Using the UN and International Law
The existing BDS movement is growing exponentially. But it is still a seed putting out its first shoots. This struggle could get a rocket booster if states that support Palestine (and the PLO’s own representatives) really used their muscle at the UN, which Israel has long mocked by flouting its conventions, legalities and resolutions while basing its very existence on the General Assembly’s 1947 partition resolution 181.
The UN’s own Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories, Dr. RICHARD FALK, told the General Assembly on 20 October that “The BDS campaign represents a recognition that neither governments nor the United Nations are prepared or able to uphold Palestinian rights” but recalled that “the anti-apartheid campaign of the late 1980s was strongly endorsed by the United Nations”.
CAMERON HUNT rather optimistically advocates a UN takeover of the whole of Israel-Palestine: certainly a UN-appointed body could play a major role in supervising new constitutional and voting negotiations for a single state. And he suggests these measures:
* Resolution 181 itself could be revoked, and the US could not veto such a revocation. (One Democracy would go further: Resolution 181 could be invoked to dispute Israel’s 1948 acquisitions, by military conquest and ethnic cleansing, of territory beyond that allocated in the 181 UN Paritition plan. E.g. the city of Jaffa, allocated to Palestine by the UN, is still being ethnically cleansed to this day.)
* Israel’s very membership of the UN depends on it being accepted as a “peace-loving nation” (though by that standard there’d be a lot of empty chairs at the UN) and its membership could also be in question for its flouting of decisions of the International Court of Justice.
* The Arab League (or any EU member country) could pressure the EU to cancel its trade agreement with Israel, the EU-Israel Association Agreement, by invoking the human rights clauses.
* It or another body could challenge the legality of US aid (and tax breaks for private aid) to Israel on the grounds that it violates the US Constitution which forbids laws that “aid one religion .. or prefer one religion over another”.
There is a dire need for an immediate new more assertive Palestinian political strategy. There is an urgent need for a new more effective Palestinian election, involving not only Palestinians under Israeli occupation, but also Palestinians in all Palestinian refugee camps and in exile, to choose a more representing political body, that would sincerely and assertively fight for Palestinian rights on the international arena.
MOUIN RABBANI, in an Al Shabaka policy paper, shows how the changed legal framework of the past 20 years helped matters to get so bad, giving Israel impunity for outrageously illegal actions.
It’s hard to believe now, but until after the Reagan era in the late 1980s, Washington supported or condoned UN Security Council resolutions that confirmed the illegality of all Israeli settlement activity (including in East Jerusalem), condemned Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem as “null and void,” and insisted on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to all territory occupied in the June 1967 War.
But behind the scenes, Washington policy was being changed by people who “spared no effort to eliminate international law as a framework for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a resolution of the conflict.”
In place of law, the coalition calculus of increasingly extremist Israeli governments became the outer limits of Palestinian rights, and enabled the huge acceleration in settlement building, shielded by Washington. Next, the US and EU fell in with Israel’s definition that the OPTs were “disputed”, not occupied.
This gave the go-ahead for the huge settlement expansion during the Clinton era which, during the whole supposed two-state process, “constituted fatal blows to viable Palestinian statehood and sovereignty … and made a mockery of the two-state paradigm.”
Today, says Rabbani, Palestinians have no alternative but the reconstruction of their national movement, and … acting outside the parameters of the negotiating process. The priority should be confronting and gradually reversing Israeli impunity, with the aim of making Israel accountable for its actions.
In addition to making greater use of UN and ICJ verdicts and challenging the tax-exempt status of US foundations that play a crucial role in settlement expansion, his key priority is to return to the international/great power consensus that the settlements and annexation of East Jerusalem contravene international law and re-state the pre-1991 view that the territories are occupied. This could be done by resolutions re-stating the previous position of, for example, the UN Security Council. The focus of such efforts should be to arrest and reverse Israeli impunity in the occupied Palestinian territories.
AS GHADA KARMI has written, “A unitary state is inevitable. Establishing an exclusive state defined along ethnic-religious lines and excluding its previous inhabitants was unjust and ultimately unsustainable. No political acrobatics will alter this. The sooner the UN, which unwisely created Israel in the first place, takes charge of the consequences, the better it will be for Palestinians, for Israelis and for the region as a whole.”
« Horsetrading at the Talks
Rebuilding the Palestinian leadership »