Thursday, 8 January 2009

What I meant to say yesterday...


I'm not usually a big fan of Robert Fisk's work, but this article in yesterday's Telegraph really picks up on the hypocrisy of the Israel attack on Gaza - that, were Hamas the perpetrators, the term "war crime" would be bandied about like it was going out of fashion, yet Israel's actions are in their "defence."

As someone put to me yesterday, subjectivity plays its part. Whatever "side" you support in a conflict, you inevitably view it through a particular tint of glasses. Which is why terms like "terrorist", "war crime", "conflict" and even "war" have lost their meaning in today's society. When people start ascribing value judgements to concepts they lose their neutrality.

It might sound like I'm criticising Fisk here, but that is not my intention. He makes a good point about the value judgements ascribed to the actions of Israel and Palestine. There are a couple of points I'd like to make.

Firstly, if you are currently supporting Israel's "defence" of their people, think about where you stood on apartheid South Africa. I know it is not a great comparison, but there are similarities. Did you support the brutal suppression of a majority in a land by incomers (I know, in the case of Israel, that is a controversial point - again proving the subjectivity of the situation)?

Secondly, what makes the actions of a state (Israel) more legitimate than those of a (arguably) a terrorist group (Hamas)? Academically and historically, a government in a state has the powers of control - exercised through the legitimate use of force. But, arguably, in this case, both Israel and Hamas are legitimate actors - Hamas as the democratically elected government of the Palestinian Authority. I'm not arguing that neither side can then be disqualified from being branded as terrorist simply because they are acting on behalf of a state (or, in Hamas' case, a quasi-state). It it the actions which are perpetrated - on both sides of the divide - which that judgement should be made upon.

I don't think "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" is right, at least, not if the terms are used correctly. Yes the views are subjective and yes they are deeply ingrained. But if we look solely at the actions involved we shall see no value judgement, no sides taken. Rather, the acts are judged independently of the actors.

This is the point I was trying to make yesterday. Obviously, both are at fault. But neither side can claim the moral high ground, as some commentators would have us believe.

2 comments:

BSH 8 January 2009 at 11:07  

I think its nothing that can be solved by international mediation and this is, sadly, not Isreals fault.

The Gazans were offered an independent state composed of the west bank and the strip in the year 2000 in Camp David.

They said 'no'.

When Isreal pulled all of their soldiers and policemen out of the Gaza Strip the response from Hamas was to fire rockets over the border.

As I said it is not so simple, Isreal would likely like to live in peaceful co-existence with Palestine, this has not been reciprocated by those with true power in Palestine.

Personally, I don't think comparisons with Apartheid are even slightly relevant, it is comparing Apples to Oranges.

Malc 8 January 2009 at 11:19  

Agreed on point one I think. International mediators have tried and failed to solve this in the past. They have gotten agreements on small issues, but never get to the crux of the matter.

I think the deal offered in 2000 was good-ish. But again, it never dealt with the issue of Jerusalem and control of the city's Holy sites.

Yes Hamas have not been acting in Palestine's best interests (you will not find me defending their actions here) but to argue that ISRAEL was to live in peaceful co-existence IS like saying thats what whites wanted in South Africa. Just as long as they had the power...

I know its not a good analogy. But the point is that Israel consists of two separate peoples - much like South Africa - with one dominated and dictated to by the other. I know the cases are different, but the international reaction shouldn't be.

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