Peace and justice are closely related.
Peace without justice is bitterly resented and unstable. Justice without peace is brutal and short-lived. Good evidence for the tight connection between peace and justice lies in the repeated failures of U.S.-brokered negotiations supposedly intended to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict. These negotiations repeatedly fail largely because they strive to impose a blatantly unjust peace settlement on the Palestinian people. This so-called “peace process” systematically excludes consideration of settlements that accept the Palestinian right of return, or address the enormous economic inequality between Israeli’s and Palestinians, or give the Palestinians a politically viable state, or establish a genuine democracy in the region between Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
The very name “peace process” is a misnomer that discredits the idea of peace. The eminent historian Rashid Khalidi calls the “peace process” label “Orwellian language”. A better name for these frustrating, desultory, supervised conversations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders would be “imperial adjudication.” The United States, the sole imperial power in the Middle East for the last four decades, is adjudicating a troublesome conflict between two of its imperial subjects. One subject, Israel, is strong, confident and heavily favored by the supposedly impartial adjudicator. The other subject, Palestine, is weak, disunited and rather disliked by the imperial power. The partisan adjudicator exerts enormous pressure on the Palestinian pariah, but little or none on its Israeli favorite.
Why doesn’t the U.S., currently the world’s only superpower, simply impose a durable peace settlement on its feuding but territorially puny subjects? This is where the link between peace and justice enters the picture. Despite overwhelming military and economic power, the United States cannot (or will not) make its unruly ally, Israel, accept anything even vaguely like a just peace settlement. Blatant injustice thoroughly negates any possibility of durable peace. Yet the unresolved Palestine-Israel conflict causes Washington relatively little grief. After all, the Communist challenge no longer exists, and the oil producing monarchies, being politically and militarily dependent on the United States, are unwilling to challenge its imperial policies. Thus our world muddles along with festering, seemingly unresolvable, and periodically explosive discord in the ironically named Holy Land.
Professor Khalidi concludes his penetrating critique of our country’s destructive role in western Asia (in “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East”) with a telling quote from George Orwell: “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.