The Flimsy Legal Case That Jews Don’t Belong in the West Bank

Conventional wisdom holds that Israeli settlements in the West Bank—that is, any case of a Jew residing in territory that was under Jordanian control at the end of the 1948 war—are in violation of international law. In its most cogent articulation, this wisdom rests on Article 49(6) of the fourth Geneva convention, which regulates military occupations of territory in wartime. But, argues Eugene Kontorovich, this law is not necessarily applicable to the West Bank:

[T]he territory was not in fact occupied in the legal sense by Israel, making Article 49(6) irrelevant. The arguments for lack of occupation focus on the lack of Jordanian sovereignty over the territory. The Cession of Vessels and Tugs for Navigation on the Danube case held that territory that was not under the sovereignty of any state could not become occupied. That means that the West Bank, which was not under Jordanian sovereignty, could not be deemed occupied. Danube Navigation was decided before 1967 and would thus reflect the law as it was when Israel took control of the territories.

When we look for the alleged rule applied elsewhere, we find—nothing. The United Nations has referred to Article 49(6) hundreds of times in relation to Israel, but no UN body has ever accused any other country of violating it. This is not because of a shortage of cases in which one might think it would apply. From Morocco in Western Sahara to Indonesia in East Timor, from Turkish-occupied northern Iraq to formerly Vietnamese-occupied Cambodia, prolonged occupations of territory have almost always seen migration from the territory of the occupying power.

None of this is to say the conduct of other countries justifies illegalities by Israel: rather, it is to demonstrate that this conduct, when analyzed without knowledge of people involved, has never been regarded as illegal.

Read more at Tablet

More about: International Law, Settlements, West Bank

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law