Hamas was Democratically Elected, but Israel has a Right to Defend Herself – The Allegations of War Crimes Pose Difficult Questions for the International Community
Let us be absolutely clear, Hamas was democratically elected. I hear this all the time. What right have we to disagree with their views and policies when we do not live in Palestine? What right does Israel have to meddle in another countries leadership? Well, most tyrants in this world were – at some point in time – democratically elected. Adolf Hitler, Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussain were all democratically elected to power. But being democratically elected is not all that is needed to guarantee them to be good leaders. Clearly there is more to this picture than a simple yes or no answer.
I can more than understand Israel’s dilemma with Hamas – a democratically elected government does not create a free nation if it is authoritarian, and a free nation is not acceptable if it is free to hold views that are likely to harm everyone else around it. The truth is that freedom is just a WORD that describes an ideal. Freedom needs perspective and is not universally compatible. It is very easy to argue freedom of speech, but when that speech is harmful to wide numbers of innocent people (race hate speech for example), suddenly freedom doesn’t look so desirable anymore.
So it is with the Israel-Palestine situation, and to establish more absolute ideals of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ we must keep focus of the broader picture. Any answer that begins : ‘Israel has a right to defend herself…’, or ‘Hamas was democratically elected…’ is inhererntly wrong because it is a partisan answer that is only half right. Up until this recent invasion of Gaza, there was no doubt in my mind that we must try to help the two states co-exist peacefully. I was able to write off the Israeli blockades and occupation of Palestine as necessary for protecting both Israelis AND Palestinians… the greater good, that the end justifies the means and so on.
Disturbing and Difficult Questions for the International Community
Now – with allegations of War Crimes by Israel coming to light, with the allegedly systematic and deliberate targeting of schools, refugees, UN buildings, women and children using weapons that are illegal to use on humans under the Geneva convention, and with evidence of new and stranger weapons being tested on civilians in this war, I find myself much less comfortable.
For any right-thinking person, this should have raised some very disturbing and difficult questions. Can we afford to continue to support an ally who (if it is found) openly flouts the laws we seek to set for the world? Doing so, undermines our position, weakens the positions of NATO, the UN and other institutions making it harder for the international community to legitimately arbitrate and mediate future conflicts. The international community, the UN, the Geneva convention – all of these become meaningless phrases if it’s members don’t agree to believe in their ideals together and act accordingly. If we allow one state to go renegade, become a law unto herself – but still label her as ‘friend’ – we devalue the net worth of our institutions themselves, allow for others to ignore these rules too, and this will weaken our power on the international stage and the net effect of this over time will be the destabilisation of the world itself!
We must act immediately to investigate these possible war crimes. The investigation needs to be swift and transparent – conducted by a neutral party to which Israel should lend it’s complete and unreserved co-operation. It’s outcome must be dealt with accordingly as it would with any other nation. This does not mean we can never be friends with Israel again, but we must at least hold Israel to the same rules we hold everyone else, and punish accordingly if it is found a crime has been committed. Not for the Palestine’s sakes, nor the Israelis, nor even our own, but for the future of the whole world.