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The unrepentant West: Olaf Scholz and the right to commit genocide in Gaza

February 14, 2024 at 8:39 pm

Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor (L) and US President Joe Biden during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 [Julia Nikhinson/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was in Washington on an official visit on 8 February aimed at working jointly with the United States to make “sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.” If such a statement was made soon after Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on 7 October, the logic would be more obvious, not least because of the well-known, inherent bias of both Washington and Berlin towards Israel. Scholz made his visit and statement, however, on the 125th day of one of the bloodiest, most well-publicised genocides in modern history.

The purpose of the visit was highlighted in a press conference by White House spokesperson John Kirby, even though, hours later, US President Joe Biden admitted that Israel has gone “over the top” in its response to the Hamas attack.

If killing and wounding more than 100,000 civilians, and counting, is Israel’s version of self-defence, then both Scholz and Biden have done a splendid job in ensuring that the apartheid state has everything it needs to carry out its bloody mission. However, in this context, who is entitled to act in self-defence, Israel or Palestine?

On a recent visit to a hospital in a Middle Eastern country, which must remain nameless as a precondition of my visit, I witnessed the most horrific sights that one could ever see. Scores of limbless Palestinian children, some still fighting for their lives, some badly burned and others in a coma.

Those who were able to use their hands had drawn Palestinian flags to hang on the walls beside their hospital beds. Some wore SpongeBob T-shirts and others had hats with Disney characters on them. They were pure, innocent, and very much Palestinian.

A couple of children flashed the victory sign as soon as we said our goodbyes. They wanted to communicate to the world that they remain strong and that they know exactly who they are and where they come from. The children, though, are far too young to understand the legal and political context of their strong feelings towards their homeland.

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UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 (XXIX), for example, “affirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people in Palestine (..), the right to self-determination, (and) the right to national independence and sovereignty.” The phrase “Palestinian right to self-determination” is perhaps the most frequently uttered in relation to Palestine and the Palestinian struggle since the establishment of the UN. On 26 January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also affirmed what we already know, that Palestinians are a distinct “national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

Those injured Palestinian children do not need legal jargon or political slogans to locate themselves. The right to live without fear of extermination, without bombs and without military occupation is a natural right, requiring no legal arguments and unfazed by racism, hate speech or propaganda.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a world built upon common sense. It’s built on topsy-turvy legal and political systems that exist only to cater for the strong. In this parallel world, Scholz is more concerned about Israel being able to “defend itself” than a besieged Palestinian population, starving, bleeding, yet unable to achieve any tangible measure of justice.

Israel doesn’t actually have the right to claim “self-defence” when the people living under its brutal military occupation stand up for themselves and say enough is enough.

Moreover, those carrying out acts of colonial aggression — and settler-colonial occupation itself is a de facto act of aggression — should not demand that their victims refrain from fighting back.

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Palestinians have been victimised by Israeli colonialism, military occupation, racist apartheid, siege and now genocide. As such, for Israel to invoke Article 51, Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations makes a mockery of international law. Article 51, often used by the major powers to justify their wars and military interventions, was designed with a completely different legal spirit in mind.

Article 2 (4) of Chapter I in the UN Charter prohibits the “threat or use of force in international relations.” It also “calls on all Members to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of other states.” Given that Israel is in violation of Article 2 (4), it simply has no right to invoke Article 51.

In November 2012, Palestine was recognised as an Observer State at the UN. It is also a member of countless international treaties, and is recognised by 139 countries out of the 193 UN member states.

Even if we accept the argument that the UN Charter only applies to full UN members, the Palestinian right to self-defence can still be established under international law. In 1960, General Assembly Declaration No. 1594 guaranteed independence to colonised nations and people. Although it did not discuss the right of the colonised to use force, it condemned the use of force against liberation movements.

In 1964, the UN General Assembly voted in favour of Resolution No. 2105, which recognised the legitimacy of the “struggle” of colonised nations to exercise their right to self-determination.

In 1973, the Assembly passed Resolution 38/17 of 1983. The language, this time, was unambiguous; people have the right to struggle against colonial foreign domination by all possible means, including armed struggle.

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The same dynamics that ruled the UN in its early days continue to this day, where Western countries, which represented the bulk of all colonial powers in the past, continue to give themselves a monopoly over the use of force. Conversely, the Global South, which has suffered under the yoke of those Western regimes, insists that it, too, has the right to defend itself against foreign intervention, colonialism, military occupation and apartheid.

While Scholz was in Washington to discuss yet more ways to kill Palestinian civilians, the government of Nicaragua made an official request to join South Africa in its effort to hold Israel accountable at the International Court of Justice for the crime of genocide in Gaza.

It is interesting how the colonisers and the colonised continue to build relations and solidarity around the same old principles. The Global South is, again, rising in solidarity with the Palestinians, while countries in the North, with a few exceptions, continue to support Israeli oppression.

Just before I left the aforementioned hospital, a wounded child handed me a drawing. It featured several images, stacked one on top of the other, as if the little boy was creating a timeline of events that led to his injury: a tent, with him inside; an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian; prison bars, with his father inside; and, finally, a Palestinian fighter holding a flag.

He knows who he is. He knows where he comes from. And he knows where he belongs. He will never forget.

UPDATE: This article was updated on 15 February 2024 at 11:52 GMT to correct the Assembly resolution number mentioned. 

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