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The Term “Occupied Palestinian Territories” Perverts International Law

Sept. 12 2017

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the main arbiter of the Geneva Convention’s regulations, frequently describes the West Bank and even the Gaza Strip as “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Yet, Alan Baker writes, this phrase—also used by the UN—wildly misapplies the laws the ICRC is tasked with protecting:

The classical rules of occupation are set out in the international law of armed conflict and specifically in the 1907 Hague Regulations and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. . . . [T]he Hague Regulations define a territory as occupied when it comes “under the control of a hostile army.” The Fourth Geneva convention goes further and requires that the territory of a “High Contracting Party [i.e., a signatory of the Convention] comes under partial or total occupation.” . . .

[But] the sovereign status [of the West Bank and Gaza] is legally unclear or non-existent and as such cannot be seen as “territory of a High Contracting Party” as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention. The legal questionability of Jordan’s pre-1967 sovereignty in the West Bank, as well as Egypt’s self-admitted non-sovereign military administration of the Gaza Strip, [cast doubt on] whether the classic and simplistic concept of belligerent occupation could be legally relevant and applicable to Israel’s unique situation in the territories.

It is well known that prior to 1967, Jordan’s annexation of, and claim to sovereignty in, the West Bank were not accepted in the international community, except for the UK and Pakistan. Jordan’s claim to east Jerusalem was not accepted even by the UK. . . .

Meanwhile, by contrast, the ICRC and the UN almost never use “occupation” or related terms to refer to the numerous textbook cases of military occupation across the globe. Baker concludes:

Thus, the use by the international community of the terms “belligerent occupation” and “occupied territory” almost exclusively to refer to Israel’s status in the territories has taken on a distinct politicized connotation that ignores the legal, historical, and political situation on the ground. The terms extend far beyond the simplistic rubrics foreseen in the definitions. . . .

This runs counter to the ICRC’s very basic fundamental principles of “impartiality, neutrality, and independence” as required and defined in the Preamble to the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The cumulative effect of such legally flawed assumptions in effect prejudges the central negotiating issue between Israel and the PLO—namely, the permanent status of the territories. That issue constitutes an agreed-upon negotiating issue pursuant to the 1993 Oslo Accords in which the Palestinians themselves agreed to negotiate the permanent status of the territory.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Geneva Convention, International Law, Israel & Zionism, Red Cross, United Nations, West Bank

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy