Dr. Dawg

Postscript: the casting-out of Hassan Diab as purification ritual

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Diab.jpgThe disturbing dissonance between the crime of which Hassan Diab has been accused and the flimsiness of the case against him should force us all to step back to examine the cultural function fulfilled by his expulsion from Canada and his upcoming judicial lynching in France. (For there is no question that, far from a fair trial, Diab has already been convicted there, and awaits only a meaningless legal ceremony followed by a second casting-out, this time into the wilderness of prison.)

Briefly, Diab’s guilt or innocence is not the point. The bombing of a synagogue in 1980 was a heinous act, for which there has been no closure. A sacrifice is required.

In 2014, there are no gods to propitiate. Instead, society itself must be propitiated.

Diab is the scapegoat in Leviticus 16:10: “[T]he goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”

Scapegoating is a form of sacrificial purification, the expulsion of perceived social impurities projected upon animals or humans. The lines between the literal and the figurative are blurred. Once these impurities were called “sins.” The Third Reich called them “Untermenschen.” There is some of this in the Ebola scare. There is much more in the current climate of anti-terrorist panic and its ugly companion, Islamophobia.

Within this context, Hassan Diab stands as a classic pharmakos—a person banished in response to a threat. The pharmakos was already an outsider—ugly, or handicapped, or a beggar, or a criminal—and his removal was perceived as purifying the society that expelled him. Hassan Diab is a Canadian but also an Other, indelibly marked as such by his ethnicity and his name. He was already convicted far in advance of any trial: “The stalled extradition of Hassan Diab continues to afflict his victims,” shrieked a spokesperson for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in 2012. A quick perusal of the frequently nauseating comments here and here gives a more immediate indication of the ease by which sacrificial offerings are selected.

It is entirely irrelevant, therefore, that even the judge who approved his extradition called the case against him “weak,” and stated that “the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely.” As noted, this is not about juridical guilt or innocence. We are observing something much darker and more fundamental: and this latest re-enactment of an ancient ritual indicates just how powerless any of us are to do very much about it.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on November 15, 2014 10:57 AM.

Hassan Diab--last stop on the railroad was the previous entry in this blog.

Let's call off the lynch mob [updated] is the next entry in this blog.

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