Sunday, April 18, 2004

George Will Presumes to be an International Lawyer

George Will’s column regarding the Occupied Terratories drags out the old canard of "the territories" vs. "territories." He insists that UN Resolution 242's lack of the definite article implies that Israel has no need to withdraw from all the territory they captured in 1967. It is neither an original argument, nor an intellectually honest one. It is meant to mislead the ignorant. Every scholar of this subject knows this argument to be specious (in fact, the French version of the resolution contains the definite article). In addition, it’s completely irrelevant. Resolution 242 is not international law and cannot override international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 certainly is international law and it precludes acquisition of territory by war and the prohibits the transfer of civilians of the occupying Power to the occupied territory. No territory, regardless of its status as a UN mandate (another Will obsfucation), may be acquired by war nor settled by the people of conquering power. Israel’s annexations and "security" barriers violate the former ban. Israel’s settlement subsidies and tax policies encouraging transfer of population to the West Bank, over 400,000 now, violate the latter. Violations of Geneva constitute war crimes, and there is no way to avoid this fact with ignorant, legally irrelevant blather.

Will’s circular argument about the absence of a suitable negotiating partner for deciding disposition of the land does not hold water either. Israel has by its occupation precluded UN control of the territory and the emergence of a Palestinian state. They have refused to negotiate in good faith for return of all occupied territories to UN or sovereign control with representatives of the UN or the people of Palestine. The belligerents in 1967 were Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon (and by proxy Kuwait, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq). All of these parties have concluded formal peace treaties with Israel with no disposition regarding the remaining Occupied Territories (Egypt's peace with Israel included the return to Egypt and demilitarization of the Sinai). Yet the West Bank and Gaza remain in Israeli control. Who else but the Palestinian Arabs can negotiate for those lands?

UN Security Council Resolution 1322 (2000) was passed 14-0 with no veto, and thus is mandatory international law. It "Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention..." Israel is in violation of international law by defying this mandatory Security Council resolution. The U.S. went to war with Iraq over a supposed violation of such a Security Council resolution. Were it not for the United States abetting Israeli outlawry and protecting them from the censure of the world, Israel would surely be branded a rogue nation.

The Israeli claims of security concerns as a basis for the continuing occupation are also misleading. Israeli borders are secured by treaty with surrounding nations, guaranteed by its status as a major nuclear power, its superior military, and its security arrangements with the United States. Israeli strategic security is quite well assured without the Occupied Territories. As to the threat of terrorism, that is caused largely by the occupation, not mitigated by it. A just and final settlement of the occupied territories would reduce terrorism against the people of Israel, not increase it.

Israel certainly has a right to exist, a right to self-defense, and a right seek security for its people. It does not have a right to flaunt international law or commit war crimes in the pursuit of illusory security through the annexation of territory not its own. It has no right to hold a people in bondage by violence and threat of violence. It has no right to seek the elimination of the Palestinian Arab people as nation, or as a community. Israel has no right to thwart Palestinians inherent right to self-determination, and no right to demand "regime change" among the representatives of the Palestinian people. Of all the people in the world, Israelis should be the ones most exquisitely aware of what the seeds of genocide look like, and under what conditions they germinate and grow. Israel is flirting with the danger of becoming their own nightmares. It is Ariel Sharon and the Likkud Party who endanger the souls of the Israeli people. Regime change is like charity, it should always begin at home.


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