What is International Law? Well, that all depends on any number of varying particulars. The Geneva Conventions are considered by the average person as being universally applied International Law. That is not true. The Geneva Conventions only apply to the member nations. Any nation which has not signed onto the Geneva Conventions does not need abide by them. The Geneva Conventions are more of a gentleman’s agreement where thugs do not abide by them. We could call them the Marquis of Queensberry Rules for warfare. They apply to the nations who have agreed so as long as you are fighting another signatory it is as if you were fighting in the ring with rounds and a referee enforcing the rules. But if you are fighting a nation which has not signed the rules you are in an alley having a street fight where there are no rules. The problem is the nations who have signed the Geneva Conventions are required to fight by those rules no matter who the enemies are and whether they are signatories or not so the signatories fighting a war against another nation who is not a signatory is hamstrung while the other side can act however they please. This was evidenced in World War II as none of the Axis Powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperialist Japan) were signatories and thus could treat prisoners of war as they desired including torture, summary executions, taking particular prisoners and treating them differently as the Nazis did with Polish and Russian prisoners and often with any British or American prisoners found to be Jews or considered troublesome such as those who had a habit of escaping and being recaptured. The movie The Great Escape was based on real events and mass escape during World War II where a large number of the men who were recaptured were simply machine gunned down in cold blood. The Japanese were equally brutal as the movie Bridge Over the River Kwai which was more loosely based on actual events and what was done to Alec Guinness’s character was just a simplified version of how the Japanese tortured prisoners but they were far more sadistic than any film could depict including beheadings and shooting squads as well as simple starvation and confinement in a metal box in the heat of the equatorial jungle. The United States and Britain were both signatories to the Geneva Conventions and as such had a code to follow in their treatment of prisoners. Many Japanese who knew how their side treated prisoners were told the Americans and British would be just as brutal which was part of why they refused to be taken and those who did fall prisoner were shocked when they were fed well and not subjected to torture. What are interesting are the claims by the Palestinians that they have rights under the Geneva Conventions as they are neither a nation nor a signatory thus the Geneva Conventions have absolutely no application nor grant them any rights whatsoever. That is just one modern example of attempting to use International Law for benefit under false pretenses.
Probably one of the most basic and often overlooked forms of International Law are treaties. Any treaties signed by two or more nations have the full weight of International Law. The missile and nuclear warhead treaties such as Salt and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty are forms of International Law and are enforceable with consequences for any violations, complete with rules for enforcement and other ramifications and schedules for execution. The treaties which ended the two great world wars are still applicable today though some of the treaties from World War II superseded those from World War I such as the border definitions for Germany and France and Germany and Poland. The treaties at the end of World War I has some of the deepest ramification of any set of treaties in history as it redefined the entirety of the Balkans and eastern Europe with the breakup of the Austria-Hungarian Empire and the delineating the borders of nations carved from all of the lands from the Ottoman Empire and also lands from the retreat of the Caliphate with the exception of the lands reclaimed by Spain, Portugal and, in a sense, France. The Allied Powers (France, Britain, Italy, Russia, Japan, Poland and the United States) met in a series of Conferences, Treaties and Mandates to setup new nations across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Many of these nations were setup with little consideration for stability, or directly to cause instability. This was called the Sykes-Picot Agreement after the two men, one the Foreign Secretary of Britain the other the Foreign Secretary of France. Another agreement came from the San Remo Conference which formalized the Balfour Declaration and set up the Mandate System and was further included in the Treaty of Sèvres as we have discussed numerous times here at BTC.
The United Nations through the Security Council can also make enforceable International Law through what are called Chapter Seven Resolutions. The serious nature of the consequences of such resolutions is partially why the five permanent members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) have veto power as these would be the primary nations who would be required to enforce such a resolution. The United Nations Security Council also has Chapter Six Resolutions which carry slightly greater weight as any resolution out of the General Assembly but both are simply advisories. The major difference between these types of resolutions is if any single party to a General Assembly Resolution refuses to agree then all parties are released from the resolution and things continue as if that resolution had never been issued. These are different from resolutions which condemn a single nation which are largely statements of discontent or condemnation which in the General Assembly often are brought against Israel more than any other nation simply because the Arab and Muslim nations with their allied nations from the developing world, most belong to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) will pass any resolution brought before the General Assembly which targets Israel and similarly against the United States, an even somewhat rarer than those against Israel as too many nations receive largess from the United States and are intelligent enough not to push their luck while attacking Israel carries less risk.
That brings us back to the varying sliding scale of International Law and its application. When one looks into International Law and its applications in the past century there becomes one very clear problem, why is a nation the size of Israel been targeted with so many denunciations of being across the boundaries of International Law? Israel has been accused of genocide, collective punishment, targeting civilians intentionally, war crimes, crimes against humanity, occupation and just about anything you can think of, Israel has likely been accused of wrong-doing. What makes this all the more confusing is the guilt of some of the nations which have received exactly the opposite from Israel, aid in times of distress or natural catastrophe, yet virtually no censoring by the United Nations General Assembly for their transgressions. That list includes such nations as North Korea, Iran, Libya, Algeria, Cuba, China, Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan and even Syria. Then there are those nations which are seldom censored which are as expected such as Canada, Italy, Poland, and other nations which are seldom in the news. The true test of whether or not a nation actually receives sanctions, which are presumably applied worldwide, or if nations are brought before the international courts system such as the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice or any special courts setup to judge genocides or other special situations, as such measures are a sign that there has been a unforgivable transgression of International Law or against humanity.
This is where the case we are most concerned with here at BTC, in case one had not noticed, Israel becomes interesting. There have been exceedingly few cases compared to the number of accusations spewed before the world media, which is more than accommodating when it comes to denouncing Israel, that have been brought before the world courts. The one case we can think of off the top was about the so-called Apartheid Wall, the anti-terror wall which Israel put in place to end the Second Intifada and especially to end the waves of suicide bombings. Before the wall, which is largely a barrier made up of fences and only used walls where sniper fire was a potential problem such as in cities, there were multiple suicide bombings weekly, or so it seemed much of the time, and after the construction of the wall that number dropped to zero. Terrorism also dropped off and the barrier brought an end to the Second Intifada in conjunction with an IDF operation in Judea and Samaria to clear out much of the terrorist infrastructure and restore an IDF presence which served to provide intelligence and as a preventive influence against further terror. The General Assembly voted at the urging of the Palestinian Authority observer to request from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) a ruling on the legality of the wall with the hope of gaining a ruling which would lead to its dismantling such that the terrorist operations would not be hindered by the barrier. The barrier was cleared but that was just the initial good news for Israel. In addition to being cleared of any wrongdoing, there was an advisory opinion issued as a cautionary warning by Egyptian Judge, Justice El Araby, from the ICJ and who sat in judgement as part of the panel which heard the case from the United Nations General Assembly in 2003 on the legality of the security barrier erected by Israel. The Honorable Justice El Araby warned the UNGA and others that filing further ran some risks, as he stated,
“The international legal status of the Palestinian Territory (paras. 70-71 of the Advisory Opinion), in my view, merits more comprehensive treatment. A historical survey is relevant to the question posed by the General Assembly, for it serves as the background to understanding the legal status of the Palestinian Territory on the one hand and underlines the special and continuing responsibility of the General Assembly on the other. This may appear as academic, without relevance to the present events. The present is however determined by the accumulation of past events and no reasonable and fair concern for the future can possibly disregard a firm grasp of past events. In particular, when on more than one occasion, the rule of law was consistently side-stepped. The point of departure, or one can say in legal jargon, the critical date, is the League of Nations Mandate which was entrusted to Great Britain.”
This has been one of the reasons that the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Arab World, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and others such as the European Union and many individual European and other nations or even individuals have never challenged the claim to all the lands west of the Jordan River as being meant for anything other than Israel, the Homelands for the Jewish People, they know what the actual treaties, conferences and agreements all state clearly, the land belongs to Israel and by agreement and International Law only the Jewish People have full political rights while the others who reside in the area must be guaranteed civil rights, property rights, equality under the law, religious rights but not political rights. The agreements simply state that only the Jewish People and those they willingly extend such rights may exercise political rights. Everybody is to be granted civil rights, religious rights, property rights, and equal treatment under the law. That is the International Law as delineated by numerous treaties, conferences, agreements and is exactly what Justice El Araby, the Egyptian Judge on the ICJ, was warning the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab World about, Israel holds all the cards and other than receiving written and signed treaty with Israel, there is no legal means that the Arabs can claim even a single inch of the lands west of the Jordan River. Should they challenge such claiming anything under International Law as backing their claims, including, may we add, United Nations Security Council Chapter Sic Resolution 2334 which President Obama presented as his parting gift to the Palestinian Arabs and Mahmoud Abbas along with Iran all hoping that would cripple Israel, they will lose because Israel has every right to the lands and the best the Arabs can hope to gain, something they already have, is to live in peace under Israeli rule.
They would be granted all rights with one glaring exception, the right to political power or even to vote as all political power was vested for the Jews and only the Jews and those they decide to grant such rights. Israel, counter to the claims of too many ignorant and deceiving people, has granted full political rights to those Arabs who remained within the areas she was capable of holding after the Arab assault of intended genocide against the Jews in 1948-9 when half a dozen Arab armies and numerous militias and other units attacked Israel the morning of her inception. All the remaining Arabs, the Muslims, the Christians, the Baha’I, the Buddhists, everybody residing within Israel legally once the fighting ended were granted full citizenship and full civil, religious, legal, and political rights. Jordan extended similar to the Arabs in Judea and Samaria which they renamed West Bank as Judea and Samaria sounded too Jewish, and Egypt controlled Gaza but never annexed it or gave the residents there any rights leaving them under military occupation. There was no outcry for Palestinian rights or for the founding of any Arab Palestine while Egypt and Jordan held the lands, only after the Six Day War in June of 1967 and Israel liberating these lands did the world become obsessed. After the Six Day War Jordan reneged on her offer of citizenship and even stripped citizenship from the Jordanians which had been forced or given land and moved into Judea and Samaria making them people without a country and this was the birth of the Palestinian demands for their own nation. The claim that Israel had invaded and stolen Arab Palestinian lands was born three years earlier in 1964 with Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization except it was not Judea and Samaria that Israel had stolen but Israel herself was the lands claimed by Arafat. The PLO and their claims to Palestine was initially a direct challenge to Israel claiming that Israel was an illegitimate entity born atop of sacred Arab lands and that the Jews were to be exterminated if they refused to leave. After the Six Day War a readjustment was made and they now claimed all the lands west of the Jordan River, the twenty-two percent of the British Mandate which was not Jordan, this is what they claim must be given to them, not just Judea and Samaria and make no mistake. Their problem is simply, International Law actually backs the Jewish claim, it, for once, backs Israel. For once the rules actually are not stacked against Israel, though all the denunciations and referendums and resolutions and they amount to little more than noise because in the end there is only the written agreements of the nations of the world, and those all support Israel as the home for the Jewish People, just as an Egyptian Judge sitting on one of the highest courts in the world has admonished the Arabs to take note. Sometimes the noise is but an attempt to hide the truth, sometimes the truth wins out in the end. International Law, remarkable, isn’t it?
Beyond the Cusp