“It is anti-semitic to regard Israel as a “racist endeavour” because it suggests that Jews, alone among all nations, have no legitimate right to self-determination. After all, why the double standard?”
That is a sentence from a letter in the Guardian today. I thought I knew what ‘self-determination’ meant, but now I’m not so sure. The accusation of anti-semitism arises of course because Israel is equated with ALL Jews, and the logic is that critics of Israel are critical only because of its Jewish nature. For a definition of Israel, one now only needs to refer to Israel’s new Nation State Law which states:
Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People
1 — Basic principles
A. The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.
B. The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
C. The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
(The complete text of the Nation State Law can be found here)
This is about as racially exclusive as you can get – the territory that Israel now occupies was of course the historical homeland of millions of other people too. As I have commented before, a law that privileges one race over another is de facto racist.
It seems that for the purposes of claiming self-determination, there is no easy way of determining who should automatically claim that right, and the right is constantly being tested, from Scotland to Catalonia, from East Timor to Quebec, even to the fractious parts of Belgium – some of them places you could think might have settled down a bit by now. But is it conceivable that in Scotland or Quebec, a law would be passed that declared that other people (aka citizens) of a different ethnic, religious or cultural background living in that territory should be denied a ‘unique’ right to self-determination?
Self-determination, as described by Wikipedia “states that a people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference.”
Clearly, the issues ‘of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity’ and the ‘right to choose their sovereignty’ are not applied in Israel and those parts of Palestine which have been subsumed into Israel.
Here’s serious confirmation of that – the judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), reporting in 2004 and here quoted at length (one wouldn’t want to be accused of exercising ‘double standards’ after all) - this is from an ICJ judgement on Israel’s ‘security wall:
Turning to the question of the legality under international law of the construction of the wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Court first determined the rules and principles of international law relevant to the question posed by the General Assembly. After recalling the customary principles laid down in Article 2, paragraph 4, of the United Nations Charter and in General Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV), which prohibit the threat or use of force and emphasize the illegality of any territorial acquisition by such means, the Court further cited the principle of self-determination of peoples, as enshrined in the Charter and reaffirmed by resolution 2625 (XXV). In relation to international humanitarian law, the Court then referred to the provisions of the Hague Regulations of 1907, which it found to have become part of customary law, as well as to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, holding that these were applicable in those Palestinian territories which, before the armed conflict of 1967, lay to the east of the 1949 Armistice demarcation line (or “Green Line”) and were occupied by Israel during that conflict. The Court further established that certain human rights instruments (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) were applicable in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Court then sought to ascertain whether the construction of the wall had violated the above-mentioned rules and principles. Noting that the route of the wall encompassed some 80 per cent of the settlers living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Court, citing statements by the Security Council in that regard in relation to the Fourth Geneva Convention, recalled that those settlements had been established in breach of international law. After considering certain fears expressed to it that the route of the wall would prejudge the future frontier between Israel and Palestine, the Court observed that the construction of the wall and its associated régime created a “fait accompli” on the ground that could well become permanent, and hence tantamount to a de facto annexation. Noting further that the route chosen for the wall gave expression in loco to the illegal measures taken by Israel with regard to Jerusalem and the settlements and entailed further alterations to the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Court concluded that the construction of the wall, along with measures taken previously, severely impeded the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination and was thus a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right.
The Court then went on to consider the impact of the construction of the wall on the daily life of the inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, finding that the construction of the wall and its associated régime were contrary to the relevant provisions of the Hague Regulations of 1907 and of the Fourth Geneva Convention and that they impeded the liberty of movement of the inhabitants of the territory as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as their exercise of the right to work, to health, to education and to an adequate standard of living as proclaimed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Court further found that, coupled with the establishment of settlements, the construction of the wall and its associated régime were tending to alter the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, thereby contravening the Fourth Geneva Convention and the relevant Security Council resolutions. The Court then considered the qualifying clauses or provisions for derogation contained in certain humanitarian law and human rights instruments, which might be invoked inter alia where military exigencies or the needs of national security or public order so required. The Court found that such clauses were not applicable in the present case, stating that it was not convinced that the specific course Israel had chosen for the wall was necessary to attain its security objectives, and that accordingly the construction of the wall constituted a breach by Israel of certain of its obligations under humanitarian and human rights law. Lastly, the Court concluded that Israel could not rely on a right of self-defence or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall, and that such construction and its associated régime were accordingly contrary to international law.
The Court went on to consider the consequences of these violations, recalling Israel’s obligation to respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and its obligations under humanitarian and human rights law. The Court stated that Israel must put an immediate end to the violation of its international obligations by ceasing the works of construction of the wall and dismantling those parts of that structure situated within Occupied Palestinian Territory and repealing or rendering ineffective all legislative and regulatory acts adopted with a view to construction of the wall and establishment of its associated régime. The Court further made it clear that Israel must make reparation for all damage suffered by all natural or legal persons affected by the wall’s construction. As regards the legal consequences for other States, the Court held that all States were under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction. It further stated that it was for all States, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to see to it that any impediment, resulting from the construction of the wall, to the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination be brought to an end. In addition, the Court pointed out that all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention were under an obligation, while respecting the Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention. Finally, in regard to the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, the Court indicated that they should consider what further action was required to bring to an end the illegal situation in question, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion.
Why should one alight on Israel, then? Could it be the Israeli government’s blatant disregard for international law having something to do with it? So blatant in fact, that the Nation State Law states “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel” and “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.” The meaning of that clause is clear, even if it was watered down somewhat before passing into law.
The Nation State Law is the Israeli government’s doing, and sets out to make it impossible to criticise Israel without drawing condemnation for being anti-semitic. This is an untenable state of affairs.