A Palestinian man waves the national flag near an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Today, January 31, 2013, a three-member UN panel cited Israel as in violation of the human rights of Palestinians and the sovereignty of the Palestinian nation.
Though a legal case was made for the immediate forcible removal of all Israeli citizens from the West Bank, citing the authority of the nations that are signatory to the Geneva Convention and/or members of the International Criminal Court, the real meaning of today’s findings is unclear.
Typically, the United Nations Security Council, a body that has, historically, protected Israel from compliance with international law through American vetoes, is the deciding body in breaches of the Geneva Convention.
However, today’s report cites “grave breaches” of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), particularly involving forced deportation, collective punishment and systematic violation of human rights. Precedent established for tribunals involving Rwanda and Yugoslavia have established universal jurisdiction under the ICC under procedures that are not subject to the political “wranglings” of UNSC politics.
Thus, the establishment today of “grave breaches” combined with the newly recognized status of the Palestinian State, if precedent is followed, opens the door for war crimes prosecutions, something otherwise impossible previously.
Secretary General’s Statement
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that he was in complete agreement with commission findings and reiterated his previous statement that “all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law.”
The Secretary General made it clear that the commission’s findings that Israeli settlements contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territories.
An immediate demand was made for Israel to cease all construction and to withdraw up to half a million “settlers” whose continued occupation has been deemed illegal.
The United Nations was very specific, any and all “settlers” face potential indictment as war criminals.
Israel’s response was to cite the UN commission for bias and to dismiss its findings out of hand.
The UN commission also cited all Israeli companies working within sovereign Palestinian territory as being in direct contravention of the human rights of the Palestinian people and demanded their immediate withdrawal as well.
In a news conference in Geneva, Christine Chanet, the leading judge stated:
“Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights. To transfer its own population into an occupied territory is prohibited because it is an obstacle to the exercise of the right to self-determination.”
Chanet continued, in a frustrated tone:
“We have highlighted states’ responsibility because the facts we denounce are known. The problem is nobody is doing anything about it.”
After the United Nations upgraded the standing of what had been called the “Palestinian Territories” to “full statehood” status after an overwhelming vote before the General Assembly that left Israel with only “luke warm” American support, a door was opened for United Nations action to redress long-standing issues of apartheid and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people.
The report cited what they termed “creeping annexation,” citing over 250 settlements with 520,000 illegal residents now existing on land whose legal owners have been dispossessed “without due process” and in violation of international law.
Yigal Palmor, speaking for Israel, made it clear that Israel planned to continue to violate international law and felt it was not subject to UN resolution, the Geneva Convention or the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Palmor cited “direct negotiations without preconditions” as the only solution Israel would follow but also pointed out that Israel had one “precondition” of its own.
Palmor indicated that god had given Israel all land from the Nile to the Euphrates and that there is clear biblical reference that can never be disputed or discussed.
The Ticking Clock
If the UN vote on Palestinian statehood can be considered an indication, 160 member states of the United Nations may well stand ready to back any Palestinian move toward seeking redress through established international law.
The clear legal precedent in today’s findings removes any requirement for third party mediation or discussions between Israel and Palestinian representatives. In fact, such discussions would be more than absurd.
With the commission citing that war crimes are continuing on a daily basis, representing continued ongoing hostilities of a military force against a civilian population under illegal occupation, no imaginable basis for discussions is conceivable.
As the clock is ticking, there is more at stake than Palestinian rights or the fate of what is now, legally, 500,000 Israeli citizens who are now, technically, “stateless persons.”
Failure to enforce international law, by its own definition, finds the laws themselves subject to caprice and, thus, never to have had standing in the first place.
If we are going to live subject to total lawlessness, then so be it. Perhaps it is time we shed the pretense.