Craig Murray: The Right of Self-Defense

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By not acting against Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians, the U.K., U.S. and European Union are failing an obligation in international law spelled out in a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice. 


International Court of Justice in The Hague. (R Boed, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Craig Murray

Israel does have the right of self-defence, but only in precisely the same way other countries do. In fact, the only unique factor about Israel here is that it is the only country to have been found by the International Court of Justice specifically to have abused and exceeded the concept of right of self-defence, in its treatment of the Palestinians.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion to the U.N. General Assembly, ruled illegal Israel’s construction of its great Wall, which is a fundamental part of the Israeli apartheid system. The court considered Israel’s argument of self-defence and ruled that this did not justify the numerous breaches of international law represented by the Wall:

“While Israel has the right, and indeed the duty to respond to the numerous and deadly acts of violence directed against its civilian population, in order to protect the life of its citizens, the measures taken are bound to remain in conformity with applicable international law. Israel cannot rely on a right of self-defence or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall. The Court accordingly finds that the construction ofthe wall, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law.”

It flows from this that Israel cannot use “self-defence” as a trump card to tear up international law in the current situation in Palestine. The use of collective punishment against a civilian population — including via starvation, thirst and deprivation of medicine, the carpet bombing, the use of white phosphorus, the attacks on medical facilities, the attacks on medical staff, the execution of prisoners, the clearly genocidal attempt — none of these war crimes is excusable as “self-defence.” 

The military cooperation of the U.S., U.K. and Australian governments — in an attack which they know is engaged in committing egregious war crimes — also opens those responsible to war crimes charges for their active complicity and indeed conspiracy.

Furthermore, there is in fact a positive legal duty on states to be acting against Israel in view of Israel’s refusal to dismantle the Wall and the apartheid system in the occupied territories — including the widespread criminal settling and stealing of land which that system embodies. This is the International Court of Justice judgment on the obligations of other states:

“Given the character and the importance of the rights and obligations involved, the Court is of the view that all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction.

It is also for all States, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to see to it that any impediment, resulting from the construction of the wall, to the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination is brought to an end. In addition, all the States parties to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 are under an obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.”

[Related: Biden Risks Complicity in Genocide, Warns Brief and Lawless in Gaza: Why the West Backs Israel No Matter What]

Read that paragraph very carefully. Israel has not undertaken any of the actions specified by the ICJ and has indeed built more settlements and imposed more restrictions. It is absolutely plain that the U.K., U.S. and European Union are not only not fulfilling their duty in international law as set out by the International Court of Justice, they are acting directly opposite to their obligation in international law under the ICJ ruling.


The BDS movement is acting precisely in line with the obligations set out by the International Court of Justice, while the states attempting to ban the BDS movement are acting precisely against the obligations imposed on them by the International Court of Justice.

Finally, the ruling must imply the Palestinians do indeed have the right of self-defence. Because you cannot have the “right of self-determination,” which the court acknowledges, without the right of self-defence. Because it is impossible to exercise self-determination if somebody else can remove your bodily integrity at whim.

That right of self-defence must perforce be exercised by whoever has de facto control of Palestinian territory at the time.

Dec. 9, 2006: Palestinian farmers waiting to be let back through the Apartheid Wall to their West Bank village after going to their land. (FREEPAL, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I am indebted to a number of staff and national delegates at the United Nations in Geneva for pointing out to me the importance of the 2004 ICJ ruling in the current context.

I hope it helps you understand why the lies of U.S. President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, U.K. Labor Leader Keir Starmer, French President Emmanuel Macron etc. are indeed lies.

Subject to an “anti-terrorism investigation,” I do not view it as safe currently to return to the U.K.. Whether the investigation relates to my support for WikiLeaks or to my support for Palestine, or to both, I do not know, as the police have not said why I am being investigated. 

I honestly believe I am not fighting for me, but against encroaching fascism in Western societies. It is for freedom from an ever-encroaching police state and from a political class trying to enforce a monopoly of information to the public. The fight can only happen at all with financial support from the amazing readers of this blog. You have seen me through so much, and I am very grateful.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


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