Israel is a record-breaking state when it comes to violating international law. The reason is simple: the international community has never tried to hold Israel accountable for these violations and this lack of accountability has encouraged Israel to proceed with practices and policies that show scant regard for international law.
For that reason, the initiative of the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) to boycott two particular Israeli universities for being directly involved in specific violations of international law and academic standards is a positive development. It represents a step forward in convincing the Israeli people–starting with Israeli educators, intellectuals and academics from the university communities–that becoming a respected part of the international community will require respect for international law.
The Israeli people and government are exactly like any other peoples or governments in the world. If they escape unpunished for their crimes and illegal activities then they are more likely to keep doing them then if there is a price to pay for such transgressions they will be more careful. I have no doubt that the AUT’s initiative will have a progressive and positive effect in promoting the idea that Israelis can no longer take for granted that their country will be treated as above international law.
This principle applies to all Israel’s illegal practices. The most obvious of those are the continuing expansion of illegal settlements built on occupied Palestinian land and the building of the illegal wall, both practices that are considered as illegal by the various relevant international bodies, including the UN Security Council, the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice. As long as the international community does not hold Israel accountable, Israel can afford to ignore these resolutions and continue what is now becoming a major obstacle to the peace to which everybody aspires.
Let me give but one critical example of how the international community defaults in its responsibility to hold Israel accountable. The General Assembly of the United Nations, based on the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, months ago tasked the UN secretary general with establishing a commission to prepare a report for compensatingPalestinians who have lost properties, lands, incomes and jobs as a result of the building of Israel’s West Bank wall. Unfortunately, the secretary general has not yet started putting a structure for such a commission in place, let alone begun collecting information. This attitude only encourages Israel to continue building the wall, safe in the knowledge it can do so unpunished.
In this way the governments and agencies that refrain from holding Israel accountable are, maybe indirectly, part of the problem, and consequently cannot be part of the solution.
For all these reasons, all people, including Israelis who have respect for international law, were encouraged by the AUT’s constructive initiative. It may have the effect of making Israelis aware that it is for the benefit of Israel to understand that achieving and upholding the legal and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of independence and statehood, is only the other side of the coin of maintaining the legitimate rights of the Israeli people to peace, stability and prosperity.