in WorldAffairs

Calm and Restraint

‘… we appeal for calm and restraint…’ – part of US statement on Israel’s assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Just as it seems things could not get any worse, events conspire to ensure they do.

Usually these events, especially in the murky world of international diplomacy and paranoid national interests, are masterminded to have exactly that effect.

Ariel Sharon – a suspected war criminal and current Israeli prime minister, personally orchestrated the state assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin – the spiritual leader of Hamas – the leading Palestinian resistance group.

‘Spiritual leader’ – presumably means the source of religious justification for the cause of liberating Palestine from oppressive occupation by Israel. Every cause needs one, and indeed has one. The crusades and the Spanish inquisition had the Pope, ridding South Africa of apartheid had Mandela, Sisulu and others. The Russian revolution had Lenin. Cuba had Castro and Guevara – every major resistance (just or otherwise) has its inspirational leadership. Whilst not trying to equate the stature or indeed the objectives of any of these characters, the point is clear – every cause needs its visionary.

To condemn the assassination of Sheikh Yassin because he was an old man, a wheelchair bound paraplegic is to shame his cause. To condemn it because it does nothing to advance peace talks (which have been silent for a long time), or because it stokes the fires of ‘terrorism’ and continues the cycle of reprisals – whilst all valid reasons, do not speak to the heart of the matter. It must be condemned because it is illegal, unlawful and plain wrong for so-called democratic nations to go about assassinating private citizens in violation of established national and international laws.

Sheikh Yassin was under no illusion of what the risks of resistance were. In the eyes of Palestinians and the wider Islamic world that sympathises with the Palestinian cause, he is a martyr. A further testament to why Israel must be fought by any means necessary. Whilst he may not have sought martyrdom (like many of the suicide bombers that he allegedly organised) neither did he shirk from it.

The US – Israel’s major political, military and financial backer has not condemned the assassination , rather it has appealed for ‘calm and restraint’. Perhaps what it has in mind is the kind of restraint it showed in Afghanistan where it carpet bombed indiscriminately; or in Iraq where it applied such force as to describe it (itself) as ‘shock and awe’. Or perhaps its a calm akin to the unlawful removal and detention of hundreds of people from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay for over two years; and the interment of thousands of Iraqis.

In situations like this, not condemning such illegal actions is to lend tacit support to them and their perpetrators. For those that recognise the pattern of US support for Israel and are familiar with the dynamics of that relationship, none of this is surprising. It is in fact expected. From bankrolling Israel’s relentless militarisation to become the world’s fourth most powerful army; to standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel in defiance of long standing UN resolutions to end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank; the message to the world is clear – the US will stand with Israel regardless of what laws it breaks and how heinous its actions are. This applies not just to the Palestinians, but to its regional neighbours.

A nation’s right to self defence is intended to cover protecting itself from unjustified attacks upon it by an aggressor. It does not cover, under any stretch of the definition, the aggression of the nation against others. So pre-emptive strikes are not self defence (US take note). Simply put, you cannot claim self defence for subsequent blows if you struck the first blow.

Whether one agrees with the route of violent resistance or not, one must understand the dynamics that make it the only option.

The cause of Hamas is the full withdrawal by Israel from ALL of Palestine – not pre 1967 borders but from 1948 partitioning. This original cause, noble as it is, seems to me unrealistic and unattainable , but it has been further compounded by the increased brutality of successive Israeli administrations. Israel does not have the political will to concede the vital resources of water (of which it controls over 80% of this crucial resource), arable land or trade routes (ports etc). All the arguments of resource allocation and security aside, the Zionist cause of resettling the Judaic holy land – the land promised by God himself to the Jews, appears to be at the root of this lack of will.

The Jewish state of Israel does genuinely feel that it has divine right to this disputed land. How does one even begin to compromise with this unshakeable belief? How does one reason with such ideology that dismisses all resistance to its oppressive insistence as tests from God on his chosen people? Where does that leave the rest of us – seemingly unchosen folk?

History is littered with the devastation of entire civilisations and societies. Even if one excused all but the last hundred years because of ignorance and social backwardness, modern history is only marginally better. Not in the prevention of such acts but in the increased criticism (read lip service) they court. There has been genocide in Armenia by the Turks; the Holocaust; the rape of China and Korea by Japan; Rwanda; Serbian ethnic cleansing; the wasting and suppression of Chechnya by Russia and a myriad of others including of course, Israeli occupation of Palestine and its attendant attempts to destroy their identity.

All along there have been those, with power and influence, who have appealed for ‘calm and restraint’ whilst letting the injustice continue.

What do you think?