided a wide margin of opportunity for authorities to apply coercive means against people by using such ambiguous language like ‘anarchist’ or ‘nomadic gypsy’.

The Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi or the National Action Party (MHP) is a far-right, conservative political group accused of human rights violations against Alevis. Including the Milli Selamet Partisi or the National Salvation Party (MSP) and the MHP youth organisation or ülkücü (idealists), a series of propaganda campaigns and offensive attacks in Sivas in 1978 and Çorum in 1980 led to mass violence and murder.[xliv] Three days in 1978 found 111 dead in the city of Kahramanmaraş after devious political machinations by ultranationalists pushed for the massacre. Such violence against Alevis involved two justifications; their left-wing or Marxist political association and the Kurdish national movement. “If nationalism is formulated in such a system of differences (A: non-A), it tends to destroy heterogeneity. The Other is then seen as the knife on the throat of the Nation.”[xlv] Türk Ameler Birliği (Turkish Workers’Union) became the first active organisation for the Alevis during the 1960’s, until replaced with Turtseverler Birliği (Patriots Union) that is affiliated with the Birlik Partisi (Union Party) in Turkey. Türkiye Komünist Partisi/Markist-Leninist or the Communist Party of Turkey/Markist-Leninist had a strong influence amongst Alevis, particularly in the Dersim region. With an increase of internal division against dedes for exploiting the community and hopelessness amongst the Alevi youth, Markist ideology became a better alternative to both Kemalism and Alevism in order to provide social unity and challenge the domination and nationalism sweeping through Turkey. “The mechanisms of domination that once were sufficient to manage the inter-community based conflicts declined, thus giving birth to massive violence, radical modes of expression and transformation of symbolic values and resources into key elements of mobilisation.”[xlvi] As Islamism began to be visually and socially perceptive, so did the growth of Alevi identity due to particularly to the restrictions that only non-Turkish (such as Kurds or Arabs) or non-Sunni (such as Alevi) were forced to experience. As the power of the left declined, it opportuned a new and modern communalism with the Alevi community.

The Jandarma, or the Turkish National Police, is a paramilitary force working under the Interior Ministry who primarily function in urban areas, particularly south-eastern Turkey. Riddled with corruption, the Jandarma are blamed for violence and torture among other abuses. “’Disappearances’ and extra-judicial executions took hundreds of lives in the 1990’s.”[xlvii] In 1995, the leader of the TKP/ML Party, Hasan Ocak, disappeared and was later found brutally murdered after being tortured. There is evidence that proved he was detained by police before his body was found.[xlviii] International and domestic human rights organisations claim that freedom of expression and human rights have been continuously undermined because of hidden but coercive violence against civilians, particularly Alevis and Kurds, which is clearly domination by the State who promote social cohesion through violence and fear or nationalism through human rights abuses. Organisations such as the TIHV (Türkiye Insan Haklari Vakfi) or the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and the IHD (Insan Haklari Derneği) have documented both the scale of torture and the violent methods used by the military and police. The obvious use of excessive force resulted from the shift in political and social ideology particularly with the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis (Türk-Islam Sentezi) that developed following the military coup in 1980 that found several politicians, including Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, executed for high treason.

In order to deal with the social and political upheaval and several years of military rule, the Enlightenment Hearths (Aydinlar Ocaklari) were a group of political, business and academic elites who developed the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis as an apparent way to tackle the mounting left-wing activism and by promoting a national religious culture. “After the 1980 coup, where the military took control of power for three years, found military leaders adopted new policies directly inspired by the Türk-Islam Sentezi, which aimed at switching Alevi identity to Sunni identity.”[xlix] It was introduced in the referendum of the new constitution as a form of social cohesion or Unitarian nationalism to tackle the economic and social problems, thus the government decided to manage the social upheaval by inducing further national solidity; to create a national and secular Turkey with Sunni Islam as the predominate religion. Ethnic and religious diversity was reversed to exclusion or assimilation. Legislators immediately began imposing Sunni Islamic religious ideals (sunnification) within predominately Alevi communities, such as building mosques in Alevi villages. This appears contrary to Kemalism that believed the Ottoman Islamic structure to be feudal and backward, where secularisation and modernisation was supposed to gradually diminish Ottoman influence, hence the radical changes in dress code and other legal frameworks. It is for this reason that Alevis have re-created the alliance with Kemalism, claiming that these structural changes are anti-Kemalist and the return to Sunni domination. Kemalism was reconstructed to tackle both the accelerating economic and social change vis-à-vis the rapidly expanding industrialisation process, together with the advancing ultranationalist groups who were attempting to gain public support after the coup d’etat.[l]

It cannot be denied that nationalism has provided the justification for “othering” Alevi and Kurdish groups, yet far-right radicalism in Turkey also became religiously compelled. Ultranationalists like the MHP appealed to Sunni Islamic Orthodoxy as a predominant method of symbolic legitimisation. Turkish nationalists and conservatives began to associate a dialectical synthesis with Islam, and while history can be used  to under the positive and negative aspects of the process of historical development, when linked with nationalism, can also be used as a hegemonic tool. For instance, a mob of Islamists (and authorities) were incited to violence in Sivas following Friday prayers and set fire to the Madimak Hotel where the Alevi Pir Sultan Abdal Kültür association arranged a cultural festival. Police and security forces deliberately did nothing to protect the 37 people who died in the fire. The same could easily be said for the violent reaction by police to contain a protest in Gazi (Gaziosmanpaşa) after the drive-by shootings at Doğu Coffeehouse in a predominately Alevi neighbourhood in Istanbul, where police randomly shot into the crowd and killed 15 people. “This conflict was highlighted in January 2005, when Alevis in Ankara applied for permit to build a cemevi. The Diyanet responded that the cem house was unnecessary, because they could worship at a mosque instead. In May 2006, the Diyanet President rejected offering financial support for cemevis on the grounds that the DIB lacked funds for “supporting mystical worship.”[li] The Department of Religious Affairs in Turkey now has one of the highest budgets (approx. $US1Billion).



Turkey has undergone a massive transformation and in the process has developed a national ideology with a strong emphasis on modernisation. Ziya Gölkalp became the leading figure who influence the ambitions of the Young Turks (Committee of Union and Profess) and their nationalist plight to eliminate religion in political and social life, in particular Mustapha Kemal Atatürk (Father of the Turks). After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey was declared a Republic on October 29, 1923 under the leadership of Atatürk who sought to reform the country and create a modern nation-state. Consequently, many dervish orders were closed and assimilation policies were implemented throughout Turkey. Alevis and other minority groups experienced discrimination and violence that has consequently opened dialogue on the politics of recognition. The complex internal dynamics of Turkey society has led the Alevis to declare that they do not want a minority status, but seek only to be recognised as having a legitmate religion. Thus, they are faced with the requirement to scriptualise their oral tradition and consequently effectuate a theological doctrine. By codifying their oral tradition, they will not only transform Alevism into a systematic set of beliefs – something they in principle are not – but will condense their traditional methods of religious association, which developed over hundreds of years.

The Fertile Crescent has been the centre for many powerful and exclusive civilisations, while also home to the Alevi (Turkey), Alawi (Syrian), Druze (Lebanon), Ahl-q Haqq (Iran) and Yazidi (Iraq) that worship a unique form of Islam with a blend of Pagan, Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Christian influences. With increased migration into Europe and Turkey’s potential accession into the European Union, questions about the status of minorities have been raised. In 1992, Alevi intellectuals wrote a manifesto asking for political legitimacy by the Diyanet Işleri Başkanligi (Directorate of Religious Affairs), yet they remain officially unrecognised the by government.[lii] Accordingly, suspicion is only increasing and these doubts are justified by the 2007 election results. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) received the majority vote while the Republican People’s Party (CHP) – the centre-left Kemalist party – came second on the national polls. Nevetherless, a close third was the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the ultra-nationalist party accused of neo-fascism with just over five million votes, nearly three million more than in 2002. That is five million votes too much.

Although the Alevis have remained under the control of the Sunni majority in Turkey, the Alawi of Syria have transformed from a persecuted and impoverished minority to a leading political and military power. Former power-relations began to dissolve particularly in the urban context that transformed Syria into a new political force. Unlike Turkey, who sought to repress minorities in Syria were encouraged to participate politically in order to reduce the strength of the growing Islamist position. “The French had encouraged minority recruitment as a means to counter the nationalist tendencies of the Arab-Sunni majority and to secure the alliance of the minority communities.”[i] Union with Egypt interrupted state politics that eventually paved the way for the Ba’th party to sweep into power, and though only a minority group statistically at 12% of the Syrian population, the Alawi held most of the majority posts and were represented only second to the majority Sunni population in the government.



[i] Itamar Rabonvich, “The Compact Minorities and the Syrian State, 1918-1945” Journal of Contemporary History 14:4 (Oct 1979) 703
[ii] Ibid., 694
[iii] Paul J White and Joost Jongerden, Turkey’s Alevi Enigma: A Comprehensive Overview, (Boston: Brill, 2003) 55
[iv] Daniel Pipes, “The Alawi Capture of Power in Syria” Middle Eastern Studies 25:4 (Oct 1989) pp 434-435
[v] Elisabeth Ozdalga, Tord Olsson and Catharina Raudvere, Alevi Identity: Cultural, Religious and Social Perspectives (Stockholm: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 1998) 167. The Alawites were persecuted from the beginning of the Mamluks which consequently forced them into the mountainous regions of Latakia.
[vi] Ibid., 152
[vii] Ibid., 165. Alexandretta/Hatay were incorporated into Turkey in 1939 after the French made a compromise with the Turkish government. The region has a sizeable portion of Alawites.
[viii] Mahmud A. Faksh, “The Alawi Community of Syria: A New Dminant Political Force” Middle Eastern Studies 20:2 (April 1984) 133-153. Although Latakia received most of the funding and improved more than any other region, it is claimed that Latakia was given priority because of its impoverished and rural situation rather than it being predominately Alawi. Whether this is true or not remains unknown.
[ix] Ibid., 140
[x] Rabanovich, op. cit., pp 695-696
[xi] Ibid., 699
[xii] Ibid., 703
[xiii] Daniel Pipes. “The Alawi Capture of Power in Syria” Middle Eastern Studies 25:4 (Oct 1989) 429-450
[xiv] Rabinovich, op. cit., pp 695-696
[xv] Faksh, op.cit., 139. This was also followed by the Druze rebellion in 1954; the Druze or Ahl- al-Tawid are populated mostly in Syria and follow Ismaili Shi’i Islam, but are not like the Alawi as they are officially recognised as Muslims.
[xvi] Michael H. Van Dusen, “Political Integration and Regionalism in Syria,” Middle East Journal 26:2 (Spring 1972) 132
[xvii] Faksh, op. cit., 141
[xviii] Dusen, op. cit., 135
[xix] Ibid., 124
[xx] Ibid., 129
[xxi] Pipes, op. cit., 440
[xxii] Ibid., 430
[xxiii] Ibid., 441
[xxiv] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 161
[xxv] Ibid., 167
[xxvi] Faksh, op. cit., 145
[xxvii] Andrew Davison, Secularism and Revivalism in Turkey: A Hermeneutic Reconsideration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) 92
[xxviii] Ibid., 97
[xxix] Alan Mcfarlane, “Louis Dumont and the Origins of Individualism” Cambridge Anthropology 16:1 (1993) 3
[xxx] David Shankland, The Turkish Republic at Seventy-Five Years. (Cambridgeshire: The Eothen Press, 1999) 60
[xxxi] Ibid., 58
[xxxii] Erhand Franz, Population Policy in Turkey: Family Planning and Migration between 1960 and 1992 (Hamburg: Deutsches Orient-Instit, 1994) 221
[xxxiii] Ibid., 222
[xxxiv] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 107
[xxxv] White and Jongerden, op. cit., 57
[xxxvi] Ibid., 59. “The entire order was governed by Celebi, who resided in the mother-monastery (pir-evi) Haci Bektas, constructed over the saint’s tomb (between Kirsehir and Kayseri).”
[xxxvii] Ibid., 60
[xxxviii] Ibid., 3
[xxxix] Ibid., 56
[xl] Ibid., 26
[xli] Ibid., 66
[xlii] Ibid., 10
[xliii] Ibid., 77-78
[xliv] Ibid., 83
[xlv] Ibid., 84
[xlvi] Ibid., 14. Abdullah Ocalan is a prominent figure in the Kurdish domain who in 1974 established the PKK under Marxist ideology.
[xlvii] Ibid., 71
[xlviii] Ibid., 86
[xlix] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 80
[l] Ibid., 7
[li] David Shankland, op. cit., 65
[lii] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, Op. Cit., 127

Guest Post: Modernism, Postmodernism and the Sublime

By Phil Cava


The impact of  Greek culture on the world  from the 5th Century BC forward has had long lasting foundational effects on Western Culture. Man’s concept of himself  expanded and evolved through the works of philosopher/scientists, poets, tragedies, historians, sculptors, architects, and others, during this  period.

The Greeks invented a conception of beauty, which still sways us. Classical beauty gave privilege to the purity of form, to proportion and to symmetry over content, and matter  The thoughts of Plato and Aristotle were foundational for Western Culture’s determination of what constitutes Beauty. Against this sway mid-twentieth century artist Barnett Newman in his famous essay “The Sublime is  Now”  (1948)  said that the Greek conception of beauty was conflated with Christianity which led to:

“Man’s natural desire in the arts to express his relation to the Absolute became identified and confused with the absolutisms of perfect creations…with the fetish of quality…so that the European artist has been continually involved in the moral struggle between notions of beauty and the desire for sublimity.



                                           Adam                                                          Eve

Edmund Burke was “first philosopher to argue that the sublime and the beautiful are mutually exclusive” (1) Burke thought of the sublime as a kind of negative pleasure, the delight experienced in the removal of pain or our  attraction to  profoundly disturbing aesthetics  such as Kramer’s portrait,  which no one can look away from.  Or on a more serious note, the figural portraits of Lucian Freud, which repel and attract us simultaneously,  ultimately we, or at least I can’t look away.

Kant picks up on Burke’s concept of sublimity in his 1790 “Critique of Judgement”. Kant has a lot to say, and it is not possible to bypass his contribution to our understanding of the Greek gift.  He separates general knowledge from our sense of beauty and the sublime. Judgements regarding general knowledge are based on determinate concepts, concepts which are bounded by our imagination and whose totality is grasped by our faculty of reason. This is how particulars become assumed under universals, and how a work of art can be a universal particular.   Kant contrasts determinate  judgements  with reflective judgements. In reflective judgements the limitations of our determinate conceptions are challenged. Our imagination opens up mental space wherein new concepts,  judgements, relationships become possible, in the free play of reason with our imagination pleasure arises.

Kant states that our judgement of taste is aesthetic  (45S1):

“In  order to decide whether anything is beautiful or not, we refer the representation, not by the Understanding to the Object for cognition but, by the Imagination (perhaps in conjunction with the Understanding) to the subject, and its feeling of pleasure or pain

For Kant the feeling of pleasure or pain we experience is based on the ability of our imagination, our reasoning and our judgements to correspond with one another or not. Judgements concerning  determinate concepts can be agreeable, pleasurable, but they are limited determinately. Reflective judgements are pleasurable in themselves, in the very action of their conception. Determinate judgements and reflective judgements are bound by our imagination.  They are finite in the sense that they are bound, unlike the Sublime.

Kant differentiates  beauty from the sublime he states (BkIIS23)  “The Beautiful and the Sublime agree in this, that both please in themselves. Further, neither presupposes a judgement of sense nor a judgement logically determined, but a judgement of reflection.”

The sublime is a formless object whose  totality escapes unambiguous interpretation. The imagination fails to synthesize the power of the Sublime determinately or reflectively, but  reason is able to gape at the whole in its freedom from the determination of the senses.  Kant agrees with Burke that the Sublime attracts and repels, and he too calls it a negative pleasure, it is a dynamic concept for Kant. Unlike Burke, he includes a subjectively beautiful  aspect to the  sublime.

Kant tracing of the pleasure/pain we experience in the beautiful seems correct enough, but in the playful congruence of our conceptions with our understanding generating pleasure/pain he accepts the Greeks gift.  The physical source of pain and pleasure is the body.  We learn what it is to feel pleasure and pain and these feelings drive us erotically, where the erotic is thought of as man’s instinctive drive to reproduce, to conceive, it invent. (as in Diotima’s speech in Plato’s Symposium, a “pregnant soul”)

Evidence for man’s instinctual drive to create  seen on the walls of the Ice Age caves in various parts of the world. The fantastic renderings of animals in these caves demonstrates accomplished art dating back 40,000 years.  The distribution of these caves in  disparate places during the same time periods, in France/Spain and Indonesia, suggest that man’s desire to create art  is an integral part of what it means to be a human, as  Newman said:  “For artists are the first men.

The Renaissance conflated the Greek ideal of Beauty with the Christian legend.  “It was no idle quip that moved Michelangelo to call himself a sculptor rather than a painter, for he knew that only in his sculpture could the desire for the  grand statement of Christian sublimity be reached…Michelangelo knew the meaning of Greek humanities of his time involved making Christ, the man into Christ who is god…” (Newman-2)

The Renaissance view of the absolute as perfection, as beauty remained the controlling value system that subsequent generations of artists have had to struggle with.  Not until the 20th Century that artists began to search for new ways to realize their works.   Still most artist’s works remained bound to the representational world either directly or by metaphor.

images (1)


Comparing  Picasso’s Guernica to Jackson Pollock’s 69:

Where Picasso’s Guernica uses the pictorial plane to express the fear and the terror of war, in pictorial representation, Pollock’s 69 suggests an urgency, a sense of conflict with no representation beyond the paint on his canvas.  We can wrap our heads around what Picasso’s is intimating; Pollock’s work is much more ambiguous, it draws us in and we wander and wander, feeling its sense of conflict and urgency, but it denies any determinate point of view. Its formless formal purity is foundational but this purity is not based on the Greek conceptions of the purity of form and matter. Pollock allows matter to be itself on the pictorial plane.

Fransaw Lyotard railed against  the meta-narrative of classical beauty and the absolute that has dominated art values since Plato’s time.  Modern science has taught us that the what we see does not include all that’s there in what we see. Lyotard’s sees modern artists such as Joyce, Kandinsky, Picasso, Dali and others attempting to  put forward  the inexpressible in their works.  A negative space, that defies representation, the sublime.

His theory separates these artist into two groups:  1) those whose works intimate the ineffable indirectly, modern as in Picasso’s Guernica and  2)those whose works are directly aimed at conveying what can’t be conveyed in the classical meta narrative, postmodern works such as Pollock’s 69 (or  look at Rothko’s Chapel which also includes Barnett Newman’s Broken Olelisk.)  

This suggests, in a  non-periodizing way the structure difference between  Modern Art and Postmodernism  lies in a methodic difference in which the aesthetic affect, how we feel upon viewing these works differ and what those feelings suggests to us. Where Modernism’s uses representation in the pictorial plane to  express the Sublime,  Postmodernism uses the pictorial plane itself  as its  expression of the Sublime, Lyotard’s expression of the inexpressible.  



Broken Obelisk



Barnett Newman, http://art310-f11-hoy.wikispaces.umb.edu/file/view/Newman+The+Sublime+is+Now
Edmund Burke, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublime_(philosophy)#Edmund_Burke
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment 1790, Section 1  (pg 44) and Book 2 Section 23 (pg 97)
Plato’s Symposium 208/209



Book Review: Ethical Writings of Maimonides

For centuries, from Aristotle to Confucius, Aquinas and Thoreau, moral philosophers have endorsed the idea that a balanced, moderate regularity of character is an important step towards genuine happiness, that excess or deficiency of any sort and the failure to attain a principled attitude toward guiding and cultivating the self toward this mean will lead to the reverse. Thus, one who leads a life attempting to walk down this dutiful path toward a balanced and constant frame of mind is demonstrative of a noble and even a superior person. As said by Socrates, “with his eyes fixed on the nature of his soul, naming the worse life that which will tend to make it more unjust and the better that which will make it more just… all other considerations he will dismiss, for we have seen that this is the best choice.”[i] This choice to lead a life of virtue and justice and abandoning all that is vulgar, vulgarity being interpreted as “the masses and the most vulgar seem – not unreasonably – to believe that the good or happiness is pleasure. Accordingly they ask for nothing better than the life of enjoyment,”[ii] will allow one to adopt a standard that will link them closer to what is beautiful, namely love and honesty.

So what constitutes perfect virtue? Is it defined by the strength of individual will? Is it how one determines right from wrong, the capacity to overcome the influence of a defective ego, the intelligence and the confidence to be autonomous by engaging independently with the world around them? Is it to identify and distinguish the kind of moral values that are functional, valuable and aesthetical, of what is prohibited, useful and authentic, to be capable of ascertaining intent and to act on and maximise moral principles? It is simply the strength of will, the capacity to overcome the proclivity of the ego and the wayward pleasures of our instinctual drives, to recognise the scope of the activity of leading a morally virtuous life by searching for the golden mean. It is to be courageous enough to deliberately abandon a false environment and find the veracity and sense of honour to pursue a life of virtue, to maintain and personify it. “True virtue can only be grafted onto principles, such that the more general they are, the more sublime and noble they become,”[iii] thus distinguishing between the subjective aesthetic toward a universal aesthetic, the former having the possible inclination to waywardness as it remains dependant on the moral disposition of the individual.

It is for this reason that the disposition of the individual and obtaining the correct character traits necessary to reach true virtue is indispensable. Moses Maimonides discussed in detail the importance of this mean in several of his works including Hilkhot De’ot or the Laws Concerning Character Traits and Eight Chapters aside from his more famed work in Guide of the Perplexed. All of which can be found in the Ethical Writings of Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon), edited by Raymond L. Weiss with Charles Butterworth. Maimonides (1138 – 1204) was born in Cordoba, during the short-lived Moorish Almoravid Dynasty that ruled over present-day Morocco and Spain. Known as Rambam, he trained as a physician that later enabled him to become court physician to the Sultan Saladin and was well versed in medicine both in reading and in writing. His writings stretched out to include Rabbinic Law and Jewish Philosophy and his influence as a scholar has maintained his place as authoritative figure in Jewish law and ethics. His metaphysical and epistemological writings are included in his prolific repertoire but his studies on ethics and virtue exemplify the type of obedience and dedication required to preserve the divine wisdom and the t’amei ha-mitzvot that explained the reasons for the commandments.

According to Maimonides, there exists two types of moral standards in an individual, namely those that are pious and those that attempt to find the golden mean, the former considered to be obligatory since such a characteristic is required to encourage the subjective poise required to engage in the middle way.[iv] In his Laws Concerning Character Traits (27-59), he traverses through eleven commandments that attempt to direct one toward the equilibrium required to reach a state of moral virtue that epitomises the ‘right way’ or as said by Solomon, “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”[v] All people have different character traits, different personalities and dispositions, whereby one person may have the calm that another may not as they become intensely angered and impatient. One can be lazy and gluttonous while another ascetic by nature. Maimonides writes about eleven commandments that include 1. to imitate God, 2. to cleave to those who know of God, 3. to love your neighbours, 4. to love converts to God, 5. not to hate brothers, 6. to rebuke, 7. not to put (anyone) to shame, 8. not to afflict the distressed, 9. not to go about as a talebearer, 10. not to take revenge, 11. not to bear a grudge. “The right way is the mean in every single one of a man’s character traits” (29). The golden mean is to find the balance toward establishing a good character indicated by the way they conduct their affairs, by being humble and loving. It is to reach for ‘wisdom’ by finding the mean between the extremes of our character traits before sensibly and continuously practicing until it becomes firmly established.

For Maimonides, it is wisdom to walk in the way of God, to seek the path that leads to God and therefore replicate the virtues or commandments and test your obedience to God as exemplified in the Old Testament. To become “slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, just and righteous, perfect, powerful and strong… and a man is obliged to train himself to follow them and to imitate according to his strength.”[vi] It is to uproot the flaws that one may have and ‘cure’ the ailment of immorality by training oneself to understand opposites. If one is wealthy and has a conceited attitude, he should clothe himself in worn-out, shabby garments that will endure him with much degradation until the haughtiness has left him and he is humbled. Whatever the problem may be that causes one to lose the way of this required balance, the individual should move themselves toward the other end of the same extreme until reaching that unaffected balance. As said by David Hume, “[t]he richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest weeds.”[vii]

Although he discusses aspects of one’s personal conduct, including the way that one may eat or drink, sleep and have sexual intercourse, there is one particular aspect that merits further discussion and that was his view on cleaving to those who lead the way of wisdom. “[A] man needs to associate with the just and be with the wise continually in order to learn [from] their actions,”[viii] and by associating with fools one will ultimately enable evil to prosper within. Accordingly, evil is living without adequate care or thought to this measure of behaviour. The human being, says Kant, is aware of the moral law but has failed to incorporate it into his or her maxim, and is thus fundamentally evil.[ix] Regarding the conduct of ones affairs and perfecting eating habits, the way he or she engages with body and desires, and the consistent consciousness to dedicate oneself to moral well being is not simply for the happiness that it enables but also as a way to keep his or her body healthy and strong. There misery therewith when surrounded by the wrong people will prevent one from conducting their affairs correctly. In On the Management of Health (105-113), any such undesirable people and overindulgence leads to excessive mental and physical health issues where strength is spent and “his life and eyes dimmed”[x] or conversely, improving his character traits by cleaving to those who are wise, modest and righteous, his soul ultimately becomes tranquil.[xi] In similar vein, Confucius states that one should, “make conscientiousness and sincerity your leading principles. Have no friends inferior to yourself. And when in the wrong, do not hesitate to amend.”[xii] But it is not merely the afflictions physically, but the afflictions of the soul and the impact of the misery, anxiety and despair that befall people. The remedy is to enable the soul to eliminate the passions and learn to compose oneself ethically and morally by becoming subservient to what is righteous and good. “Thus the passions will diminish, [obsessive] thoughts will disappear, apprehension will be removed, and the soul will be cheerful in whatever condition a man happens to be” [109].

While it is possible that the ego could choose the wrong people to have and thus misconstrue what it means to be surrounded by the right people, the general rule of propriety is that self-development and dedicating oneself to a life of wisdom would enable the faculty accurately observe right and wrong conduct in others and ourselves. The propriety of character and how people conduct themselves and their affairs is a matter of observation and since depravity of character is expressed through impropriety and the product of their behaviour seen by the fruits they produce, the clarity of choice becomes simplified. Those who embody moral virtue and right or wrong behaviour, who – as Mencius expounds – feels a sense of shame[xiii] and is reverently careful in his conduct and affairs is clearly one of right character and mind. This standard establishes a virtuous culture or environment where members equally possess the same will to moral virtue that enjoin to equally share in the development of principles, a formula known as the Kingdom of Ends.[xiv] For Maimonides, “Certain actions necessarily stem from one soul and other actions from another soul” that therefore exemplify the importance of relations with our fellow community.

In Eight Chapters (59-105), Maimonides critically explores piety and the discipline that encompasses morality. Good moral habits initiates the formation of ethics; by obtaining good moral habits, it becomes that very connection between moral virtue and the social and political. Written as an introduction to Pirqei Avot (Chapters of the Fathers), he attempts to isolate the permissible and erroneous and the relevance of been rational as n instrument to become empowered to control the appetitive desires. The soul has the power but disobedience through transgressions and the highly imaginative fails to enable the will to become subservient to moral virtues. “For example, moderation, liberality, justice, gentleness, humility, contentment, courage, and others.” (65) This disobedience becomes a disease to the soul that is seen externally in the body, taking pleasure in things that are not good for the body and the mind and never reaching physical excellence. His references to statements made by Solomon enables clarity on his combined efforts to involve Biblical connections to his ethical and medicinal approaches.

And the reason for living a life dedicated to finding the Golden Mean? Virtue – which is mental health – and the golden mean are necessary for a healthy life. In his Letter to Joseph (113-129), that he writes to his disciple Joseph Ibn Aknin, it is to lead by example and develop a pattern of excellent. The chapter provides some extraordinary insights into the man himself, about his vision and his enormous commitment to his moral objective. “In sum, if you are indeed my disciple, I want you to train yourself to follow my moral habits” (120). His affection and criticisms shed an amazing light on his dedication to justice and his love of knowledge, or as St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”[xvii] Love is the unity formed through knowledge and establishes a state of happiness resides, making knowledge fundamental to this development. Through Rabbinical law and adherence to the commandments along with the dedication to attain a balance of mind will the adherent become suffused with love. It is not simply the mean itself that supplies the individual with the tranquillity required to be happy, but the righteous ability to discern the right time and way to think and behave, to rationally approach ones own emotions.

By improving your character and reaching a state of clarity in mind and reason, one will enable the qualities necessary to reach the balanced standard that Mainmonides expects. In the Guide of the Perplexed (129-155), which is one of his most famous works, is to guide those possessing positive character traits by learning to understand God. The work is addressed to Joseph ben Judah and elucidates ways of overcoming the disillusionment and existential angst of philosophy and law by understanding the differences between the practical and the subjective or speculative. Having strong theoretical foundations and thus continuously ameliorating knowledge, one can uncover the mental capacity necessary to acquire to attain a solid understanding of themselves and the world around them. That laws are not natural but necessary to manage the natural. “The Law as a whole aims at two things: the well-being of the soul and the well-being of the body. As for the well-being of the soul, it consists in the multitude’s acquiring correct opinions corresponding to their respective capacity” (139). The final chapters, Treatise on the Art of Logic (155-165) and The Days of the Messiah (165-177) continue along with the same themes. By distinguishing biblical themes such as the world to come, formulations that deal with immorality and the benefits of the laws particularly the coming messianic era will provide one with an understanding of repentance. “It has become known that the life of the world-to-come is the reward for performing the commandments and is the good that we merit if we have kept the way of the old referred to in the Torah” (169). Discussing the instrument of logic as a necessary condition of the mind in order to appreciate the correct approach of practical reasoning and to think and behave correctly remains an important aspect to the power of rational thought.

I was compelled to his work for my love of history whether it is ancient or medieval, in this case the latter. I have a strong appreciation for literature such as the Ethical Writings of Maimonides that promotes the value of ethics and the moral concerns relating to our conduct and behaviour. His criticism is harsh, views absolute and his beliefs that the actions of our soul, our intent, the choices that we want to make and whether we are thinking correctly formulate the groundwork necessary to compel the right choices that we act out in reality. The book provides additional insight into rabbinical literature and the significance of moral laws that authoritatively posit the necessity of moral conduct. By finding the golden mean and teaching oneself to discover a proper balance of thought and behaviour, compelled by our desire to lead a virtuous life, Maimonides believes that we can reach both physically and mentally excellence in health and in moral virtue.

[i] Plato, Republic [618e]
[ii] Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics from I.M.N. Al-Jubouri’ History of Islamic Philosophy, (2004) 74
[iii] Immanuel Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, 2:217
[iv] Raymond L. Weiss, Ethical Writings of Maimonides, Dover Publications New York (1975), 7
[v] Proverbs 4:26
[vi] Weiss and Butterworth, op. cit., 30
[vii] David Hume, Moral and Political Philosophy, Simon and Schuster (2010)
[viii] Weiss and Butterworth, op. cit., 46
[ix] Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason, 6:32
[x] Weiss and Butterworth, op. cit., 40
[xi] Ibid., 43
[xii] Confucius, The Analects, Chapter XXIV
[xiii] Menicius, Bk. vii., pti., c.vii., v i.
[xiv] Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, 4:439

Deterrence of Punishment Against Palestinian Children

The preamble to the Convention on the Rights of a Child states: “Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” To include the rights of children as members of this human family and as having equal and inalienable rights is a topic of more complexity than what one would assume, considering questions such as consent vis-à-vis cognitive capacity and whether children are capable of making or even understanding decisions and choice. But human rights are not merely about our individual rights and entitlements, on the contrary it also represents our obligations toward those who may not be capable of protecting or understanding their own rights, to safeguard and protect equality by refraining from actions that could undermine the indivisibility of our moral duty to humanity. It is intriguing that the Convention on the Rights of the Child – whilst signed by the United States – remains unratified alongside countries such as Somalia and South Sudan. Notwithstanding the ridiculous political climate with Donald Trump ready to be inaugurated as the new president, the USA has – among a plethora of reasons for the failure to ratify – over 20% of children living below the poverty line, though it spent a mammoth $598.5 billion just on military expenditure in the last year alone. It is not the only nation-state that emphasizes security above the lives of children. In 2012, the Human Rights Council brought forth a statement on behalf of Defence for Children International (DCI) that Israeli patrol boats were stripping, blindfolding and tying children who were fishing along the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza and violently interrogating them in violation of its international legal obligations. Yet, it was only several weeks ago that reports confirmed Israeli naval forces confiscated several fishing boats and arrested fisherman including a child.[1] While it is clear that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has perpetrated the heightened level of security particularly following events such as the Ma’a lot and Mercaz HaRav massacres that involved the deaths of children, justifications that purport such extreme behavior that betrays the dignity of Palestinian children and international law itself is simply unfounded. The question raised here is how can Israel maintain its level of security without violating the Convention of the Rights of a Child?[2]

Following the Six-Day War[3] in 1967, Israel captured what is referred to as the ‘occupied territories’ of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip when war with its Arab neighbors Egypt, Syria and Jordan broke out. While relations with Egypt and Jordan have to a degree since normalised, territorial disputes particularly relating to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights remain. The Oslo Accords – agreements between Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – became an attempt to develop negotiations that would establish peace and an opportunity for Palestinian self-determination, drawing several border areas known as A, B and C with PNA authority over A and B with cities such as Bethlehem, Jericho and a majority of Hebron; the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), however, continue to conducts unauthorized entry into the regions.[4] Area C remains in control by Israel and the allusion of ‘occupied’ refers to United Nation resolutions[5] regarding both settlement policies but also the Palestinian territories of the West Bank. It is clear that there exists gross discrimination against the Palestinian population residing in the West Bank – and why references to the apartheid are made – since the same geographical area contains two separate legal systems, namely the military legal system administered by the army against the entire Palestinian inhabitants whilst the Jewish settler population – now at almost half a million – living within the same jurisdiction are subject to Israeli law, denoting clear segregation and discrimination and a composed flagrance to international law. The Accords intended that Area C will eventually be transferred to Palestinian authority and with the rise of Jewish settlements and the restrictions permitting Palestinian construction of homes, it is clear that the intention is otherwise with ludicrous propositions that Israel is somehow immune to international law since the world is “dedicated to destroying Israel”[6] and therefore anti-Semitic in addition to the right for Israelis to settle in Judea and Samaria through historical and biblical romanticizing that nevertheless strengthens ideological nationalism. Not only are there clear, discriminating restrictions but martial law prohibits freedom of expression and association through the Israeli Defense Force’ Order Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Actions[7] that forbids any gathering in a public space, holding or displaying political symbols and showing support to what is deemed a hostile organization, providing the authorization for military personnel to exercise powers as vested in the order.

When I was in Eilat walking one warm evening along the coast, I saw a child probably about four or five years old holding a toy gun. As one who lives in a country where guns are illegal,[8] when I think of a child holding such a ludicrous toy, I visualise the toy being carelessly suspended and maybe making noises like ‘pow pow’ perhaps mimicking a movie or show on television. This child, however, held the gun with his elbows up and one eye closed as though he were a sniper or holding an AK51 and made spraying bullet sounds; to see a small child do that was frightfully shocking, I can assure you. He was symbolically a child soldier. It would be astounding to know that child recruitment during armed conflict is not uncommon in both Israel and Palestine and though rightly prohibited by international law, through a scarcity of documentary evidence it has been noted that Israel recruit Palestinian children to obtain information, particularly following their arrest and interrogation.[9] The level of child fatalities in Palestine is alarming, whereby a majority of these deaths are caused particularly by military offensives in Gaza. Statistics show that since 2000, a total of 1417 Palestinian children have died as a result of air and ground attacks, clashes and random gunfire among others.[10] These attacks can also be sporadic. On the 25th November, Israel shot and killed sixteen-year-old Mohammad Zidan for allegedly attempting to stab a group of Israeli security officers, a narrative so unbelievable that consideration of Israel having the worlds most ‘moral army’ is dubious to say the least, perhaps such rhetoric the very ideological fibre used to justify the brutality. Notwithstanding the death toll, the rate of children who have been detained, arrested or interrogated is far worse with the situation in East Jerusalem more complex to say the least. A report in 2011[11] showed that whilst reforms for Law 5731-1971 (‘Youth Law’) were comprehensively adopted to “greatly improve the treatment of minors in criminal proceedings,”[12] Israeli police consistently violate the provisions of the reforms. “In East Jerusalem, 860 Palestinian children were arrested, including 136 between 7 and 11 years of age, under the age of criminal responsibility.”[13] Recently enacted Order Number 1745 by the Israeli Armed Forces purports documentation and language used during the interrogation process of a minor suspected of committing an offence must be done in the language understandable to the minor and recorded with audiovisual documentation. However, 136d(b)6 states, “This article does not apply to minors suspected of committing security offenses,”[14] which clearly makes the rationale of the directive null and void, undermining the overall attempt to adhere to international norms of protecting minors.

Children are subject to martial law if they throw a stone. The Knesset had recently passed legislation that amended the Penal Code to increase the sentence of stone throwing with a minimum imprisonment of three years, claiming a ‘rock’ as a harmful tool.[15] Without any shame, the Knesset had the audacity to state in its press release on the subject of this legal change that “[i]f a child is convicted of a security crime or of rock-throwing, his parents will not receive NII benefits while he is serving his sentence,”[16] with Constitution and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky purporting that throwing a rock is an attempt to murder. Whilst it is clear that the endeavour is to use harsh force as a deterrent and perhaps targeting children to generate a consciousness of the threat of punishment for misbehaviour, discouraging terrorism through acts of terror only breeds further hostilities, which is clearly shown by the statistics that prove an increasing number of violence in the occupied territories. This would be difficult for a highly militarised nation to understand, particularly with Netanyahu in a leadership role who consistently utilises historical narratives and other forms of right-wing ideological validations in similar vein to revisionist Zionism that excuse breaches of human rights and humanitarian laws; any attempt to challenge this hardline approach falls on deaf ears since they have the ideological reason to believe otherwise. This extreme Jewish nationalism is the greatest barrier for peace with the Palestinians, clearly shown by the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin murdered by ultra-Orthodox Jew Yigal Amir. The U.N Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the occupied Palestinian territory reported on ‘price-tag’ strategies of Israeli settlers in certain regions, attacks carried out against Palestinians by Israeli satellite settlements built without official authorization by the government and usually on Palestinian-owned land as a way of deterring authorities from removing them.[17] Thousands of settler attacks have occurred and there is no discrimination against Palestinian children during the violence. In addition, retaliation against Palestinian families who have been accused in some way of attacking Israelis have their homes demolished by authorities as yet another excessive deterrence method, clear by the fact that neighbours are also punished to generate a sense of communal avoidance of hostilities.[18]

The question thus raised is whether these extreme actions have or will have in the long run any influence to reduce the rate of Palestinian terrorism in Israel? The broad definition of terrorism, while undefined in international law with the intent that in doing so one can isolate and address specific or multiple factors causal to an incident, nevertheless is generally considered an “[a]ct intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such an act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organisation to do or to abstain from doing any act,”[19] taking into consideration that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. To understand the complexity of terrorism or when discussing the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, I often consider the following problem:

If one is incapable of providing formal proofs concerning a decision often moral in nature, what is the nature of their certainty and to what degree can one achieve this certainty in order to sufficiently justify the conviction?

It has somewhat become a formula of mine when I subjectively reach a point that I can no longer trespass without the content becoming dubious, requiring relativistic flexibility in an attempt to traverse their frame of mind, cultural position, historical and environmental influences etc &c., to reach an appreciation of the conviction that may or may not make much sense otherwise. This includes an understanding of the Israeli psyche and the rationalization behind decisions.

It is clear that the situation is having a devastating impact on Palestinian children, the lifelong effects from consistent intimidation and harassment in an environment plagued by the fear of continuous violence or the threat of violence, poverty, restrictions to movement and employment opportunities and therefore a sense of hopelessness for a better future cannot – according to the logic of the IDF – break their will for self-determination to form what could be considered an enslaved people – but rather develop the very core issue; it only creates the need to fight back. In Australia, for instance, the impact of the Stolen Generation[20] on indigenous communities resulted in widespread substance abuse, poverty that hinders achievement in education, and neglect that ultimately fosters the failure to attain equal opportunity. The experience of being stripped, blindfolded and detained without reason or an offence not only violates the inherent dignity of the child due to the emotional and physical harm, but the neurological caused by the stress, fear whereby brain development due to their response to such a threat is impaired can cause lifelong interpersonal difficulties, delays and injury to emotional and interpersonal wellbeing such as aggression and anger.

“Children living under occupation have been found to experience significantly more traumatic events than Palestinian citizens of Israel, and report higher levels of post-traumatic symptoms, more pessimistic future orientation, and less favorable attitudes toward peace negotiations… living in proximity to the Separation Wall has led to feelings of sadness and fear amongst women, to a lack of motivation to perform daily activities among men, and is associated with feelings of loneliness and physical ailments. Children have shown increased aggressiveness, and have developed a fear of the night.”[21]

Children do have dignity and have a right to be respected for this indivisible, inherent right that is often overlooked. In the case of domestic violence, for instance, it is assumed that by only supporting the mother during the traumatic experience and helping her recover, she would in turn be capable of supporting her children and whilst this may perhaps be true, during the period of her trauma [where she becomes incapable] the stress this may have on the child is often overlooked. That is, to have potentially witnessed violence against the mother and to witness their mother distressed and incapable of emotionally supporting them consequently isolates and impacts on the development of the child; even when the mother recovers, a continuation of neglecting any dialogue of the incident as a way of overcoming it could potentially and perhaps even permanently leave the child emotionally displaced and confused. The emotional unavailability of parents living under Israeli occupation and the lack of communal, cultural and social inclusiveness encouraged by a hope for a better future dismantles their capacity to develop a healthy, moral construction and development of their own identity and self that the damage could easily be irreversible. It is not just their own physical experience with trauma, the effects just as damaging when witnessing. “[I]t it possible that the symbolic or “imprinting” effects of trauma (e.g., witnessing violence being inflicted on family members) is more traumatic to children than suffering injuries themselves.”[22]

While the concluding observations by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child express dismay at the lack of willingness that Israel displays vis-à-vis the implementation of the convention,[23] it is clear that from the report – submitted by Israel seven years after its requested due date – that an exploration of different strategies to encourage and enforce the application of international human rights and humanitarian treaties is required. In Australia, for instance, Victoria has implemented a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 along with the ACT’ Human Rights Act 2004 as a stepping stone toward the implementation of human rights at federal level. The practice by local municipals to adopt international human rights treaties was approached by the Ashdod City Council in 1997, affirming that it will adhere to and respect the principles as set out by the Convention of the Rights of the Child. If more continue, it could influence a voice that will pressure that hardliners to approach the Palestinian question with more compassion particularly if a future between both is imminent. As a way of facilitating and strengthening a commitment toward measures that seek to prevent and protect children from the damaging effects of living under occupation, implementing compliance to international law by councils could strategically influence national adoption of human rights principles. The voice of the Israeli population who are in support of peaceful relations with the Palestinians could also become the impetus to build a structure of change. Other measures, including rehabilitation, healing through education and other approaches that will strengthen the inherent dignity of Palestinian children is absolute. It is to remember that violence, aggression or fear will not resolve the loom of terrorism, on the contrary it will only breed it.

There is NEVER a justification for violence against children.

[1] http://imemc.org/article/israeli-naval-forces-continue-to-chase-palestinian-fishermen-in-gaza-sea-6-fishermen-including-child-arrested-and-2-fishing-boats-confiscated/
[2] Article 44 (2) of the Convention
[3] The 1967 war took place between 5-10 of June in 1967 between Israel and its surrounding Arab neighbours Egypt, Syria, and Jordan with casualties and crippling losses on the Arab side. Whilst the victory confirmed the state of Israeli military power in the Middle East, it also resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
[4] See Operation Defence Shield in the introduction to Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Verso, 2003
[5] Resolutions 465 and 446
[6] Thomas G. Mitchell, Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution, McFarland (2013) 40
[7] Israel Defense Forces, Order No. 101 Order Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Actions 
[8] Simon Chapman, Over Our Dead Bodies: Port Arthur and Australia’s Fight for Gun Control, Sydney University Press, 2013
[9] Also see Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/70/836–S/2016/360) 
[10] http://www.dci-palestine.org/child_fatalities_according_to_circumstances_of_death
[12] Second Periodic Report Concerning the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of a Child (2010) 14
[13] https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/countries-caac/occupied-palestinian-territory-and-israel/
[14] http://www.militarycourtwatch.org/files/server/Military%20Order%201745_ENG%20(2)(1).pdf
[15] https://www.knesset.gov.il/spokesman/eng/PR_eng.asp?PRID=11736
[16] Ibid
[17] http://www.ochaopt.org/theme/casualties
[18] See (A/69/926-S/2015/409)
[19] Art 2, par 1.(b) Convention on the Suppression of Financing Terrorism
[20] Learn more about the Stolen Generation in ‘Quarterly Essay 1: In Denial: The Stolen Generations and the Right’ by Robert Manne
[21] Bruno Charbonneau, Genevieve Parent, Peacebuilding, Memory and Reconciliation: Bridging Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches, Routledge (2013) 150
[22] Stanley Krippner, Teresa M. McIntyre, The Psychological Impact of War Trauma on Civilians: An International Perspective, Greenwood Publishing Group (2003) 288
[23] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding Observations: Israel, 9 October 2002, CRC/C/15/Add.195, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df587210.html %5Baccessed 18 December 2016]