Upholding the law in Palestine

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It is very hard to get a legal grasp on the situation in Palestine, and this is mostly due to the fact that the law is obscured by numerous agreements, such as the Oslo agreements, and then there was the Geneva agreements, and the prison pact, and others agreements negotiated and signed by people who may or may not have had the legal right, or the legal authority to even represent the Palestinian people in such negotiations and, or agreements. If one takes the time to read the Geneva Conventions carefully, you get the impression that the Conventions frown upon people living under occupation negotiating with the occupier while they are under military threat, and this may actually void any such past agreements, and also set some very clear guidelines for how any type of negotiated agreement must be pursued. That makes sense to most people since it is obviously a type of unjust coercion for one side, the occupied, to enter a negotiating process during a 60-year siege wherein a sizeable part of their population is daily, being murdered, kidnapped, imprisoned, starved to death, driven off their land, and denied a right to self defense, all as a result of the very illegal aggression, and occupation that the law was written to address, while also constantly being bullied by the most powerful countries in the world, and deemed criminal terrorists, hunted down and persecuted if they resist or seek to defend their country against any of the aforementioned crimes, and violations of their sovereignty. This, in and of itself could mean that any previous agreements reached between Palestinian negotiators, even those negotiated by the PLO and Israel, while the Palestinians were living under siege, or the threat thereof, and under extreme duress, are not valid or binding since at no time since the current occupation began 60 years ago, have the Palestinian people lived in a way that conformed to the Geneva Convention requirements.

What is absolutely clear, is that according to the Geneva Conventions, a people living under occupation cannot be coerced into entering negotiations with their occupier, and they cannot be coerced into negotiating away their inalienable rights, which are guaranteed by the Conventions, which calls upon the signatories to this body of international law, to ensure that the Conventions are observed and enforced. That could mean that the UN must uphold its duty to the Palestinian people, by demanding not only that Israel immediately withdraw to its internationally recognized borders, or face some type of penalty, but also, the UN must demand that Israel immediately stop all violence and attacks against the Palestinian people, and release all of the Palestinian people who have been kidnapped and imprisoned, and tried illegally in the occupiers kangaroo courts. If the UN Security Council fails to act, and the UN General Assembly refuses to take up the matter, the signors to the Conventions might be legally bound to act, even to act forcefully, to protect the integrity of international law, and the rights of those whom it is meant to serve, in this case it is the Palestinian people.

Former US Secretary of State George Ball in his book, The Passionate Attachment, was probably the only US diplomat to point out, that so long as the US yielded to Israel’s insistence that a settlement of this conflict be premised upon a negotiated agreement, and that such an agreement should not recognize, or be forged within the very real legal parameters of the Geneva Conventions, that there would never be peace. Ball understood then, as do many legal experts and others today, that without a law that can equalize the interests in conflict, balancing the aggressive power of the occupier with the power loss of the victim, there would never be a sustainable peace. He was right. Not only does the law seem to prohibit such direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, it may also criminalize any entity that aides and assists the illegal occupier in its aggression, which could be interpreted to include participating in, and facilitating such illegal negotiations, and assisting or funding any action on the part of the belligerent and illegal occupier that might prolong the occupation, or lend to its aggression, or harm to the legally protected people of the occupied territories, including placing them under extreme duress. That would include the UN, the EU and also the Arab countries that have fallen in league with Israel in attempts to coerce the duly elected PA government into recognizing the self created right of an illegal occupier to exist within another country’s sovereign borders. If we take the Geneva Conventions seriously, as we must, it is clear that the attempts by the US, UN and Israel, and also the Arab governments who support them, to force the Palestinians into yielding their sovereign rights to deny recognition to Israel so long as it is illegally occupying their land, by starving the people to death, denying them humanitarian and other aid that was made obligatory through various pledges and other types of obligations, and also facilitating and allowing Israel to carry out massacres and other illegal and immoral violence all for the purpose of creating duress that would cause the people to capitulate to Israel’s demands, are acting illegally and can possibly be held accountable the same as the occupier can be, for their violations of law.

If the PA is smart, rather than contemplating abandoning their obligation by law, to form a Palestinian legislature and to govern, they should be filing complaints at the International Court of Justice, and any other court where they can file against any country or person that is attempting in any way to violate the sovereign rights of the Palestinian people, and also their Geneva Convention rights. In this way, the international courts will be forced to define for us, what the law is as it pertains to Israel’s continued illegal, and brutal occupation of Palestine. Until that time, the PA is free to act in its own interests, and the interests if its people, without interference from the US, EU, Egypt, Jordan or anyone else. If, on the other hand, these countries wish to join Israel in its criminal status they should be advised that at some point, they would also be held accountable for their violation of international law as co-belligerents with criminal Israel. It is also possible that complaints can be filed within these countries, based on the possibility that they may be violating their own constitutions along with international law, by setting up offices in illegally occupied lands, and working along with Israel, the illegal occupier to advance its illegal occupation.

Negating the truce with Israel is only one way to address the failure of the international community to protect the sovereign rights of Palestine, the other is to uphold the international law by filing laws suits in the international courts against any person or entity that aides and abets Israel in its illegal enterprise. That can include seeking to terminate any and all foreign aide, or assistance to certain Arab countries, and ending weapons and security aid to Israel. If the US, EU don’t end their collaboration with Israel, the PA should seek to have the UN Security Council and General Assembly address the issue of an illegal international cabal formed for the sole purpose of advancing the illegal occupation, and denying Palestinians their sovereign and inalienable rights, and also violations of the Geneva Conventions and other international laws and treaties. If these attempts to bring the law to bear fail, the Geneva Conventions signatories are obligated to convene and to act on behalf of the Palestinians.

It is not enough that we pay only lip service to the law. Justice may be blind, but it’s not stupid. Without justice, there will never be peace. International Institutions have an opportunity to live up to their rhetoric, understanding that should they fail, they will create a cause and opportunity for others to legally act. We must decide to either be a civilized world that is ruled by the laws of God and men, or whether we will be like Israel, and live according to the law of the jungle.

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The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women. The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians. She is a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).

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