By Afreen Faridi
Liberal legal and political theory, morality and institutions which uphold the Westphalian human rights charter have dug their grave in Palestine. Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights … are dead. They have time and again failed to be useful to the Global South and its peoples who continue to face imperial and neo-colonial forces.
The death of over 8,000 Palestinians in the current assault on the Gaza Strip, excluding those in the West Bank, with no end in sight of the indiscriminate assault on civilians, is testament to the vacuous nature of such institutions. The cry of the people facing a genocide is not carried over to gilded halls where a spectacle is made by supposed White saviours over language to be utilised in powerless resolutions as children die.
We are witness to how post-War institutions like the United Nations, International Court of Justice, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the European Union filibuster, indulge and finance a racialised notion of exploitative violence as justice and freedom. Meanwhile, people of colour are demonised as barbarians who need to be occupied by “peacekeeping forces” and any resistance at their end is vilified as terrorism.
The televised genocide of Palestinians is clear evidence of how White liberal States and societies can flout international conventions— of their own creation— freely and with absolute impunity.
This lack of moral hesitation is clearly shared between States driven by hegemonic groups which rely on fascism and authoritarianism to fuel capitalist accumulation through a militarised industrial complex. One can see a complicity of the State, corporations and civil society in their hypocrisy while belittling and obfuscating the deaths of their counterparts in Palestine.
The most nefarious alliance is seen amongst Western media houses and their journalists as Palestinian journalists are killed and their families fatally targeted as retribution while they show the world the true toll of the occupation.
Our roles as scholars of law, political scientists and faculty in solidarity, and our moral duty, must be to rethink how Western morality, theory and institutions are taught in the classrooms of the Global South. We need to be cautious especially when the former are applied to the Global South as methodological tools for research, analysis and policy practice. As such, we must be conscious of three trends:
The discourse on the Palestinian struggle is cornered by terms such as equality, feminism, decolonisation, and self-determination being usurped by a bigoted group in power while weaponising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism against Palestinians and their supporters.
The ongoing Nakba is couched in sectarian terms such as self-determination and decolonisation to justify the creation of an ethno-nationalist State masquerading as a democracy. One witnesses liberal feminisms creating the spectacle of Brown girl bosses in White spaces showing unfettered support for indiscriminate violence against Brown societies.
This has been spectacularly mobilised on social media with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) women brigades posing for gender parity with guns which deny the same right to Palestinian women, and Kamala Harris’ endorsement of the American–Israeli nexus as the first woman of colour in the White House.
Furthermore, oppression of Palestine exhibits bias within political pundits and lobbyists preaching non-violence as the only legitimate tool of resistance for people of colour as they face erasure by a globally armed force. This stance exists in diametric opposition to the stance on Ukrainian response to Russian armed forces.
Human rights discourse is being used for rainbow washing to create a façade of democracy which hides majoritarian bias and apartheid laws which allow for political representatives to publicly dehumanise Palestinians as animals to be set for slaughter.
We see armed settlers hiding under the mask of civilians, acting as State-sponsored paramilitary forces while infiltrating refugee camps and residential settlements to kill and displace. We must be wary of convoluted statements by thinkers who engage in false equivalence and force the victim to justify their positions as they lay dying.
In a continuation of history, the western military industrial complex develops weapons and tests them to kill and confine the oppressed while contravening international conventions. Technology has also been used by the settler State to develop architectures of control both in the physical and digital realm which are exported globally.
While the genocidal use of military tech against civilians is conspicuous, the use of artificial intelligence and social media platforms against Palestinians is nebulous but equally insidious. The role of the internet as a public good, as essential as the air needed to breathe and survive, cannot be overstated.
The power of corporations over access to the internet and the flow of information using social media platforms is understated. For Palestine, we see technology being used to perpetuate disinformation and erase the truth, surveil, and silence the voices of the victims and dissidents, and manufacture genocidal consent among a global audience. The suspension of internet and mobile services by the occupation, especially in Gaza, only aims to perpetuate unabated violence against Palestinians during the blackout.
The struggles to establish just perspectives and fact-check information flow are made even more difficult with the use of artificial intelligence which shows bias in their models. The pervasiveness of digital technologies and their significance within classrooms cannot be ignored owing to the increasing reliance of students on such technology to seek information, learn and develop opinions.
The images of Palestinian children in Gaza emerging with their furry friends in their arms and cats being rescued from the rubble of bombed apartments have tugged the strings of our heart.
However, this is not the extent of beyond-human trauma in Palestine. The struggle to save Palestinians is to stop the systemic erasure of indigenous societies which were tied to and co-existed alongside the land upon which they lived. The bombs that fall on the children of Palestine are enforcing a rift between people and the environment as a form of environmental apartheid.
We see a nation-State terraforming the environment and polluting it as settler colonialism is enacted. Agrarian lands are dug up and hillsides converted to settler residences. Sea shores and sea waters bear the brunt of occupational blockade. Olive trees are burned down, fertile lands ruined and cut off by apartheid walls. Water sources are poisoned as a form of biological warfare. Native pastoralists and their livestock are displaced, native flora and fauna killed alongside Palestinians. The air is poisoned by chemical warfare and bomb plumes, massive emissions due to military infrastructure.
The famed water management and agrarian practices which irrevocably change native biomes are a tool to wrest control over domestic production and finance the settler colonial project. The myth that settlers brought bloom to a desert which was uninhabited and untended is one of the myriad ways in which sustainability narratives are used to greenwash colonialism in Palestine and other regions of the Global South.
Justice for Palestine is simultaneously a preservation of animal and plant life, caring for diverse biospheres and a systemic change towards climate justice.
So, what do we do as educators? There already exists evidence of White legal and political theorists selectively applying notions of fairness and justice using patriarchal and racist morality to create institutions which disrupt native values and provide for the extraction of wealth through modern regimes.
As legal and political thinkers and instructors, we need to re-centre such critiques in our classrooms and contextualise them against local injustices. At the same time, we need to rethink rights and justice as collaborative regimes by bringing back local knowledge from colonial obscurity, all the while being careful lest we fall for conservative interpretations of vain glorious pasts.
We must not teach young learners the quintessential colonial method— wait for a people to die, make a museum of their genocide, then set up departments of decoloniality over their mass graves. We must not follow tokenistic models set by prolifically White departments with indigenous names which sell the story of the dead native for academic funding.
Even as Palestinians struggle to survive, they are teaching us important lessons in humanity and critical thought. As legal scholars, political scientists and teachers we must borrow their courage and integrity and extend them to our classrooms.
As educators we must ask our students to speak truth to power when it is hardest and matters the most. Let us continuously speak about all the Palestines in the world and strive for a new Palestinian charter of more-than-human rights to emerge where children are not martyred before the rest of us learn our lessons. (IPA Service)
Courtesy: The Leaflet