viernes, 25 de julio de 2014

Gaza and the right to self defense

President Barack Obama says that Israel has the right to defend itself. If that is true, don’t Palestinians also have the right to defend themselves? Is this not rather a war of vengeance, a trap that has engulfed the Middle East and human beings all over the world for timeless decades? Is bombing hospitals in Gaza, or schools or destroying buildings where supposed militants live or mosques, or “ordering” the displacement of thousands of citizens an act of self-defense? The U.S. president should know the answer to that question, having won the Nobel Peace Prize. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter asserts that using weapons of industrial warfare against civilians gives them the right to self-defense. But there is a problem: under what precise circumstances does a country or population group have the right to respond to an act of aggression?
In part due to the veto power of Washington, the U.N. appears powerless to use its voice to stop the carnage. Why is it that words so often can be used to justify contrary actions? It is true that the aggression between Israel and the Palestinians comes from both sides, but there is absolutely no comparison between the destruction caused by Israel and that of the Palestinian rockets. It is also true that in spite of allegedly religious causes the problem is basically political and geopolitical. If the West and the U.N. helped establish the state of Israel on an area long inhabited by persons of both Jewish and Islamic faith, why is it that the Palestinians have not been allowed to have a state of their own?
Why is it that no nation or world body, neither in the “developed” nominally Christian world, nor in the Muslim world, nor any other world body appears willing to pressure for an end to the bloodshed? What does this inaction mean from the moral or ethical point of view? In addition to the military action of Israel, Gaza is suffering and has suffered a prolonged humanitarian crisis due to the blockading of the entrance of vital supplies. What is the ethical argument used to justify blockading? They are clearly conceived as a means of political leverage, but those who suffer most the results are not the leaders but the common people. 
It would not take much imagination to image the reaction in the world if the situation were to be the reverse, if Israel or a developed country were to be subject to the kind of violence accompanying the Israeli campaign in Gaza. What does this imply? That there is a double standard based on race,  wealth, education, origin or religion? We turn on the TV and see the daily toll of death and destruction: more than 800 dead, well over 4,000 wounded Palestinians, nearly 80% civilians, a large number of children…And the data grow from day to day, almost as if it were a routine report on traffic accidents, a tidal wave, a hurricane…
Violence has long been suffered by both sides in the Israeili-Palestinian dispute but can violence be solved by resorting to more violence? In today's world can political, cultural or religious differences be solved by guns and bombs and acts of terror? Will not violence breed more violence rather than solve the basic causes of the confrontation? These are difficult but vital questions demanding an answer.
An essential element of today’s violence—not only in Gaza but in many parts of the world—is the inability of the United Nations to act without the support of the super-powers. And also the ambiguity with which phrases such as “act of aggression” are defined. Since Israel was established in 1948, the U.S. has used its power of veto in the Security Council to sink more than 40 resolutions seeking to mitigate Israeli-Palestinian violence. This is not to take sides on this issue, but is it not time to carry out a reform of the legal-political structure of the U.N. to allow it to respond in a more democratic way to the world’s problems?  

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