The principles of morality

We are often told that the so-called Israeli occupation of ‘Palestine’ is a moral dilemma that the State of Israel faces. And If Israel would just end this occupation, then it could resume its standing as a country of morality and of strength and of a clarity that the world can once again look up to.  It’s for her own good.

It seems so simple.

But what is this morality that the whole world seems to know about – except Israel?  Where is this clarity that all the world sees – except Israel?  Where is this core inner strength that the world possesses – except for Israel?

Are we living in a moral world right now – a world in which Israel seems to exist in an alternate dimension, a black hole – oblivious to all the principled actions of morality taking place around her?

25 years ago, the world united in response to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, rallied by President Bush.  Appeasement does not work, he told us.  He said that like the 1930’s we see in Saddam Hussein an aggressive dictator threatening its neighbours by invading a peaceful Kuwait.  It’s not an American problem – it’s a world problem.

And so the Coalition of the Willing was formed to expunge Iraq from the peaceful country of Kuwait – a country that had been the leading light of freedom for centuries, unless of course you’re a woman, have an opinion different to the government and are okay with domestic violence and marital rape.  A country, in which at the time, women could not vote or drive.

So the world united, because it was well… the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, the continuation of the fight for freedom.  Oh – they had oil?  I had no idea…  President Bush said we must resist aggression or it will destroy our freedoms.  And he demonstrated that by orchestrating a coalition to defend freedom in a country in which there was none.  He also encouraged the Kurds of the region to rise up against the tyranny of Saddam, because America would have their back.  And rise they did – except for one small problem.  When it mattered, America was nowhere to be found and the Kurds were massacred.  The clarion call for freedom that had served to embolden the world rang hollow, nowhere to be heard among the rolling sand storms of the desert plains of the Middle East.

And 25 years later as Iraq, with Syria, is once again in the grip of tyranny, we hear the constant calls of outrage at the actions of the Islamic State that appear to be far more brutal than what existed previously.  We see images on our screens that tear at the very fabric of our humanity – not rich sheiks upset that their oil wells have been taken over, but poor kids and mothers and fathers who are tortured in ways that defy our sense of belief in the capacity of the human being to do evil.  We hear shock and revulsion and disgust by world leaders, yet we also hear a dogged determination to not get too involved.  We hear expressions of sympathy, but no real action for the Yazidis whose children and women are sold into slavery and whose men are tortured and murdered.  We hear precious little on the Kurds, the same group let down by America 25 years ago, who fight desperately for their survival with little or no material support from the West.

It seems the Coalition of the Willing, who fought for the freedom of Kuwait – a country whose citizens today help fund the Islamic State, are not so willing anymore.

You see… the world is not a moral place, and it never has been.  It likes to believe it is and it likes to think that it operates from virtuous positions of principle, like freedom and justice and honour, but it lacks all those things.  The moral clarity it believes it has is nothing more than a mirage – nice to look at, but no substance.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t people with great morality, because there are plenty – and I always like to think there are more good people than bad people that exist in the world.

But life is a challenge in which we are all constantly wrestling against what is right and what is wrong.  We all struggle to do the best we can in a world that does not always honour the right or condemn the wrong.

Israel, as a country, is no different, and even the name itself means ‘to struggle with God’.  Every day it struggles with moralistic decisions weighed up against the security of its citizens.  And while not perfect, on the scorecard of helping humanity,  it has a far greater record than most countries on earth.

In that same rousing speech by President Bush, he also said the following:

“In the life of a nation, we’re called upon to define who we are and what we believe. Sometimes these choices are not easy. But today as President, I ask for your support in a decision I’ve made to stand up for what’s right and condemn what’s wrong, all in the cause of peace.”

There are times in life where the struggle is confusing and the questions asked are hard to answer, and yet there are times where the answers are abundantly clear.

While Israel today does it’s best to stand up for what’s right, it’s a mark of shame that the world is not condemning what’s wrong.

About the Author
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based writer who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.