…The Spectacular Failures Of International Law.
By Suleiman M. Pema
The attention of the global media sharply shifted from the conflict in Ukraine/ Russia which has largely preoccupied Western media for some time now to a resurgence of the decades-old Israel/Palestine conflict which erupted again for the umpteenth time when Hamas militants in a daring surprise attack bulldozed their way into occupied West Bank killing, maiming and abducting many Israelis in a manner that has never been witnessed before. Israel has since embarked on high scale retaliatory moves obliterating entire families and areas in the Gaza Strip. Sadly, this has been the case for over seventy years with no end in sight.
As a Pan-African who cherishes freedom for all of humanity, I could not resist drawing parallels in what is happening between Israel/Palestine and Morocco/Western Sahara. When people are continuously being pushed to extreme limits and international law fails them, it is not a question of if… it is a question of when they will react as in the case of Palestine.
The facts on this matter are very clear for all discerning minds-an occupier is an occupier, and no amount of deodorization can change that.
‘All humans beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’– Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- UN.
Israel and Morocco are two countries that have been involved in long-standing territorial disputes over Palestine and Western Sahara, respectively. Both cases involve the occupation of lands that are claimed by indigenous peoples who seek self-determination and independence. Both cases also involve the violation of international law and human rights by the occupying powers, as well as the complicity of some Western countries (USA, UK, France), especially the United States, in supporting their claims.
Israel’s Occupation of Palestine
Israel’s occupation of Palestine dates to 1948, when the newly established Jewish state expelled more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and seized control of 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent, comprising the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, was occupied by Jordan and Egypt until 1967, when Israel captured them in the Six-Day War. Since then, Israel has maintained a military occupation over these territories, where about five million Palestinians live under a system of discrimination, oppression, and colonization. Israel has also built hundreds of illegal settlements in the occupied lands, where more than 700,000 Israeli Jewish settlers enjoy privileges and rights denied to the Palestinians. Israel has also annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, in violation of UN resolutions and international law.
Israel’s occupation of Palestine has been condemned by the international community as a form of apartheid, a crime against humanity that entails “inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory stated in 2022 that “there is today in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 a deeply discriminatory dual legal and political system, that privileges the 700,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the 300 illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank”. The occupation has also resulted in widespread violations of the Palestinians’ right to life, liberty, property, movement, education, health, water, and self-determination.
Moroccan Occupation of Western Sahara
Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara dates back to 1975 when Spain withdrew from its former colony and handed it over to Morocco and Mauritania, despite the wishes of the Saharawi people who had formed a liberation movement called the Polisario Front. Morocco soon annexed the entire territory and waged a war against the Polisario, who declared the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as an independent state in 1976. Mauritania withdrew from Western Sahara in 1979 and recognized the SADR, but Morocco extended its control over most of the territory. A ceasefire was reached in 1991 under the auspices of the UN and OAU, which promised a referendum on self-determination for the Saharawis. However, Morocco has obstructed the referendum process and refused to accept any option other than its own autonomy plan.
Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara has been denounced by the international community as an illegal act of aggression and annexation that violates the right of self-determination of the Saharawi people. The UN considers Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory that remains subject to decolonization. The African Union recognizes the SADR as a member state and calls for an end to Morocco’s occupation. The occupation has also led to sustained serious human rights abuses against the Saharawis, who face repression, torture, imprisonment, and disappearance for resisting Moroccan rule. Morocco has also been exploiting the natural resources of Western Sahara, such as phosphate, and fish without the consent or benefit of the Saharawi people.
Pan-Africans have widely viewed Morocco as a traitor to the African liberation struggle. Morocco in following the template of Israel has been digging deep to entrench/legitimize its occupation of Western Sahara through militarization, building illegal settlements, hosting events in the occupied territory, plundering the natural resources of the territory, and using the same as a bargain for recognition, building illegal consulates of no relevance and shutting off all media from the territory.
Have you ever wondered why Morocco has not said anything concrete yet about the recent bloodshed happening between Israel and Palestine?
- This is because they are afraid as to how they will have to contend with their pro-Palestine populations and
- They’ve engaged in the same illegality since the violation of the ceasefire agreements in November 2020 and Israel has been providing Morocco with drones to fight the Polisario Front.
Both Israel’s occupation of Palestine and Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara share some common features:
- They are both rooted in colonialism and nationalism, as Israel and Morocco claim historical and religious ties to the lands they occupy.
- They are both sustained by military force and violence, as Israel and Morocco use their superior armies to suppress any resistance or dissent from the occupied populations.
- They are both challenged by popular movements for liberation and independence, as Palestinians and Saharawis have formed political organizations and armed groups to fight for their rights.
- They are both opposed by international law and legitimacy, as Israel and Morocco have violated numerous UN resolutions and treaties that affirm the right of self-determination for Palestinians and Saharawis.
- They are both supported by external allies, especially the United States, which have provided them with diplomatic backing, economic aid, and military assistance.
Israel’s occupation of Palestine and Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara are two examples of ongoing conflicts that have caused immense suffering and injustice for millions of people. Both cases require urgent and effective action from the international community to uphold the rule of law and human rights and to support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians and Saharawis for freedom and dignity.
Israel and Morocco have consistently violated international laws without any fear of sanctions as they have the support of the USA, France, and the UK in the UN Security Council.
If there is ever a study to highlight the failure of the United Nations, these two conflicts will be at the top of the list no thanks to the complicity of the members of the UN Security Council.
Suleiman M. Pema is a member of the Nigerian Movement for the Liberation of Western Sahara (NMLWS).