21 Jan Are the Israeli Settlements “War Crimes”?
I realize that discussing the international law aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not exactly a new and fresh topic likely to inspire thoughtful and reasonable thinking, and yet I was struck by the aggressive tone of this NYT editorial from a representative of the Palestinian Authority.
It is universally recognized that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, and that without a full cessation of all settlement activity, Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and the two-state solution are both doomed. In spite of the dilution of American public statements, the United States still recognizes settlements as illegal. Not only are they a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention; under the Rome Statute, they are considered a war crime.
Where to start? It is “universally recognized” that settlements are illegal? Really? Even in Israel, or in certain majorities of the U.S. Congress? More surprisingly, I didn’t realize that the “settlements” themselves constitute a violation of the Rome Statute? Settlements are war crimes or crimes against humanity? I sort of understand this argument, but does any one think this argument is self-evident or even highly persuasive?
I realize this excerpt is a political claim, not a legal one. But it is a good example of how certain types of international conflicts actually undermine whatever integrity and usefulness international law might have in shaping the analysis of those conflicts.