The International Laws of Belligerent Occupation
Belligerent occupation is governed by The Hague
Regulations of 1907, as well as by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949,
and the customary laws of belligerent occupation. Security Council
Resolution 1322 (2000), paragraph 3 continued: "Calls upon Israel, the
occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its
responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the
Protection of Civilian Persons in a Time of War of 12 August 1949;..."
Again, the Security Council vote was 14 to 0, becoming obligatory
The Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the West Bank, to
the Gaza Strip, and to the entire City of Jerusalem, in order to protect
the Palestinians living there. The Palestinian People living in this
Palestinian Land are "protected persons" within the meaning of the Fourth
Geneva Convention. All of their rights are sacred under international law.
There are 149 substantive articles of the Fourth Geneva
Convention that protect the rights of every one of these Palestinians
living in occupied Palestine. The Israeli Government is currently
violating, and has since 1967 been violating, almost each and every one of
these sacred rights of the Palestinian People recognized by the Fourth
Geneva Convention. Indeed, violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention are
So this is not a symmetrical situation. As matters of fact
and of law, the gross and repeated violations of Palestinian rights by the
Israeli army and Israeli settlers living illegally in occupied Palestine
constitute war crimes. Conversely, the Palestinian People are defending
Themselves and their Land and their Homes against Israeli war crimes and
Israeli war criminals, both military and civilian.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission
Indeed, it is far more serious than that. On 19 October
2000 a Special Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a
Resolution set forth in U.N. Document E/CN.4/S-5/L.2/Rev. 1, "Condemning
the provocative visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif on 28 September 2000 by Ariel
Sharon, the Likud party leader, which triggered the tragic events that
followed in occupied East Jerusalem and the other occupied Palestinian
territories, resulting in a high number of deaths and injuries among
Palestinian civilians." The U.N. Human Rights Commission then said it was
"[g]ravely concerned" about several different types of atrocities
inflicted by Israel upon the Palestinian People, which it denominated "war
crimes, flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and crimes
In operative paragraph 1 of its 19 October 2000
Resolution, the U.N. Human Rights Commission then: "Strongly condemns the
disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in violation of
international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupying Power against
innocent and unarmed Palestinian civilians...including many children, in
the occupied territories, which constitutes a war crime and a crime
against humanity;..." And in paragraph 5 of its 19 October 2000
Resolution, the U.N. Human Rights Commission: "Also affirms that the
deliberate and systematic killing of civilians and children by the Israeli
occupying authorities constitutes a flagrant and grave violation of the
right to life and also constitutes a crime against humanity;..." Article
68 of the United Nations Charter had expressly required the U.N.'s
Economic and Social Council to "set up" this Commission "for the promotion
of human rights."
Israel's War Crimes against Palestinians
We all have a general idea of what a war crime is, so I am
not going to elaborate upon that term here. But there are different
degrees of heinousness for war crimes. In particular are the more serious
war crimes denominated "grave breaches" of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada, the world has seen those
inflicted every day by Israel against the Palestinian People living in
occupied Palestine: e.g., willful killing of Palestinian civilians by the
Israeli army and Israel's illegal paramilitary settlers. These Israeli
"grave breaches" of the Fourth Geneva Convention mandate universal
prosecution for their perpetrators, whether military or civilian, as well
as prosecution for their commanders, whether military or civilian,
including Israel's political leaders.
Israel's Crimes Against Humanity against Palestinians
But I want to focus for a moment on Israel's "crime
against humanity" against the Palestinian People -- as determined by the
U.N. Human Rights Commission itself, set up pursuant to the requirements
of the United Nations Charter. What is a "crime against humanity"? This
concept goes all the way back to the Nuremberg Charter of 1945 for the
trial of the major Nazi war criminals. And in the Nuremberg Charter of
1945, drafted by the United States Government, there was created and
inserted a new type of international crime specifically intended to deal
with the Nazi persecution of the Jewish People.
The paradigmatic example of a "crime against humanity" is
what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish People. This is where the
concept of crime against humanity came from. And this is what the U.N.
Human Rights Commission determined that Israel is currently doing to the
Palestinian People: Crimes against humanity. Legally, just like what
Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews.
The Precursor to Genocide
Moreover, a crime against humanity is the direct
historical and legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as
defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide. The theory here was that what Hitler and the Nazis did
to the Jewish People required a special international treaty that would
codify and universalize the Nuremberg concept of "crime against humanity."
And that treaty ultimately became the 1948 Genocide Convention.
In fairness, you will note that the U.N. Human Rights
Commission did not go so far as to condemn Israel for committing genocide
against the Palestinian People. But it has condemned Israel for committing
crimes against humanity, which is the direct precursor to genocide. And I
submit that if something is not done quite soon by the American People and
the International Community to stop Israeli war crimes and crimes against
humanity against the Palestinian People, it could very well degenerate
into genocide, if Israel is not there already. And in this regard, Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is what international lawyers call a
genocidaire--one who has already committed genocide in the past.