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Palestinians have legal right
to resist the occupation

Richard Falk

Palestinians have a legal right to resist the occupation. Israel has been inflicting collective punishment and long-term abuses on the Palestinian people.

In an exclusive interview with Qodsna, Richard Falk, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and American Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University describes Israel as a flagrant and persistent violator of international humanitarian law and said that the UN lacks the political will to compel conformity to the substantive standards of Israel’s behavior.  

Answering to qodsna question that why international organizations, especially the International Criminal Court (ICC) don’t take any practical actions against Zionist regime’s crimes against Palestinians, he said: The International Criminal Court did has since its existence failed to investigate well-grounded allegations of Israel crimes, although the present prosecutor has finally recommended that it do so. And by so doing, has infuriated Israel and the United States. Indeed the U.S. has imposed personal sanctions on the ICC prosecutor because she had the temerity to do her job.

It is questionable whether the ICC has sufficient independence and capabilities to mount a real challenge directed at Israel most pervasive crimes involving collective punishment of a people living under belligerent occupation, an apartheid form of governance, and de facto annexations of territories set aside for a Palestinian state, he added.

“The UN Human Rights Council has over the past 20 years made a variety of efforts to call attention to Israeli violations of international humanitarian law in its role as an Occupying Power, with rights and duties specified in the Fourth Geneva Convention. It has done so through periodic reports of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Occupied Palestine, and in situations of combat, most notably in the Goldstone Report issued after Israel’s massive attack on Gaza at the end of 2008”.

The most persuasive conclusion is that UN institutions are unable to exert pressure on the behavior in question, creating an unfortunate gap between declaring law and rights, and providing enforcement mechanisms to obtain compliance. The UN performs valuable services at the level of symbolic politics, but lacks the political will to compel conformity to the substantive standards of behavior embedded in international law. As a consequence, Palestinian claims and grievances have been legitimized, but their suffering persists and their prospects for justice have not improved.

Former UN investigator also noted that criminal acts against the Palestinian people especially the children carried out by the support of colonial powers from the Israeli regime, adding “Israel has been shielded from international accountability by two features of world order: First, the norm of non-intervention in internal affairs, set forth in Article 2(7) of the UN Charter, which usually leads international institutions to refrain from challenging such internal abuses of governing authority unless formally declared to be endangering international peace or verging on genocide”.  

“Secondly, when geopolitical actors, in this case the U.S., assert themselves on behalf of the accused state, this acts to shield wrongdoing. Israel has long benefitted from geopolitically implemented impunity, and the Palestinian people have been victimized for decades as a result, and have always lacked countervailing support from their supporters for their grievances and basic rights. Israel is a flagrant and persistent violator of international humanitarian law, and the Palestinians have had no effective legal or political remedy”.
Falk also believes Palestinians have a legal right to resistance and defend their lands.

He said that there is no doubt that the Palestinian people have a legal right of resistance in circumstances where a struggle is being mounted against colonialist appropriation of territory and where the governance structure that is imposing control has the characteristics of an apartheid regime.

In the instance of Israel, it has established its state by way of a settler colonial process, and has established control over the Palestinian people by reliance on a distinctive apartheid regime that has scattered residents of Palestine by ethnic cleansing, by discriminatory policies and practices, and by forced dispossession and displacement not only to claim sovereignty over the land but to achieve and maintain a Jewish ethnic majority, he added.

“The right of resistance is particularly relevant here where the repressive mechanisms relied upon by Israel have been inflicting collective punishment and long-term abuses on the Palestinian people, including the fundamental denial of the inalienable Palestinian right of self-determination, an experience that has last for more than a century”.

Pointing to the increasing isolation of Zionist regime in the world, he said “I believe it is important to distinguish governments from people. Israel is by and large accepted on inter-governmental levels, with a few exceptions, but it is increasingly isolated on the level of transnational society”.

Inter-governmental diplomacy has failed to deliver a sustainable peace after decades of effort, and has in fact been a smokescreen behind which the Zionist maximalist territorial agenda was effectively pursued, Falk noted, adding “This delay due to fruitless diplomatic undertakings has helped Israel reach its unlawful goals, while diminishing Palestinian expectations and keeping Palestinians living under a repressive occupation, in refugee camps, as a discriminating minority in Israel, and in involuntary exile”.  

“The Palestinian struggle at this stage depends on a combination of Palestinian resistance and global solidarity initiatives, most notably the BDS Campaign. As was the case with the struggle against South African apartheid, this combination of pressures can produce a new political reality where the costs of isolation and illegitimacy outweigh the benefits of persisting with a colonialist operation sustained by apartheid. The flow of history has favored such just struggles against colonialism and systematic racism. This historical momentum would have led to a Palestinian victory long ago if Israel had not been protected by European and North American geopolitical forces. There are other factors at play, including the background of the Holocaust that catastrophically victimized Jews as a people and European anti-Semitism that welcomed a solution to ‘the Jewish problem’ of Europe by encouraging Jewish settlement in Palestine”.