Dismissing Palestinian resistance as a criminal act is only legitimising Israeli offensives in the name of self-defence. And in the pursuit of this self-defence, Israel is busy destroying Palestinian homes, breaking up Palestinian families, displacing Palestinians and bombing Palestinian towns at a whim.
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By Kirthi Jayakumar
The Israel-Palestine conflict has remained one of the most enduring conflicts since the end of the Second World War and the emergence of a new world order. Since 1948 and Israel’s independence, there has been a steady stream of violence, occupation and brazen civilian bombings on this war-torn land.
That the US has a blind spot so far as Israel goes is well-known; so much so that this wanton destruction of a whole community of people in Palestine is only myopically seen as a “cycle of violence”. Except, that is, when Israel’s security is perceived to be threatened.
It is time to face the real facts: the conflict between Israel and Palestine is not a mere territorial conflict, but a near-colonial war, with the occupier and the occupied locking horns. Palestine remains under Israeli control; under the thumb of a brutal, harsh, repressive force. Negotiations have come and gone. Rhetoric has been spilled. Neither has worked in favour of Palestine’s pressing needs. Nor have they retained a neutral ground, for this perceived inertia in the peace process is really just augmenting the Israeli occupation.
In the pursuit of “justice”, Israel has been quick to dismiss Palestinian resistance to the occupation as criminal wrongdoing. Think about it: an armed occupier takes over the land you know as home. Is retaliating and resisting this occupation a crime? If it is, then what is the original act of occupation itself? Dismissing Palestinian resistance as a criminal act is only legitimising Israeli offensives in the name of self-defence. And in the pursuit of this self-defence, Israel is busy destroying Palestinian homes, breaking up Palestinian families, displacing Palestinians and bombing Palestinian towns at a whim. Consequently, there has been an increase in the number of illegal Israeli settlements. It is not wrong, in this setting, to conclude that Israel is completely in violation of the norms of International Law that prohibit the occupation of land, war crimes, and displacement of population of land so occupied. When this is violated, and all the requisite steps and measures in pursuit of justice and redress have failed, a right to self-defence arises.
Whether Article 51 of the UN Charter or customary international law as crystallised and verbalised under the Caroline case (which reframed the parameters of the exercise of self-defence), the fact remains that this right to self-defence exists under international law. It is wrong to dismiss Palestine’s right by asserting that it is not a state. Picture this. You deprive a citizen of a country of his citizenship for no reason whatsoever. And then, you tell him he cannot go to court to question what you did. That is patent injustice in action.
However, in its attempt to continually ignore Palestine’s rightful claim, the international community is guilty of feeding into the legitimacy of Israel’s military power, and its military apartheid in Palestine. Apathy of this kind is not to the detriment of just a name and a few lines and colours on the world map, but to the people whose lives are toyed with unabashedly. All of this – and this is a terribly upsetting reflection of international hypocrisy – is done with paperwork testifying to a purported state of equality among both leaders on the “negotiation table”. Even as these papers indicate a purported state of building peace on an equal footing, people in Palestine cannot travel within the ambit of the occupied territories. Even as these papers indicate a purported state of building peace on an equal footing, the Israeli military units are free to kidnap, raid and kill as many Palestinians as they want.
The people of Palestine are being deprived of a freedom that they deserve, and have deserved since day one of the illegal occupation. Generations of Palestinians have died in the hopes of a better tomorrow; yet a state of apathy from the rest of the world persists. Israel continues to augment its security and military prowess, and more innocent blood continues to be spilled on the soil of what is rightfully Palestine.
The point is to revisit the Israel and Palestine conflict with the right reading of international law, and not the toothless, powerless version of it that the world has come to accept – because the latter only fuels conflict and keeps power in the hands of the already powerful.
Kirthi Jayakumar is a Lawyer, specialized in public international law and human rights. A graduate of the School of Excellence in Law, Chennai, Kirthi has diversified into research and writing on public international law and human rights. She has worked as a UN Volunteer, specializing in human rights research in Africa, India and Central Asia and the Middle East. She also runs a journal and consultancy that focuses on international law, called A38.