Tag Archives | Palestine

Israel, Palestine, and Democracy

At Commentary, I have a new piece on the common argument that Israel must make a deal with the Palestinians to save itself as a democracy. Here is an excerpt:

The “democracy” argument has become the central justification of the diplomatic process, incessantly invoked by Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli peace envoy Tzipi Livni. What makes the democracy argument effective is that it plays on deep-seated Jewish sentiments. Israelis are a fundamentally liberal, democratic people who desperately do not wish to be put in the role of overlords.

The problem with the democracy argument is that it is entirely disconnected from reality. Israel does not rule the Palestinians. The status quo in no way impeaches Israel’s democratic identity.

It is true that the Palestinians are not represented in the Knesset. But Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria are similarly not represented in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Simply put, both the Palestinians and Israelis vote for the legislature that regulates them. That is democracy (though obviously it does not play out as well in the Palestinian political system).

The Palestinians have developed an independent, self-regulating government that controls their lives as well as their foreign policy. Indeed, they have accumulated all the trappings of independence and have recently been recognized as an independent state by the United Nations. They have diplomatic relations with almost as many nations as Israel does. They have their own security forces, central bank, top-level Internet domain name, and a foreign policy entirely uncontrolled by Israel.

The Palestinians govern themselves. To anticipate the inevitable comparison, this is not an Israeli-puppet “Bantustan.” From their educational curriculum to their television content to their terrorist pensions, they implement their own policies by their own lights without any subservience to Israel. They pass their own legislation, such as the

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New Paper on International Criminal Court’s Jurisdiction over Israeli Settlements

My paper, Israel/Palestine — The ICC’s Uncharted Territory, has just been published in the Journal of International Criminal Justice. It explains that the International Criminal Court does not have jurisdiction over the oft-threatened and much-discussed Palestinian referral of Israeli settlements, despite the General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member state. In brief, the relevant conduct does not occur “in the territory” of Palestine as required by Art. 12 of the Court’s Statute. Abstract here.

The article also provides perhaps the most comprehensive analysis thus far of the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction, which has thus far not caused much controversy, but could have significant implications for American forces in Guantanamo Bay, border incidents in the Koreas and elsewhere in Asia, and numerous other contexts.

The timing is fortuitous: Nabil Shaath, a top Palestinian official and negotiator, last week reemphasized threats to attempt to bring Israel before the ICC after the current negotiation period ends this spring. OK, not that fortuitous, as such threats come with considerable regularity, and it does appear this is Abba’s next move.

A separate article will explain why such a case might not satisfy the ICC’s requirement of dealing only with the gravest of the world’s atrocities. (I say might, because it is anyone’s guess; though the gravity threshold is a key component of the Court’s jurisdiction, it remains entirely undefined.) Thinking about calling it “When Gravity Fails” but that might be too cute. [...]

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The EU Supports Exploitation of Resources in the Occupied Territories

The Occupied Sawahari Territories that is (aka Western Sahara).

Global Post runs my commentary today on the European Union’s new treaty with Morocco, which does everything the EU has been claiming in its increasingly hostile recent dealings with Israel that international law forbids. The EU’s position regarding Western Sahara is consistent with its practice in Northern Cyprus and elsewhere.

The European Union recently affirmed that there is no international legal problem in signing a deal with an occupying power that extends to the territory it occupies, or from foreign companies doing business in occupied territory.

It did so when it provisionally approved a fisheries agreement earlier this month with Morocco that extends into the territory of occupied Western Sahara, which is beyond Morocco’s recognized sovereign territory.

Moreover, the EU actually pays Morocco for European access to Western Saharan resources. On all these points, the agreement directly contradicts what the EU, in negotiations with Israel, calls fundamental principles of international law.

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How the EU Continues to Fund Settlements in Occupied Territory

The EU recently issued guidelines blocking research and other grants to Israeli institutions with activities (archeological digs, etc.) across the Green Line. In the yesterday’s Jerusalem Post I reveal that the EU continues to actively fund settlements in occupied territory, against their own understanding of international law:

Under guidelines prepared earlier this summer, euros would not be allowed to go to Israeli entities located cross the Green Line – or to those that have any operations there. All Israeli entities applying for funding would have to submit a declaration that they do not have such operations.

Europe claims that such a move – unparalleled in its dealings with any other country – is mandated by international law. The EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories, and thus has an obligation to keep its money from going there. Those who celebrated the move said that Israel is finally paying the international price for its occupation.

Yet it turns out that despite the guidelines, the EU still knowingly and purposefully provides substantial direct financial assistance to settlements in occupied territory – in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, that is. So the EU funds the occupation of an EU member state. . . .

Projects include study abroad scholarships for students at the numerous Northern Cyprus universities (imagine such funding for students at Ariel University!); developing and diversifying the private sector through grants to small and medium- sized businesses; various kinds of infrastructure improvements (telecom upgrades, traffic safety, waste disposal); community development grants, funding to upgrade “cultural heritage” sites, and so forth. They even put on a concert.

Amazingly, this information has never been discussed in the debate over the EU action. On the contrary, academic supporters of the EU measure have falsely stated that “There is no significant difference in the [...]

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The EU’s Israeli Settlement Guidelines and International Law

At The Times of Israel, I have a piece about the new European Union guidelines about funding to Israel, which provide that certain EU monies will not go to Israeli entities beyond the 1949 armistice lines, or that conduct activities there. In particular, I explain that while the guidelines cloak themselves with the mantle of international law, they have nothing to do with international law. Here is the intro:

These guidelines have led to numerous misconceptions from all sides. Concerned Israelis worry that it represents the beginning of an economic boycott. European officials claim international law and a concern for Palestinian self-determination, demand such action. None of this is right.

First, the guidelines do not establish an economic boycott. The rules do not restrict trade between Europe and Israel, or even Israeli companies in the West Bank. Rather, they specify how the EU as an organization chooses to spend its largesse – prizes, grants, and so forth. There is a big difference: restricting one’s gifts saves the EU money; implementing trade restriction would directly hurt its economy as well. In economic terms, a boycott is not the logical extension of a no-gift policy, but rather its direct opposite.

Nor is this about the Palestinians – the rules also bar funding of any organization connected to the Golan Heights. It is not clear which Syria the Europeans think Israel should surrender the entire Golan to, Assad or his Islamist foes, but this broad and unreasonable restriction has nothing to do with “the occupation.” It also has nothing to do with “settlements” in the West Bank; any Israeli institution with a presence in Eastern Jerusalem is blacklisted.

But most importantly, the EU policy is not about international law, which the guidelines repeatedly claim requires such action. Even if one thinks Israelis residing

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Human Rights Watch Director Privately Slurs Israel

The credibility of NGOs like Human Rights Watch depends on their being above and apart from the conflicts they monitor – to not take sides. Human Rights Watch has been criticized by many, including its founder, for giving up all objectivity an adopting an anti-Israel campaign.

Their grudge against Israel has been clear for a while, and David Bernstein has written about it frequently here.

Now, we find evidence of direct personal animus. A news story reveals a private Facebook group whose members include a medley European journalists, NGO officials, and far-left activists. Recently the group turned to discussing an Israeli government report that the famous killing of a Palestinian boy at the start of the Second Intifida was in fact staged. Not only was he not shot by Israel, as much prior evidence suggested, he appears not to have been killed at all. (It would not be the last time Palestinians elaborately staged deaths for PR purposes.)

The issue is not the IDF report, but the comments made about it by Peter Bouckaert, HRW’s Emergencies Director (responsible for civilians in wartime, according to his twitter page). He wrote: “Typical IDF lies. As usual, it takes them a long time to really build up the falsehood.”

He goes on the complain that the New York Times coverage of the Israeli report will be used by supporters of Israel.

I previously criticized HRW for releasing reports on alleged Israeli crimes without waiting for the IDF’s comments - now we know: why wait for a “typical lies” that just build up the more time they get? Seriously, HRW should reveal what reports the “emergencies director” was involved in writing.

Academic writing on human rights and international law often treats groups like HRW as custodians of the truth, and [...]

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Landmark French Ruling on West Bank Construction and International Law

In an important but largely ignored case, a French Court of Appeals in Versailles ruled last week that construction of a light rail system in the Israeli-controlled West Bank by a French company does not violate international law. In doing so, the court sided with many of the arguments long made against the blanket application of the relevant provisions of the Geneva Conventions to Israeli settlements. National courts rarely if ever address such issues, and thus the decision is important both for its rarity and for what it says.

In this post, I’ll address issues relevant to the substance – Israel’s presence in the West Bank. In the next post I’ll deal with the “Kiobel” issues raised by the case – corporate liability, the value of American ATS cases, and so forth. I should note at the outset that what follows is based on a rough translation of the opinion and my vague French; I would be grateful for corrections on matters of language that I have misapprehended. I venture forward because it is an important decision that deserves attention, yet has been met by complete silence by international legal scholars.

The Jerusalem Light Rail, which began running last year after a long period of construction, links the Western part of the city with the parts occupied by Jordan prior to and annexed by Israel after the 1967 War. The project was widely criticized by pro-Palestinian groups, as was the participation of French rail companies in the project. Along with a variety of political pressure and boycott activities, a Palestinian group sued the French-based multinational conglomerate Alstom Transport for its role in in the project. The case was dismissed below in 2011, and the Court of Appeals upheld the decision last week.

Crucially, the Court held that only the [...]

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BREAKING: Obama White House Describes West Bank as Part of Israel

In describing President Obama’s itinerary during his trip to Israel and Jordan next week, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes conceded that the Jewish connection to the West Bank is as strong as it is to Israel, and indeed, spoke of the two interchangeably:

Thursday, the President will begin by going to the Israel Museum. At the Israel Museum, he will view the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are a testament, of course, to the ancient Jewish connection to Israel and, frankly, a marvel that the Israelis have restored within the Israel Museum in a very substantial, impressive way. So the President very much looks forward to the opportunity to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in the Qumran caves in 1947, when it was part of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. Thus the White House seems to recognize that Israel’s history and borders are rooted in the Mandate – what happened in the “West Bank” in 1947 is somehow “connected” to Israel.

Moreover, most the the scrolls were recovered in the the 1950s, after this portion of the Mandate was illegally invaded and occupied by the Jordan. To put it simply, the Dead Sea Scrolls are from the West Bank, otherwise known as “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The Dead Sea Scrolls, one might say, are written by settlers.

And if it were not for Israel’s victory in 1967, the Dead Sea Scrolls would not be in the Israel Museum.

By describing the Dead Sea Scrolls as evidence of the ancient Jewish connection with “Israel” (and by accepting the validity of their placement in the Israel Museum), the Administration implicitly acknowledges the arbitrariness of distinguishing between Israel’s presence at the Dead Sea and in Tel Aviv.

No doubt this was an [...]

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Hans Kelsen on Occupation of Non-sovereign territory

The Geneva Convention is generally thought to apply to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank – that portion of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine previously occupied by the Jordan. This is important because the legal argument against settlements is that they violate Art. 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a provision which did not reflect prior international law.

Art. 2 of the Convention provides:

In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace-time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.

The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.

Because the West Bank was not part of the sovereign “territory of a High Contracting Party” (or of any country) in 1967, and Israel has argued that “occupation” within the meaning of the Convention can only exist in such territory. Of course, most international lawyers disagree, though in the years after 1967, some very prominent ones agreed.

What is more interesting is what people thought the provision meant before 1967, that is, before they knew the identity of the alleged violator. There is very little written on this, and few have looked at pre-1967 sources. However, one quite serious (pro-Israel) blogger has unearthed this intriguing discussion from Hans Kelsen in 1952, which clearly does not assume that the occupation of non-sovereign territory has the same consequences as the occupation of sovereign territory:

The principle that enemy territory occupied by a belligerent in course of war remains the territory of

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Turkey’s Settlements, the ICC, and European Vacation-makers

In a press conference recently, Mahmoud Abbas threatened to use Palestine’s G.A.-recognized “state” status to challenge Israel’s settlements in the International Criminal Court. He picked a most unlikely venue for the presser – Ankara, in a joint conference with the the Turkish president. The absurdity of this is that Turkey continues to occupy northern Cyprus, and is responsible for a massive settlement program there.

I’ve written before about “other countries’ settlements,” but one might think that an increasing discussion of Israel’s civilian communities in prosecutorial terms would increase the discusion of other (often more blatant) violations of the same international norm. Not quite.

Cyprus was a state with clear borders when Turkey invaded in 1974, and is a charter member of the ICC. If anyone should be loosing sleep over settlements suits in the ICC, it would be Turkey. Interestingly, no one has suggested in the past decade that Cyprus’s ICC membership would scare the Turks out of N. Cyprus, or get the Turks to agree to a peace deal). But a referral by Cyprus would not face the various thorny temporality and territoriality issues of a Palestinian complaint. Moreover, Cyprus is a particularly gross case of changing the demographics of occupied territory through settlement, with settlers now outnumbering protected persons n the territory.

Apart from the manifest hypocrisy, what should be disappointing for believers in international humanitarian law is the failure of anyone to call Abbas (or Erdogan) on it. I am not aware of any news, NGO, or governmental response pointing out the unseemliness of Abbas invoking the ICC from Ankara.

But it turns out that Europeans have for the past decade taken a different kind of interest in the Turkish occupation, as Dore Gold reports. Priced out of the French Riviera and Amalfi [...]

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The ICC and the Territory of Palestine

The General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a state (which I’ve discussed previously) is widely regard as having the central upshot of facilitating a case against Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court. Indeed, Prime Minister Abbas has already threatened such action in regard to Israeli settlements – which are said to constitute an unlawful “deportation or transfer” of Israeli civilians into occupied territory.

Yet the GA’s recognition of Palestine’s statehood does not establish that the Israeli civilian population centers are “on its territory,” a basic requirement for ICC jurisdiction, as I explain today in a post an the European Journal of International Law’s blog. Here is part of it:

The mere fact of Israeli occupation does not make the territory part of Palestinian sovereign borders… the dominant interpretation of the Geneva Conventions is that an “occupation” can arise even in an area that is not the territory of any state. Yet even if Israel is an occupying power throughout the West Bank for the purposes of substantive humanitarian law, this does not establish that settlement activity occurs “on the territory” of the Palestinian state.

To put it differently, even if violating the Geneva-based norm of transfer need not take place in the territory of a state, it still must be “on the territory” of a state for the ICC to have jurisdiction, as the ICC exercises delegated territorial jurisdiction. This is consistent with the respective roles of the Geneva Conventions and the ICC. The Conventions, which have near universal adherence, are interpreted broadly because of a desire to not have gaps in coverage. With the ICC, which has a limited and particular jurisdiction, gaps in jurisdictional coverage are inherent.

I am working on a longer article on the jurisdictional issues that would be raised by a [...]

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Palestine, Contiguity and the Absolute Truth

I previously wrote of the manifestly false claims made by world leaders, and parroted as fact by the New York Times, that Israel’s permitting Jewish civilians to live in the area of Maaleh Admumim closest to Jerusalem cuts a potential Palestinian state in half. Some commentators went to far as to suggest I apologize to the New York Times. Instead, it is they who apologized – or rather corrected – their news pieces on the subject. Twice in three days.

Here is part of it: “the proposed development would not, technically, make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.” I love the “technically,” as if people reading the Times do not think they are getting the “technical” truth but rather the “absolute truth,” as executive editor Jill Abramson memorably put it.

Of course, the putative Palestinian State would have odd borders. But so would Israel. If you make two states between the river and the sea, it is likely no one will be driving straight for long, but that has been clear since the General Assembly’s proposed partiton plan in 1947, which manifestly contemplated massive discontiguities all around. Indeed, lots of states are not contiguous, sometimes massively so, and get along fine. The U.S. is one, Israel 1949-67 was another. Belgium and Holland have a truly amazing number of extraterritorial enclaves and exclaves. It seems if nations have peaceable relations, some kinks in contiguity can be dealt with. If they are at each other’s throats, they could exacerbate tensions, and not be discontiguous for long (can anyone spell Nagorno-Karabakh? No seriously, can anyone spell it?). But since we are told that Israeli withdrawals from territory will create Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, we can assume we are dealing with the former case. [...]

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What the UN Palestine Vote Means and What It Doesn’t

1) It should be no surprise that 130-odd countries took the rather technical step of of voting recognize Palestine as a “non-member” in the U.N. General Assembly. That is roughly the number of countries that already directly recognize Palestine as a state! If they have already actually recognized the state themselves, voting to extend such recognition for some particular purpose is hardly precedent-making. (Palestine’s international-recognition level rivals Israel’s.)

2) The apparent diplomatic victory is itself a consolation prize for the collapse of Abbas’ bid last year for actual U.N. membership for Palestine, which was rejected at the Security Council. If that effort was to be a “diplomatic tsunami,” as Israel’s defense minister warned, the current ploy is at most a chill breeze.

3) The vote must be seen in the context of a long history of past anti-Israel resolutions in the GA. These illustrate both the automatic majority such resolutions enjoy, and their unimportance to actual events. For example, in the 1970s, the parliament of nations overwhelmingly agreed that Zionism is a form a racism, and thus the entire country is illegitimate. In 2009, the GA adopted a resolution that concluded Israel intentionally sought to slaughter innocent Palestinian civilians in the Gaza War – a resolution based on the Goldstone report, which has since been retracted by its eponymous author.

4) There is nothing new even in the European position. Since 1980 Europe has maintained that the lands occupied by Jordan and Egypt in their 1948-49 war against Israel is actually
“Palestinian territory,” which Israel must leave. The European votes are consistent with their accord with almost all major Palestinian demands.

5) The theory that some European votes were motivated by the recent Gaza campaign shows that Israel can’t just win. It gets rocketed when it leaves territory, [...]

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Israel’s Borders and International Law

This is a talk I gave this summer to a group of Jewish college students, which in broad strokes outlines the international law reasons the West Bank cannot be considered “Palestinian territory,” independent of the political or equitable merits of creating a Palestinian state there.


Watch on TorahCafé.com!

Please watch the whole thing before commenting.

Hopefully I say more more to say soon on the Palestinian statehood vote (I’m shopping around an op-ed on the subject). [...]

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