Is zone of interest — for Holocaust and Gaza — peace, not justice?

Rashmee Roshan Lall
3 min readFeb 17, 2024
Photo by Kalea Morgan on Unsplash

Still musing over the Holocaust film The Zone of Interest ( click here for my blog on the subject), I read a Financial Times (FT) piece (paywall) that raised an important question. Can there be both justice and peace after conflict has ended?

Or is that a goal too far, an impossible objective for societies, a portion of whose hearts have been gouged out by bloodshed, and loving spirit snuffed out by hatred? Accordingly, is the popular protest slogan “no justice, no peace” even possible? It has a nice “marching cadence”, Michael Goldfarb asked in the FT piece, but is it even do-able?

Mr Goldfarb noted that while justice and peace have long been linked, not least by Enlightenment philosopher Spinoza, the achievable reality is often somewhat different: “Societies emerging from conflict are more likely to be faced with a choice: you can have peace or you can have justice, but you can hardly ever have both.”

Accordingly, he said: “All over the world, in the wake of civil wars or brutal dictatorships, there are stories of victims still waiting for justice; of victims of torture in Greece and Chile under military dictatorships who walk down the street once the juntas are overthrown and see the men who abused them sitting in cafés as though nothing had happened. For the society to make a peaceful transition away from dictatorship there could be no justice for these victims.”

And then this crucial line: “Sometimes war crimes are so enormous that there can be no justice proportionate to the size of the crime once peace returns.”

It turned my thoughts to Israel, the Jewish state. After the pain, suffering and loss of the Holocaust, the life-sapping knowledge that a whole state, its engine and people want to kill you, the Jewish people got land, some support from the chastened Western world and a small measure of the security that comes with knowing you have a home. That it’s been a precarious existence goes without saying, but what healing can reasonably happen when you know there can never be complete justice?

As Mr Goldfarb writes: “The Holocaust could not have happened without the willing participation of many people. Not just Nazi leaders but rank-and-file SS camp guards, Einsatzgruppen, ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers and many local citizens in the territories Germany conquered. When so many were involved, what justice was possible for the victims of Nazi murderers: Jews, Sinti, gay people and others?” (The Sinti reference is for a long-settled ethnic minority in Germany and neighbouring countries.)

He quotes an estimate of the number of people who took active part in transporting and murdering six million European Jews and nearly 500,000 Sinti and 15,000 homosexuals: between 750,000 and a million.

That’s a quite staggering number. Anywhere between 750,000 and a million people actively assisted the murder of large numbers of people. And, says the piece, roughly 99 per cent of the perpetrators never faced justice.

So you had peace and no justice.

The same sort of issues will arise, inevitably, when the horrendous ongoing war on the people of Gaza is over. How many will be alive? Where will they live? How will they live? How to forgive? How to punish and who to punish? Or is peace the just trade-off for justice?gaza

Originally published at



Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London