Why was Israel condemned in 2001 for violating the Fourth Geneva Convention?
The Fourth Geneva Convention on Rules of War was adopted in 1949 by the international community in response to Nazi atrocities during World War II. The international treaty governs the treatment of civilians during wartime, including hostages, diplomats, spies, bystanders and civilians in territory under military occupation. The convention outlaws torture, collective punishment and the resettlement by an occupying power of its own civilians on territory under its military control.
The Arab group of the United Nations started trying to invoke the Fourth Geneva Convention against Israel in 1997 and in February 1999 managed to get the General Assembly to adopt a resolution calling for a special UN session in Geneva to examine "persistent violations" by Israel. Although reduced in scope by the United States, a special UN meeting held in Geneva on July 15, 1999 unanimously passed a resolution stating that the Fourth Geneva Convention does apply to Israeli settlements in the "occupied territories." The closed-door meeting lasted a mere 45 minutes.
When the al-Aqsa intifada started in September 2000, the Arab group renewed its demand for a full reconvening of the High Contracting Parties. In response, Switzerland (the Depository for the Fourth Geneva Convention with the responsibility to convene meetings), in consultation with other countries, drafted a declaration that was critical of Israel, but was far more moderate than the draft document submitted by the Organization of Islamic Conference.
Switzerland convened the meeting of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention on December 5, 2001 to discuss the alleged Israeli violations of the Convention in its treatment of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza Strip. The United States, Israel and Australia boycotted the meeting seeing that it was another attempt by anti-Israel forces to inappropriately leverage, for political advantage, international agreements that have no applicability to the Palestinian situation.
At the very short meeting, less than an hour, the assembled High Contracting Parties did adopt a resolution censuring Israel. This was done in spite of the fact that there was no presentation of evidence or debate, just a politically motivated censure of Israel. With the al-Aqsa intifada more than a year old, there was no discussion of Palestinian terrorism, only complaints against Israel. In the 50+ years since its adoption, the Fourth Geneva Convention was convened only to discuss Israel, and never met to deal with world atrocities including those in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Sudan, Congo, Tibet, and other troubled nations.
Unfortunately, this use of The Fourth Geneva Convention served to validate the Palestinian tactic of using the international community, and the United Nations in particular, as a forum for airing grievances against Israel, rather than resolving such matters through bilateral negotiations and the Oslo peace process. The same motivation and tactics were evident at the September 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in where important issues of racism and prejudice were ignored in favor of highly politicized and inflammatory anti-Israel and anti-Jewish resolutions.
Moreover, the reconvening of High Contracting Parties to discuss the Palestinian Arabs politically motivated agenda dangerously politicized and violated the spirit of the Geneva Convention itself and its important humanitarian purpose.
Sybil Kessler, a policy associate for Hadassah and an observer at the meeting, commented:
- It?s a quiet crime. Very diplomatically, very quietly, 140 countries have convened and left just to reinforce the fact that the international community still doesn?t accept Israel on the same playing field as the rest of world.
Israel responded to the resolution with an official release that included this paragraph:
- The statement adopted at the meeting is clearly one-sided and contains sections with unsubstantiated allegations against Israel. The declaration ignores entirely the continuous and vicious incitement against Israel in the Palestinian media and in school textbooks, which together with actions by organs of the Palestinian Authority contribute to creating a cult of suicide bombers who have wreaked havoc in Israeli towns and villages, killing and maiming innocent civilians in discotheques, restaurants and markets.