THIS week’s political debate on the devastation in Palestine and Israel’s role should give us all pause for thought.
There once was a time when world leaders promoted the necessity for peace and human rights standards. Those hell-bent on war at least had the decency to hide their carnal lust for other people’s blood.
Remember Oliver North? The US Colonel guilty of fronting the Reagan-Bush administration’s hands-off but worldwide instigation of conflict? At the time no government might openly admit that they would be up to their necks in dirty tricks and dead corpses to further their “national interest”.
Look at the Legacy Act here. Although there is less focus in recent weeks on its devastation, it informs so much of the political hyperbole regarding the Middle East. A government that is willing to ride over all of the enshrined rights of victims in their own country, including the bereaved families of their own service people, in order to protect their justification for their role in our conflict, will of course have no qualms whatsoever in defending the lawless, systemic murder of others in other lands. The cat is out of their bag and they are not pretending any more. Some lives and reputations matter far more than others among the Western political elites. We always knew it, and they are not even bothered hiding it now.
That is of course the huge gaping chasm in all of this debate. Do we wish to uphold law, learn lessons from conflict, compromise and fight for peace? Or do we want to perpetuate conflict rather than face the complex, dedicated efforts that peace requires in order to save lives and give children a future worth its promise?
International law has been laid waste in Palestine this month. The United Nations stands in ignominy as founding states abandon its purpose and vote for war, or abstain on efforts for peace. The International Criminal Court has people on the ground in Rafah, documenting evidence for potential future actions in the Hague. They are documenting evidence of systemic war crimes, collective punishment of a civilian population, deliberate targeting of hospitals and humanitarian facilities, failures to protect civilians in contravention of international humanitarian law. Few believe Israel or Benjamin Netanyahu will ever see the inside of a court room of accountability.
But that is exactly what the worst global leaders of modern times want us to believe, or not believe. They purposefully ask us to believe in murder’s intent instead of calling for peace. They are determined to subvert all international convention and law, which have been written in response to conflict and in favour of peace, so that their impunity is given a respectable cloak. Every time a British minister spoke in favour of the Legacy Bill of Shame they gave the bombs falling with impunity in Palestine a polish. If you can get away with murder, you might just support murder.
International human rights law is universal for a reason. It fosters respect for human life and its dignity. Universally. No-one should be asked to apologise for the actions of the other before their protections are promised and guaranteed. The millions walking the streets of the globe calling for ceasefire, for the primacy of peace and the promotion of peace, know that. Blessed are the peacemakers.