Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘international law

Are the Palestinian Territories Occupied?

IMEU published in July 13, 2012

June 5, 2012, marked the 45th anniversary of the start of the 1967 War, when Israel launched a surprise preemptive attack against Egypt and began its military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and Syrian Golan Heights.

Since that time, Israel has ruled over millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories by military decree, granting them no political rights while relentlessly colonizing their land.

Forty-five years on, Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise become more entrenched by the day, leading many observers to conclude that the creation of a sovereign and territorially contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel (i.e. the two-state solution) is no longer possible.

The following fact sheet provides an overview of 45 years of Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise.

INDEX

SETTLEMENTS and their purposes

(Click here for 2012 UN map showing land allocated to settlements in the West Bank)
(Click here for Peace Now’s interactive “Facts on the Ground” settlement map)

Almost immediately after the 1967 War ended, Israel began to colonize the occupied territories in violation of international law, with Jewish-only “settlements.”

The settlement enterprise was established with the purpose of creating irreversible “facts on the ground,” thereby solidifying Israeli control over the occupied territories and ensuring that under any future diplomatic agreement Israel would retain possession of vast and strategically important tracts of Palestinian territory.

The settlement enterprise was also intended to ensure that a genuinely sovereign Palestinian state would never emerge in the occupied territories.

In the words of Henry Siegman, Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994 and former Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations:

‘A vivid recollection from the time I headed the American Jewish Congress is a helicopter trip over the West Bank on which I was taken by Ariel Sharon [the former Israeli prime minister and defense minister and godfather of Israel’s settlement enterprise].

With large, worn maps in hand, he pointed out to me strategic locations of present and future settlements on east-west and north-south axes that, Sharon assured me, would rule out a future Palestinian state.’

In 2011, respected Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem noted: “The extreme change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any real possibility to establish an independent, viable Palestinian state in the framework of exercising the right to self-determination.”

FACTS & FIGURES

‘And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.

Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.

‘The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.’

  • As of 2012, there are more than 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Of those, upwards of 300,000 live in the expanded boundaries of East Jerusalem. In addition, approximately 20,000 settlers live in settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
  • As of 2012 there were some 130 official settlements and more than 110 “outposts” (nascent settlements built without official government approval) in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • According to Human Rights Watch: “Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits… While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp – not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes.”
  • From 1993 to 2000, as Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiated what came to be known as the Oslo Accords, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), nearly doubled, from 110,900 to 190,206 according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Accurate figures for settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, which are mostly built and expanded before 1993, are harder to find, but as of 2000 the number of settlers in East Jerusalem stands at more than 167,000 according to B’Tselem.
  • Settlements and related infrastructure (including Israeli-only roads, army bases, the separation wall, closed military zones, and checkpoints) cover approximately 42% of the West Bank.
  • In a 2012 report entitled “Torpedoing The Two State Solution,” Peace Now, the leading experts on Israel’s settlement enterprise, documented a 20% rise in construction starts in the West Bank in 2011 over the previous year.
  • Israel withdrew its soldiers and 8000 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, however Gaza remains under Israeli occupation according to international law as Israel continues to control all entry in and out of the territory, as well as its coastline and airspace.
  • In 2004, Dov Weisglass, a top advisor to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that the withdrawal of settlers from Gaza (the “disengagement” plan) was intended to “freeze” the peace process, by alleviating international pressure on Israel to take further action, stating,

LEGAL STATUS

  • The pre-amble of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was passed shortly after the 1967 War, in November 1967, stresses “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” The text of Resolution 242, which is the cornerstone of the two-state solution and international efforts to make peace in the region for more than two decades, calls for the “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
  • Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War states that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
  • The Hague Convention also forbids occupying powers from making permanent changes in the occupied territory unless it is a military necessity.
  • In its 2004 advisory opinion that deemed the wall that Israel is building in the West Bank illegal, all 15 judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also found Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, to be in contravention of international law.
  • Successive Israeli governments have argued that settlement building does not violate international law, however a formerly classified document dated September 1967 shows that the legal counsel to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, advised the government of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Disregarding the opinion, in September 1967, Eshkol’s Labor government authorized the establishment of the first civilian settlement, Kfar Etzion, on the outskirts of Hebron in the West Bank.
  • International human rights organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have all condemned Israel’s settlement enterprise as illegal.
  • Numerous United Nations resolutions have also affirmed that Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land in the occupied territories is a violation of international law.
  • In 1979, the Security Council passed Resolution 446, which states: “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

US POLICY ON SETTLEMENTS

  • The official policy of the United States, in line with the rest of the international community, has always been that Israeli settlements are illegal.
  • In 1979, the State Department issued a legal opinion declaring that settlements were “inconsistent with international law.”  However, presidents from both parties have chosen to look the other way more often than not rather than confront Israel over the issue.
  • One notable exception occurred in 1991, when President George H. W. Bush threatened to withhold $10 billion in loan guarantees after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir refused to halt settlement construction to facilitate the start of peace talks with the Palestinians. Under pressure from Congress, Bush relented and approved the guarantees on condition that only “natural growth” would be allowed, a loophole quickly exploited by the Israelis who soon began building at a faster rate than ever.
  • 2003’s Roadmap for Peace called for a freeze on all settlement construction, including so-called “natural growth” and the removal of all settler outposts.
  • Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama began to urge Israel to stop all settlement construction as part of an effort to revive peace talks. After strenuously resisting, in November 2009 Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month partial construction “moratorium.” However, it contained so many loopholes and exceptions (it didn’t cover public infrastructure, construction that had already been approved, or settlements in occupied East Jerusalem) as to render it meaningless. When the 10 months were over, settlement construction resumed as before and a year later, in September 2011, Peace Now reported that in the intervening 12 months settlement growth doubled, more than making up for the partial slowdown.
  • In November 2010, the Obama administration attempted to lure Israel into agreeing to a three-month partial construction freeze by offering a package of incentives including 20 F-35 fighter jets worth $3 billion, a promise that the US would continue vetoing any UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, and a promise not ask for another freeze after the three months expired. Despite the enormous size of the offer, Netanyahu turned it down.
  • In February 2011, the Obama administration vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal, despite the fact that the resolution reflected official American policy as it has stood for the past four decades.

SETTLER VIOLENCE –

(Click here for UN map “Settler Violence Incidents in 2011”)

  • Many settlements like Yitzhar, Kiryat Arba, and Itamar, are home to heavily armed religious extremists who frequently attack Palestinians and their property, including physical assaults and murder, graffiti and arson attacks against mosques, and the destruction of olive trees and other crops.
  • In March 2012, the Guardian newspaper reported that senior European Union officials had drafted a confidential report concluding that Jewish settlers are engaged in a systematic and growing campaign of violence against Palestinians and that “settler violence enjoys the tacit support of the state of Israel.”
  • Under Israel’s occupation regime, Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are subject to the civilian laws of Israel, with the attendant legal rights and protections, while Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, and are granted virtually no legal rights or protections.
  • According to a 2012 report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
    • The weekly average of settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property damage increased by 32% in 2011 compared to 2010, and by over 144% compared to 2009.
    • In 2011, three Palestinians were killed and 183 injured by Israeli settlers. In addition, one Palestinian was killed, and 125 others injured, by Israeli soldiers during clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.
    • In 2011, approximately 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees, primarily olive trees, were damaged or destroyed by Israeli settlers, significantly undermining the livelihoods of hundreds of families.
    • In 2011, 139 Palestinians were displaced due to settler attacks.
    • Over 90% of monitored complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians with the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment.
    • There are 80 communities with a combined population of nearly 250,000 Palestinians vulnerable to settler violence, including 76,000 who are at high-risk.
  • The most notorious instance of settler violence was carried out by an Israeli-American settler, Brooklyn-born Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians as they prayed in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994. More than 100 others were wounded in the attack. In the unrest that followed, another 25 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers. Just over a month after the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, Hamas launched its first suicide bombing against Israeli civilians.
  • In May 2012, Haaretz newspaper reported that the Israeli army was examining 15 complaints about Israeli soldiers who allegedly stood by and did nothing as Palestinians were beaten or attacked by settlers. Also in May 2012, a settler was filmed shooting a Palestinian near Nablus while Israeli soldiers stood idly by.
  • The aforementioned Haaretz article noted: “From the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000 through December 2011, [Israeli human rights organization] B’Tselem filed 57 complaints regarding IDF soldiers who allegedly did not prevent violence against Palestinians or their property. [Israeli authorities] told B’Tselem that investigations have been opened so far into only four of those cases, two of which were closed with no action against the soldiers.”
  • A 2012 UN report documented the rising use of threats, violence and intimidation by settlers to deny Palestinians access to their water resources in the West Bank. It found that Israeli settlers have been acting systematically to gain control of some 56 springs, most of which are located on private Palestinian land. The report also criticized Israeli authorities for having “systematically failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any effective remedy.”

– ‘PRICE TAG’ ATTACKS –

  • In recent years, settlers have begun so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinians and their property in response to Israeli government actions that displease them, such as the dismantling of settlement outposts.
  • The price tag campaign has included a string of more than a dozen arson attacks against, and desecrations of, West Bank mosques. In two cases, mosques inside of Israel’s internationally recognized borders were also torched.

EAST JERUSALEM 

(Click here for 2010 map of settlements in East Jerusalem)
(Click here for interactive “Jerusalem and its Environs” map)

– LEGAL STATUS –

  • Following the 1967 War, Israel unilaterally expanded East Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and formally annexed it. Neither move has been recognized by the international community, including the United States.
  • Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem has been repeatedly rejected by the international community through a series of UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolutions 252267471476 and 478. Resolution 252 (1968) states that the Security Council “[c]onsiders that all…actions taken by Israel…which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status.”
  • Although Israel has attempted to make a distinction between them, according to international law, there is no legal difference between East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories. As such, Israel has no internationally recognized legal claim to any part of East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites.
  • Recently, the Israeli Supreme Court has begun recognizing as legitimate legal claims from Jews to properties in East Jerusalem that were allegedly owned by Jews prior to Israel’s creation in 1948. As a result, at least three Palestinian families and one shop owner have been evicted in recent months to make way for Jewish settlers who claimed ownership of the land pre-1948. At the same time, the Supreme Court refuses to recognize legal claims by Palestinian Arabs to properties owned in what became Israel in 1948.

 

– FACTS & FIGURES –

‘Restricted access to East Jerusalem had a negative impact on patients and medical staff trying to reach the six Palestinian hospitals there that offered specialized care unavailable in the West Bank. IDF soldiers at checkpoints subjected Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances from the West Bank to violence and delays, or refused entry into Jerusalem even in emergency cases… The PRCS reported hundreds of violations against its teams and humanitarian services during the year. Most incidents included blocking access to those in need, preventing their transport to specialized medical centers, or maintaining delays on checkpoints for periods sometimes lasting up to two hours.’

  • Following its capture in 1967, Israel expanded the municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem, which comprised about four square miles, annexing an additional 45 square miles (more than 17,000 acres) of the occupied West Bank to the city.
  • Since 1967, Israel has expropriated approximately 5776 acres of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.
  • Palestinian residents of Jerusalem contribute around 40% of the city’s taxes but only receive 8% of municipal spending.
  • In an attempt to separate and isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West Bank, Israel has built a ring of settlements around its outskirts. This ring has been reinforced by the wall Israel is constructing, which also separates Israeli settlements in and near East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
  • Since 1993, Israel has prohibited non-Jerusalemite Palestinians from entering the city unless they obtain an Israeli-issued permit, which is rarely granted. As a result, over four million Palestinians are denied access to their holy places in Jerusalem, are prohibited from studying in East Jerusalem, and are denied certain medical treatments that are only available in East Jerusalem hospitals.
  • The State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2011 noted:

THE ‘JUDAIZATION’ OF EAST JERUSALEM –

Revoking residency rights and social benefits of Palestinians who stay abroad for at least seven years, or who are unable to prove that their “center of life” is in Jerusalem. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the residency rights of about 14,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians, of which more than 4,500 were revoked in 2008.The encouragement of Jewish settlement in historically Palestinian-Arab areas. While severely restricting the expansion of Palestinian residential areas and revoking Palestinian residency rights, the Israeli government, through official and unofficial organizations, encourages Jews to move to settlements in East Jerusalem.

Systematic discrimination in municipal planning and in the allocation of services and building permits. According to a 2011 report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

‘Since 1967, Israel has failed to provide Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem with the necessary planning framework to meet their basic housing and infrastructure needs. Only 13 percent of the annexed municipal area is currently zoned by the Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built-up. It is only within this area that Palestinians can apply for building permits, but the number of permits granted per year to Palestinians does not begin to meet the existing demand for housing and the requirements related to formal land registration prevent many from applying. As a result, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem find themselves confronting a serious shortage in housing and other basic infrastructure. Many residents have been left with no choice other than to build structures “illegally” and therefore risk demolition and displacement.’

Demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures built without difficult to obtain permission from Israeli authorities. Since 1967, approximately 2000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in East Jerusalem. According to official Israeli statistics, from 2000 to 2008 Israel demolished more than 670 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. The number of outstanding demolition orders is estimated to be as high as 20,000.

According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:

‘Israel usually carries out demolitions on the grounds that the structures were built without permits, but in practice such permits are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled areas, whereas a separate planning process available only to settlers grants new construction permits much more readily.’

  • According to the 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report: “Many of the national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.”
  • According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem: “Since East Jerusalem was annexed in 1967, the government of Israel’s primary goal in Jerusalem has been to create a demographic and geographic situation that will thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty over the city. To achieve this goal, the government has been taking actions to increase the number of Jews, and reduce the number of Palestinians, living in the city.”
  • In 2010, Jerusalem city councilman Yakir Segev stated: “We will not allow residents of the eastern [occupied Palestinian] part of the city to build as much as they need… At the end of the day, however politically incorrect it may be to say, we will also look at the demographic situation in Jerusalem to make sure that in another 20 years we don’t wake up in an Arab city.”
  • Methods used by Israel as part of an effort to “Judaize” or alter the religious composition of Jerusalem by increasing the number of Jews while decreasing the number of Palestinians, include:

DENIAL OF FREEDOM OF WORSHIP

  • Since 1993, Palestinians living in the West Bank have been forbidden by Israel to enter East Jerusalem without a difficult to obtain permit. As a result, millions of Palestinian Muslims and Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza are prevented from accessing their holy sites in Jerusalem.
  • According to the 2010 State Department International Religious Freedom Report: “[Israel’s] strict closure policies and the separation barrier constructed by the Israeli government severely restricted the ability of Palestinian Muslims and Christians to reach places of worship and to practice their religious rites, particularly in Jerusalem.”
  • The same State Department report noted: “The Government of Israel’s construction of a separation barrier, begun in 2002 due to stated security concerns, has severely limited access to holy sites and seriously impeded the work of religious organizations that provide education, healthcare, and other humanitarian relief and social services to Palestinians, particularly in and around East Jerusalem.”

THE WEST BANK WALL: Wall of Shame

(Click here for 2011 UN map of the wall)

In June 2002, under the pretext of security, the Israeli government began unilaterally constructing a wall, much of it on Palestinian land inside the occupied West Bank. (Since 1994, the Gaza Strip has been surrounded by an Israeli wall that cuts off the 1.6 million Palestinians living there from the rest of the world. See section on Gaza restrictions.)

– LEGAL STATUS –

  • In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion deeming the West Bank separation wall illegal. The court said the wall must be dismantled, and ordered Israel to compensate Palestinians harmed by its construction. It also called on third-party states to ensure Israel’s compliance with the judgment. While the ICJ’s decision was an advisory opinion, and therefore not binding on the parties, it is an authoritative statement of the status of the wall in international law.

– FACTS & FIGURES –

  • As of May 2012, more than 325 miles of the wall had already been built, at a cost of $2.6 billion (US).
  • Once completed, the full length of the wall will be between 420 and 440 miles (according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense and B’Tselem, respectively) – more than twice the length of Israel’s internationally recognized border with the West Bank.
  • Eighty-five percent of the wall will be built not along Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 border, but on Palestinian land inside the occupied West Bank.
  • When finished, the wall, along with the settlements, Israeli-only highways and closed military zones, are projected to cover 46% of the West Bank, effectively annexing it to Israel.
  • Critics have accused Israeli authorities of designing the wall’s route to envelop as much Palestinian land and as many Israeli settlements as possible on the western, or Israeli side, while placing as many Palestinians as possible on the eastern side. In total, about 85% of the Israeli settler population is expected to end up on the Israeli side of the wall.
  • The wall also surrounds much of occupied East Jerusalem, cutting its more than 200,000 Palestinian residents off from the rest of the occupied West Bank.
  • During construction of the wall, Israel has destroyed large amounts of Palestinian farmland and usurped water supplies, including the biggest aquifer in the West Bank.

 

RESTRICTIONS ON PALESTINIAN MOVEMENT

(Click here for 2011 UN map of barriers to movement in the West Bank)

  • At any given time, there are upwards of 500 checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to Palestinian movement inside the West Bank – an area smaller than Delaware – hindering Palestinians from moving between their own towns and cities and the outside world.
  • Palestinians are prohibited from driving on the vast network of settler roads built inside the West Bank, which are restricted to Israeli citizens.
  • In addition to limiting movement of individual Palestinians, Israeli restrictions also impede the flow of commercial goods and commerce, with adverse effects on the Palestinian economy and development.
  • According to a September 2011 report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
    • 522 roadblocks and checkpoints obstruct Palestinian movement in the West Bank, compared to 503 in July 2010.
    • 200,000 people from 70 villages are forced to use detours between two to five times longer than the direct route to their closest city due to movement restrictions.
    • One or more of the main entrances are blocked to Palestinian traffic in ten out of eleven major West Bank cities.
    • 4 of the five roads into the Jordan Valley are not accessible to most Palestinian vehicles.
    • Almost 80 percent of land in the Jordan Valley is off-limits to Palestinians, with the land designated for Israeli settlements’ ‘firing zones’ and ‘nature reserves.’ (See here for 2012 UN map)
    • Palestinian access to their private land around approximately 55 Israeli settlements is highly restricted.

GAZA RESTRICTIONS ON MOVEMENT

(Click here for December 2011 Gaza access and closure map)

– SIEGE & BLOCKADE –

‘The prolonged blockade of Gaza, which had already been in place for some 18 months before the current fighting began, amounts to collective punishment of its entire population.‘The Fourth Geneva Convention specifically prohibits collective punishment. Its Article 33 provides: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”’

‘Israel’s punitive closure of the Gaza Strip, tightened after Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June 2007, continued to have severe humanitarian and economic consequences for the civilian population.‘Gaza’s economy grew rapidly, but the World Bank said the growth depended on international assistance. The economy had not returned to pre-closure levels; daily wages, for instance, had declined 23 percent since 2007. Israel’s near-total restrictions on exports from Gaza hindered economic recovery. Due to low per capita income, 51 percent of the population was unable to buy sufficient food, according to UN aid agencies.

‘Israel allowed imports to Gaza that amounted to around 40 percent of pre-closure levels, the UN reported. Israel continued to bar construction materials, like cement, which it said had “dual use” civilian and military applications. Israel allowed shipments of construction materials for projects operated by international organizations, but as of September Gaza still had an estimated shortage of some 250 schools and 100,000 homes.’

  • Since the early 1990s, Israel has restricted passage to and from Gaza, but in 2006, following Hamas’ victory in Palestinian elections, Israel tightened its restrictions severely and imposed a total naval blockade on the tiny coastal enclave.
  • Israel’s siege and naval blockade of Gaza are acts of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law, and is considered as such by the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
  • A 2009 Amnesty International report following Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, stated:
  • In 2011, the UN released the so-called Palmer Report on Israel’s attack against the Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists (one of them a US citizen). The report deemed Israel’s blockade legal, however it was widely considered a politicized whitewash, containing the important caveat that “its conclusions can not be considered definitive in either fact or law.”
  • Shortly after the Palmer Report was released, an independent UN panel of experts released a report concluding that Israel’s blockade of Gaza does violate international law, stating that it amounts to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.” The International Committee of the Red Cross and a UN fact-finding mission into Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla reached the same conclusion in 2010.
  • Israeli officials have admitted that the siege is not motivated primarily by security concerns, but is part of a strategy of “economic warfare” against the people of Gaza. In 2006, senior advisor to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dov Weisglass, said the goal of the Gaza siege was to put the 1.6 million people of Gaza “on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
  • Despite the fact that Israel loosened restrictions under international pressure following the assault on the Freedom Flotilla in 2010, the siege and blockade continue to strangle Gaza economically. According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report:

‘NO-GO’ ZONES –

(Click here for UN map showing no-go zones)

  • In May 2010, Israel declared “no-go” zones within 300 meters (328 yards) from the wall that surrounds Gaza. In practice, however, the UN has concluded that the no-go zone is actually 500 meters (546 yards). Palestinians who venture into this area risk being shot by Israeli soldiers without warning. Numerous Palestinian civilians, including children and the elderly, have been wounded and killed in these areas.
  • Human rights organizations such as B’Tselem have documented dozens of cases of cases in which Israeli soldiers opened fire at people who posed no threat and were much farther than 300 meters (328 yards) from the wall – up to 1,500 meters (1640 yards) away.
  • According to UN statistics, the area of the official no-go zones, together with the area in which entry is effectively restricted due to a real risk of gunfire, covers about 39 square miles, or 17% of the total area of Gaza.
  • The no-go zones affect some 113,000 Palestinians (7.5% of Gaza’s population), causing harm to their homes, land, workplaces, and schools. Seven schools are located in these areas.

RESTRICTIONS ON FISHING –

(Click here for UN map showing nautical fishing limit)

‘In addition to the harsh restrictions on fishing, B’Tselem has documented cases in which naval forces have attacked and harassed fishermen. The documented cases include, for example, gunfire, detention, delay, and confiscation of boats and fishing equipment.‘The prohibition on entering deep waters and the danger now inherent to every excursion to sea deny fishermen access to areas abundant with fish, limiting their catches [to] small fish of poor quality. As a result, it is extremely hard to earn a living from fishing, or even cover fishing expenses. Given the lack of other sources of income in the Gaza Strip, some fishermen are left no option but to violate the prohibition and endanger their lives.

‘The fishing sector in Gaza has suffered a sharp blow. According to various estimates, the livelihood of some 3,000 families in Gaza, comprising some 19,500 people, depends directly on the fishing industry, and another 2,000 families make a living from affiliated industries, such as building and maintenance of boats and sale and maintenance of equipment. The imports also raise the cost of fish, preventing many families from obtaining an important source of protein. Because of the short supply, the price of fish has risen.’

  • In the Interim Agreement signed by Israel and the PLO as part of the Oslo Accords during the 1990s, Israel agreed to allow fishing boats from Gaza to travel some 20 nautical miles from shore, except for several buffer zones near the borders with Israel and Egypt to which they were denied entry altogether. But according to a 2011 report from B’Tselem: “In practice, however, Israel did not issue permits to all the fishermen who requested them, and allowed fishing up to a distance of 12 nautical miles.”
  • Since Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, the Israeli navy has reduced that limit to three nautical miles.
  • According to the aforementioned 2011 B’Tselem report:

PRISONERS

– FACTS & FIGURES –

‘Israeli military justice authorities arbitrarily detained Palestinians who advocated non-violent protest against Israeli settlements and the route of the separation barrier. In January a military appeals court increased the prison sentence of Abdallah Abu Rahme, from the village of Bil’in, to 16 months in prison on charges of inciting violence and organizing illegal demonstrations, largely on the basis of coerced statements of children.’

  • According to the Israel Prison Service, there were about 4424 Palestinian prisoners and security detainees being held in Israeli prisons as of the end of April 2012. According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, there were 4653 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel as of May 1, 2012.
  • Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned upwards of 700,000 Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, or about 20% of the total population of the occupied territories.
  • Those who are charged are subjected to Israeli military courts that human rights organizations have criticized for failing to meet the minimum standards required for a fair trial.
  • According to Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: “Palestinians in the [occupied territories] subject to Israel’s military justice system continued to face a wide range of abuses of their right to a fair trial. They are routinely interrogated without a lawyer and, although they are civilians, are tried before military not ordinary courts.”
  • According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:

TORTURE & ABUSE –

  • Until 1999, the use of torture by Israeli military and security forces was both widespread and officially condoned under the euphemism of “moderate physical pressure.” Methods included beatings, forcing prisoners into painful physical positions for long periods of time, and sleep deprivation.
  • In 2000 it was revealed that between 1988 and 1992 Israel’s internal security force, the Shin Bet, had systematically tortured Palestinians during the first, mostly nonviolent, uprising against Israel’s occupation, using methods that went beyond what was allowable under government guidelines for “moderate physical pressure.” These methods included violent shaking, tying prisoners into painful positions for long periods, subjecting them to extreme heat or cold, and severe beatings, including kicking. At least 10 Palestinians died and hundreds of others were maimed as a result.
  • In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the use of “moderate physical pressure” was illegal, however reports of torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners continued unabated. Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories states:

    Consistent allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including of children, were frequently reported. Among the most commonly cited methods were beatings, threats to the detainee or their family, sleep deprivation, and being subjected to painful stress positions for long periods. Confessions allegedly obtained under duress were accepted as evidence in Israeli military and civilian courts.”

  • Other abusive practices employed by Israel against Palestinian prisoners include the use of solitary confinement, denial of family visits, and forcing prisoners to live in unsanitary living conditions.
  • The harsh conditions endured by Palestinians in Israeli prisons prompted a series of hunger strikes, including a mass hunger strike by more than 1500 prisoners in early 2012 leading to some concessions from Israel. The concessions reportedly included an end to the use of solitary confinement as a punitive measure and allowing family visits for prisoners from Gaza.

ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION –

  • Israel uses a procedure known as administrative detention to imprison Palestinians without charge or trial for months or even years. Administrative detention orders are normally issued for six-month periods, which can be extended indefinitely.
  • Administrative detention was first instituted by the British during the Mandate era in 1945, prior to the creation of Israel.
  • There are currently as of May 29, 2012,approximately 308 Palestinians being held in administrative detention.
  • Since 1967, some 100,000 administrative detention orders have been issued by Israel.
  • Although there are none currently being held in administrative detention, Israeli authorities have in the past used the procedure against Palestinian children as well as adults.
  • Israel’s frequent use of administrative detention has been condemned by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem.
  • An end to the use of administrative detention was one of the main demands of a recent wave of hunger strikes by Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
  • In May 2012, Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch implicitly admitted that Israel uses administrative detention for reasons other than stated urgent “security” concerns, urging authorities to “use it only if there’s a need.”

CHILD PRISONERS

  • As of April 2012, there were 220 Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons.
  • Since September 2000, Israel has arrested and imprisoned more than 7000 Palestinian children.
  • Like all Palestinians from the occupied territories, Palestinian children are subject to Israeli military tribunals.
  • Palestinian minors are frequently arrested in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, taken away without their parents and harshly interrogated without a guardian or lawyer present.
  • According to a recent report by the Israeli NGO No Legal Frontiers, which followed the cases of 71 Palestinian children as they made their way through the Israeli military court system:
    • The most common offense was throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. In most cases the object was not actually thrown, did not hit a target, or cause any damage. In no case was serious harm caused.
    • In 94% of cases the children were held in pre-trial detention and not released on bail.
    • In 100% of cases, the children were convicted of an offense.
    • 87% of them were subjected to some form of physical violence while in custody.
  • Under pressure from human rights organizations and children’s rights advocates, the Israeli army announced in 2011 that it would raise the age that Palestinians are treated as adults from 16 to 18 years of age, however, critics complain that they are still subject to the same unjust and abusive treatment accorded Palestinian adults.

HOME DEMOLITIONS

‘Israel usually carries out demolitions on the grounds that the structures were built without permits, but in practice such permits are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled areas, whereas a separate planning process available only to settlers grants new construction permits much more readily.’

  • Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”
  • Israel has demolished approximately 27,000 Palestinian homes in the occupied territories since 1967.
  • Demolitions are carried out for three stated reasons: military purposes; “administrative” reasons (i.e. a home or structure is built without difficult to obtain permission from Israel); and to deter or punish militants and their families, a violation of provisions of international law that prohibit collective punishment.
  • According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:
  • Since 1967, some 2,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in occupied East Jerusalem. According to official Israeli statistics, from 2000 to 2008 Israel demolished more than 670 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. The number of outstanding demolition orders is estimated at up to 20,000.
  • Palestinians in East Jerusalem are often forced to choose between demolishing their own homes and paying for Israeli authorities to do it.

THEFT & DESTRUCTION OF NATURAL RESOURCES

After taking control of the occupied territories in 1967, Israel began to exploit their natural resources. Most critically in the semi-arid region, Israel began to exploit aquifers and other water sources.

According to international law, including Article 55 of the Hague Regulations, an occupying power is prohibited from using an occupied territory’s natural resources for its own benefit. An occupying power may only use resources in an occupied territory for military necessity or for the benefit of the occupied population. Thus, Israel’s exploitation of Palestinian resources such as water for use in Jewish settlements and inside Israel proper is a clear breach of international law, a position supported by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.

Despite this clear prohibition, in December 2011, in response to a petition filed by Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israeli companies could continue exploiting Palestinian resources in the occupied territories.

WATER –

‘In the Gaza Strip, 90 to 95 per cent of the water from its only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Yet, Israel does not allow the transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank to Gaza.‘Stringent restrictions imposed in recent years by Israel on the entry into Gaza of material and equipment necessary for the development and repair of infrastructure have caused further deterioration of the water and sanitation situation in Gaza, which has reached [a] crisis point.’

‘According to Amnesty International, Palestinians received on average of 18.5 gallons of water per person per day, falling short of the World Health Organization’s standard of 26.5 gallons per person per day, the minimum daily amount required to maintain basic hygiene standards and food security.’

‘Between January and July, according to the UN, the Israeli military destroyed 20 water cisterns, some of which were funded by donor countries for humanitarian purposes.’

‘Palestinian residents reported that water supplies were intermittent, and settlers and their security guards denied Palestinians, including shepherds and farmers, access to the springs.’

  • While Israeli settlers water their lawns and fill swimming pools, Palestinians living nearby often cannot access an adequate amount of water for drinking, cooking, or proper hygiene.
  • In the West Bank, Israeli settlers consume on average 4.3 times the amount of water as Palestinians. In the Jordan Valley alone, some 9000 settlers in Israeli agricultural settlements use one-quarter the total amount of water consumed by the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank, some 2.5 million people.
  • A 2012 UN report documented the rising use of threats, violence and intimidation by settlers to deny Palestinians access to their water resources in the West Bank. It found that Israeli settlers have been acting systematically to gain control of some 56 springs, most of which are located on private Palestinian land. The report also criticized Israeli authorities for having “systematically failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any effective remedy.”
  • According to a 2010 Human Rights Watch report, 60,000 Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank (which is under full

Israel occupation: THEFT of water and NATURAL RESOURCES and DESTRUCTION of homes and properties

From IMUE report of 2012:

HOME DEMOLITIONS

‘Israel usually carries out demolitions on the grounds that the structures were built without permits, but in practice such permits are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled areas, whereas a separate planning process available only to settlers grants new construction permits much more readily.’

  • Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”
  • Israel has demolished approximately 27,000 Palestinian homes in the occupied territories since 1967.
  • Demolitions are carried out for three stated reasons: military purposes; “administrative” reasons (i.e. a home or structure is built without difficult to obtain permission from Israel); and to deter or punish militants and their families, a violation of provisions of international law that prohibit collective punishment.
  • According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:
  • Since 1967, some 2,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in occupied East Jerusalem. According to official Israeli statistics, from 2000 to 2008 Israel demolished more than 670 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. The number of outstanding demolition orders is estimated at up to 20,000.
  • Palestinians in East Jerusalem are often forced to choose between demolishing their own homes and paying for Israeli authorities to do it.

THEFT & DESTRUCTION OF NATURAL RESOURCES

After taking control of the occupied territories in 1967, Israel began to exploit their natural resources. Most critically in the semi-arid region, Israel began to exploit aquifers and other water sources.

According to international law, including Article 55 of the Hague Regulations, an occupying power is prohibited from using an occupied territory’s natural resources for its own benefit. An occupying power may only use resources in an occupied territory for military necessity or for the benefit of the occupied population.

Thus, Israel’s exploitation of Palestinian resources such as water for use in Jewish settlements and inside Israel proper is a clear breach of international law, a position supported by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.

Despite this clear prohibition, in December 2011, in response to a petition filed by Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israeli companies could continue exploiting Palestinian resources in the occupied territories.

WATER –

‘In the Gaza Strip, 90 to 95% of the water from its only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Yet, Israel does not allow the transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank to Gaza.‘Stringent restrictions imposed in recent years by Israel on the entry into Gaza of material and equipment necessary for the development and repair of infrastructure have caused further deterioration of the water and sanitation situation in Gaza, which has reached [a] crisis point.’

‘According to Amnesty International, Palestinians received on average of 18.5 gallons of water per person per day, falling short of the World Health Organization’s standard of 26.5 gallons per person per day, the minimum daily amount required to maintain basic hygiene standards and food security.’

‘Between January and July, according to the UN, the Israeli military destroyed 20 water cisterns, some of which were funded by donor countries for humanitarian purposes.’

‘Palestinian residents reported that water supplies were intermittent, and settlers and their security guards denied Palestinians, including shepherds and farmers, access to the springs.’

  • While Israeli settlers water their lawns and fill swimming pools, Palestinians living nearby often cannot access an adequate amount of water for drinking, cooking, or proper hygiene.
  • In the West Bank, Israeli settlers consume on average 4.3 times the amount of water as Palestinians. In the Jordan Valley alone, some 9,000 settlers in Israeli agricultural settlements use one-quarter the total amount of water consumed by the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank, some 2.5 million people.
  • A 2012 UN report documented the rising use of threats, violence and intimidation by settlers to deny Palestinians access to their water resources in the West Bank. It found that Israeli settlers have been acting systematically to gain control of some 56 springs, most of which are located on private Palestinian land.
  • The report also criticized Israeli authorities for having “systematically failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any effective remedy.”
  • According to a 2010 Human Rights Watch report, 60,000 Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank (which is under full

 

 

How to Help the Palestinians: Join the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement

In the mid-19th century, influenced by the nationalism then sweeping much of the continent, some European Jews concluded that the remedy to centuries of persecution and pogroms in Europe and Russia was the creation of a nation state for Jews in Palestine.

Some of them subsequently began emigrating to the Holy Land, mainly from Romania, Bulgaria and then Russians. The first fertile piece of land was offered by the Ottoman Empire in 1868.

In 1874, there were about 14,000 Jews in Palestine (most of them local Jews, and the majority of the immigrants were from Yemen and Iraq), and about 426,000 Palestinians (far more populous than people living in Lebanon).
http://imeu.org/…

Since that time, the Palestinian people have been subjected to colonialism, ethnic cleansing, massacres and atrocities, terrorism, and dispossession, martial law, blockade, and occupation at the hands of first the early Zionists and then the state of Israel, with a big assist from many Western and Arab powers.

The Palestinians have tried every which way to halt and reverse their dispossession, as anyone would. They have tried revolts, rejectinga partition plan, terrorism, non-violent resistance, violent resistance, working with Israel, recognizing Israel , participating in peace processes, shunning Hamas, unifying with Hamas, maintaining quiet for Israel, non-violent protest, appealing to international bodies, appealing to international law. The result has been further dispossession and regularly-scheduled bouts of grass-mowing by Israel, which is where they find themselves today.

What can we as liberals do to help the Palestinians, and frankly, to try to protect ourselves from the blowback to our government’s pro-Israel policies? I do write to my representatives and the White House even though I’m probably just spitting in the wind. I believe it might helpful to let our reps know there are more of us out there.

However, due to domestic political considerations, until there is serious campaign finance reform in this country, I think it is unrealistic to expect US politicians to take any meaningful stand against Israel.

If we are interested in justice for the Palestinians, and safety from blowback from our government’s stand on Israel, then the only way forward is boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel (BDS).

We the people are going to have to leave the US government behind on this one, just like we did in South Africa. You many recall that the US government clung to the SA apartheid government until the end.

What is BDS?

BDS is a call to global citizens to respond (non-violently) to Israel’s continued denial of Palestinian rights to freedom, equality, and self-determination through its ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation.

On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall of Shame in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.

The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

http://www.bdsmovement.net/…

BDS doesnt advocate for a one-state solution, or a two-state solution. It is rights-based, advocating for the human, civil and legal rights of Palestinians. The campaigns under the movement are: an academic boycott, a cultural boycott, a consumer boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

What Can you Do?

1. Personally boycott products from either the illegal Israeli settlements, or Israel, or both. You can read more at this link: http://www.bdsmovement.net/…
. The movement suggests:

Trying to boycott the products of every single company that participates in Israeli apartheid is a daunting task that has a slim change of having a concrete impact.It makes more sense to focus on optimal targets that are being targeted as part of national or international campaigns.

Consumer boycotts are most effective when part of a broader campaign against a particular product or aiming to pressure a retailer to stop selling a particular Israeli product.

That means we can focus on Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream, Eden Springs bottled water, Golan Heights wineries, Israeli Medjoul dates and other fruits and vegetables from the settlements, HP, Caterpillar, Volvo and Hyundai.

There is also an app available for smartphones call Boycott that lets you choose causes you want to participate in, and then lets you scan barcodes of products to tell you whether the product is aligned with your goals. Freeing Palestine is one of the causes you can sign up for.

2. Agitate for American businesses to stop profiting from the Israeli occupation.
http://www.whoprofits.org

3. Advocate for divestment from corporations doing business with either Israel, the settlements or both.
http://www.bdsmovement.net/…

4. Advocate for an arms embargo on Israel. There is a campaign on now. You can add you name to a list that includes Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Peres Esquivel, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchú and Betty Williams as well as Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, playwright Caryl Churchill, US rapper Boots Riley, João Antonio Felicio, the president of the International Trade Union Confederation, and Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions.
http://www.bdsmovement.net/…

5. Advocate for better coverage of the issue by the main stream media. I don’t believe there is an organization for this, but there should be. Fair.org is a progressive website that follows the media and currently has a lot to say about the coverage of this crisis. The key is to register your complaints with the media as they happen.

6. Advocate for your favorite artists to refuse to perform in Israel (politely) and encourage those who have already joined the boycott. This can be done on Twitter and Facebook.
http://www.bdsmovement.net/…

Successes in the last 18 months

July 23 2014 – The African Liturature Association joined the academic boycott.
http://electronicintifada.net/….

July 3 – Brighton, UK, Sodastream store shuts down after two years.
http://www.haaretz.com/…

June 20 2014 – Presbyterians voted to divest from 3 American business that profit from the occupation
http://www.nytimes.com/….

Feb 2014-Norway’s $810 billion sovereign wealth fund divested from two Israeli companies.
http://www.ft.com/….

The Dutch pension fund, PGGM, with over $210 billion in assets, announced it has divested from five Israeli banks, effective January 1, 2014.
http://www.reuters.com/….

December 15 2013 – The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) announced that it will join the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
http://www.dailykos.com/….

Dec 2013, American Studies Association endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions
http://www.theasa.net/….

May 2013, Stephen Hawking joined academic boycott
http://www.theguardian.com/….

May 7th, 2013 – Oberlin College Student Senate endorses divestment resolution
http://electronicintifada.net/…

April 2013 – Association for Asian American Studies joined academic boycott
http://www.insidehighered.com/….

March 16th, 2013 – Mennonites Divest From Israeli Occupation
http://mcc.org/…

March 14th, 2013 – UC San Diego Students Vote to Divest (non-binding)
http://electronicintifada.net/…

March 9th, 2013 – The Netherlands calls on Retailers to Distinguish Between Israeli Produce and Produce Grown in Illegal Settlements
http://www.haaretz.com/…

Israeli Captains of Industry Fear Boycott
http://www.ynetnews.com/…

European Boycotts Begin to Bite Catching Israel’s Attention
http://www.csmonitor.com/…

The time is now. Please join us.

Will You Join BDS?

  • Yes 66%
  • No 33%

111 votes

No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory

On the 4th day of Israel’s most recent onslaught against Gaza’s Palestinian population, President Barack Obama declared,

“No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

In an echo of Israeli officials, he sought to frame  Israel’s aerial missile strikes against the 360-square kilometer Gaza Strip as the just use of armed force against a foreign country. Israel’s ability to frame its assault against territory it occupies as a right of self-defense turns international law on its head. 

Noura Erakat posted on Jadaliyya this July 11, 2014

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[Smoke over Gaza following an Israeli airstrike. Image by Scott Bobb. From Wikimedia Commons.] [Smoke over Gaza following an Israeli airstrike. Image by Scott Bobb. From Wikimedia Commons.]

[In view of Israel’s assertions that it’s current attacks on the Gaza Strip are an exercise in legitimate self-defense, Jadaliyya re-posts an analysis of this claim by Co-Editor Noura Erakat initially published in 2012.]
A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is “foreign” and poses an exogenous national security threat.
In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law.

Admittedly, enforcing international law largely depends on voluntary state consent and compliance. Absent the political will to make state behavior comport with the law, violations are the norm rather than the exception.

Nevertheless, examining what international law says with regard to an occupant’s right to use force is worthwhile in light of Israel’s deliberate attempts since 1967 to reinterpret and transform the laws applicable to occupied territory.

These efforts have expanded significantly since the eruption of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and if successful, Israel’s reinterpretation would cast the law as an instrument that protects colonial authority at the expense of the rights of civilian non-combatants.

Israel Has A Duty To Protect Palestinians Living Under Occupation 

Military occupation is a recognized status under international law and since 1967, the international community has designated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as militarily occupied. As long as the occupation continues, Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens from attacks by Palestinians who reside in the occupied territories.

However, Israel also has a duty to maintain law and order, also known as “normal life,” within territory it occupies. This obligation includes not only ensuring but prioritizing the security and well-being of the occupied population. That responsibility and those duties are enumerated in Occupation Law.

Occupation law is part of the laws of armed conflict; it contemplates military occupation as an outcome of war and enumerates the duties of an occupying power until the peace is restored and the occupation ends. To fulfill its duties, the occupying power is afforded the right to use police powers, or the force permissible for law enforcement purposes.

As put by the U.S. Military Tribunal during the Hostages Trial (The United States of America vs. Wilhelm List, et al.)

International Law places the responsibility upon the commanding general of preserving order, punishing crime, and protecting lives and property within the occupied territory. His power in accomplishing these ends is as great as his responsibility.

The extent and breadth of force constitutes the distinction between the right to self-defense and the right to police. Police authority is restricted to the least amount of force necessary to restore order and subdue violence. In such a context, the use of lethal force is legitimate only as a measure of last resort. Even where military force is considered necessary to maintain law and order, such force is circumscribed by concern for the civilian non-combatant population.

The law of self-defense, invoked by states against other states, however, affords a broader spectrum of military force. Both are legitimate pursuant to the law of armed conflict and therefore distinguished from the peacetime legal regime regulated by human rights law.


When It Is Just To Begin To Fight 

The laws of armed conflict are found primarily in the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their Additional Protocols I and II of 1977. This body of law is based on a crude balance between humanitarian concerns on the one hand and military advantage and necessity on the other.

The post-World War II Nuremberg trials defined military exigency as permission to expend “any amount and kind of force to compel the complete submission of the enemy…” so long as the destruction of life and property is not done for revenge or a lust to kill. Thus, the permissible use of force during war, while expansive, is not unlimited..

In international law, self-defense is the legal justification for a state to initiate the use of armed force and to declare war. This is referred to as jus ad bellum—meaning “when it is just to begin to fight.”

The right to fight in self-defense is distinguished from jus in bello, the principles and laws regulating the means and methods of warfare itself. Jus ad bellum aims to limit the initiation of the use of armed force in accordance with United Nations Charter Article 2(4); its sole justification, found in Article 51, is in response to an armed attack (or an imminent threat of one in accordance with customary law on the matter).

The only other lawful way to begin a war, according to Article 51, is with Security Council sanction, an option reserved—in principle, at least—for the defense or restoration of international peace and security.

Once armed conflict is initiated, and irrespective of the reason or legitimacy of such conflict, the jus in bello legal framework is triggered. Therefore, where an occupation already is in place, the right to initiate militarized force in response to an armed attack, as opposed to police force to restore order, is not a remedy available to the occupying state.

The beginning of a military occupation marks the triumph of one belligerent over another. In the case of Israel, its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai in 1967 marked a military victory against Arab belligerents.

Occupation Law prohibits an occupying power from initiating armed force against its occupied territory. By mere virtue of the existence of military occupation, an armed attack, including one consistent with the UN Charter, has already occurred and been concluded.

Therefore the right of self-defense in international law is, by definition since 1967, not available to Israel with respect to its dealings with real or perceived threats emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip population.

To achieve its security goals, Israel can resort to no more than the police powers, or the exceptional use of militarized force, vested in it by IHL. This is not to say that Israel cannot defend itself—but those defensive measures can neither take the form of warfare nor be justified as self-defense in international law.

As explained by Ian Scobbie:

To equate the two is simply to confuse the legal with the linguistic denotation of the term ”defense.“ Just as ”negligence,“ in law, does not mean ”carelessness” but, rather, refers to an elaborate doctrinal structure, so ”self-defense” refers to a complex doctrine that has a much more restricted scope than ordinary notions of ”defense.“ 

To argue that Israel is employing legitimate “self-defense” when it militarily attacks Gaza affords the occupying power the right to use both police and military force in occupied territory. An occupying power cannot justify military force as self-defense in territory for which it is responsible as the occupant.

The problem is that Israel has never regulated its own behavior in the West Bank and Gaza as in accordance with Occupation Law.
Israel’s Attempts To Change International Law 

Since the beginning of its occupation in 1967, Israel has rebuffed the applicability of international humanitarian law to the  Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Despite imposing military rule over the West Bank and Gaza, Israel denied the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (the cornerstone of Occupation Law).

Israel argued because the territories neither constituted a sovereign state nor were sovereign territories of the displaced states at the time of conquest, that it simply administered the territories and did not occupy them within the meaning of international law.

The UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly, as well as the Israeli High Court of Justice have roundly rejected the Israeli government’s position. Significantly, the HCJ recognizes the entirety of the Hague Regulations and provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions that pertain to military occupation as customary international law.

Israel’s refusal to recognize the occupied status of the territory, bolstered by the US’ resilient and intransigent opposition to international accountability within the UN Security Council, has resulted in the condition that exists today: prolonged military occupation.

Whereas the remedy to occupation is its cessation, such recourse will not suffice to remedy prolonged military occupation. By virtue of its decades of military rule, Israel has characterized all Palestinians as a security threat and Jewish nationals as their potential victims, thereby justifying the differential, and violent, treatment of Palestinians.

In its 2012 session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described current conditions following decades of occupation and attendant repression as tantamount to Apartheid.

In complete disregard for international law, and its institutional findings, Israel continues to treat the Occupied Territory as colonial possessions. Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, Israel has advanced the notion that it is engaged in an international armed conflict short of war in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Accordingly, Israel argues that it can 1) invoke self-defense, pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and 2) use force beyond that permissible during law enforcement, even where an occupation exists.
The Gaza Strip Is Not the World Trade Center

To justify its use of force in the OPT as consistent with the right of self-defense, Israel has cited UN Security Council Resolution 1368 (2001)and UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).

These two resolutions were passed in direct response to the Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. They affirm that those terrorist acts amount to threats to international peace and security and therefore trigger Article 51 of the UN Charter permitting the use of force in self-defense.

Israel has therefore deliberately characterized all acts of Palestinian violence – including those directed exclusively at legitimate military targets – as terrorist acts. Secondly it frames those acts as amounting to armed attacks that trigger the right of self-defense under Article 51 irrespective of the West Bank and Gaza’s status as Occupied Territory.

The Israeli Government stated its position clearly in the 2006 HCJ case challenging the legality of the policy of targeted killing (Public Committee against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel). The State argued that, notwithstanding existing legal debate, “there can be no doubt that the assault of terrorism against Israel fits the definition of an armed attack,” effectively permitting Israel to use military force against those entities. 

Therefore, Israeli officials claim that the laws of war can apply to “both occupied territory and to territory which is not occupied, as long as armed conflict is taking place on it” and that the permissible use of force is not limited to law enforcement operations.

The HCJ has affirmed this argument in at least three of its decisions: Public Committee Against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel, Hamdan v. Southern Military Commander, and Physicians for Human Rights v. The IDF Commander in Gaza.

These rulings sanction the government’s position that it is engaged in an international armed conflict and, therefore, that its use of force is not restricted by the laws of occupation. The Israeli judiciary effectively authorizes the State to use police force to control the lives of Palestinians (e.g., through ongoing arrests, prosecutions, checkpoints) and military force to pummel their resistance to occupation.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) dealt with these questions in its assessment of the permissible use of force in the Occupied West Bank in its 2004 Advisory Opinion, Legal Consequences on the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The ICJ reasoned that Article 51 contemplates an armed attack by one state against another state and “Israel does not claim that the attacks against it are imputable to a foreign state.” Moreover, the ICJ held that because the threat to Israel “originates within, and not outside” the Occupied West Bank,

the situation is thus different from that contemplated by Security Council resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001), and therefore Israel could not in any event invoke those resolutions in support of its claim to be exercising a right of self-defense. Consequently, the Court concludes that Article 51 of the Charter has no relevance in this case.

Despite the ICJ’s decision, Israel continues to insist that it is exercising its legal right to self-defense in its execution of military operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since 2005, Israel slightly changed its position towards the Gaza Strip.

The government insists that as a result of its unilateral disengagement in 2005, its occupation has come to an end. In 2007, the government declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and waged war upon the territory over which it continues to exercise effective control as an Occupying Power.  Lisa Hajjar expounds on these issues here.

In effect, Israel is distorting/reinterpreting international law to justify its use of militarized force in order to protect its colonial authority. Although it rebuffs the de jure application of Occupation Law, Israel exercises effective control over the West Bank and Gaza and therefore has recourse to police powers.

It uses those police powers to continue its colonial expansion and apartheid rule and then in defiance of international law cites its right to self-defense in international law to wage war against the population, which it has a duty to protect. The invocation of law to protect its colonial presence makes the Palestinian civilian population doubly vulnerable.

Specifically in the case of Gaza,

It forces the people of the Gaza Strip to face one of the most powerful militaries in the world without the benefit either of its own military, or of any realistic means to acquire the means to defend itself.

More broadly, Israel is slowly pushing the boundaries of existing law in an explicit attempt to reshape it. This is an affront to the international humanitarian legal order, which is intended to protect civilians in times of war by minimizing their suffering. Israel’s attempts have proven successful in the realm of public relations, as evidenced by President Obama’s uncritical support of Israel’s recent onslaughts of Gaza as an exercise in the right of self-defense.

Since international law lacks a hierarchical enforcement authority, its meaning and scope is highly contingent on the prerogative of states, especially the most powerful ones. The implications of this shift are therefore palpable and dangerous.

Failure to uphold the law would allow states to behave according to their own whim in furtherance of their national interest, even in cases where that is detrimental to civilian non-combatants and to the international legal order.

For better or worse, the onus to resist this shift and to preserve protection for civilians rests upon the shoulders of citizens, organizations, and mass movements who can influence their governments enforce international law.

There is no alternative to political mobilization to shape state behavior.

Hilarious Letter to George Clooney: Welcome to the extended larger family

 posted the letter of Amer Zahr this 

Following George Clooney’s engagement announcement to Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin, a great portion of the world’s population (all the women, to be exact) were heartbroken by the news.

But at least one Arab man rejoiced, and in this hilarious open letter to the actor, he welcomes Clooney to the family.

Arab Man Writes Hilarious Open Letter To George Clooney About His Engagement
ENTERTAINMENT •  • 

Amer Zahr wrote this letter to George Clooney

Dear George,

Congratulations. Mabrook.

You’re marrying Amal Alamuddin, an international award-winning barrister (for us Americans, “barrister” means lawyer, but I wrote “barrister” because it just sounds so much cooler). And on top of that, she is one of us. You hit the jackpot.

CNN has called her “discreet.” It looks like you found the only Arab woman who wouldn’t blab to the whole world that she is dating George Clooney. Lucky you.

I do have some words of advice for you, from one Arab guy to another soon-to-be Arab guy. Yes, you are not currently an Arab, but you will become one soon enough.

See, when one of our women marries a white guy, she doesn’t become whiter. He becomes more like us. Wikipedia says your “ancestry includes Irish, German, English, and more distant Scottish and Dutch roots.” And you were born in Kentucky. As far as I can tell, that means you’re “really white.” Strap yourself in for the ride.

I have been known to get a little upset when Arab girls marry non-Arabs. But most of the time, they turn those non-Arab guys into Arabs. And when that happens, I’m all for it.

Our culture is strong. It is contagious. And though you are George Clooney, you will not be immune to this phenomenon.

And by the way, there are tens of thousands of Arabs named “George.” My dad is one of them. And it’s not Arabized or anything. It’s just “George.” We just say the “g” a little differently, like it sounds in “beige.” So we will be able to say your name just fine. And you won’t be the first couple to be named “George & Amal” either. So you’ll fit right in.

Let’s talk about a few things.

Get ready to go to Lebanon and explore. We Arabs are extra proud of where we come from. And Lebanese Arabs are extra special super-duper over-the-top proud of where they come from.

Lebanon is a beautiful country and you will have a great time. But movies come to the Middle East a little late, so don’t be surprised if some Arabs tell you, “Hey, I loved you in Ocean’s Eleven.”

They might not even know about Ocean’s Twelve or Ocean’s Thirteen yet. Try not to ruin it for them. Also, while parts of Beirut are more beautiful than any other place in the world, don’t be alarmed if most of it looks like it was bombed yesterday. This is normal in our part of the world.

Also, you are marrying an international lawyer who has represented kings and advised secretary-generals. We Arabs are political animals, and I imagine Amal is no exception.

You will be learning much about the ins and outs of Arab history and politics over the last century. If you haven’t yet, you will probably be receiving some lectures on Palestine. Sit back and listen. You will learn a lot. And it will all be true.

You’ve been in Hollywood for a long time, so much of it may come as a shock at first. This is normal. But you’re not just marrying any Arab girl. You’re marrying the Arab girl who is an expert in international law.

And there’s nothing we Arabs love more than talking about international law and how it has been betraying us since… well, since forever.

And there might be some anger directed at America. But remember, we don’t hate Americans. We just hate America.

And we have to talk about the wedding.

You may have hoped for a small, tactful affair. I wouldn’t be too optimistic. Arab parents like to brag when their daughter marries someone really accomplished like a doctor, a lawyer, or an owner of three or more gas stations.

But this Arab daughter is marrying freakin’ George Clooney! She’s marrying Up in the Air! She’s marrying Gravity! She’s marrying Batman! (Yes, I know Batman wasn’t your proudest moment, but you know what I mean.)

At the wedding, the size of your family will immediately grow a hundred times over. You will become a cousin to more individuals than you ever dreamt was possible. You will hold hands with men and dance in circles. You will need to learn the “change the light bulb” and “windshield wiper” moves. I have a video that might help.

Our weddings can create a sort of sensory overload.

I would go to a few to observe the spectacle firsthand before your big day. It could be quite traumatic if the first Arab wedding you attend is your own. Yours might make “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” look like a private ceremony.

Incidentally, now that you will have an Arab wife who advocates for Arab rights, if you were ever going to run for political office in America, you definitely cannot now. Unless, of course, you move to Dearborn, Michigan, where you will be swiftly elected mayor with 99.9% of the vote, Saddam-style.

Finally, George, you have inspired me. If you can snag an accomplished, intelligent, beautiful, worldly, multilingual Arab genius professional, then maybe I can too.

So, welcome to the family. You’re going to have more fun than you ever imagined.

Sincerely, Amer

KATIE GONZALEZ

Katie Gonzalez is a contributing writer covering fashion and feminism. Katie graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and currently lives in Haifa, Israel, splitting time between academic research and scouting for “The Middle East’s Next Top Falafel Wrap.

She enjoys a hot cup of green tea and a Joan Didion novel to take the edge off her aggressive online shopping addiction. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram: @KatieGonzalez12


via CivilArab.com, Photo Credit: WENN


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