Legal Opinion for the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK
Dr Ralph Wilde
27 November 2023
(The present opinion is limited to the Palestinian Gaza Strip, although much of what it covers is equally applicable to Israel’s use of force through the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank.)
Israel’s current use of force in the Palestinian Gaza Strip is part of a long-standing illegal use of force by that state in the territory which began in 1967. It is a violation of the use of force, an aggression, and the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. In addition, the use of force in its current manifestation, supplementing the force-enabled siege with aerial bombardment and a land invasion, also involves breaches of the laws of war, a.k.a. international humanitarian law (IHL), including serious violations which constitute war crimes, and breaches of the prohibition of apartheid in particular and racial discrimination more generally. Some of these breaches are also a continuation, in more extreme form, of what happened prior to the current bombing and land incursion campaign. Also, a credible case is now being made by states, UN experts and human rights NGOs that crimes against humanity and genocide are being committed.
Israel is obliged to cease its illegal behaviour immediately: a ceasefire and withdrawal from, and complete termination of the force-enabled siege of, the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Because fundamental international legal rules are being breached, third states (all other states apart from Israel and Palestine) have special legal obligations. They must not recognize as lawful, or provide any aid or assistance to, Israel’s use of force in, including its occupation of, the Palestinian Gaza Strip. This means not affirming that Israel has a right to use this force, and ceasing support, including military support, to Israel for this purpose. They must also take positive steps to bring the illegal situation to an end, including calling for Israel to take the aforementioned actions.