Palestinians who attack armed occupation forces are not terrorists under international law and in order for the violence to end, we have to learn to understand why armed attacks against Israeli occupation forces occur.
This Monday evening in East Jerusalem, at one of the entrance gates to Masjid al-Aqsa, seventeen year old Mahmoud Kamil attempted to attack armed Israel occupying police forces. The teenager was then fired at with over 15 bullets and killed.
Following the incident, the Israeli media shamefully dubbed the 17 year old from Qabatia, Jenin (West Bank), as a child “terrorist”. This demonstrates the complete lack of empathy shown towards Palestinian children and the complete dismissal of why an ordinary 17 year old would be driven to knowingly put his own life on the line to attack militirized Israeli forces.
The story of Mahmoud Kamil symbolises the pure despair shared amongst many Palestinian teens living under brutal military occupation. In the media, we will undoubtedly hear more reports depicting the scene of a “terrorist” being “neutralised”, as if to say Mahmoud was some sort of killer robot. The Israeli policy of collective punishment, bulldozing the family home of “terrorists”, will also be enacted, as well as the holding of young Mahmoud’s body so that he will not have a legitimate burial. These acts condemned by leading, international and local, Human Rights Organisations such as Amnesty International and B’Tselem rarely end up reported in the Western corporate Press.
Also, another key element to this case which is in need of address, is the right to armed resistance for Palestinians in general. When discussing this issue, it is key to note that the event in Jerusalem is a tragic issue and should be addressed as an individual case, especially as a minor had been involved. As the attack and subsequent execution of young Mahmoud has unfortunately been linked to the question of armed resistance, due to the nature of the scenario, it is a case that should not be lumped in carelessly with legal discourse on armed resistance. This is key to understand, as lumping a minor in with the discourse on liberationist struggle, often prompts the opposition to mount a counter argument as to why the act is in fact terrorism.
A minor is a minor and so we should take great care, understanding the psychological torment which drove this teenager to such a point. The tragedy which occurred in Jerusalem, in which a Palestinian teen felt there was no other option than to attack an enemy, which he knew would take his life, is the result of a seemingly never ending illegal military occupation. That is where the debate should be focused on this case and not surrounding the following issue.
Legal Right To Resist Or Terrorism?
Reality is often flipped on its head during debate on the Palestine-Israel conflict, with the armed occupation forces presented as the innocent party and the occupied people fighting colonisation presented as the blood-thirsty savages. So let’s set the record straight, a Palestinian living under occupation has the legal right to resist the occupying force, this remains the fact irrespective of whether you support or oppose violent resistance.
When we look at the issue of armed resistance broadly, according to ‘Additional Protocol 1’ to the ‘Geneva Conventions’ (1949) all Peoples are entitled, under international humanitarian law, to the right to armed national liberation struggles. The Palestinian people were even mentioned by named in ‘United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 2787’ in 1971:
“[The Resolution] Confirms the legality of the peoples’ struggle for self-determination and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation, notably in southern Africa and in particular that of the peoples of Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea (Bissau), as well as of the Palestinian people, by all available means consistent with the Charter of the United Nations.”
It is also clear that according to International Law, tracing back to UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 3314, in 1974, that it was unacceptable for any State to engage in military occupations of foreign territory.
On November 29, 1978, with ‘United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24’, the right to armed struggle was again reaffirmed, as it was stated that the body recognised; “…the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle”. This legitimate and defensible right under international law, again confirmed in UNGA resolution 37/43 in 1982, is not in line therefore with any reasonable definition of terrorism.
To deny Palestinians their right to resist a foreign settler-colonialism occupying force, means that you are arguing against International Law. This is not a matter of opinion.
When it comes to attacks committed against Israeli occupying forces inside of East Jerusalem, this legal right to resist using armed struggle, also applies. East Jerusalem has been since 1967 illegally occupied by Israel. Despite Israel having illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, therefore claiming it and applying a different legal system there, the International Community still considers the territory as occupied. Israel is obligated under UN Security Council Resolution 242 to withdraw from all the territories it occupied in the June 1967 war, this includes East Jerusalem.
The daily brutality endured by Palestinians under occupation, is what fuels these sort of attacks and the refusal to confront that fact by Israel, shows that it doesn’t seek to change the reality at all.
Palestinians maintain their legal right to armed resistance and if you disagree with that right, then you are in disagreement with International Law and the majority opinion of the United Nations. This is not advocacy for armed struggle to state this, but instead a categorical fact.