Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Superfluous Young Muslim Men

Electronic Intifada:

A fellow at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Martin Kramer, has called for "the West" to take measures to curb the births of Palestinians, a proposal that appears to meet the international legal definition of a call for genocide.


Kramer, who is also a fellow at the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), made the call early this month in a speech at Israel's Herzliya conference, a video of which is posted on his blog ("Superfluous young men," 7 February 2010).

In the speech Kramer rejected common views that Islamist "radicalization" is caused by US policies such as support for Israel, or propping up despotic dictatorships, and stated that it was inherent in the demography of Muslim societies such as Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip. Too many children, he argued, leads to too many "superfluous young men" who then become violent radicals.

Kramer proposed that the number of Palestinian children born in the Gaza Strip should be deliberately curbed, and alleged that this would "happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies to Palestinians with refugee status."

Due to the Israeli blockade, the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza are now dependent on UN food aid. Neither the UN, nor any other agencies, provide Palestinians with specifically "pro-natal subsidies." Kramer appeared to be equating any humanitarian assistance at all with inducement for Palestinians to reproduce.

He added, "Israel's present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim -- undermine the Hamas regime -- but if they also break Gaza's runaway population growth, and there is some evidence that they have, that might begin to crack the culture of martyrdom which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men." This, he claimed, would be treating the issue of Islamic radicalization "at its root."

The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, created in the wake of the Nazi holocaust, defines genocide to include measures "intended to prevent births within" a specific "national, ethnic, racial or religious group."

The Weatherhead Center at Harvard describes itself as "the largest international research center within Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences." In addition to his positions at Harvard and WINEP, Kramer is "president-designate" of Shalem College in Jerusalem, a far-right Zionist institution that aspires to be the "College of the Jewish People."

Pro-Israel speakers from the United States often participate in the the Herzliya conference, an influential annual gathering of Israel's political and military establishment. This year's conference was also addressed by The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and, in a first for a Palestinian official, by Salam Fayyad, appointed prime minister of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

Kramer's call to prevent Palestinian births reflects a long-standing Israeli and Zionist concern about a so-called "demographic threat" to Israel, as Palestinians are on the verge of outnumbering Israeli Jews within Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories combined.

Such extreme racist views have been aired at the Herzliya conference in the past. In 2003, for example, Dr. Yitzhak Ravid, an Israeli government armaments expert, called on Israel to "implement a stringent policy of family planning in relation to its Muslim population," a reference to the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.

13 Comments:

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

This is hardly a call for genocide. It isn't about having less children so there will be less Palestinians in the world. In general, I think the planet would be a much better place if all families of all nationalities and ethnicities would have no more than 3 or 4 kids.

The link between a high number of children per family and a long list of nasty things (including radicalism, poverty, lack of education, mistreatment of women, etc.) is well known. He isn't saying anybody should actively prevent the births of more children like China does. He's saying that the incentives for having many children shouldn't be there. I think he's exaggerating how much UNRWA is to blame, since even with their aid, more children means more poverty.

I'd say the best way to curb population growth is through education. The more educated people are, especially women, the less children they have.

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Gee, Emm, I didn't think this piece of 'Eugenics Lite' would find an apologist in you!

"I think the planet would be a much better place if all families of all nationalities and ethnicities would have no more than 3 or 4 kids."

Except... this isn't about ALL families, now is it?

Also the claim that radicalisation is correlated to the 'youth bulge' is nonsense that ignores the root causes of any radicalisation.

It never ceases to amaze me how such imbeciles (and yes, wannabe genocidaires) like Kramer make it into US academe. Imagine if he'd made such comments about another population group...

 
At 6:29 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

In this particular case he was talking about problems within a specific population, but I assume he thinks having a lot of children is not a good idea in any community.

"Also the claim that radicalisation is correlated to the 'youth bulge' is nonsense that ignores the root causes of any radicalisation."

It isn't nonsense. There's plenty of research out there that shows this kind of correlation. It isn't the sole cause of radicalisation, so it is dangerous to ignore other causes - but neither should the number of children be ignored.

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Emm:

Without legitimate grievances a family could have 30 kids and no one would radicalise.

You mention 'plenty of research', care to link to some?

 
At 8:49 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

"Without legitimate grievances a family could have 30 kids and no one would radicalise."

At the very least they'd have legitimate grievances against their parents (besides perceived grievances against the world). Having thirty children would most probably lead to bad things, and often radicalization would be one of them. They'd be dirt poor (only very rich people can afford 30 kids without suffering economically). They'd probably have emotional problems from the fact that their parents didn't have enough time for each one of them. These two - poverty and emotional problems - can lead to an inability to obtain adequate education. The list goes on.

"You mention 'plenty of research', care to link to some?"

Oh, if only I had a link (and a penny) for every article I've ever read and every lecture I've ever heard. I don't remember reading about radicalism specifically, but poverty and education. Here's one such article. You might need to have a university password, so in case you don't, here's the abstract:

Using the British Household Panel Survey, we investigate if family size and birth order affect children’s subsequent educational attainment. Theory suggests a trade-off between child quantity and “quality” and that siblings are unlikely to receive equal shares of parental resources devoted to children’s education. We construct a new birth order index that effectively purges family size from birth order and use this to test if siblings are assigned equal shares in the family’s educational resources. We find that the shares are decreasing with birth order. Ceteris paribus, children from larger families have less education, and the family size effect does not vanish when we control for birth order. These findings are robust to numerous specification checks.

 
At 9:33 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Kramer's 'correlation' is one of those correlations genre 'Car production during the 50s in the USSR' v. 'Washing machine production in Uruguay over the same period'. There's a correlation alright but there's no causal relationship.

Same with the 'superfluous Muslim men': if there wasn't a cause that pushed them into radical Islam (or such like) they wouldn't radicalise along those lines either.

It strikes me as a typically American outlook too: throw some economics at it. 'If only they'd consume themselves to death they'd be happy, now they're poor and become bomb throwers!', something like that...

 
At 10:28 PM, Blogger Ernie Halfdram said...

Just out of curiosity, WTF's wrong with radicalisation? Isn't that exactly what we need a lot more of?

If the Brits really favour their older kids the way the abstract suggests, shame on them, but what does that have to do with Gaza? Education, btw, if it means anything, ought to be inherently radicalising. Going to school is definitely no substitute for education, although it is also my understanding that it still reduces fertility. I suspect there is a correlation with employability, which is probably more of a causative factor than the schooling itself.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Just out of curiosity, WTF's wrong with radicalisation? Isn't that exactly what we need a lot more of?

More radicals means more wars. What the world needs is moderates who are willing to reach deals, not fight to the death till they achieve everything they demand.

"If the Brits really favour their older kids the way the abstract suggests, shame on them, but what does that have to do with Gaza?"

This article examined two things - birth order and family size. Birth order isn't relevant here. I quoted the article because of its finding that children in larger families have less education.

"Education, btw, if it means anything, ought to be inherently radicalising."

That's true, and some of the most radical people in the world are educated. Still, I think it is a different kind of radicalism, one that is usually more political (demonstrations, elections, writing articles, etc.) rather than military.

 
At 11:22 PM, Blogger Ernie Halfdram said...

So it's not radicals that are the problem, but radicals?

In reality, it is the so called moderates, who are content with the status quo, more or less, who collude in perpetuating the system that guarantees more wars.

Kramer is of course completely wrong to reject any political motivation for the kind of radicalism that concerns him and pin it all on his stupid mechanistic demographic hypothesis. Even if there were an ironclad correlation, it would demonstrate nothing in particular any more than any other irrelevant correlation.

Referring to the transcript of his remarks in Herzliya on his blog, he explicitly calls for 'the West' to stop 'providing pro-natal subsidies'. This is explicitly as a method of population control, and specifically to inhibit fertility. Article 2 of the Genocide Convention defines genocide as, among other things, 'acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such' by 'Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group'. Precisely what Kramer advocates. Article 3 further specifies that 'Direct and public incitement to commit genocide' is a punishable offence; Article 4 that this applies to 'private individuals', etc. Doubtless you have a better definition of genocide that would restrict it to situations where the target is actual human beings, rather than Arabs. Or in some other arbitrary way. But while I'm no fan of International Law, I don't think you can dismiss accusations of genocide without taking the Convention into account.

Sorry if I misconstrued the relative roles of birth order and family size, but the point stands — how do British statistics impact on the situation in Gaza?

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

"So it's not radicals that are the problem, but radicals?

Radicalism usually isn't a good thing, but between non-violent radicalism and violent radicalism, I prefer the former.

"In reality, it is the so called moderates, who are content with the status quo, more or less, who collude in perpetuating the system that guarantees more wars."

There's a big difference between moderation and acquiescence.

"Kramer is of course completely wrong to reject any political motivation for the kind of radicalism that concerns him and pin it all on his stupid mechanistic demographic hypothesis."

I didn't understand him as rejecting political motivations, but saying they aren't the only factor in radicalization.

Regarding your claim that Kramer called for genocide: Let's not forget that Gaza has one of the highest rates of population growth in the world. Reducing that unsustainable growth is not going to destroy the Palestinians "in whole or in part". Secondly, he's saying the West is, de facto, encouraging the Palestinians to have as many children as possible by underwriting their care. He wants the world to stop this kind of encouragement. He isn't calling for anyone to actually go and stop Palestinian childbirth, but that Palestinians will have to take care of their children on their own dime, which will make them have three or four kids per family, which is closer to what they can afford financially.

I don't agree with what Kramer says, since it isn't like Palestinians have comfortable lives because of UNRWA aid (in fact, I think UNRWA prevents their rehabilitation in other ways, but that's a different discussion). But even if I disagree with it, I don't see this idea as genocidal. By your logic, a program to teach inner city kids about birth-control is genocidal, and not an attempt to reduce teenage pregnancy.

"Doubtless you have a better definition of genocide that would restrict it to situations where the target is actual human beings, rather than Arabs."

Gert keeps getting falsely accused of anti-Semitism. It's refreshing to finally see someone else get falsely accused of racism.

"Sorry if I misconstrued the relative roles of birth order and family size, but the point stands — how do British statistics impact on the situation in Gaza?"

Gert asked for links to research showing the negative affects of having more children in a family. The article was just an example. There's similar research from all over the world.

 
At 2:27 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Emm:

"Gert keeps getting falsely accused of anti-Semitism. It's refreshing to finally see someone else get falsely accused of racism."

Emm, if Kramer had made such statements regarding say poor African Americans there would have been uproar and rightly so. But with Arabs, one can get away with saying such things. The double standard is palpable.

 
At 7:26 AM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

So is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times also an anti-Arab racist? He wrote in a recent column and a related blog post about child brides in Yemen that there is a clear link between "superfluous young men" (though he doesn't use the term) and social conflict.

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger Ernie Halfdram said...

As a matter of fact, Gert, there used to be a program in the US called 'Aid to Families with Dependent Children' (AFDC) that subsidised poor families on the unsurprising basis of how many children they had to support. Exactly parallel to what Kramer is criticising about UNWRA. Yes, it was widely criticised for fostering a 'culture of dependence' and encouraging 'unwed' 'welfare queens' to procreate more and more because of the extra money they'd get for each baby. And yes, that criticism was racist.

Thanks for the link to Kristoff, Emm. He trots out the same correlation as you, but supports it no better. Which doesn't prevent him from marshalling it as if it were evidence for another lame point and citing his own blog post in support. Another of his hypotheses – that there is less civil strife where girls are actively schooled – the best support he can muster is two significant counterexamples – Sri Lanka and Lebanon. If I get the time, I might have to do the research and see whether these purported correlations hold. If they did, there might be something to explain. I expected to have to excoriate you for making me waste my time reading Kozloff, but I hadn't heard of Nujood before and it's a moving story.

Kramer write, btw, 'But the indoctrination explanation and the lack-of-democracy explanation also underestimate the problem, by suggesting that our policies can go far to change the dynamic. They can’t, and let me explain why.' [my emphasis] 'They can't', he says, not 'they aren't the only factor in radicalization'.

 

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