Vinoth Ramachandra

Selective Justice

Posted on: May 12, 2012

We should welcome Charles Taylor’s recent conviction by a UN War Crimes Tribunal. While president of Liberia, Taylor fomented violent uprisings in neighbouring countries with the aid of brutal militias in order to extend his regional influence. It was during his rule that the term “blood diamonds” was coined, referring to the lucrative stones from Sierra Leone that financed his arms purchases. Many of these reportedly found their way onto the shelves of such signature stores as Cartier and Bulgari. None of the prominent diamond retailers who purchased “blood diamonds” without enquiring into their origins have been held morally and legally accountable. Nor the governments and companies from whom Taylor bought his arms.

It is noteworthy that the UN tribunal was funded mostly by the United States and Great Britain.  As I have often observed on this Blog, absent from the public discourse of the USA and Western Europe is any suggestion that Western powers be subjected to the same accountability procedures that are used to impose criminal liability on those who are perceived to be blocking Western economic and political interests.

A smug editorial on Taylor’s conviction  in Britain’s Financial Times (27 April 2012) begins thus: “A strong message was sent to tyrants and warlords around the world yesterday. International law may be slow, but even those in the higher ranks of power can be held to account for atrocities committed against the innocent.” There was no mention of the treatment of Bradley Manning by the US government for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan; or of any call to investigate the behaviour of French troops in the Ivory Coast. What the editorial should have said is: “those tyrants in non-Western nations whose operations interfere with American geopolitical priorities and Western corporate interests will be held to account. If they are allies of the West, like Malaysia, Saudi Arabia or Israel, their atrocities do not count. In fact, we shall continue to sell them military hardware. And if they are American citizens, they will enjoy immunity from war crimes prosecutions.”

My wife recently came across an interview that Nicholas Wolterstorff, the eminent Christian philosopher, had with Father Eliya Khoury, a Palestinian Arab, born and reared in the West Bank and a former Assistant Bishop in the Jerusalem Diocese of the Anglican church. Some years ago the Israeli authorities imprisoned Fr. Khoury for eight months (two of them in solitary confinement) and then, without granting him a hearing, expelled him from Israel. He had been too outspoken in condemning the injustices being wreaked on his people.

Wolterstorff had a private conversation with Khoury in Amman, Jordan, and he conveys the gist of what Khoury said (while admitting that he is unable to convey the deep sorrow and passion with which he spoke):

“Why, he asked, has the church abandoned us Christians here in the Middle East? We are deserted, forgotten by the church of the whole world. Why do the Christians in America support the Zionists instead of supporting us, their brothers and sisters in Christ? I do not understand. They do not even notice us… We are caught between the Israelis and the Muslims. The Muslims see western Christendom as behind Israel. They see Israel as an outpost of the West- of the Christian West. They want no part of it…. We are willing to become martyrs if that is demanded of us. We shall remain faithful. But you are forcing us become unworthy martyrs, martyrs in an unworthy cause.

… A few years back 12 percent of the Palestinians were Christians. Now only 6 per cent are. We are constantly shrinking, constantly getting smaller. They are being forced out of Israel by Zionist policies. Israel is destroying the church in Palestine. The old ones have their homes taken from them by the Israelis, confiscated. The young ones, seeing no future, leave- for the United States, for South America, anywhere. Why do you Christians in America support the Zionists, when the Zionists are destroying the church in Palestine? Why do you not support your brothers and sisters in Christ?

And now I am told that conservative Christian groups in the United States are planning to start a radio station aimed at the Muslims. Why do you not speak to us first about such things? Why do you act as if there are no Christians here? We have lived with the Muslims for thousands of years. Why do you not first ask us our advice? You say that we have not been successful in evangelizing the Muslims. What do all your Western missionaries have to show for their efforts? I tell you, this will only make the Muslims more nervous, more suspicious, more fanatic. Our oppression will become worse. You will cause Christianity to disappear from the Middle East unless you stop this ‘American evangelism’- and unless your government settles the Palestinian problem.” [From “An Evening in Amman”, The Reformed Journal, July 1982, abbreviated by me]

This was a cry from 1982. What has changed? In fact, the situation described, both within Palestine and in the US, has only worsened.

When Gandhi was once asked what he thought of Western civilization, he is supposed to have replied: “It would be a good idea”.

How do we persuade our friends in North America and Europe that believing in human rights would be a good idea?

12 Responses to "Selective Justice"

Are they really your “friends” in North America and Europe Vinoth? Really??

Things are being done for Christians in the West Bank for example — and they are being done by Israelis. More could be done … yes … but to make it sound as though all has been lost is not an accurate statement. Finally … couldn´t the Muslim influence in Palestine be a reason for the declining numbers in Palestinian Christians — not so much because of the Israelis?

Thanks for this post…there are so many examples of achingly obvious inconsistencies in the meting out of international “justice” underlaid by murky power shuffling…often, it seems justice is often (wrongly) based on a formulation of Bentham’s utilitarianism ie “maximizing happiness” through economic reasoning for the benefit of a pre-determined group of global elites…any further benefits (or otherwise) seem all to often to be fortuitous (or otherwise) by-products.

Colonial history should alert us to the dangers of justice following on the heels of economic gain.

Reblogged this on .

Two days ago, on Croatian national television, Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek, coined the term “Zionist anti-Semitism”. At first the term seemed ridiculous until he qualified it through reference to the manifesto written by the Norway mass murderer Anders Behring Brevik, (whom he finds quite lucid rather than insane and therefore representing evil rather than illness). Brevik despises Jews as a landless, influential, free-floating national entity found scattered in different national states all over the world. However, he very much supports the state of Israel as a bulk against Islam and its repressive strategies similar to the anti-immigration rightwing agendas of Western Europe. What happens consequently is that there is a silent political consensus that includes political Israel, that European anti-Semitism should be only lightly rebuked as a sort of reparation for the similar anti-Palestinian strategies in Israel. Žižek continued that in opposing Zionism one is actually in extension opposing anti-Semitism at the level of the unofficial and silent international political consensus. He went on by quoting Paul – in all reverence – about our struggles not being “against the flesh but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6). This implied that opposing contemporary Zionism, as a political-ideological construct forming an Israelite national identity, one is actually fighting for the Jews as well as Palestinians; or opposing current American middle-east Christian missionary strategy, one is actually fighting for the very thing – American Christians included! I think that this should always be articulated in balance with the critiques, lest we be identified as anti-American or anti-Israel, while in fact we are equally fighting on their behalf as well.

Roko Kerovec

“How do we persuade our friends in North America and Europe that believing in human rights would be a good idea?”

Stop calling us your friends when every word you write seems to indicate otherwise. Your hatred and envy of the west disqualifies you from being a helpful voice. You have not ever and, if you do not change, will never have a impact on the Christians in the west. You will continue to have opportunities speak to groups that already agree with you, but “preaching to the choir” is really not a very good use of one’s life.

Your continual diatribes appear to be more of a way for you to unleash your anger than actually teaching others the truth.

Not sure if Vinoth will respond to bgjtenn’s comment, but just so you know Vinoth’s wife is a citizen of Denmark, meaning his own extended family members are Westerners. Regarding your point about ‘impact on the Christians in the west’ please refer to comment 4 above, and also to comments on other blog-post. Several of these comments are made by Western Christians. Also I would suggest you read Vinoth’s books, not just short blog-posts, if you care to find out a bit more about what ‘truths’ Vinoth is communicating.

Dear Bgjtenn: I’d be happy to learn from you how not to “preach to the choir”. Please do answer my question- how do you persuade your friends about promoting human rights?

Good if you could address the issues in my post. If there is anything I have said that is either untrue or unjust, please point it out to me and tell me why you think so. By flinging personal insults at people (and especially the well-worn “anti-western” cliche) you only demean yourself.

Somehow — as my wife kind of pointed out — there seems to be little love around here in the blog sphere. Also … if one is the head of a department designed to serve evangelical students … why so much emphasis on politics and social change and not so much on using this platform to preach the Gospel … unless of course you believe you are preaching the Gospel in your own way?

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