Human Security First!
The death toll in the Gaza crisis is rising, rockets are being fired on Israeli towns and there’s no indication of a truce between Israel and Hamas coming soon. As the major news agencies have “live blogs” covering every event and the crisis is headline news on many acclaimed newspapers worldwide, it has also become a widely discussed topic on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. After all the news, analysis, opinions and hash tags in the media, it seems like all that needs to be said has been said already. And as the saying goes, “don’t speak unless you can improve on silence”; so what’s more to say?
But then a deeper look of the whole situation, not just “Operation Pillar of Defense” reveals an underlying situation that Western media and decision makers seem to overlook: the occupation. If one looks at the matter from beyond the last eight days or the last month even, the Israeli occupation of Palestinians is the root cause of what is happening in Gaza now. It is the reason behind every Hamas rocket fired from Gaza into Israel. And the fact that Israel tries to deny it, the Western world tries to forget about it and the media wants to keep it “simple and balanced” is also the reason why the Israeli operation in Gaza is tolerated without much dissent from the global powerhouses. But as Desmund Tutu once said “If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
That is perhaps a good point to realize that maybe what needs to be said hasn’t been said. Maybe what has been said needs to be said louder and clearer. There may indeed be a virtue in silence but it’s the prolonged silence over the Israeli occupation and human rights violation of Palestinians that broke the camel’s back. The decades-old diplomatic tools of “abstinence” and “neutrality” have indeed served the purpose of the oppressor for "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”.
What is interesting is also how the international media and diplomatic discourse in light of the Gaza crisis revolves around “Israel’s right to defend itself” or “Gazans’ right to resist Israeli aggression”. Technically, Israel – the most militarized state in the world is claiming that it needs to defend itself from the people it is occupying and a territory it has its security eyes on 24/7. And this claim is what the US and its close European allies unconditionally support Israel on. Likewise, given the regional changes due to the Arab Spring, it wasn’t surprising that Arab and Muslim countries in the region would be vociferous in calling the Israeli attack an act of “aggression”.
What surprised me though was how the idea of “state security” was far more deliberated in the media and diplomatic discourse in lieu of the concept of human, individual security. When US President Barack Obama spoke saying “There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders” he made it sound like the nation-state was a natural phenomena in and of itself and not a political construction of the late 17th century. The problem with portraying the nation-state as the Westphalian kind, omniscient and patriarchic being that looks over its people, is of course that it obliterates the significance of the individual. Emphasizing “state security” over “human security” favors the state (Israel) at the cost of the stateless (the Palestinians). Therefore, if we look at the Gaza crisis only in light of the right of the “state” to defend itself, we’re overlooking if not revoking the natural right of Palestinians for security.
While the sum is more than its individual parts and one of the functionalities of the state is to provide security to its citizens, statehood should not be the premise for right to security. In fact, we should bear in mind that the idolization of the state as a supernatural entity whose legitimacy for the use of force cannot be challenged has resulted in human atrocities including genocides and crimes against humanity. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is also carried out under the pretext of “state security”.
In the context of the Gaza crisis, the growing number of Palestinian casualties and the weight of Israeli military power employed reveal that the very survival of most Gazans is threatened. The number of rockets fired to Israeli towns near Gaza and also Tel Aviv and Jerusalem also suggest that the daily life of Israelis has been disrupted. So before we let Israel off the hook and legitimize its “right to defend itself” as a state, while retaliations from Hamas intensify the concept of “an eye for an eye” where everyone ends up blind, how about we give human security based on human, natural and the moral right to exist in security and equality, a chance? How about we abandon our double standards regarding statehood and privileges or legitimacies that come with it in favor of human security that is more than about the color and emblem of our passports, the weight of our national currencies and the value of our GDP?