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Israeli government legal adviser warned of illegality of demolitions and deportations

A senior Israeli government official warned as early as in 1968 that punitive demolitions and deportations of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) constitute violations of international humanitarian law.

Theodor Meron, then Israeli Foreign Ministry legal adviser, sent his opinion to the Israeli prime minister’s office in a memo marked “Top Secret”. The memo was discovered and made public last week by an organisation investigating the archives for relevant material on human rights.

According to the memo, Meron – like almost all contemporary jurists and legal scholars – said the punitive home demolitions and deportations violated the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in war. Any other argument was just unsubstantiated hasbara.

According to author Gershom Gorenberg, writing in Haaretz: “The discovery of Meron’s memo on demolitions and deportations is additional evidence that the regime under which the West Bank is governed began in deception and has been maintained by self-deception – by the government, by the hasbara machine and sometimes by our Supreme Court.”

In 2006, another memo of Meron’s was revealed, in which, just three months after Israel’s rule over the OPT began in 1967, he stated that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” The Israeli government at the time, and every one since, ignored this consensus position.

Meron is currently president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

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