Occupation of Palestine by Israel and violations of international law

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Abdul Qayyum Achakzai |

Abstract

This paper will discuss in detail the violations of International law by Israel while occupying Palestine. The way International Law has been manipulated by the strong nations like Israel, the US and Britain and the loopholes it has which raises questions regarding the status of International Law and the United Nations along with its different bodies. After reading this paper, the reader will be able to comprehend three things, the actions of Israel in Palestine and its actions against humanity, the violations of International law by Israel and the limitations of International Law and its inability to provide protection and support to Palestine.

Israel is a state which has little or no regard for International Law particularly when it comes to the case of Palestine. It has violated multiple resolutions of the UN Security Council, scores of resolutions of the General Assembly and has violated the opinion of ICJ. The effectiveness of the International law is questioned by many when Israel’s conduct towards the state of Palestine is observed and the heinous crime it has committed over decades.

It is every state’s responsibility to respect the sovereignty of another state. Under International law, it is illegal to capture the land of another state, it is illegal to colonize the land that has been captured, it is illegal to force the native people from the captured land but in the case of Palestine, Israel has committed all these illegal acts under the nose of international community and organizations especially the civilized states some of which have even supported and continue to support Israel on different forums and try to justify the crimes committed by Israel.

Main Body

Israel is a state which has little or no regard for International Law particularly when it comes to the case of Palestine

Even though the concept of colony withered away long ago as most of the countries which were colonized gained their independence but the only places on earth that are still being colonized are the  Palestinian territories of Gaza and West Bank. Israel even controls the borders, the airspace and the waters of Gaza.

Throughout the decades-long occupation of Palestine, Israel has violated many International Laws which include the resolutions of the United Nations and the Laws of War and Occupation which are stated in the Geneva Convention and even today, Israel continues to occupy Palestine while the whole world and all the strong and powerful International Organizations continue to watch this show of death, trauma, and destruction

To highlight these violations, a look at the most recent attacks on Gaza provides a good understanding and act as a starting point on how Israel has been violating International law specifically Humanitarian Law(IHL) during the 51-day occupation of Palestine which started on 8th July 2014.

During this latest operation named “Protective edge” carried out against the Palestinians, the Israeli Defense Forces carried out non-stop airstrikes, naval bombardment and heavy artillery were used by the ground forces targeting innocent Palestinians and the majority of whom were children. During this 51 day onslaught, Israel attacked schools, hospitals, mosques and even UN compounds and the general population was attacked mercilessly without any distinction between a combatant and a non-combatant.

During these recent attacks carried out by Israeli forces, 2100 Palestinians died out of which more than 500 were children 70 percent of whom were under the age of 12 and the number of injured exceeded 11,000. During the duration of this occupation, 20,000 tons of explosives had been dropped on Gaza and 17,000 homes were completely destroyed while 36,000 homes were damaged. Due to the aerial attacks and the movement of ground troops into Gaza, more than 500,000 people which amount to approx 30 percent of Gaza’s population was displaced.

The economic impact of this operation was immense on the Palestinian economy. The attacks resulted in the destruction of 17,000 houses, 203 mosques, and 220 factories. The only viable source to make a living for the residents of Gaza was the tunnels connecting to Egypt and a few factories which were the only reasonable source of employment. The major industries were all targeted by Israel which would further add to their suffering in the long term. The reconstruction costs of all this are estimated to be around $7.8 billion. This figure might give you a good idea of the kind of destruction Israel has caused; to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure, Gaza needs a hundred trucks of cement to be supplied daily for a duration of three consecutive years.

The questions arise, how could all these actions be justified by claiming that these actions were taken for self-defense and the point to ponder is that why has the international community been unable to stop Israel from carrying out such atrocities against innocent Palestinians every now and then. The actions of Israel also bring into question the role of International law that whether it is a true law or not and if it is, then why has been Israel able to walk away with all the violations of International Law.

To support my claim, I would like to point out towards some violations of International Law which were made by Israel. During the course of this 51-day operation called “Protective Edge”, a number of legal issues arose. Many human rights groups like the ICRC and UNRWA have claimed that Israel has violated International Humanitarian Law. Israel violated IHL by destroying homes, mosques, hospitals, and factories. Many of these groups claim that actions of the Israeli forces might constitute war crimes.

Even though some claim that Hamas also violated International Law because it carried out rocket attacks against Israel but Navi Pillay, the United States High Commissioner for Human Rights claimed that the Israeli actions were extremely disproportionate to the actions of Hamas. During the duration of this operation, Israel prevented any human rights organization that wanted to enter Gaza to provide help and support to the local population which had severely been affected by the Israeli attacks. This also prohibited them from carrying out an on-site investigation to measure the accurate scale of destruction caused by the attacks.

An investigation by the Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel had committed war crimes on multiple occasions. The United Nations Relief and Work Agency facilities were also attacked by the Israeli Air Force. These facilities were used by the UNRWA to provide shelter to civilians. These facilities house around 10% of Gaza’s population and there was no presence of Hamas inside these shelters. Attacks on these UN facilities lead to the killing of scores of civilians and 10 UN officials were also killed. The U.N. Human Rights Commission said that the Israelis are doing to Palestinians what Hitler did to the Jews and many International lawyers declared the prime minister of Israel a genocidaire. Even though the UN and the US criticized Israel after these attacks but no concrete steps were taken.

The purpose of International Law is to make possible fair and just dealings among the states and to ensure the security of weak to be dominated by the strong. International Law is the set of rules recognized by the civilized states as governing their conduct towards each other and towards each other’s relations and it is considered binding by the members of an International community. As a general practice of International law, if a state acts as an aggressor against another state then it is condemned by the International community and by the International organizations. Most of the times the aggressor has to face sanctions and it loses repute as it does not respect the International law but in the case of Israel, the situation is much different in fact it is the other way around.  Neither the US nor the EU governments have taken any sort of action to hold Israel responsible.

The Fourth Geneva Convention which is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Convention is regarding the rights and protection of civilians in the time of war. To protect the rights of the civilians, the Fourth Geneva Convention is applicable to all areas of Palestine occupied by Israel and according to this convention; all of their rights are sacred which need to be respected. There are 149 articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting the rights of civilians and the Israeli government has not violated a few but all of these articles. A violation of an article of the Geneva Convention is a war crime.

According to the Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Conventions, it is illegal to colonize an area that has been occupied it is also illegal to transfer non-locals to that occupies the land. After occupying parts of Palestine, the local population was driven out from their homes and permanent settlements were built to which hundreds of thousand Israelis were transferred.

The Article 51 of the U.N Charter states that it is illegal to acquire land by force and a Military action is legal if taken only for self-defense. On the contrary, Israel not only occupied Palestinian land by the use of force but also annexed these areas to Israel directly violating the U.N partition plan. It is also illegal to claim sovereignty over the land taken by force. In violation of the partition plan, Israel captured an extra 15 percent of land in 1948 and captured Golan Heights and East Jerusalem after the 1967 war.

Israel also violated the articles 45 and 46 of the Geneva Convention by not allowing the local population to return to their homes after the end of a conflict. The lands of the locals were taken away and they were not allowed to return to their homes or work on their lands. This was a direct violation of International law and many U.N resolutions.

A similar policy of segregation which was used in South Africa against the non-Europeans is in effect in Israel. Israel has a legalized system of discrimination against the Palestinian Arabs and according to the Amnesty International; this discrimination fits the definition of Apartheid. Specific laws are passed that aim to deprive the Palestinian Arabs while giving special favors to the Jews.

 

According to Richard Falk, Israel has illegally occupied different parts of Palestine. The Palestinians are facing a military occupation for decades and they have a legal right to resist the Israeli presence on their land. Even though the world has tried to extend its support to Palestine through UN resolutions but to no avail as Israel has refused to accept all sorts of legal obligations. (Richard Falk, 2000)

In this article, the findings of an International commission are stated. The commission was formed to enquire whether Israel had violated International Law or not. The members of the commission placed their foremost emphasis on the point that how the International community lacks the means of Law Enforcement to prevent a state from committing such crimes. The major powers, previously known as allied powers have been criticized for their inability and their policy of double standards. The commission proposed that all sorts of financial support should be withdrawn from Israel by member’s states of the UN. (Journal of Palestine Studies, 1983)

Israel has violated the International law during the recent attacks as well. There had been no regard for International Humanitarian Law and International Human rights Law. The leaders of superpowers like the US and Russia while making their best effort, only urge Israel for a ceasefire and don’t even issue a condemnation statement whereas the UN is a mere spectator. The UN even though admits that Israel is violating International Law but is unable to take any sort of action. (Orlando Crowcroft, 2014)

The Gaza tragedy is an example of gross human rights violation and the thing most worrying is the lack of concern and passivity shown by the ‘Civilized World’. Ever since Gaza has been captured by the Israelis, they have transformed it into a prison without the roof. The most modern weaponry was tested on innocent people and this weaponry was acquired from the state which calls itself the flag bearer of Human rights and liberty, the United States of America. Despite being the oldest International and regional issue, Palestine issue has completely been ignored while Israel continues to violate International Law. ( Dr. Farooq Hasnat, 2014)

There are some rules of International law which grant immunity to the civilians / non-combatants during times of an armed conflict. This immunity is the high point of International Humanitarian Law. According to the Geneva Convention, Civilians are those people who do not bear arms but still, Israel has never differentiated between the armed and the unarmed and continued to violate International Law. (Michael L.Gross, 2006)

Conclusion

So hence from above all historical and present base arguments and war that has been fought on the land of Palestine with the support of other strong countries and in the light of international law,  it is crystal clear and proofed that Israel is clearly violated international law regarding the case of Palestine.  Israel also violated the articles 45 and 46 of the Geneva Convention by not allowing the local population to return to their homes after the end of a conflict. The lands of the locals were taken away and they were not allowed to return to their homes or work on their lands. This was a direct violation of International law and also of many U.N resolutions.

References

Gross, M.L., (2004). Regulating Torture in a Democracy: Death and Indignity in Israel. Polity. 36 (3), pp.367-388

Hasnat, F, (2014). Six Lessons of Gaza Onslaught. The Nation.

U Boyle, F., (2006). The International Laws of Belligerent Occupation. If American knew

Falk, R, (2000). International Law and the al-Aqsa Intifada. Middle East Report. 217, pp.16-18

(1983). Front Matter. Journal of Palestine Studies. 12 (3).

Crowcroft, O., (2014). Israel’s Gaza campaign violating the International law. The Guardian