Interesting comments by Obama on the Israel-Palestine situation:
“I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water and basic medical care, and who’ve faced suffocating poverty for far too long.”
What is noteworthy of course is that the Israeli occupation and blockade of Palestine isn’t mentioned, nor is the killing of palestinians by Israelis condemned.
The analogy is by no means perfect, but what sprang out at me was that I had seen this before: this sort of disconnected ‘concern’ for suffering, divorced from any issue of rights, this acceptance that suffering is bad and should be avoided, without any acceptance that the actions which produce it are actually wrong, impermissible, immoral. This idea that while Palestinians may have welfare, they do not have rights.
This is the dominant position on non-human animals. For example, it is, I recently learned, a legal requirement that at the end of any experiment carried out on animals, even a harmless behavioural one, they must, with a few exceptions, be euthanased – to prevent them suffering. To prevent even the risk of ‘unnecessary’ suffering, blanket, systematic killing is prescribed.
It would be alarmist and hyperbolic to say that the Palestinians are being treated like animals. But there is a noteworthy connection: in both cases, welfare concerns are accepted, but rights are not – with the result that while suffering may be regretted, it is out of the question for either humans or the Israeli state to be accused of doing something impermissible, something forbidden. I feel this needs to change in both cases.
This concern with welfare is, in a sense, the opposite of respecting someone’s rights. It means taking on the authority to evaluate and deal with how others are feeling, without recognising at any point the imperiousness of a prohibition – something that you simply may not do, regardless of whether you consider it a good idea.
If the Israeli assault on and occupation of Gaza and the West Bank are not condemned, the Palestinians are not being granted the level of respect we typically grant to humans, but rather that which we grant to animals.
A related discussion of double-standards is up at Lenin’s Tomb.