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[b]International Law: Applicability and RealPolitik in the Middle East
By: Nisreen Zain [/b]

"It is not possible to continue holding three and a half million people under occupation." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (May 2003)

For the first time since 1948, an Israeli prime minister or government elect has publicly stated what the Palestinians have been crying out for years; that they have been under Israeli occupation; the longest occupation in the 20th century, the second longest being the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

In 1948, when the state of Israel was established in the Middle East, the reason given was that it was the ‘the land without a people, for a people without a land.’ However, the creation of Israel displaced 870,000 people, two-thirds of the Arab population. Nineteen years later, the remaining Palestinians became subject to Israeli military occupation in 1967, when the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, were taken over and occupied. At this time, most of the land was taken for the Jewish people and therefore the remnant Arabs were not entitled to hold the land. Today, most of the land is controlled by the state for the Jewish people, expanded by the frequent destruction of Arab villages for further Israeli settlements. When Palestinian homes are bulldozed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), the pretext given to them when they see their memories, their history, their life-savings and their worldly possessions, crudely torn apart, is that these homes were built without a permit. But permits are only given to Israelis to build illegal settlements on occupied land, yet not to Palestinians to build on their own land. This Israeli policy is being carried out, in direct violation to the U.N. Security Resolutions 242 and 338, the essence of which are the principles of land for peace and the cessation of the occupation. If Israel were to observe Resolution 242 - whose basic tenets are: the inadmissibility of the acquisition of land by war and the right of all states to live within recognized and secure borders – the land settlements problem would not have escalated.

Sommers (March 2003) states that “hostilities would continue even after land is conceded in the West Bank and Gaza.” However, she should note that in 1948, when the state of Israel was founded, 78 percent of historic Palestine that was Arab became Israeli. That has already been conceded by the Palestinians. They are now fighting for the West Bank and Gaza, that together constitute just 22 percent of historical Palestine. Of this 22 percent, the Israelis are still in control of 60 percent of the West Bank and 40 percent of Gaza. Furthermore, the continued deportation of Palestinians has served to facilitate the land settlement problem.

However, even with the current ‘roadmap to peace’, one of Israel’s preconditions is that the Palestinians, who have been displaced since 1948 and are residing in other countries, should not have the right to return. By placing this precondition, it is in violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), that stipulates:

1. Everyone has a right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of each state.
2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Furthermore, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) further
affirms these fundamental rights. Article 12 states:

2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own…
3. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country

Inspite of numerous international covenants and legal bindings, the Palestinians are forced to live a restrictive life; surrounded by concrete walls, fences, barbed wires, with armed guards at the only one entrance that allows only a select groups of foreigners and
Palestinians, with special permits, to pass through. Countless cases of the IDF firing on innocent civilians, school children in their playgrounds, schools and universities being shutdown and Palestinians homes being bulldozed, are but a few examples of the unnecessary military violence that is in direct contravention to international law.

The lack of protection of basic human rights and the dilapidation of positive progress towards peace for the Palestinians, led to the rise of the Intifada and the popularity of the Palestinian militant groups, which were initially seen as the only way of ending the occupation. However, these militant groups are now wrecking havoc and like the IDF, have become an impediment to the reconciliation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Furthermore, U.S. military aid to Israel only leads to an escalation of the violence. Unfortunately, the first phase of the roadmap to peace only addresses the cessation of Palestinian violence and not Israeli violence. For the path to reconciliation to be paved, it is necessary for both sides to end the violence.

Sharon’s agreement of the roadmap and his comments that call for a curb in the violence, are undermined by a parallel decision taken by Israel’s High Court of Justice on April 27th 2003, permitting the use of internationally illegal/banned ‘flechette shells’ by the IDF. They rejected an appeal by the Physicians for Human Rights, an Israeli advocacy group, put forth after the IDF used these razor-sharp darts at a soccer field in Gaza, where children were playing.

For this violence to end, Palestinian rights to be restored and the assurance of Israeli safety, it is necessary for an unbiased third party to ensure that Israel complies with the international conventions and agreements that are applicable, such as; The Hague Convention (1907), The United Nations Charter (1945), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and The Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War (1949).

Who should play host and act as arbitrator to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict is a difficult question. The fact that the Palestine-Israel conflict has carried on for 55 years and the most current Iraq War, illustrates the ineffectiveness of the United Nations. Israel has defied numerous U.N. resolutions – Resolution 181, 194, 242, 303, 273, 394, to list a few - and the U.N.’s inability to exercise punishment has been ineffective because of unconditional U.S. support of Israel. Why has the U.S. who led a war against Iraq because of Iraq’s violations of international law and its inability to comply with U.N. resolutions, never coerced Israel? Why have the U.S. and the U.K. turned a blind eye to the human rights violations by the Israelis since 1948, when they have led two recent wars in the name of freedom and democracy? Israel being “the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid” (Shirali, February 2003) is a clear illustration of U.S. support for Israeli policy. Therefore, it is very valid for the Palestinians to question the credibility of the U.S. with regards to the ‘roadmap to peace’. The Israelis do not trust the Europeans and the Russians and they continue to defy United Nations’ Resolutions. Hence, it is the Americans who can pull the strings of the Israelis and it is in U.S. interests to pave the path to reconciliation.

What is certain is that for any state of reconciliation to be reached, there has to be equity on both sides, which is difficult due to the disbalance in power. However, if freedom and democracy are preached by the hegemonic power and its allies, it seems only ‘democratic’ and ‘fair’ that this policy be implemented in all situations, especially with regards to the long-standing issue of Israel and Palestine.

This article was originally published by the Middle Eastern Reconciliation Forum (MERF) in June 2003.


The following comments are for "International Law: Applicability and RealPolitik in the Middle East"
by nisreenzain

great work!
Great article... I didn't know you wrote for Nisreen


( Posted by: nimashirali [Member] On: July 12, 2004 )

Well, I've been writing for a while now and a friend introduced me to this site earlier this month - it's great isn't it ?

You've got a few good articles yourself, just read them - your mention of the prophecy reminded me of the matrix.

Take care

( Posted by: nisreenzain [Member] On: July 12, 2004 )

I am proud of u Nisreen!
Dearest Nisreen,

Do u remember me? I am Sadia Riaz from English Medium School (UAE), an ex school mate of urs. I read ur article it is really very nicely pinned and expressed. Do write to me on my email address ok & take care Love Sadia

( Posted by: sadia [Member] On: October 1, 2004 )

oh my gawd
omg omg !!! sadia sadia sadia....i was thinking about you the other day..its so so good to hear from you...mail me at - send me your phone number and email address.. we have SO SO much to catch up on..i was just telling people about 'the angraisi mem' the other day.

( Posted by: nisreenzain [Member] On: October 1, 2004 )

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