what the UN says about targeting Israeli civilians

INTRODUCTION

Recently, a popular pro-Palestine account made the dangerous claim that, as per “international law,” all Palestinian political violence — even that which targets civilians — is legal under international law. The page cited an excerpt from UN Resolution 3246, passed in 1974, as proof.

The excerpt alludes to point 2 in Resolution 3246, which states the following:

”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…”

This, of course, doesn’t look good for Israeli civilians. There are, however, a few glaring holes in this interpretation.

Note: I ask you not to tag or mention the account that made this claim in my comment section. First, that account has both blocked me and harassed me, and I’m not interested in dealing with that again. Second, they are neither the first nor the last account to make this dangerous claim.

 

THE ISSUES WITH RESOLUTION 3246

(1) first, it’s important to note the history and context of Resolution 3246. Resolution 3246 was drafted in response to the issue, SPECIFICALLY, of Portuguese colonialism in Africa. Regardless of your views on Israel/Palestine, Palestine is neither in Africa nor a Portuguese colony.

Unsurprisingly, Palestine was added to a resolution condemning Portuguese colonialism in Africa thanks to the lobbying of the deeply antisemitic Arab League and Soviet Union. Ironically, both the Arab League and Soviet Union were — and are — imperial entities crushing the rights of numerous groups of Indigenous Peoples.

(2) UN General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding; they simply exist to express the views of member states. In other words: UN General Assembly resolutions are not “international law.” The United Nations itself says so.

(3) contradicting resolutions are passed in the United Nations all the time. Since the passing of Resolution 3246 in 1974, various UN Resolutions have not only condemned terrorism as inexcusable in all cases, regardless of the perpetrator’s identity or political goals, but have distinguished “terrorism” from “armed struggle.” Resolutions passed after 1974 would then presumably override Resolution 3246.

(4) the United Nations Charter, which is the basis of international law and as such overrides any and all resolutions, strongly opposes and condemns political (and geopolitical) violence, with the exception of clear self-defense.

(5) the United Nations has a long, long history of institutional antisemitism and blatant antisemitic double standards, which I will discuss in an upcoming slide.

(6) the United Nations does not have an official definition for “colony;” instead, it only defines “non-self governing territories.” Interestingly, Palestine is not among this list, as Palestinians, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, have autonomous governments (i.e. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority). The United Nations considers the State of Palestine “a non-member observer state,” the same status as the Vatican.

 

RESOLUTION 3236

So what does the United Nations actually say about armed “resistance” targeting civilians? First, let’s begin with Resolution 3236, which, in 1974, affirmed the Palestinian right to self-determination.

  1. Reaffirms the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine, including:
    1. (a) The right to self-determination without external interference;
    2. (b) The right to national independence and sovereignty;
  2. Reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return;
  3. Emphasizes that full respect for and the realization of these inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are indispensable for the solution of the question of Palestine;
  4. Recognizes that the Palestinian people is a principal party in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East;
  5. Further recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to regain its rights by all means in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
  6. Appeals to all States and international organizations to extend their support to the Palestinian people in its struggle to restore its rights, in accordance with the Charter;
  7. Requests the Secretary-General to establish contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization on all matters concerning the question of Palestine;
  8. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its thirtieth session on the implementation of the present resolution;
  9. Decides to include the item entitled "Question of Palestine" in the provisional agenda of its thirtieth session.

Note point 5: “Further recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to regain its rights by all means in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

 

WAR CRIMES

The United Nations Charter, established in 1945, is considered the basis of international law. I encourage you to read it for yourself in its entirety at www.un.org/en/about-us/un-charter

In 1998, the United Nations made its stance on war crimes crystal-clear when it drafted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Unlike General Assembly resolutions, these definitions actually are “international law.”

  • Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities;
  • Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives;
  • Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives;
  • Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities.
  • Taking of hostages;

Palestinian militants have repeatedly violated every single one of these points.

For instance, in May of 2021, Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, fired over 4000 missiles indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. During the Second Intifada, Palestinian militants carried out over 140 suicide bombings, the vast majority aimed at civilian centers. The youngest suicide bomber was merely 14 years old. Since 1948, Palestinian militants have repeatedly desecrated and destroyed Jewish sacred and historical sites, including as recently as last month, when rioters threw boulders on the Jewish path to Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism. Both Israeli soldiers and civilians have been taken hostage. Their treatment has been described as “cruel and inhuman” by international human rights organizations.

 

TERRORISM

In Resolution 49/60, adopted in 1994 — 20 years after the passing of Resolution 3246, for anyone keeping count — the United Nations describes terrorism as the following:

“Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

To reiterate: terrorism is “in any circumstance unjustifiable.”

Resolution 1566, adopted in 2004, describes terrorism as the following:

“Criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.”

In other words: Palestinian political violence — particularly against civilians — with the purpose of coercing or compelling the Israeli government to, say, end the occupation, are considered terrorism and are thus, in any circumstances, unjustifiable, according to these resolutions.

 

ANTISEMITISM IN THE UN

The United Nations has always been quite blatant in its antisemitism. As of 2013, the State of Israel, the only Jewish majority state, where nearly 50% of the world’s Jews live, was condemned in 45 resolutions, accounting for 45% of ALL UN resolutions. In 2020, alone, Israel was condemned in 17 resolutions, compared to 6 resolutions for the rest of the world combined.

Whatever one thinks of Israel’s policies, it’s impossible not to see the double standards. Israel is a country the size of New Jersey with just 9.2 million people (for comparison, the United States has 329.5 million people, France has 67.39 million people, Egypt has 102.3 million people, and there are about 9 million people in New York City alone). It’s ludicrous that such a small country with such a small population could account for nearly 50% of the world’s injustices.

It’s also worth noting that out of thousands of independence and nationalist movements in the world (including Palestinian nationalism!), only the Jewish movement has ever had a UN resolution condemning it. This resolution was nullified in 1991; for more on this, see my post THE BLATANT ANTISEMITISM BEHIND UN RESOLUTION 3379.

Between 1972-1981, the UN Secretary General, Kurt Waldheim, was a former Nazi intelligence officer. Every single permanent member of the Security Council has a history of persecuting Jews, and that’s without mentioning the history of egregious antisemitism in the countries forming other UN councils. Considering antisemitism is institutionalized and often systemic in these nations, it’s no surprise that antisemitism would become institutionalized in the United Nations, too.

 

 

A DANGEROUS LIE

For at least 2000 years, the murder of Jews has long been framed as moral or justified. This isn’t anything new. Nevertheless, propagating these lies on social media — and framing such lies as “just” — is dangerous and very tangibly puts both Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish lives at risk.

The United Nations itself has at various times accused Palestinian militants of war crimes (e.g. 2009). If, according to pro-Palestine propagandists, the United Nations considers any and all Palestinian armed struggle “legal,” then how in the world could the United Nations then go on to accuse Palestinian militant groups of committing war crimes?

Ultimately, however, my personal moral compass is not dictated by the whims or opinions of the United Nations. Even if the United Nations considered the murder of Israeli civilians justified — which it absolutely does not — I would still find it abhorrent, immoral, and unacceptable.

That said, if the United Nations does guide your personal moral compass, particularly where Israel-Palestine is concerned, then you shouldn’t cherry pick resolutions. To choose whichever resolutions are convenient to your worldview and discard those that are not is quite blatant propaganda. The page that made the claim that any and all Palestinian armed resistance is justifiable does not recognize the State of Israel, and yet, UN Resolution 181 very clearly recognizes Israel, a recognition that was made LEGALLY binding on May 11, 1949, when the UN admitted Israel as a member state of the United Nations. No subsequent UN resolution has *ever* withdrawn that recognition.

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