[In view of Israel's assertions that it's current attacks on the Gaza Strip are an exercise in legitimate self-defense, Jadaliyya re-posts an analysis of this claim by Co-Editor Noura Erakat initially published in 2012.]
A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is “foreign” and poses an exogenous national security threat. In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law.
Admittedly, the enforceability of international law largely depends on voluntary state consent and compliance. Absent the political will to make state behavior comport with the law, violations are the norm rather than the exception. Nevertheless, examining what international law says with regard to an occupant’s right to use force is worthwhile in light of Israel's deliberate attempts since 1967 to reinterpret and transform the laws applicable to occupied territory. These efforts have expanded significantly since the eruption of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and if successful, Israel’s reinterpretation would cast the law as an instrument that protects colonial authority at the expense of the rights of civilian non-combatants.