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The Blame Game: International Law and the Current Crisis in the Middle East

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This briefing seeks to assess the legal position of a response to Israeli aggression and policies towards Lebanon and the Palestinian people.

This briefing is a succinct and accurate description of the war crimes Israel commits in the occupied territories.

Dr. Ilan Pappe, Senior Lecturer, Haifa University

The Blame Game: International Law and the Current Crisis in the Middle East

Introduction

This briefing seeks to assess the legal position of a response to Israeli aggression and policies towards Lebanon and the Palestinian people.

A. Lebanon - Israel

I. Collective Self-Defence

Following the armed attack on Lebanon by Israel which is prohibited under Art.2(4) UN Charter, Lebanon has a right to act in self-defence under Art.51 UN Charter.

The Lebanese government requested the Security Council pursuant to Art. 51 to act and called for a cease-fire. However, the Security Council refused to follow Lebanon's call.

Lebanon has an inherent right to call other states to aide its self-defence efforts. This has been the case for example when Kuwait called the United States for help when attacked by Iraq in 1991. Lebanon so far has not called other states to aide her in her self-defence efforts. If Lebanon makes use of her right to ask for help in the conflict with Israel, these states then would have the right to roll-back Israel's military aggression.

For Lebanon to make use of its right to call for military help, it does not have to announce publicly which states she calls upon, nor how this assistance should look like.

Therefore, any support for Hizbullah defending Lebanon is lawful under international law.

II. Proportionality

Any use of force against Israel must be proportional. The means must be sufficient to stop Israeli aggression. This can include the destruction of installations on the territory held by Israel. This can also include the financial, logistical and informational support of Hizbullah.

B. Palestine - Israel

I. Humanitarian Intervention

All states, but especially neighbouring states might have a right of a Humanitarian Intervention in Israel. Humanitarian Intervention is a contested concept in international law, however Israel's principal allies, the NATO countries, based their military intervention in Kosovo on this principle. Following them there must be a state which caused a humanitarian crises on its own population while at the same time the Security Council fails to take action.

Under international law Israel is an occupying state since 1967. As such it has duties under International Humanitarian Law, Geneva Conventions, international human rights standards and the law of self-determination.

However, Israel expanded its own territory through eating up the occupied territory. It did so through the construction of the Wall on Palestinian territory, which was considered illegal by the International Court of Justice (Advisory Opinion 2003). It further eats up Palestinian territory through building Jewish cities and settlements on that territory and by enacting laws frustrating Palestinians to own land or to return to their homes (e.g Absentee Laws, Visa Regulations).

Israel's state ideology is based on a racial concept of the superiority of the Jews over all other humans. This leads to Israeli army soldiers shooting freely at children, women or ambulance drivers. This racist ideology also leads to laws prohibiting land ownership (e.g. Absentee Laws) by non-Jews. In this sense Israeli writers consider this system an Apartheid system.

With that Israel has effectively put a system of laws and facts into place by which it gradually annexes Palestinian land. East Jerusalem which should be Palestinian is now completely judaicised. The consequence of this is that Palestinian's right to realise their jus cogens (universal and untouchable) right of self-determination becomes less likely the longer this process continues.

Israel also bombs and systematically de-develops its own population it has responsibility over. In Gaza it bulldozed 3000 houses and created internally displaced people and new refugees by the day.

Moreover, Israel is in breach of a number of UN Security Council resolutions and customary international law standards. Israel failed to live up to the UN membership admission criteria (Res.273 III), requiring Israel to allow the 5 million refugees to return to their home and property (Res.191). It also failed to fulfil its own foundation resolution (Res.181 II) reaching from the excessive territory it conquered to the human rights standards it avoids to implement in its domestic laws. Also Security Council Resolution 242 has not been lived up to, requiring Israel to end its occupation. Yet, the Security Council fails to act. The reason for the Security Council passivity is the veto by the United States.

In all Israel is a racist state with an Apartheid legal system; it is in breach of a number of international humanitarian standards; violated the spirit of the UN Charter and avoids to comply with international law for the sake of its ideology to depopulate the Holy Land and to establish a state of a pure Jewish race.

Following this, all states have a erga omnes right to stand to stop Israel continuing in this way. Following this, all states have a right of a humanitarian intervention in Israel.

II. Proportionality

The intervention must be proportional to meet the ends. It must be able to dismantle the web of laws creating the Apartheid system; create a safe haven for the Palestinians in form of the 1967 borders; realise Palestinian self-determination over East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and realise the return of the Palestinian refugees to their place of origin in Israel. This might have to include the temporary occupation of Israel and a regime change to restore peace and security in the long-term. An immediate right of all states is to de-recognise Israel until it fulfils its obligations under international law and to impose sanctions to that end.

Conclusion

In sum Lebanon is recommended to call all states to aid its defence efforts by way of collective defence. Lebanon has an inherent right of self-defence and is allowed to support and assist Hizbullah to defend its country. A Lebanese call for help to other states need not be public and other states can support Lebanese resistance and defence efforts.

The Security Council is structurally not able to defend Palestinian universally recognised right of self-determination and Palestinian basic human rights. Israel is based on a state ideology of racial hatred and implemented an indirect Apartheid system through a network of laws; it pursues a policy of land grab and depopulation of the Holy Land. All states have a right of a Humanitarian Intervention to end the creeping conquest and ethnic cleansing.

The Humanitarian Intervention must be proportional to reverse the Apartheid laws; facilitate the return of the refugees to their place of origin; dismantle the Israeli settlements; create safe havens for the Palestinian people in the form of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

All states have a right to de-recognise Israel and to impose sanctions on Israel until it fulfils its obligations under international law.

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