Time to occupy Israel

Feb 21, 2024
Hourglass on Israel and Palestine flags close up.

Amid end time destruction, we must liberate Gaza, march to the security wall, and Occupy Israel.

If the world’s Free Palestine protesters are to be taken seriously, intervention to save lives must replace US, UK, Australian and other western nations’ inaction and collusion with Israeli slaughter. Don’t just protest: Liberate Gaza, march to the security wall, and occupy Israel.

On a street corner, young men bully a defenceless youth. A witness can turn away, watch but do nothing. Or they can intervene to end the bullying.

In terms of challenges to witnesses to intervene, there’s a comparable situation in Gaza. Powerful nations are watching end of time destruction and killings, but apart from South Africa taking Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) potentially powerful witnesses have not intervened. Yet if the world’s Free Palestine protesters are taken seriously, intervention to save lives must replace US, UK, Australian and other western nations’ inaction let alone their collusion with Israeli slaughter.

Identifying obstacles

To stop the catastrophe in Gaza, on the West Bank and to hold Israel accountable for ignoring the ICJ ruling to cease killings which contravene the Genocide Convention, a UN force or service could occupy at least those parts of Israel which are Palestinian. Why this should be proposed is obvious. How it might be done must consider several hurdles, beginning with an appraisal of the powers of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Chapter VII of the UN Charter authorises the Security Council to intervene in a state’s affairs if its behaviour ‘can be construed as a threat to international peace and security.’ Given the carnage in Gaza is perceived by countries in the middle east as reason for a widening conflict, the ‘peace and security’ rationale for the Security Council becomes obvious. But to protect Israel, the avenue for that argument will be blocked by a near certain US veto.

At which point a frustrated observer turns to the UN General Assembly whose powers to intervene are small, though they can make recommendations to States ‘on international issues’ including ‘political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal matters.’ On what possible grounds is the slaughter throughout Gaza not a humanitarian matter?

For the UNGA to answer that question would require nation states’ outrage to be marshalled sufficient to vote on a resolution. Instead, General Assembly members behave as impotent witnesses and any intention to stop a genocide is discouraged by the cultural and legal manacles which constrict UN policies, hence the necessity to look elsewhere for initiatives to support Palestinians.

A freedom flotilla

Between 2008 and 2018, the Free Gaza movement organised 35 freedom boats to sail with relief supplies for Gaza and en route to bypass an illegal Israeli naval blockade. Only five boats reached Gaza but even those which were unsuccessful suggest how international outrage could be harnessed to occupy Israel and bring relief to Gaza.

In 2008, 27 crew and passengers on board the freedom boat Dignity included doctors, lawyers, journalists and human right activists from 12 different countries. In 2009 on the freedom boat Sprit of Humanity, Nobel Peace winner Mairead Maguire advised, ‘Sometimes you have to find the courage to stand up to oppose oppression.’ She expressed the same despair experienced by millions today over non-intervention when tens of thousands are being killed. She demanded, ‘Where is my country, where are our governments, where is the UN?’

When watching bullies, the average citizen acts, and would not spend months consulting an international institution as to what to do. Faced with the continuing Gaza slaughter, having lost faith in governments to tell Israel, ‘No more arms’, ‘no more killing’, citizens committed to universal human rights could act. With world-wide support, intervention to occupy Israel in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem could be the objective of a freedom flotilla.

Respect for a common humanity should ensure that these proposals are not immediately dismissed; and it is not difficult to identify boats’ likely crew and passengers. They could be members of a UN emergency peace service (UNEPS) conceived twenty years ago under UN auspices to resolve conflicts and build peace. Passengers in that flotilla would include teams of engineers, plumbers, bricklayers, nurses, doctors, security personnel, lawyers, social workers, interpreters, experts in conflict resolution.

A legal and moral justification

Various legal and moral judgements imply support for this proposal.

In 2005, the UN operational principle, The Responsibility to Protect (R2P), declared that states have a responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Compliant with chapters VI & VIII of the UN Charter, states are reminded that R2P has universal application and should be carried out ‘in timely and decisive manner.’

If that principle is dismissed, the ICJ ruling following South Africa’s evidence of the death, destruction and displacement suffered by 2.2 million citizens of Gaza, justifies a world citizen response. The ICJ ruled that Israel ‘take all measures to prevent the commission of acts in Gaza that violate the Genocide Convention.’ What is to stop citizens acting if Israel continues this ‘war’?

In early February, 800 officials in Europe and the US protested Israeli policies. They wrote, ‘We are obliged to do everything in our power on behalf of our countries and ourselves to not be complicit in one of the worst human catastrophes of this century…. Israel has shown no boundaries in its military operations in Gaza …deliberate blocking of aid by Israel has led to a humanitarian catastrophe putting thousands of civilians at risk of starvation and slow death.’

These public servants demanded that Israel ‘like all actors’ be held accountable for international humanitarian and human rights standards, a demand which included ‘immediate and full implementation of the recent order of the International Court of Justice.’

What is lost if a proposal for the ‘occupation of Israel’ enters the minds of politicians and diplomats?

The alternative is more of the same. Simultaneous with US Secretary of State Blinken saying ‘Palestinian casualties remain too high’, the US rewarded Israel another $14 billion to continue killing.

In Australia there’s no official sign of a stand being taken for Palestine against an extremist far right Netanyahu government. Cowardice prevails. There was no support for South Africa before the ICJ but immediate willingness to cut off humanitarian aid to besieged refugees of Gaza.

As an alternative to brute force ways of problem solving, the UNEPS personnel would include teams with skills to start the long-drawn-out processes of healing and rebuilding, with Palestinians in leadership and other priority roles.

Principles of humanitarian law support the flotilla proposal. They augment that non-violent way of thinking and living which Mahatma Gandhi insisted was also a law for life. Placards held by Israeli anti-war protesters in Tel Aviv echo that view: ‘Never Again is Never Again for Anyone’, ‘Palestinian Lives Matter.’

Redefining sovereignty

If human-rights based policies are to replace a brute force past, a rationale emerges for the occupation of Israel which could be applied to other regimes, but responding to the Gaza catastrophe is today’s challenge.

Proposals for an occupation of Israel would require sovereignty to be redefined. Current definitions foster violence. Borders must be protected by force of arms. Within those borders, states such as Israel claim entitlement to defend themselves even by attacking people in lands they occupy.

A non-violent interpretation of sovereignty highlights the interdependence of all peoples, sees respect for human rights as synonymous with national identity and teaches the nurturing influence of diverse arts, music, dance, poetry, painting, different crafts and sport. Promoting that creative view of sovereignty is long overdue.

By respect for human rights, through life enhancing ways of thinking, acting and living, citizen initiatives to revive freedom flotillas to sail and to hold Israel accountable for war crimes and for racist attitudes to Palestinians, would be inspiring and should be life-saving.

Is that too much to ask?

If you are willing to join with me in a Freedom Flotilla to breach the blockade, liberate Palestine and Occupy Israel, register your interest here: stuart.rees@sydney.edu.au

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