The Times: Reinterpreting International Law

thetimeslogo2When do journalists become experts in “international law”? The Times’s James Hider writes an analysis piece “Geneva Conventions give the lie to Israeli stance on new settlements“. Putting aside one’s personal views on the desirability or otherwise of Israeli settlements, it is a particularly inappropriate turn of phrase in the headline to accuse Israel of lying.

This is even more so considering that the application of the Geneva Conventions to Israeli settlements is open to interpretation. Hider, however, chooses a blanket statement to make his own interpretation:

Under the Geneva Conventions, however, it is illegal to settle civilians on land captured in war, which is why the international community condemns the move into the Palestinian territories.

In fact, as Mitchell Bard points out:

  • The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the forcible transfer of people of one state to the territory of another state that it has occupied as a result of a war. The intention was to insure that local populations who came under occupation would not be forced to move. This is in no way relevant to the settlement issue. Jews are not being forced to go to the West Bank; on the contrary, they are voluntarily moving back to places where they, or their ancestors, once lived before being expelled by others.

Do the Geneva Conventions even technically apply to the settlements? The late Professor Eugene Rostow, former Dean of Yale Law School, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under US President Lyndon Johnson and a drafter of UN Resolution 242 writes:

Article 2 of the convention provides that the agreement applies “to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a high contracting party.” Thus the convention cannot apply because the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip have never been generally recognized as territories of Jordan. Jordan administered them as a belligerent occupant between 1948 and 1967, after a war of aggression against Israel in 1948. Jordan’s attempt to annex these areas in 1950 was recognized only by Britain (except for Jerusalem) and perhaps by Pakistan.

In any event, Jordan has formally renounced whatever claims it may have had to the territory, which is a residual part of the Palestine Mandate and therefore subject to the rights of “the Jewish people” to make “close settlement” on the land. I regard this aspect of the controversy as legally more important than arguments based on the Geneva Convention.

Thus, Hider not only fails to define the terms of the Geneva Conventions properly but also fails to note that their applicability to Israeli settlements is open to interpretation.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of a particularly virulent anti-Israel bias prevalent within Europe, as Israel’s detractors invoke “international law” to promote accusations of “war crimes” and other illegal actions. While the European establishment may accept Hider’s opinion as fact, not interpretation, the facts support a different conclusion.

Please send your considered comments to The Times – – remembering to include an address and daytime telephone number.


yasminalibhaibrownFresh from accusing Israel of being as “fanatic and aggressive” as Iran, Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown turned her attention to the three UK political party conferences she had attended, claiming: “All three parties were lavishly entertained by the over-influential Friends of Israel“.

Labour Friends of Israel director Luciana Berger countered:

Yasmin, you didn’t attend the Labour Friends of Israel reception at Labour Party conference. If you had done, you would have been served house wine or orange juice and chips. Crisps and peanuts if you got to a bowl in time. Hardly lavish.

As for our supposed ‘over-influence’, you don’t attempt to present any evidence. Because there isn’t any. Your remark is pure prejudice. It is just bigotry and as such the Independent shouldn’t be giving it a platform.


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