A PALESTINIAN VIEW
A question of legality
an interview with Michael Tarazi
Michael Tarazi is the PLO Legal Advisor. A Harvard
University law school graduate, he is a leading member of the official
Palestinian International Court of Justice delegation.
bitterlemons: What will be in your presentation?
Tarazi: I don’t believe that it is appropriate to talk about what we will be
discussing before the court until it is made public. Nevertheless, generally
speaking we will be focusing on the obligations of an occupying power to the
occupied people and how Israel violated those obligations.
bitterlemons: Would the Palestinians agree if the wall was built along the
Tarazi: We would prefer not to have a wall at all. Our idea of peace is one
without walls and borders. Nevertheless, if Israel wanted to build a wall on
the green line, that is certainly within its right. It does not, however,
have the right to build it within occupied territory and in such a way that
violates the rights of the occupied people whom Israel is obligated to
protect and not harm.
bitterlemons: What is the best result that you can hope for from the
hearings in The Hague?
Tarazi: Well, the International Court of Justice in The Hague has been asked
to provide an advisory opinion for guidance to member states. So the real
question is not what The Hague will say but what the member states are going
to do to actually implement whatever the court advises. That is where I hope
that states would change their policies and actually adopt whatever the
bitterlemons: Is there a precedent for this action?
Tarazi: It is one of the main mandates of the court to provide advisory
opinions when asked by the General Assembly, which it has done. This is
certainly within the court’s mandate and within their jurisdiction. They
have never turned down a request to give an advisory opinion.
bitterlemons: The Israelis are saying the international court has no right
to pass down an opinion. This is murmured by the Americans and the Europeans
as well. What do they base that opinion on?
Tarazi: That is not the position of the Europeans and the Americans. You
have not seen the European and American submissions. Please don’t believe
whatever the Israelis tell you with respect to the US and EU positions. I
think you should wait until you see that. I can say that I don't know if
there is a single country other than Israel that approves of the wall in the
fashion that it is being built.
Israel’s view is that no law applies to it. It has never abided by
international law. Israel has taken the view that it can do whatever it
wants with impunity. Unfortunately, that is the international community’s
fault. It has taught Israel that international legal standards do not apply
to it. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a change in that policy.
bitterlemons: What issue is really at stake here?
Tarazi: I think we should focus on the fact that this is not a question of
the wall per se, and Israel’s right to build a wall, but a question of the
legal consequences of Israel building the wall in occupied territory in such
a way that violates the rights of the occupied people. The importance of
this hearing is that is re-injects and reaffirms that this not a conflict
between two equal parties who simply have to negotiate. This is an issue
between occupier and occupied and we seem to have forgotten that. This is
not a conflict between two equal parties with equal negotiating leverage.
You should not forget that as an occupier, Israel is subject to
international legal standards which it has violated. -
Published 23/2/2004 © bitterlemons.org
[haGalil onLine 2004 (Jan./Feb.):
Zum Thema Sicherheitszaun]