PALESTINIANS DEMAND JUSTICE !

 

 

First International Conference On Ethics and Politics, Crete, May 2006.

 

  1. Palestinians demand justice. For them justice does not mean excellence of governance or the keeping of covenants and agreements. Amongst other things, justice for them means restitution of their perceived rights, which itself means, amongst other things, the option of returning to their homeland, even to their original homes. Israelis reject this reasoning, partly by disputing the right itself, but also by projecting another, conflicting right which they perceive as theirs, namely, the right to exist as a Jewish State. If justice were to be defined in terms of the realization of rights, equally for the two sides, and if, indeed, the two afore-mentioned conditions -of existence for the Jewish State and return for the Palestinians- were recognized as rights, then justice clearly would be impossible to realize- not even by force. 

Where justice is impossible to realize, it is only reasonable to expect that the concept of partial or relative justice be invoked. On first appearance, what this concept seems to do is to propose a compromise between the two conflicting rights: if justice itself is the realization of rights, it may be thought reasonable to suppose that partial or relative justice would be the realization of partial rights... having the categorematic meaning, presumably, of "some rights" or "some of these rights" , rather than the syncategorematic meaning "a part or several parts of each right". So if the two main rights with which we started (existence and return) were to be viewed as being indeed made up of component parts, partial justice would in this view presumably mean the fulfillment of as many parts on one side as would allow for the fulfillment of parts on the other. But what exactly could these "parts" be?, we may ask. Surely, they would either be rights themselves (as we assumed, given our preferred interpretation) or they would not be rights. If they are rights, then with respect to any one of them which may come into conflict with another right (e.g. the repatriation of a single individual or family to a home or space now belonging to a new occupant) the same question could then be asked of how can partial justice in this instance be realized, leading us back to the question with which we began, and to the need for further parsing.  And if they are not rights themselves, then how could the realization or fulfillment of however many parts of them that one can imagine be viewed as a partial realization of justice? So, it could be concluded that even partial justice cannot be realized.

 It is not my purpose simply to uncover dilemmas or consruct logical puzzles just for the fun of it, as I hope soon to make clear, but to challenge one classical meaning attributed to justice (one may call it "justice-as-equality-of-rights", or “justice-as-fairness”)       in favor of another (I shall call it "justice-as-harmony"). Clearly, If, given our definitions neither justice nor partial justice can be realized, then there must be something wrong with our basic assumptions. Let me try to further show this from another perspective by considering two conflicting rights as viewed by one side only, each of which is equally compelling as the other, but which nonetheless conflict with one another: Many Jews believe it is their right to possess and settle in the entirety of "Greater Israel", rather than be restricted to a tiny geographic part of it. But many of them believe it is their right to have a "Jewish State", with a consistently clear Jewish majority. Now these rights happen to conflict with one another because of demographic considerations, meaning the fulfillment of one such right can only be done, if at all, at the expense of the other. Unlike the first case, however, both of these perceived rights can in theory be simultaneously brought about by force, but clearly at a moral cost, or by committing an injustice (e.g. such as ethnic cleansing). An “enlightened” Israeli viewpoint here might therefore be to opt for that right which is viewed as having more practical value, or as having more weight than the other. Where a resolution of two conflicting rights is finally brought about in such a case, therefore, the resolution in question will clearly be seen as having little or nothing to do with the notion of justice as defined earlier (i.e. giving equal weight to two equally compelling rights), as it has to do with a pragmatic choice (giving more weight to one right rather than to another because of practical considerations). It follows that neither does that notion of justice (as defined) seem to be applicable when conflicting rights are on two sides, nor does it seem useful when they are on one side. What, we may then ask, is the use or value of this notion of justice? Or what, phrased differently, is the nature of the problem? 

It may be suggested that the nature of the problem simply lies with the manner in which I presented it, which seems to take a neutral attitude with respect to claims masquerading as rights. If our discourse were to be about real as opposed to false rights claims, it may be objected, we would not find justice being mocked this way in the first place. For example, why accept the blatantly false claims of Palestinians, or alternatively the blatantly false claims of the Jews? It is only once we admit the veracity of both claims that justice ends up being mocked. Once we throw the imposter claimant out of the window, things become right again, meaning real right would be realized, and so therefore would be justice.

At one end of the spectrum of this viewpoint (where fake claimants have already been thrown out) the problem with this definition of justice is that it would be more suited to a different world, or a morally pure world where there are no imposters and where only right, or genuine as opposed to fake right exists. But in such a world, needless to say, there would be no need for justice as a rights-restitution or balancing mechanism in the first place, and its existence as an overarching attribute or law in that world will presumably be as morally neutral as the law of gravity is physically neutral in this. We couldn't posit justice as a value to be sought or celebrated in such a world just as it would not make sense for us to claim we seek or celebrate gravity as a law in this. Justice would just be a law describing how humans function, on a par with the circulation of the blood.

 Avoiding such a conclusion and returning once again to our world it might be claimed -at the other end of the spectrum of this viewpoint- that the function of justice lies precisely in its ability to "throw false claimants out", or to determine which of two right claims is genuine, rather than being a law in a world where no such claimants exist in the first place. But even this, though admittedly a function which has proven to have some success, for example in law courts, would seem to be a tall order to require of justice: how would justice decide in the case of Israel's right to exist, or the Palestinian right of return? According to our requirement now it would have to decide in favor of one of them, and against the other. Surely, however, whichever side justice comes down on, the judgment would be highly contentious! That is why a fair balance or compromise is felt to be more appropriate in this kind of situation, one which takes us back to partial or relative justice, and the underlying dilemmas we faced.

                    

 2. A totally different way to look at justice and its meaning is to think of it ad hominem, or primarily in terms of the psychology and actual problems of human beings rather than in terms of objective values such as rights. Justice on this view could be posited as a mechanism to facilitate compromises between people themselves, seeking a satisfactory solution to a problem contended by two sides. In this (pragmatically-defined) model of justice, neither side gets all that it wants, but over and above the satisfaction felt by one side that it got at least some of what it wanted, there is or may be the additional (admittedly base) satisfaction by that same side that the other side got less than all it wanted. Adding up the positive as well as negative satisfactions derived, that side might come to feel fully or near-fully satisfied! Feeling satisfied in this complex manner, this side can then come to consider that partial justice has at least been done. In this case, partial justice would simply refer to, or be a function of that side's degree of satisfaction. Indeed, in this model, we can imagine that both sides can feel fully satisfied, adding up positive and negative sources for that satisfaction, and a seasoned negotiation observer might well describe this as a perfect example of a win-win situation, or a case of what is called "a non-zero-sum" game or solution. An example for this kind of situation might be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where neither side gets all that it wants, giving off respectively negative satisfactions to both sides, but where each side gets some of what it wants, complementing that negative satisfaction with a positive one.  

 However, while this practical approach to understanding justice may get real problems in the world solved, it might seem too disconnected with our ordinary sense of justice to merit being called by that name. Perhaps we should just call it a "problem-solving mechanism" rather than justice, reserving the latter to denote that meaning which we might feel has to do with moral values than simply with feelings of satisfaction at solving a dispute between two sides.  For one thing, one can easily imagine cases where, for any number of various reasons, such as an unequal distribution of mental or military capacities, one side in a negotiation can come to feel fully satisfied when it will be blatantly clear to an objective observer (given how we ordinarily view the world) that that side got the raw part of a negotiated deal. Satisfaction, then, wouldn't seem to provide us with a satisfactory explanation for the meaning of justice, making us wonder about the wisdom of trying to explain justice by resorting to the wants of individuals rather than to values.

 But having invoked an "objective observer" to show up this problem, might we be able to pursue this observer further for a satisfactory answer to our quest? Typically, a paradigm case in which a hypothetical observer such as the one we seek will make this kind of judgment will be one where only one of two claimants in a contest is viewed as possessing a right, or as having a right to a possession, which the other does not have, but comes to have as a result of the deal. Let us assume, for example, that the observer in question considers that Palestinians rather than Israelis have a right to a sovereign possession of Jerusalem’s Old City, but finds that a negotiation between the two parties produces an agreement where this possession becomes Israel’s. One can try to explain our observer’s moral displeasure here by invoking the language of rights, and the concept of justice on which it is based. But we already found this wanting. True, we found that notion wanting only in the context of two conflicting rights rather than in one only. However, not only would it be possible to construct a case to show that even in a single-right context our problem may persist, but we would also be ill-advised in the first place to recognize the validity of a theory which fails to account for all occurrences where justice is explained in terms of rights, whether in single or double contexts. An alternative explanation for our observer’s moral displeasure is therefore required.

 

3. The applicability of the justice-as-fairness doctrine (i.e. the equitable distribution of rights) thus seems either impossible in some cases, irrelevant in others, or of questionable validity at best. Worse, as we shall see, it seems totally inept in many cases as a tool with which we can depict or describe our moral sentiments concerning what happens in the world around us. On the other hand, as we saw, an ad hominem interpretation also fails to capture what we commonly view as just. So, could we perhaps, by reviewing our basic assumptions, propose another definition for justice, or another manner with which we may understand it? Our initial notion of justice, being integrally bound to a language or rights, happens to be predicated on the categorizing manner in which we choose to view the world. It is because we choose to view the world as consisting of essentially discrete entities, each having an equal weight as a bearer of rights as every other comparable entity that we can propose justice as a mechanism for ensuring that these rights are equitably realized. But while ostensibly seeming to be a worthy view of the world, this model leaves much to be desired, and much of the world in sub-standard conditions. The noble notion of “equal rights” derived from our chosen units of discourse- whether applied to persons, nations or groups- does not unfortunately and in real terms translate into an equitable division of the world’s goods between them, nor does it bind the more endowed to alleviate the poverty of the less endowed, or to seek to enhance their capability or developmental capacity. Consider political borders, for example: A modern State today (being viewed as one such entity in our world) may be considered by us to be the rightful owner of its natural resources. But let's say that State's borders are super-imposed rather than self-drawn, meaning that they were delineated by an ex-colonial power. Yet such a State, and the "people" who inhabit it, will likely come to consider that the natural resources found in that region belong by right to them, and not to anyone else- not to their poverty-stricken neighbors, for example, to whom they will not feel bound. In our normal practices, in other words, we tend as a first step to lend more weight to our special way of categorizing entities in the world as bearers of rights, than to rights themselves as absolute values. In practical terms, our approach results in a situation where members of the human race as purported bearers of rights surprisingly turn out to be such "bearers" not by virtue of belonging to the human race, but by virtue of happening to belong to a political construct, as well as by the resource itself which turns out to lie within the geographic boundaries of this artificial political construct. Quite amazingly, the resources themselves (what are considered as rights in this case) turn out to define their bearers, as bearers of those specific rights , instead of rights being themselves defined in terms of their bearers as members of the human race. Clearly, while we might start off by claiming that it's the people generically (as members of the human race) who matter when we think of values such as rights and justice, what we seem to end up with through our individuating practices are more often than not individuated sets of peoples in the first place, viewed now as having or possessing different natural resources which happen to lie within their borders (or sufficiently connected with those borders).

 The way our model (of justice-as-equality) is set up, while claiming in theory to apply a basic human value such as an equitable distribution of rights, ends up being one which in fact legitimizes inequality in the real world. Surely, if it's primarily human beings who really matter to us as we think of values, or from whom we claim to drive those values, then we should be less impressed with where an artificial border happens through our practices to cut off one people from another than with whether people are drawing from the same resource as freely as they all breathe the same air. Rights, in other words, if their source is our common humanity, cannot be such as to be cut off by political borders. Borders of course cut even deeper: some peoples come to appropriate to themselves the right, for example, of nuclearization, denying it of other peoples. The list of so-called rights of peoples is endless, revealing how in reality it is not the people who matter, regardless of the moral lip-service we tend to pay to each other, even as one government castigates another for the violation of those rights within its own territory, as much as it is the legitimization of possessions which are predicated on the contingent divisions we tend to construct between peoples.

One might initially suspect that the problem we have just encountered affects only so-called non-natural individuals, or what we called “political constructs” such as States. However, it also affects persons, whose postulation, and even celebration as essentially discrete entities arguably lies at the root of the problem. The celebration of individualism and the sanctification of individuals as bearers of absolute rights by virtue of that individuality, each individual being viewed for that reason and by nature as no less valuable than anyone else as a human being, and each therefore deserving of basic rights equal to those deserved by other individuals, also translates in real-life situations, in spite of the various mechanisms some governments employ to adjust this, into blatant inequalities of the worst kind between those individuals. In effect, while we begin by what we consider to be the highly noble enterprise of singularizing the individual (and the group), in order as a second step to describe justice as an equal distribution of rights between them, what we end up with is a world full of inequalities. Justice as an equality or fairness notion sets out in theory to ensure that each individual (or group) has the same rights in principle as each other individual (or group). But in practice, while this allows us to assert that we each have a right to education, for example, we end up in a situation where it will be considered overstretched to require this to mean we have a right to the same kind of education. More generally, we will consider it overstretched to demand we have a right to the same kind of life. Just as what might have been a right to a natural resource is abruptly severed by the incidence of a political boundary, also what might have been our right for a certain kind of life is downsized to a life determined by the incidence of heterogeneous circumstances. Our theoretical project to ensure that people have equal rights breaks at the hard rock of reality, where we find that such hypothetical rights do not access equitable conditions of living. Equality of rights not only fails to translate into economic or social equality: unwittingly and indirectly, it even legitimizes that real-life inequality we are all witness to, simply by downsizing it morally through recourse to itself as being in theory perfectly just. After all, who could deny the perfectness of a theory that recognizes all human beings as equal? Actual inequalities can then be blamed, not on the theory but on such unfortunate matters as luck or individual capacities. Theoretical equality thus comes to replace real equality, making the disadvantaged and poverty-stricken deprived even of the legal argument to protest their "misfortunes".

Not only are State-members as "bearers of rights", therefore, defined in terms of resources that are available to them, but even persons come to be so defined, more specifically in terms of the capabilities (to use the concept so ably introduced by Amartya Sen) which they can access in their real lives. Instead of defining the right to education in terms of the person as an unspecified instantiation of the class of human beings, the person as an actualized bearer of whatever level of education they have acquired comes to be defined in terms of that level itself of education. A just law on this view protects my right to my own shack, figuratively speaking, or to the poor health or education services I can access for my children, for example, but it also protects the right of my neighbor to his extravagant palace and to the superior capabilities he can access for his own children.

 The Justice-as-equality model, then, not only seems to encounter failures in application as we argued at first: it also seems to leave the world wide-open for all kinds of inequalities and injustices.  

 

 4. So, is there another or a better way of viewing or categorizing the world, and therefore of defining justice? Going by what has been said so far it would seem that our primary focus should be on individuation, or on how we view identities, whether of persons or groups, and in particular on whether we should see these as being closed and predetermined or as open and constitutive. Positing entities in our world whose identities are essentially closed and pre-set already determines how rights can actually be distributed. It goes without saying, after all, that any distribution of goods must presuppose an ontology of entities amongst which these goods will be distributed. Cutting short an argument that need not be entered into here, we may simply observe that, whether in regard to persons or groups, it has been suggested that it is possible to posit a definition for identity that allows for an active determination of it by the “subject”. One can seek help in Aristotle’s distinction between matter and form, Kant’s theory of the Will, or any number of other models to provide us with the necessary theoretic framework against which we can make or understand this claim. One manner of looking at this (suggested by Amartya Sen) is to recognize the multiplicity of identity-layers a typical person has, and the corresponding possibility therefore of emphasizing one or more of these layers instead of others. The choice of layers that are emphasized will immediately reflect itself in what entities become salient in our universe of discourse, or on the kind of relationship therefore that is produced between one entity and another. In addition, and just as importantly, such a reformulation will immediately be reflected in our understanding of the distribution of rights, or of possessions, such as, for example, the allocation of a geographic area or a natural resource. This can immediately be translated into political terms as a model to address conflicts. One basic identity-layer, for example, that is common to Israelis and Palestinians is their humanity. An identity-layer that sets them apart is their nationality. Clearly, a procedure which highlights identity-layers that are distinctive will yield human products (entities, or political organisms) which are different from ones yielded by highlighting layers which are shared. Choosing to define oneself (and others) in one way rather than in another, and then acting on the basis of this self-definition will automatically be translated into one political reality rather than another. Therefore, rather than defining oneself (or others) simply or only by reference to one such layer (e.g. being Palestinian-born, or Arab, or Jewish), and wrapping oneself with that stretched layer to the point of isolation from others, one’s self-definition can be and also lends itself to being an active function of the richness of the available multiplicity of these identity-layers. To view identities (even of individual persons) in this open and constructivist way allows us to leave behind a view of identities as being essentially discrete or separate, and to see them instead as being essentially malleable and relational. Observe that the claim here is not only that one’s choices are a function of one’s own identity. More significantly, they are also a function of the identity of the other. For example, whatever characterizing features Israelis or Palestinians choose for themselves become automatically reflected on the characterizing features of the other side. Another model of justice (Justice-as-harmony) can then be constructed on the basis of this theory of individuation.

On the justice-as-fairness paradigm the world as we said is first divided up into strictly separate entities as a prerequisite for a later theoretic distribution of rights between them. The notion of rightful “belonging” or “possessions” is then predicated on the basis of these divisions, yielding injustices in the real world. A re-definition of identities on the other hand preempts such divisions, for it invites us to reconsider what we understand by “rightful belonging”, or what belongs by right to those entities. Thus, a justice-as-harmony paradigm might more effectively address inequities in the human condition. Such a paradigm would be predicated on a “holistic” worldview, or on a view which regards human beings, whether as individuals or as groups, not as essentially discrete entities as the first view suggests, but as being fundamentally and in some constitutive manner inter-related or inter-dependent parts of a single whole. In this view relations between individuated entities would be constitutive or primary rather than acquired or secondary. A notion of justice informed by this view would thus preempt such glaring inequities as we witness in the world, not because different subjects are viewed as having the same “rights”, but more fundamentally because each is viewed as having an equally necessary constitutive function in the “whole”. This constitutive or “existential” inter-dependence is arguably far more binding on how one “part” might relate to another than a philosophy of rights has proven to be.

 Constitutive inter-dependence of the parts on each other, rather or more than a rights-distribution between separate and individually independent entities, is what best yields justice or the elimination of inequity. One need not invoke a language of “rights” according to this picture in order to understand justice. A balanced or harmonious organism (whether an individual or a body-politic) speaks for itself, while one in contrast lacking balance or harmony is bound to be unstable and to malfunction (different “forces” would tug away at each other, making the whole dysfunctional in the long run).

In global terms, such a paradigm will posit cooperative behavior as a function of committed self-interest rather than as a form of charity. In regional terms this paradigm will require a redefinition of sovereign possession, whether of cities or of natural resources. In individual terms, the requirement will be to emphasize human bonds and compassion.  Pointedly, at each one of those levels, how we view ourselves and others is predominantly, if not perhaps exclusively, a matter of choice.

 

 5. One normally associates such a “holistic” worldview –especially also when all forms of living beings rather than the human species only are included- with Eastern philosophies, (and some critics are quick to point out the absence of individual human rights and roles in those philosophies). But one could cite Plato for example in this context, who in explaining justice used an analogy between the harmony (or balance) that might “best” obtain between the different parts of the soul and that which might obtain between the different sectors of a body-politic- in each case the soul and the body-politic being regarded as single “wholes”. One shortcoming of the analogy is that different “parts” of the soul are not persons, as these are commonly understood. Another shortcoming is the fixity of the functions associated with each part- reflected in a rigid or immobile social order. But the analogy is useful in that, by addressing the parts of the soul and, by extension, the parts of a body-politic, Plato tries to show how a best-suited balance between these inter-dependent parts would be one which allows each part to perform that function it is best fitted to perform in the context of a single whole, thus yielding a harmonious or balanced “whole” of which the different parts partake. Justice simply consists in the existence of this balance or harmony between the parts in the “whole”.

 Plato’s “parts of the soul” (and sectors of the body-politic) are assigned with specific functions suited respectively to their different natures. While this fixity in an order-ladder might not be contentious when parts of the human body are being considered (unless we think in terms of stem cells, for example), its fixity when applied to persons, nations or religions may be considered morally provocative, perhaps thought avoidable by a resort to the language of the equality of rights. However, as we saw, the notion of “others having the same rights as myself” has not unfortunately proven sufficient to bind me to alleviate their poverty, or to seek to enhance their capability or developmental capacity. On the other hand, the model of a common humanity as a single subject (its geographic extension being global) need not be constructed on the assumption of fixity as per Plato. While it makes perfectly good sense to claim that different parts may be best fitted to perform certain functions rather than others, it is equally good sense to claim that, in fulfillment of the first claim, each part should be so maximally capacitated as to discover the particular function to which it may be best suited. Incidentally, this was arguably also Plato’s position. Thus, simply with a view to maximum efficiency with best returns to each part, equality between parts comes to be fulfilled in this model insofar as it is viewed as being that free space in which to develop the different parts’ capabilities. From a rational point of view, such a model might induce the sense of being bound to others in tangible and genuine ways much more than a model of individual rights has proven to be: a more equitable distribution of world resources (whether natural or human) among constitutive parts –with a view to ensuring a healthy condition of the whole- comes to be viewed as being a necessary act of self-interest for each one of the parts rather than as an act of charity.

 We can imagine a counter-argument being made here to the effect that the notion of justice-as-harmony, or as a symbiotic balance integrating the parts of a single whole – such as the harmony one seeks or finds in the notes of the same musical symphony- is not one which captures the contexts where the term “justice” is typically invoked. In the latter contexts, we might be told, the paradigm normally is that of adjudicating between totally separate and even competing entities. It is precisely where “harmony” seems to be initially lacking, has been disrupted, or is in the first instance considered out of place, as in conflicts between parties- in particular, in conflicts among human beings, whether at individual or group levels- that the notion of justice may be appealed to. In this latter sense justice is viewed, in reflection of its traditional “scales” image, as a means of providing or re-establishing an equitable balance (giving equal weight) to the separate items or entities under consideration. Here it is not different notes in one symphony that are sought to be synchronized or integrated, but entirely separate “voices” or identities that are sought to be accorded equal treatment –the assumption being that each has the same value, weight or right. When several distinct or discrete entities (individuals, nations, symphonies, civilizations) are the units of discourse; and where, rather than the search for the harmony of the whole, it is the reconciliation of conflicts between different contesting parties that informs an intervention policy, it is the notions of law and justice respectively as the keeping of those parties “in order” (maintaining the same values/weights), and the restitution of “order” when this has been broken, which seem to be paramount. Harmony (simply in the sense of stability or orderliness) is here what law (and justice) seeks to bring about or reinstitute. Whenever an act against or in contravention of an existing law occurs, whoever it is carried out by; and whenever it might seem that the “scales” have been unfairly “tipped” in favor of one of two sides as against the other, then the notion of justice is typically invoked as a means to bring order back, or to reinstitute the state of equilibrium of the scales. In sum, justice-as-fairness (as a balance in the equalization sense) rests on a picture of the world which is made up of essentially separate individuals –nations, religions, civilizations- where fairness consists precisely in the effort to maintain some kind of balance which seeks to guarantee the basic status (evaluative weight) of one such individual in the face of another seeking to overreach itself (through conquest or exploitation or straightforward theft). This notion of justice, it might be claimed, is what is relevant against the background of the ruthless war raging among nations and individuals in the natural or real world, and it is precisely the “western” humanist concept of the individual as the possessor of a separately distinct identity and a corresponding basic human value and right, and the concept itself of justice-as-fairness which is rooted in the basic principle of individualism, that guarantees the existence of a balance and stability in human affairs.

 What this apparently worthy and reasonable counter-argument to defend individualism and the notion of justice from which it is derived seems to avoid, however, is the question whether this “ruthless war raging among nations and individuals” is itself an inevitable product of the model, instead of being –as it is normally presented or viewed- a naturally-caused and independent human dysfunction serving as the object of its attention and intervention. Take the nuclear stand-off in Iran: Is the world community here seeking to bring justice to bear on a simmering political crisis? Or is it rather the case that what is viewed as an injustice that is behind the creation of that crisis in the first place? It is our individuating practices in the first place that clearly lie at the root of disorder. Is it not because of the way Israelis and Palestinians choose to define themselves, and to define, therefore, what they view as rightfully theirs, that they find themselves at war with each other over territory? And is it not also on those very same ontological and moral principles that the justice-as-fairness model is based, and is unsurprisingly therefore found inappropriate? For imagine if the country were the child brought before Solomon, and the contestants defined themselves not as her mother but as her children, would Solomon have found himself compelled to pronounce what he knew to be an absurd judgment? Viewing themselves as children of the country rather than as her parental possessors Israelis and Palestinians might surely feel less inclined to tear her and themselves apart. Also, and farther afield, is it not, for example, because of the way Western or Islamic Civilizations choose to define themselves that they may be viewed as moving headwords towards an inevitable clash? Arguably, it is the very model which is drawn upon to provide a remedy to an ailing world which is the cause of this ailment. No wonder, then, that the remedy constantly fails when it is most needed.    

 Returning to Justice-as-harmony, and a re-definition of the units of discourse, there is no necessary “reason” (besides contingent historical circumstances and the force of selfish passion accompanying them), to view a pre-set and closed personal or political ontology as being preferential to an open and constitutive one: we might well find a political model to be more suitable which will allow us to see the human world as a single “whole”, and its groups and individuals as constitutive components, such that the whole could be viewed as best surviving if harmony between its various components is achieved. We could explain recalcitrant frictions in terms of the absence of this harmony, and an efficient redistribution of resources with a view to complementarity a more rational pursuit of self-interest of the whole. It is arguably our failure to achieve such harmony that results in malfunctions, or instabilities caused as one part (viewing itself primarily as an independent subject) acts unilaterally seeking to impose its hegemony in any one of different ways (territorially, economically or ideologically) over another; or as another part resorts to the use of whatever force is at its disposal to fend off or to contest such efforts at supremacy.

 More generally, a more balanced re-investment in the human community and re-distribution of resources would surely guarantee overall stability, and yield a more efficient and productive development trajectory. In short, one can see how a justice-in-harmony model can produce the kind of living conditions which would preempt or minimize those “wars raging among men and nations”.

 

 6. Let us in conclusion now ask ourselves the sensitive question, For whom does Palestine/Israel as a real estate belong by right? On the justice-as-fairness view, we saw, the possible answers we are provided with fail to convince us of their justness. On the justice-as-harmony view, on the other hand, we may say the following: Based on a conscious reformulation of our respective identity-layers, Palestine/Israel can come to be viewed not as belonging to each of the two parties separately, but as belonging jointly to them both. Instead of closing themselves off to each other behind walls of cement or hate or exclusivity, the two parties can and should thus be enabled to share the country’s resources equally, whether these are the coastal plains or the water aquifers, and whether this is Jerusalem’s Old City or Jaffa’s. Each party could regard itself as a constitutive component of the “whole”- this regional “whole” being a political consortium extending throughout the country- and benefiting synergistically from the contribution of its parts, however these parts are administratively or geographically defined. There may simply be two parts, or more, corresponding to the different layers of non-exclusive identity in need of being expressed. Indeed, the country can be consortium of city- or region-states, or it can be a confederation of two. Palestinian returnees could return to the Arab parts, as well as to the mixed parts, however many and wherever they may happen to be, not as bearers of exclusive inherited rights, but as bearers of a new identity. But in effect, returning to a point made earlier, the country as a so-called right to a real estate will be defined by its inhabitants as a whole, instead of the converse practice of having a specific people defined by the extension of their real estate. This is a contentious point that may be worth elaborating for a last time: either my rights can be defined by who I am, or I can be defined by what rights I happen to have through circumstance. Thus I may be defined as an Israeli by a right to a real estate, or I may define my right to a real estate (for example, Israel) by who I am. As it stands, for instance, I am (as a Palestinian under occupation) now defined by whatever residence or re-entry rights accorded me by circumstance. My right to life and to movement, including return, is not defined by my being a human being- a child of the earth. Speaking more generally, I can be defined as a human being by whatever specific rights I happen to be able to access in this world, and for most of us –not just those under occupation- these rights are precious few, or I can define my rights in this world in terms of my humanity. Adopting the second approach provides for real as opposed to theoretic equitability in the context of harmony, whether in human relations as a whole or in the Israeli-Palestinian context. In conclusion, it would seem that the Palestinian demand for justice can only be fulfilled in real terms on the basis of a model of justice-as-harmony rather than on that of justice-as-fairness. On this view, the justice Palestinians should demand will turn out to be exactly that which Israelis should demand- a matter which should not come as a surprise, justice being one.

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