The blood and the sword

Gaza Strip occupied and bombed by Israel/ Reproduction Telegram
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By SALEM NASSER*

While there is fighting, and while the Palestinians, the combatants and the population as a whole, are not defeated, there are also “massacres”

“From you, the sword / And from us, our blood / From you, the fire and lead / And from us, our flesh”.

I write as we all wonder whether the truce in the war over Gaza – which would end today – will be prolonged, or whether the fighting and massacres will soon resume.

First, what do you call what happens in Gaza? The possibilities are several: Gaza war, war on Gaza, war between Israel and Hamas, Israeli attacks on Gaza, Gaza massacre, Israeli genocide... Each of us will tend to use one or another of these ways of naming reality. We will do this by revealing the way in which we tend to read facts or perceive them, whether our perception is conscious or not, thought or naturalized. We will also do this by wanting to make others perceive things in a certain way, strategically, therefore.

There are those who say, for example, that we cannot talk about “war” because for that to happen there would need to be “two states in conflict”. This option, based on the assumption that Palestine is not a State, serves, among other things, to reinforce the idea that this is essentially unilateral violence, the massacre of a population devoid of political representation and sovereignty.

It would be possible to discuss the presupposition, stating, for example, that Palestine is recognized as a State by more than 140 countries, even though its territory is occupied by Israel.

And it is certainly possible to dispute the idea that wars only happen between states. This thesis even contains a danger that should be avoided by anyone concerned about the more fragile position of the Palestinians when in a situation of armed conflict: the absence of “war” would lead to a discussion about the applicability of the norms of the law of war, or that is, humanitarian law which, without a doubt, is today violated on a daily basis by Israel.

I will not go much further in explaining the meanings carried by the other names; I leave it to the reader to investigate them in his mind. I just say that I make my choice consciously and explain what I want to say with it.

I call it war because I consider that the concept is not restricted to conflicts between States. I know that humanitarian law conventions (the 1958 Geneva Conventions) point to the difference between international and internal conflicts and I know that this may have legal relevance for determining, especially, the existence of war crimes. But I know that today there is no doubt that humanitarian law applies to any armed conflict.

And I also call it war because I see violent exchanges between two conflicting camps. It is for this reason that I highlight the word “combats” in my first paragraph. It is true that there is a disproportion of forces and violence, but I cannot take away from the Palestinians the fact that they are fighting bravely.

The disproportion of forces and violence has to do with the comparative advantages that each side brings to the battlefield: the Israelis bring their technologically advanced weapons and equipment, their planes, their tanks, their variety of ammunition, their unlimited access to new weapons and ammunition, guaranteed by a rearguard that is, in the end, the greatest power in the world; on the other hand, the Palestinian fighters bring their willingness to fight hand-to-hand, their mastery of the terrain and the underground, their certainty that the cause is good and that eventual sacrifice is preferable to an unworthy life.

Because of these differences, Israel resorts to what its planes, tanks and ships do best: from afar and from above, they bring down entire buildings on civilians and kill women and children by the thousands. If only that were enough to win wars…

The Palestinian fighters wait patiently for the Israeli forces who, without taking some control over the Gaza strip, will not be able to claim victory and, therefore, will have to go to meet them and face the personal combat that they fear and wanted to avoid. The results show that the Palestinians have an advantage in this type of war.

But, while there is fighting, and while the Palestinians, the fighters and the population as a whole, are not defeated – on the contrary, they are just waiting for the moment when they will declare themselves victorious – there are also the “massacres” that I also highlighted.

There are thousands and thousands of children, women, entire families, hospitals, churches and mosques, ambulances and doctors, the injured and premature babies... There are so many that we have to ask how it is possible, how the The whole world hasn't revolted yet...

The blood – and there is so much blood! –, the blood, especially that of children, evoked in me the many paintings that in the beautiful museums of Europe represent the massacre of the innocent.

And as fate would have it, a poem by Mahmud Darwich reached my ears again, and some of his verses kept echoing in my mind:

You who pass between the fleeting words
Upload your names
And they go away
Take your hours from our time
And they go away
Steal whatever you want from the photos
To know
That they won't know
Like a stone from our land
Build the roof of the sky
You who pass between the fleeting words
From you, the sword
And from us, our blood
From you, the fire and the lead
And from us, our flesh
From you, another tank
And from us, a stone
From you, a gas bomb
And from us, the rain…

Inevitably, once again, as so often occurs to me when I think about Palestine, Lebanon, the Middle East, the differences in power, the civilian victims and the combatants who are willing to face militarily superior forces, I came across the idea of ​​“victory of the blood on the sword.”

I was asked, of course, how is it possible for blood to overcome the sword that sheds it? What could something like that mean?

The answer, for me at least, is more easily intuited than rationally constructed.

In essence, the expression says that the blood shed in the name of a truth, in the name of a matter of justice, is the cost and sacrifice paid for the truth to avenge and for justice to be done.

I want to believe that the blood of Palestinian children will overcome the sword that spilled it.

* Salem Nasser is a professor at the Faculty of Law of FGV-SP. Author of, among other books, Global law: norms and their relationships (Alamedina). [https://amzn.to/3s3s64E]


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