Nablus, morality and bodies

AP Photo/Nazeeh Darwazeh

Images from Nablus. Hospital workers prepare the bodies of killed Palestinians in Nablus. Thirty-five bodies were buried in Nablus yesterday, when the curfew was lifted for a few hours. There was no space left in refrigerated trucks which had been storing the bodies. The morgue had enough space for only seven of the bodies. One of the bodies had been eaten by dogs during the days the Israeli occupation forces would not allow its removal from the field where the man was killed. Since the hospital does not have the capacity to store the bodies appropriately, yesterday, most of them were buried in a mass grave.

Sharon, ‘a man of peace’, according to US President George Bush, a war criminal according to his own history, is working overtime adding his latest achievements to his record. The media is still confused whether to call the mass killings of Palestinians a massacre or not, while the evidence of war crimes is mounting everyday. One day, I am sure, those perpetrators will be held to account. One problem, however, is that those who have aided and abetted the perpetration of these crimes, including heads of states, foreign ministers, and others, in Europe and the United States, and those who prefer to listen to fabrications of army spokesmen instead of independent experts, are allowed to continue their support to these crimes.

AP Photo/Nazeeh Darwazeh

There are no ‘safe areas’ nor ‘no-fly zones’. Every single civilian is a target. Every man, woman, child, or elderly, no one is immune. Society at large and the future of kids has been severely damaged. I always believed that every state is composed of human beings, the vast majority of whom accept and act upon a set of moral principles, aspects of a general code of distinguishing right and wrong. All human action may be judged, with varying accuracy and relevance, in moral terms. The moral issue becomes pertinent when commands of the state to the individual represent a direct contradiction of what that individual has been taught to regard as right and good. The classic instance is the taking of human life.

No moral code makes a senseless death morally justifiable, and sanity argues that the continued existence of humankind is a desirable goal. The force of international morality is given form by means of an international consensus. Whether expressed formally in the resolutions of the United Nations or informally by a rather amorphous “world public opinion” shaped and directed by global broadcast media, collective moral judgment is now a factor that policymakers cannot avoid taking into account. The global concern over human rights is a prime example.

However, this does not seem the case when it comes to Palestinians. I thought the world agreed that Palestinians are human beings with the right to life, liberty and security of person and that the world believed that the process of liberation is irresistible and irreversible and that, in order to avoid serious crises, an end must be put to colonialism and all practices of segregation and discrimination associated therewith. I thought that the subjection of the Palestinian population to Israeli military agression, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.

The distinguished American prosecutor at Nuremberg, Robert H. Jackson, formerly a US Supreme Court Justice, made this famous assertion in his opening statement: “And let me make clear that if this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment.” This crucial promise to the future has not been kept.

There have been no serious effort to apply these legal standards, despite the numerous occasions on which universal human principles have been flagrantly violated by Israel. The international community has failed to carry out their moral responsibity. The terrible events that take place in Palestine, involving the loss of lives of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children, raise important issues concerning the legal responsibility of the political and military leaders of Israel.

The world cannot overlook the extent to which Israeli participation in prior massacres directed against the Palestinian people creates a most disturbing pattern of a political struggle carried on by means of mass terror directed at civilians, including women, children and the aged. Many well-documented occurences of Israeli state terror over the years have taken place.

Israel is clearly responsible for grave violations of international law, and the political and military leaders involved in the undertaking are individually liable for their roles in aiding and abetting the perpetration of massacres, as well as for their failure to apprehend, or even to accuse or lay complaint against, those principally responsible for directing the massacre and those who committed these atrocities.

Human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. This approach, adopted by the international community at the World Conference on Human Rights, applies also to peace. Strict adherence, de facto and de jure, to international human rights law and international humanitarian law is the prerequisite for creating trust and strengthening security in the wider sense. However, until such time as authoritative institutions enforce these rights and the world recognises that its morality will be judged on its fulfillment of its legal and moral obligations, morality will continue to be a limitation on state action, difficult to define but impossible to ignore.