‘Nam tua res agitur paries cum proximus ardet’ is one of the lassical Latin proverbs for educated lawyers, ‘Because it is your business if your neighbour’s roof is burning’ (i.e., it also endangers your own house). There are not only moral and sentimental reasons, why the Western world should take a more active part in working towards peace – in its own best interests. The „burning roofs“ in alestine/Israel are, indeed, affecting our own house.

According to the Dutch writer, den Doolaard, common sense is the first casualty in every war. So this is not about fighting for or against Israelis or Palestinians. It is about ensuring human rights and

establishing common sense for all concerned, and, most of all, for the best interests of the Western world. It has become very popular to talk about „Win-Win“ situations as desirable goals in settling conflicts, perfectly in line with common sense. At the moment, we

are far away from that goal.

Winners in the current situation

It is true, for some , there is big business in the Middle East: producers of weapons, bulldozers, aircraft, tanks or ammunition are making a great deal of money. Charity organizations and governments also invest a lot of money in Palestine. They build or restore hospitals, schools, airports, , and they donate ambulances, food, or tents. They pay their employees, and that money is spent in the country. It is a different question, however, whether in the

long run, they really help, or hinder. Preventing human suffering might be a relief for the moment, necessary to mitigate the humanitarian disaster, but it also prevents real cure – in this case a political

solution, peace based on justice for both.

Wars and armed conflicts use up a lot of money, material and manpower, without producing anything. They create damage, and, at best money is made rebuilding, but nothing new is created. The very same money and manpower could have been used to create lasting value.


Trees, agricultural land and their produce are lost for both Israel and Palestine, as well as export markets. The fact is both Palestinian and Israeli economies suffer not only due to the material damage

done, but also due to the damage in each country’s reputation. Let us focus on the economical interests of the EU and US as examples.

• It is American and European tax or donation money that is wasted if ambulances are destroyed or buildings damaged.

• „Security“ costs money too: we pay for additional security personnel in our airplanes and airports for flights to Israel.

• The fights over which worship place belongs to which religion, leaving lots of dead bodies in its wake, might be mostly a local problem. But it is also our travel agents and airlines that don’t sell travel packages for Holy Land tourists any more.

• Farmland is destroyed already, tens of thousands of trees uprooted. The ecological damage not only affects local water resources, but also will have global consequences on the climate.

• Scorched earth is of no use whatsoever, neither for Palestinians nor for Israelis; it will not bring forth anything that could be a basis for business.

• As the present situation doesn’t encourage investors, lots of resources remain completely untapped. For example, the use of solar energy or purification of seawater. As long as so much money and manpower are wasted for destruction, there is no place for construction that would bring lasting prosperity for all those involved. As long as people fight against each other, they cannot fight for goals that are beneficial for both.

• Ethics and morals are not a sentimental luxury for starry-eyed dreamers. Who wants to invest serious money when the business partner is unlikely to abide with the „pacta sunt servanda“, the principle that contracts have to be kept, but makes up his own rules


• With the occupation and Israel controlling transport passages and borders, there are only very limited possibilities for trading with Palestine.

With a just peace and thus a stable situation, all these losers could turn into winners.


Most of the ‘security’ measures are creating exactly the problems they claim to solve. Checkpoints, curfews, detainments, raids, fences or walls cannot really create safety. As they are deeply interfering with freedom of movement for Palestinians, they more

likely create frustration and anger. It is a law of Nature that imbalances create tension, and at the same time there is a tendency to reestablish balance. This is known as compensation and

dynamic homeostasis, not only on a biological level, but also in psychology and sociology. When official politics doesn’t see a more or less balanced homeostasis (usually called ‘justice’ or the like),

the imbalance will will be corrected by unofficial/informal groups. These (by official standards) non-military acts of retaliation are then

called ‘terror acts’.

They are a danger to all of us. No one can take unlimited humiliation. Sooner or later, the population is going to retaliate. The longer Israel’s disrespect of International Law goes on, the worse the threat for EU and US. Logically, we are doing ourselves a favor if we insist on implementing existing UN resolutions and Geneva Conventions.

It is also our business if our neighbor’s roof is burning. Moreover, by not stopping arson, we are silent accomplices. Qui tacet consentire videtur – remaining silent looks like agreeing.

As single states, we also have individual responsibility. We are parts of the US, the EU, the UN. One for all – all for one. Collective punishment is prohibited according to the Geneva Conventions.

Nevertheless, Israel practices it and the outrage goes uncommented. If we tolerate collective punishment, we have to take into account that it will be applied on us, too. Civilians of states who tolerate this practice already have become victims of collective punishment. If we don’t insist obeying the law, we cannot expect law to protect us.

The function of law

Each culture, each religion, has sets of rules for a functioning community, the essence of which is: „Do not do unto others what you don’t want to be done unto you“. Life, property and good faith are protected, and contracts have to be kept. No one wants to be cheated.

The smaller the risk of being cheated, the more mutually satisfying the relationship will be. Playing dirty tricks and/or teaching them to today’s allies not only causes losses on the long run, due to

reputation damage, but also destroys respect and trust. After all, there are no guarantees that former allies won’t play the same dirty tricks against each other. Do not do unto others what you don’t want them to do unto you. Take into account that what you do unto others might be done unto you. As trust is not enough and laws can be broken, countries usually come up with provisions about consequences and sanctions in case of trespassing.

Enforcing the rules thus reinforces them and ensures predictability. It is prohibited to take the law in one’s own hands as this typically would even go much further than „an eye for an eye“. Needless to say, that law has to be applied and enforced for everyone equally. That’s the basic idea. Where trust and reliability are not enough to

maintain common sense and constructive coexistence, the law sets limits to boundless expansion at the expense of others.

Unfortunately, International Law lacks efficient sanctions to get a failing member state back on track. The big question is: if a country who signed the Geneva Conventions is doing exactly what is forbidden by these conventions, what does that say about its

general policy on level of reliability of its population?

How many markets are lost due to investors having to be cautious? In order to access these markets, American and European investors should use their power and influence to make sure International Law and UN resolutions are respected. But as long as products made in illegal settlements are bought, and Palestinian property is demolished or confiscated, it will not make sense to invest in construction for Israelis on Israeli land, or in sea water purification

projects to turn desert into farmland, and all the clean solar energy that partly could replace oil goes unused.

If the United Nations and the International Community allow one state to make fools of them, well, then they are fools indeed.