Does Justice Matter?

Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace it shouldn’t be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.

Corazon Aquino

The latest catch phrase used by Middle East pundits is “Road Map”, signifying the longitude and latitude of the destination for peace in the Middle East. The plan outlined is a document devoid of one essential component; justice.

Henry Kissinger once said that the dilemma between Israelis and Palestinians broke down due to the tension between “European rationalism and Arab romanticism.” He was of course denigrating the notion that justice matters. For him, it was a silly “romantic” notion that could not be contemplated in his world of realpolitik. The “Road Map” was born from these sensibilities.

Today, Palestinians are more at risk than ever before. Why? There is a mood now permeating the region that justice must not interfere with pragmatic notions. The world’s only superpower, now in economic duress, must have regional stability. Its economic future depends upon this.

To further its hegemonic agenda, a phrase embraced by even those who rationalize US foreign policy like William Kristol, it appears that there are a multitude of cheerleaders for the “Road Map.” Besides the Quartet supporting the plan, there is a minority of Palestinians who have embraced the process. Israel’s acceptance remains one of straddling the fence as to not antagonize the cartographer.

The rhetoric we hear grows louder yet remains empty. All are for peace. This is a given. Palestinians who have lived in refugee camps for over fifty years want peace. Palestinians who live under a brutal occupation want peace. Palestinians living in Diaspora want peace.

Most Israelis want peace as long as justice remains only a romantic notion. Justice for them is a stinging indictment of even their raison d’etre.

But as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” And where is the justice in this document?

Is it justice to deny Palestinians a right to return to their land? Is it justice to maintain a neighbor state with embedded racism that insures rights based upon some ethno- national designation? Can there be justice without liberating the region from the ravages of racial politics?

A Zionist state in the region that defines itself as a state for Jews is as much an abomination as a state for “white people”, as a state for Muslims, as a state for Christians. These kind of definitions are an anathema to justice and liberty for all.

Thankfully America abandoned these designations long ago. Is it not worthwhile to ask if the region can truly be free as long as we divide ourselves, exalt ourselves, and privilege ourselves on antiquated 19th century notions of ethno-national ideology?

There can be one state, two states or pick a number. This matters less than an authentic peace. If we Palestinians don’t stand up and shout for justice, then we don’t stand for much. It’s time for principle — not privilege. It’s a time for idealism — not ideology. It is a time less for judicious words, but justice in action.

Peace is not the absence of war; it is a virtue; a state of mind; a disposition for benevolence; confidence; and justice.

Baruch Spinoza

Let every Palestinian rise. Let every Palestinian pull together. Let their raised voice proclaim untold injustices and demand a solution tempered with virtue and conscience. Let all those who love freedom and justice sustain them, for the future of Palestine lies the hope and future of the world.