Palestinians suffering double standards of international law

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
© Ammar Awad
According to a recent survey by the Palestinian think tank, Policy and Survey Research, the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank support a return to armed struggle (intifada) against Israeli occupation. Considering their ongoing plight nobody should be surprised.

There exists in our world such a thing as natural justice, and when it comes to an oppressed people fighting for their rights against an oppressor, natural justice dictates that they are justified in doing so by any means necessary. This is the situation in which the Palestinian people - both the 1.8 million locked up in the largest prison camp on the planet, otherwise known as Gaza, and the 3 million living under military occupation in the West Bank - find themselves today.

© Ammar Awad

Their suffering is an indictment of an international community that, rather than intercede to end the injustice that is visited on them on a daily basis, has instead helped to facilitate it.

What cannot be refuted is that there is no moral or legal basis for the decades-long occupation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel, none whatsoever. On the contrary, Israel’s occupation and treatment of the Palestinians refutes the idea that international law is applied equally and enforced without fear or favor. For a few select states, international law is an optional extra when it comes to prosecuting their interests, ignored when raised in defense of the weak and vulnerable and cited when defending the indefensible.

Almost 100 fixed checkpoints are manned by Israeli soldiers or armed security guards throughout the West Bank, disrupting the commercial and day-to-day life of its inhabitants. Long lines of people trying to pass through are a common occurrence, as is the abuse of those trying to cross them by the soldiers and security guards concerned. Reports abound of old men and women being subjected to strip searches, pregnant women being forced to go into labor at the side of the road because their passage to hospital is impeded, and of people being denied the right to pass upon the flimsiest of reasons.

The expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land goes on, which along with the theft of Palestinian resources leaves little doubt that Israel resembles less a state and more a giant criminal enterprise.

report from B'tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) leaves us in no doubt of the scale of the problem: "The existence of settlements leads to violations of many of the human rights of Palestinians, including the rights to property, equality, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement. In addition, the radical changes Israel has made to the map of the West Bank preclude any real possibility of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the fulfillment of the right to self-determination."

There is also the issue of the Palestinian prisoners to consider. According to the Palestinian prisoners support group, Addameer, as of August 2015 there were 5,520 Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israeli prisoners. Of those 153 were children, while 350 were being held in what is known as administrative detention, which in reality means indefinitely without any due process of law.

Compounding further the injustice being suffered by the Palestinians is the inordinate efforts of the Israeli government and its supporters to claim the mantle of victim within this brutal status quo. For them it is their existence that is threatened, their rights that are being trampled upon, and as such any measures required to meet this threat and to protect their rights are wholly justifiable.

However, Israel's right to exist is not the question, despite it being consistently promulgated as justification for its policy of denying Palestine’s right to exist. The question is whether Israel has right to exist at the negation of another people. The mountain of lies, dissembling, and obfuscation erected in the course of this unresolved question is not only an obstacle to justice for the Palestinian people, it is an impediment to Israel's stability, security, and progress also. Nelson Mandela was never more cogent than when he said, "Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."

The world cannot expect the Palestinian people to accept the daily humiliation and degradation of occupation quietly. If peace is the objective then they must be accorded recourse to justice via peaceful and legal means. To deny them this recourse is to deny them their humanity and to drive them towards violence.

What is not an option is the continuation of the status quo, especially when it involves the day-to-day reality of the aforementioned checkpoints throughout the West Bank. It makes free movement impossible and with it economic development, growth, and stability.

READ MORE: Gaza water shortage catastrophic: ‘We can’t drink, cook or wash with it’

Countless peace initiatives over the years have been tried and failed, either vetoed by rejectionist and intransigent Israeli governments or rejected by the Palestinians on the basis of their attempt to enshrine the injustice they are suffering rather than end it. Yet, all along the solution to this ongoing crisis has been a simple one. It lies with the application of international law on pain of economic sanctions.

The absence of justice for the Palestinians is a grievous example of the double standards that passes for international law in the eyes of Washington and its allies. It is why, if and when a third intifada does erupt, the responsibility will lie not with those doing the erupting, but those who have left them no choice.

The results of the abovementioned poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research is accessible here.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.