Home > Columnists > Jeff Halper > For Palestinians the Irrelevancy of International Law | Jeff Halper

For Palestinians the Irrelevancy of International Law | Jeff Halper

About The Author

Jeff Halper is a former director of the Israeli Campaign against House Demolitions. His current book is “War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians, and Global Pacification.” He lives in Jerusalem.

The American “recognition” of Israeli settlements are not “inconsistent with international law” demonstrates nothing more dramatic than the bankruptcy of American foreign policy — though in fact that previous American governments took virtually the same position: they may have recognized the settlements’ illegality under international law, but de facto ignored it and allowed Israel to confiscate Palestinian lands, build its massive settlement-cities with impunity, while demolishing tens of thousands of Palestinian homes.

The most disheartening but long-understood message here is the absolute irrelevancy and unenforceability of international law in international affairs. One does not have to be an internal law expert to know that the American position is bullshit. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that protects populations under occupation and prohibits the Occupying Power from making its control permanent, clearly states: “The Occupying Power shall not… transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” (Little does this matter. Israel violates with impunity the other 51 articles of the Fourth dealing with restrictions on what an Occupying Power can do.)

Thus, for all of those who cry “human rights” and “international law,” and in this case Palestinians and their supporters who call for a “rights-based approach” to obtaining Palestinian rights rather than political struggle, the reality is clear: human rights and IHL are inspirational values and guidelines, but they possess little in clout in political affairs. They can be used against the weak or pariahs such as Miloševi?, Charles Taylor or Saddam Hussein, but not against strong parties (like the US, which threatened to invade the International Criminal Court if an American soldiers or decision-makers were brought to trial for war crimes) or those protected by the strong powers, like Israel, Netanyahu and Gantz (who a Dutch court is just now deciding whether to try for his crimes as Chief-of-Staff in Gaza). Indeed, the enforcer of international law is the UN Security Council, and Israel knows that the US veto will prevent any sanctions.

So we move on, regardless of international law and cynical governments who manipulate it. We must understand, however, that “rights-based approaches” are meaningless unless they are integrated with focused political demands and campaigns. Do we need more proof that the “two-state solution” is dead?! Either an American-approved regime of Israeli apartheid or a single democracy of equal rights for all. Rights FOLLOW a just process of decolonization.

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