The Role of International Law in Masking the Israeli Settler-Colonialism


The Role of International Law in Masking the Israeli Settler-Colonialism
© Getty Images News/Amir Levy

On October 7, a stark declaration from Israel set a new precedent in the long-standing Israeli occupation of Palestine. Following an attack on southern Israeli towns, the Israeli government launched what it described as a "large-scale operation to defend Israeli civilians." Defence Minister Yoav Gallant imposed a full blockade on Gaza, severing essential supplies like electricity, fuel, water, and food.

His stark characterization of the conflict as a fight against "human animals" underscored the severity of the situation. The consequences of these actions have been devastating. Israeli bombardment in Gaza has resulted in over 17,700 Palestinian casualties, including a significant number of children.

The humanitarian crisis has escalated with more than 1.7 million people displaced, trapped without a safe haven.

The Narrative and Historical Context

In Western media, the narrative predominantly frames this as a war where Israel exercises its "right to defend itself" against "terrorism", reducing the Palestinian struggle to a mere humanitarian issue.

This oversimplification obscures the complex reality on the ground, a reality steeped in a history of colonization. The roots of this conflict trace back to the early days of the United Nations. The recognition of Israel as a state in 1947 coincided with the end of mass colonization globally.

Yet, the Palestinian case remained unique and susceptible to misinterpretation. Historical records, such as the statements of Ayel Weizman of the Jewish Agency in 1947, acknowledge the Jewish "colonisation of Palestine." This historical context is crucial in understanding the current dynamics.

UN General Assembly resolutions from the 1950s to the 1970s often linked the Palestinian cause with other colonized nations. For instance, Resolution 3070 of 1973 condemned governments that denied self-determination and independence to colonized peoples, including Palestinians.

The signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, purportedly a peace agreement, ostensibly brushed aside the context of colonization and occupation. However, the reality for Palestinians remained unchanged – a continuous struggle against dispossession and oppression.

This framing has led to a dichotomous portrayal of Palestinians: either as victims in a humanitarian crisis or as "terrorists". The narrative that labels Palestinians as "terrorists" obscures the Israeli military's longstanding objective: the eradication of the Palestinian presence through various means, including ethnic cleansing and displacement.

This narrative also challenges the Palestinians' internationally recognized right to resist. In defending its actions in Gaza, Israel and its supporters have often invoked the laws of war, terms like “human shields” and “proportionality” being frequently used.

These arguments, however, are based on colonial-era norms that fail to recognize the asymmetrical nature of modern conflicts and the evolving nature of warfare. These laws, originally designed to maintain colonial dominance, inadequately address the complexities and power dynamics of the Israeli colonisation of Palestine.