DAY 244: The black flag

April 9th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink


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I ‘ve been thinking quite a bit these last few days about law and morality and how you tell the difference. These thoughts were prompted not by idle academic speculation, but by the Israeli rights organisation B’Tselem’s condemnation of the State-promoted massacre of demonstrators in Gaza. With that condemnation went a clear call to Israeli soldiers to refuse to obey orders to fire on unarmed demonstrators – which forcefully quoted Judge Halevy’s ruling in the trial of soldiers involved in the 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre An order that permits live gunfire at unarmed civilians is blatantly unlawful, B’Tselem claims: ‘The hallmark of manifest illegality is that it must wave like a black flag over the given order, a warning that says: “forbidden!” Not formal illegality, obscure or partially obscure, not illegality that can be discerned only by legal scholars, is important here, but rather, the clear and obvious violation of law …. Illegality

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Murdered villagers from Kafr Qasim

that pierces the eye and revolts the heart, if the eye is not blind and the heart is not impenetrable or corrupt—this is the measure of manifest illegality needed to override the soldier’s duty to obey and to impose on him criminal liability for his action.’

Well, as a result of Judge Halevy’s eloquence, eight IDF soldiers were convicted of murder; they had shot dead about forty  villagers, me, women and children, who had violated a curfew (which most of them didn’t know about). It should be said of the eight soldiers all were free in three years. All the same, clearly the event and the phrase have stuck in the minds of Israeli rights activists, who are prepare to insist that it’s still wrong to obey ‘manifestly illegal’ orders; and who accordingly try to persuade the soldiers to disobey. I haven’t seen reports that any of them have. As for any chance that any of the soldiers involved in the ongoing massacres in Gaza would face trial, it seems unimaginable.

In fact, when we think about it, we can recognise that there are cases where the law is a matter of convention and isn’t about ethics (parking tickets for example); and others where you can be seriously sucked without incurring any legal penalty, like cheating at cards. The two areas are separate, and fine people with fine minds earn a living distinguishing them. I recommend to you (I found it by random googling, as I usually do) Howard Zinn’s ‘Law, Justice and Disobedience’. Zion is a worthwhile read, as he served his term being disobedient on the Vietnam war etc, a friend of Daniel Berrigan and Nom Chomsky and an enemy of Plato. And he agrees with the rest of us that you can and should disobey laws when it’s the right thing to do; that ethics trump law. But the soldier’s blind obedience is untrumpable.

In other news Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers Florence and Opelo Kgali, who were due to be on a detention flight from Heathrow tonight (second attempt) have once again been saved at the last minute. Will there be a third attempt?

Detention poem
The World Beyond
A peep through my window
Makes me feel like a widow,
Grief-stricken to the toe, Like a King Fish being
pursued by a foe;
Cribbed, cabined and confined,
Without a nose to smell then world around.
Over the twenty-feet fence
And towards the horizon,
Nature opens up its beauty.
Aircrafts that cross my view, birds that flap by
in joy,
The landscape gardening that is new,
Thanking the spring message.
But while I stare and peep
My life seeps sorrowfully in a deep.
Wrapped up in despair and confusion,
Like at the confluence of White and Black Volta,
I see a future that is bleak,
And a dream that is meek,
Oh fate, why hast my destiny slipped?!
From a hunger striker at Campsfield, 11 April 1994
-Twenty-four years ago -and already, they had hunger strikes at Campsfield! What will it take to make a change?
In the world of music, if you’re in the UK, you should be looking forward to the double bill of Lekhfa (Egyptian alternatives) and Tamer Nafar (Palestinian rapper), They’re passing through London on the 27th (Rich Mix) and other venues which I can’t be bothered listing. If you want to impress your friends with your knowledge of the Egyptian scene, try Lekhfa’s Kent Rayeh