By Maggie Villines
It is an inconvenient truth that under international law, it’s not illegal to win a territorial fight. Media rhetoric pummels hearts and minds and rallies a false cause, and the United Nations depicts the people of Israel to be a pariah, a hated “occupier,” and routinely takes steps to sanction the occupier. The Middle East, an area of 8,804.395 square miles – equivalent to about ninety percent of the contiguous United States – considers Israel undeserving of the right to exist on the original, tiny 10,875 square miles unanimously granted by the League of Nations and upheld by the U.N.
International laws of war, declared or undeclared, are ignored. Ignorance prevails around the globe. Pertinent laws are eye-opening – not a seductive read, but easy to understand and necessary for discovering truth, whatever your moral imperative, which fails to replace law.
Is Israel an “occupier,” and if the answer is yes, is the “occupation” legal according to international law? Consider the following:
1) Egypt has never held or claimed sovereignty (ownership) over the Gaza Strip.
2) Egypt has occupied (established authority over) the Gaza Strip.
3) Jordan has never been sovereign over the West Bank.
4) Jordan has occupied the West Bank.
5) Jordan claimed sovereignty over the West Bank but abandoned the quest after failing to convince Arab neighbors or any nations, other than Pakistan and Britain, of a legitimate claim.
6) Syria is sovereign over the Golan Heights, although Israel gained a portion of the territory in the 1967 war. That portion of the Golan remains under Israeli control. Syria accuses Israel of “illegal occupation” as Syria’s own Iranian-funded military occupies Lebanon. Israel shares a border with Lebanon, from which Hezb’allah, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, attacks Israel, forcing Israel to respond to protect its citizenry.
The definition of a territorial “occupier” has existed, unchanged, since the early 1900s. “Customary” warfare law is settled law.
1. The purpose of the 1907 Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land:
Hague Article 42, in part: The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.
Hague Article 43, in part: The authority of the legitmate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.
2. The Fourth Geneva Convention, August 1949: “After WWII this body examined “occupation” through a more focused lens and added to the Hague. The definition of occupation did not change. Hague remained and continues to be customary law. The Geneva purpose shifted from protecting the sovereign to protecting civilian populations.”
[T]he present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them[.] … The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.
The Gaza Strip and West Bank have no existing “legitimate power” and have been without sovereignty since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Israel is not illegally occupying the Gaza Strip today, nor did it between 1967 and 2005, when it handed the territory over to Hamas. Twenty-one Jewish housing settlements were dislodged. To maintain border security, Israel continues to control air traffic, seaports, and coastal fishing.
Syria is sovereign over the Golan Heights but in 1967 fired down on Israel from the heights of Golan’s rocky plateaus. A few days later, Israel took that territory, eliminating one more security threat.
Conquerors lawfully exist under law but are charged with restoring public order if possible. International laws of war do not demand that land be returned after conquest. The United Nations and the International Court of Justice have no legislative power, including authority to determine sovereignty over a nation or territory.
Moral imperative is our privilege but fails to replace law.
1981: Israel annexed the Golan Heights. 1988: The PLO, with Yasser Arafat’s endorsement, declared a Palestinian State on the territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Neither occurrence is internationally acknowledged. The U.N. denies the Israeli annexation and accepts the Palestinian state. The U.N. position is a statement. The U.N. has no legislative power.
Hague is “customary law.” Geneva IV is “conventional law.” Cornell Law defines “Customary” and “International”:
Customary International law results when states follow certain practices consistently out of a sense of legal obligation[.] … Conventional international law derives from international agreements and may take any form that the contracting parties agree upon.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) endorsed Geneva IV and upheld Hague:
The Convention does not invalidate the provisions of the Hague Regulations of 1907 on the same subjects but it is supplementary to them.
Arab countries point to U.N. post-1967 war Resolution 242 as proof of Israel’s illegal occupation. Resolution 242 does not mention Palestine but states the goal of a “just and lasting peace in the Middle East” – in part:
… respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state [Israel included] in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.
The Arab League did not successfully rally members to offer “respect” or “secure borders” to Israel. The Arab Peace Initiative was tempting to both sides, but Hamas refused to sign on. The Arab League acts as one. Hamas dominated.
Hamas, also an internationally recognized terrorist organization, was founded in 1987. Eight months later, a charter was adopted. Immediately after the preamble, the Hamas Covenant of 1988 (Constitution) says:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.
Hamas has not renounced the Covenant but argues that its 2006 “Electoral Campaign Platform List for Change and Reform” (C&R) is the voice of Hamas.
2. Palestine is Arab and Muslim Land.
3. The Palestinian people are still in the process of National Liberation and have the right to use all means including armed struggle to achieve this goal.
Confirming my assertion that media shape their worldview with false rhetoric, relying on the public’s moral imperative while willfully ignoring law when convenient, the C&R declares:
Culture and media play a vital role in shaping the mentality and thought of citizens, and building up the nation’s personality.
The inconvenient truth of Israel’s supposed illegal occupation: in all cases, Israel legally occupies.