Fighting Lawfare with Weapons
Very few concepts in the Middle East have been more abused than that of International Law. Although even calling it the Mid East conflict, as if the dispute between Israel and neighbours is the only conflict in the region, must come a close second. Even more than genocide or apartheid or occupation, terms that have several possible definitions, labeling Israel as in breach of International Law is a crowd favourite of the Israel Haters.
So why haven’t we made more of an effort to widely publicise the legal grounds for Israel’s activities?
… Until now
Check out the WE HAVE LEGAL GROUNDS Campaign for Israel’s Rights website.
For too many years now, Israel’s true situation has been buried under an avalanche of lies to which there has not been sufficient response. Many people have very mistaken ideas about Israel’s legal rights in Judea and Samaria.
We are working to change this.
The website is a really excellent source both for lawyers and non-legal Israel advocates. Their major current project is persuading the Israel Government to accept the Levy Report, officially known as Report on the Legal Status of Building in Judea and Samaria. This report commissioned by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was released in 2012. So why hasn’t it been adopted yet?
The report came to the conclusion that:
- Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not occupation,
- Israeli settlements are legal under international law,
- Recommends state approval for unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts and,
- Provides proposals for new guidelines for settlement construction.
How could we have a legal discussion without a disclaimer?
That Israel has, in general, a legal right to be where it is should be the basic position of every Israel advocate no matter where he or she stands on the political spectrum. Whether enforcing that legal right is wise, practically possible, achievable in the current international and domestic political climate or should be ceded in a peace treaty are other perfectly reasonable questions for another time.
Denying that right in the areas conquered from the Jordanians in 1967 comes awfully close to denying Israel’s legal rights in the areas held in 1948. That is a basic Arab position but mustn’t be that of anyone calling themselves an advocate for Israel. It’s part of the reason why so many consider J Street to be outside the tent.
With these thoughts in mind it is extremely disappointing to see not one opposition MK on the list of supporting members of Knesset. Only three parties contribute: Likud, Habayit Hayehudi and Israel Beitenu. In particular the absence of representatives of Hatnuah and Yesh Atid grates.
Why can’t the Labour Party accept the concept of Israel legal rights as well? It is as if after supporting them for 19 years – who ordered the conquest in 1967 and built/allowed some of the largest and oldest communities over the Green Line except the Labour-led government? – They now accept guilt for crimes they have never to this day acknowledged†
BBC Hall of Shame
While I was looking for an example of how the illegal under international law claim is abused and naturally I went straight to the BBC’s boilerplate, The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. Not that I know exactly how to go about it but this frequently repeated claim has never been properly legally challenged. Injunction?
While searching I stumbled on a document that was relatively old (probably 2006) but that for some reason I had never seen. The BBC’s absolute insistence on almost always calling a terrorist a militant is well known. What I didn’t know was how much else is written to the specific instructions of the BBC.
So many for instances.
The BBC has decided that:
- Under international law, Israel is still the occupying power in Gaza, although it no longer has a permanent military presence (nor civilian 5MFI) there.
- The general phrase “occupied territories” refers to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and strictly speaking the Golan Heights. However, it is not usually understood to refer to the Golan Heights (unless it is in a story specifically on the 1967 war or Syrian-Israeli relations). (Actually the opposite is true. The Golan is indisputably occupied territories. It is East Jerusalem and the West Bank where there is dispute).
- The phrase Palestinian Territories is not the most accurate shorthand for the Occupied Territories although President Bush referred to “Palestinian territories” in his 2005 State of the Union address. (The Oslo Accords refer to a Palestinian Authority which should trump a speech by George).
It seems to us that when and if the Legal Grounds group convinces the government it should then turn to convincing the media.
- Israel and the Palestinians: Key terms, BBC Newswatch, 23 November 2009
- A Clear and Courageous Voice in the Supreme Court – In Memory of Judge Edmund Levy, Legal Forum for Israel, 14 March 2014
† In the interest of true disclaimer. There is a document floating around the Internet that claims that as early as 1967 the government was placed on notice that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The arguments are almost exactly that of the Israel Haters. While i don’t agree it would be dishonest not to bring it up once i had discovered it. I can’t speak to whether the document is real but look for yourself. Opinion of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Legal Adviser Theodor Meron on settlements in the Occupied Territories, September 18, 1967