Talking about Palestine today is impossible, even in Parliament

MIDDLE EAST. After the attack by the Honorable Fassino in the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Lower Chamber, the difficulty in talking about the Palestinian question clearly emerges also according to legal dictates: the idea that international law is mandatory for enemies and optional for allies is a dangerous declination of the concept of autonomy of politics, which as a jurist I cannot refrain from Francesca Albanese, UN Specxial Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian TerritoriesPalestine – what is left of historic Palestine from the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 -, comprising the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, is a land that Israel has occupied militarily since 1967.

It is good to reiterate immediately that international law allows military occupations only in a temporally limited form, with precise obligations aimed at the protection of the population under occupation and, above all, without ever transferring sovereignty to the occupying power.

The State of Israel has been systematically violating these principles since 1967, through continued civilian relocation and settlement building in the occupied Palestine. In recent decades, such violations have been repeatedly condemned by major international institutions, most recently the United Nations Security Council.

Humanitarian organizations agree that this occupation is illegitimate and illegal, as it is carried out through prohibited uses of armed force and with the aim of annexing Palestinian territory to the State of Israel, displacing the Palestinians who live there. Faced with this widely documented reality, it is necessary that politics conform to the precepts of international law, sanctioning Israel and supporting the Palestinians in the process of self-determination assigned to them not by this or that political faction, but by the most fundamental principles of the international community.

It is with this awareness that two months ago I assumed the role of United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, conferred on me by the UN Human Rights Council. With the added challenge and honor of being the first woman to hold this delicate position, I took on this responsibility fully aware of the difficulties I would encounter.

The first difficulty is that in the last thirty years the rights of the Palestinian people have stopped making headlines, although Palestine remains the scene of a bitter clash between justice and prevarication, law and abuse, legality and, alas, realpolitik inspired purely by relations of force. Two months after the beginning of my mandate, I experienced firsthand the impossibility of discussing Palestine even following a strictly legal approach.

In the face of anyone who opposes the logic of power relations with an ethics guided by the force of law, a curtain of hostility and often verbal violence falls, in the name of the ideological defense of the policies of the State of Israel.

An example of this is my hearing on 6 July at the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, which had invited me to report on the situation that is the subject of my mandate. After my speech, of which he had obviously heard little and understood less, the President of the Commission, the Hon. Piero Fassino, instead of moderating the debate in order to acquire useful elements for parliamentary deliberations, launched an accusation against me that was as inappropriate as it was unjustified.

The accusation concerned my alleged lack of “impartiality”, evidently for not having equated the occupier and the occupied, the colonizer and the colonized, in my intervention on the continuing abuses by Israeli forces against the Palestinians. Respect for any criticism is an integral part of my interpretation of the mandate given to me. However, I have a primary duty, precisely on the basis of this mandate, to denounce violations of international law.

Although I limited myself to this dutiful task at the hearing, the Hon. Fassino, evidently irritated by the exercise of my institutional duties, has come to attribute to me sentences bearing forms of legitimation of violence that neither have I ever uttered, nor any interviewer has ever transcribed. Altraeconomia promptly demonstrated this by reporting my original declarations condemning the spiral of violence that the occupation perpetuates, artfully decontextualized by the Hon. Fassino.

In criticizing my excessive attention to “the legal data”, the Hon. Fassino also downplayed the central role of international law in conflict resolution, which is an integral part of the republican system.

The idea that international law is mandatory for enemies and optional for allies is a dangerous declination of the concept of autonomy of politics, which as a jurist I cannot refrain from condemning.

As Edward Said recalls, a struggle for rights is won “with the weapons of criticism and the commitment of conscience”. And this is what I will continue to promote in the execution of my mandate, a healthy, pluralist and informed debate on the Israeli-Palestinian question, starting – whatever the historical and political readings of the “conflict” and its roots – from the regulating force of international law, the only possible compass in the darkness fomented by over a century of realpolitik.

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