The time is now: A call for justice and humanity

by | Nov 19, 2023 | English

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The pressing need to address the ongoing struggle for justice, human rights and the international community’s moral, legal and ethical responsibility in the face of oppression is undeniable. 

by Dr Lydia Wazir

Humanity’s essence is at stake. I extend this call to action not merely as a political scientist but as a witness to the intergenerational pain of the Palestinian people, a pain rooted in the Nakba of 1948. My family, like many others, bore the scars of displacement and loss during that tragic chapter in history.

In 2000, during the Second Intifada, I had the privilege of working with a human rights organisation in the West Bank and Gaza. There, I witnessed first-hand the daily challenges faced by Palestinians—humiliation, intimidation, torture and injustice. Attempts to shed light on these struggles were often met with accusations of anti-Semitism, silencing voices seeking justice. Yet, a rising generation now educates itself on the injustices perpetrated and courageously demands accountability.

When a country consistently abuses human rights and operates above the law, it jeopardises the global order. International laws lose credibility, setting a dangerous precedent that weakens accountability. A domino effect may occur, eroding respect for international norms and creating a chaotic, lawless global environment. The absence of consequences for abuses can embolden oppressive regimes, further entrenching their disregard for rights and freedoms.

In such a scenario, the concept of a global society built on shared values and respect for human rights is jeopardised. Cooperation among nations becomes strained, trust diminishes and the potential for conflict increases. The international community must strive to uphold and reinforce the principles of human rights and international law to prevent the erosion of the foundations maintaining a just and harmonious world order.

It’s disheartening to acknowledge the injustices and power imbalances persisting globally. A world where the strongest dictate the definitions of human rights and democracy raises valid concerns about fairness, equality and the well-being of all individuals.

Living in a world shaped by such dynamics undermines justice, cooperation and mutual respect essential for a harmonious global community. It challenges the very notion of a society built on shared values and common humanity. Reflecting on whether this is the world we want to live in prompts the need for concerted efforts to reshape global systems, promote inclusivity and advocate for a world where the rights and dignity of every individual are upheld, regardless of power dynamics.

The New World Order
The New World Order must be built on principles of equity, justice and collaboration. It should prioritise the protection and promotion of human rights, ensuring the dignity and well-being of every individual are central to global governance. This order should transcend power imbalances, fostering inclusivity and encouraging nations to work together for the betterment of all. The foundation of the New World Order must be a shared commitment to creating a harmonious, compassionate and fair global community that values the richness of diversity and recognises the inherent worth of every person.

Imagine if the atrocities taking place now were the catalyst for such a New World Order instead of the terrifying opposite. In an order where human rights are ignored:

Authoritarianism prevails: Governments may become authoritarian, suppressing dissent and restricting individual liberties, a trend already underway.
Inequality flourishes: Societal disparities in wealth, opportunities and access to resources widen, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and marginalisation, already evident.
Discrimination and prejudice persist: Unchecked discrimination fosters an environment of intolerance and inequality, a reality we’re witnessing.
Violence and conflict escalate: Absence of respect for human rights leads to increased violence, unrest and conflict as grievances go unaddressed, a situation already unfolding.
Diminished global cooperation: International relations may prioritise self-interest, leading to a lack of collective action on global challenges, a phenomenon evident in rising collective protests.
Erosion of the rule of law: The rule of law weakens, with legal frameworks manipulated to serve those in power, a trend already in motion.
In essence, a world where human rights are ignored is characterised by a lack of compassion, empathy and a commitment to the principles that underpin a just and humane society. The consequences can be detrimental not only to individual lives but also to the overall stability and progress of the global community.

Recognition of human rights
The dehumanisation, humiliation, killing and degradation of Palestinians cannot be tolerated any longer. It is a moral imperative for us to recognise the humanity of every individual, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or religion.

We must acknowledge that human rights are universal and they apply to everyone, without exception. The plight of the Palestinian people is not a political or religious issue alone; it is a matter of fundamental human rights. Genocide, de facto or otherwise, should never find refuge in the blind spots of international conscience.

It is incumbent upon the global community to uphold the principles of justice, morality and ethics. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of an entire population, nor can we allow the perpetuation of an occupation that undermines the very essence of human dignity.

As we call for an end to the atrocities, we must also demand accountability. International law and humanitarian principles should be applied consistently, without bias. The same standards that apply to any other nation must apply to Israel. The right to self-determination, freedom from occupation and the pursuit of a dignified life are not negotiable—they are inherent rights that belong to every human being.

Legitimacy of resistance
Moreover, it is essential to recognise the inherent right and moral obligation of a people to resist occupation and oppression. Throughout history, struggles for justice and self-determination have been marked by the resilience of those facing occupation. The Palestinian people, like any other, possess the right to resist the injustices they endure. This resistance often takes various forms, ranging from peaceful protests to acts of civil disobedience. It is a testament to the indomitable spirit of individuals and communities unwilling to surrender their dignity and rights. While advocating for a just and lasting peace, it is crucial to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Palestinian people’s right to resist occupation—a right rooted in the universal principles of human dignity and freedom. Recognising this fundamental right is a crucial step towards understanding the complexities of the conflict and working towards a solution that respects the aspirations and agency of all those involved.

Geopolitical dynamics

Furthermore, we cannot ignore the geopolitical aspect of this conflict. Recent discoveries of natural gas off the coast of Gaza have heightened tensions. Israel’s pursuit of full control over these resources, with the support of influential global powers, is exacerbating an already volatile situation. The geopolitical interests of the US, the UK, the European Union and some Arab states have, unfortunately, compromised their commitment to upholding human rights and international law.

In the context of occupation, the right to self-defense is typically understood within the framework of international legal principles. Several key legal considerations shape the interpretation of this right:

  • United Nations Charter:
      • Article 51 of the United Nations Charter recognizes the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations. This provision has been invoked to justify self-defense against occupying forces in certain circumstances.
  • Customary International Law:
      • Customary international law, formed through consistent state practice and opinio juris, also plays a role. The prohibition on the use of force, as outlined in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, is a customary norm. However, the right to self-defense is seen as an exception, provided certain criteria are met.
  • Fourth Geneva Convention:
      • The Fourth Geneva Convention outlines protections for civilians in times of armed conflict, including occupation. While it primarily emphasizes the protection of civilians, Article 51 recognizes the right of the occupied population to engage in organized resistance against the occupying power.
  • International Humanitarian Law (IHL):
      • International humanitarian law governs the conduct of armed conflicts and includes principles such as distinction, proportionality, and necessity. In the context of occupation, acts of self-defense must adhere to these principles, ensuring that they are proportionate and necessary for the protection of the occupied population.
  • International Court of Justice (ICJ) Jurisprudence:
    • While the ICJ has not provided a comprehensive opinion on the right to self-defense by an occupied people, its jurisprudence, including the Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (2004), reflects principles of international law applicable to situations of occupation.
  • Use of Force and Terrorism: The methods employed in resistance can impact its perceived legitimacy. Acts that comply with legal principles and aim at military targets may be viewed differently from acts that involve terrorism and deliberately target civilians. The same applies to state terrorism.

As we discuss the moral, legal and ethical responsibility of the international community, let us remember that the principles of justice must be applied uniformly. No nation should be exempt from scrutiny when it comes to the protection of human rights. We must collectively call for an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people, the dismantling of illegal settlements and the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the region in a bi-national state where Israelis and Palestinians coexist within a shared political framework. This approach envisions a state that upholds equal rights and representation for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic or religious background.

Bi-national state model

The bi-national state model acknowledges the diverse identities within the region and seeks to establish a system that fosters inclusivity and cooperation. By ensuring equal rights, opportunities and representation for both Israelis and Palestinians, it aims to transcend traditional national boundaries and promote a more integrated and harmonious society.

However, the success of any proposed solution depends on the willingness of all parties involved to engage in open dialogue, compromise and a shared commitment to coexistence and to heal the traumas of the past. It is crucial to address concerns related to security, historical narratives and cultural identities in a manner that respects the rights and dignity of all individuals.

Countering supremacist ideologies

In confronting the challenges within Israeli society, it is imperative to address the disturbing supremacist ideologies that propagate the notion of being beyond accountability. This dangerous mindset not only undermines the principles of justice and equality but also perpetuates a cycle of oppression and injustice. It is essential to underscore the urgency of countering such beliefs, as they pose a direct threat to the very fabric of a just and inclusive society. We cannot ignore the parallels to ideologies that fuelled past atrocities. By acknowledging and challenging these supremacist narratives, we actively contribute to fostering a climate of empathy, understanding and shared humanity, laying the foundation for a future where every individual is treated with dignity and respect. The international community must unite in advocating for a world free from discrimination, upholding the values that bind us together as a global society.

External influences and interests

The perpetuation of conflict in the Israeli-Palestinian region has, unfortunately, become intertwined with interests that extend beyond the immediate parties involved. The influence of the weapons industry and certain lobbying groups adds a layer of complexity to the pursuit of peace. The arms trade, fuelled by ongoing tensions, has created a lucrative market for weapons manufacturers, where geopolitical instability becomes a driver for sustained conflict. Additionally, the influence of lobbying groups, including those aligned with Zionist interests, can impact political decisions and shape narratives that may not always prioritise the pursuit of a just and lasting peace. Acknowledging these factors is crucial in fostering transparency and ensuring that the pursuit of peace is not undermined by vested interests. A comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a collective effort to address these external influences and redirect focus towards genuine diplomatic solutions that prioritise the well-being of the people in the region.

The international community must act now and rise above political alliances and economic interests to champion the values that define us as a global society. Let us work together to ensure that human rights laws apply universally and that no community is left to endure the pain and suffering that has befallen the Palestinian people for far too long.

The time to act is now. Let’s pave the way for a just global society bound by our shared humanity and the promise of lasting peace in a liberated Palestine.

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