WHEN we see the news concerning Gaza, Israel, and Palestine most of our hearts will normally be touched by the unending conflict which happens there. The conflict seems to be perpetual and everybody seems to have already known or grown tired of the issue though some would remain ignorant while others would simply choose sides. Then if we keep on pursuing, we will see a whole group of government representatives speaking about the rhetoric and the obvious which do not seem to be really doing the victims on the ground any good. This could be clearly seen from their usage of the term “deplore, saddened, hope, wish” which does little to change the situation at hand, as most were not ready to confront the blatant power politics on display.
Perhaps, the term that is missing from the whole discussion of the conflict is “justice”. From the highest international authority standpoint such as the UN to each sovereign state, all seems to be unified in refraining from making the issue as a matter of injustice. Although it is hard to conceive the concept of justice and to apply it to the conflict as justice may come in different forms, or at least that is the impression that we get from the current international system, but like it or not the conflict in Palestine is nevertheless a problem of justice and not simply an issue of self-defence as what most have claimed.
Which concepts of justice shall we then apply to the conflict? Is it the universal conception justice (if there is one)? Or does the Islamic conception of an “eye for an eye” justice serve our purpose? The answer that seemed to be applicable to the Gaza conflict would be none of the above. The reason is simply because in order to apply all of these justice conceptions we will need to trace the very root of the conflict through a historical analysis which could date back all the way to the days of the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire, WWI and WWII. Besides, all the political propaganda coming from both sides have already done enough damage to obscure the objective reality or truth.
Then how shall we pursue with the effort to resolve the conflict without knowing which concept of justice to be applied? Although the question is valid one but it is not impossible to answer. The simplest form of justice that the world and government leaders need to consider now is through the numbers as it is the closest to reality. When the Israelis have taken out hundreds/thousands of Palestinian lives to compensate the loss of three or four Israeli lives then we all know that injustice has taken place. Even by legal and humanity standards such act is considered as “excessive”.
At the same token, when Israel as a lone state in the region was besieged and attacked by three of its neighbouring Arab states, this was also a sign of injustice by the numbers and should be dealt with immediately by the international authority if it was consistent with its mandate to prohibit any forms of state aggression.
Technically, by considering the concept of justice through the numbers, then the UN and governments should be able to make policies which could reduce the severity of the conflict. First, the UN should bring the “excessive” issue to UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, and UN Security council to exert enough pressure on the perpetrator. Second, at the same time, before any of the conflicting side began on embarking on any self-defence scenario, the UN must act first. A late response by the UN would bear a high cost.
The three Arab-Israel major wars which happened earlier were basically due to UN weaknesses to protect Israel from its neighbours. The price paid was that Israel would begin on a self-defence rampage by arming itself through illegitimate and uncontrolled networks. The same can be said about Palestine. UN’s physical silence on Palestine’s woes will also unquestionably engender a future disaster as Palestine’s militant group which has a close relation with Islamic terrorist groups in the region will always be poised for attack if things stay the way they are.
But again what has been described earlier is a form of naivety which does not take into account the huge role that politics play in the conflict. We all know that the UN is most of the times be incapacitated by real politik of the great powers behind the conflict. Any condemnation by UN human rights agencies would fall to deaf ears if they fail to knock on the UN Security Council door. Even if they managed to get into the UN Security Council, a single veto by any of the former WWII winners would mean further misery for the victims. Hence the weaker side in this conflict, namely the Palestinian, will not benefit much from the status quo and once again the current UN weaknesses showed us how political interests managed to stomp international sense of justice.
Another obvious political manoeuvre in the conflict is the assigning of blame and threats. Israel, for example, had consistently called the Palestinian side as the Islamic extremist which demanded nothing more than the demise of Israel as a nation. What Israel fails to see was the fact that Yitzak Rabin, a former Israeli prime minister who won a Nobel Prize for world peace in fostering the Oslo peace accord with Palestine, was killed by Israeli’s own extremist who refuses to make peace a reality for both sides.
Meanwhile regarding threats, Israel for example had maintained that they will do whatever in their power to stop the Palestinian rockets from coming in, even if it had to obliterate the entire Palestinian state and the population. This simply shows Israel’s insolence of international law and Israel’s similarities with the Hamas group as violence seems to be only acceptable language in the conflict. Hence the two sides in this sense are quite right in their claims and yet quite guilty at the same time.
However, it is an error to think that “justice” will stay silent and submissive for all times, especially when we are facing our fellow human being which is capable of thinking and adjusting in a state of “unjust wars”. Here unjust wars refer more to the difference in the physical attributes of the military capabilities displayed in the conflict, as Israel with a far superior and advanced military attributes continues raking in Palestinian victims with the blessing of the US while the Palestinian side is far from having decent military equipment let alone a super power’s support.
But being inferior does not mean that it is helpless. The increasing number of terrorist networks and the uprising in many Islamic states is a clear indication that in an unjust war condition as displayed in the Israel-Palestinian unending conflict; justice will come in many faces, including the ugly and the unexpected ones.
Unconventional war method would also began to flare up as now pro-Palestinian forces seems to be also engaging in internet wars and be joined together with the existing terrorist war methods such as suicidal bombings, weapon smuggling, etc. Of course what the world does not want to see is the unification of all these pro-Palestinian forces with the existing Islamic terrorist networks as it would certainly be plentiful as little can be done about it and would have major repercussions for the world at large.
It is also certainly a common mistake by great powers and superior powers to think that crushing the enemies to the very root is an effective remedy for their interests. The US’s failing Afghanistan and Iraq anti-terrorist campaigns had clearly demonstrated that nothing can be crushed to the very root when we are dealing with fellow human beings. Instead by obscuring reality and putting injustice into a grey area, the world is now faced with further problems fuelled by these longing for justice. In short no peace can come out of injustice and whether we like it or not, the sense of justice that the international authority has shrugged off its shoulder must be brought forward or otherwise the hate that the victims’ sons and daughters carry will continue to be passed on to the next generation.
*The writer is a PhD candidate from Curtin University
Tuesday, 12 August 2014