Has Israeli Occupation Become Legal in the 21st Century?

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This last eight months of bloodletting between Israelis and Palestinians is no more than an additional exhausting chapter in a decades old conflict that seems today more polarized than ever. When Israel invaded the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967, the occupation of Palestinians was born. With this birth came a second Palestinian Diaspora (the first was in 1948 when Israel was established) and the reality that an entire population, 1.2 million Palestinians, would become totally controlled by the Israeli military. Over three decades later, no one expected that occupation would endure or that Palestinians would still be able to resist it if it did.

When it became apparent that the world was turning a blind eye to the Palestinian catastrophe, the Palestinians created the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to serve as the organizational mechanism that would coordinate their political, military, social and economic efforts to liberate Palestine. Initially, the PLO was tasked to liberate Historic Palestine é from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. This was an indigenous people struggling against the colonization of their homeland. In 1988, the highest political body of the PLO, the Palestine National Council, took a strategic and pragmatic decision to formally recognize Israel’s existence on 78% of Historic Palestine and conceded to maintain their demand for the lands that, until today, remain internationally recognized as illegally occupied by Israel.

As the conflict ensued, the State of Israel proceeded with a multitude of unilateral actions, the most outrageous being the building of Jewish-only settlements in the midst of lands they occupied. Settlement building, a policy of deporting Palestinians, a policy of imprisoning Palestinians, a policy of torturing Palestinian prisoners, a policy of house demolitions, among a whole series of other flagrant violations of human rights and international law have complicated the issue to a point where Palestinians are being requested in the year 2001 to be “just a little more flexible.”

From the outset, the world community was aware of the seriousness of the dispossession of Palestinians caused by the Israelis. Hence, the Arab-Israeli conflict, as it has been termed, was brought to the venue of the United Nations multiple times.

On 11 December 1948, only a few months after the creation of the State of Israel, the General Assembly passed Resolution 194 which “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

On 22 November 1967, now only months after Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, the Security Council passed Resolution 242, which explicitly calls for, “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from [the] This strategy has been initiated by International Law expert Dr. Richard Cummings and is currently being prepared for action. Dr. Cummings may be reached at [email protected]

Mr. Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman, born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, who relocated to his family’s home in Al-Bireh, West Bank immediately following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994).

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