March 6, 2016

POOR | Sports Diplomacy for Justice in Palestine

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Growing up in Al Shabora refugee camp, Mahmoud Sarsak recalls that his only toy was a frayed, well-used soccer ball. When repairs were needed, he assembled haphazard patches and inflated the ball with balloons, because he knew there was no money for a new ball. Sarsak’s childhood scrimmages grew into a passionate dedication to the sport, which eventually took him to a career with the Palestinian national team. His visibility within Palestinian football has been a personal source of pride and honor, but the spotlight of national sports has also made Sarsak the focus of heightened violence from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

In 2009, while traveling from Gaza to the West Bank to join his new football team, Israeli authorities detained Sarsak at the Erez Crossing checkpoint. Checkpoints — large and often dangerous blockades that regulate Palestinian mobility — frequently become sites of humiliation, sexual harassment and violence. After detention at the checkpoint, Israeli authorities brought Sarsak to jail; in direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sarsak spent the next three years in Israeli prisons without a trial or official charges. During his internment, he underwent myriad forms of torture, isolation, and violence. In protest, he began a hunger strike that lasted for three months and eventually — under pressure from the international community — provoked his release in July 2012. Then-FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, and UEFA president Michel Platini, were among the principal voices motivating Sarsak’s release, illustrating the immense influence that athletic authorities hold in regards to rectifying human rights abuses in nations with an interest in competing.

Synecdochically, football teams around the world have become the flagships of national pride; defeats tremor through the populace, and country spirits sail on victories. After long-awaited affirmation, FIFA’s 1998 recognition of the Palestinian national team buoyed pride and hope in a people suffering from decades of a violent occupation. Yet, the excitement has been stifled, as soccer has become another front through which Israeli forces regulate, immobilize and subjugate Palestinians through detention, harassment and increased surveillance of soccer players and officials. As journalist David Zirin wrote, “If you degrade the national team, you degrade the idea that there could ever be a nation:” attacks on Palestinian soccer have emerged as a potent force in the Israeli corrosion of a future Palestinian state.

Mahmoud Sarsak — incarcerated and inflicted with violence without trial, jury or reasonable evidence — now speaks out against the discrimination and brutality that sports players in the West Bank and Gaza undergo. Sarsak’s colleague, Zakaria Issa, was similarly imprisoned for alleged but unsubstantiated accusations of connections to Hamas. Issa was sentenced to 16 years in prison, where he was diagnosed with terminal cancer but denied treatment. After nine months of his sentence, Israeli authorities released him, but without medical attention the cancer had grown, and Issa died shortly after his release. These instances of medical negligence, torture and abuse, and denial of a fair trial outline several human rights violations that detained Palestinian athletes endure.

Outside of prisons, soccer players and citizens face constant persecution at checkpoints. Jawhar Nasser Jawhar and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, two teenage soccer players, were shot in the feet by IDF while attempting to pass through a checkpoint on their walk home from soccer practice in 2014. After opening gunfire without warning, the Israeli authorities beat them and chased them with police dogs, exacerbating their injuries and terror. Halabiya and Jawhar were initially sent to a hospital in Ramallah, but later went to Jordan where they could access better medical services than in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. While receiving treatment, doctors said that their sustained injuries (including seven bullets in Jawhar’s left foot alone) would most likely prevent them from ever playing soccer again.

In addition to checkpoints, warfare surrounds, limits and attempts to eradicate the possibility of Palestinian soccer. Israeli Defense Forces have bombed the Palestine Stadium to demolition twice during the last decade (in 2006 and again in 2012). FIFA pledged funds to reconstruct the stadium both times, asserting that the attacks had been waged unreasonably. Three players from the Palestinian National Team were among the 2,200 Palestinians who perished in the siege on Gaza during the summer of 2014. The siege also brought about the death of four young boys playing soccer on a Gaza beach, who were murdered in an Israeli missile attack that left their young bodies strewn across the sand.

Compounding the devastating effects of warfare, the insidious state-surveillance, discrimination and violence of the ever-present occupation riddle players’ lives. Checkpoints obstruct access to fields, scrimmages, healthcare resources, food and fresh water, as well as dehumanize players under a generalized discriminatory assumption that they are “security threats” that must be monitored and regulated. Israeli authorities have denied many players travel visas, effectually eliminating them from participation in international competitions. Palestinian Football Association headquarters have been raided and interrogated by IDF. As the occupation dispossesses land and livelihoods of Palestinians, it has devastated local economies and infrastructures; therefore, lack of funding for Palestinian soccer has diminished opportunities, rank and esteem on the world field.

FIFA has recognized and even acted against some of the human rights abuses the Israeli occupation of Palestine has inflicted on soccer players. Inspired by the successful sports boycotts in South Africa that figured centrally in the dismantling of apartheid, activists around the world have pressured FIFA to uphold their fundamental statutes against discrimination and political oppression in regards to Israel. Article 3 of FIFA’s statutes states discrimination based on race, skin color, ethnicity, national or social origin (among other traits) “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion” of the oppressor state. However, after hearing testimonies from Palestinian soccer players and fans who cited the prejudiced violence imbued in a state fractured by stratified classes of citizenship, FIFA executives decided against suspending Israel in a May 2015 vote. David Zirin contrasted the lack of accountability for justice in Palestine with the godlike respect footballers in other nations receive: “Just imagine if members of Spain’s top-flight World Cup team had been jailed, shot or killed by another country and imagine the international media outrage that would ensue.”

       Activists, discouraged by FIFA’s decision, assert that while FIFA may shirk its responsibility to guarantee justice for its Palestinian constituents, FIFA “cannot delay the growth of the international boycott of Israel or prevent the continued isolation of Israel because of its human rights abuses and war crimes against the Palestinian people.” Across the globe, concerned soccer players and fans have joined with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, and sports-related civil rights organizations such as Red Card Israeli Racism, calling for athletic authorities to deliver justice against the Israeli apartheid through sports diplomacy. Until we see an occupation dismantled, a system of violence disrupted, and a militarized dispossession of rights terminated, we must continue to pressure FIFA to answer, do Palestinian lives matter?

Kate Poor is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at Triple Jump appears alternate Mondays this semester.

  • Yasser

    “Do Palestinian lives matter?” Why don’t you ask Hamas?

  • Abe ’14

    Poor work, indeed.

    • Dan

      I’m glad you have access to a computer. This pun really hits home the specific and crucial flaws of this article.

      • Abe ’14

        I thought I did DAN good job, as well.

        Seriously, though – I wasn’t aware that a comments section was limited to 100% substantive comment. My comment/pun hit home my point: this is shoddy, misguided journalism. I don’t need/want to nitpick every last point that I take issue with. At this level of misunderstanding and hate, rational debate does no good.

        I can convert somebody who has no opinion on the Middle East to backing Israel. And I can convince somebody who has chosen a side but has limited information to side with Israel, as well. But somebody who uses her platform in the Daily Sun to trash the IDF? That’s somebody who will never be convinced of anything.

  • There was a time when pro-Israel commentators would deny that Israel tortures Palestinians. They can no longer do this and maintain credibility.

    Israeli Jewish extremists have been terrorizing Palestinians in the West Bank by attacking their property and sometimes attacking them personally. These attacks, known as “price tag” attacks have occurred several times a week–and at times daily, over the past few years. Usually, the settlers attack Palestinians’ source of income by destroying their olive trees. On occasion IDF soldiers are caught on video watching settlers attack Palestinians or their property while doing nothing to intervene and stop them.

    Israel has not taken these price tag attacks against Palestinians very seriously until recently. Very few of these crimes were ever solved and very few suspects have been arrested, much less tried and jailed. That has now changed. Last July Jewish terrorists firebombed a home in the West Bank town of Duma, killing an 18-month old baby and his two parents. This firebombing was in revenge for an attack by a Hamas supporter that killed an Israeli civilian and wounded three Israeli soldiers. However, viewing the Duma revenge attack in isolation would be a mistake. Jerusalem Post reported on January 3, 2016 that

    “officials at the Shin Bet said on Sunday that to view the horrific Duma attack as one incident would be to miss the larger phenomenon behind this act of terrorism: the emergence, since October 2013, of an underground movement of dozens of Jewish fanatical activists, who have set themselves the goal of toppling the state, replacing it with a “Judean monarchy,” and building a third temple, while expelling non-Jews from the land and creating a fundamentalist theocracy led by a king.”

    See also

    Settler violence against Palestinians had metastasized into a small underground movement that could threaten the state. This is a threat that Israel is taking very seriously. Israel has arrested several ultra-Orthodox teenagers involved in this movement and now their lawyers claim that Israel has been torturing them to get information about the movement out of them. There is now a rift between some right-wing Israelis who are horrified that Shin Bet would torture Jewish boys and Israel’s security establishment.

    It is impossible at this point to deny with any credibility that Shin Bet has used torture against Palestinians. How can one deny that they torture Palestinians now that Jews are claiming they are torturing Jews? Such a denial implies that Shin Bet treats Palestinians more gently than it treats Jews.

    Of course, Israel’s defenders will claim that dwelling on this ignores violence by Palestinians against Israelis. And it is true–Palestinians do commit a lot of violence against Israelis. But let’s not lose sight that much of this violence is a result of hopelessness in the face of an illegal and brutal occupation. Violence goes both ways, and neither side is free from blame.

    • Joe

      Wait, so Israel has been arresting orthodox jews and putting them on trial and convicting them and sentencing them to harsh sentences? In other words, Israel has a system of law and justice and order and holds its citizens responsible?

      Do any of the Arab lands have this sort of system? Can you imagine a Palestinian being arrested for murdering a jew?

      • Very nice spin, Joe. Of course not. At least not under these circumstances where they are fighting off a brutal and illegal occupation.

        That is not to say the Palestinians are morally justified in murdering Jews. Nor is it justification for the PA to refuse to arrest those who do murder Jews. However, when judging moral culpability one must recognize that Israelis and Palestinians are not playing on a level playing field. One people is dealing with a hand of overwhelming strength. The other is dealing from a hand of overwhelming weakness, bordering on hopelessness and desperation. I am glad that the Israelis (sometimes) take the moral high ground, but I wonder if they would be as morally scrupulous if the situation were reversed.

        Incidentally, you did seem to overlook that an overwhelming number of price tag attacks go unsolved and that on occasion IDF soldiers have been caught on camera standing by as attacks occurred. And the Jews who were arrested for the Duma attack are (allegedly) part of a resistance movement that wants to overthrow the government of Israel and replace it with a theocracy. Could this be at least part of the reason Israel was motivated to arrest the (alleged) murderers? (They have not been put on trial yet.)

        So yes, Israel does at times act more morally than the Palestinians. That’s a pretty low bar to clear. The question should be how to raise Palestinian behavior to where it should be. Deepening a brutal and illegal occupation is not the answer.

      • When charged with a crime, Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank are tried by very different legal systems. Israelis are tried under a civilian court system whereas Palestinians are tried ried under martial law. Israelis are thus afforded more legal protections and it is more difficult for an Israeli to be convicted of a crime than it is to find a Palestinian guilty.

        Also, when a Palestinian kills a Jew, his family’s home is often destroyed. Home demolitions violate international law because they collectively punish people who may have had nothing to do with the murder.

        Incidentally, Thodor Meron wrote a Top Secret memodated March 12, 1968 on Israeli Foreign Ministry stationery giving his opinion on the legality of home demolition. Theodor Meron was one of Israel’s top lawyers. He is a Holocaust survivor who has a doctorate in international Law from Harvard. Meron wrote:

        “The question before us is, therefore, whether there is a clear contradiction between Regulation 119 and the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. I believe that such a contradiction does exist, mainly with the clear and specific rule set forth in Article 53 of the Geneva Convention, as follows:
        ‘Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. ‘

        Since the reservation that concerns recognition of military operations does not apply, the blasting of homes is prohibited under this article . . .

        To this we can add, without going into too many details, that the blasting of homes can be criticized from a different angle, that of Article 33 of the Geneva Convention, which stipulates that:
        ‘No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited… Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.’ ”

        Now, Meron did qualify his opinion by questioning whether one of its underlying assumptions was valid. He wrote:

        “My presumption for the purpose of this opinion will, therefore, be that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies in full. However, as you are aware, our policy has been to avoid making statements regarding whether or not we are subject to the Fourth Geneva Convention for reasons which need not be detailed herein. This policy of avoiding the Convention was, in my opinion, correct, although, as a result of various allegations regarding violations of the Convention, pressure on us has mounted recently.”

        In other words, Israel’s best defense amounts to shouting, “International law??? International law??? We don’t need no stinkin’ international law!”

        Incidentally, Meron wrote another Top Secret memo for the Foreign Ministry almost immediately after Israel captured new territory in the Six Day war. This memo concluded that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

        International law??? International law??? We don’t need no stinkin’ international law!

        • Here are some links for those wanting to learn more about Theodor Meron and his memos.

          Meron’s Top Secret memo on home demolitions

          Meron’s Top Secret memo on the legality of civilian settlements

        • Arthur Normanson

          “When charged with a crime, Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank are tried by very different legal systems. Israelis are tried under a civilian court system whereas Palestinians are tried ried under martial law.”

          This is only regarding the Arabs from the territories who are arrested within the territories. Arabs who are inhabitants of Israeli towns, such as Tel Aviv, and who commit crimes are arrested and tried within the same court system as all other Israelis.

          International law requires this separation. For Israel to arrest citizens of the Palestinian Authority and try them in the Israeli court system would be a violation of the sovereignty of the PA. That may not seem so important given the overall circumstances, but each law and each situation needs to be dealt with within its own parameters.

          Meron wrote what he wrote as his opinion. It is not a definitive judgement, nor has any other national court ruled on the matter. Therefore the claim that Israeli building in the West Bank is illegal is an accusation but not a statement of fact. Perhaps one day the international court will take this up, but until then it is something to be determined based on the final disposition of the borderline. There is no UN resolution which defines the 1949 Armistice Line as being an official border between the two states, nor was the Arab world willing to recognize it as such. The fact that the same line is now called “1967 Lines” does not make it any more legitimate or binding.

          Also worth noting is the PLO Charter as written in 1964, in which was stated “Article 24. This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area.” This was only changed in 1968, after Jordan lost control of the area.

          The problem is that the two-state solution is absurd. The idea that one people has the right to be in both states but the other does not is racist, but no one seems to bother with that. The idea that the Jordanian expulsion of the Jews from Judea and Samaria and the Egyptian expulsion of the Jews from Gaza in 1949 is now meant to considered as a permanent feature of the land is racist. Jews had been living in the Old City of Jerusalem for thousands of years, as well as Hebron and even in towns in Gaza. For example, in a 500 year old census from the Ottoman Empire, Jews were actually the majority group of four different peoples living in Shuja’iyya.

          That Jewish people were forced out of the area that Jordan renamed the “West Bank” (following an attempt to annex it) is a violation of the principles of the Geneva convention. Hamas’ declaration that it intends to destroy the state of Israel (and all the inhabitants thereof) is an intolerable violation of international law.

          Just because the Arabs repeatedly insist that the “1967 Lines” are their border does not make it so. The rejection of every partition proposal, the rejection of the same line at the time of the 1949 Armistice, the decision to attack Israel in 1967 in the pursuit of seizing greater territory are all clear statements that they did not recognize the line as a border. UN resolutions and the Oslo Accords do not define it as a border, and Oslo specifically notes that the border is to be determined between the two parties. It is certainly disingenuous to demand that it be unilaterally, and retroactively, be established as a border.

          • You do not contradict me by saying that Arabs who inhabit towns in Tel Aviv face the same judicial system that Jews do. In fact, I specifically referred to Palestinians living in the West Bank, where Palestinians are tried in courts with fewer legal protections than those received by Jews.

            The problem does not lie only in the courts. Until very recently, Israeli military/police in the West Bank have, for the most part, ignored Palestinian complaints against Israeli violence. Last June, Yossi Gurvitz, a blogger for the human rights group, Yesh Din, wrote

            —————Begin Yossi Gurvitz quote————————–

            “Every year Yesh Din publishes data about police investigative failures regarding crimes carried out by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank. They are usually quite similar: the police fails to investigate approximately 85 percent of complaints by Palestinians who report being harmed by Israelis. The rate becomes much higher when it comes to the destruction of Palestinian trees by Israeli civilians: that’s when the police failure rate reaches 97.4 percent. …
            Yesh Din’s latest data sheet, which was released in tandem with an exhaustive report on the failure of law enforcement in the West Bank, examines for the first time what happens to the cases the organization follows once they leave the limbo of the prosecution and make it to court. The situation, to put it mildly, is not “okay.”
            To begin with, the chances that a complaint by a Palestinian victim will develop into an indictment against an Israeli felony suspect stands at a mere 7.4 percent. This means that the chances that an Israeli will appear in court for a crime he is suspected of committing is around 1 in 14. Most often, cases are closed due to police investigative failures; in a majority of the cases, the reason cited is the inability of the police to find a suspect – what is known as the the “unknown perpetrator clause.”

            The fact that a case makes it to court does not, of course, mean it will end in a conviction. The defendants have the right to representation and have access to attorneys — as a human rights organization we entirely support this. The problem lies elsewhere.

            In 10.5 percent of the cases, the defendants are convicted of all charges; in 22.8 percent of the cases, only some of the defendants are convicted, or they are convicted of some of the charges – often times reduced as part of a plea bargain. The rate of acquittal is high relative to other cases in Israeli courts (8.8 percent). But what is truly high is the rate of “non-conviction” (24.6 percent) and the rate of withdrawn indictment (22.8 percent).

            What is a non-conviction? It is a relatively rare practice in which the court believes there is reason to avoid tarring the suspect with a criminal conviction for one reason or another — despite the fact that the felon has been found guilt of the charges. This almost never happens in the Israeli courts: the percentage of defendants in the magistrate’s courts found guilty without conviction is 5.3 percent; in district courts the number stands at only 1.2 percent. This is true unless the victim is a Palestinian; then the rare non-conviction jumps to 24.6 percent. That’s four times that of magistrate’ courts, and almost 20 times that of the district courts. What a coincidence.

            In many of the cases in which indictments against Israelis charged with harming Palestinians were withdrawn, the reason given was, once again, investigative failure. The prosecution re-examined the evidence, apparently due to a response by the defendants’ attorneys, and reached the conclusion that it did not have enough evidence for a conviction. And that, we note, is a perfectly legitimate decision.

            But in many of the cases of withdrawn indictments, one of the reasons cited was that the defendants did not even bother to show up for the hearings. In most of the cases the government took the required steps – a fine, issuing warrants for arrest and subpoenas – but the indictments were frozen until the defendant was found. In one of the cases, the prolonged freezing caused the police prosecution to claim that the evidence has been degraded, leading the court to revoke the indictment.

            At the end of the day, the chance that a Palestinian who lodges a complaint about being harmed by an Israeli civilian will see a conviction is only 1.9 percent. Again, most of the blame for this lies with the police – but the courts are also responsible, as seen by the unusual rate of non-conviction.”

            ————————————-End Gurvitz quote——————————

            This situation appears to have changed recently and Israeli authorities are beginning to get more aggressive against Jewish attacks against Palestinians. They are to be commended for moving in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done to protect Palestinians against Jewish aggression.

            Getting back to Israel’s judicial system—you wrote:

            “International law requires this separation. For Israel to arrest citizens of the Palestinian Authority and try them in the Israeli court system would be a violation of the sovereignty of the PA. That may not seem so important given the overall circumstances, but each law and each situation needs to be dealt with within its own parameters.”

            While international law may require a separation, it does not require them to be unequal. And indeed, the systems are unequal and Palestinians do not have the same legal rights and protections that Jews do.

            The Association for Civil Rights in Israel produced a detailed report in October 2014 that examined the differences between the judicial systems that Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank face. Here are a few excerpts from their report entitled “One Rule, Two Legal Systems—Israel’s Regime of Laws in the West Bank.”


            ————————–Begin excerpts from ACRI report———————————
            Criminal law is one of the areas in which the differences between the two legal systems are most apparent, and its implications for basic rights, particularly the right to liberty, are extremely significant. The national identity of a suspect or defendant determines which law will apply to them and who will have legal authority over them. In every stage of the legal proceedings – from the initial detention to the trial to the verdict – Palestinians are discriminated against when compared to Israelis. The above holds true with regard to both adults and minors. The systems enforcing traffic laws are also separate for Palestinians and discriminate against them, both in the extent of the enforcement and in the severity of the penalties. . . .

            Two residents of the Hebron area have an altercation within the territory of the West Bank and both are arrested. One of them, a Jewish resident of Kiryat Arba, is taken to a nearby police station, is immediately interrogated by a police officer and is brought within 24 hours to a hearing before the Jerusalem Magistrates Court. In this hearing, the judge decides to order his release on condition of bail; this is not a very severe case, and the defendant pleads self-defense. The second person, a Palestinian resident of Hebron, is arrested for 96 hours before being brought before a military judge. He is de facto interrogated only once during this period of time, under suspicion of committing an assault based on nationalistic motivations, which is deemed as a security offense, and he is tried before a military court, where he faces a penalty of extended incarceration.

            This is not an imaginary or theoretical scenario, but rather the state of affairs in the West Bank, where there are two different and separate criminal justice systems – Israeli and military. The identity of the suspect or defendant determines which law will apply to them and who will have judicial authority over them. A resident of a settlement, who is accused of committing a criminal offense, will be tried under Israeli criminal law and before a court in Israel; a Palestinian resident of the West Bank (and as will be described below, sometimes also an Arab citizen or resident of Israel) accused of committing a similar offense, will stand trial under military law and before one of the military courts. . . .

            The separation between the laws that apply to the two populations is accompanied by a clear discrimination against Palestinians in all aspects of life: they are subject to much stricter criminal procedures, which violate their basic rights; they are not entitled to participate in planning and building procedures that pertain to them and the enforcement in this area is stricter with regards to them; they are dispossessed of their land by means of the permit regime; their freedom of movement is violated; and their freedom of expression is restricted. This discrimination before the law contravenes the basic norms of the modern justice system, the laws of belligerent occupation and international human rights law. . . .

            The two legal systems existing in the West Bank are a unique, harmful and particularly severe characteristic of the protracted Israeli occupation. The gravity of this discrimination is manifested in the extent of its legal institutionalization. The principles of equality and human dignity, basic constitutional principles upon which the Israeli justice system is founded, are deeply undermined when the very same system establishes and maintains a parallel and discriminatory legal regime based on ethnic and national origin. This policy tarnishes all of the state’s legal institutions.

            The immense gap between the legal arrangements applying to settlers and those applying to Palestinians clearly illustrates the illegality and the inherent aberrations that the ongoing Israeli control over the West Bank entails. While it is obvious to all that it is inappropriate to apply to settlers the military arrangements that characterize a military regime and restrict human liberties, these arrangements – which were designed to address a temporary situation of military occupation – have continued to apply to Palestinians in the West Bank for almost five decades.

            ————————–End excerpts from ACRI report———————————

          • Regarding your assertion that a two-state solution is absurd–Whether a two-state solution is practical or absurd has no bearing on whether Israel’s civilian occupation of the West Bank violates international law. They are two separate questions and raising the practicality of the two-state solution only distracts from the question of the legality of the settlements. Hamas’s odious and murderous charter is also a distraction and has no bearing on whether Israel’s settlements violate international law.

            Bibi Netanyahu appointed a commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy in 2012 to look at the legality of settlements in the West Bank. Surprise! Surprise! This Commission, appointed by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, found that Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to the West Bank because Israeli presence there “does not meet the criteria of military occupation under international law.” And since Article 49 of the Geneva condition does not apply to the West Bank, the report argued, the settlements were perfectly legal. Here is the most relevant part of the Levy Commission Report.

            —–Begin Levy Report quote—————–
            “As for Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, many have offered interpretations, and the predominant view appears to be that that article was indeed intended to address the harsh reality dictated by certain countries during World War II when portions of their populations were forcibly deported and transferred into the territories they seized, a process that was accompanied by a substantial worsening of the status of the occupied population . . .

            This interpretation is supported by several sources: The authoritative interpretation of the International Commission of the Red Cross (IRCC), the body entrusted with the implementation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in which the purpose of Article 49 is stated as follows:

            “It is intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.”

            ———–End Levy Report quote———————

            Note that the report cites the International Commission of the Red Cross as the body that provides THE authoritative interpretation of the Geneva Convention. That is very important.

            The Levy report also rejected the claim that Article 49 was applicable to the West Bank because of the territory’s unique historical status. The report claimed that the Israel was not occupying the West Bank because it had a sovereign claim on the land deriving from the Balfour agreement and the Sam Remo Peace Conference which established the Palestinian Mandate. This claim, the report argued, wasn’t invalidated after Jordan annexed the territory in 1950 because the annexation was not internationally recognized.

            So what did the ICRC have to say about the Levy Report? They gutted it like a dead fish.

            Here is what Juan Pedro Schaerer, head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the Occupied Territories, had to say:

            ———–Begin Schaerer quote——————————–
            Since the Edmond Levy report “legalizing” the occupation was released last July, a lot has been said and heard publicly about its conclusions and recommendations. The report, which claims that Israel is not an occupying power, contains a selective and misleading quotation from the commentary published by the International Commission of the Red Cross on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which it uses to support the argument that the Israeli settlement project does not entail a breach of international humanitarian law. . . .

            The report argues that Israel is not an occupier because the West Bank was seized from a state that was not its rightful sovereign, while Israel itself has “a claim to sovereign rights in the territory.” However, under the law of occupation, which is part of international humanitarian law, it is of no relevance whether Jordan did or did not have sovereign claim to the territory before it was occupied. The binding definition in the Hague Regulations of 1907 establishes that “[t]erritory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” . . .

            Even those who hold that Israel has “a claim to sovereign rights” in the West Bank cannot claim that Israel was the rightful sovereign of the territory when it seized control over it. Accordingly, contrary to what is claimed in the Levy report, it is manifestly clear that the West Bank is occupied by Israel. Indeed, the Israeli Supreme Court has repeatedly and consistently ruled that the territory of the West Bank is subject to belligerent occupation. . . .

            Contrary to what the Levy report maintains, from the viewpoint of international law the West Bank is occupied by Israel. This assertion, like the ICRC’s position that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are unlawful, is based entirely on the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law

            ————–End Schaerer quote.————————————————–

            Whether you like it or not, the vast majority of the world views Israel’s settlements as illegal, despite Israel’s self-serving arguments that they are either legal or that the situation is ambiguous and not a mattered of settled law. Arguing that the settlements do not violate international law because the issue has not been formally settled in court is like arguing that a tree makes no sound when it falls in the woods because no one is around to hear it.

          • Arthur Normanson, your claim that the Arabs attacked Israel in 1967 is factually wrong. Israel is the one who attacked first. Historians may argue over whether Israel had to attack because an attack against Israel by Egypt and its allies was inevitable, but no one buys your claim that they attacked first–it just didn’t happen that way.

  • Captain Israel

    In regards to the soccer players who were shot, you conveniently leave out that they were about to throw a BOMB (source: Now maybe you’re an anti-semitic prick who distorts the truth intentionally, or maybe you’re a vapid victim of media bias that fails to recognize things like the fact that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, that the Palestinian population has quadrupled over last 50 years (sure doesn’t sound like genocide to me), or that Palestinian terrorists plague Israel with suicide bombings and rockets all while using human shields to cry wolf when Israel defends herself. We just can’t be sure.

    • You claim that Israel has the most moral army in the world. On what do you base that claim? What metrics do you use to measure Israel’s army against all the other armies in the world? This sounds more like an advertising slogan than a carefully documented fact.

      While Israel certainly doesn’t have the worst army in the world, the claim that it hast the most moral one is HIGHLY questionable, as I explain here

      and here

    • Eliza

      Captain Israel, to say that someone is anti-Semitic because they are do not support Israel is extremely anti-Semitic in itself. To claim that Zionism upholds the values of Judaism is highly inaccurate since it suggests that Jewish people are comprised of a single monolithic group, which is simply not true. Racism and anti-Semitism appear when someone tries to attribute the characteristics of one group (in this case Zionists) to that of an entire people (Jews). You claiming that this article is anti-Semitic does a dishonor and a disservice to situations where actual anti-Semitism exists.

      Just as your comment is inaccurately claiming that the Jewish population is homogenous, you also make the error of suggesting that the Palestinian population is homogenous as well. This comment upholds the simplistic narrative that portrays Palestinians solely as terrorists, while “conveniently leaving out” any acknowledgement of the nuances of this conflict. As someone who has traveled throughout the West Bank and Israel, I can tell you first hand that the Palestinian population is a highly heterogenous group. Once again, the actions of one sector do not define that of an entire people.

      If you don’t want to engage with the conflict on anything other than a superficial, biased level that’s fine, but don’t you dare go around calling people “anti-Semitic pricks” if you are not even willing to do the work and educate yourself on the actual situation in Palestine/Israel. If you are interested in interacting more deeply with the complexities of the conflict, I have lots of wonderful resources that I would be happy to share with you.

  • Mary

    I find the comments posted here highly uninformed. I also find it incredibly offensive to equate The principles of Judaism with Zionism and the human rights abuses committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.

    As someone who has traveled to Israel and the West Bank on several occasions, I witnessed firsthand the injustices, violence, and humiliation endured by Palestinains just trying to get to work, their schools, their fields, and their neighbors’ homes. Like people everywhere, Palestinians are a diverse group of people who want the best for their children, the opportunity to work, the right to attend school – and, as Kate highlighted in her article, the right to play professional sports.

    Sadly, this is not the case for Palestinians who are subjected to arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, land confiscations, water shortages, mobility restrictions, discriminatory laws, segregated roads and sidewalks. and everyday violence and harrassment. Israeli policies and abuses have made everyday life for Palestinians exhaustingly impossible!

    And I would add in response to the commentator above, that Israel’s military action against the people of Gaza is nothing short than an attempt of genocide.

    Kate Poor is not the victim of media bias. Sadly, the commentator above is clearly uninformed by a narrative that strangles any honest discourse about Israel’s violations of human rights abuses. As such, both Israelis and Palestinians are paying a high price. I applaud Kate’s article and her honesty.

    • Abe ’14

      If the IDF wanted to execute a genocide, they could do so in a week. Instead, they warn civilians of when and where they are going to strike, often at the expense of being to take out the actual targets. They provide food and supplies and medical treatment to those civilians wounded in these attacks. They do not hide behind women and children.

      There is only one people here that have made it their blatant and everlasting mission to wipe out the other.

      Mary, I issue you the same challenge I issue everyone else. Live in Israel for one week. Then go live in Iraq or Afghanistan or your Middle Eastern country of choice for one week. See where you are more accepted.

  • Arafat

    Before you repeat allegations made against Israel you should make some effort to check their veracity. The Palestinian Arabs are a fountain of lies against the Jews, lies that are repeated around the world by Arabs and by dupes like yourself. You should read an article by Isaac called Truth or Propaganda… . In it he quotes a reporter who actually went to check Palestinian atrocity claims only to find they were total made up slander. It’s feels good to be a hero for a cause and it’s boring and mundane to check facts which is why there are so many suicide bombers and activists for the wrong causes. I encourage you to read the following web sitehttp://www.mypracticalphilosop… which is full of paranoia creation by the muslims toward Israel. Here is just a sample.
    Valliollah Naghipourfar, cleric and professor of Teheran University, who claimed that Zionists use genies to undermine Iran; in April 2013 well-known Iranian cleric and close confidante of Ayatollah Khamenei warned about “global Jewish sorcery”; in December 2010 Said Mohamed Abdel-Fadli Shusha, governor of South Sinai, spoke about a shark sent by “Mossad” to hurt tourists in Egypt”;
    Israel unleashes rats and pigs against Jerusalem Arabs: According to the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, Wafa, Israel is “using wild pigs to drive Palestinians out of their homes” and “Rats have become an Israeli weapon to displace and expel Arab residents of the occupied Old City of Jerusalem.”
    “Israel responsible for fatal shark attack and lethal jellyfish in Red Sea”: According to South Sinai Governor Mohamed Abdel, “Mossad throwing the deadly shark (in the sea) to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm.”
    Saudi Arabia “arrests” a vulture as part of a “Zionist plot”: According to a BBC report, the vulture appears to have been tagged by Tel Aviv University researchers studying migration patterns; even so, “the bird could meet a horrible punishment in the notoriously severe Saudi justice system.”

  • Arafat

    Not a single mention of Hamas and its 1988 Charter, in which it is stated “there is no solution to the Palestinian question except through jihad,” and which declares peace talks, international efforts for peace, and any compromise as “a waste of time,” and that calls for the slaughter of all Jews in the world.

  • Arafat

    “Israelophobia,” on the other hand, is steeped in centuries of anti-Semitic stereotypes, but it has now taken on an intense life of its own, often rich in contemporary fabrications — for example, that historically Jews have never lived in Jerusalem; that IDF soldiers harvest the organs of Palestinians; that the “wall of separation,” built to keep out terrorists, is a form of apartheid — and through these falsehoods gushes forth a hatred for Jews. Israelophobia is a block of hatred crystallized around a piece of land, around an idea. Anti-Zionism today, from Malmö to Qom, arises and multiplies entirely from prejudice against Israel: many of its most vicious critics have never even set foot in the state.
    These attacks on Israel are all too often made up of devastating classical anti-Semitic projections, lies and distortions to delegitimize Israel — the blood libel that Jews kill non-Jewish children to use their blood to bake matzah; bottomless greed; indifference, and savage cruelty toward anyone who is not Jewish. Even legitimate geopolitical decisions — such as the right to self-defense, or not being expected to hold territory in perpetuity until such time as one’s sworn enemies might perhaps decide not to threaten annihilation, with no cost for the delay; or ignoring other countries accused of “occupation,” such as Turkey in Cyprus, Pakistan in Kashmir or China in Tibet, while singling out only Israel for opprobrium. These accusations are often translated not just into judgments against Israel, but then go viral against any Jew.

  • Arafat

    Given that you support the Palestinians who openly advocate Jewish genocide (see their duly elected leaders clear-cut party covenants), you correspondingly do as well. It’s hard to believe in this day and age that anyone would openly advocate the liquidation of Jews, but you clearly do and it doesn’t seem to bother you a whit.
    Moreover, it would be hard to believe that anyone would support second class status for women, the honor murder of teenage girls, the brutalization of gays and the suppression of dissenters. But you, as supporters of the Palestinians who regularly practice all of the above, are therefore complicit in these sexist, racist and fascist beliefs as well.
    Why are you so bigoted, misogynist, anti-gay and such hater of Jews? Please tell us pray tell.
    And if to be opposed to such garbage practiced by so many Muslims world-wide makes one an Islamophobe, count me and all who believe in freedom and hate sexism and bigotry vs Jews as a proud Islamophobe.

  • Arafat

    Here’s Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez stating facts that are even more relevant now:
    I walked down the street in Barcelona , and suddenly discovered a terrible truth – Europe died in Auschwitz … We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world..
    The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.
    And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.
    They have blown up our trains and turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime.
    Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.
    And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition.

  • Arafat

    While Israelis laud their scientists, their artists, their doctors and multiple Nobel Prize nominees and recipients, Palestinians have a long and ignominious tradition of extolling the virtues of those who commit mass murder, slaughter innocents on buses and hijack commercial airliners. Public squares and streets are named after them and their children are taught to emulate them. The contrast between Israeli and Palestinian society could not be starker. One society celebrates and encourages progress and life while the other has morphed itself into a death cult, steeped in perverted traits that are an anathema to Western civilization.