Palestinians have a legal right to armed struggle

**Originally published in Al Jazeera July 20. 2017. This is the unedited version with original title and links**

For Some, History is a Failed Recollection (Original Title)

Long ago, it was settled that resistance… even armed struggle… against a colonial occupation force is not just recognized under international law but specifically endorsed.

In accordance with international humanitarian law, wars of national liberation have been expressly embraced, through the adoption of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, as a protected and essential right of occupied people everywhere.

Article 1 (4) of Additional Protocol I provides that “international armed conflict” include those in which people are fighting against “colonial domination, alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination.”

Finding evolving vitality in humanitarian law, for decades the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA)… once described as the collective conscience of the world… has noted the right of peoples to “self-determination… independence… and human rights.

Indeed, as early as 1974, resolution 3314 of the UNGA prohibited states from “any military occupation, however temporary” and included bombardments, blockades, or forced annexations of any lands by an occupying state as examples of gross international transgressions.

In relevant part, the resolution not only went on to affirm the right “to self- determination, freedom and independence of peoples forcibly deprived of that right, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination” but noted the right of the occupied to “struggle… and to seek and receive support ” in that effort.

The term “armed-struggle” was implied without precise definition in that resolution and many other early ones that upheld the right of indigenous persons to evict an occupier [See, i.e. resolutions 2649 (1970), 2955 (1972), 3070 (1973), 3246 (1974), 3382 (1975), 33/24 (1978), 34/44 (1979), 35/35 (1980) and 36/9 (1981), as well as Security Council resolutions 418 (1977) and 437 (1978)].

This imprecision was to change on December 3, 1982. At that time UNGA resolution 37/43 removed any doubt or debate over the lawful entitlement of occupied people to resist occupying forces by any and all lawful means.

In short, the resolution held: “This House reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle”.

Though Israel has tried, time and time again, to recast the unambiguous intent of this precise resolution… and thus place it’s now half -century occupation in the West Bank and Gaza beyond its application… it is an effort worn thin to the point of palpable illusion by the exacting language of the declaration itself.

Thus, in relevant part, section 21 of the resolution strongly condemned “the expansionist activities of Israel in the Middle East and the continual bombing of Palestinian civilians, which constitute a serious obstacle to the realization of the self-determination and independence of the Palestinian people”.

Never ones to hesitate in rewriting history, long before the establishment of the United Nations, European Zionists deemed themselves to be an occupied people as they immigrated to Palestine… a land to which any historical connection had long since passed through a largely voluntary transit.

Indeed, a full 50 years before the UN spoke of the right of armed struggle as a vehicle of indigenous liberation, European Zionists illegally co-opted the concept as the Irgun,  Lehi and other terrorist groups undertook a decade’s long reign of deadly mayhem. During this time, they slaughtered not only thousands of indigenous Palestinians but targeted British police and military personnel that had long maintained a colonial presence there.

Perhaps, as Israelis sit down to mourn the loss of two of their occupation forces shot dead, this past week, in Jerusalem… in what many consider to be a lawful act of resistance… a visit down memory lane might just place the events in their proper historical context.

Describing the British as an occupation force in “their homeland,” long ago Zionists targeted British police and military units with ruthless abandon throughout Palestine and elsewhere.

Thus, on April 12, 1938, the Irgun murdered 2 British police officers in a train bombing in Haifa. On August 26, 1939 two British officers were killed by an Irgun land mine in Jerusalem. On February 14, 1944 two British constables were shot dead when they attempted to make arrests for pasting up wall posters in Haifa. On September 27, 1944 more than a hundred members of the Irgun attacked 4 British police stations injuring hundreds of officers. Two days later a senior British police officer of the Criminal Intelligence Department was assassinated in Jerusalem. On November 1, 1945 another police officer was killed as 5 trains were bombed. On December 27, 1945 seven British officers lost their lives in a bombing on police headquarters in Jerusalem. On November 9–13, 1946 Jewish underground members launched a series of land mine and suitcase bomb attacks against railroad stations, trains, and streetcars, killing 11 British soldiers and policemen and 8 Arab constables. Four more officers were murdered in another attack on police headquarters on January 12, 1947. Nine months later four British police were murdered in an Irgun bank robbery and, but three days later, on September 26, 1947, another thirteen officers were killed in still yet another terrorist attack on a British police station.

These are but a few of many more attacks directed by Zionist terrorists at British police who were seen, by mostly European Jews, as legitimate targets of a campaign they described as one of liberation against an occupation force.

Throughout this period, Jewish terrorists also murdered hundreds of British military personal as they undertook countless attacks that spared no part of the British and Palestinian infrastructure.

Financing these terrorist attacks through bank robberies, extortion, and some private donations, the “underground” assaulted British military and police installations, government offices, and ships… often with bombs. They also sabotaged railroads, bridges, and oil installations. Dozens of economic targets were attacked… among them, 20 trains, which were damaged or derailed, along with five train stations. Numerous attacks were carried out against the oil industry including one, in March 1947, on a Shell Oil refinery in Haifa which destroyed some 16,000 tons of petroleum.

Zionist terrorists killed British soldiers throughout Palestine, using booby traps, ambushes, snipers, and vehicle blasts. British armored vehicles were bombed by remotely detonated IED’s disguised as milestones which blew apart vehicles and killed or injured their occupants.

One attack, in particular, sums up the terrorism of those who, without any force of international law at the time, saw no limitation to their efforts to “liberate” land to which they had, largely, only recently immigrated.

In 1947, the Irgun kidnapped two British Army Intelligence Corps NCOs threatening to hang them if death sentences, passed on three of their own members, were carried out.

When their own men were executed by hanging, the two sergeants were themselves hung… with their booby-trapped bodies left in a eucalyptus grove.

In announcing their execution, the Irgun stated the two British soldiers were hanged following their conviction for “criminal anti-Hebrew activities” which included: “ illegal entry into the Hebrew homeland; membership in a British criminal terrorist organisation… known as the Army of Occupation… which was responsible for the torture, murder, deportation, and denying the Hebrew people the right to live; illegal possession of arms; anti-Jewish spying in civilian clothes; and premeditated hostile designs against the underground.”

Well beyond the territorial confines of Palestine, in late 1946-1947, a continuing campaign of terrorism was directed at the British. Thus, acts of sabotage were carried out on British military transportation routes in Germany. The Lehi also tried, unsuccessfully, to drop a bomb on the House of Commons from a chartered plane flown from France and, in October 1946, bombed the British Embassy in Rome… injuring three. A number of other explosive devices were detonated in London, including one at the Colonial Club… an establishment catering to soldiers and students from British colonies in Africa and the West Indies. The bombing injured some servicemen. On another occasion, an attempt was made to destroy the Colonial Office in London with a large bomb which malfunctioned after its timer broke. Some 21 letter bombs were addressed. at various times. to senior British political figures, including Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. Many were intercepted, while others reached their targets but were discovered before they could go off. An Irgun explosives factory was also discovered in London.

Self determination is a difficult, costly march for the occupied. In Palestine, no matter what the weapon of choice… whether voice, pen or gun… there is a steep price to be paid for its use.

Today, “speaking truth to power” has become very much a popular mantra of resistance in neo-liberal circles and societies. In Palestine, however, for the occupied and oppressed it is an all but certain path to prison or death. Yet, for generations of Palestinians stripped of the very breathe that resonates with the feel of freedom, history teaches there is simply no other choice.

Silence is surrender. To be silent is to betray all those that have come before and all those yet to follow.

For those who have never felt the constant yoke of oppression, or seen it up close, it is a vision beyond comprehension. Occupation sits heavy on the occupied, ever day in every way, limiting who you are and what you may dare to become.

The constant rub of barricades, guns, orders, prison and death are fellow travelers for the occupied … whether infants, teens in the spring of life, the elderly, or those trapped by the artificial confines of borders over which they have no control.

To the families of the two Israeli Druze policemen who lost their lives while trying to control a place that was not theirs to command, I extend my condolences. These young men were, however, not lost to the ring of resistance… but willingly sacrificed by an evil occupation that bears no legitimacy whatsoever.

Ultimately, if there is grieving to be done, it must be for the eleven million occupied, whether in Palestine or outside, as so much stateless refugees, stripped of a meaningful voice and opportunity, as the world makes excuses built largely of a political and economic gift box that bears the Star of David.

Not a day goes by, now, without the chilling wail of a Nation watching over a Palestinian infant wrapped in a burial shroud… stripped of life because electricity or transit have become a perverse privilege which holds millions hostage to the political whims of the few. Be they Israeli, Egyptian or those who claim to carry the mantle of Palestinian political leadership, the responsibility of infanticide in Gaza is theirs and theirs alone.

The three young men, cousins, who willingly sacrificed their lives in the attack on the two Israeli officers in Jerusalem, did so not as an empty gesture born of desperation, but rather a personal statement that follows a long line of others who well understood the price of freedom can, at times, mean all.

For seventy years, not a day has passed without the loss of other young Palestinian women and men who, tragically, found greater dignity and freedom in martyrdom than they did in obedient, passive living controlled by those who dared to dictate the parameters of their lives.

Millions of us worldwide dream of a better time and place for Palestinians… free to spread their wings, to soar, to discover who they are and what they wish to become. Until then, I mourn not for the loss of those who stop their flight. But applaud I do for those who dare to struggle… dare to win… and by any means necessary.

There is no magic to resistance and struggle. They transcend time and place and derive their very meaning and ardor in the natural inclination, indeed drive, of us all to be free… to be free to determine the roll of our own lives.

In Palestine, no such freedom exists. In Palestine, international law recognizes the fundamental rights to self- determination, freedom and independence for the occupied. In Palestine, that includes the right to armed struggle, if necessary.

Long ago, the famed abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, wrote of struggle. These words resonate no less so today, in Palestine, than they did some one hundred and fifty years ago in the heart of the Antebellum South in the United States:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

 

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