Tag Archives | settlements

New Report on EU’s “Settlement Guidelines” for Israel

The Kohelet Policy Forum, a Jerusalem think tank, has released a legal and policy analysis, by Prof. Avi Bell and myself, of the European Commission’s recent “settlement guidelines” – a ban on funding Israeli entities located across, or, more importantly, conducting any “activities” in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and Gaza. I’ve previously explained how the Guidelines’ are not about either international law or the Palestinians, and how they contradict and undermine the EU’s own practices elsewhere.

Israel and the EU are currently in the throes of negotiations about the document. The paper presents important new information for discussions of business and academic activities in occupied territories.

The report is available here; and this is from the Executive Summary:

•The Israel Grants Guidelines adopted by the European Commission are singularly discriminatory
against Israel. They contradict international law as established in U.N. documents and leading
court cases, as well as the European Union’s own interpretations of international law.

• The EU provides aid and financial cooperation to numerous countries that maintain settlements
in what Europe considers occupied territory, such as Morocco, Turkey, and Russia. In none of these
cases has the Commission imposed limitations on the aid akin to the Guidelines for Israel.

• The Commission’s position that the Guidelines are mandated by international law are further belied by EU programs that provide grants specifically for settlers in belligerently occupied territory, such as the EU’s programs in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.

• Under international law, there are no prohibitions regarding organizations engaging in “activities” in occupied territories, yet the Guidelines bar funding solely on the basis of such “activities.”

• In pretending that the Guidelines fulfill the requirements of international law, the Commission
exposes the EU to legal challenge for EU funding of

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How the EU Continues to Fund Settlements in Occupied Territory

The EU recently issued guidelines blocking research and other grants to Israeli institutions with activities (archeological digs, etc.) across the Green Line. In the yesterday’s Jerusalem Post I reveal that the EU continues to actively fund settlements in occupied territory, against their own understanding of international law:

Under guidelines prepared earlier this summer, euros would not be allowed to go to Israeli entities located cross the Green Line – or to those that have any operations there. All Israeli entities applying for funding would have to submit a declaration that they do not have such operations.

Europe claims that such a move – unparalleled in its dealings with any other country – is mandated by international law. The EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories, and thus has an obligation to keep its money from going there. Those who celebrated the move said that Israel is finally paying the international price for its occupation.

Yet it turns out that despite the guidelines, the EU still knowingly and purposefully provides substantial direct financial assistance to settlements in occupied territory – in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, that is. So the EU funds the occupation of an EU member state. . . .

Projects include study abroad scholarships for students at the numerous Northern Cyprus universities (imagine such funding for students at Ariel University!); developing and diversifying the private sector through grants to small and medium- sized businesses; various kinds of infrastructure improvements (telecom upgrades, traffic safety, waste disposal); community development grants, funding to upgrade “cultural heritage” sites, and so forth. They even put on a concert.

Amazingly, this information has never been discussed in the debate over the EU action. On the contrary, academic supporters of the EU measure have falsely stated that “There is no significant difference in the […]

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The EU’s Israeli Settlement Guidelines and International Law

At The Times of Israel, I have a piece about the new European Union guidelines about funding to Israel, which provide that certain EU monies will not go to Israeli entities beyond the 1949 armistice lines, or that conduct activities there. In particular, I explain that while the guidelines cloak themselves with the mantle of international law, they have nothing to do with international law. Here is the intro:

These guidelines have led to numerous misconceptions from all sides. Concerned Israelis worry that it represents the beginning of an economic boycott. European officials claim international law and a concern for Palestinian self-determination, demand such action. None of this is right.

First, the guidelines do not establish an economic boycott. The rules do not restrict trade between Europe and Israel, or even Israeli companies in the West Bank. Rather, they specify how the EU as an organization chooses to spend its largesse – prizes, grants, and so forth. There is a big difference: restricting one’s gifts saves the EU money; implementing trade restriction would directly hurt its economy as well. In economic terms, a boycott is not the logical extension of a no-gift policy, but rather its direct opposite.

Nor is this about the Palestinians – the rules also bar funding of any organization connected to the Golan Heights. It is not clear which Syria the Europeans think Israel should surrender the entire Golan to, Assad or his Islamist foes, but this broad and unreasonable restriction has nothing to do with “the occupation.” It also has nothing to do with “settlements” in the West Bank; any Israeli institution with a presence in Eastern Jerusalem is blacklisted.

But most importantly, the EU policy is not about international law, which the guidelines repeatedly claim requires such action. Even if one thinks Israelis residing

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The Media Push for IRS Action Against Pro-Israel Groups

In addition to the IRS’s particular interest in right-wing groups focussed on domestic policy, it has taken an unusual interest in right-wing pro-Israel groups. (I am friends with the leader of the group written about in the link.)

One major question raised by the IRS scandal is where these ideas came from. At least as far as Jewish groups go, the IRS scrutiny is not a fluke. That is not to suggest it was ordered by the White House – that is highly unlikely. At the same time, it certainly does not come out of the blue. The past several years have seen a concerted campaign in the mainstream liberal press to bring the IRS down upon certain pro-Israel groups, particularly those that support activities in the West Bank (or the Territories Formerly Occupied By Jordan).

For example, in 2009 David Ignatius had a story in the Washington Post, A Tax Break Fuels Middle East Friction. “Critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns,” he wrote. The Guardian in 2009 also had a piece calling for IRS action.

In 2010, the New York Times continued the theme with a massive, expose-style front page story, which concluded that while such tax breaks do not seem to be exactly illegal, it creates :a surprising juxtaposition: As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.” The article then tried to raise questions about whether such groups really satisfied U.S. tax-deductible requirements, suggesting the IRS should look into them. The activities the supported, the Times article suggests, were illegal and extremist.

Picking […]

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Landmark French Ruling on West Bank Construction and International Law

In an important but largely ignored case, a French Court of Appeals in Versailles ruled last week that construction of a light rail system in the Israeli-controlled West Bank by a French company does not violate international law. In doing so, the court sided with many of the arguments long made against the blanket application of the relevant provisions of the Geneva Conventions to Israeli settlements. National courts rarely if ever address such issues, and thus the decision is important both for its rarity and for what it says.

In this post, I’ll address issues relevant to the substance – Israel’s presence in the West Bank. In the next post I’ll deal with the “Kiobel” issues raised by the case – corporate liability, the value of American ATS cases, and so forth. I should note at the outset that what follows is based on a rough translation of the opinion and my vague French; I would be grateful for corrections on matters of language that I have misapprehended. I venture forward because it is an important decision that deserves attention, yet has been met by complete silence by international legal scholars.

The Jerusalem Light Rail, which began running last year after a long period of construction, links the Western part of the city with the parts occupied by Jordan prior to and annexed by Israel after the 1967 War. The project was widely criticized by pro-Palestinian groups, as was the participation of French rail companies in the project. Along with a variety of political pressure and boycott activities, a Palestinian group sued the French-based multinational conglomerate Alstom Transport for its role in in the project. The case was dismissed below in 2011, and the Court of Appeals upheld the decision last week.

Crucially, the Court held that only the […]

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International Criminal Court Jurisdiction Over Israeli Settlements

I have put up a new working paper on SSRN, entitled Jurisdiction Over Israeli Settlement Activity in the International Criminal Court. It is not about the legality of settlements. Rather, it is about whether repeated and growing threats by Palestine and its supporters to make an international case out of it are consistent with the admissibility requirements of the ICC. I welcome substantive comments (as well as inquiries from law review editors).

Here is the abstract:

In the wake of the U.N. General Assembly’s recent recognition of Palestinian statehood, the Palestinian government has made clear its intention to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), where it could challenge the legality of Israeli settlements. This Article explores the previously unexamined jurisdictional hurdles for such a case. (To focus on the jurisdictional issues, the Article assumes for the sake of argument the validity on the merits of the legal claims against the settlements.)

First, the ICC can only consider situations “on the territory” of Palestine. Yet the scope of that territory is undefined. An “occupation” can arise even in an area that is not the territory of any state – but ICC jurisdiction does not extend there. Thus even if Israel is an occupying power throughout the West Bank for the purposes of substantive humanitarian law, this does not establish that settlement activity occurs “on the territory” of Palestine. Moreover, the ICC lacks the power to determine the boundaries of states, and certainly of non-member states. Moreover, the Oslo Accords give Israel exclusive criminal jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank. Palestine cannot delegate to the ICC territorial jurisdiction that it does not possess.

Second, the ICC only takes situations of particular “gravity.” Yet settlements are not a “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions. No international criminal tribunal […]

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Hans Kelsen on Occupation of Non-sovereign territory

The Geneva Convention is generally thought to apply to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank – that portion of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine previously occupied by the Jordan. This is important because the legal argument against settlements is that they violate Art. 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a provision which did not reflect prior international law.

Art. 2 of the Convention provides:

In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace-time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.

The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.

Because the West Bank was not part of the sovereign “territory of a High Contracting Party” (or of any country) in 1967, and Israel has argued that “occupation” within the meaning of the Convention can only exist in such territory. Of course, most international lawyers disagree, though in the years after 1967, some very prominent ones agreed.

What is more interesting is what people thought the provision meant before 1967, that is, before they knew the identity of the alleged violator. There is very little written on this, and few have looked at pre-1967 sources. However, one quite serious (pro-Israel) blogger has unearthed this intriguing discussion from Hans Kelsen in 1952, which clearly does not assume that the occupation of non-sovereign territory has the same consequences as the occupation of sovereign territory:

The principle that enemy territory occupied by a belligerent in course of war remains the territory of

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Turkey’s Settlements, the ICC, and European Vacation-makers

In a press conference recently, Mahmoud Abbas threatened to use Palestine’s G.A.-recognized “state” status to challenge Israel’s settlements in the International Criminal Court. He picked a most unlikely venue for the presser – Ankara, in a joint conference with the the Turkish president. The absurdity of this is that Turkey continues to occupy northern Cyprus, and is responsible for a massive settlement program there.

I’ve written before about “other countries’ settlements,” but one might think that an increasing discussion of Israel’s civilian communities in prosecutorial terms would increase the discusion of other (often more blatant) violations of the same international norm. Not quite.

Cyprus was a state with clear borders when Turkey invaded in 1974, and is a charter member of the ICC. If anyone should be loosing sleep over settlements suits in the ICC, it would be Turkey. Interestingly, no one has suggested in the past decade that Cyprus’s ICC membership would scare the Turks out of N. Cyprus, or get the Turks to agree to a peace deal). But a referral by Cyprus would not face the various thorny temporality and territoriality issues of a Palestinian complaint. Moreover, Cyprus is a particularly gross case of changing the demographics of occupied territory through settlement, with settlers now outnumbering protected persons n the territory.

Apart from the manifest hypocrisy, what should be disappointing for believers in international humanitarian law is the failure of anyone to call Abbas (or Erdogan) on it. I am not aware of any news, NGO, or governmental response pointing out the unseemliness of Abbas invoking the ICC from Ankara.

But it turns out that Europeans have for the past decade taken a different kind of interest in the Turkish occupation, as Dore Gold reports. Priced out of the French Riviera and Amalfi […]

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The ICC and the Territory of Palestine

The General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a state (which I’ve discussed previously) is widely regard as having the central upshot of facilitating a case against Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court. Indeed, Prime Minister Abbas has already threatened such action in regard to Israeli settlements – which are said to constitute an unlawful “deportation or transfer” of Israeli civilians into occupied territory.

Yet the GA’s recognition of Palestine’s statehood does not establish that the Israeli civilian population centers are “on its territory,” a basic requirement for ICC jurisdiction, as I explain today in a post an the European Journal of International Law’s blog. Here is part of it:

The mere fact of Israeli occupation does not make the territory part of Palestinian sovereign borders… the dominant interpretation of the Geneva Conventions is that an “occupation” can arise even in an area that is not the territory of any state. Yet even if Israel is an occupying power throughout the West Bank for the purposes of substantive humanitarian law, this does not establish that settlement activity occurs “on the territory” of the Palestinian state.

To put it differently, even if violating the Geneva-based norm of transfer need not take place in the territory of a state, it still must be “on the territory” of a state for the ICC to have jurisdiction, as the ICC exercises delegated territorial jurisdiction. This is consistent with the respective roles of the Geneva Conventions and the ICC. The Conventions, which have near universal adherence, are interpreted broadly because of a desire to not have gaps in coverage. With the ICC, which has a limited and particular jurisdiction, gaps in jurisdictional coverage are inherent.

I am working on a longer article on the jurisdictional issues that would be raised by a […]

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Israel’s Borders and International Law

This is a talk I gave this summer to a group of Jewish college students, which in broad strokes outlines the international law reasons the West Bank cannot be considered “Palestinian territory,” independent of the political or equitable merits of creating a Palestinian state there.


Watch on TorahCafé.com!

Please watch the whole thing before commenting.

Hopefully I say more more to say soon on the Palestinian statehood vote (I’m shopping around an op-ed on the subject). […]

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