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Legal responsibility for the reconstruction of Gaza and Israel's deception

Egyptian technical teams conduct debris cleaning at In Al-Shuruk Tower after Egypt sent teamsto work in the debris removal and reconstruction works with the necessary equipment in order to support the reconstruction in Gaza City, Gaza which was damaged by the Israeli attacks, on 4 June 2021. [Ashraf Amra - Anadolu Agency]
Egyptian technical teams conduct debris cleaning at In Al-Shuruk Tower after Egypt sent teamsto work in the debris removal and reconstruction works with the necessary equipment in order to support the reconstruction in Gaza City, Gaza which was damaged by the Israeli attacks, on 4 June 2021. [Ashraf Amra - Anadolu Agency]

Israel has persisted in its aggression towards Gaza with the objective of eliminating resistance to its occupation of Palestine in preparation for crushing the Palestinians once and for all. Every military offensive has resulted in the destruction of buildings and infrastructure, including public water, electricity and sewage facilities. If the resistance groups had anti-aircraft weapons and a missile defence system Israel would be deterred, but Iran does not want to export the kind of weapons which could shift the balance of power between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.

The series of military offensives which began in December 2008 were launched by the then Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, when she was in Cairo. She said that Israel was changing the rules of the game with a massive attack on the Gaza Strip, which ended on 19 January, 2009. Similar offensives followed in 2012, 2014 and 2021. On each occasion, Israel claimed to be acting in self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. Such a claim has been used many times, but neither the UN nor any UN member states have sought to correct the Israeli interpretation of the law. In fact, a state enforcing a military occupation has no legal right to claim "self-defence" when the people living under that occupation are involved in legitimate acts of resistance.

It is my firm belief that in carrying out these offensives against the Palestinians in Gaza, Israel is committing genocidal acts in an attempt to get the people of occupied Palestine to accept "economic peace" instead of political peace and — hopefully, from Israel's point of view — get tired of resistance. It is worth noting that Israel regards all of Gaza to be a target because of the resistance. International human rights organisations have countered such arguments by pointing out that Israel makes deliberate attacks on residential buildings with no link or association with resistance groups. In any case, even claiming to be targeting resistance groups does not make the Israeli offensives legitimate in the eyes of the law, because, as noted above, people living under military occupation have the legal right to resist that occupation. In its military offensives against the Palestinians in Gaza, therefore, it is Israel which is breaking the law, not the resistance groups.

READ: Gaza is on the verge of an explosion

Israel seeks to deceive the world in general, and the people in Gaza in particular, by saying that it has no responsibility for the reconstruction of the devastated enclave. It also claimed, remember, that its launch of the 1967 Six Day War with a pre-emptive strike against Egypt was in "self-defence", and the reward for its victory was the Sinai Peninsula, which it occupied from 1967 to 1982. In Gaza, Israel alleges that its massive bombardment and destruction of the territory, which has killed and wounded thousands of Palestinian men, women and children over the years, is "legitimate self-defence" against rockets fired by resistance groups. It twists the law to suit its own false narrative so that the lines of responsibility for reconstruction are blurred in the eyes of those who make such decisions. It is deception on a massive scale.

How odd, therefore, that the world stays quiet on this, including the Egyptian government which acts as a mediator between the occupation state and the Palestinian Islamic resistance Movement, Hamas. The reality is that the legal responsibility for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip lies solely with Israel, as well as the payment of compensation to its residents.

Some Arab countries, especially Qatar, volunteered to repair Gaza's electricity and water plants, but Israel has full control over who and what can enter the Gaza Strip. During the latest attack last May, Egypt opened the Rafah Border Crossing to allow humanitarian aid through, but very little gets through if Israel determines that it has "dual use" and can be used by resistance groups. Hence, access to any effective reconstruction material is very limited.

Although the opening of the Rafah crossing was an important gesture on Egypt's part, I had hoped that the government would condemn the Israeli offensive and admit Israel's responsibility for the reconstruction of Gaza. However, Egypt wants to play the role of mediator between Israel and Hamas, which has criticised Cairo's inaction on issues of reconstruction.

End Gaza Siege! – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

It is par for the course that the US showed enthusiasm for Arab states to pay for the reconstruction of Gaza and it may have given the green light to its allies in the region to go ahead and do so, but Washington definitely isn't going to hold Israel legally accountable for destroying Gaza in the first place. Indeed, it was Washington's unconditional support for Israel which encouraged the colonial-occupation state to launch its offensives.

Moreover, the EU and the US both blame the resistance groups for what has happened to the Gaza Strip; both have bought into the fake "self-defence" narrative. In doing so they have exposed the overt Western bias in favour of Israel as well as the Arab silence in the face of Israeli crimes. I would go as far as to say that by labelling Hamas and the other resistance groups as "terrorists", the Arab states encouraged Israel to attack Gaza. What's more, the Arab League accepted the position of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the offensive, suggesting strongly that the Cairo-based organisation does not recognise the resistance.

READ: The last hours of 2021 in Gaza

In fact, the Sword of Jerusalem battle in May last year in solidarity with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah in their struggle against Israeli oppression produced many lessons to which the Arabs and the PA do not want to pay attention, most notably that the Palestinian people across the occupied territories and in the diaspora are united in viewing the resistance groups as their shield and sword. Furthermore, the battle last year highlighted yet again the position of international law on the responsibility for the destruction and reconstruction of Gaza. This will not be forgotten by the people of occupied Palestine and their supporters.

In conclusion, it must be reiterated that Israel bears responsibility under international laws and conventions for the following crimes: the de facto annexation of occupied land acquired through force of arms — there is no longer a "temporary" military occupation, as it has all the hallmarks of a permanent arrangement, making resistance to the occupation even more legitimate; continuous aggression against the people under occupation in the guise of "self-defence", intended to remove Palestinians from their land permanently; death and destruction as a result of Israeli aggression; using force to blackmail the Palestinians into accepting an "economic peace"; attacking the legitimate resistance groups; oppressing the residents of Gaza through the immoral blockade and illegal collective punishment.

All of this is confirmed by international law, the implementation of which is the responsibility of the UN and the international community.

This article first appeared in Rai Al-Youm on 4 January 2021 and was edited by MEMO

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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