International law, the United Nations and Palestine

Israel/Palestine
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The United Nations Security Council recently passed Resolution 2334, which condemns the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, declares them again to be illegal, and demands a stop to any future such construction. Israel, as expected, has denounced this resolution.

This is only the latest in the dozens of U.N. resolutions that have condemned Israeli behavior over the decades.

A brief look at the history of Israel only serves to highlight the illegal, unjust and immoral actions that established that country, and that have been used ever since to expand it.

When the newly-minted United Nations, only two years old, decided to take upon it the issue of establishing a ‘home’ for Jews, it zeroed in on Palestine. The so-called Balfour declaration, a letter from Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, to Walter Rothschild, a leader in that country’s Jewish community, said, in part, this: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object…” [1] This, of course, became reality. Another part of this declaration was not honored: “… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine….” [2]  This latter provision has been ignored to this day.

The determination on how Palestine would be sliced up to accommodate a small percentage of world Jewry was left to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP).  Unfortunately, the members of UNSCOP had little or no knowledge about conflict resolution, and even less about Palestine and its history. Zionist Jews at this time comprised about 33% of the population of Palestine, but owned only about 7% of the land. This population included European refugees from World War II. [3]

So in either their ignorance, a misguided desire to somehow make amends for German atrocities during World War II, or a twisted combination of both, UNSCOP partitioned Palestine, giving 55% of it for a Jewish state, and immediately displacing at least 750,000 Palestinians, most of whom were forced to leave their homes and possessions without any recompense, and move into refugee camps. This was General Assembly Resolution 181 in the U.N.

As one writer expressed it: “The conception of creating a Jewish national home in Palestine could not possibly be squared with the principle of self-determination, or, for that matter, of democracy, on the basis of any of the generally accepted criteria”. [4]

The removal of Palestinians from their homes was hardly any more peaceful than it was just.

“The notorious massacre at Deir Yassin was an integral part of this strategy. In addition to the Zionist objective of moving on Jerusalem, the savagery and brutality of the attack on the villagers played the important role of turning the original flight of the non-combatant Palestinian Arabs into a stampede from their homes. The cry of ‘Deir Yassin” became a warning of horror, spurring several hundred thousand refugees to flee in the weeks before the scheduled termination of the mandate and providing a great leap forward toward the Zionist goal of reducing the Arab population and the realization of ultimate demographic domination by Jews. As Menachem Begin boasted in The Revolt (pp. 164 -65), ‘Panic overwhelmed the Arabs of Eretz Israel…the Arabs began to flee in terror even before they clashed with Jewish forces’, such as in Haifa, where the Palestinians fled ‘in panic, shouting Deir Yassin!’”. [5]

Over one hundred men, women and children died in the bitter, house-to-house fighting in Deir Yassin, and most experts agree that, along with the 750,000 people displaced in 1947- 1948, thousands died. “Zionist forces committed 33 massacres and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns” in that one year period.

Since that time, over 90% of the land that was allotted by the U.N. to remain Palestinian has been stolen by Israel.

How can any of this be seen as consistent with international law?

Let us look now at some of the circumstances, just since 1967.

  • Destruction of homes. Since 1967, nearly 50,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel. The reasons are varied:
    • To make room for new settlement construction, long defined as illegal by the international community, and condemned around the world);
    • To enable construction of new, Israeli-only roads. Note that Palestinians are not even permitted to cross these roads, let alone drive on them, and
    • To punish Palestinians accused of crimes, or to punish the families of Palestinians accused of crimes.

Note here the destruction of the homes of family members of people accused of crimes. Conventions on torture explicitly prohibit punishing a person for an act a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed. Therefore, these actions constitute torture, as defined by the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

  • Kidnapping of men, women and children. Often referred to as arrests, and including children as young as 10, most kidnapping occurs in the West Bank, as IDF soldiers ‘arrest’ anyone they choose. “On July 2, 2014, 17-year-old Palestinian Mohammed abu Khdeir’s body was found in a Jerusalem forest. In the early morning, three Israelis had kidnapped Mohammed as he was going to the mosque to pray. His assailants beat him and set him on fire. The only reason Mohammed was attacked was because he is Palestinian.”

A report from Al-Jazeera in April of this year states the following, discussing  a 15-year-old boy. He “…is one of more than 100 Palestinian children who, in recent months, have found themselves dragged from bed at gunpoint in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, according to children’s right groups.”

Ivan Karakashian, of Defense of Children in Palestine (DCIP), said that “The goal (of these kidnappings) is to terrify the population so that they will submit and not resist the occupation”. Note again that Conventions against torture specifically prohibit ‘intimidating’ a person for any reason.

  • Group punishment. In July of this year, Telesur reported the following: “Israel will reduce monthly transfers of tax collected on behalf of Palestinians in what aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a response to the killing of two Israelis in Palestinian attacks in the occupied West Bank this week”. Collective punishment such as this are strictly prohibited by Hague Regulations, Article 50; the Third Geneva Convention, Article 87, third paragraph, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33, first paragraph.

Along with Israel, the United States Congress has harshly criticized this new resolution, noting that it only passed because the U.S. abstained from vetoing it. It must be remembered that in 2015, the last year for which complete numbers are available, pro-Israeli lobbies contributed over $4 million to U.S. members of Congress. In the U.S., money takes precedence over such mundane things as international law, human rights and basic human dignity.

With the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the pretense of the U.S. as an honest broker in the Middle East will no longer be viable in any quarter; it has always been a myth, and now, at least, Mr. Trump has dispelled it. The rest of the world, the nearly 140 countries that officially recognize Palestine, must now act to protect it from Israel and the U.S. These other nations must take steps to isolate Israel, as the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement has so successfully done, by making adherence to international law a priority.

During this time, Israeli barbarity towards the Palestinians will probably increase. The world must shine a bright spotlight on all such occurrences, so they can be condemned and stopped.

The Palestinians have always deserved the basic human rights afforded to so many other people. With the passage of U.N. Resolution 2334, now is the time to act.

Notes

1. John Marlow, The Seat of Pilate; An Account of the Palestine Mandate. (Cresset Press, 1959), 26.

2. Marlow, 26.

3. Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. (Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications Limited, 2006), 31.

4. Rupert Emerson, From Empire to Nation: The Rise to Self-Assertion of Asian and African Peoples. (Cambridge, United States: Harvard University Press, 1967), 313.

5. Elmer Berger, Peace for Palestine: First Lost Opportunity, (Florida, United States: University Press of Florida, 1993), 27.

About Robert Fantina

Robert Fantina is an author and activist for peace and international human rights. A U.S. citizen, he moved to Canada following the 2004 presidential election. His writing appears regularly on Counterpunch.org, Warisacrime.org, and other sites. Mr. Fantina resides near Toronto, Ontario.

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2 Responses

  1. HarryLaw
    January 19, 2017, 3:14 pm

    How can any of this be seen as consistent with international law? Answer, it can’t, but that does not matter for the United States who, along with their friends are, at any given moment in time above International Law for all time. When the architecture for the United Nations was put in place by the US/UK, Stalin accepted it with the knowledge that the USSR would also have veto power on any Resolutions, France was added to balance out China. In the event that any group or Individual state should gang up on another member[s] of the five then the veto is used and that Resolution goes down the memory hole, it might be embarrassing, but that’s all it is. This was the reason the coalition of the willing US/UK was able to use aggression against Iraq without France, Russia or China being able to do anything about it. [see http://www.david-morrison.org.uk/iraq/ags-legal-advice.pdf ]. How about the International Court of Justice [ICJ] in the Hague] same thing, ignore any judgement [see Nicaragua v USA ICJ] As for the ICC the ‘Hague invasion act’ should take care of that…The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague. This provision, dubbed the “Hague invasion clause,” has caused a strong reaction from U.S. allies around the world, particularly in the Netherlands. https://www.hrw.org/news/2002/08/03/us-hague-invasion-act-becomes-law. Depressing is it not. It would appear the US [like Israel, Netanyahu did say Israel will live by the sword] want a world where might is right, that may work for a time, or until another state or group of states come along [think Russia, China and Iran] to disabuse them of that notion.

  2. Blake
    January 19, 2017, 5:04 pm

    “The entire enterprise of a Jewish state in Palestine is built upon an express rejection of international law. The only legitimate grounds for political sovereignty of an indigenous people are the laws of ius soli or ius sanguine as recognized in international law, which translates into a right of sovereignty based upon habitation in a particular territory or being a descendent of someone in a particular territory. The third option granting a right to sovereignty would be the discovery of a terra nullius that is an uninhabited territory. Palestine was never a terra nullius, and its inhabitants were entitled to a sovereign state in Palestine as part of Greater Syria, if they so chose, according to the ius soli following the demise of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I in 1917 and 1918. If their children were out of the country at the time of its establishment at a particular time, then they would be granted citizenship on the grounds of the ius sanguine if they had not been born in Palestine or Greater Syria.

    European Jewry did not fulfill either of these qualifications in 1917, when the Balfour Declaration, a document prepared by international Jewish leadership, and addressed by Lord Arthur Balfour, the United Kingdom’s Foreign secretary at the time, to Lord Walter Rothschild, a scion of the leading Jewish banking family in the world, resident in England, was written supporting a Jewish homeland [sic] in Palestine.

    The carving up of historical Palestine to excise the bulk of its territory for an imported unequivocally foreign population at the expense of the indigenous society was recognized not to be a politically legitimate action. Its destructive consequences should have been obvious a priori, and history has proved such expectation accurate. Such an excision has harmed the indigenous population in every and all aspects of its life: political, economic, social, educational, cultural, religious, historical and geographical. The destruction of Palestine, the expulsion of the overwhelming majority of its population and the deliberate and continuing genocidal attacks on the remaining population living under Jewish conquest, only highlights the illegitimacy of the Jewish presence and its continuing aggression against the Palestinians.

    Lynda Burstein Brayer, a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law, is a radical political and legal commentator who practiced human rights law in Palestine/Israel representing Palestinians in their struggles against house demolitions, land theft, and family destruction and in their efforts to obtain travel permits for health, study and family reasons. She lives in Haifa and can be reached at [email protected]

    http://criticallegalthinking.com/2012/11/19/palestinian-resistance-the-political-social-and-human-right-of-self-defense/

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