Israel must abide by cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip
To Israel, international law means next to nothing. It has little difficulty in flouting its provisions and doubles the dosage of its violations with arrogance in the form of more violations. It’s as if Israel dares the world to react. It can afford that conceit because it is backed by the US- arguably the only remaining super power.
Even the punch that the UN dealt it on the question of the Palestinian UN bid seems to have taught Israel nothing; nor the US. To the US, Israel, UK, Canada, and the other tiny, uninformed, pliable co-opted countries that support Israel, the rule of law is only for others to comply with. Israel is exception to the rule and will apply the law selectively against others!!
Even though the UN vote has not dramatically changed things on-the-ground (it’s too soon for that), some things have changed forever. Palestine has been formally recognized. The mammoth vote in favour of Palestine clearly asserts that the international community wants Israel to hand over illegally acquired lands, and end the occupation based on UN resolutions.
The uneasy cease fire drawn up after the Gaza war is a victory too- just as the UN vote was. But celebrations are premature. The peace that the cease fire agreement has created is a graveyard kind of peace. The conditions for a lasting peace rely entirely on whether and when justice is served. And for that the core unresolved issues- the Occupation, borders, water rights, repatriation and compensation of refugees – must be effectively resolved.
But for this to happen, much more is essential from the international community in the form of public mobilization, and pressure by civil society to make UN decisions matter at the level of governments. The UN vote must not be something that people celebrate to the point where lethargy sets in. Instead it should provide the impetus for isolating Israel through every possible means until it shows that it deserves to belong to the international community. Opinion makers in every society must show their abhorrence for lethargy in governments acting. There is no harm in launching a bout of confrontation where Israel is confined to ‘pariah’ status – in line with its ‘rogue’ instincts. Israel would like to think that it is Hamas which is the ‘pariah’. Not so any longer, it is Israel which has gained that tag. This is a tag that it can shrug off. But, it can be rehabilitated in the mainstream of the international community only when it reaches a stage where it demonstrates respect for international law through mechanisms that can be verified and scrutinised by independent bodies and groups of nations- not just its blindfolded friends and allies or by self-standardization. The BDS is a virulent too that the international community must use to bring Israel to its knees.
We reproduce below a report from Richard Falk’s visit to the Gaza Strip. Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. He is easily one of the most authoritative sources on the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the end of the article, there are some additional sources – articles by Richard Falk.
We hope this is a useful contribution to the understanding of the situation in Palestine and expect that it helps to spur us to act through our various social networks.
Richard Falk Visit to Gaza: UN Press Release
By Richard Falk on 12/09/2012*
CAIRO (5 December 2012) – Concluding his week-long mission to the region, Mr. Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, called on Israel to abide by and fully implement the cease fire agreement that ended the recent crisis with Gaza.
“The initial purpose of my visit was to assess the overall impact of Israel’s prolonged occupation and blockade against the Gaza Strip, which is an integral part of Palestine,” Mr. Falk explained, “however there arose an urgent need to investigate Israel’s seemingly deliberate attacks against seemingly civilian targets during recent hostilities. We visited the sites of attacks and spoke with surviving family members. It is clear that some attacks killed and harmed civilians in a grossly disproportionate manner and thus clearly appear to violate international law.”
The Special Rapporteur continued, “There is a widespread feeling among Palestinians that Israel is above the law, and that Israel is likely to continue to have the benefits of impunity even when it flagrantly violates international humanitarian law. Experience has shown that Israel fails to meet its international obligation to promptly and impartially investigate its own actions. Experience has also shown that Israel is not likely to carry out its obligations under the cease fire agreement; indeed during our visit we heard Israeli warplanes flying directly overhead and received reports of Israeli military incursions into the Gaza Strip.”
For the Special Rapporteur, “Sustained pressure from the international community, including both Governments and civil society, is essential to secure Israel’s the full implementation of the cease fire agreement, without which it is extremely unlikely to hold. Worldwide support for the recent General Assembly resolution that made Palestine a non-Member observer State should serve as a starting point for the more concerted international protection of Palestinian rights.”
The Special Rapporteur stressed that talks to clarify how certain aspects of the cease fire agreement will be implemented, in particular with regard to access to maritime and agricultural resources, must be swiftly concluded. “Every day Palestinian fishermen and farmers risk being shot at or detained by Israeli forces. Already since the agreement was reached, Israel has detained 13 fishermen, confiscated 4 fishing boats and sank another fishing boat. Such actions signal an Israeli intention to maintain the continuity of its coercive style of occupation rather than explore whether implementing the ceasefire, agreement might not lead toward a more relaxed atmosphere and a more hopeful future.”
“At the same time, Palestinians and the international community are confronted with huge challenges to address underlying problems that have been severely aggravated by Israel’s occupation and blockade.” The Special Rapporteur pointed to the urgent need for access to clean water and sanitation, productive agricultural land, and new infrastructure. “We received extensive briefs on what could be done if sufficient resources and political will are made available. One example is the construction of a desalinization plant to meet urgent water and agricultural needs, but in many such cases funding is not forthcoming as donors are reluctant to invest in infrastructure projects that Israel is likely to bomb in one of its periodic large-scale attacks against Gaza.”
According to Mr. Falk, “Unless these underlying problems are addressed soon, it appears that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020, as predicted by a recent United Nations report. Some of the experts with whom we spoke actually believe that 2016 is a more reasonable assessment. This indicates the gravity of the human rights crisis in the Gaza Strip.”
The Special Rapporteur noted that his visit to the region consisted of meetings in Cairo and the Gaza Strip, with Governmental, inter-governmental and civil society representatives, as well as victims and witnesses. He received helpful briefings from UNRWA and other United Nations agencies, which provided an in-depth picture of the magnitude of the challenges in Gaza and the difficulties of addressing such challenges in a situation of occupation and blockade. He expressed his special appreciation to the people of Gaza and those international civil servants with whom he spoke for their support and engagement.
Mr. Falk’s next report to the Human Rights Council, which he intends to present in June 2013, will fully address the many concerns that were raised during the mission.
More posts by Richard Falk