30 August 2006

“The 'right' to Exist”?

This is an oft-heard claim coming out of Israel, and as a student of International law, I have now been thinking about this 'right'... Taken on face, dispassionately, the 'right to exist' is an ideal that meshes well with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights... IF it were equally applicable to all peoples.

Granting the 'right to exist' to one people, however, creates as much problems as if it were (and is it?) a 'right' in the first instance.

Without a doubt, the existence of Israel traces a tortured route out of the infamy of the Holocaust. It seems clear that the Jewish people suffered more of a dislocative, traumatic genocide than many other persecuted peoples (e.g.: Armenians), for whom survivors could return to a homeland. This essay doesn't dwell on the past facts, however sanglant they were.

One must admit, however, that the violence through which the State of Israel was born, did not offer or maintain to the dislocated Palestinian peoples a 'right to existence'.

So how to balance injustices past and present, for a forward-looking solution? How to allow for a 'right', which throughout time has never been accorded legal status? How many civilizations would have invoked such a right, prior to their extermination? There was no right to existence proclaimed for the Mayas, Incas or Native American populations, as European explorers and colonists began the exterminations of the 14th to 19th Centuries.

Is there a basis for a right to existence? Again, the idealist would say 'of course!' Yet in procuring or proclaiming this right, the claimant would best practice the 'right' towards neighbors, for its legitimacy to be acquired.

A durable peace for Israel would best come hand-in-hand with its granting to neighbors the rights it claims for itself. One way it could achieve this, is to abstain from acquiring the water of its Palestinian and Lebanese neighbors. The water wars won't bring peace to the Middle East.

And that subject will soon be addressed here.


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