No "Hamas Exception" for Human Rights
: A Reply to the American Jewish Committee
Sunday 22 May 2011
Hamas policemen guard a street corner in
Following my post about my plans to participate in the
Of course, I welcome the opportunity to respond to David's concerns, and I thank David for giving me the opportunity to do so. Moving the focus of attention from the arena of violence to the arena of engagement and dialogue -- that's a key component of what nonviolent resistance is all about.
The overall thrust of David's piece appears to be that Hamas is a monster, and therefore whatever the Israeli government does -- including the blockade of Gaza -- which is claimed to be "in defense against Hamas," is justified.
The logic of the argument that the blockade of
If the argument was wrong when the Bush-Cheney Administration made it, then the argument is wrong when made by the American Jewish Committee. The fact that one faces an adversary with weapons, even an adversary that has attacked civilians with weapons, does not givecarte blanchefor violations of human rights. If it did, the concept of "human rights" would have no meaning, because the very idea of "rights" implies something that is not contingent; in particular, something that is not contingent on what other people do.
As the American Declaration of
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
A key word here being "unalienable"
I take it as "self-evident" that these words apply to Palestinian civilians in
Of course, if it is self-evident that these words apply to Palestinians, then it is self-evident that these words apply to Israelis. To affirm in an American political context that these words apply to Israelis is to bring coals to
In particular, the residents of Sderot have the right not to have rockets from
Measures taken by the Israeli government which areclearly and directly linkedto blocking attacks on
In March, the Israeli military deployed a new antirocket missile defense system. There was no major international outcry against this deployment. Also in March, the Israeli government interdicted a ship going from
The record suggests that Israeli government actions which appear to beclearly and directly linkedto preventing attacks from
For example, the death of two-year-old leukemia patient Nasma Abu Lasheen, denied access to medical care by the Israeli authorities --was protested
by Physicians for Human Rights -
It's actions like these that are at issue. It is obvious that preventing Palestinian civilians from receiving medical care has nothing to do with stopping rockets.
But the public record shows otherwise.
In June 2010, McClatchy reported, under the headline Israeli document: Gaza blockade isn't about security,"
However, in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.
Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that
The Israeli government took an additional step Wednesday and said the economic warfare is intended to achieve a political goal. A government spokesman, who couldn't be named as a matter of policy, told McClatchy that authorities will continue to ease the blockade but "could not lift the embargo altogether as long as Hamas remains in control" of
In his response to me, despite asserting that the blockade is all about weapons, David appears to embrace the "punish the population" rationale of the blockade revealed in this Israeli government document, when he writes
Don't you infantilize
The implication of what David writes is
This is the crux of the disagreement, it appears to me, between David and me. David sees the blockade of 1.6 million residents of Gaza -- whose consequences, as previously noted, include the deaths of infants -- as justified punishment for the electoral victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections.
I do not see the blockade of 1.6 million Palestinians in
And therefore, it seems obvious to me that as an elementary issue of justice, every aspect of the blockade must be removed that is not <i>clearly and directly related</i> to arms shipments.
Indeed, in 2010, President Obama called for focusing narrowly on arms shipments
[President Obama] also called for an easing of
Which brings us back to the
This is not, at present, the Israeli government policy. Last year, the Irish boatRachel Corriewas stopped by Israeli authorities from going to
The former U.N. humanitarian coordinator in
The issue with the blockade is not the Israeli right of self-defense against armed attack. This right is not in serious international dispute. The issue in dispute is the deliberate punishment of civilians, and denial of their freedom. If the policy in 2010 had changed to that advocated by President Obama, "focusing narrowly on arms shipments," there would be no dispute worth noticing today regarding the blockade.
But the fundamental policy did not change. And that is why our freedom flotilla must sail; and why we are urging Secretary of State Clinton to use her influence with the Israeli government to ensure our safe passage.
And although David and I may still disagree about the blockade, I hope he will use whatever influence he has with Israeli government officials to urge the Israeli government not to use violence against the flotilla.
Robert Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs