22 January 2014

False Assertions from PLO's Ashrawi

A Press Release dated 19 January 2014, from the Department of Culture and Information of the PLO Executive Committee contains several false assertions about international law by Hanan Ashrawi:

     1   Article  49  of  the  Fourth  Geneva   Convention  and  Article  43  of  the  Hague  Regulations,  among  other   international  conventions, explicitly state  that  Israel  is  in  direct   violation  of  international  law  with  its  illegal  settlement  activities.”  

In fact, neither the Fourth Geneva Convention nor the Hague Regulations make any explicit or other reference to Israel at all. 
The Hague Regulations date back to 1907, more than 40 years before the State of Israel was established.  The PLO statement is a disingenuous way of making a contentious claim about the legality of the settlements appear to be an incontrovertible truth.

Even among eminent international lawyers, there are numerous, diverse opinions about the legality of the settlements, but there has never been a definitive determination of the issue by a court.  The ICJ Advisory Opinion in 2004 was just that, a non-binding “opinion”, and not legally determinative.

Because the term “settlements” is used loosely to describe a number of different situations (including unauthorised “outposts” which Israel itself characterises as illegal under Israeli law), it is possible that different settlements have a different status in international law (see 2 below).  

Under agreements entered into between Israel and the PLO, the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank will be resolved by the delimitation of a final border in a negotiated agreement. 
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (August 2009), the territory lying between Israel’s security barrier and the pre-1967 "Green Line" accounts for only 8.5% of the total area of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). Approximately 85% of Israeli 'settlers' live within that 8.5% area, and all settlement construction activity, authorized by Israel, takes place there.   In 2008, Israel’s then Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, presented the Palestinians with a comprehensive peace proposal including a map with a proposed border which, including land within pre-1967 Israel, would have granted a Palestinian state land the equivalent of 100% of the West Bank and Gaza.  There has never been a similarly definitive counter-proposal from the Palestinian side.  
It is the Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, as expressly endorsed by the UN partition resolution in 1947 rather than the settlements issue, that is the real obstacle to peace.


     2   all (sic) settlements are illegal

Professor James Crawford, who is one of Australia’s (and the world’s) most eminent international lawyers and is generally critical of Israeli policies, published a legal Opinion in 2012 in which he concluded that some of the settlements, such as the Nahal settlements, are “probably lawful”.


     3  “A United Nations Human Rights Council fact finding mission…

The UN Human Rights Council has forfeited any claim to impartiality and objectivity with regard to Israel.  The Council’s obsessive bias against Israel has been publicly condemned by both Ban Ki Moon and his predecessor as UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

For many years, the UN General Assembly has annually and routinely passed approximately 20 one-sided resolutions condemning Israel for alleged violations of international law in the West Bank.  No other country in the world is singled out in any comparable way.  This shameful process occurs both in the plenary session of the General Assembly and in five of its main committees which are supposed to deal respectively with Disarmament and International Security, Economic and Financial questions,  Social, Humanitarian and Cultural issues, Special Political and Decolonization subjects and Administrative and Budgetary issues.

Apart from the rank hypocrisy of the situation in which gross human rights offenders such as Sudan, North Korea, Iran and Syria lead the charge in castigating the open and democratic State of Israel for alleged human rights violations, there is a very real problem with the one-sidedness of the resolutions themselves, and their failure to demand reciprocity from the Palestinians and their leaders.

The terms of the resolutions in question have barely altered from year to year and Australia's objections to them, as recorded in previous years, remain valid.  The one-sided and non-reciprocal nature of the resolutions in effect rewards and encourages the Palestinians' non-compliance with the various agreements to which they have subscribed.  It also encourages elements within the UN and EU which are openly hostile to Israel to continue their one-sided, out-of-context criticisms of the Israeli government.  These resolutions therefore also make it more difficult to secure public support among Israelis and Palestinians for the painful concessions that peace will ultimately require from both sides.

These resolutions ostensibly seek to promote the international rule of law but because their terms are unmistakeably polemical and one-sided, the effect is the opposite.  As Australian representatives have observed in providing the government’s Explanations of Vote at previous Committee sessions, these resolutions pre-empt, and thus impede the achievement of, a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict, and thus do nothing to advance or enhance the prospects of a just and lasting peace.


    4   Australia’s wilful defiance of international consensus”. 


There is no such consensus.  A majority is not a consensus, especially if it is an automatic, unthinking majority that includes the 56 states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and other States which are dependent on them for oil or financially.  
The UN Human Rights Council’s  annual ritual of passing anti-Israel resolutions is so repellent that each resolution attracts ‘no’ votes from several democratic countries each year.  Australia is a sovereign nation with a democratically elected government that makes its own decisions according to its own assessment of Australia’s national interests.  

Ashrawi’s attempt to bully Australia with the spectre of a non-existent “international consensus” can and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.