The occupation of Palestine is now in its forty-third year. I was three at the time of the six-day war and am lucky to live in Canada, a country where all citizens are equal, human rights do apply and the concept of freedom is afforded to all, not just “God’s chosen people”. The oppressed Palestinian people, some who have been denied their basic, fundamental rights their whole life, are being quashed not by the world’s most brutal dictators, but by the homeland of the victims of the most brutal erasing of a people, the self ascribed “only democracy in the Middle East”, the State of Israel.
Direct talks have again taken center stage. Do the proclamations of a Palestinian state and fulfillment of the Palestinian self determination within one year, the sacrifices and concessions Israel will offer, the stubborn refusal to negotiate in good faith by the Palestinians are all too familiar? It should. This rhetoric, present in almost all previous peace negotiations, notably the Camp David Summit, just plays lip service to the International community and advocates of peace.
Has the vision for the Greater Israel held since 1948 changed at all? It has changed only in the sense of how ingrained the moral, righteousness Israel is perceived by its closest allies. We have now arrived at a place when humanity, justice and morality have been thrown out the window to unequivocally support a leadership and military which recently murdered 9 human rights activists in the name of security.
The problematic issues which continue to elude successful peace negotiations have remained the same. Border, Settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right to return are the same four issues which have plagued the history of the peace talks between Israel and Palestine. These four issues are not complicated, nor difficult. The legal status of all four have been established under International Law. In addition, Israel has already agreed to these conditions when they became a member of the United Nations.
UN resolution 242 clearly states that it is illegal to acquire land through through force. The 2004 landmark advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice re-affirms the position that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza are occupied territory. The legal border of Israel must be the June 4, 1967 border, not the ever expanding border Israel is attempting to claim through settlement construction and the meandering, wandering route of the illegal apartheid wall.
The transfer of the occupiers population to the occupied land is illegal under International law. “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive” and “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. [Geneva Convention IV, Article 49, Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section III : Occupied territories].
The Status of Jerusalem
East Jerusalem is not under Israel’s sovereignty and is considered occupied. This is also affirmed by the International Court of Justice advisory opinion of 2004.
The Right of Return
The principle of the right to return has been held for a long time. Under Chapter 42 of the Magna Carta, ”It shall be lawful in the future for anyone…to leave our kingdom and to return, safe and secure by land and water…”.
In addition, UN Resolution 194 provides “that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible….”, and in Resolution 181 “Arab inhabitants of the Jewish state shall be protected in their rights and property”. In order to gain membership to the United Nations, Israel agreed to abide by these resolutions. Israel also signed the Lausanne Protocol in 1949 thereby reaffirming their acceptance to 194 and 181.
Under the 4th Geneva Convention (12 August 1949), Article 49 states “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive” and Israel ratified the 1948 Geneva conventions in 1951. Finally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13, (2) states “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.
Since the four final status issues have been determined through existing International law, why is it considered a concession when the Israeli negotiators offer to disband some of the settlements? Considering the fact that Israel would still ee leaving settlements in the OT and if the Palestinians agree to allow any settlements to stay, the concessions would be on the part of the Palestinians, not the Israelis. Any Israeli stance that does not include complete withdraw of the settlements from occupied territory is not negotiating in good faith nor are they conceding anything. Israel negotiates from their Santa Claus wish list, not from the legal realities they are obligated to heed. In fact, any stance which does not include 1967 borders, the right to return, the return of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians and the dismantling of the Apartheid wall is not negotiating in good faith, it is not negotiating at all.