A legal and moral case for Hamas rocket fire


by Jonathan Cook


Jonathan Cook Blog

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in
Nazareth, Israel, since 2001

gaza carnageTwo leading intellectuals make separate and eloquent cases that
the people of Gaza have the right to resist by any means – including by
firing rockets – Israel’s efforts to slowly extinguish their right to
self-determination, and possibly to life itself. They argue that the
Palestinians have this right most certainly at a moral level, but also
almost certainly at the level of international law.

I recommend reading each article in its entirety but, knowing the constraints on
readers’ time and attention, I have extracted the most salient points
they make.

Norman Finkelstein:
It is not altogether clear what constitutes an indiscriminate weapon [a reference to Human Rights
Watch’s judgment that all Palestinian rockets from Gaza are war crimes
by definition because they are not “precise”]. The apparent standard is
a relative one set by the available technology: If an existing weapon
has a high probability of hitting its target, then any weapons with a
significantly lower probability are classified as indiscriminate. But,
by this standard, only rich countries, or countries rich enough to
purchase high-tech weapons, have a right to defend themselves against
high-tech aerial assaults. It is a curious law that would negate the
raison d’être of law: the substitution of might by right. …

The United States and Britain, among others, have staunchly defended the
right of a state to use nuclear weapons by way of belligerent reprisal.
By this standard, the people of Gaza surely have the right to use
makeshift projectiles to end an illegal, merciless seven-year-long
Israeli blockade or to end Israel’s criminal bombardment of Gaza’s
civilian population. Indeed, in its landmark 1996 advisory opinion on
the legality of nuclear weapons, the [International Court of Justice]
ruled that international law is not settled on the right of a state to
use nuclear weapons when its “survival” is at stake. But, if a state
might have the right to use nuclear weapons when its survival is at
stake, then surely a people struggling for self-determination has the
right to use makeshift projectiles when it has been subjected to slow
death by a protracted blockade and recurrent massacres. …

Fully 95 percent of the water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption. By all
accounts, the Palestinian people now stand behind those engaging in
belligerent reprisals against Israel. In the Gaza Strip, they prefer to
die resisting than to continue living under an inhuman blockade. Their
resistance is mostly notional, as makeshift projectiles cause little
damage. So, the ultimate question is, Do Palestinians have the right to
symbolically resist slow death punctuated by periodic massacres, or must
they lie down and die?

original article by Norman Finkelstein

Chris Hedges:
If Israel insists, as the Bosnian Serbs did in
Sarajevo, on using the weapons of industrial warfare against a helpless
civilian population then that population has an inherent right to
self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. The
international community will have to either act to immediately halt
Israeli attacks and lift the blockade of Gaza or acknowledge the right
of the Palestinians to use weapons to defend themselves. …

Violence, even when employed in self-defense, is a curse. It empowers
the ruthless and punishes the innocent. It leaves in its aftermath
horrific emotional and physical scars. But, as I learned in Sarajevo
during the 1990s Bosnian War, when forces bent on your annihilation
attack you relentlessly, and when no one comes to your aid, you must aid
yourself. When Sarajevo was being hit with 2,000 shells a day and under
heavy sniper fire in the summer of 1995 no one among the suffering
Bosnians spoke to me about wanting to mount nonviolent resistance. …

The number of dead in Gaza resulting from the Israeli assault has
topped 650, and about 80 percent have been civilians. The number of
wounded Palestinians is over 4,000 and a substantial fraction of these
victims are children. At what point do the numbers of dead and wounded
justify self-defense? 5,000? 10,000? 20,000? At what point do
Palestinians have the elemental right to protect their families and
their homes? …

The Palestinians will reject, as long as possible,
any cease-fire that does not include a lifting of the Israeli blockade
of Gaza. They have lost hope that foreign governments will save them.
They know their fate rests in their own hands. The revolt in Gaza is an
act of solidarity with the world outside its walls. It is an attempt to
assert in the face of overwhelming odds and barbaric conditions the
humanity and agency of the Palestinian people. There is little in life
that Palestinians can choose, but they can choose how to die.

original Chris Hedges article

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