It’s Time to Call Israel’s Bluff

Sam Bahour
7 min readSep 22, 2022
Photograph Source: Marc Venezia — CC BY-SA 3.0

By Sam Bahour & Tony Klug

For 55 years, Israel has cherry-picked the Geneva Convention which governs the laws of occupation. Throughout this whole period, the international community has been complicit in this deception by doing nothing about it. This has to end if progress is ever to be made in resolving the tragic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The situation on the ground is in danger of spinning violently out of control, which will lead inexorably to many more dead and critically maimed Palestinians and Israelis, fomenting ever more misery, bitterness and calls for revenge. The toxins will continue to spill over into other countries.

At the UN General Assembly debate later this month, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, will probably request, once again, full membership for Palestine in the UN which will attract the support of most nations. Already, Palestine is recognized by 138 of the 193 member states, not far short of the 165 for Israel. In line with Israel’s bidding, the main obstacle is the US veto at the Security Council, the UN body which has the final say. As before, Abbas might set a deadline for full recognition and the end of the Israeli occupation but, without a coherent strategy and a sting in the tail, it will again be of no consequence. This would be another lost opportunity.

A single question to Israel could make all the difference: “Is your rule over Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip a military occupation, or not?” Israel’s answer, including a refusal to answer, would dictate the next actions. They could be a game changer. Key to the success of this strategy is the willingness of other states, individually and collectively, to own this simple but compelling question and back it up with effective pressure.

Recognize the state of Palestine

The question matters because Israeli governments have been allowed to have it both ways for more than 55 years and will probably be quite content to continue having it both ways for a further 55 years unless its stance is robustly challenged. Israel’s claim — supported by no other country — that, on technical grounds, it is not an occupation, has been used by successive governments to defy the Geneva Convention’s prohibition on expropriating…