This article originally appeared in The Algemeiner on October 31, 2022.
In a 2011 op-ed in The New York Times, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas wrote about “Palestine’s” intent to use the United Nations “for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one.” Now, 11 years later, antisemitic UN officials have happily taken up the call, and enthusiastically joined the nearly 75-year war to destroy the Jewish state.
A key feature of these efforts is the ongoing attempt to invent international law to make Israel’s “occupation,” in and of itself, illegal.
“Invent” is to be read quite literally. A 2017 report by former UN “expert” Michael Lynk proposed a “test” to declare Israel’s “occupation” as “illegal.” Of course, as CAMERA has written about many times, “occupation” is a neutral concept, quite clearly provided for by international law.
Nonetheless, a handful of hardcore activists and UN “experts” have jumped on the bandwagon, including Lynk’s successor, Francesca Albanese, and more prominently, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) against Israel, formed by the UN Human Rights Council last year. In its second report, presented to the UN General Assembly on October 27, the COI even doubled down on the effort by calling for the International Court of Justice to declare the occupation “illegal.”
The main justification for why Israel should be declared an illegal occupier is, as the COI put it, the “strength of credible evidence that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation.”
History would beg to differ.
The charge relies on ignoring three basic facts. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the West Bank is actually “occupied,” setting aside the law and facts that suggest otherwise.
First and foremost, the COI claim relies on ignoring that Israel has, in fact, repeatedly tried to end the occupation. Nowhere in the COI report is there any mention of the repeated offers of statehood made by Israel, including in 2000 at Camp David, and then the even more generous 2008 offer by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
How does one square these offers with the claim that Israel has “no intention of ending the occupation?” How does one square Israel’s agreement to the Oslo Accords, which gave a Palestinian entity autonomy over parts of the West Bank for the first time ever in history, with this charge? Any serious legal inquiry would have to account for and overcome these facts to come to the conclusion that the COI reached .
Second, the claim relies on ignoring all the instances when Israel gave up land for peace, and even gave up land in the hopes of reaching peace. Far from Israelis being “covetous aliens” and Israel being an “acquisitive occupier,” as Lynk claimed while using openly antisemitic tropes in his final report, the Jewish state has repeatedly traded land captured in defensive wars back to states like Egypt and Jordan in exchange for lasting peace. As Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s recent statement at the UN General Assembly demonstrated, that is still Israel’s desire when it comes to the Palestinians, too. No amount of baseless, conspiratorial assertions by the COI that Israel only “uphold[s] the appearance of agreement” — with a two-state solution as part of a duplicitous strategy — can overcome this history.
This is particularly evident when considering Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which the COI only acknowledges to the extent necessary to absurdly accuse Israel of still “occupying” the territory. To admit that Israel completely uprooted not just its military, but also thousands of Israeli residents of Gaza, would require also acknowledging that many of the policies that the COI claims are designed to make Israeli occupation in the West Bank “permanent” are, in fact, quite capable of being overcome, just as they were in Gaza.
Third, and perhaps most telling, is that the claim relies on ignoring Palestinian rejectionism and maximalist demands. The entire narrative crafted by the likes of the COI members is that Israel alone bears responsibility. The fact that Israel prevailed in repeated wars of survival against invading Arab armies and decades of terror attacks that began long before the “occupation” started in 1967, does not square with the COI’s portrayal of pure Palestinian innocence and absolute Israeli malevolence. The COI has to conceal that the conflict persists in large part due to Palestinian rejectionism and refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state in any part of the Land of Israel.
That is also why Palestinian leaders openly bragging about rejecting peace offers must go unmentioned, as with Mahmoud Abbas’ demand that “not a single Israeli” will be allowed to be part of a Palestinian state. It is why the COI cannot acknowledge that the Palestinian Authority (PA) arrests and tortures Palestinians for participating in peace workshops. It is why Hamas is rarely if ever mentioned — and no acknowledgement is made of its violent, antisemitic, and openly genocidal charter. The fact that the PA tells its people that the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Charter still calls for Israel’s destruction must also remain hidden.
In essence, what the COI and others are doing is declaring Israel an outlaw because the Palestinians refuse to make peace with it.
The “international community” widely supports a two-state solution on the basis of a UN resolution that makes it clear that final borders are subject to negotiations, and that Israeli withdrawal is dependent on respect for and acknowledgement of Israel’s right to live in peace within secure borders.
This obviously requires action by both parties. But if Israel acted unilaterally today and allowed a Palestinian state to emerge, the state of “Palestine” would seek to wipe it off the map.
When actors like the COI perpetuate such blatantly one-sided narratives, they are not playing an impartial role. It is thus clear that Abbas has indeed succeeded in “internationalizing the conflict,” in the sense that he has corrupted UN actors to fight his battle against the Jewish state for him.