This week, there’s been a debate over the relevance of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to the ongoing situation in Gaza. One of the central ideas underlying the R2P concept is the argument that as part of sovereignty, states have a responsibility to protect their civilian populations, and in turn the international community also have some responsibility to both assist the state in this endeavour and to (potentially) intervene if the state fails in its responsibility to protect.
- Aidan Hehir writes that R2P advocacy groups have been conspicuously absent in the discussion about Gaza
- David Rieff argues that R2P is not a useful framework for understanding the conflict in Gaza – or anything
- James Rudolph argues that Gaza and Israel are a case for international humanitarian law, not R2P
- Alex Bellamy looks as Gaza and the UN’s dilemmas of protection
The status of Gaza is a key factor in this debate: if it’s considered to be part of the state of Palestine, R2P does not apply as it focuses on intra-state violence, not inter-state conflict. If, however, Gaza is considered to be occupied by Israel (as many argue), R2P may well be applicable.
The lack of international action, whether justified through the Responsibility to Protect, Security Council resolution/s, or any other means, shows the continuing weakness of current frameworks when it comes to actually tackling violence. The eyes of the world are on Gaza, and the international community appears powerless. Whether or not R2P is used, something clearly needs to be done. On Monday, the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire, but beyond this little seems to be happening.
In one of the pieces above, Rieff argues that the lack of international community is part of the problem, as action is difficult when there is no international moral consensus. However, while there is never likely to be complete consensus Israel seems to be rapidly losing support and suggesting there is no international community overlooks growing international outrage. Action is not simple, as Bellamy’s piece clearly shows. It is, however, necessary, whatever form it may take.