teleSUR, 14.12.2014 **** Front Page

Rejecting International Law and Palestinian Rights: The Peace Process Industry

By Bruno Jäntti

What is still referred to as “the peace process” purposefully does not call for a withdrawal of settlers from the occupied territories.

It's now 21 years since Oslo I Accord and 23 years since the Madrid Conference. What's commonly referred to as ‘the peace process' between the state of Israel and the Palestinians has been underway for quite a while. While the media in the EU and the US tends to lament, or sometimes joke about, the apparently unfortunate fact that this “conflict” has not been formally resolved, it is perhaps worthwhile to recall what the Israeli-PA diplomatic process is about - and what it is not about.

Although virtually all of the media pundits and politicians praised the Oslo process since the very beginning, it is probable that very few of them had read the agreement. What is more important than the fact that the content of Oslo was rarely cited in detail, however, is that the entire diplomatic endeavor was practically never judged in terms of international law.

The framing for the Western media discourse was not what each party was entitled to in terms of the law. Instead, the media chose to assume a framing which was not only detached from the legal rights and obligations of both parties but devoid of any meaningful political or legal context whatsoever.

If nothing else, the point of departure was at least simple: Israel will continue to reject international law; Israel proposes a preposterous deal for the co-opted Palestinian leadership and both regimes begin to pursue the arrangements without taking the public opinion of the Palestinians into account.

After the signing of Oslo, while the Western reaction was a combination of euphoria and Nobel Peace Prizes, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories was not so promising. Israel had just subdued a Palestinian uprising with vicious violence and repression. And complete impunity and Western complicity.

Let us take a look at one of the most prominent forms of Israel's dispossession of the Palestinians in the occupied territories: the settlement infrastructure. B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, not known for being a politically radical organization, could not mince words when describing Israeli actions in the territories:

"Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Under this regime, Israel has stolen hundreds of thousands of dunam of land from the Palestinians. Israel has used this land to establish dozens of settlements in the West Bank and to populate them with hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. Israel prohibits the Palestinians as a group from entering and using these lands, and uses the settlements to justify numerous violations of the Palestinians' human rights, such as the right to housing, to earn a livelihood, and the right to freedom of movement. The drastic change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any real possibility for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the Palestinians' right to self-determination."

Furthermore, in The Israeli Settlements from the Perspective of International Humanitarian Law, the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq emphasizes that

"The Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and the accompanying practices fall according to the rules and regulations of International Humanitarian Law within the list of practices considered as war crimes. In addition, settlement practices, pursuant to the rules and regulations of International Law, fall within the practices described as international crimes because of the clear violations to various international principles, specifically the right of nations to self-determination and basic human rights, in addition to the clear violation of the principles and fundamentals of the United Nations Charter."

Notwithstanding the blatant criminality of Israel's settlement infrastructure, Israel went its merry way with expanding the settlement project after the beginning of Oslo. Indeed, Israel has more than doubled the settler population within the territories since Oslo. What merits emphasis, however, is that this settlement expansion  did not violate the Oslo peace process .

Besides the Israeli settlement enterprise, what did Oslo say about the right of return of Palestinian refugees? Conveniently dubbing the plight of the Palestinian refugees one of the “final status issues” to be resolved in the future, nowhere in the Oslo agreement does Israel depart from its rejection of this right. But consider what the world's most prestigious human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have to say on the matter.

In 2000, Human Rights Watch, "called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders engaged in final-status negotiations to uphold the right of return for Palestinian refugees as part of a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian refugee problem."

The following year, in 2001, Amnesty International asserted, "[it] calls for the recognition of the right of those who are forcibly exiled to return to their country. The right to return to one's own country is based in international law and is the most obvious way to redress the situation of those who are in exile."

In short, what is still referred to as “the peace process”  purposefully does not call for a withdrawal of settlers from the occupied territories nor that Israel should enforce the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Malcolm X once put forth that “You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” But "the peace process" in Israel-Palestine was probably not named after that quote.


The archive: Bruno Jäntti, Middle East, Noam Chomsky, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Moshé Machover


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