Occupation as Sin

By Preda, Radu | The Ecumenical Review, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Occupation as Sin


Preda, Radu, The Ecumenical Review


To Be Occupied: A Contextual Approach

The issue being discussed here is very challenging for me for many reasons. First of all, as a Romanian Orthodox, I come from a majority Christian country where the problem of minority-majority relations is dealt with in very different terms and there is no "occupier" and "occupied" distinction. There are some extremist groups who take discourse to this extreme, but most remain calm and even-tempered.

In a broader context, this theme may be connected to the recent history of most Eastern European countries that, after the end of the Second World War, literally were occupied by the troops of the Red Army. In Eastern Germany, the military situation continued until 1989. In the other countries of the former Warsaw Pact, the military occupation was followed by a political one, and there is continuous debate as to how this period of history should be framed. As one example from the 1960s through the 1980s, Romanian communism was kept alive by a ferocious nationalist ideology--the national-communist phenomenon, comparable to German national-socialism. This prevents us from speaking about a strictly Soviet "occupation." Those who speak about occupation during the whole communist regime are the historians of the Baltic countries, where the power of Moscow was directly exercised, including through a perverted politics of population resettlements, a strategy whose consequences remain visible even today.

Romanian communism, in spite of its national character, can be considered a classical occupation: a group which does not represent the population succeeds through military force to hold the power. It annihilates the existing political elite, imprisoning, executing or exiling them. It re-writes the history and condemns to oblivion all the values of the former period. It declares war on religion as a depository of values and of memory, and enforces its own style, from architecture to art. It dissolves the pluralism of ideas and it establishes a unique cult of personality. It applies experimental social methods and keeps the population in a perpetual state of starvation and fear. We could say that altogether these aspects of the communism that lasted for half a century were a type of occupation or forced colonization. (1)

Considering the communist period as one of occupation does not yet resolve the problem of how the occupied collaborated with the occupiers. Some aspects as this remain without an answer. Lack of clarity here makes it difficult to form a political class that is really new or a state apparatus that is committed to the public welfare. The endemic corruption from post-communist rule is ultimately also the consequence of this complicity between the powerful of yesterday and today. (2) Moreover, the fall of communism in most of the Eastern European countries was felt initially as a time of freedom, of de-occupation, of returning to self-determination, of feeling free to decide for oneself. Such an historical experience demonstrates that feeling and being occupied are not connected to whether one is part of a numerical minority. The majority can also be held hostage in a camp as large as a country, as was the case with communist Romania. Such experiences help us to have a better, more profound understanding of the tragedy of those who are still under occupation, no matter where.

To Be Palestinian and Christian: A Double Cross

The status of being occupied signifies something different in places like Palestine. If I understand correctly the situation from there (especially after a visit in the Gaza strip, more than a decade ago), there are two types of occupied and occupiers. On one side, all the Palestinians feel themselves and are occupied, exposed to a consistent strategy of limiting their living space and their fundamental rights. On the other side, for the Christian Palestinians, the situation is painful in two ways: they experience oppression that not only is ethnic, in relation to Israel, but also religious, in relation to their Muslim compatriots. …

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