The Israeli government’s study that this week found the occupation of Palestinian territories to actually not be an occupation and Israel’s settlement activity to actually not be illegal is the worst kind of absurdity. Its Nixon-esque declarations are such an affront to the rule of law that the only fair summation is “Well, when Israel does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
The opinions of the committee rest on two pillars. First, they claim that since there is no such thing as a Palestinian state and since the territory was never a legitimate part of any Arab state, including Jordan, Israel is not an occupying power. Second, they claim that since “with the knowledge, encouragement and tacit agreement of the most senior political level…such conduct is to be seen as implied agreement.”
Zionists have tried to erase Palestinian history for a long time (Newt Gingrich recently got on that bandwagon with the outrageous statement that Palestinians are “an invented people”), but to argue that what’s going on in the West Bank is not a military occupation violates the senses and basic understandings of law. As Attorney Michael Sfard, the legal advisor to the human rights organization Yesh Din, said yesterday: “Israel occupied the West Bank by armed force and even though Jordan ceded the territory, the international community, via its binding resolutions (such as the Partition Resolution and many others) has designated it for a Palestinian state.”
Wikipedia: The Israeli High Court of Justice has ruled that Israel holds the West Bank under “belligerent occupation.” The International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly, and the United Nations Security Council regards Israel as the “Occupying Power.”
The second argument, that the Israeli authorities of the highest order had knowledge and gave tacit consent to settlement activity and therefore, it must be legal contradicts the most fundamental understandings of the rule of law, not of men. As Daniel Kurtzer writes at the National Interest, “It seems the committee has no problem with illegal actions by citizens as long as a senior government official winks, nods and joins in the activity.”
Even Jeffrey Goldberg, ever a defender of Israel, seems to object to this committee’s reasoning. He asks, “if it’s not occupation, then what is it?” A good question. And indeed the logical conclusion of the committee’s report, Goldberg anticipates, is that Israel will have to give full rights and suffrage to the people who live in these territories. But that sort of one-state solution has been vehemently rejected by many in Israel who want a state that is rather exclusively Jewish. “The right-wing wants the land,” he writes, “but not the people.”
The Obama administration has issued a statement condemning the Levy committee’s report. “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters today. But Obama is far too politically pragmatic (read: unprincipled) to do anything substantive to object to this report. Israel will continue to receive billions of US taxpayer money and the right vetoes in the Security Council.
Settlement activity has continued with the full support of the Obama administration. In the past six months alone, according to the UN, there have been 3,437 Palestinians displaced and affected by Israeli demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. As Israel consistently destroys Palestinian homes, “more than 94 percent of all Palestinian permit applications” to build new homes “have been rejected in recent years.”
Before it can have any effect on policy, the committee’s report has to be approved by the Israeli attorney general and then the Israeli cabinet. Since the committee was formed at the request of Netanyahu, who doesn’t believe in Palestinian statehood, we can reasonably predict they will welcome the report warmly. Hopefully, the attorney general will strike it down.
The Levy Committee was conceived in sin to legalize a crime, and it has fully accomplished its mission. Its report is not a legal report but an ideological report that ignores the basic principles of the rule of law. The members of the Levy Committee apparently fell down the rabbit hole, and their report was written in Wonderland, governed by the laws of absurdity: there is no occupation, there are no illegal outposts and there is apparently no Palestinian people either. To that we must say in the words of Alice: ‘This is the silliest tea party I have ever been to.’ – Attorney Michael Sfard