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Uprooting Jews Violates International Humanitarian Treaties

by David Singer

Plans by the Israeli Government to forcibly remove Jews from their homes in the West Bank and Gaza breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 [Covenant] as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 [Convention], to both of which Israel is a signatory.

Article 17 of the Covenant provides that:

1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 16 of the Convention expressly protects children and is a mirror image of Article 17.

The International Court of Justice determined last year that both the Covenant and the Convention are applicable in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel had disputed.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan however also advised the International Court that Israel recognises that the Convention is intended to protect its citizens from their own Government in times of peace.

Israel's High Court of Justice acknowledged in its recent judgement on the disengagement law, that the forced evacuation of Israelis would undermine their human dignity.

The High Court nevertheless asserted that the disengagement law passed all constitutional tests because it "corresponds with the Zionist values of the State and is intended for a worthy purpose — the political, national and security purposes on which the disengagement is based are designed to realize a vital and substantial need."

This viewpoint could not be successfully raised to negate article 17 since Article 4.1 of the Covenant states:
"In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin."
Israel's forced removal of Jewish residents of Gaza and the West Bank obviously involves discrimination solely on the ground of race and/or religion and so could not be relied on by Israel to escape its international obligations under the Covenant or the Convention.

Jews living in the West Bank and Gaza are legally entitled to reside there pursuant to the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter in order to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in those areas as specifically stated in the Mandate document.

Many returned there after 1967 to reclaim land from which other Jews had been driven out in 1948 by six invading Arab armies.

Any attempt now to forcibly uproot Jews from their homes against their expressed will is therefore in breach of the inalienable rights conferred on them by the Covenant, the Convention, the Mandate and the United Nations Charter.

Choosing to stay will not be palatable to all 8000 Jews affected by the withdrawal of Israel's army and they will have the option of accepting the compensation packages that are being offered by the Israeli Government to those who voluntarily leave.

But one thing is certain — the forced removal of Jews from the West Bank and Gaza is not permitted or authorised under international law and is in breach of international agreements in force since 1920 authorising Jews to live in those areas.

President Bush, President Putin, the European Union and the United Nations have publicly welcomed the forced uprooting, whilst Human Rights organisations are deafening in their silence toward such expulsions.

Would they all act differently if the Arabs residing in the West Bank and Gaza were subjected to such proposed action against their will?

Ariel Sharon needs to revise his thinking on this aspect of his proposed disengagement.

He should urgently seek the opinion of the High Court of Justice on this issue before embarking on a course of action that has the capacity to lead to the outbreak of civil insubordination and threatens to seriously undermine the ability of Israel to resist those who seek its' total annihilation.
David Singer is an Australian Lawyer and Convenor of: Jordan is Palestine International — an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine.

Our special thanks to the author for submitting this article. A. G. S.