International Law: The Right to Self Defense
The exploitation of international legal rhetoric has become a major weapon in the political war to delegitimize Israeli responses to attacks on its civilian population. By couching political attacks in legal terms, NGOs seek to create a veneer of credibility and expertise, thereby increasing international pressure against Israel.
Self-defense is a fundamental right, enshrined in the UN Charter (Article 51) and numerous Security Council Resolutions. But many NGOs have issued statements distorting international law and inventing legal claims to deny Israel’s rights.
Al Haq and PCHR falsely claim that Israel cannot invoke self-defense in response to attacks from non-state actors in occupied territory. In making this legally incoherent argument, these NGOs misinterpret key passages in international law.
A second approach, taken by Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, alleges, without evidence, that Israel’s exercise of self-defense is merely a pretext for punishing the Palestinians. There is no legal doctrine that establishes that an otherwise legal military action in self-defense becomes illegal simply because one of its alleged motives is to “punish” the aggressor.
Other groups, including Oxfam and FIDH, pay lip service to Israeli self-defense, but reject every Israeli action as a “violation of international law.” These NGOs make no realistic suggestions of [what would be considered lawful and effective measures, essentially nullifying the right to self-defense.
PCHR, which is funded by the EU, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Holland, and other governments, labels direct attacks on Israeli civilians as acts of “resistance,” another legal fiction.
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by Trevor Norwitz
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