Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rights Against Safety

My first post this morning favorably compared Jessica Montell of B'tselem with the rank antisemites who congregate at Mondoweiss, CiF and elsewhere. Well, here's some balance: a demonstration of the weakness in the thinking of Israel's radicals - in this case, Hamoked, Center for the Protection of the Individual.

Hamoked is not a very important organization, but it does have some presence. It's thesis is that Israel is unjust to Palestinian individuals and this must be corrected - so far, so reasonable. When you note that they have no problem criticizing the Supreme Court (High Court of Justice, HCJ, which I have recently mentioned as Bagatz) you begin to see that they're well off the mainstream. Israelis criticize the High Court sometimes, but carefully. The Left, rarely. The far Left, however, don't feel inhibited.

The reason I'm mentioning Hamoked is an e-mail they've sent out. It wasn't meant for me, but e-mails have the habit of washing up at strange shores. This one is an attempt to recruit a writer for their website. They've got eight lines of necessary qualifications, most of them just what you'd expect (English and Hebrew writing abilities, legal background, that sort of thing). Yet it's the first qualification which is telling:
מחויבות מוצקה לנושא זכויות אדם, לרבות במצבים של התנגשות בין זכויות אדם לצרכי ביטחון
High commitment to human rights, especially in cases of conflicts between human rights and security issues.

If you accept that the right to life is the highest right possible, that's a strange requirement. A higher commitment to human rights than to the defense of the top human right. Which isn't to say that there can never be a conflict between contradictory rights, and it's not even to say that there can never be cases where the security professionals fail to balance the varying considerations in a satisfactory way. There can be, which is why an organization such as Hamoked is legitimate, even necessary. Who watches the watchmen is always a legitimate issue.

But that's not what the ad requires. It seeks only people who automatically assume that rights are distinct from, and more important than, considerations of security. This, in a country surrounded by enemies with a century-old track record of eagerness to harm civilians.

Odd, isn't it.

Update: Fabian in comments (see below) points out I"m being too generous. Hamoked isn't requiring a primacy of human rights over security issues, but rather over security needs. They're being quite explicit.


Anonymous said...

"Odd, isn't it. "

sometimes I think they just can't stand to admit to themselves how precarious/endangered etc it all is and maybe especially so in your area where it is all so very very close at hand.
Assuming there is something to it it would mean they are literally scared out of their mind and thus can't accept that the world works on a lot more tangled/interwoven paths than the ones they proclaim are the right ones.

trying to understand how they tick doesn't mean I am trying to apologize them They are adults, they are responsible

Fabián said...

I have been in this country much less than you Yaakov, but צרכי ביטחון shouldn't be more properly translated as "security needs"?

In that case, the argument against them is even stronger, since they aren't only "issues" but "needs". If they recognize that there is a need for some specific security measure, then it is even worse to automatically take the side of the individual rights, than if it is just an "issue" to discuss.

As I said, your Hebrew is much better than mine, but still...

Fabián said...

Not to mention your English :) But I beat you at Spanish hands down.

Yaacov said...

You're right, Fabian. I translated in a manner that is too generous to them.

I have no doubt you'd beat me hands down in Spanish. Probably some other things, too...

Anonymous said...

Yaacov -

I admit I don't know HaMoked and I didn't see the full context of the statement you quote, but just based on the text of your post, it seems to me, you are over-parsing this statement, and reading into it your evaluation of HaMoked's positions. If you have a case where you think HaMoked expressed a point of view that was reckless regarding security, then share it. But the statement itself tells us nothing about HaMoked - as it can be understood differently.

You, yourself, have written about the misuse of "security needs" to justify recklessness with life - e.g. UAV bombings in Afghanistan.

If I had not read your book and have not been reading your blog for a year, and had read only this post, I would think you believe a broad definition of security concerns, without balance and without nuance, justifies all behaviors. But I know this is not true of you.

Have a wonderful shabbat.