Palestinian natural resources lie beneath this terrible conflict

Israel's disregard for international law puts civilians in harm's way

Share

Today the world watches as the latest round of violent escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unfolds. It is incumbent upon me as the General Director of Al-Haq, the first Palestinian human rights organization, to once again raise the root cause of this violence, whether it is in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, and whether it is Palestinians or Israelis being killed by missiles or through abductions. 

This underlying cause is the violation of international law, specifically international humanitarian law (IHL), which has been committed since 1967 through Israel’s illegal settlement policy; a policy that has brought over 500,000 Israeli civilians into occupied Palestinian territory. 

There is a reason why the transfer of civilians into occupied territory is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  There is a reason why the transfer of civilians into occupied territory is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  While death and destruction are a part of any armed conflict, international humanitarian law regulates the conduct of these conflicts in large part to ensure that civilian lives are spared.  Israel’s disregard for these international norms governing armed conflict is directly responsible for creating a hostile environment that puts civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli, in harm’s way.

Former Israeli legal advisor, Dr. Theodore Meron, advised the Israeli government in 1967, immediately after it occupied Arab territories, that such a policy of creating civilian settlements would be in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. 

Every Israeli government since then, however, has chosen to ignore the law and instead directly and indirectly facilitated the transfer of hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians into occupied territory. The Israeli judicial system has played a central role in legitimizing the settlement enterprise by manipulating the law in a way to facilitate this policy. 

READ MORE: 
THE MYTH OF HAMAS’S HUMAN SHIELD
PALESTINIAN PROTESTERS CALL FOR 'DAY OF RAGE'
WHY I'M ON THE BRINK OF BURNING MY ISRAELI PASSPORT

Despite the consensus of the international community as to its illegality, the lack of political will from many states, especially the United States, has also played a significant role in appeasement, allowing Israel to operate with impunity.  While Dr. Meron’s advice did not foretell the consequences of Israel’s settlement enterprise, those consequences continue to be played out in the vicious cycle of violence we see today. 

Why was this advice ignored? It was not due to a fear of overpopulation within Israel.  While religion, dynamics of political ideology and security are all justifications that have been used over the years to frame the discourse around the issue, Al-Haq’s work in recent years has revealed a much stronger driving force; the benefits to be reaped from the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources.

A recent World Bank report noted that the Palestinians could derive over $3bn annually from the resources in Area C of the West Bank. With most settlements strategically located in the West Bank in order to allow for control over water, land and mineral resources, the Israeli economic benefit reaped at the expense of pushing Israeli and Palestinian civilians toward more frequent confrontation is exposed. 

 

And while Israel withdrew its settlers and military from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it continues to occupy the territory in a manner that still allows for exploitation and control of gas reserves off the coast of the territory.  The illegal naval blockade imposed by Israel has not only prevented the development of the Gaza Marine Zone, depriving the Palestinian economy of billions in much needed gas revenues, but also forces the Occupied Palestinian Territory to maintain its dependency on Israel for gas supplies, thus bolstering the Israeli economy.

The exploitation of natural resources by a foreign power is the hallmark of colonial history; a history which is being repeated today in occupied Palestinian territory.  While IHL was not as developed during the scramble for Africa or during WWII as it is today, the colonial goals of the past are now pre-empted in modern IHL with the prohibition of pillage in addition to population transfer.  These prohibitions, however, require political will for enforcement. 

The lack of political will from the Israeli side is understandable from a business sense, as it would require the wealth of this part of the Fertile Crescent to be shared. This conflict is not just measured by casualties and destruction, but by dollars and cents as well. The natural resources being taken today are scarce, finite and non-replenishable, which explains their value relative to the cost of lives lost. Unfortunately, these are the kind of cold-hearted calculations made with a business mentality that helps to explain why these crimes are allowed to continue with impunity. 

In order for a just peace to be achieved that stops this vicious cycle of violence, the international community must act to end Israel’s illegal activities, because Israel will never willingly give up such a profitable enterprise. The framework for achieving this just peace is found in international law and only through its respect and enforcement can such a peace be achieved.  Until then, casualties on both sides will continue to be collateral damage to overarching colonial ambitions. 

Shawan Jabarin is General Director of Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization based in Ramallah, Palestine

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'