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A historic decision regarding Palestine

January 6, 2023 at 9:46 am

A general view of hall during The United Nations General Assembly [Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency]

The resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly last Friday is historic because it shed light once again on the Israeli occupation and its daily violations of the rights of the Palestinian people which the world has normalised. Therefore, many Western media outlets haven’t given much importance to the decision, not only because it was issued by the UN General Assembly, which is not seen as having much value, but also because it did not draw attention to the negative repercussions that this decision might have on the existence of a member state in this council that occupies the right of the Palestinian people and usurps it.

In order to measure the importance of this decision, one must read the Israeli reaction, which came in the form of the statement made by the new-old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he described the decision as ”despicable”!

The UN voted to request the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issue an advisory opinion defining the Israeli occupation of Palestine and laying out the implications of its decades-old violations of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The importance of the decision lies in the fact that it will bring the discussion about the Israeli occupation back to square one, in order to raise all forms of falsification, distortion and misguidance of global public opinion on one of the most just issues in our contemporary history, which is the Palestinian cause. It will shed light once again on the greatest historical injustice to which a nation was subjected to in modern history and from which they are still suffering and making huge sacrifices on a daily basis in order to confront it.

This decision is equivalent to correcting the historical error that was overlooked by the world, when the UN General Assembly rescinded its 1975 decision to describe Zionism as a racist ideology. Last week there was great consensus between nations, with 87 countries voting in favour of the decision, including many who have good ties with Israel, and only 26 countries opposed it.

In order to realise the importance of this decision and its future consequences that pose a danger to the existence of the Israeli occupation, one must go back to reading the nature of the advisory opinion requested from the ICJ, which was formulated in six main questions: What are the legal effects arising from Israel’s ongoing violation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination? What are the effects of its long-term occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967? What about the measures aimed at changing the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem? And its adoption of discriminatory legislation and measures in this regard? How will Israel’s policies and aforementioned practices affect the legal status of the occupation? What are the legal implications of this situation for all countries and the UN?

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US, Israel and the peace in the Middle East - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

US, Israel and the peace in the Middle East – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Those endorsing the decision requested that the required legal advisory opinion comply with the rules and principles of international law, including the UN Charter, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, relevant Security Council, General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions, and the Court’s advisory opinion dated 9 July 2004. The aforementioned opinion is related to the Separation Wall that Israel built inside the occupied Palestinian territories, and it deemed it a violation of international law, and demanded that the Israeli occupation stop building the wall, demolish what was built, and pay compensation to all those affected, including those living in occupied East Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.

Some may say that this opinion was issued over 18 years ago and the wall is still standing and growing, there are even laws and legislation that justify the apartheid and discrimination policies. However, what makes this opinion important is that it was issued by the highest international judicial body, and it strips this wall of all legitimacy, no matter how long ago it was issued, and all the negative effects on Palestinian rights that result from it in the future. Herein lies the importance of the legal battles fought by the Palestinians, and they are no less important than the valiant resistance that the heroic Palestinian people lead daily under all forms of struggle available to them in defence of their right to self-determination. While the battle fought by the Palestinians every day is an existential battle, in the international forums, it is a battle of international legitimacy and international law against those who disobey and violate law and legitimacy. The vote in the UN General Assembly on the request of the new advisory opinion indicated a shift in the balance of power in favour of truth, justice and the principles of international law that will triumph in the end, no matter how long it takes, because the power of truth and law can achieve justice and restoring rights to their rightful owners, no matter how long it takes.

Merely accepting the vote on requesting the opinion from the highest international judicial body is equal to an official recognition by most of the countries that voted in favour of the decision that the Israeli presence on the Palestinian land is an occupation based on the policy of apartheid. This is a clear condemnation of this state that indicates an important turning point in the course of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

Despite the fact that it has been 70 years since the establishment of Israel, and over 50 years since it occupied Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it has not succeeded in imposing its domination over the steadfast Palestinian people. The formation of the new Israeli government that is composed of racists, extremists and even terrorists is nothing but a step back to the beginnings of the existence of Israel, which was established by Zionist terrorist organisations, with the complicity of colonial powers at the beginning of the last century.

The Palestinian resistance, that many normalisers in the Arab world have underestimated, is reaping its fruit with time. After more than 50 years of occupying Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem by force, the prevailing Israeli military regime can no longer be considered an occupation only. Many international human rights organisations have begun to use the term apartheid to describe it. This is not only about a change in concepts and terminology, but also a change in the legal consequences that will follow, which the ICJ will take into account when issuing its awaited advisory opinion. No matter how long they last, occupation and settlement have a high political and moral price and the fact that the allies of this occupation gave in to it and some Arab countries normalised with it is not enough to save it from punishment. The rights of the struggling nations do not die with the passage of time, and as the old saying goes, “A right is never lost, as long as someone strives to claim it.”

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 4 January 2023

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