We have in the last few days entered in a fascinating debate regarding the legality of Israel's war against the people of Gaza. Fascinating because the debate has not been about the morality of a war which in roughly a month saw over 1300 people including many women and children (men have been completely ignored in all those statistics, implying that all men in Gaza were in some way terrorists and part of Hamas) die but about the legality of this onslaught and the weapons used by Israel.
Our usual TV middle east “experts” have for now been replaced by International law and Human rights lawyers and by weapon specialists.
Is the use of white phosphorus weapons legal in the Gaza situation? What about the alleged use of DIME bombs and flechette shells? Are cluster bombs being used and is this in compliance with international law?
A lengthy debate normally follows, focusing on very obscure details of international law and many loopholes in the Geneva conventions, laws of war, UN charters and other institutions.
Have we become so used to wars, massacres and weapons of mass destruction that the obvious question is not raised anymore? Have our brains been so brainwashed by TV channels covering wars like they cover “big brother” and the new year fireworks celebrations that they cannot functions properly? Have we become so “well educated” by our governments that we cannot make our own conclusions and have to rely on them telling us what is legal and what isn't?
Whatever international law, the Geneva conventions, the UN charter or our governments say, any war that kills more than 1300 people, injures 5000 others and destroys 25% of a “country” civilian infrastructure is illegal and should never happen again. Do we really need to listen to some sort of experts and specialists for an hour to come to this conclusion? Do we truly need weapons experts to tell us if using weapons which causes horrific burns when it comes in contact with the skin (white phosphorus) should be used or not? Do we need anyone to tell us if a bomb which produces, to those exposed to the blast, severed or melted limbs, or internal ruptures especially to soft tissue such as the abdomen that often leads to death, is legal or not?
What about if our government was wrong? What about if what our governments see as legal is in fact in some cases illegal and is only here to serve their purposes.
Noam Chomsky gave a very good example years ago during a debate with Michel Foucault. “For example, in the United States the state defines it as civil disobedience to, let's say, derail an ammunition train that's going to Vietnam; and the state is wrong in defining that as civil disobedience, because it's legal and proper and should be done. It's proper to carry out actions that will prevent the criminal acts of the state, just as it is proper to violate a traffic ordinance in order to prevent a murder”.(1)
Have we really become this “bewildered herd” that has lost all common sense and all its intellectual capacities and needs its leaders, elites or masters to tell them what is good or bad? Has any form of scepticism disappeared in today's society?
Mark Regev, spokesman for the prime minister of Israel, recently said, to defend Israel's use of controversial weapons that “...Israel only uses weapons that are acceptable in NATO forces...weapons used by other western nations, democratic nations....” (2), therefore implying that because those weapons were used by such “enlightened” states, they were legal and there was no need to debate it.
The question from the interviewer never came. “So what?”
Does a weapon become legal to use because it is used by “good folks” (us) against “evil folks” (them)? Has government propaganda, with the invaluable help of corporate media, succeeded in dehumanizing “the others”, the “exotic” and “folkloric” but eventually less able Oriental people to such an extent that carpet bombing them from the air and destroying their past, present and future has become OK? Have we become so individualistic and self obsessed that we cannot realise that those people are like us? That those people, even if they speak a different language, have different customs and do not dress like us, are part of the same planet and deserve to be treated as our equals?
We need to realise that as long as we keep falling into this trap of us against them, of good against evil, of Islam against the West and of a “Clash of civilisations”, we will not have peace.
Peace. A very different word for us and them.
Go tell Gazans, Iraqis or Afghans that we are good people, doing this for them, that we just want to be able to live in peace and do not want to think about terrorism everyday. Those people have been getting bombed, tortured, kidnapped, starved and ignored for the last few decades. We have even denied some of them the universal right of self determination. They know what terrorism is. They know what seeing their whole family disappear under a 200 pounds bomb means, they know what not eating for a week means, they know what being sent to jail and tortured because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time means, they know what having their houses demolished 4 times means. They suffer and have suffered more than us.