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Law and the Question of Palestine

For decades, Palestine has been framed by international law. This convenient perspective, rendered mainstream by the international community and the Palestinian Authority, has made international law a weapon to turn against the colonised. Noura Erakat’s latest book, Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2019) unravels the use and misuse of international law when it comes to Palestine. “The law has the capacity to dominate as well as to resist,” she writes. In terms of strategic use of international law, the PA has embarked upon a series of failures that highlights how Israel, on the contrary, was able to harness its power to justify its colonisation of Palestine.

In the preface, Erakat states that “the law’s ability to oppress is evidence not of its failure but rather of the fact that it can be strategically deployed.” This fact is juxtaposed against the foundations of international law, which are derived from the colonial order and are, hence, a weapon of power against weaker political actors. The absence of global enforcement of international law is also a weakness that is exploited to the detriment of the colonised, as in the case of Palestine. With these contradictions, Erakat notes that the only promise international law makes “is to change and serve the interests of the most effective actors.”

For Palestinians, there is a long history that shaped the present legal contraptions. The author reflects on how the Balfour Declaration was incorporated into Britain’s League of Nations Mandate, “thereby transforming British colonial prerogative into international law and policy.” Furthermore, Israel’s acceptance at the UN normalised colonialism and ethnic cleansing, and justified, as Erakat writes, “the erasure of Palestinian peoplehood.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

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