Palestine & Kashmir:The Unending Transgressions

 

By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

 

It goes without saying that there have been closed similarities in the policies practiced by both the Israeli and Indian authorities vis-à-vis Palestine and Kashmir. Intransigent-cum- belligerent occupation remains the core feature of Israel- India state policies in the Palestinian territories and Kashmir vale.

Israel’s Settlements in the Palestinian Held Territories

Notwithstanding the remonstrance shown by the Palestinian community, the reservations established by international legal community, the clear denouncements leveled by international human rights organistaions, and President Trump’s request to hold back on settlements as part of a possible new push for Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israel deliberately intends to build 15,000 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem, the Housing Ministry said on last Friday.  A formal announcement of the settlement plan, quickly condemned by the chief Palestinian negotiator, could come around the time Trump is scheduled to visit Israel this month.

Israel views all of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible capital”, but the Palestinians also want a capital there. Most of the world considers Jerusalem’s status an issue that must be decided through negotiations. The last peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Israel’s Housing Ministry is reportedly pushing forward with a massive plan that would add some 25,000 new homes to Jerusalem, including 15,000 units over the Green Line, in a move that may test the new US administration’s understandings with Israel over building in areas the Palestinians want for a state.
According to a Channel 2 report recently exposed , the plan is set to be announced while US President Donald Trump is in the country in late May, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem and the unification of the once-divided city.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) is unjustifiably pushing the initiative in meetings with Jerusalem city officials. According to the report, the plan will cost some NIS 4 billion ($1.1 billion).Parts of the plan were reported by Channel 10 earlier in the week. Galant’s office and the Jerusalem municipality could not be immediately contacted for confirmation. Israeli officials confirmed that Trump’s team is planning a visit on May 22-23.

The White House told The Times of Israel that it is “exploring” the visit, but did not flesh out any further details. Jerusalem Day, which marks the capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, begins on the evening of May 23.  Of the 15,000 units planned over the Green Line, the lion’s share would be in two new residential neighborhoods: Atarot in the north of the city and Givat Hamatos in the south.

The settlements are illegal under international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns civilian populations during a time of war, states in Article 49 that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which the United States did not veto, and was passed in December 2016, angering Israel, reaffirms this position. It states that settlements have “no legal validity” and constitute “a flagrant violation under international law.” The resolution references previous Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 446, 452, 465, 476, 478, 1397, 1515, and 1850. Of these, 465, 476, and 478 established that settlements have “no legal validity” in 1980.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) currently has a preliminary examination underway that is looking into Israeli actions, including settlements, in the occupied territories since Jun 13, 2014. The examination, which is meant to determine whether there is enough evidence to begin an official investigation, was launched on January 16, 2015.

Israel, along with a few legal analysts, disputes that settlements are illegal. There are three primary reasons they use. Some cite religious reasons, claiming religious scripture gives Jews a right to build anywhere in Israel and the West Bank. Others use historical reasons, saying Jews have lived in the region for thousands of years, and it remains their land.

Some others use legal reasons. In 2012, the Israeli government, under the direction of Prime Minister Netanyahu, published the Levy Commission Report, which summarized this legal position. The report rejected the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the West Bank, arguing that the West Bank was never a legitimate part of any Arab state. “Consequently, those conventions dealing with the administration of occupied territory and an occupied populations [sic] are not applicable to Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria,” the report read.

This is not a position that any country or international forum has accepted. Israel has withdrawn from settlements on a few different occasions. In 1982, Israel began withdrawing from settlements in Sinai as part of the 1979 peace deal with Egypt. In 1989, the withdrawal was completed, constituting a full Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from settlements in Gaza. At the same time, Israel also withdrew from some settlements in the northern West Bank. Under international law, settlements in East Jerusalem are no different than settlements in the West Bank. So why consider them separately?

Former Secretary of State Kerry singled out Jerusalem as one of the most sensitive and complex points, as did President Bill Clinton when he offered his ideas for peace in 2000. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as the capital of their state. The Palestinian statements warn Israel and the international community of the danger of this Israeli step, which could open the door for several options for the Palestinians. The Palestinians may not only resort to international diplomatic work, but could also threaten to turn the popular uprising into an armed one in the event that the international community fails to put pressure on Israel to back down.

However, the Palestinians did not wait long before taking action. On Jan. 20, a group of activists from the popular resistance and foreign supporters of the Palestinian cause rallied in the park in Ma’ale Adumim, where they pitched a tent to protest against the Israeli government’s intention to annex the settlement and the E1 zone to Jerusalem. The Israeli police cracked down on the protesters and forced them to clear the area. Even so, this protest might as well be a prelude to further escalation by the popular resistance.

Nevertheless the Israeli view also fully acknowledges that a military occupation is significantly different, both as a matter of law and politics, from building civilian settlements even in a territory that is legitimately subject to a military occupation. That’s why some of the Israeli experts have also opposed the building of settlements in the West Bank. They believe it has caused resentment and has given enemies of Israel an excuse to attack the legitimacy of the occupation in general.

The Netanyahu advocated doctrine– which solicits the land for peace as it has done on multiple occasions over the last few decades—yet delivers no positive course to pacify the simmering Arab-Israeli dispute. In 2010, Israel announced its intent to build homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by then-Vice President Joe Biden, who condemned the plan. It caused huge embarrassment to Netanyahu, who suspended the plan before reintroducing it in 2013.

As for true legal position about these settlements– the judicious perceptivity shared by the International Court of Justice accompanied by the EU’s disapproval, as well as the policy stand held by the UN via its celebrated resolutions, and most significantly the cultural, historical and territorial truth proclaimed by the Unesco resolution of December, 2016, branding Israel as an occupying power in East Jerusalem– all is tantamount to saying no to these settlements.

India’s Intransigence and Belligerence in IHK

Undeniably, the Indian security and paramilitary troops have been constantly killing/targeting the young Kashmiris. India’s security forces have started the search operation throughout the vale at a very large scale thereby undermining the fundamental norms of civility and human rights. Sadly enough, ruthless India’s role as an occupying power in Kashmir is being overlooked by the international community. India commits human rights violations without any remorseful feeling. The Indian army, Special Task Force, Border Security Force, and village defence committees, including the principal government forces — who operate in Jammu and Kashmir — have systematically violated the fundamental norms of international human rights law for the last six decades.

In his latest state visit to India, Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan said India and Pakistan were both friends of Turkey and he wanted to help strengthen the dialogue process among the stakeholders for resolving the Kashmir issue which has been festering for the last 70 years. “We should not allow more casualties to occur (in Kashmir). By having a multilateral dialogue, (in which) we can be involved, we can seek ways to settle the issue once and for all,” he told WION news channel in an interview.

Indian repression in IHK does not work. Repression may push dissent and resistance further underground temporarily, but they eventually rise back to the surface. Kashmir is fundamentally a political problem, not a security one the state of India cannot bludgeon its way to a new reality. Second, the Kashmir dispute is real and lies at the root of the dissent in the occupied territory and the troubles between India and Pakistan. Only a political settlement can pave the path to stability in all of Kashmir and general peace in the region a reality that successive Indian governments, whether right-wing or otherwise ideologically inclined, have eventually been forced to recognise.

Arguably, article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations (HR) states that a territory is considered occupied when it is de facto placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such an authority has been established and can be exercised. The Article 2 of four Geneva Conventions of 1949 says that it can be virtually applied to any territory occupied during international hostilities. They can also be applied in situations where occupation of state territory meets with no armed resistance.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to be extremely stubborn: it does not accept the futility of repressive measures in IHK and it does not appear to endorse the inevitability of dialogue with Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute. This attitude has given rise to creating dangerous instability not only in the Kashmir region, but between India and Pakistan themselves. Unless Mr Modi is willing to reconsider his approach to both IHK and Pakistan, there is little hope of the situation becoming more stable across the region.

It is against this background that the UN, the EU and the United States must mutually play such an instrumental role– to counter and deter both Israeli and Indian policies of unwarranted occupation, aggression and repression in Palestine and Kashmir– a role that these global players historically played in Kosovo.

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