Islamic Terminology, Islamic notions, International law and Human Rights
Raphael Israeli, a Professor of Islam at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, writes in the Iconoclast:.
Between states there are treaties, alliances, agreements for peace, cease fire or truce which put an end to conflict, but terrorist groups have been imposing their own terminology and vocabulary, and the rest of the world capitulates and adopts them, much as they are foreign to the accepted international terms. Hamas and Hizbullah have invoked the hudna, a well-defined Islamic term which has antecedents and set rules in Islamic shari’a law. Israel and the rest of the world, have accepted it and forgotten the international rules of discourse, like cease-fire, truce and armistice, which apply to the entire world, save the Muslim terrorist groups. Lately, since even the hudna has seemed too institutionalized to the Hamas, for fear that it might imply, Allah Forbid, an indirect recognition of Israel, they invented a new concept, the tahdi’a, some sort of amorphous, non-binding and temporary truce, and coerced Israel to consider that terminology as a basis for negotiation. And lest anyone miscomprehend the message, they insist that it cannot last more than a year, or one year and a half at the most. And what next? A return to square one? A short respite until they had had the chance to regroup their forces, to absorb new weaponry and then resume their bombardment of border towns of Israel? In other words, while for Israel a cease-fire would serve as a stepping stone for peace and quiet, for the Palestinians it would become a price to pay pending a better preparation of the launching pad for the next assault.
It is clear why the Hamas is using this terminology, which is not a semantic game, but is pregnant with long-term repercussions. It is less clear why should Israel, and others, feel obliged by it and educate the Israeli public to believe that the international affairs of the world are being conducted on that basis. Israel and the world should totally reject this Islamic vocabulary and insist on the use of the accept terms which conform to international law and usage, and have meaning, validity and exit stations. When anyone urges Israel to accept a hudna or a tahdi’a, it should ask for an internationally accepted interpretation of those terms. When the US alliance fights in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, it insists on defeating the Taliban and al-Qa’ida, exactly like in WWII the Allies refused to negotiate any cease-fire with the Axis, short or a total capitulation. Now Israel is asked not only to renounce the total surrender of Hamas, but to accept its alien terminology for negotiation. This is an exaggeration that even the terrorists did not imagine they could achieve in their wildest dreams.
Norm Geras, some time ago, explained what was "wrong" with International law, here:
"(i) Centred on accusations against Israel of war crimes, the reaction of outrage with which this post has been concerned might be thought to have been motivated by a respect for international humanitarian law. The arguments set out above show that that isn't so. The outrage is based rather on a cynicism towards international law which I have posted about before and which consists of treating international law as a mere convenience, something to use rhetorically and polemically when it suits you to do so - but only then. If there are war crimes on both sides of a single conflict and you condemn one side alone as in breach of the law, this is not respect for law; it is an unprincipled politicization of it. The development of international law is an important task for present and future generations but it does not benefit from being abused as a partisan political weapon."
For the umpteenth time on this blog, I will quote in this connection, Michael Ignatieff:
“Global human rights consciousness, moreover, does not necessarily imply that the groups defending human rights actually believe the same things. Many ... espouse the universalist language of human rights but actually use it to defend highly particularist causes: the rights of particular national groups or minorities or classes or persons… The problem is that particularism conflicts with universalism at the point at which one’s commitment to a group leads one to countenance human rights violations towards another group.”
(Ignatieff, Michael, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, 2001 p. 9)
And then, there is this, from Thierry Chervel , publisher of Perlentaucher and signandsight.com:
Is this a reassessment of all our values, or a distortion beyond all recognition? In the confrontation with Islamism, the Left has abandoned its principles. In the past it stood for cutting the ties to convention and tradition, but in the case of Islam it reinstates them in the name of multiculturalism. It is proud to have fought for women's rights, but in Islam it tolerates head scarves, arranged marriages, and wife-beating. It once stood for equal rights, now it preaches a right to difference – and thus different rights. It proclaims freedom of speech, but when it comes to Islam it coughs in embarrassment. It once supported gay rights, but now keeps silent about Islam's taboo on homosexuality. The West's long-due process of self-relativisation at the end of the colonial era, which was promoted by postmodernist and structuralist ideas, has led to cultural relativism and the loss of criteria.
Tout se tient, Everything hangs together...