Studies 01 July, 2024

Gaza: Moral Matters in Hard Times

Azmi Bishara

General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (DI). Bishara is a leading Arab researcher and intellectual with numerous books and academic publications on political thought, social theory and philosophy. He was named by Le Nouveau Magazine Littéraire as one of the world’s most influential thinkers. His publications in Arabic include Civil Society: A Critical Study (1996); On The Arab Question: An Introduction to an Arab Democratic Manifesto (2007); To Be an Arab in Our Times (2009); On Revolution and Susceptibility to Revolution (2012); Religion and Secularism in Historical Context (in 3 vols., 2013, 2015); The Army and Political Power in the Arab Context: Theoretical Problems (2017); The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh): A General Framework and Critical Contribution to Understanding the Phenomenon (2018); What is Populism? (2019) and Democratic Transition and its Problems: Theoretical Lessons from Arab Experiences (2020). Some of these works have become key references within their respective field. His latest publication titled The Question of the State: Philosophy, Theory, and Context (2023) with a second volume forthcoming in 2024 titled The Arab State: Beginnings and Evolution.

Bishara’s English publications include Palestine: Matters of Truth and Justice (Hurst, 2022); On Salafism: Concepts and Contexts (Stanford University Press, 2022); Sectarianism without Sects (Oxford University Press, 2021), among other writings. His trilogy on the Arab revolutions, published by I.B. Tauris, consists of Understanding Revolutions: Opening Acts in Tunisia (2021); Egypt: Revolution, Failed Transition and Counter-Revolution (2022); and Syria 2011-2013: Revolution and Tyranny before the Mayhem (2023), in which he provides a theoretical analysis in addition to a rich, comprehensive and lucid assessment of the revolutions in three Arab countries: Tunisia, Egypt and Syria.

acrobat Icon This essay explores the moral dilemmas posed by the atrocities committed in Gaza and the stifling of any moral judgment of these crimes. It argues that morals are not limited to transcendent principles from which precepts are derived by analogy and rational judgment but that they stem from innate human dispositions. These dispositions, though not moral principles per se, constitute a seed from which morals emerge, forming the human potential for universal human values. These moral precepts are not rendered inoperative during wartime.
The essay contends that Israel and its allies’ claim of self-defence to justify their genocidal actions in Gaza and to marginalize moral judgements is a blatant lie. Occupying states do not have a right of self-defence before they end territorial occupation. The (conditional) right of self-defence rests with resistance to the occupation, also subject to moral standards. The claim that the Palestinian resistance in Gaza represents “absolute evil” is less a moral judgment than it is a strategy to deflect attention from the context of resistance operations. The essay also engages in a discussion of Jürgen Habermas and Seyla Benhabib’s positions on the war on Gaza, criticizing their bias toward Israel, and exposing the moral deficiencies of these positions.

*** This study was published in the 15th issue of AlMuntaqa, a peer-reviewed academic journal for the social sciences and humanities. You can read the full paper here.