The Importance of The Hague Court


Amos Gvirtz – TRANSCEND Media Service

15 Feb 2021 – It is dangerous to view an army as something obvious. It is an organization established by states on the claim that they need to defend themselves against enemies who seek to destroy them or cause them harm. In the name of such defense they legitimate the army to make use of means, immoral in and of themselves, such as violence and killing. Throughout history we have seen states use their armies for conquest and for purposes other than self defense. We have seen many instances of armies turning against civilian governments and taking them over by force. In many cases this involves mass killings of citizens, whom they are supposed to protect, and the imposition of a cruel state regime. Thus, an army is an institution that alongside the belief in its necessity, poses a danger for the state itself. One could also ask the question, what is the difference between an army and a criminal organization, since both use immoral means to achieve their ends. The difference lies in ethics and the law. An army is supposed to act in accordance with the ethics of warfare and the law,  while criminal organizations act in violation of them.

In 1967 the Israeli army fought against the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, in a war conforming to the laws and ethics of warfare. The army fought against soldiers and not against unarmed civilians. In the wake of the conquest of Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, a very problematic situation was created wherein the army ruled over an enemy civilian population. The protection of such defenseless civilian populations is safeguarded by military ethics and international law.

The moment the Israeli government began its, then undeclared, policy of territorial expansion, it, in fact, instructed its army to act in opposition to military ethics and international law. Of course, with the aid of legalistic maneuvers, a way was found to give legal justifications to this criminal policy, which made use of the army for purposes which were not self defense. And, thus, an ongoing situation was created wherein the army, making use of legal arguments, fought against a civilian population. Today this would be called fake legality. One side of the conflict makes laws to suit its needs, and its judges are then required to adjudicate between it and its victims. Furthermore, Israel opened its civilian courts to the occupied population in order to prevent the possibility of their turning to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. This was precisely what international law was intended to fight against, in order to protect defenseless civilian populations. With the help of the United States, Israel succeeded in preventing interventions by the international community to provide protection for its victims.

It is important to remember that during the years the Israeli army was stationed in southern Lebanon no settlements were established there, and the only argument for its being there was the need to defend Israel from attacks coming from Lebanon. When cost/utility consideration showed that this was no longer worthwhile, the army withdrew its forces from Lebanon and defended Israel from within its own borders. This is not the case for the West Bank and the Golan Heights, where there has been a policy of territorial expansion shared by all Israeli governments since 1967.

Under the leadership of Abu Mazen, who opposes armed conflict, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority have turned to political and legal battles. In Israel there are, of course, those who call this political and legal terrorism, since all Palestinian resistance to the project of their own dispossession in Palestine is called terrorism here. The first Palestinian achievement in this struggle came in the form of an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which ruled that the Israeli construction of the Separation Barrier inside occupied territory was illegal. Furthermore, the Court ruled that the Fourth Geneva Conventions apply to the West Bank and that the establishment of the settlements there is illegal. Now this Palestinian strategy has made another gain.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has approved its jurisdiction to investigate Israelis and Hamas members on the suspicion of war crimes! Let’s hope that this decision will begin to provide protection to the defenseless populations living under the Israeli occupation, and that the Israeli army will cease from actions which undermine its status as a legitimate army.


Amos Gvirtz is founder of Israelis and Palestinians for Nonviolence, was chairperson of the Committee against House Demolitions, and a peace and human rights activist. He is a former Israeli representative to the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and wrote the book, Don’t Say We Did Not Know. It is live in the Amazon store and is available for readers to purchase here. In Kindle you can read it for free.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Feb 2021.

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