Historical Justice: On First-Order and Second-Order Arguments for Justice

Raef Zreik


This Article makes three moves. First it suggests and elaborates a
distinction—already implicit in the literature—between what I will
call the frst and second order of arguments for justice (hereinafter
FOAJ and SOAJ). In part, it is a distinction somewhat similar to
that between just war and justice in war. SOAJ are akin to the rules
governing justice in war or rules of engagement, while bracketing
the reasons and causes of the conflict. FOAJ on the hand are those
principles of justice and arguments that derive their power from the
distribution of entitlements, rights and duties of the parties prior to
the conflict they are supposed to adjudicate. FOAJ aim in many ways
to restore the distribution of entitlements that existed on the eve of
the conflict. Thus, all arguments for corrective or historical justice
could be viewed as FOAJ.
The second move in the paper associates FOAJ with the Palestinians
and SOAJ with Zionism frst and Israel later on. The more the settler
Zionist project became a reality, the more the Palestinian population
felt a threat to their national project and exercised resistance, including
violent resistance. The more Palestinians showed resistance, the
more appealing and more relevant SOAJ of self-defense, security,
and emergency.
The third move in the paper is to ask questions regarding the
relation between FOAJ and SOAJ offer a critique of the distinction
itself, and offers a critique of the way the distinction is being deployed
in the case of Israel-Palestine. The Israeli claims for self-defense
and security(SOAJ) are becoming so pervasive that they threaten
to suspend the claims for historical justice forever (FOAJ), to the
point that everything, even the regime that is crystallizing in front
of our eyes as an Apartheid regime, is being justifed as a temporal
necessity. Israel deployment of SOAJ is done in bad faith.

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