The Spark December 2010 - January 2011
On the 12th of October 2010 John Key designated “a further seven international terrorist groups under the Terrorism Suppression Act”. He claimed it helped “implement our international obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373″. Under this pretence the addition of Palestinian organisations, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the military wing of Hamas (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades), to the New Zealand list of designated terrorists, is especially problematic. To highlight the hypocrisy and contradiction involved in these designations I will examine parts of the Terrorist Designations Working Groups (TDWG) paper; “Statement of case to designate the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as a terrorist entity”.
A terrorist act is defined in the ‘Terrorist Suppression Act (TSA)’, section five, as an act which is carried out “for the purpose of advancing an ideological, political, or religious cause” or to “induce terror in a civilian population.” With outcomes such as “the death of, or serious bodily injury to, one or more persons”, “a serious risk to the health or safety of a population” or the “destruction of, or serious damage to, property of great value or importance, or major economic loss, or major environmental damage”. The case to designate PIJ features two case studies, used to highlight terrorist acts and support the case for designation.
Gaza Rocket Resistance
The first case study concentrates on a “Rocket campaign into southern Israel”. The case study details that during the “Gaza conflict”, “…these rockets killed 3 Israeli civilians. Between the year 2001 and May 2009 the rockets killed a total of 16 Israeli civilians. Since 2007, when a majority of Palestinians voted for Hamas, Israel has maintained a complete siege of Gaza that the United Nations has called a “crisis of human dignity”. Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions states that “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed.” The Goldstone report on operation ‘Cast Lead’ stated that Israel used the “application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.” It details deliberate Israeli attacks on hospitals, schools, ambulances, civilian infrastructure and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. It also confirms the deaths of over 1600 Palestinian civilians, one hundred times the number of Israelis killed in almost a decade of rocket attacks. Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ operation and the siege of Gaza, by definition, would appear to contradict not only international law, but would fit the TSA’s definition of a terrorist act.
Resistance to illegal settlers
The second case study details the “shooting of security guards at Nitzanei Shalom Industrial Park”. The document details that the “the Park is situated on the Palestinian side of the West bank border”, making it an Israeli settlement in occupied Palestine. The settlements in the West Bank that these security guards are paid to protect are in direct violation of Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention which states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The case study sees the Israeli settlers, and their protectors, as a benign actor in the conflict. This is far from the truth, since the settlers are both armed and violent.
A recent report by Defence of Children International concludes that “Apart from the loss of land taken for the settlements and their related infrastructure, settler violence, such as beatings, shootings and destruction of property are a common occurrence in the lives of Palestinians, including children.” From March 2008 until July 2010 there were 38 documented incidents of Israeli settlers targeting Palestinian children resulting in 45 deaths. The acts “serve a political and strategic goal, and are carried out by ideological settlers”. Once again this would seem to fit the definition of a terrorist act.
The case for designation against PIJ then adds that these types of attacks carried out by Palestinian armed groups have an objective of compelling “Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territories”. This is an overt political motive which supposedly supports the acts’ definition as a terrorist one. But what is missing is that the Palestinian objective is in line with International Law, whereas the Israeli objective is in direct contravention.
The Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) & Violent Self-Determination
The TSA provides for one caveat to the definition of a terrorist act, being that it “is not an act that occurs in a situation of armed conflict…in accordance with rules of international law applicable to the conflict.” The document seeks to answer the question “does the LOAC apply?” This relates firstly to a “key distinction between armed conflict and other internal disturbances”, related to the “level, kind and consistency of violence”. It then comes to the conclusion “that it is not clear…whether that conflict is an international or non-international one”.
The case study attempts to brush aside over 60 years of armed resistance to the state of Israel, concluding that “outside of the combat period” (of ‘Cast Lead’) the resistance does “not meet the threshold to be considered an armed conflict”. In a report produced by the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), it refutes the test applied by the TSA in determination of Armed Conflict and the intensity of hostilities:
As to the condition that the liberation movement should attain a minimum of effectiveness as a belligerent, i.e. it should be a party to a real on-going armed conflict: it is the whole approach of the Conventions that international armed conflicts are defined not as a function of the degree of intensity of hostilities, but in terms of its parties and the type of relations existing among them. It does not appear as a requirement in either Article 1 or Article 96 nor for that matter common Article 2 of the Conventions.
It is also clear that this is an international conflict. The UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3103 (XXVIII) which states:
The armed conflicts involving the struggle of peoples against colonial and alien domination and racist regimes are to be regarded as international armed conflicts in the sense of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
The United Nations has also on many occasions reaffirmed the right for people to struggle, with violence if necessary. General Assembly Resolution 2649 (XXV) affirmed the “legitimacy of the struggles of peoples under colonial and alien domination recognised as being entitled to the right to self-determination to restore to themselves that right by any means at their disposal.” Resolution 3070 (XXVIII) of 30th November 1973 reaffirmed the right to struggle for self-determination “by all means, including armed struggle,” while Resolution 2787 (XXVI) in 1971 sought to clarify further, with the General Assembly identifying and recognising the legal characteristics of armed conflicts as wars of national liberation, i.e. involving peoples against colonial and alien domination and racist regimes, explicitly including those in South Africa and involving ‘the Palestinian people’.
The ‘Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning the Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States’ resolves what would appear to be a controversial issue posed by cases of violent self-determination. It clearly states “that the ‘forcible action’ or force which is prohibited by Article 2, paragraph 4 of the Charter is not that used by people struggling for self-determination but that which is resorted to by the colonial or alien governments to deny them self-determination.” This in itself would provide for an interesting caveat to all of the designations so far in this country, putting the focus on the violence and brutality of the oppressor with their modern armies and war machines, and not the guerrilla struggles of the oppressed.
The “Geneva Declaration on Terrorism” further reiterates this concept stating that the “terrorism of modern states and their high-technology weapons is far worse than the political violence practiced by groups who want to end oppression and live in freedom.” It concludes that “it is a cruel extension of the scourge of terrorism to classify the struggle against terrorism as ‘terrorism’.”
International Law and the state of Israel
Why would you try to manipulate clear distinctions regarding the nature of the conflict and attempt to label it non-international? The answer is simpler than it would seem. If this is defined as an International conflict the LOAC and thus the Geneva Conventions apply, which validates the Palestinian National Liberation Struggle and condemns the Israeli state to being the terrorist.
It should be patently obvious that International Law is vigorously applied to one side and ignored for the other. So while useful for highlighting the contradictions and hypocrisy involved in terrorist legislation, it also needs to be put into its own context. Terrorist Legislation should be seen as a part of a system that is used to maintain the imperialist powers’ spheres of influence in the third world. The truth is that many of the liberation movements condemned as terrorists represent a direct threat to western control of third world resources and politics and thus the maintenance of capitalism worldwide.