The end of year vote of the UN General Assembly (87 – 26, 53 Abstentions) to approve the Palestinian proposal to request an “advisory opinion” from the International Court of Justice regarding the “prolonged Israeli occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory” has once again prompted the Israeli right to accuse the Palestinians of using political terror against Israel.
Within a few days of the UN vote the new Netanyahu government announced a list of sanctions against several officials of the Palestinian Authority. The right-wing Netanyahu govt. claim is that the Palestinian so called lawfare against Israel is leveraging the unfair bias towards Israel in the international arena. Their argument is that there is an automatic majority of countries who support Palestinian rights and therefore the arena of the UN discriminates against Israel and the International Court of Justice is political and does not judge according to justice, but rather expresses the position of most of the UN member countries that are hostile to Israel.
In reality, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, established in 2002 has earned great prestige in the international legal community for decades and its rulings carry great weight. This prestige would not have been acquired if the court was political and biased in its rulings. In any case, these claims against the politicization of international law are very strange when they come from the same sources who explain to us why the Supreme Court in Israel should be political, and should be elected by politicians.
The punishments that our government imposes on the Palestinians when they seek remedy from the international institutions are nothing short of brazen and calling this action political terrorism is sheer absurdity. The Palestinian political and legal struggle is the exact opposite of terrorism. The political and legal arena is designed by its nature to resolve disputes without bloodshed. The Israeli resistance to any investigation in these areas casts a shadow over the justified claims against real terrorism which is the use of violence against civilians. In the same way, accusing the international community of anti-Semitism due to their position in favor of the rights of the Palestinians renders the concept of anti-Semitism empty of content and harms the justified fight against racism and xenophobia against Jews.
There is a direct line between Israel’s opposition to international legal tribunals and the current government’s policy of harming the independence of our courts. The damage to the legal system will also prevent us from being protected in the UN institutions, since the USA and many times also the European countries protect us in the international institutions on the grounds that we are a democracy and that we have an independent legal system. Without an independent court, which can protect minority rights against the tyranny of the majority, there will be no protection for Israel in the international institutions. This is the same defense that allows the occupation to continue against international law, and the same defense that allows Israel to be a nuclear power in violation of the treaty against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
It is worth remembering that Israel has been for decades, relying on the United States to thwart majority decisions in the United Nations. For years, the United Nations avoided imposing sanctions against Israel due to the American veto in the Security Council, a veto that is required because Israel’s position is almost always in the minority. The US protection for Israel was based on the long-time relationship of the USA going back to its support of the 1947 Partition Plan and 1948 recognition of Israel’s declaration of independence. As the leader of the free world the US sees its role to protect against the tyranny of the majority of the non-democratic countries.
Without the American veto, Palestine would have long ago become a member of the UN and sanctions would have been imposed on Israel due to the ongoing occupation. The same goes to American protection of Israel on the nuclear issue, where with all due respect to our policy of ambiguity, without an American veto we would be subject to sanctions as imposed on Iran and North Korea due to their nuclear programs.
It must be remembered that Israel received international legitimacy to become a state thanks to the United Nations and that the courts in The Hague were established as part of the lessons of World War II to enable a recognized international forum for conflict resolution as well as to prevent war crimes and human rights violations and to punish their perpetrators.
It is impossible to continue to claim that we are the only democracy in the Middle East and that the position of most countries against us is immoral because they are not democratic and at the same time crush democracy in Israel. The claim that the whole world is against us could become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we continue with the occupation, the violation of minority rights and damage to the institutions that allow us to be part of the international community of liberal democracies that respect international law.