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     Volume 7 Issue 50 | December 26, 2008 |

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Israel's breach of International Laws

Obaidur Rahman

The Palestine-Israel conflict has been the centre of world's attention for decades now and is far from over. The repercussions of Israel's efforts towards maintaining its “sovereignty” simply compromises the notion of human rights and violates numerous international laws and regulations as Israel's approach towards Palestinian resistance is both humanitarianly and judicially objectionable. Take the case of the Palestinian children who are systematically targeted by the Israeli army. The UN has repeatedly called Israel to stop "targeting" Palestinian minors and put an end to their actions, which has been described by the UN as "acts of terrorism". Here it needs to be mentioned that according to Israeli military orders, Palestinian children who have reached the age of 16 are considered adults, contravening the internationally accepted definition of a child as anyone below the age of 18. Not only that but there is the military order given by the Israeli government that allows the arrest of children aged 12 to 14. Since the second Intifada began in 2000, hundreds of Palestinian children have died in the hands of occupied army and the methods of arrests and the system of imprisonment of these children violates numerous international laws and regulations. This includes Article 14 of the International Convent of Civil and Political Rights and Article 40 of the Child Rights Convention, UN (CRC and Beijing rules), Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 37 of Child Rights Convention, Article 2 and 16 of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It also breeches articles 7 and 10 of International Convent of Civil and Policy Rights and Articles 31, 32, Article 14 of the International Convent of Civil and Political Rights along with the Article 40 of the Child Rights Convention and 37 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Arthur James Balfour, who was Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, authored the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the first initiation of the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. Nobody in their wildest imagination thought that Israel's independence in 1948 and the capture of the West Bank from Jordan, Gaza Strip from Egypt and East Jerusalem including the Old city and its Holy Sites in “the Six-Day War” in 1967 would end up being the centre of consistent and systematic violations of human rights and international laws. Truthfully, all of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands violates human rights conventions -- especially the Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids an occupying power from making its presence a permanent one. There are 149 substantive articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention that protect the rights of every one of these Palestinians living in occupied Palestine which are in violation since 1967 and such violations are in fact considered as war crimes. Article 46 of the Hague Convention also prohibits the confiscation of private property in occupied territory and therefore the confiscation of land by the Israeli government for settlement construction is in clear violation of this article.

Ironically when the people of Palestine chose to defend their motherland and resist the Israeli brutality, they were tagged as terrorists even though according to the UN, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, every country has a right to defend itself if attacked and occupied. When Israeli authorities arrest Palestinians, they are viciously locked up in the most degrading and inhuman conditions which violates a myriad of international human rights, norms and resolutions such as the 24th, 25th and 26th of the UN Body of Principles and the article 22 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including article 91 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which guarantees the right of detainees to obtain medical attention.

The Israeli occupation has also created around 4 million Palestinian refugees who live in camps throughout the Middle East and in exile worldwide. Even though their right of return to former homes and claim to citizenship in what is today Israel, is clearly and unambiguously guaranteed by international law under the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the government of Israel opposes Palestinian immigration, in order to maintain the Jewish character of the state. Rather than allowing the return of Palestinians into their own homes, Israeli Defense Force (IDF) practices a controversial tactic called “House Demolition” in occupied Palestine. IDF defines this as a counter-insurgency security measure but human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have criti-cized the use of house demolitions as a violation of international laws like Article 53 of Fourth Geneva Convention and further suggesting it as Israel's collective punishment measures against Palestinians. On March 17th, 2003, Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist and a member of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Southern strip of Rafah, where she was trying to stop IDF from bulldozing a house of a Palestinian family of four along with their five young children. Before that, another foreign national was killed by IDF on November 22nd, 2002, Iain Hook, the UNRWA project manager of the Jenin Camp Rehabilitation Project, who was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier inside the small project compound.

From demolishing homes to building “Security Fences”, Israel's constant breach of international decrees continues with its construction of the controversial Separation Barrier Walls in and around the West Bank, which was declared illegal in July, 2004 by The International Court of Justice (ICJ). However, the Israeli West Bank barrier around the occupied Palestinian territories, which basically creates the largest “prison” in the world, is still standing despite a resolution passed by an overwhelming majority at the UN General Assembly declaring it illegal, urging Israel to comply with the ruling of the ICJ. However, the occupiers' atrocity continues simply due to the United States veto power to prevent the UN Security Council from implementing the Court's decision.

One can't help but wonder what the UN can actually do to resolve this crisis. There is no lack of sincerity and good will but it is the inability of the UN to turn these things into a reality that indulges Israel's aggression towards Palestinians. The question of Palestine and Israel has commanded grave attention in the UN and to ensure peace, affirming the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the international community called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied land but the United States' influence has generally kept the issue off the Council's agenda. Every time Council members have introduced resolutions, responding to periodic crises in that region, the US has repeatedly used its veto on Israel's behalf. Interestingly, by law, United States is not supposed to provide foreign aid to any country that engages in ''a consistent pattern of gross violations'' of human rights; however, despite all the human rights breaches Israel remains the largest recipient of military and financial aid from the US.

Time and time again numerous crucial efforts towards establishing peace in the region were initiated, notably “The Oslo Accord” in 1993 and the “Roadmap” in 2003. However, Israel continued to aggressively impose its occupation in Palestinian territories while undermining all international laws, which simply deepens the crisis. Israel's defiance towards international regulations and disregard for human rights is truly frustrating. Peace is perhaps not in the best of interest of Israel, otherwise why else would their Deputy Prime Minister order its military forces to kill a daily minimum of 70 Palestinians, like Shaul Mofaz did in 2001? Everybody has the right to exist and humanitarian laws apply to us all, despite differences in race and religion. If peace is of any priority to Israel, then perhaps it could be a good start for the country to discard its policy of utter disrespect towards humanity and establish the rights of Palestinians by returning back what is genuinely theirs, an Independent Palestinian State, governed by Palestinians themselves.


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