Empire, Resistance, and Security: International Law and the Transformative Occupation of Palestine by A. Dirk Moses

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The Israeli colonists trump the Palestinian right of self-determination in the minds of those who identify the Palestinians with “red Indians” and associate the colonists (many of whom are United States citizens) with their forebears who conquered the North American interior. It is no accident that both sides in Israel/Palestine invoke this frontier analogy. “We are not red Indians,” declared Yasser Arafat, implying that Palestinians could not be exterminated or driven off their ancestral land. Others averred the contrary: “Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians,” the Israeli historian Benny Morris told an interviewer in 2004. “There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history.” Echoes of the nineteenth-century North American discourse about savage Indians and manifest destiny are not difficult to hear. The Palestinians can indeed be dispossessed and, as before, international law will not stand in the way of occupiers. When Israeli leaders say that their punitive measures are responses to the terroristic resistance of the occupied people, international law largely justifies them and their various transformative occupation regimes—West Bank, Gaza, and Israel itself—in the name of security and self-defense. For this reason, critical observers like Richard Falk propose a new international convention to ensure that occupiers withdraw as soon as possible and do not inhibit the self-determination of the occupied; and, in the case of prolonged occupation, that mechanisms are institutionalized—like a ten-year limit—to ensure such a withdrawal. Even this proposal does not address the security exception.

Lemkin already addressed the relevant lacuna in IHL in 1944. The Hague Regulations covered individuals rather than peoples whose protection, let alone right of self-determination or autonomy, was unaddressed. The regulations did not proscribe the “various ingenious measures for weakening or destroying political, social, and cultural elements in national groups.” He recommended that they be amended in two ways:

“In the first should be included every action infringing upon the life, liberty, health, corporal integrity, economic existence, and the honor of the inhabitants when committed because they belong to a national, religious, or racial group; and in the second, every policy aiming at the destruction or the aggrandizement of one such group to the prejudice or detriment of another.”

Herewith, he hoped to outlaw genocide, which, we recall, he defined broadly as a technique of occupation that destroyed, disintegrated, and weakened an enemy nation. Accordingly, in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, he posited genocide as a colonial formation:

“Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals.”

Continue reading at https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/59625/moses_empire_resistance_and_security.pdf?sequence=1

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