The report is the outcome of a conference, “Law and Politics: Options and Strategies in International Law for the Palestinian People,” held at Birzeit University Institute of Law in May 2013.1The conference was funded by the UNDP and ICCO (indirect Dutch governmental funding).2
The accusations, vilification, and delegitimization of Israel expressed in the conference and the report continue the implementation of the “Durban Strategy,” a program of political warfare established at the UN’s 2001 Durban Conference. In this strategy, NGOs exploit legal terminology and procedures in an attempt to isolate and demonize Israel.
The activities promoted by this program are entirely inconsistent with peace efforts supporting a two-state solution of the conflict, and deny the legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Stated advocacy goals of the report
Intended to “help non-lawyers understand and apply international law to Israel’s oppressive regime over the entire Palestinian people,” asserting that “(settler) colonialism, population transfer/ethnic cleansing and apartheid increases the scope of responsibility of all states and individuals.”
Seeks to “Help Build Pressure on 3rd Parties,” including states and corporations.
States are urged to use universal jurisdiction to prosecute Israeli officials for alleged “war crimes,” and “Private entities, including business companies,” are told that they “are legally, including criminally, liable (via their representatives, CEOs)” for alleged violations committed by Israel. This claim is a blatant distortion of international law, which does not recognize aiding and abetting liability for corporations. Moreover, every legal case brought by Palestinian activists on this basis has been thrown out of court.
Political aims and legal distortions
According to the report, the accusation of “occupation” is insufficient for political purposes because “occupation per se is lawful, and an occupation regime may remain lawful even if certain policies and practices of the occupying power are illegal or constitute war crimes” and because it “suggest[s] that Israeli violations of Palestinian rights under international law are limited to the OPT.”
Instead, activists are encouraged to allege Israeli “colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing,” dating to 1948 and earlier, in an attempt to undermine the existence of Israel. This language was also chosen to attract political allies (specifically Africans and Latin Americans) and to bolster campaigns for ICJ and ICC cases against Israel.
In other words, activists are directed to invent legal claims and alleged violations that undermine Israel’s existence and more effectively contribute to political warfare campaigns.
Activists should highlight “the self-definition of the Zionist movement as colonizing force…and the racist official Israeli ideology (Zionism) that denies a right of the indigenous Palestinian people to its country.”
The report claims that “Israel commits these inhumane acts [of apartheid] with the intention of maintaining and consolidating its discriminatory regime in the entire territory of pre-1948 Palestine.”
The report lists “10 Good Reasons” to use the terms “Colonialism, Apartheid and Population Transfer/Ethnic Cleansing,” including:
“Resonate negatively worldwide”
Create the understanding of “racist regimes which are absolutely prohibited in their entirety” (as opposed to a legal occupation)
Emphasizing “Israel’s settler colonial founding history exposes the systemic elements of Israel’s regime, which have been constants since 1948 and are common for states founded by settler colonial movements, i.e., ethnic cleansing and apartheid”
“Put the spotlight on the criminal character of Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people and on the individual legal responsibility”
“Forced transfer (ethnic cleansing) of Palestinians is a systemic element of Israeli settler colonialism and an inhumane act of apartheid.”
The conference was “organized by the Birzeit University Institute of Law, the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem and the Decolonizing Palestine Project.” NGO Monitor was unable to find additional information about the Decolonizing Palestine Project.
Participants at the conference included members of the PA and PLO and many active proponents of demonization such as Shawan Jabarin, general director of Al-Haq; Hassan Jabareen, founder and general director of Adalah; Richard Falk, outgoing UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur; John Dugard, “witness” for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and former UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur; John Reynolds, legal researcher for Al Haq; Mustafa Mari, currently Secretariat Manager at Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat and Curriculum Development Officer, Institute of Law at University of Birzeit; Charles Shamas, senior partner of the Mattin Group, co-founder of Al-Haq, and Middle East and North Africa Division Advisory Committee Member of Human Rights Watch; and Allegra Pacheco, formerly of OCHA.