What Does International Law Say about Settlements in Occupied Territory? If Israel Does It, It’s Illegal

Sept. 22 2020

It is the general opinion of most governments, legal experts, Middle East specialists, and the editorial boards of major English-language newspapers that the construction of homes for Jews in the West Bank is, at least in some cases, a violation of international law. Yet it is not at all clear why this should be so. Two recent books on disputed territories in international law, both of which pay special attention to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, address this subject in detail, and in the end side against Israel. But, writes Eugene Kontorovich in his review, their authors fail to appreciate the problem that the law in question has never been applied to any country besides the Jewish state:

Here is how law typically works. There is a question about the meaning of a rule. . . . Typically, lawyers would resolve the application of a rule to a case by looking at precedent—that is, the application of the rule to other analogous cases. Indeed, Friedrich von Hayek has said that the essence of law is that it is a system of general rules, made in advance of the cases to which it would apply, that is then applied prospectively to like cases.

But the question of the meaning [of the relevant clause of the Geneva Convention] is different from most legal questions because in practice, it has neither prior precedent nor future application outside of the Israeli context. Indeed, the esoteric world of belligerent-occupation law has become a de-facto language for talking about the Jewish state. [The operative clause] has become one of the most invoked provisions of the Convention, cited thousands of times by the United Nations. Yet every time it is mentioned, it is in the context of Israel, and Israeli Jews in particular.

[My] criticism of the methodology [of these two books] is not a claim about double standards, or international hypocrisy. A double standard is when there is a preexisting standard, that is then applied differently to like cases. . . . The objection here is not about double standards, but rather the non-application of the actual standard to the case at hand.

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Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

More about: International Law, Settlements, West Bank

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia