First Published: 2017-12-15

Belfour Declaration and Israeli Violations of International Law
Despite the violations of international law by Israeli occupational force, the country has backing of the western powers, including United States, Britain, and their allies, says Suha Aljundi.
Middle East Online

Balfour Declaration came as the most controversial and self-defeating of the war-time pledges, as its proponent, Arthur James, was himself awry of the Jews immigrating to the British territories. Protection of rights, both proprietary and human, of Palestinians people was the primary responsibility of the British government as their colonizing power; however, the pledge made in Balfour declaration to implant a Jewish homeland on their lands endangered those rights outright. Hence, Britain’s action not only contravened the undertakings it made to in relation to the Arabian territories, but also paved way for Palestinians’ aggrandizing persecutions at the hands of new oppressors.

Israeli authorities draw heavily from the Balfour Declaration as their justification for expansionist designs and continue encroaching upon more and more Palestinian lands in the name of Jewish settlement. Admittedly, the Declaration warranted right of religious and civil freedoms for the residents of the region; however, the 67-word text of the declaration has no mention of the precise ethnicity or the origin of those residents, a sufficient ground for Jewish claims of rightful dwelling in the area.

Key developments in international law that supersede the declaration reject the right of conquest of foreign territories and prohibit use of force in acquisition of territory, and also affirm the right of self–determination for the people (UN Charter, Art. 1, 1945). Additionally, forced eviction of Palestinians and occupation of their lands violate Geneva Convention that outlines protections accorded to the civilian populace as well.

Forced expansion of settlements amounts to acts of aggression again is a violation of international laws. Israel has continued to expand their territory beyond what was previously demarcated by the UN. Such actions have fueled animosity that usually takes hype and results in daily skirmishes between Palestinian freedom fighters and Israeli forces.

After 1967 war, Israel was blamed for occupying foreign territories, most notably Golan Heights and parts of Sinai and followed a policy of planned and forced exodus of the Muslims, which violates Hague Conventions respecting Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annexes, 1907 (Art. 42). Furthermore, Israeli refusal to relinquish land that they forcibly took from Palestinians is a violation of UN accord on peaceful resolution of conflicts. Their government has refused to allow Palestinian civilians to return to their homes and land of which they were lawful occupants prior to 1948 and 1967.

The UN General Assembly have passed numerous resolutions, including Resolution 242 demanding respect for Palestinians’ rights, Resolution 2253 condemning Israeli design to alter the accepted status of Jerusalem, Resolution 2546 condemning violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights in occupied territories, to deter Israeli authorities (General Assembly Resolutions, n.d.). Resolution 1860 (2009) of the United Nation Security Council called for full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and sought to compel Israel to respect ceasefire. Given these measures on international fora, Israel remains adamant in its objectives to subdue Palestinians and expand its land grab in the area.

Despite the violations of international law by Israeli occupational force, the country has backing of the western powers, including United States, Britain, and their allies. They have received diplomatic, military aid and financial support, a patronage that contradicts the liberal world’s stance on democratic values and avowal of human rights. They support Jewish legitimate right to exist and encourage the Israeli state to play a predominant role in strengthening peace and stability in the Middle East region.

However, seemingly, the defense of their allies for resolute support concenters on the rights of a United Nation member state, a status this occupied regime won in 1949 and, consequently, allies strengthened the relationship with Israel and aided it during the times of need.

As noted above, Britain initially rallied for the establishment of separate Jewish under the apprehensions that their mass influx towards England might deteriorate socioeconomic landscape of the country; however, preferences attached to the Israeli state maximized later on in the power corridors of the West as other international exigencies also played their part to garner international support for Israel. Most UN states usually defend Israel aggression, claiming it as a self-defense strategy.

Additionally, economic reasons also dominate Western partiality towards Israel as the US envisions its powerful ally in the region to serve as hub in the quest of reaping profits from arms, gas, and oil trade. Well aware of the interests of Western allies, Israel has been consistently building upon the support base and still is treading the very course of expanding its borders and establishing its hegemony in the region.

In a nutshell, domestic expediencies and international objectives which, in 1917, pushed Arthur James to have controversial Balfour Declaration conveyed to the Jews still remain overarching concerns of the Western world. The very nature and the timing of the Declaration portended usurpation of the rights of local populace, which also continues to this day. The Declaration encouraged, as it did not discourage, Jews to embark upon forced occupation of Palestinian lands in a sheer disregard to the norms of territorial occupation under UN and obligations of the state to protect human rights to secure their granted right of separate state in the Middle East. Contemporary international law delegates the responsibility of territorial demarcation and resolution of territorial disputes to the UN, whose charter makes past declarations invalid if revised under the current laws.

Despite violations of Geneva Conventions, Resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council, and human rights abuses, western powers view Israel as a key pillar and strategic partner in their quest to stabilize the region and materialize their economic objectives.

Suha Aljundi


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