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Occupied Palestine and Israel III

Here's another great piece of article written by renowned law professor, Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi in today's The Star.
Going to the roots of the conflict.
If Israel has a right of self defence, so do the starving beleaguered people of Palestine who are the victims of state terrorism and economic strangulation.

IN many Western capitals including Washington and Paris, and in some Malaysian minds, there is, regrettably, no sense of outrage at the three-week carnage that took place in Gaza beginning Dec 27.

I have heard Malaysians say that Israel cannot be expected to sit idly by as Hamas fighters shoot rockets at innocent Israeli citizens.

Indeed, any sovereign nation is entitled under Article 51 of the UN Charter to defend its sovereignty against an armed attack.

However, this right of self defence in international law is available only to a state that is under unlawful attack. It is not available to one that is itself an aggressor; that is in unlawful occupation of another land; and that is involved in a genocidal programme of economic strangulation of a whole people.

The right to wage war without authority of the UN is not available for bringing regime change – in this case the attempt to topple the rightfully elected Hamas government of Gaza.

We should also not ignore the fact that elections are around the corner in Israel and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wishes to bolster his political chances.

A number of other historical, legal and political facts cannot be denied.

First, even before the launch of the Israeli invasion of Dec 27, the people of Gaza were in the midst of a grave humanitarian crisis due to Israel’s unlawful 19-month economic blockade that prevented food, medicine and other basic necessities of life from reaching the hungry and angry inhabitants of this occupied land.

Second, the truth is that Hamas was not the first to launch an attack on Israel. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University tells us that “it was Israel which broke the ceasefire on Nov 4 when it attacked the Gaza Strip”.

Hamas retaliated by shooting crude, 25-mile range rockets into Israeli civilian areas, killing four innocent Jewish citizens.

Third, the right of self defence under Article 51 persists only till “the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain peace and security”.

Once the Council formally determines that there exists a threat, individual states may no longer exercise the right of self defence without the Council’s express prior approval.

There was no such express approval given to Israel to continue its slaughter.

Fourth, if Israel has a right of self defence, so do the starving beleaguered people of Palestine who are the victims of state terrorism and economic strangulation by Israel.

Fifth, the International Court of Justice has affirmed in the Nuclear Weapons Case that lawful defence must be both proportional to the armed attack and necessary to respond to it. International observers have confirmed that Hamas rockets killed four Israeli civilians. Nine other Israelis died in executing the Gaza assault.

In a totally disproportionate and barbaric response, Israel killed 1,300 Palestinians and wounded 5,000. It bombed Gaza back to the stone age. Forty-five percent of the casualties were women and children.

Sixth, deliberate annihilation of civilian areas is a war crime. The shelling of UN-run food depots and refugee centres and the bombing of hospitals, mosques and schools are grave violations of humanitarian laws.

The point-blank shooting of innocent children and elderly citizens, as is graphically illustrated by The Star’s Shahanaaz Habib, are crimes against humanity.

Seventh, Israel’s halt to the assault on Gaza’s civilians and the cessation of mass murder are a welcome relief. But this façade of restraint does not change the ground realities.

The whole of Palestine including the 1.5 million people of Gaza are still under Israeli subjugation. Israeli ground troops and tanks remain in occupation.

Apartheid walls surround the people. A 19-month-old illegal and crippling economic blockade is still strangulating Gaza. All borders are sealed. Palestinian land, air and water remain under Israeli control.

For all practical purposes, the inhabitants of Gaza in particular, and Palestine in general, remain trapped in a massive jail. In a brutal system of permanent apartheid, they lead a life of near starvation, unemployment and utter indignity.

In the face of such continuing bestiality, what can the Third World do?

Our NGOs must fill the airwaves with the view that there will be no lasting ceasefire and no peace unless there is justice. The Palestinians cannot be caged.

Racist and religious bigots in Israel, the US and Europe must be told that enough is enough. The world cannot any more tolerate this 61-year effort to wipe out the Palestinians.

Neither should we condone the diabolical attempt to sear into the Palestinian conscience the idea that the Palestinians are a defeated people and that if they wish to survive they must be prepared to lead a dog’s life under Israeli control.

It is with regret and disgust I note that US and French presidents talk about the need to “stop weapons smuggling into Gaza” but ignore the larger, root cause – the genocide and inhumanity of the apartheid Israeli state.

The Third World should stop relying on the US and Europe to bring justice to the Middle East.

On the issue of Palestine, the Third World should turn to Russia and China. They should fill the vacuum of leadership and demand justice for the Palestinians.

There is one shining precedent.

In 1956, an Anglo-French-Israeli expedition invaded the Suez Canal. The USSR threatened to intervene on the side of Nasser’s Egypt. Faced with this ultimatum, France, UK and Israel withdrew in humiliation.

The Third World should have no expectations from the Security Council of the United Nations. It is a relic of the racist, colonial era. We must rely on the 191-nation General Assembly which is the most democratic of all international institutions. We must jettison the colonial interpretation that the General Assembly’s powers are residual and subordinate to the Security Council’s. Third World nations must push through more “Uniting for Peace Resolutions” and cooperate with each other to enforce them.

If Russia, China and India can provide the lead, an international force that excludes the US and Europe can be put together to patrol the occupied lands, secure basic necessities and prevent the ongoing genocide.

Finally, there must be an impartial, international investigation into widely reported violations of the laws of war by both Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Israel cannot be suckled with immunity after each horrendous crime against the Palestinians just because Jews were butchered by Europeans. On no principle of justice can Arabs be held vicariously responsible for European crimes against the Jews.

Dr Shad is Professor of Law at UiTM.

1 comment

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