Monday, February 09, 2009

"Resistance" within moral limits (Norman Geras)

Norman Geras wearily but cogently reiterates a very basic, very important, very obvious distinction that too many people seem to forget, obscure, ignore, or have trouble understanding.

--Jeff Weintraub
normblog - Norman Geras
February 9, 2009
Resistance within moral limits

In a piece in the New York Times Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building, writes about the admiration of many Egyptians for Barack Obama and their subsequent disappointment because of his failure to criticize Israel over Gaza. Al Aswany appeals in passing to the requirements of human rights and international law. He also writes:
We ... wanted Mr. Obama, who studied law and political science at the greatest American universities, to recognize what we see as a simple, essential truth: the right of people in an occupied territory to resist military occupation.
The trouble is that this is presented by him in the way it often is by critics of Israel - that is, passing over or fudging the point that the right of resistance does not include a right to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity, as Hamas patently does. Even those resisting tyranny or occupation are prohibited from the deliberate targeting of civilians. On war crimes, I have given the relevant sources in Part 3 here. For crimes against humanity, the Rome Statute of the ICC makes it clear that this prohibition applies not only to fully-fledged state actors but also to organizations and movements. At Article 7.2 (a) it reads:
"Attack directed against any civilian population" means a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts referred to in paragraph 1 against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack. [My italics - NG.]