In Discussion, Middle East

By Christopher Black.  Originally published on NEO: Near Eastern Outlook, November 1, 2023.

International law has essentially collapsed with the US backed Israeli siege of the Palestinian people of Gaza, in response to the Hamas attack on Israeli occupation forces on October 7. The Palestinians have no expectation of mercy from the Israelis, when they have suffered decades of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinian lands and their replacement by Israeli settlers, all in violation of international law and several UN resolutions, including of course, Resolution 242 which required Israel to withdraw from all the lands they seized in the 1967 War; a war which they now admit was started on a pretext in order to seize those lands and push out the Palestinians who lived there.

Israel has been granted impunity for its aggression and occupation of Palestinian lands for decades by the nations that helped to create it and support it after World War I and World War II; the USA, Britain and their allies, who granted it impunity to act as it wishes because Israel serves their objectives in the Middle East, acting as the local agent of the nation that seeks to be the world hegemon, the United States.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court says nothing about the crimes being committed by the Israelis against the Palestinians in the occupied lands and Gaza, even though it has had a file open on Palestine-Israel since 2019. Its lack of action is in stark contrast to the quick issuance of a warrant of arrest against President Putin some months ago based on no real investigation whatsoever.

Yet in the case of Palestine, the ICC prosecutor states that though her office found that Israel has committed war crimes, it takes time to investigate the allegations, a lot of time, she said, meaning no charges will be forthcoming from her against Benjamin Netanyahu anytime soon, and likely not at all. It appears odd that the Prosecutor did not feel it necessary to take her time investigating the bizarre allegations coming out of Kiev made against Russia, but not so odd when we realise who controls the ICC, the USA and the European Union.

The double standards, the hypocrisy exhibited by the West have become so clearly defined that just last week 842 EU staff members wrote an open letter to Ursula Von Der Leyden attacking her support of Israeli actions in Gaza for completely undermining the credibility of the EU in the world since she claims, against the evidence, that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine, and that Russia must stop its military operations while enthusiastically supporting Israel’s attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza and the openly stated objective of the Israelis to ethnically cleanse Gaza and to exterminate the population if they cannot, to commit genocide in fact.

The letter was reported in the Irish Times on October 20tth,

Staff members of EU institutions have written to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen expressing fury over her stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, in a letter that accumulated 842 signatures.

“The letter, which has been seen by The Irish Times, accuses the commission of giving ‘a free hand to the acceleration and the legitimacy of a war crime in the Gaza Strip”.

“It begins by condemning the Hamas attack on Israel, before continuing: ‘We equally strongly condemn the disproportionate reaction by the Israeli government against 2.3 million Palestinian civilians trapped in the Gaza Strip”.

‘We hardly recognise the values of the EU in the seeming indifference demonstrated over the past few days by our Institution toward the ongoing massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip,’ it continues.

“The letter warns that the EU is ‘losing all credibility and the position as a fair, equitable and humanist broker’ and damaging its international relations as well as risking the safety of EU staff.”

The writers of the letter themselves are equally hypocritical, of course, since the EU, which they work for, has been complicit in the crimes of the Kiev regime and NATO committed against the civilian population of the Donbass and their terror attacks against Russians. Now they find themselves facing a dilemma of their own making. They reveal their fear that the world now realises the West has lost the moral argument they have used to justify and conduct their wars, and in particular the war in Ukraine against Russia.

The veto by the United States and its allies of several resolutions offered by Brazil, Russia and other nations calling for a cessation of the Israeli attacks on the civilians of Gaza and permitting the supply of food, water, medicines, and other supplies to enter Gaza once again shows that the Security Council is unable to function to preserve the peace and security of the region as required under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The present structure of the United Nations permits the major powers to act in their own interests, and in this case, permits the USA to provide military and financial support for Israel’s actions.

Israel has thrown aside all legality in its war and treats the laws of war and laws concerning crimes against humanity with open contempt. International law itself has been shredded by the West and the insistence by China, Russia, Iran and the rest of the world, outside Western control, that the UN Charter be adhered to, it principles supported and acted upon, is ignored.

It has come to the point at which the US and its allies now claim to be above the law in every respect, to have instead adopted certain unspoken rules which all nations must obey or else. Imperialism has thrown off its cloak of morality and “humanitarian values” that it has worn to fool people into supporting its aggression and colonial aspirations, and now strides the world openly wearing the armour of war and conquest.

They act openly as if NATO is above the United Nations, and that its “rules” that is the rule of American power, is the law. The consequences of this type of thinking are manifold; it means imperialism and colonialism, racism and brutality. It means the Americans regard themselves as superior beings, as above other peoples, or as Mr, Medvedev recently stated, regard themselves as God’s viceroys on Earth, as ubermensch as the word was used by the Nazis, supermen, whom the rest of the world must fear and obey. The United Nations, is, so far as they are concerned, as irrelevant now as the League of Nations became in the 1930s, which led to world war.

Just a few days ago, on October 28, the minister of defence of the Czech Republic, Jana Cernochova, called for her country to leave the United Nations after a General Assembly support of a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. She stated,

“Only 14 countries, including ours, stood up against the unprecedented terrorist attack committed by Hamas terrorists. In my opinion – the Czech Republic has nothing to expect in an organization that supports terrorists and does not respect the basic right to self-defence. Let’s get out.”

The 14 countries she is referring to are the USA, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Fiji, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay and Tonga who voted down the resolution. 121 other nations supported the call for the ceasefire, 44 nations abstained.

NATO was split. France, Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia supported the resolution while Britain, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Greece, The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Iceland abstained, meaning that they did not oppose it but neither did they support it, that is support international law regarding the treatment of civilians regarding the laws of war, did not support helping the terrible plight of the Palestinians in Gaza.

That France supported the resolution reflects the desire of France to once again have influence in the Middle East though all these nations have their particular reasons to support the resolution or not, but the fact is, the world is divided on an issue which one would think would bring the world together in support of a people facing a thousand pound bombs, rockets, artillery shells and starvation.

Power politics prevails. Not international law. One can argue that the terrible manifestation of power politics we are witnessing renders obsolete all that had been achieved in terms of international law in the 20th century. Often power politics is masked, as stated above, by claims to a higher morality or to “humanitarian concerns” and this is what the Americans and their allies now claim in supporting the siege of Gaza by the Israelis, concern for Israeli’s only.

They allow, and allow because they could stop Israel if they wanted to, Gaza to face the same destruction that the Americans rained down on Raqqa in Syria, a city they totally destroyed, Sirte in Libya, the same in Mosul, Fallujah, Donetsk, Aleppo, and we can go on. The nation that dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities has no pity or concern for civilians, and never has, except then they can use it to their advantage. They encourage the Israelis in their crimes, and can we expect the Israelis to treat the civilians of Gaza properly when we remember their history in Palestine and Lebanon, when we remember Deir Yassin, and Shatila?

The collapse of the rule of international law into the morass of imperialist, colonial aggression being conducted across the world is further evidenced by the provocative actions of the United States in the South China Sea, risking war with China, the deployment of aircraft carrier groups to the Middle East region to threaten Iran, the attacks on Syria by Israel, the attacks of the Americans against resistance groups opposing the American invasion of Syria to steal its oil, the renewal of the siege against Cuba, the American support of a fascist candidate in Argentina, stirring up trouble in Serbia and the continual aggression against Russia, as if deliberately trying to provoke a large war, as if they want to have a war with the entire world. Is it any wonder that Russia conducted a nuclear war exercise recently, that Iran has conducted military exercises, China, North Korea?

Is there a future in which international law will prevail where nations will treat each other with respect and tolerance, where talking replaces shooting, where swords are turned into ploughshares? I do not know. Human history is one of advances and retreats, of progress then reaction, of noble ideas and depravity. Calls for dialogue with the Americans made by Russia and China and others are met with the rattling of American sabres, with threats and diktats. Is there hope? Well, it’s not a matter of hope, but of necessity. The United Nations Charter came out of the ashes of the Second World War. I doubt anything will come out of the ashes of the Third.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”

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