Tag Archives: Israel

Investigating Israeli Criminality at the International Criminal Court (ICC)

31 Mar

Investigating Israeli Criminality at the International Criminal Court (ICC)

 

[Prefatory Note: What is posted below is an Amicus Brief submitted to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on 16 March 2020 in the jurisdictional phase of a proceeding in which to initiate such a legal proceeding and whether the ICC has jurisdiction, that is, legal authority to investigate and possibly prosecute such alleged. As the Prosecutor indicated, the facts at her disposal indicate a basis for accepting Palestine’s request forPearce  an investigation of alleged Israeli criminal conduct on three clusters of issues: (1) military operations in Gaza in 2014, (2) unlawful aspects of Israeli settlements, aand (3) use of excessive force against protesters at the Gaza border in The Great March of Return. The focus of this procedural phase is whether Palestine is ‘a State’ in relation also suggest evidence of criminal behavior by Hamas that she believes within her jurisdictional orbit. The ICC has deferred further proceedings in view of the COVIS-19 pandemic, which has led to protests from concerned NGO groups and activists. The brief was prepared with major research assistance from Pearce Clancy and Susan Power of Al Haq for which I am extremely grateful. In the background is the undisguised and bitter hostility of the Government of Israel and its political leaders to Palestine for seeking an international assessment of their contention of Israeli criminality almost as if a legal challenge to Israeli impunity is itself immoral. The United States vents its fury and threats in an analogous manner at the ICC because it had the temerity to agree to investigate charges of U.S, war crimes in Afghanistan. There will be no global rule of law so long as geopolitical actors are made the beneficiaries of double standards in the application and implementation of international law. Earlier the ICC was almost solely preoccupied with allegations involving Africa, and there was an understandable African complaint that its countries were being singled out, while criminality of the West was not even investigated. While this turn by the ICC angering Israel and the United States delegitimizes the ICC for the hegemonic West, it lends the ICC much needed legitimacy among many non-Western States and most human rights NGOs.]   

 

 

Original: English

No.: ICC-01/18
Date: 16 March 2020

Before:

Judge Péter Kovács, Presiding Judge
Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut
Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou

SITUATION IN THE STATE OF PALESTINE

Professor Richard Falk

PRE-TRIAL CHAMBER I

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Public
Amicus Curiae Submissions Pursuant to Rule 103

Source:

No. ICC-01/18 1/29 16 March 2020

Document to be notified in accordance with regulation 31 of the Regulations of the Court to:

The Office of the Prosecutor

Ms Fatou Bensoua, Prosecutor
Mr James Stewart, Deputy Prosecutor

Legal Representatives of the Victims

Unrepresented Victims

The Office of Public Counsel for Victims

Paolina Massida

States’ Representatives

The competent authorities of the State of Palestine

REGISTRY

Counsel for the Defence

Legal Representatives of the Applicants

Unrepresented Applicants (Participation/Reparation)

The Office of Public Counsel for the Defence

Amicus Curiae

  • ·
  • ·
  • ···
  • ····
  • ·

Professor John Quigley
Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers
The European Centre for Law and Justice
Professor Hatem Bazian
The Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust
The Czech Republic
The Israel Bar Association
Professor Richard Falk
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation
The Lawfare Project, the Institute for NGO Research, Palestinian Media Watch, and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
MyAQSA Foundation
Professor Eyal Benvenisti
The Federal Republic of Germany Australia
UK Lawyers for Israel, B’nai B’rith UK, the International Legal Forum, the Jerusalem Initiative and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre
The Palestinian Bar Association
Prof. Laurie Blank, Dr. Matthijs de Blois, Prof. Geoffrey Corn, Dr. Daphné Richemond- Barak, Prof.

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No. ICC-01/18

2/29

16 March 2020

Gregory Rose, Prof. Robbie Sabel, Prof. Gil Troy and Mr. Andrew Tucker The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists

Professor Asem Khalil and Assistant Professor Halla Shoaibi
Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center Todd F. Buchwald and Stephen J. Rapp

Intellectum Scientific Society
The International Commission of Jurists
Dr. Robert Heinsch and Dr. Giulia Pinzauti
The Republic of Austria
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers
The Office of Public Counsel for the Defence
The Honourable Professor Robert Badinter, the Honourable Professor Irwin Cotler, Professor David Crane, Professor Jean-François Gaudreault- DesBiens, Lord David Pannick and Professor Guglielmo Verdirame
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Mankind, Al- Mezan Center for Human Rights and Aldameer Association for Human Rights
The Federative Republic of Brazil Professor Malcolm N Shaw
Hungary
Ambassador Dennis Ross
The International Federation for Human Rights, No Peace Without Justice, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and REDRESS Professor William Schabas International-Lawyers.org
The League of Arab States
Me Yael Vias Gvirsman
The Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad
The Israel Forever Foundation
Dr. Frank Romano
Dr. Uri Weiss
The Republic of Uganda

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No. ICC-01/18 3/29

16 March 2020

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Registrar Counsel Support Section

Peter Lewis

Victims and Witnesses Unit Detention Section

Victims Participation and Reparations Other Section
Philipp Ambach

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  1. Introduction
  1. Following the submission of an application for leave to submit as part of the present proceedings,1 and its subsequent acceptance by this Chamber,2 this amicus curiae submission will address the question directed to the Chamber, namely that of the territorial jurisdiction of the Court in a future investigation into the Situation in Palestine.3
  2. Mindful of the fact that a pronouncement by the Chamber on the question of jurisdiction at this stage is controversial,4 this amicus argues that should a ruling be made at this stage, it must recognise the jurisdiction of the State of Palestine as pertaining to the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory, comprising the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The legal argument will be presented in two stages. Section II will deal with the underlying question of Palestinian statehood under international law, noted as a prerequisite for invoking the jurisdiction of this Court by the State of Palestine, arguing that the Court should be satisfied that Palestine’s status as a State for the purposes of the Court’s statutory framework allows exercise of such authority, and that the principles of interpretation by which the Court operates mandates such a conclusion. Section III will regard the question of statehood as resolved, and address the territorial jurisdiction of each component of

1 Richard Falk, Request for Leave to File Submission Pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (13 February 2020) ICC-01/18-24.

2 ICC, Decision on Applications for Leave to File Observations Pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (20 February 2020) ICC-01/18, para 55, 56.

3 See ICC, Prosecution request pursuant to article 19(3) for a ruling on the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine (22 January 2020) ICC-1/18-12 (henceforth the “Request”) at para 220.

4 ICC, Request Under Regulation 46(3) of the Regulations of the Court: Decision on the “Prosecution’s Request for a Ruling on Jurisdiction under Article 19(3) of the Statute (6 September 2018) ICC-RoC46(3)-01/18, para 27; ICC, Partially Dissenting Opinion of Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut (6 September 2018) ICC- RoC46(3)-01/18-37-Anx; see, however, Anthony Abato, ‘False Positives, False Negatives, and Prosecutorial Discretion regarding the Jurisdiction of the ICC (9 March 2020), available at: https://www.ejiltalk.org/false- positives-false-negatives-and-prosecutorial-discretion-regarding-the-jurisdiction-of-the-icc/: “When faced with difficult jurisdictional questions, such as those in the Situation in the State of Palestine, the PTC should not shy away. It now has the opportunity to conduct an open, participatory proceeding capable of providing legal certainty to those involved. Ultimately, if the PTC finds in favour of the Prosecutor, its ruling will remove the perceived arbitrariness that may otherwise unduly cast a shadow over the Prosecutor’s decision to investigate.”

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occupied Palestinian territory, arguing that the Court’s jurisdiction extends to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

  1. The Issue of Statehood
  1. While recognising the scope set by the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) within which amici curiae have been requested to abide, I concur with the recognition by the Prosecutor that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction over the territory belonging to the State of Palestine is contingent upon the legitimacy of that State’s claim to statehood.5 Accordingly, and as outlined in the Request for Leave pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence,6 this section will provide a brief analysis of the question of Palestinian statehood within the framework of the Rome Statute.7
  2. It is submitted that as a matter of substantive international law, Palestinian statehood has been resolved. While not indicative of statehood in and of itself,8 the recognition thereof by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in Resolution 67/19 of 4 December 20129 is indicative of widespread academic opinion and State practice.10 Also highly relevant, the

5 Request at para 7; see also Article 12, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (adopted 17 July 1998, entry into force 1 July 2002) 2187 UNTS 3 (henceforth the “Rome Statute”).

6 ICC, Rules of Evidence and Procedure (2nd edn, 2013).
7 See Richard Falk, Request for Leave to File Submission Pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and

Evidence (13 February 2020) ICC-01/18-24, at para 4.

8 Valentina Azarov and Chantal Meloni, ‘Disentangling the Knots: A comment on Ambos’ ‘Palestine, ‘Non- Member Observer’ Status and ICC Jurisdiction’’ (27 May 2014) EJIL:Talk!, available at: https://www.ejiltalk.org/disentangling-the-knots-a-comment-on-ambos-palestine-non-member-observer-status- and-icc-jurisdiction/#more-10954; it has been compellingly argued that the modern Palestinian State long pre- dates recognition by the General Assembly, see, inter alia, Victor Kattan, ‘Muddying the Waters: A Reply to Kay and Kern on the Statehood of Palestine and the ICC – Part I’ (9 August 2019) Opinio Juris, available at: https://opiniojuris.org/2019/08/09/muddying-the-waters-a-reply-to-kay-and-kern-on-the-statehood-of-palestine- and-the-icc-part-i/; Victor Kattan, ‘Muddying the Waters Still Further: A Response to Steven Kay and Joshua Kern’ (20 August 2019) Opinio Juris, available at: https://opiniojuris.org/2019/08/20/muddying-the-waters-still- further-a-response-to-steven-kay-and-joshua-kern/.

9 UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19 (4 December 2012) UN Doc. A/RES/67/19 at para 2: “[d]ecides to accord to Palestine non-member observer State status” (emphasis added).

10 See, inter alia, John Quigley, ‘ICC and Palestine Symposium: General Assembly Resolution 67/19 and Palestine as a State before the ICC’ (5 February 2020) Opinio Juris, available at: https://opiniojuris.org/2020/02/05/icc-and-palestine-symposium-general-assembly-resolution-67-19-and- palestine-as-a-state-before-the-icc/, arguing that Resolution 67/19 was conclusive; also John Quigley, ‘Palestine is a State so the Consent Declaration is a Valid Basis for Investigation by the ICC’ in Richard H Steinberg (ed), Contemporary Issues Facing the International Criminal Court (Bril Nijhoff, 2016).

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State of Palestine has been diplomatically recognised by a reported 140 States,11 has been afforded full membership of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),12 inducted into the Court’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP),13 recognised and been reviewed by UN human rights treaty bodies, including the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in July 201814, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in August 201915, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in January 202016, and soon the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT)17, as being capable of conferring jurisdiction under the relevant international human rights treaties, while it has further acceded to myriad international

11 As reported in UN General Assembly, Report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (4 August 2019) UN Doc A/74/35, para 17.

12 UNESCO, General Conference admits Palestine as UNESCO Member (31 October 2011), available at:

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single- view/news/general_conference_admits_palestine_as_unesco_member/; UNESCO, Records of the General Conference, 36th session (25 October-10 November 2011) VI General Resolutions, at para 76; note also that considerable weigh has been put on Palestine’s status as a UNESCO member, see Jure Vidmar, ‘Palestine v United States: Why the ICJ does not need to decide whether Palestine is a state’ (22 November 2018) available at: https://www.ejiltalk.org/palestine-v-united-states-why-the-icj-does-not-need-to-decide-whether-palestine-is- a-state/; William Schabas, ‘Relevant Depositary Practice of the Secretary-General and its Bearing on Palestinian Accession to the Rome Statute’ (3 November 2011) PhD studies in human rights, available at: http://humanrightsdoctorate.blogspot.com/2011/11/relevant-depositary-practice-of.html; Michael Kearney, ‘The Situation in Palestine’ (5 April 2012) Opinio Juris, available at: http://opiniojuris.org/2012/04/05/the-situation- in-palestine/.

13 ICC, Welcoming ceremony for a new State Party: State of Palestine (1 April 2015).

14 See Article 25, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (adopted 18 December 1979, entry into force 3 September 1981) 1249 UNTS 13: “The present Convention shall be open for signature by all States”; see also CEDAW, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (25 July 2018) UN Doc CEDAW/C/PSE/CO/1.

15 See Article 17(1), International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (adopted 7 March 1966, entry into force 4 January 1969) 660 UNTS 195 (henceforth “ICERD”): “This Convention is open for signature by any State Member of the United Nations or member of any of its specialized agencies, by any State Party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and by any other State which has been invited by the General Assembly of the United Nations to become a Party to this Convention”; CERD, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (20 September 2019) UN Doc CERD/C/PSE/CO/1-2; see also decision at CERD, Inter-State communication submitted by the State of Palestine against Israel (12 December 2019) UN Doc CERD/C/100/5 (henceforth the “CERD Decision”).

16 See Article 46, Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted 20 November 1989, entry into force 2 September 1990) 1577 UNTS 3: “The present Convention shall be open for signature by all States”; see also CRC, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (6 March 2020) UN Doc CRC/C/PSE/CO/1.

17 Article 25, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (adopted 10 December 1984, entry into force 26 June 1987) 1465 UNTS 85: “This Convention is open for signature by all States”; see also Palestine’s State Report: State of Palestine, Initial report submitted by the State of Palestine under article 19 of the Convention, due in 2015(26 August 2019) UN Doc CAT/C/PSE/1.

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treaties and human rights instruments, including the Apartheid Convention18, Rome Statute,

the four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.19

  1. Nonetheless, an analysis as to statehood appears to be necessary, given the prerequisite

found in Article 12, as well as the corpus of argumentation outlined in amici applications in preparation of the current proceedings. That said, it is submitted that the PTC is bound to consider this issue as a matter of procedural, as opposed to substantive law. I agree with the Prosecutor in her opinion that the determination to be made by the Court is not whether Palestine constitutes a State as a matter of general international law, but solely for the purposes of the Court’s jurisdiction under the Rome Statute.20

  1. The PTC therefore need not consider what have been dubbed the “Montevideo Criteria”21 of statehood.22 Instead, the PTC need only consider whether the referral submitted by the State of Palestine23 is consistent with the terms of Article 12(2)(a) of the Rome Statute, having reference to the accepted rules of interpretation outlined in the Vienna Convention

18 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (adopted 30 November 1973, entry into force 18 July 1976) UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/3068(XXVIII).

19 Request, para 127; note also Victor Kattan, ‘The Implications of Joining the ICC after Operation Protective Edge’ (2014) 44(1) Journal of Palestine Studies 63: “The ability to sign, ratify, and accede to treaties is important because it is considered to be one of the essential attributes of statehood.”

20 Request, para 42, 111; Alain Pellet, ‘The Effects of Palestine’s Recognition of the International Criminal Court’s Jurisdiction’ (2010) 6, available at: https://iccforum.com/media/background/gaza/2010-02-18_Pellet- Memo_(English_Translation).pdf.

21 Article 1, Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (adopted 26 December 1933, entry into force 26 December 1934): “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states.”

22 In any case, the Montevideo Criteria should not be viewed as a rigid yardstick with which to judge statehood, on this, and the context in which the Convention was drafted, see Quigley op cit (2020); see also James Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law (2nd edn, Oxford University Press, 2007) at 437: “… the formula represented in the Montevideo Convention is considered to a certain extent insufficient and outdated, even hackneyed.”

23 State of Palestine, Referral by the State of Palestine Pursuant to Articles 13(a) and 14 of the Rome Statute (15 May 2018).

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on the Law of Treaties,24 and the object and purpose of the Rome Statute, namely to end

impunity for international crimes.25

  1. As the Prosecutor has compellingly argued, the status of a “State” within the context of

Articles 12(1), 12(2), and 125(3) of the Rome Statute, being consistent throughout, has been concretely achieved by the deposit of Palestine’s instrument of accession with the UN Secretary-General.26 The so-called “all States” formula embedded in the framework of the Rome Statute27 necessarily links the eligibility criteria for accession to determinations of the General Assembly.28 Thus, accession to the Rome Statute contains an implicit “statehood check”, whereby the Secretary-General confirms whether the entity attempting to accede constitutes a State under international law. While deference to the pronouncements of the General Assembly is controversial to some observers, it must be stressed that this approach is consistent with previous Court practice regarding Palestine,29 and is desirable to avoid a situation in which the final pronouncement on statehood for the purposes of a given instrument falls entirely on the Secretary-General.30

  1. The question, therefore, is not whether Palestine constitutes a State as such, but whether, through its accession to the Rome Statute, as well as other instruments and fora, it has

24 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (adopted 23 May 1969, entry into force 27 January 1980) 1155 UNTS 331 (henceforth the “VCLT”).

25 Request, para 29: “to end impunity and ensure that the Court’s jurisdiction is triggered responsibly and lawfully”; ICC, Separate Opinion of Judge Péter Kovács (27 January 2016) ICC-01/15-12-Anx-Corr, para 65: “a policy running against the basic philosophy of the ICC, namely to end impunity”; Preamble, Rome Statute: “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished”; Michail Vagias, The Territorial Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (Cambridge University Press, 2014) 77: “… its role is also geared towards preventing or deterring future atrocities”; interestingly it is worth noting Vidmar’s contention, op cit, in the context of the International Court of Justice: “… regulating an entity’s legal status is clearly not the object and purpose of the treaty” (emphasis added).

26 Request, para 103.
27 Article 125(3), Rome Statute.

28 See Treaty Section, UN Office of Legal Affairs, Summary of Practice of the Secretary-General as Depositary of Multilateral Treaties (1999) UN Doc. ST/LEG/7/Rev.1, paras 81-83.

29 While the former Prosecutor refrained from opening an investigation due to concerns of jurisdiction, his analysis suggests that his Office’s position would have been different had the General Assembly passed Resolution 67/19 by that time, see Office of the Prosecutor, Situation in Palestine (3 April 2012) at paras 5, 7, available at: https://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/9B651B80-EC43-4945-BF5A- FAFF5F334B92/284387/SituationinPalestine030412ENG.pdf.

30 Request, para 109.

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9.

attained the full suite of rights and obligations found therein; here, the answer should be in the affirmative, given Palestine’s acceptance as both a State Party and functional member of the international community. This approach, referred to as the “functionalist approach” has a strong basis elsewhere in the field of international law,31 and has been widely endorsed, explicitly or otherwise, by commentators as the appropriate lens for the Court.32 This was appreciated recently by CERD in its jurisdictional finding on the Inter-State Complaint submitted by Palestine, which did find it necessary to extend its analysis beyond Palestine’s status, and functional capacity to act, as a State Party to ICERD.33

Moreover, it should be stressed that this approach is not merely consistent with the object and purpose of the Rome Statute, but is arguably mandated by the “General Rule” of interpretation.34 As previously affirmed by the Court, this judicial body is not permitted to decline to draw on a particular element of the “General Rule”,35 and should interpret all sources of law in light of the object and purpose of the Rome Statute,36 while doing what is necessary to avoid results that are unreasonable, or produce absurdities and unjust results.37 The Rome Statute thus requires its interpretation to be carried out in light of internationally

31 While not directly applicable to the Rome Statute framework, the best example of this is the so-called “Vienna Formula”, stemming from Article 81, VCLT, see: Schabas op cit; on the prevalence of functionalism elsewhere, see Pellet op cit, para 9.

32 See, inter alia: Valentina Azarova and Triestino Mariniello, ‘Why the ICC Needs a ‘Palestine Situation’ (More than Palestine Needs the ICC): On the Court’s Potential Role(s) in the Israeli-Palestinian Context’ (2017) 11(1) Diritti Umani e Diritto Internazionale (Human Rights and International Law) 152-154; Pellet op cit; Kai Ambos, ‘Palestine, UN Non-Member Observer Status and ICC Jurisdiction’ (6 May 2014) EJIL:Talk!, available at: https://www.ejiltalk.org/palestine-un-non-member-observer-status-and-icc-jurisdiction/; Michael Kearney, ‘Palestine and the International Criminal Court: Asking the Right Question’ in Richard H Steinberg (ed), Contemporary Issues Facing the International Criminal Court (Bril Nijhoff, 2016) 31-35; Yuval Shany, ‘In Defence of Functional Interpretation of Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute: A Response to Yaël Ronen’ (2010) 8 Journal of International Criminal Justice 329; Al-Haq, Position paper on issues arising from the PA submission of a Declaration to the Prosecutor of the ICC under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute (14 December 2009).

33 CERD Decision, para 3.9. 34 Article 31(1), VCLT.

35 ICC, Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Case of the Prosecutor v Germain Katanga: Judgement pursuant to article 74 of the Statute (7 March 2014) ICC-01/04-01/07, para 44.

36 Ibid., 47.
37 ICC, Situation in the Central African Republic in the Case of the Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo (21

March 2016) ICC-01/05-01/18, paras 80-81.

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recognised human rights norms,38 which must necessarily include the long recognised right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, a jus cogens norm,39 which gives rise to obligations erga omnes, binding on all States.40 As certain acts by the State of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory create obligations of such a character,41 this must be considered in the PTC’s interpretative calculus. The Prosecutor alludes to this in her Request, wherein she notes that “[i]t would appear contrary to the principle of effectiveness42 and good faith to allow an entity to join the ICC but then to deny the rights and obligations of accession … the Statute does not provide for or regulate the implications of a negative determination of statehood by the Court.”43

  1. It is useful to dwell on the implications of a negative determination of Palestine’s standing as a State Party before the Court: “[w]ould a referral and the deposit of the instrument of accession … be deemed invalid? Would that State Party be expelled from the Court? Or would it become a sui generis State Party which can still participate and vote in the ASP … even though the Court may not have jurisdiction over such a State?”44 If such a perverse approach were adopted, Palestine would be rendered as akin to a “legal black hole”, despite its accession.45

38 Article 21(3), Rome Statute.

39 Antonio Cassese, International Law (2nd edn, Oxford University Press, 2005) 65; Malcolm N Shaw, International Law (6th edn, Cambridge University Press, 2008) 808; James Crawford, ‘Opinion: Third Party Obligations with respect to Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories’ (25 January 2012) para 26, available at: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/tucfiles/LegalOpinionIsraeliSettlements.pdf.

40 ICJ, Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia [South West Africa] Notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (Advisory Opinion) (1971) para 29 (henceforth the “Namibia Opinion”).

41 ICJ, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall (Advisory Opinion) (2004) para 155-156 (henceforth the “Wall Opinion”).

42 Defined in ICC, Joint Concurring Opinion of Judges Eboe-Osuji,Morrison, Hofmanski and Bossa (6 May 2019) ICC-02/05-01/09-397-Anx1 at para 419: “a principle which gives preference to that interpretation of a treaty which best promotes its major purposes”, quoting Myers McDougal and Richard Gardner, ‘The Veto and the Charter: An Interpretation for Survival’ (1951) 60 Yale Law Journal 261.

43 Request, para 114. 44 Ibid.
45 Shany, op cit, 337.

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  1. It would therefore appear that, in any event, a negative determination by the PTC at this stage would be manifestly incompatible with the object and purpose of the Rome Statute and the inclusive goals of the Court. As such, attempting to deviate from the functionalist approach, outlined above and adopted by CERD, and to apply the so-called “Montevideo criteria”, would seem an ultra vires act by the Court, as well as being an overly rigid and ill-advised step inconsistent with “the basic philosophy” of the Court which “might result in an increase in the impunity gap.”46

III. The Issue of Territorial Jurisdiction

  1. The issue of statehood so resolved, the amicus observations now turn to the territorial scope of a potential future investigation.47 It is submitted that the same principles and rules of interpretation that guide the Chamber in its determination on the issue of Palestinian statehood should also apply here. With due regard for the “General Rule”, the principle of effectiveness, and due regard for internationally recognised norms of human rights, particularly the collective right of self-determination, it is clear that to provide a meaningful method with which to end impunity for international crimes, the scope of a future investigation by the Prosecutor should encompass the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Moreover, as noted by the Prosecutor, it is appropriate to stress that a determination as to jurisdictional scope here should not be conflated with a delineation of the Palestinian territorial claim as such.48
  2. While an extended analysis of the events leading to the beginning of the occupation of the occupied Palestinian territory in 1967 does not require reiterating here,49 and will

46 Kovács, op cit, para 65.

47 See Request, para 190.

48 Ibid., 192.

49 For helpful narration, see Ardi Imseis, ‘On the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Occupied Palestinian Territory’ (2003) 44(1) Harvard International Law Journal 69-85; for events prior to 1948, see also Victor

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doubtlessly be provided in detail by other amici, it is useful at this stage to recall the status of the occupied Palestinian territory as occupied since 1967, as it represents the current Palestinian State’s territorial claim.50 This claim has been bolstered51 by the territorial nature of the Palestinian right to self-determination, including permanent sovereignty over natural wealth and resources, as repeatedly recognised by, inter alia, the UN General Assembly,52 the Human Rights Council,53 and the ICJ.54 Accordingly, just as the Chamber is bound to consider this right in its interpretation on the issue of statehood, it should be considered during its analysis as to the extent of its jurisdiction.

  1. Moreover, the legal importance of the maintenance of the character of the occupied Palestinian territory, encompassing the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, as a single territorial unit, has been repeatedly recognised by the international community, including by the UN Security Council,55 and General Assembly.56 It is further

Kattan, From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891- 1949 (Pluto Press, 2009).

50 See ICJ, Written Statement Submitted by Palestine (30 January 2004) para 547; State of Palestine, Referral by the State of Palestine Pursuant to Articles 13(a) and 14 of the Rome Statute (15 Mary 2018), fn 4.

51 On this see Request, para 194, fn. 612, quoting Robert Jennings and Arthur Watts, Oppenheim’s International Law Vol. 1, Peace: Parts 2 to 4 (Longman, 1996) para 274: “[i]t is clear that the injection of a legal principle of self-determination into the law about acquisition and loss of territorial sovereignty is both important and innovative. State and territory are, in the traditional law, complementary terms. Normally only a state can possess a territory, yet that possession of a territory is the essence of the definition of state. The infusion of the concept of the rights of a ‘people’ into this legal scheme is therefore a change which is more fundamental than at first appears”; see also Crawford op cit, para 29: “In light of the principle of self-determination, sovereignty and title in an occupied territory are not vested in the occupying power but remain with the population under occupation. As such, Israel does not acquire a legal right to or interest in land in the West Bank purely on the basis of its status as an occupier.”

52 See, inter alia, UN General Assembly Resolutions: 2649 (XXV) (30 November 1970) para 5; 67/19 (4 December 2012) UN Doc A/RES/67/19, para 1,4; 70/15 (4 December 2015) UN Doc A/RES/70/15, para 21(b); 71/23 (15 December 2016) UN Doc A/RES/71/23, para 22(b); 72/14 (7 December 2017) UN Doc A/RES/72/14, para 24(b); 793/96 (18 December 2018), preamble; 73/19 (5 December 2018) UN Doc A/RES/73/19, para 22(b); 73/255 (15 January 2019) UN Doc A/RES/73/255 para 1; 73/158 (9 January 2019) UN Doc A/RES/73/158.

53 Most recently, UN Human Rights Council Resolution 40/24 (17 April 2019) UN Doc A/HRC/RES/40/24. 54 Wall Opinion, para 122.

55 The Security Council declared any attempts to alter the “physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure, or status” of the oPt as being of “no legal validity” and “a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention … and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace”, UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1 March 1980) UN Doc S/RES/465, para 5; see also Resolution 2334 (23 December 2016) UN Doc S/RES/2334, para 3.

56 UN General Assembly Resolutions: 70/15 (4 December 2015) UN Doc A/RES/70/15, para 11; 71/23 (15 December 2016) UN Doc A/RES/71/23 para 12; 72/14 (7 December 2017) UN Doc A/RES/72/14 para 13; 73/19 (5 December 2018) UN Doc A/RES/73/19 para 13; 74/11 (9 December 2019) UN Doc A/RES/74/11, para 8.

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necessary to clarify that Palestine’s claim to its territory, or indeed that of any State, is not contingent on having “defined and settled boundaries”57 or the exclusive authority to exercise jurisdiction, of any kind, therein.

  1. Nonetheless, due to the idiosyncratic legal complexities imposed by Israel upon each of the three geographic domains of the occupied Palestinian territory (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip), as part of the former’s campaign of strategic fragmentation imposed upon the Palestinian people as a whole,58 it is worth considering each territorial domain so as to clarify their specific relationship to the overall territorial claims of the State of Palestine, and as such to the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction.
  2. West Bank
  3. As noted above, the West Bank has been under belligerent Israeli military occupation since the 1967 War,59 which triggered the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention60 and Hague Regulations61 throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. Later, in 1993, a process began whereby the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the State of Israel produced what became known as the Oslo Accords, which divided the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C.62 For the purposes of this analysis, it should be noted that a core aspect of these

57 Shaw, quoted in Request, fn. 608.

58 On this, see throughout UN ESCWA, Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1, (2017) UN Doc E/ESCWA/ECRI/2017/1; see also, Al-Haq, et al, Joint Parallel Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Israel’s Seventeenth to Nineteenth Periodic Reports (10 November 2019), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/cached_uploads/download/2019/11/12/joint-parallel-report-to-cerd-on-israel-s-17th-19th- periodic-reports-10-november-2019-final-1573563352.pdf.

59 Wall Opinion, para 73, 101.
60 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (adopted 12 August 1949,

entry into force 21 October 1950) 75 UNTS 287 (henceforth the “Fourth Geneva Convention”).

61 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and Its Annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land) (adopted 18 October 1907, entry into force 26 January 1910) (henceforth the “Hague Regulations”).

62 See Request, para 68.
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agreements is the exclusion of all Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territory from

Palestinian criminal jurisdiction.63

  1. A key component of the occupation’s machinery has been the construction and maintenance

of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.64 These settlements have largely been constructed on appropriated Palestinian land, which is typically seized under the pretext of “military necessity”, or through its designation, by the Israeli occupying authorities, as “State” or abandoned land65, and are predominantly located in Area C, which the Oslo Accords identify as being subject to Israeli jurisdictional control.

  1. It is submitted, in line with the analysis put forward by the Prosecutor, that the Oslo process, constitutive of “Oslo I” and “Oslo II”, does not create a legal barrier or challenge to the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Palestine, and therefore the Court.66 First, the Oslo Accords constitute a “special agreement” for the purposes of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and as such cannot deprive the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights and protections under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.67 Accordingly, the fact that the PLO has entered into such agreements with the State of Israel may not be interpreted as having relinquished the right of self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources inherent to the Palestinian people, nor can it be interpreted as constituting a renunciation of any other rights conferred upon the protected population.

63 Ibid., para 70.

64 For a timeline of the Israeli settler enterprise, see UN Human Rights Council, Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East-Jerusalem (7 February 2013) UN Doc A/HRC/22/63, para 24-30.

65 Ibid., 20.
66 See Request, para 183.

67 Articles 7, Fourth Geneva Convention; Request, para 186; see also Basheer AlZoughbi, ‘The Operation of the Oslo Treaties and the Pacific Mechanisms of Conflict Resolution under Public International Law’ (2013) 45(2) Peace Research 39-40: “The transfer of power that was introduced in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords as a result of the agreements concluded between the PLO and Israel changed neither the status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory nor that of protected persons who were being deprived of the benefits of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on a continuous basis … Thus, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has legal obligations to honour the rights and ensure the welfare of those under occupation.”

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  1. Moreover, as also recognised by the Prosecutor, the provisions of Oslo II regarding the regulation of the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) relates solely to enforcement, as opposed to prescriptive jurisdiction, i.e. the ability to enforce, as opposed to create, law.68 Stahn, referenced extensively by the Prosecutor,69 draws this distinction most clearly: noting the separation of jurisdiction into these two categories, he contends that “[a]ny other conception would have detrimental consequences for international law. It would imply that a state that is unable to exercise jurisdiction over specific parts of its territory would lose its ability to investigate or prosecute offenders or to seize an international jurisdiction with the power to try offenders. This would create significant accountability gaps” (emphasis added).70 Crucially, the ability to confer jurisdiction on the Court is a matter of prescriptive jurisdiction.71

20.Stahn further observes that “[b]ilateral immunity agreements that award exclusive jurisdiction over specific categories of persons to another state do not extinguish the general capacity of the contracting state to allocate jurisdiction to another entity. If anything, such agreements demonstrate the inherent or pre-existing competence of the State to exercise such jurisdiction.”72 As such, the inability of the PNA to punish, prosecute, or otherwise enforce its laws against Israelis does not preclude the Court from investigating, charging,

68 Request, para 184; see also Ambos op cit: “Oslo II did not, indeed could not, take from Palestine the (prescriptive) jurisdiction over its territory but only limited the exercise of this jurisdiction”.

69 See, in particular, Request, fn. 581-582.

70 Carsten Stahn, ‘Response: The ICC: Pre-Existing Jurisdictional Treaty Regimes, and the Limits of the Neo Dat Quod Non Habet Doctrine – A Reply to Michael Newton’ (2016) 49(2) Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 450.

71 Ambos op cit: “… pursuant to Oslo II, the PNA must not exercise jurisdiction over Israelis but it may delegate this jurisdiction to an international court. Otherwise, Oslo II would operate as a bar to the international prosecution of possible international crimes by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, a result hardly compatible with the ICC’s mission and the underlying duty to prosecute international core crimes.”

72 Stahn op cit, 451, also 451-452: “If a state has conferred jurisdiction to the ICC, despite a previous bilateral treaty arrangement limiting domestic jurisdiction, the resolution of conflicting obligations becomes an issue of complementarity and cooperation. The ICC is not bound by the agreement of the State Party. It does therefore not have to apply the rule lex specialis derrogat lex generalis. It will instead have to assess whether there are any domestic investigations or not. In case of inaction, the ICC is generally competent to proceed with its own investigations and prosecution.”

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or prosecuting such individuals for international crimes committed within the occupied

Palestinian territory, including in Area C in the occupied West Bank.

  1. Alternatively, Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation, outlines the argument73 that grave breaches of international humanitarian law, such as the construction and maintenance of Israeli settlements, which have been recognised by the ICJ as amounting to violations of jus cogens norms giving rise to obligations erga omnes,74 create obligations on all States to take positive action to try or extradite those suspected of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.75 This obligation, it is argued, has been recognised as binding the PNA, without prejudice to the existence, or supposed non-existence, of a State of Palestine. As such, the purported inability of the PNA to fulfil this duty as a result of a strict interpretation of Oslo II, whether through the Court or otherwise, would amount to undermining recognised principles of international law; “[b]y this reckoning there is broad consensus that Palestine, at least when it comes to the application and enforcement of international

humanitarian law, is on a par with proper states.”76

  1. Regardless of which approach the Court finds most compelling, Kearney is doubtless

correct in stressing that similar restrictions imposed by the Oslo Accords, such as the capacity to engage in international relations,77 are not reflected in State practice, by either third States or Palestine itself, nor is it conducive to the experience of international organisations and human rights bodies.78 The UN Commission of Inquiry addressing the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory (Commission of Inquiry) affirmatively

73 Originating in Al-Haq, Position Paper on Issues Arising from the Palestinian Authority’s Submission of a Declaration to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute (14 December 2009).

74 Wall Opinion, 88, 156.

75 See Article 146(2), Fourth Geneva Convention.

76 See Kearney op cit, 34-35.

77 See Request, para 71.

78 Kearney op cit: “It is clear that international practice is to overlook the Oslo restrictions for the benefit of the Palestinian people”.

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found that the PNA has obligations, under both international human rights and humanitarian law,79 applicable to “the entire OPT” (emphasis added),80 without distinction as to the Areas delineated in the Oslo Accords. This is further corroborated by, inter alia, CEDAW81, CERD82, and the CRC.83 As such, the Oslo Accords should not be deemed to be a barrier to the full exertion of the Court’s jurisdiction over the occupied West Bank as a whole.

  1. Finally, it has been argued that the Court’s jurisdiction may not be extended to, or would be of questionable authority, with respect to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.84 It is respectfully submitted that this argument represents the perfect opportunity to illustrate why Article 21(3) should be applied in interpreting the Court’s jurisdiction in Palestine. The construction and maintenance of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem, has been well established to be in violation of internationally recognised principles of human rights law,85 including jus cogens norms, which give rise to obligations erga omnes. Accordingly, interpreting the Court’s, and indirectly the Prosecutor’s, jurisdiction as limited due to the presence of the settlements would be fundamentally incompatible with the Chamber’s obligation to interpret the relevant law in light of principles of human rights.
  2. East Jerusalem

79 UN Human Rights Council, Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (25 February 2019) UN Doc A/HRC/40/74, para 708 (henceforth “Commission of Inquiry Report”).

80 Ibid., para 759.
81 CEDAW, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (25 July 2018) UN Doc CEDAW/C/PSE/CO/1, PARA

82 CERD, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (20 September 2019) UN Doc CERD/C/PSE/CO/1-2, para 3.

83 CRC, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (13 February 2020) UN Doc CRC/C/PSE/CO/1, para 4.

84 For this argument, see Stephen Kay and Joshua Kern, ‘The Statehood of Palestine and Its Effect on the Exercise of ICC Jurisdiction’ (5 July 2019) Opinio Juris, available at: https://opiniojuris.org/2019/07/05/the- statehood-of-palestine-and-its-effect-on-the-exercise-of-icc-jurisdiction%EF%BB%BF/.

85 See throughout, Human Rights Council op cit (7 February 2013); see also Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding Observations: Israel (12 November 2019) UN Doc E/C.12/ISR/CO/4, para 11, 16, 46.

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  1. East Jerusalem, or those portions of the city which lie beyond the Green Line, has been repeatedly affirmed and reaffirmed to be a part of the occupied Palestinian territory in countless UN General Assembly,86 Security Council,87 and Human Rights Council88 resolutions, as well as in the Wall Opinion issued by the ICJ.89 Moreover, actions which “purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem” have been deemed by the international community to “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council”.90 While many proposals relating to the status of Jerusalem have been suggested,91 including the so-called corpus separatum proposed in the UN partition plan92, the territorial claim of Palestine to Jerusalem has never been refuted; tellingly, the importance of determining this issue with respect to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including permanent sovereignty, was reiterated on the occasion of Israel’s induction into the UN.93
  2. While it is respectfully submitted that this should be sufficient to satisfy the Court as to its jurisdiction over East Jerusalem, given the importance of the city, both spiritually and as an

86 See, inter alia, UN General Assembly Resolutions: 36/120(D) (10 December 1981), para 5; 36/120(F) (10 December 1981), para 2; 72/15 (7 December 2017) UN Doc A/RES/72/15, preamble; 74/11 (9 December 2019) UN Doc A/RES/74/11, para 8, 12.

87 UN Security Council Resolutions: 465 (1 March 1980) UN Doc S/RES/465, para 5; 476 (30 June 1980) UN Doc S/RES/476, para 1; 478 (20 August 1980) UN Doc S/RES/478, para 3.

88 Most recently in UN Human Rights Council Resolution 40/23 (22 March 2019) UN Doc A/RES/40/23, para 15.

89 See, Wall Opinion para 119: “… the wall’s sinuous route has been traced in such a way as to include within that area the great majority of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem)”, also para 120: “The Court concludes that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”

90 UN General Assembly Resolution ES-10/19 (22 December 2017) UN Doc A/RES/ES-10/19, para 1, see also UN Security Council Resolutions: 252 (21 May 1968) UN Doc S/RES/252, para 2; 267 (3 July 1969) UN Doc S/RES/267, para 4; 298 (25 September 1971) UN Doc S/RES/1971, para 3.

91 See, for example, John V Whitbeck, ‘The Road to Peace Starts in Jerusalem: The “Condominium” Solution’ (1996) 45(3) Catholic University Law Review 781.

92 See Part III, UN General Assembly Resolution 181(II) (29 November 1947) UN Doc A/RES/181(II).
93 UN General Assembly Resolution 273(III) (11 May 1949) UN Doc A/RES/273(III), preamble, “[r]ecalling its

resolutions of 29 November 1947 and 11 December 1948”.

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integral component of the territory of Palestine, its status as occupied territory94, as well as the gravity of the situation on the ground, this section will provide further analysis as to the sovereignty and right to self-determination of the Palestinian people in the city, and its continuity ever since the British Mandate was established.

  1. During the British Mandate period, which commenced after the fall of the Ottoman Empire as a result of the peace diplomacy at Versailles, Palestine was categorised, under British rule, as a “Class A” mandate, along with others such as Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The ICJ declared that “international law in regard to non-self-governing territories, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, made the principle of self-determination applicable to all of them” as a “sacred trust” that pre-existed the creation of the Mandate system, and “continued to apply to League of Nations mandated territories”.95 Thus, the Palestinian people were recognised as having an inherent right to self-determination, even while under Mandate rule.96 The continuity of this right, which encompassed Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine during the Mandate, remained unbroken, including through the 1948 War. The Jewish Agency declared the establishment of the State of Israel following the seizure of the western part of the city of Jerusalem, and after a protracted campaign of ethnic cleansing directed towards the indigenous Palestinian people,97 the newly-established State of Israel immediately declared Jerusalem to be “Israel-occupied territory.”98 Nonetheless, a few

94 Wall Opinion, para 78.
95 Namibia Opinion, para 52; see also ICJ, International Status of South West Africa (Advisory Opinion) (11 July

1950).

96 On this, see Al-Haq, ‘Al-Haq Briefing Paper – 70 Years On: Palestinians Retain Sovereignty Over East and West Jerusalem’ (2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/cached_uploads/download/alhaq_files/images/stories/PDF/Jerusalem_20%20Oct_final.pdf ; see also John Quigley, ‘Sovereignty in Jerusalem’ (1996) 45(3) Catholic University Law Review 778: Palestinians “had a right to sovereignty based on its connection to the territory, and on the principle of self- determination”.

97 See Henry Cattan, Jerusalem (St Martins’ Press, 1981) 48; also, generally, Ilan Pappe, ‘The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ (2006) 36(1) Journal of Palestine Studies 6; Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (One World, 2006).

98 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 Jerusalem Declared Israel-Occupied City- Government Proclamation, available at: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/mfadocuments/yearbook1/pages/2%20jerusalem%20declared%20israel- occupied%20city-%20governm.aspx.

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months later, in February 1949, Israel abolished military rule and instituted its own civil

administration in the city, amounting to de facto annexation.99
27. East Jerusalem was among the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel during the 1967

War. As noted by the UN Secretary-General in 1967, “[t]he Israel authorities … stated … that the municipality of West Jerusalem began operations in East Jerusalem the day after the fighting ceased. In the beginning it acted as the agent of the Military Government, but from 29 June municipal processes started to function according to Israel law.”100 The extension of annexation from the western to the eastern part of the city, as well as neighbouring Palestinian villages101, made it clear that “Israel was taking every step to place under its sovereignty those parts of the city which were not controlled by Israel before 1967.”102 The annexationist extension of Israeli authority over East Jerusalem and the surrounding area through the shifting and redrawing of municipal boundaries adheres to the so-called “Jerusalem 2020 Master Plan”, designed to achieve “spatial segregation”103 within the city, instituted with the ultimate aim of the strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people104, and the demographic manipulation of the city, restricting the Palestinian presence to 30 percent of the population.105

99 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 Jerusalem-s Military Government Abolished- Government Proclamation, available at: http://www.israel.org/MFA/ForeignPolicy/MFADocuments/Yearbook1/Pages/4%20Jerusalem- s%20Military%20Government%20Abolished-%20Gover.aspx.

100 UN Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General under General Assembly Resolution 2254 (ES-V) Relating to Jerusalem (12 September 1967) UN Doc S/8146, para 28.

101 See B’Tselem, East Jerusalem (11 November 2017, last updated 27 January 2019), available at: https://www.btselem.org/jerusalem.

102 Ibid., para 33.

103 Jerusalem Municipality, Local Outline Plan Jerusalem 2000: Report No. 4 (August 2004), section 7: “… spatial segregation of the various populations groups in the city is a real advantage … It is appropriate, therefore, to direct a planning policy that encourages the continuation of spatial segregation with a substantial amount of tolerance and consideration”, available at: http://www.alhaq.org/cached_uploads/download/alhaq_files/en/wp- content/uploads/2018/03/LocalOutlinePlanJerusalem2000.pdf.

104 See UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk (13 January 2014) UN Doc A/HRC/25/67, para 23.

105 Jerusalem Municipality, op cit, section 7: “Demographic Balance ‘According to Governmental Decisions’ – This goal, as presented by the municipality and adopted in governmental discussions regarding the matter, seeks to maintain a ratio of 70% Jews and 30% Arabs.”

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  1. The annexation of East Jerusalem, made effective in 1967, was formalised in Israeli law in 1980 with the passing of the “Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel,” of constitutional status, envisaging “Jerusalem, complete and united [as] the capital of Israel.”106 This formalisation was condemned as “null and void” by the UN Security Council.107 The culmination of Israel’s annexationist policies to alter the demographic character of the city occurred with the erection of the Annexation Wall, which cemented Israel’s acquisition,108 and illegal annexation,109 of Jerusalem by military force and the coercive displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population, in direct contravention of international law110. As the acquisition of territory by force, as extended by occupation or annexation, cannot vest sovereignty in a belligerent or occupier, the actions taken by Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1980 are ineffectual in vesting Israel with sovereignty over Jerusalem, in particular occupied East Jerusalem.
  2. It is pertinent to give consideration to the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who are not treated in accordance with human dignity, but rather as a demographic challenge by the Israeli authorities. While the State of Palestine is unable to confer citizenship upon residents, Israel refuses to extend similar rights upon Palestinian East Jerusalemites, and instead subjects them to a precarious “permanent residency” status, which may be revoked at any time.111 Moreover, such status may be, and often is, revoked punitively, as part of

106 Knesset, Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, translation available at: https://www.knesset.gov.il/laws/special/eng/basic10_eng.htm.

107 UN Security Council Resolution 478 (20 August 1980) UN Doc S/RES/478.

108 Article 2(4), Charter of the United Nations (adopted 24 October 1945) 1 UNTS XVI.; see also Wall Opinion, para 1; UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (23 December 2014) UN Doc S/RES/2334, preamble.

109 Article 47, Fourth Geneva Convention.

110 See Wall Opinion, para 122: “…the route chosen for the wall gives expression in loco to the illegal measures taken by Israel with regard to Jerusalem and the settlements, as deplored by the Security Council … There is also a risk of further alterations to the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory resulting from the construction of the wall inasmuch as it is contributing … to the departure of Palestinian populations from certain areas.”

111 This was introduced by Knesset, Entry into Israel Law (5710/1950), available at: https://www.adalah.org/uploads/oldfiles/Public/files/Discriminatory-Laws-Database/English/40-Entry-into- Israel-Law-1952.pdf.

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unlawful campaigns of collective punishment, under the vague pretext of a “breach of

allegiance” to the State of Israel.112

  1. Israel’s framework of control over East Jerusalem does not, in any way, provide for the

Palestinian pursuit of political, social, and cultural development, nor the vindication of their inalienable rights under international law, and thus is incompatible with their inherent right of self-determination.113 This manifest and prolonged breach of the collective right of Palestinian East Jerusalemites must be used as a basis, in line with Article 21(3) of the Rome Statute, in interpreting the extent of ICC jurisdiction; it is the Israeli authorities who exercise control over the annexed city and are responsible for the ongoing campaign of rights violations and alleged international crimes. Any move to exclude East Jerusalem from Palestinian jurisdiction would improperly contribute to unending Israeli impunity.

  1. Thus, although the State of Palestine is prohibited from physically exercising its authority over the city, this does not compromise its de jure sovereignty or its jurisdiction over the territory.
  1. The Gaza Strip
  2. As noted above, the Gaza Strip has been internationally recognised as an integral part of occupied Palestinian territory, and therefore is part of the overall Palestinian territorial unit.114 However, the PNA, and thus the State of Palestine, does not exercise effective, de facto control over Gaza. That, however, has not extinguished its de jure jurisdiction and

112 See Al-Haq, Punitive Residency Revocation: the Most Recent Tool of Forcible Transfer (17 March 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/6257.html.

113 Reference re: Secession of Quebec [1998] 2 R.C.S, at para 126.

114 See The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo II) (28 September 1995), available at: http://www.acpr.org.il/publications/books/44-Zero-isr-pal-interim-agreement.pdf, Article XI(1): “The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit”, and Article XVII(1): “In accordance with the DOP, the jurisdiction will cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory as a single territorial unit …”; see also UN Security Council Resolution 1860 (8 January 2009) UN Doc S/RES/1860, preamble: “Stressing that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be a part of the Palestinian state”.

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claim, nor has it suspended obligations under international law to uphold the human rights

of Palestinians in Gaza.
33. The lack of control directly enjoyed by the PNA in Gaza has been well documented by the

Prosecutor,115 and while Israel argues that Gaza is no longer occupied, or has attained a sui generis status,116 the prevailing expert and UN view is that the territory remains occupied by Israel, despite the so-called removal of its illegal settlements from the Strip in 2005.117 As noted by Professor John Dugard in 2007, during his tenure as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, “[s]tatements by the Government of Israel that the withdrawal ended the occupation of Gaza are grossly inaccurate … In effect, following Israel’s withdrawal, Gaza became a sealed off, imprisoned and occupied territory.”118 Thus, the ability of the PNA to control Gaza is hampered in part by the ongoing closure and measures of collective punishment imposed by Israel with the ultimate goal of rendering Gaza uninhabitable119; as noted by Darcy and Reynolds, “[w]hile events in Gaza have departed from traditional conceptions of warfare and occupation … sufficient clarity is retained when it comes to the effective control exercised by Israel over the Gaza Strip in order to categorize the territory as occupied.”120 As such, it is incorrect to view Gaza as unoccupied territory; the so-called ‘disengagement’ by Israeli forces in 2005 facilitated a new means of Israel’s domination and control,

115 See Request, para 80.
116 See, for example, Elizabeth Samson, ‘Is Gaza Occupied?: Redefining the Status of Gaza under International

Law’ (2010) 25(5) American University Law Review 915.

117 George E Bisharat et al, ‘Israel’s Invasion of Gaza in International Law’ (2009) 38(1) Denver Journal of International Law & Policy 47-51; Shane Darcy and John Reynolds, ‘An Enduring Occupation: The Status of the Gaza Strip from the Perspective of International Humanitarian Law’ (2010) 15(2) Journal of Conflict & Security Law 223-242; Yoram Dinstein, The International Law of Belligerent Occupation (2nd edn, Cambridge University Press, 2009) 851-862.

118 UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 (29 January 2007) UN Doc A/HRC/4/17, para 6.

119 See UN, Gaza “Unliveable”, UN Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in the OPT Tells Third Committee (24 October 2018), available at: https://www.un.org/unispal/document/gaza-unliveable-un- special-rapporteur-for-the-situation-of-human-rights-in-the-opt-tells-third-committee-press-release-excerpts/.

120 Darcy and Reynolds, op cit, 243.
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effectively amounting to a “reployment” of military capabilities exercising control of land

borders, airspace, and naval frontiers.121
34. It must be stressed that the partial control, hampered by continued Israeli occupation,

exercised by Hamas within Gaza does not produce a sui generis, quasi-state status; Hamas itself views Gaza as integral to Palestine,122 and rejects any suggestion that its administrative role in Gaza compromises Palestinian territorial integrity. Moreover, regardless of de facto control by Hamas, the PLO has been treated as the “sole legitimate representatives” of the Palestinian people by the League of Arab States,123 Israel,124 the UN General Assembly,125 and a United States federal appeals court.126 This may be observed in practice through the accepted claim by the PNA, controlled by the PLO, over Gaza’s territorial waters, in line with the Convention on the Law of the Sea127, asserting sovereignty over the “territorial sea, its airspace, and its bed and subsoil”.128 Thus, the link between the sovereign claim by the State of Palestine in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is fundamentally linked and congruent to that of the Gaza Strip.

121 Bisharat, op cit, 49.
122 See Hamas, Hamas warns against holding Palestinian elections separately (23 October 2019), available at:

https://hamas.ps/en/post/2382/hamas-warns-against-holding-palestinian-elections-separately.

123 League of Arab States, PLO sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people – LAS Rabat Summit (28 October 1974), available on UN website at: https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-194621/; see also Issa Al-Shuaibi, ‘The Development of Palestinian Entity-Consciousness: Part III’ (1980) 9(3) Journal of Palestine Studies 100.

124 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel-PLO Recognition: Exchange of Letters between PM Rabin and Chairman Arafat, available at: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/israel- plo%20recognition%20-%20exchange%20of%20letters%20betwe.aspx.

125 The Assembly altered the designation of “Palestine Liberation Organization” given to the PLO to simply “Palestine”, thereby essentially conflating the two, see UN General Assembly Resolution 43/177 (15 December 1988) UN Doc A/RES.43/177, para 3; note, however, that this does not indicate that the PLO has become synonymous with Palestine as such, but rather is its internationally recognised conduit, see Azarov and Meloni op cit.

126 Universal Cable Productions LLC v Atlantic Speciality Insurance Company (12 July 2019) 9th Circuit, at 29: “Here, the Palestinian Authority is the de jure government”, available at: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2019/07/12/17-56672.pdf.

127 Convention on the Law of the Sea (adopted 10 December 1982, entry into force 16 November 1994).

128 State of Palestine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Declaration of the State of Palestine regarding its maritime boundaries in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, available at: https://www.un.org/Depts/los/LEGISLATIONANDTREATIES/PDFFILES/PSE_Deposit_09-2019.pdf.

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  1. The PNA’s de jure jurisdictional claim over the Gaza Strip is further strengthened by the direct applicability of international human rights treaties acceded to by the State of Palestine therein. This has been affirmed by the Commission of Inquiry,129 and was seemingly taken as self-evident by CERD in its December 2019 jurisdictional decision.130 This has been further confirmed by other bodies such as CEDAW131 and CRC132. Indeed, the Commission of Inquiry “consider[ed] Hamas to be obligated to respect, protect and fulfil human rights” based on the accessions to various treaties by the State of Palestine,133 indicating that Hamas, as the de facto authorities in Gaza, are bound by obligations of the State of Palestine. Thus, there does not appear to be any general bar to the imposition of international statutory obligations upon either the Gaza Strip, or Hamas; instead, the State of Palestine is demonstrably capable of imposing such obligations.
  2. Moreover, within the specific framework of the Rome Statute, there does not appear to be any prohibition on the extension of the Court’s jurisdiction to the Gaza Strip, despite de facto control by Hamas. In the context of the occupied Georgian territory, referred to as South Ossetia, the PTC ruled that regardless of the lack of effective control by Georgia over that territory, “South Ossetia is to be considered as part of Georgia, as it is generally not considered an independent State.”134 In light of this decision, in a context wherein a separate State, although its legitimacy is questionable, had been declared, it would be inconsistent for the Court to deny the applicability of its jurisdictional reach due to the lack of de facto control over Gaza by the State of Palestine. Gaza is not the subject of an adverse separatist

129 See Commission of Inquiry Report, para 759, 768. 130 See throughout, CERD Decision.
131 CEDAW, op cit, para 9.
132 CRC, op cit, para 4.

133 Commission of Inquiry Report, para 759.

134 ICC, Situation in Georgia: Decision on the Prosecutor’s request for authorization of an investigation (27 January 2016) ICC-01/15, para 6.

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claim, but rather functions and has been recognised as an integral component of the

occupied Palestinian territory.
37. Similarly, as the Court has previously made implicit designations on the competing claims

to legitimacy of opposing authorities,135 it is respectfully submitted that the Court should be satisfied with the State of Palestine’s internationally recognised de jure status as the competent authority over the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory, and should not be deterred by its lack of de facto control. The Court’s sole consideration vis-à-vis the competency of Palestinian authorities to submit jurisdiction to the Court begins and ends with positions “clearly designated by the [de jure] State.”136 The implications of an alternative ruling would be a consolidation of the fragmentation of the Palestinian people; should the Gaza Strip be excluded from the remit of the Prosecutor’s investigation, the Court would further entrench the arbitrary fragmentation, imposed by Israel’s occupation machinery137, facilitating the creation and maintenance of a regime of impunity shielding accountability for the commission of international crimes.

  1. Conclusion
  2. Should the Court deem it necessary to make a jurisdictional ruling, under the auspices of Article 19(3), at this stage, it is respectfully submitted that it should rule that the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory constitutes the legitimate territory of the State of Palestine, and is subject to the Court’s jurisdiction. While I am mindful of the importance and sensitivity of the issues presently before the Court to the objections of a sovereign State, however in this instance it has become abundantly clear that the broader legal considerations of extending legal accountability for international crimes should be given priority.

135 See ICC, Situation in Libya in the Case of the Prosecutor v Said Al-Islam Gaddafi: Decision on the Prosecutor’s “Request for an order directing the Registrar to transmit the request for arrest and surrender to Mr al-‘Ajami AL-ATIRI, Commander of the Abu0Bakr Al Siddiq Battalion in Zintan, Libya” (21 November 2016) ICC-01/11-1/11, para 15.

136 Ibid., para 16.
137 See Richard Falk, ‘Israel’s Politics of Fragmentation’ (10 October 2010) Global Justice in the 21st Century,

available at: https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/israels-politics-of-fragmentation/.
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  1. Once more, it is necessary to stress that the presence of disputed borders, or portions of the occupied Palestinian territory wherein the State of Palestine does not exercise effective control, does not preclude Palestine, nor the Court, from exercising full jurisdiction therein. Moreover, as outlined above, there is no valid legal or factual barrier that precludes such a finding of jurisdiction; indeed, it is submitted that the object and purpose of the Rome Statute, the underlying goals of the Court, internationally recognised human rights principles and norms, and the promotion of global justice necessitate that an investigation be immediately opened, encompassing the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory.
  2. The Court is not bound, nor does it enjoy the authority, to make a substantive ruling as to the statehood of Palestine; such a ruling, it is submitted, would be ultra vires and outside of the Court’s role with respect to international criminal justice. Instead, the Court should recognise what is widely accepted since Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute, and was recognised as a non-Member State by the UN General Assembly: Palestine, if nothing else, is a full and valid State Party of the Rome Statute, and as such is entitled, and fully bound by the instrument. In this regard, the substantive statehood of Palestine, which has been affirmed and reaffirmed, as outlined above, is ancillary.
  3. If the Court deems it necessary to provide a ruling on jurisdiction at this stage, therefore, it is submitted that this is the decision the Court must reach. As rightly noted by Professor John Quigley in his amicus curiae submission, dated 3 March 2020, “[t]he issue of Palestine statehood is a legal matter unrelated to political considerations. To say that Palestine is a state is to take no position on the equities of the Israel-Palestine situation. It implies no position on how the two parties should resolve their differences.”138 The issue before the Court is a legal one, and as such must be considered in light of established legal principles, which clearly indicate that the State of Palestine enjoys the status of a State within the

138 John Quigley, Situation in the State of Palestine: Submissions Pursuant to Rule 103 (John Quigley) (3 March 2020) ICC-01/18, para 59.

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context of the Rome Statute, and has the authority and competence to provide the Court with jurisdiction over the entirety of its territory, defined as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, in line with the provisions of Article 12(3).

Professor Richard Falk

Dated this 16th day of March, 2020 At Istanbul, Turkey

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First Reactions to the Farce of the Century

28 Jan

Rodrigo Craviero Supplemental Interview Questions

 

Q: What kind of comments would you add?

 

The release of Trump’s plan seems to have generated far less interest and enthusiasm, except on Netanyahu’s, and likely majority opinion in Israel, than I expected. It may be too soon to be confident that this first impression will turn out to be accurate. What seems clear from the timing and mode of release is that the Trump/Kushner plan is intended to help Netanyahu prevail in the upcoming Israeli elections, and will also be useful to Trump with respect to Evangelical and hard-core Jewish support in the presidential election in November. There is some reason to believe, whether knowingly or not, the plan, and the pre-release one sidedness was designed to ensure a Palestinian rejection, allowing Israel to embrace the plan and claim to seek peace, as well as go forward with unilateral moves such as annexing the Jordan Valley.

 

Q: How do you see also fact return of Palestinian refugees will be impossible, as Netanyahu told, and Jerusalem will continue indivisible?

 

The failure to address the issue of Palestinian refugees in a responsible manner is both a deficiency in the proposal, and a tragic humanitarian evasion. Palestinian refugee population, estimated at over five million, have long languished in a variety of refugee camps, without rights or decent life conditions. There can be no peace as long as this situation persists.

 

In Praise of Kamila Shamsie Home Fire

13 Oct

In Praise of Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire

 

It took the withdrawal of the Nelly Sachs Prize to make me familiar with the fine literary achievements and compassionate politics of Kamila Shamsie. Selfishly, I cannot thank the Dortmund City Council enough for its outrageous behavior, evidently canceling the award because a right-wing newspaper outed Shamsie as a supporter of the BDS Campaign. I can imagine Shamsie’s feeling of hurt as well as disappointment as this incident unfolded. In her novels, she has manifested an uncannny awareness, more so than any writer I have encountered, of the precarious existence of ethnic, gender, and civilizational outsiders, especially Muslims, if they happen to reside in the supposedly once more tolerant West. Her words of eloquent response to the Dortmund about face express both her magnetic literary personality and moral intelligence: “It is a matter of great sadness to me that a jury should bow to pressure and withdraw a prize from a writer who is exercising her freedom of conscience and freedom of expression; and it is a matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust.”

  

Germany seems particularly susceptible these days to Islamophobic tropes, especially those given traction at the expense of Muslims, Palestinians, and immigrants. It seems that even 75 years after the Holocaust the German political establishment is still attempting to convince themselves, as well as the State of Israel, that the Holocaust was a national anomaly. Seeking to prove the unprovable, Germany and Germans have chosen to fall in love with Israel precisely because it is the nation state of the Jewish people, and for this reason alone it can do no wrong as we all know that love is blind. In their vain effort to make such a surreal posture credible, Germany insists on going even further, as if to drive the point home to any doubters, by converting Israel’s critics into Germany’s adversaries, somehow forgetting that the locus of the anti-Semitic gene present in the German body politic is situated on its far right, and is definitely not to be found even among the most uncompromising supporters of the BDS Campaign. To suggest otherwise, as is the inescapable implication of the Dortmund action, is to slander a writer of exquisite moral sensitivity. Her actions as a citizen exhibits a strong bond between her sense of right and wrong that infuses her novels and her nonviolent engagements on the side of justice for the Palestinian people. Bonds of this nature are what keep democracy alive, and should be celebrated now more than ever, not condemned.   

 

Evaluated from a more humanistic perspective, this incident confirms the impression that Germany as a nation has learned nothing from its past. To side with Israel is to side with an apartheid government that imposes a regime of daily victimization upon the Palestinian people (treating them as enemy aliens in what once Palestine!). To regard those who oppose this Israeli behavior as if they are the miscreants is to learn nothing from the rightly repudiated German past. It is to be complicit in its repetition.

 

Under these circumstances, my expression of personal gratitude to Dortmund may seem odd, yet it is quite easy to explain. If it had not been for the withdrawal of the prize, I would not have become an avid reader of Shamsie. The prize might have caught my wandering eye, as should earlier some of the dazzling reviews of Home Fire, but with a busy life along with an array of self-indulgent distractions, I would almost certainly not have taken such a drastic step as to acquire the novel, and then find myself so overwhelmed by its literary quality and brilliant commentaries on the human condition that I immediately obtained, and then read with uncharacteristic concentration, Burnt Shadows in two ten hour days of uninterrupted reading. Reflecting on this experience, which I wish is being replicated by others shocked into a similar response to mine, I became appreciative that, depending on circumstances, we sometimes become more intellectually and culturally indebted to acts of negation than to those of affirmation. It may be that those favoring the Dortmund jury reversal supposed that withdrawing the prize would have the valued added of lessening interest in Shamsie’s writing, and instead it seems to be spreading the word that she is a great writer!

 

Perhaps, if writers in Britain had not organized a joint letter of solidarity with Shamies to the London Review of Books, the abstraction of learning about a cancelled prize would not have overcome my habitual sloth, and I would have moved on. I was also drawn to look for myself at the work in question by Shameis’ unrepentant response,  defending her BDS support as something she did as a citizen, which in any event should have had no bearing on whether her novel was more deserving of recognition than were the other short listed competitors for the prize. Until this happened, I would have thought the Nelly Sachs Prize honored literature, rather than kneeling at the altar of political correctness. From now on whenever Germany does something similar, I will do my best to make them pay, not only by joining the protest, but by embracing the work that they repudiated. Let these prizes remain noteworthy, but only if future cancellations serve more as magnets than as repellents. My fear is that foundations and selection groups that give such prizes will in the future become more wary, do their homework better, and bypass candidates whose sympathies with the Palestinian struggle might stir the waters of controversy. It is worth realizing that much of the evil in the world is what is done off camera, behind closed doors, and we who wish for other realities, never get wind of what is going on. Self-censorship may be more destructive of freedom of expression than censorship. Dortmond’s rationale for retraction can be discussed, rejected, overcome. If Home Fire had been quietly put aside by the jurors in their deliberations, it would have aroused no protest, enlisted no new circle of admirers, and no positive voices reminding us that BDS is dedicated to nonviolent liberation, nothing more, nothing less. 

 

Yet before touching on the qualities that make me so admiring of Home Fire, I would comment a bit more on what seems like a panic attack. We need to ask what made the folks in Dortmund act so inappropriately as to make themselves appear both craven and foolish? At first glance, it seems that these days right-wing pressure works more often than it should, although ironically, it is the far right that is the incubator of real anti-Semitism.  The true face of Jew hatred revealed itself in the very recent Halle incident in which a right-winger aimed to slaughter Jews at a German synagogue on the Yon Kippur holiday. Further, even granting the Zionist feverish campaign to brand BDS as expressive of the so-called ‘new anti-Semitism,’ to treat Shameis’ support of a cultural boycott as enough to induce the city of Dortmund to withdraw the prize seems to signal societal panic, maybe a reaction to the rise of the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim AfD (Alternative for Germany). It is of more than passing interest that the AfD was not content as were the mainstream German parties in the Bundestag with calling BDS ‘anti-Semitic’ but wanted the non-violent movement formally banned altogether. The resolution adopted in May 2019 by a rare cross-alliance of political parties was itself a lamentable response to pressures being exerted by Zionist groups may have set the stage for the Dortmund retreat. It was followed shortly by a similar action in Aachen where an award was withdrawn from Walid Raad, an Lebanese innovative artist with a world reputation because he reportedly refused to denounce BDS, carrying the imperative of political correctness a menacing step further.

 

 

****************************************************************************

 

Part of the dark charm of Home Fire is a tribute to Shameis’ ‘see it all eyes’ that illuminate the complexities of Islamic jihadism, how it appeals to those ‘out of place’ around the world, wounding and rupturing the flow of life for those burdened and blessed with a hybrid ethnic, religious, and class identity. Shamsie tells us that her narrative inspiration for Home Fire is the Greek play of Antigone where a heartbroken sister defies her uncle, Creon, the king of Thebes, by burying her rebellious brother who died on a field of battle, and thus declared a traitor by Creon; by law he was denied the right of burial and his body left to rot on the battlefield until he was restored to dignity by the defiant Antigone. Sophocles depicted this classic instance of overriding the law of the land by acting in obedience to the transcendent law of the human heart, given concreteness over the centuries by natural law jurisprudence and more recently, by the universal principles of human rights. Shamsei imparts her meaning by choosing a tag line from Sophocles that appears alone on a page preceding the novel: “The ones we love.. are enemies of the state.”

 

Reading Shamsei made me recall my experience 30 years ago when I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The novel made me realize, although growing up in the racially self-righteous, self-segregated liberal confines of Manhattan, that until I read Beloved, I had never grasped the existential horrors of post-slavery racism in the United States, especially throughout the South, and more subtly in the rest of the country. Similarly, until I read Home Fire I never thought empathetically about the intimate lives of terrorists and their loved ones, pitting love within a family against what the state decrees as the limit of acceptable conduct and the moral ambiguities arising from the dreadful harm done to innocent others by terrorist violence, whether by the state or its enemies.  The perpetrators are also victims, and the victims can become perpetrators propelled by a vicious retaliatory logic that finds words to justify even beheadings; a jihadist in Home Fire says this: “..what you do to ours we will do to yours..” In other words, when we free ourselves from liberal forms of political indoctrination to experience the radical and reactive otherness that produces delicate negotiations between love and law the simple verities of moral truisms evaporate before our eyes. If we nurture our spiritual selves, a formidable challenge, those brave enough would almost always choose the path cleared by the heart rather than mechanically adhering to the cold logic of those who insist on observing the law however unjust. A signal achievement of Home Fire is to weave a credible tale of such nurturing through the selfless passions of Aneeka, a luminous being, compelled by sibling love to respond to her hapless terrorist twin brother, Pervais. The fact that Aneeka is studying in London to become a lawyer, while Pervais is enchanted by digital mysteries of recorded sounds, somehow heightens the tension between law and love, with a romanticized forgetfulness when it comes to prudence in a public domain of discriminatory vigilance in the world after the 9/11 attacks.

 

Shameis’ has produced a moral fable for our times. It is given novelistic and societal complexity by the apparent innocence of the twins, Pervais killed by a colleague in the course seeking to come home to Britain because after becoming disillusioned by his exposure to ISIS, and Aneeka herself defying a vindictive British law denying any right of return even to British citizens if officially declared to be terrorist suspects. With deep symbolic resonance, the corpse of Pervais was sent to his ‘ethnic home,’ Pakistan, where Aneeka traveled to perform her own version of a sacred burial ritual. We are told in a sprightly Note of Acknowledgement at the very end of the book, in case it did not earlier cross our minds, that Shameis’s work was foreshadowed by the exploration of these themes in Sophocles’ most memorable play, Antigone. Even though I studied Greek theater literature as a student some decades ago, I admit that I never on my own drew the connections between Home Fire and Antigone, and when instructed, I found it worth knowing, but quite irrelevant to my intense enjoyment of this extraordinary novel. The idea of loyalty to love by performing a proper burial may retain a certain symbolic relevance in our world, but it is less inscribed in the modern sensibility than it was in ancient times when such ritual matters were regarded as concerns of ultimate significance, although Shameis brings it to life because the characters and plot are so emotionally enveloping.

 

I found Shameis’s electric feel for language, including the radiance of the conversational dialogue and the creation of vivid and sympathetic characters interacting in the course of an ingenious plot that addressed several distinctive themes of this particular historical moment are some of the elements that make this novel so exciting as a de-Orientalizing work of fictive art. By reading Home Fire we learn what is excluded from reading newspapers or listening to politicians. Shameis has a special talent for conveying the wonderfully non-conformist dimensions of human lives struggling for meaning and love in our chaotic, confused, and violent world. Even the older sensible sister of the twins, Isma, burdened with parenting  them from their childhood, gives principled prudence its due, and yet the book opens ironically with Isma’s own interrogation ordeal at Heathrow as she departs Britain to earn a graduate degree at an American university. Her extremely unpleasant exit experience results from nothing more incriminating than her racial and religious identity, and more plausibly, by her being marked for special attention at immigration portals due to their awareness that her abandoning father died an al Qaeda militant en route to Guantanamo.

 

This novel was for me an experience of adult education at its best as well as an absorbing artistic reading pleasure. What we learn, above all, is that judging and assessing others from their outside appearances and external criteria produces false impressions that often lead to tragic outcomes. We also learn that grief, forgiveness, and empathy are among the most powerful private emotions that contrast favorably with the cruel opportunism of those who hitch their wagon to the conventional wisdom of state power as intrusively enacted in ways that disrupt the lives of gentle people.

 

Dortmund was quite right to select Home Fire for a literary award, which also informs us deeply about the vulnerability and fragile live of those at the Muslim edge of Western societies, especially if they are unwilling or unable to compromise beliefs and identity. Kamila Shamsie teaches us by her artistry to understand better the worlds we so unknowingly inhabit. We should also pause long enough to notice her way of living, feeling, and acting as if humanity was her true native country. 

Why the United Nations Matters (even for the Palestinians)

18 Jan

 

There are many reasons for persons with very different worldviews to feel disillusioned by, if not angry at, the United Nations. These negative feelings arise usually because the UN stands idly by the sidelines while terrible national and human tragedies unfold as the world media visually narrates horrific events in real time. At other times the hostile feelings toward the UN arise because the Organization is seen as a plaything of geopolitics, as bowing to crude leverage wielded by major funding governments, and in the process violating the letter and spirit of the UN Charter. Such behavior undermines the UN’s constitutional foundations and casts doubt on the central claim that the Organization is dedicated to the cause of war prevention.

 

No people have more reason to be disappointed with the UN, international law, and the precepts of international morality than do the people of Palestine. From the moment the UN was established up until the present moment, the Palestinians have been victimized either by the use of the UN to pursue geopolitical goals or by the inability of the UN to implement its own decisions and assessments that are responsive to Palestinian grievances or supportive of Palestinian aspirations.

 

Obviously, there is present a world order puzzle that needs solving. Many believe, especially here in the United States, that it is Israel that is the victim of UN bashing and bias, being singled out at the UN for continuous censure and criticism, and it is the Palestinians that have over the years received aid and comfort in the halls of the UN for their contentions, however inflammatory. For our dualistic Western minds, incapable of reconciling opposites, something must be wrong. It seems impossible for both the Palestinians and Israelis to be both victimized at the UN.

 

Yet this is precisely the case. The Palestinians are victimized because the UN doesn’t mean what is says, at least not on the plane of action. The UN gives the Palestinians the pabulum of words, while refraining from the reality of deeds, which over time gives rise to resentment and cynicism summarized by the sentiment: ‘what good are words, if nothing happens, and the situation on the ground even deteriorates.

 

At the same time, partly in reaction to this sense of impotence when it comes to imposing its views effectively on behavior, the UN slaps, sometimes strongly, the defiant Israelis. And the Israelis, never above playing the anti-Semitic card, keep telling the world that they are singled out for bashing even though their wrongs are far less bad than that of others. Of course, never far in the background is the weight of geopolitics, with the United States wielding a punitive stick on Israel’s behalf.

 

History needs to be taken into account in sifting through the complexities of argument and counter-argument carried on now for decades about the performance of the UN in relation to Palestinians and Israelis. With respect to the geopolitical explanation of Palestinian disillusionment, the UN already in 1946 accepted the responsibility to supersede the United Kingdom, which had been administering Palestine on behalf of the international community since the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I., in working out a solution on behalf of the two peoples. Yet instead of consulting the resident population of Palestine on its wishes with respect to the implementation of the right of self-determination, the UN on its own initiative proposed an Orientalizing solution that gave Israel 55% of Palestine despite less than 33% of the population being Jewish. This demographic disparity existed despite several decades of Jewish immigration spurred by energetic Zionist efforts around the world as well as by the British, eager for strategic reasons of their own to carry out the Balfour pledge of 1917. Jewish immigration was also greatly encouraged by the rise of Nazism, which intensified the search for a sanctuary that could protect Jews, especially those fleeing Hitler’s Germany.

 

Then to compound this imposition of a settler colonialist outcome, repugnant from the outset to the majority Arab population, the UN proceeded in 1948 to accept Israel as a member of the UN without first making obligatory provision to ensure an equitable future for the Palestinian people. This flawed UN response to the end of the British mandate has been compounded by years of Israeli expansionism, especially since 1967. Such an internationally tilted outcome reflected intense liberal guilt toward Jews in the aftermath of the Holocaust combined with the skill and tactics of the Zionist movement in influencing the Jewish diaspora as well as government policy in Europe and North America. It was an early demonstration of geopolitics triumphing over international law and global justice within the UN. It should not be forgotten that the UN was established in ways that gave leading states a geopolitical comfort zone, more familiarly known as ‘the veto,’ a blunt instrument for opting out of responsibilities, and useful to protect friends and batter enemies.

 

Turning to the impotence of the UN when it comes to its resolutions and decisions that encounter geopolitical resistance, the pattern has been evident all along. After the outcome of the 1967 War, the international community by way of the UN acquiesced with hardly a whimper to the extension of Israeli territorial claims from 55% to 78% of mandate Palestine. Ever since, this enlargement of Israeli territorial expectations has formed the basis for the two-state consensus, and was even accepted by the Palestinians as the realistic territorial baseline for a compromise solution.

 

Beyond this central issue of territorial allocation, the UN General Assembly affirmed the right of return of Palestinians forced to leave their homes in the 1947-48 War in General Assembly Resolution 194, and a second wave dispossessed in the 1967 War. The resolution has been pointedly rejected by Israel without any adverse consequences.

 

In similar fashion, the expansion and annexation of Jerusalem has been strongly condemned, most canonically, by the UN Security Council in Resolution 478 (1980), a unanimous vote except for the U.S. abstention. Finally, despite this, and the periodic Security Council denunciations of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestine territory, Israel has continued year upon year to build and increase the settler population. Against this background, it is to be expected that the Palestinians feel that having their rights affirmed at the UN is a worthless exercise, if not a feeble way to obscure UN impotence, given that the Palestinian ordeal has worsened year after year, decade after decade.

 

And yet despite all this the Jerusalem resolution of last December (passed by a vote of 128-9 with 35 abstentions and 21 absences) repudiating the Trump initiative is significant, partly because symbols are of great, if indirect, importance in international life. Symbolic victories at the UN do on occasion have subtle, yet real, behavioral impacts. The UN for all its weaknesses has long been the primary source for authoritative determinations of the legitimacy and illegitimacy of internationally recognized claims and grievances. This resolution is illustrative, supported by every important country in the world including the closest allies of the United States, with the symbolic and unequivocal rejection of the Trump diplomatic gesture of recognition being clear and consequential.

 

The Jerusalem resolution seems likely to produce a series of consequences: it greatly weakens, if not terminates, the central role that the United States has played as the only recognized third party mediator between Israelis and Palestinians, thereby creating an opportunity for the EU and individual European states to fill the diplomatic vacuum that seems to have formed; besides this, demonstrations around the world opposing the U.S. recognition initiative are translating support throughout the world for the Palestinian global solidarity movement that is likely to be expressed in several ways, especially by way of a more robust Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign. And at least for the moment, the Palestinian Authority, and its leadership, has moved away from adopting a quasi-collaborative stance in its relations with Israel, insisting that Trump’s move caused a damaging rupture. In effect, if diplomacy is to go forward in the future, it will have to proceed under new auspices, possibly Europe, maybe even China or the UN. Such radical expectations, while expressing a welcome refusal to be coopted by the Tel Aviv/Washington charade carried on for so long within the Oslo framework, is totally unrealistic in the near term. Israel would much rather be a pariah state than to submit its fate to Chinese or UN diplomacy, or for that matter, any intermediary that would seem fair to the Palestinians rather than partisan as in the past in favor of Israel. For so long Israel has

been coddled by American leaders that it became a hardened expectation with little wiggle room as Barack Obama found out early in his presidency when he dared to take baby steps in search of a middle ground.

 

It is worth recalling the anti-apartheid campaign against the South African racist regime that achieved prominence in the decades after 1945. The UN played a crucial role by its authoritative condemnation of apartheid as a crime against humanity and by its indirect encouragement of nonviolent resistance to South Africa racism throughout the world. This anti-apartheid experience is an instructive precedent, raising hope for the eventual success of the Palestinian national struggle, although the South African leadership had been far less creative and effective than the Israelis in insulating their governing process from external pressures.

 

What is analyzed with reference to Palestine and the Jerusalem resolution can be understood as a template for a general appreciation of both what the UN can and cannot do. The UN has this central role to play in either confirming or dismissing symbolic claims associated with the grievances and rights of subjugated peoples in the world. It is for this reason that governments fight so hard to have their policies accepted at the UN, or at least not criticized, censured, or punished, none more so than the government of Israel. Israel’s vicious attacks on the UN should be understood as disclosing the Israeli appreciation that, despite everything, the UN is a crucial site of struggle in the contemporary world order. Its findings of legitimacy and illegitimacy, especially if they resonate with feelings of justice around the world, impact strongly on civil society and often exert a strong influence on international public opinion and media coverage.

 

At the same time even if there is intense support for a symbolic outcome, it will rarely be self-enforcing, and it will be almost impossible to enforce at all absent a rare supportive geopolitical consensus. For instance, with respect to imposing sanctions on North Korea given its provocative nuclear program and accompanying diplomacy, it has been possible for all 15 members of the Security Council to agree sometimes on a common course of action, although as worried by Trump’s blustering belligerence that increases the danger of a universally unwanted and feared war. The geopolitical divergencies that were present at the UN were temporarily overcome by compromises. In this instance, the shared goal of avoiding a war on the Korean Peninsula encouraged governments to find some common ground.

 

The role of the UN in the Middle East has been particularly lamentable, First, the legacies of colonialism have left artificial political communities throughout the region. The Middle East also suffered from the geopolitical ambitions of the U.S., including its Cold War containment policy, strategic priorities accorded Gulf oil reserves and the security of Israel, and since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, its resolve to limit the spread of Islamic influence and political extremism. In effect, when the geopolitical stakes are high and associated with the policy priorities of dominant states, then the UN becomes marginalized, playing only trivial roles as in the long international civil wars that have caused such massive suffering in Syria and Yemen.

 

The conclusion to be reached is to view the UN realistically, affirming its central role with regard to symbols of legitimacy and its relative impotence if geopolitical forces are mobilized against any UN calls for action. Sometimes, arguably, the UN can be too effective, as when geopolitical forces turn a blind eye to issues of sovereignty and justice in a weaker country. This happened when in 2011 the Security Council was hoodwinked into endorsing a NATO regime-changing intervention in Libya undertaken in the name of freedom and democracy, but resulting in chaos, violent strife, and ethnic tensions.

 

The prospects for a stronger UN presence in international life involve tethering geopolitics by taking steps that now seem politically impractical: abolishing the veto power of the five permanent members of the Security Council, making resolutions of the General Assembly binding if supported by ¾ of UN members, basing UN funding on an independent tax base tied to international civil aviation or transnational financial transactions, and removing the selection of the Secretary General from the filter of P-5 approval. These steps have been long advocated by those seeking a more effective UN, but have been blocked by states that do not want to diminish their international status or their geopolitical leverage.

 

Until the international system experiences a shock or intense stress, it is hard to imagine such steps being taken. In fact, given Trump’s regressive approach to global policy and thinly disguised hostility to the UN, it is more likely that the UN will be even more constrained in the near future as to what it can do to make the world more peaceful, prosperous, sustainable, and just. The diplomatic rebuff of the U.S. after its irresponsible Jerusalem unilateralism, including the failure of its bullying tactics, has undoubtedly made the Trump presidency realize that the UN will not be a venue in which to push its regressive version of ultra-nationalist militarism.

 

Despite understandable degrees of disillusionment, people of good will dedicated to UN ideals should not give up on the Organization or its potentiality, but work harder to make the UN come closer to fulfilling its original promise, needed now more than ever. Justice for the Palestinian people, however long deferred, remains the defining moral prism by which to assess the shifting balance between achieving global justice and bowing to the whims of geopolitics at the UN and elsewhere.

Charlottesville Through a Glass Darkly

18 Aug

 

I suggest that Zionists fond of smearing critics of Israel as ‘anti-Semites’ take a sobering look at the VICE news clip of the white nationalist torch march through the campus of the University of Virginia the night before the lethal riot in Charlottesville. In this central regard, anti-Semitism, and its links to Naziism and Fascism, and now to Trumpism, are genuinely menacing, and should encourage rational minds to reconsider any willingness to being manipulated for polemic purposes by ultra Zionists. We can also only wonder about the moral, legal, and political compass of ardent Zionists who so irresponsibly label Israel’s critics and activist opponents as anti-Semites, and thus confuse and bewilder the public as to the true nature of anti-Semitism as racial hatred directed at Jews.

 

There must be less incendiary ways of fashioning responses to the mounting tide of criticism of Israel’s policies and practices than by deliberately distorting and confusing the nature of anti-Semitism. To charge supporters of BDS, however militant, with anti-Semitism dangerously muddies the waters, trivializing hatred of Jews by deploying ‘anti-Semitism’ as an Israeli tactic and propaganda tool of choice in a context of non-violent expressions of free speech and political advocacy, and thus challenging the rights so elemental that they have long been taken for granted by citizens in every funcitioning constitutional democracy. It is worth recalling that despite the criticisms of BDS during the South African anti-apartheid campaign, militant participants were never, ever smeared, despite being regarded as employing a controversial approach often derided as counterproductive in politically conservative circles.

 

And of course it is not only Zionists who have eaten of this poisonous fruit. As a result of Israel’s own willingness to encourage such tactics, as in organizing initiatives seeking to discredit, and even criminalize, the nonviolent BDS campaign, several leaders of important Western countries who should know better have swallowed this particular cool aid. A recent statement by the new and otherwise promising President of France, Emmanuel Macron: “Anti-Zionism…is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism,” and implicitly such a statement suggests that to be anti-Zionist is tantamount to criticism of Israel as a Jewish state.

 

After grasping this tortured reasoning, have a look at the compelling Open Letter to Macron, written in response by the famed Israeli historian, Shlomo Sand, author of an essential book, The Invention of the Jewish People. In his letter Sand explains why he cannot himself be a Zionist given the demographic realities, historical abuse of the majority population of historic Palestine, and the racist and colonialist overtones of proclaiming a Jewish state in a Palestine that a hundred years ago was a national space containing only 60,000 Jews half of whom were actually opposed to the Zionist project. This meant that the Jewish presence in Palestine represented only about 7% of the total population, the other 700,000 being mostly Muslims and Christian Arabs. The alternative to Zionism for an Israel that abandons apartheid is not collapse but a transformed reality based on the real equality of Jews and Palestinians. Shlomo Sand gives the following substance to this non-Zionist political future for Israel: “..an Israeli republic and not a Jewish communalist state.” This is not the only morally, politically, and legally acceptable solution. A variety of humane and just alternatives to the status quo exist that are capable of embodying the overlapping rights of self-determination of these two long embattled peoples.

 

To avoid the (mis)impression that Charlottesville was most disturbing because of its manifestations of hatred of Jews it is helpful to take a step backward. Charlottesville was assuredly an ugly display of anti-Semitism, but it only secondarily slammed Jews. Its primary hateful resonance was its exhibition of white supremacy, American nativism, and a virtual declaration of war against Black Lives Matter and the African American and immigrant struggle against racial injustice. Jews are doing better than all right in America by almost every indicator of economic, political, and social success. African Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims are not. Many of their lives are daily jeopardized by various forms of state terror, as well as by this surge of violent populism given sly, yet unmistakable, blessings by an enraged and unrepentant White House in the agonized aftermath of Charlottesville. Jews thankfully have no bereaved victims of excess uses of force by American police as have lethally victimized such African Americans as Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. Jews in America do not fear or face pre-dawn home searches, cruel family disrupting deportations, and the mental anguish of devastating forms of uncertainty that now is the everyday reality for millions of Hispanic citizens and residents.

 

What Charlottesville now becomes is up to the American people, and to some lesser extent to the reactions and responses throughout the world. The Charlottesville saga has already auditioned Trump and Spence as high profile apprentices of white nationalism. Whether an array of Republican tweets of disgust and disapproval gain any political traction remains to be seen, or as in the past they dissolve as bubbles in the air and soon seem best regarded as empty tropes of political correctness. What counsels skepticism about this current cascade of self-righteous pronouncements is the awareness that many of these same individuals in the past quickly renewed their conniving habits behind closed doors, working overtime to deprive the racially vulnerable in America of affordable health insurance, neighborhood security, and residence rights. As is so often the case in the political domain these days disreputable actions speak far more loudly than pious words.

 

If the majority of Americans can watch the torch parade and urban riot of white nationalists shouting racist slogans, dressed for combat, and legally carrying assault weapons, in silence we are done for as a nation of decency and promise. If the mainstream does not scream ‘enough’ at the top of its lung it is time to admit ‘game over.’ This undoubtedly means that the political future of this country belongs to the likes of Trump/Spence, and it also means that a national stumble into some kind of fascist reality becomes more and more unavoidable. The prospect of a fascist America can no longer be dismissed as nothing more than a shrill and desperate ploy by the moribund left to gain a bit of attention on the national stage before giving up the ghost of revolutionary progressivism once and for all.

 

So we must each ask ourselves and each other is this the start of the Second Civil War or just one more bloody walk in the woods?

Jewish Ethnicity, Palestinian Solidarity, Human Identity

23 Jun

 

 

[Prefatory Note: the following interview with Abdo Emara, an Arab journalist was published in Arabic; it is here republished in slightly modified form. The changes made are either stylistic or clarifying. There are no substantive changes from my earlier responses. I think it worthwhile to share this text because the questions asked by Abdo Emara are often directed at me in the discussion period after talks I have given recently.]

 

Jewish Ethnicity, Palestinian Solidarity, Human Identity

 

  1. Many believe that all Jews are completely biased in favor of Israel. Since you are Jewish this raises some questions. Why have you supported the grievances of the Palestinians? And why does not Israel welcome you on its territory since you are a Jew?

It is a rather well kept secret that from the very outset of the Zionist movement there were many Jews, including some who were prominent in their countries who opposed or strongly criticized Zionist ideology, as well as the way Israel was established and subsequently developed. After 1948, and even more so, after 1967, Israeli supporters, strongly encouraged by Zionist leaders and Israeli diplomats, have increasingly claimed that the Israeli government speaks for all Jews regardless of whether or not they reside in Israel. If this claim of universal representation is denied or resisted that person will be identified by Zionists/Israelis either as an anti-Semite or as bad, a self-hating Jew, or some combination of the two. I have increasingly supported the grievances of the Palestinian people from two perspectives, in my capacity as an international law specialist and as a human being opposed to the oppression and suffering of others regardless of whether or not I share the ethnic and religious background of such victims of abuse. I have taken these positions without any feelings of hatred toward Jews or alienation from the Jewish people, or toward any people due to their ethnicity or brand of faith. My understanding of identity is much more bound up with common humanity and action in solidarity with victims of abuse than with worrying about whether or not they happen to be Jewish. I have drawn wisdom and insight from Jewish traditions, especially by heeding Old Testament biblical prophets, but as well from contact with the great texts of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time I am appalled by some passages in the OT that appear to counsel and even celebrate genocidal onslaughts against the ancient enemies of the Jewish people.

 

  1. How is the pretext of anti-Semitism used to silence critical voices in Israel and throughout the Western world? And what are the most influential institutions that try to silence and discredit academic voices that reject Israel’s repressive policies?

With the support of Israeli lobbying groups and ultra Zionist pressure groups and activists, there is a concerted campaign in Europe and North America to defame critics of Israel by calling them ‘anti-Semites.’ Especially since the Nazi genocide, to be called an anti-Semite whether or not there is any responsible basis for such accusations has become one of the most effective ways to discredit and distract. Even when accusations do not silence a critic, as in my case, they have detrimental and hurtful effects. Above all, they shift the conversation from the validity of the message to the credibility of the messenger. In the Israel/Palestine context this takes attention away from the ordeal experience by the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Thus, allegations of anti-Semitism function as both sword (to wound the messenger) and shield (to deflect and inhibit criticism and opposition).

 

  1. How do you interpret the Egyptian policies toward Gaza since the Sisi coup? How can these policies be changed? What is their legal status?

I interpret Egyptian policies toward Gaza since the Sisi coup of 2013 as primarily an expression of renewed collaboration with Israel with respect to Gaza as intensified by the Cairo view that Hamas is inspired by and affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is enemy number one of the current Egyptian government. I am not familiar with the details of the Egyptian policy toward Gaza, although I know it imposes arbitrary and hurtful restrictions on entry and exit. Egyptian policies toward Gaza seem clearly to involve complicity with Israel’s worst abuses in Gaza, and entail potential criminal responsibility for Egyptian leaders and implementing officials. Israel seems clearly guilty of inflicting collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and for aiding and abetting the implementation of the unlawful blockade of Gaza that has been maintained by the state of Israel since 2007 with many cruel consequences for the Palestinians, including those needing to leave Gaza for lifesaving medical treatments.

 

  1. How do you evaluate Hamas’ new policy document?

I believe the Hamas document moves toward the adoption of a political approach to its relations with both Israel and Egypt. By a political approach I mean a willingness to establish long-term interim arrangements for peaceful coexistence with Israel and normalization with Egypt. Hamas expresses this willingness by indicating a readiness to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state on territory occupied by Israel since the end of the 1967 War. Such a shift by Hamas does not acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel as a state nor does it involve a repudiation of the 1988 Hamas Charter, although it does abandon the anti-Semitic rhetoric and seems more disposed to pursue its goals diplomatically and politically rather than by reliance on armed struggle, without giving up in any way rights of resistance, including armed resistance.

 

5- Did it became impossible for Palestinians to obtain their legitimate rights throughout international organizations in the light of the latest UN refusal of UN ESCWA report your good-self drafted?

The reaction to our ESCWA report, “The Practices of Israel Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” did reveal a lack of independence and objectivity within the UN when placed under severe geopolitical pressure by the United States Government. It seemed clear that when the UN Secretary General ordered ESCWA to remove our report from their website, he was succumbing to pressure exerted by the United States, whose ambassador to the UN denounced the report without giving reasons as soon as it was released, presumably without it ever being read, and demanded its repudiation. Of course, the outcome was mixed. On the positive side, Rima Khalaf, the highly respected head of ESCWA resigned on principle rather than follow the directives of the SG, and the firestorm generated by the release of the report resulted in the text being far more influential and widely read than it might otherwise have been if treated appropriately. On the negative side, was the strong evidence that the UN is often unable to act effectively in support of the Palestinian people and their long struggle for their basic rights. The UN is geopolitically neutralized as a political actor even when Israel acts in flagrant and persisting defiance of international law and its own Charter.

 

6-Talk about the Trump-sponsored Century Deal between Palestinians and Israelis is increasing now … what are your expectations for such a deal? Will include what is said to be a “resettlement” of the Palestinians in Gaza and Sinai ?

 

Nothing positive for the Palestinian people can emerge from the wave of speculation that Trump will soon broker the ultimate peace deal. Israel is content with managing the status quo while gradually increasing its territorial appropriations via settlements, wall, security claims, and various demographic manipulations. Palestine lacks credible leadership capable of representing the Palestinian people. This partly reflects the low credibility and poor record of the Palestinian Authority and partly the deep split between Hamas and Fatah. Palestinian unity and credible leadership is a precondition for the resumption of genuine diplomacy. Geopolitical pressure should not be confused with diplomacy, and will not produce a sustainable peace even if the PA is force fed a one-sided outcome favorable to Israel that is disguised as a solution.

 

7- How does Israel see the current Egyptian regime? and to what extent did it feel comfortable towards Mohamed Morsi?

 

Israel seems quite content with the current government in Egypt, and the policies that Cairo is pursuing at home and in the region. This contrasts with its thinly disguised dislike of and anxiety about the Morsi government, and worries that Morsi’s Egypt would increasingly challenge Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, and possibly alter the balance of force in the region in ways contrary to Israel’s interests.

8- Does Israel hate the existence of a democratic regimes in the Arab region, especially the neighboring countries? And why?

 

Israel opposes the emergence of democracy in the Middle East for several reasons. The most obvious reason is that Arab governments to the extent democratic are more likely to reflect in their policies, the pro-Palestinian sentiments of their citizenry. As well, Arab governments that adhere to democratic values are more likely to act in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Also, it is easier for Israel to work out pragmatic arrangements with authoritarian leaders who have little accountability to their own people and have demonstrated a cynical readiness to sacrifice the Palestinians for the sake of their own national strategic interests. This has become most evident in the kind of diplomacy pursued by the Gulf monarchies in recent years, dramatically evident during the three massive attacks on Gaza by Israel during the past decade that have devastated a totally vulnerable civilian population.

  1. Why do the far right think tanks- like Gatestone Institute and Middle East Forum which is known by its absolute support of Israel praise President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Why do these centers deeply praise him?

My prior responses make it clear that the Israeli policy community is pleased with Egypt governed by an authoritarian leader who adopts an agenda giving priority to the suppression of political Islam, taking the form in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian governance under Sisi is precisely what Israel would like to see emerge throughout the region, and if not, then the second option, is prolonged chaos of the sort that exists in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. As well, the reinforced sectarianism of Saudi Arabia is consistent with Israel’s view that Iran poses the most dangerous threat, not so much to its security, but to its agenda of regional influence.

 

  1. In your opinion, what is the most Arab country supporting the Palestinian issue?

I would say that none of the Arab countries is genuinely supportive of the Palestinian struggle at the present time. With a note of irony the most supportive countries in the region are non-Arab: Turkey and Iran, and their support is extremely limited. It is a sad commentary on the drift of regional politics that the Palestinians are without governmental support in the Arab world, a reality magnified by the fact that if the publics of these countries were in a position to make policy, the Palestinians would be strongly supported. In this regard, including in the West, Palestinian hopes for the future are increasingly tied to the interaction of their own resistance in combination with a growing solidarity movement in Europe and North America. The UN and traditional diplomacy, as practiced within the Oslo framework for more than 20 years have proved to be dead ends when it comes to protecting Palestinian rights.

 

Interrogating the Qatar Rift

7 Jun

 

The abrupt announcement that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, UAE, Yemen, the Maldive Islands, and the eastern government in divided Libya have broken all economic and political ties with Qatar has given rise to a tsunami of conjecture, wild speculation, and most of all, to wishful thinking and doomsday worries. There is also a veil of confusion arising from mystifying reports that hackers with alleged Russian connections placed a fake news story that implicated Qatar in the promotion of extremist groups in the region. Given Russian alignments, it makes no sense to create conditions that increase the credibility of anti-Iran forces. And finally the timing and nature of the terrorist suicide attacks of June 7th on the Iranian Parliament and on the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini adds a particularly mystifying twist to the rapidly unfolding Qatar drama, especially if the ISIS claim of responsibility is substantiated.

 

Four preliminary cautionary observations seem apt: (1) the public explanation given for this rupture is almost certainly disconnected from its true meaning. That is, the break with Qatar is not about strengthening the anti-ISIS, anti-extremist coalition of Arab forces. Such an explanation may play well in the Trump White House, but it is far removed from understanding why this potentially menacing anti-Qatar regional earthquake erupted at this time, and what it is truly about. (2) Any claim to provide a clear account of why? And why now? should be viewed with great skepticism, if not suspicion. There are in the regional context too many actors, crosscurrents, uncertainties, conflicts, mixed and hidden motives and contradictions at play as to make any effort at this stage to give a reliable and coherent account of this Qatar crisis bound to be misleading.

 

(3) Yet despite these caveats, there are several mainly unspoken dimensions of the crisis that can be brought to the surface, and sophisticate our understanding beyond the various self-serving polemical interpretations that are being put forward, including the centrality of Israeli-American backing for a tough line on Iran and the realization that Gulf grievances against Qatar have been brewing for recent years for reasons unrelated to ISIS, and led to an earlier milder confrontation in 2014 that was then quickly overcome with the help of American diplomacy.

 

And (4) The anti-Iran fervor only makes sense from the perspective of the Gulf monarchies (other than Qatar) and Israel, but seems radically inconsistent with American regional interests and counter-ISIS priorities—Iran is not associated with any of the terrorist incidents occurring in Europe and the United States, and ISIS and Iran are pitted against each other on sectarian grounds. Intriguingly, neither Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), nor Israel, that is, the principal antagonists of Qatar, have been ever targeted by ISIS.

 

The main contention of the anti-Qatar Arab governments, led by Saudi Arabia, is that this coordinated diplomatic pushback is motivated by anti-terrorist priorities. On its face this seems to be a ridiculous claim to come from the Saudis, and can only make some sense as part of a calculated effort to throw pursuing dogs in the hunt for ISIS off a course that if followed would inevitably implicate the Riyadh government. It has long been known by intelligence services and academic experts that it is Saudi Arabia, including members of its royal family, that have been funding Jihadi extremism in the Middle East and has for many years been spending billions to spread Salifist extremism throughout the Islamic world.

 

By comparison, although far from innocent or consistent of terrorist linkages, as well as being internally oppressive, especially toward its migrant foreign workers, Qatar is a minor player in this high stakes political imbroglio. For the Saudis to take the lead in this crusade against Qatar may play well in Washington, Tel Aviv, and London, but fools few in the region. Trump has with characteristic ill-informed bravado has taken ill-advised credit for this turn against Qatar, claiming it to be an immediate payoff of his recent visit to the Kingdom, ramping up still further the provocative buildup of pressure on Iran. To claim a political victory given the circumstances rather than admit a geopolitical faux pas might seem strange for any leader other than Trump. It is almost perverse considering that the al-Udeid Air Base is in Qatar, which is the largest American military facility in the Middle East, operated as a regional command center actively used in bombing raids against Iraq and Afghanistan, and serviced by upwards of 10,000 American military personnel.

 

Netanyahu warmongers will certainly be cheered by this course of events and Israel has not hidden its support for the anti-Qatar moves of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It achieves two Israeli goals: its longtime undertaken to encourage splits and disorder in the Arab world and its campaign to maximize pressures on Iran.

 

Interestingly, Jeremy Corbyn at the start of the week when the momentous British elections are scheduled to take place, called on Teresa May to release a report (prepared while David Cameron was prime minister), supposedly an explosive exposure of Saudi funding and support for Islamic extremism in the Middle East. All in all, a first approximation of the Qatar crisis is to view it as a desperate move by Riyadh to get off the hot seat with respect to its own major responsibility for the origins and buildup of political extremism in the Middle East, which has indirectly produced the inflaming incidents in principal European cities during the last several years. Such a move to isolate and punish Qatar was emboldened by the blundering encouragement of Donald Trump, whether acting on impulse or at the beckoning of Israel’s and Saudi leaders, confusing genuine counter-terrorist priorities with a dysfunctional effort to push Iran against the wall. Trump seems to forget, if he ever knew, that Iran is fighting against ISIS in Syria, has strongly reaffirmed moderate leadership in its recent presidential elections, and if Iran were brought in from the cold could be a major calming influence in the region. True, Iran has given support to Hezbollah and Hamas, but except in Syria not with much effect, and on a scale far smaller than what other actors in the region have been doing to maintain their control and push their agendas. In effect, if Washington pursued national interests in the spirit of political realism, it would regard Iran as a potential ally, and put a large question mark next to its two distorting ‘special relationships,’ with Saudi Arabia and Israel. In effect, reverse its regional alignments in a way that could replace turmoil with stability, but this is not about to happen. The American media, and thoughtful citizens, should at least be wondering ‘why?’ rather than staring into darkness of a starless nighttime sky.

 

But this is not all. The Saudis, along with the UAE and Egypt, have long resented and maybe feared the early willingness of Qatar to give some sanctuary and aid and comfort to various elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It is hardly farfetched to assume that Israel is outraged by the Emir of Qatar’s friendship and earlier support for the Hamas exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal. Saudi Arabia strives to obscure its incoherent approach to political Islam. It loudly proclaims Sunni identity when intervening in Syria, waging war in Yemen, and calling for confrontation with Iran, while totally repudiating its sectarian identity when dealing with societally or democratically oriented Islamic movements in neighboring countries. Such an anti-democratiing orientation was dramatically present when Riyadh and Abu Dhabi scolded Washington for abandoning Mubarak’s harsh authoritarian secular rule in Egypt back in 2011 and then welcoming the anti-Morsi coup led by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi two years later, even welcoming its bloody suppression of Sunni adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood. As has been long obvious to close and honest observers of the Kingdom, the Saudi monarchy has become so fearful of an internal uprising challenging its oppressive rule that it will oppose any liberalizing or democratizing challenge anywhere in its neighborhood. The Kingdom is particularly wary of its Shia minority that happens to be concentrated in locations near where the main Saudi oil fields are located. Similar concerns also help explain why Bahrain behaves as it does as it also fearful of a domestic Shia led majority opposition, which has made it a strategically dependent, yet ardent, adherent of the anti-Qatar coalition.

 

Also far more relevant than acknowledged is the presence of Al Jazeera in Doha, which at various times has voiced support for the Arab Uprisings of 2011, criticism of the Israeli practices and policies toward the Palestinians, and provided an Arabic media source of relatively independent news coverage throughout the region. Qatar is guilty of other irritants of the dominant Gulf political sensibility. It has arranged academic positions for such prominent Palestinian dissidents as Azmi Bashara and more than its neighbors has given welcome to intellectual refugees from Arab countries, especially Egypt. Given the way the Gulf rulers close off all political space within their borders it is to be expected that they find the relative openness of Qatar a threat as well as consider it to be a negative judgment passed on their style of governance.

 

Qatar is very vulnerable to pressure, but also has certain strengths. Its population of 2.5 million (only 200,000 of whom are citizens), imports at least 40% of its food across the Saudi border, now closed to the 600-800 daily truck traffic. Not surprisingly, this sudden closure has sparked panic among Qataris, who are reportedly stockpiling food and cash. The Doha stock market dropped over 7% on the first day after the Gulf break was announced. Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and is a major source of Turkish investment capital. Western Europe is wary of this American project to establish an ‘Arab NATO,’ and sees it as one more manifestation of Trump’s dysfunctional and mindless impact on world order.

 

What this portends for the future remains is highly uncertain. Some look upon these moves against Qatar as a tempest in a teapot that will disappear almost as quickly as it emerged. The U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and the Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, have urged mediation and offered reassuring comments about anti-ISIS unity remaining unimpaired. It is true that the existence of the Udeid Air Base in Qatar may in time dilute deference to the Saudi-led desire to squeeze the government in Doha, possibly to the point of its collapse. A more fearsome scenario is that the Trump encouraged confrontation sets the stage for a coup in Qatar that will be quickly supported by Washington as soon as Riyadh gives the green light, and will be promoted as part of the regional buildup against Iran. The notorious ceremony in which King Salmon, Trump, and Sisi were pictured standing above that glowing orb with their arms outstretched can only be reasonably interpreted as a pledge of solidarity among dark forces of intervention. Many of us supposed that George W. Bush’s policy of ‘democracy promotion’ that provided part of the rationale for the disastrous 2003 attack on Iraq was the low point in American foreign policy in the Middle East, but Trump is already proving us wrong.

 

While this kind of ‘great game’ is being played at Qatar’s expense in the Gulf, it is highly unlikely that other major players, especially Iran, Russia, and Turkey will remain passive observers, especially if the crisis lingers or deepens. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Mohammed Zarif, has non-aggressively tweeted to the effect that “neighbors are permanent; geography can’t be changed,” stating his view that the occasion calls for dialogue, not coercion. If the isolation of Qatar is not quickly ended, it is likely that Iran will start making food available and shipping other supplies to this beleaguered tiny peninsular country whose sovereignty is being so deeply threatened.

 

Russia, has been long collaborating with Iran in Syria, will likely move toward greater solidarity with Tehran, creating a highly unstable balance of power in the Middle East with frightening risks of escalation and miscalculation. Russia will also take advantage of the diplomatic opportunity to tell the world that the U.S. is seeking to raise war fevers and cause havoc by championing aggressive moves that further the ambitions of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel. Such Russian diplomacy is likely to play well in Europe where Trump’s recent demeaning words in Brussels to NATO members made the leading governments rethink their security policies, and to view the United States as an increasingly destabilizing force on the global stage, such feeling being reinforced by the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

 

Turkey seems to believe that its immediate effort should be similar to that of the Tillerson and Mattis approach, having tentatively offered to mediate, and advocates finding a way back to a posture of at least peaceful co-existence between Qatar, the Gulf, and the rest of the Arab world. Turkey has had a positive relationship with Qatar, which includes a small Turkish military facility and large Qatari investments in the Turkish economy.

 

To cool things down, the Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheik Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, while denying the allegations, has also joined in the call for mediation and even reconciliation. Bowing to Gulf pressures, Qatar has prior to the current crisis withdrawn its welcome from Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood exiles, and seems poised to yield further to the pressures of the moment, given its small size, political vulnerability, and intimations of possible societal panic.

 

While the civilian population of Yemen is faced with imminent famine as an intended consequence of the Saudi intervention, the Saudis seems to be again using food as a weapon, this time to compel Qatar to submit to its regional priorities and become a GCC team player with respect to Iran—joining in the preparation of a sectarian war against Iran while maintaining a repressive hold over political activity at home. One preliminary takeaway is that ISIS dimension is serving as a smokescreen to draw attention away from a far more controversial agenda. The Saudis are deeply implicated in political extremism throughout the region, having likely paid heavily for being treated, temporarily at least, as off limits for Jihadi extremism. Qatar, too is tainted, but mainly by being a minor operative in Syrian violence and in 2015 paying ISIS an amount rumored to be as high as $1 billion to obtain the release of 26 Qataris, including members of the royal family, taken hostage while on a falcon hunting party, of all things, in Iraq. We can gain some glimmers of understanding of what is motivating these Arab governments to act against Qatar, but little sympathy. In comparison, the new U.S. foreign policy in the region defies any understanding beyond its adoption of a cynical and unworkable geopolitical stance, which certainly does not engender any sympathy from the victimized peoples of the region, but rather fear and loathing.