According to international law it is Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves against an occupying force.

When hundreds of allies of the Netanyahu Government marched through the streets of Jerusalem barely two weeks ago, chanting “Death to Arabs” - did the US Government respond by saying, “Palestinians have a right to defend themselves”? 

No, it did not.

When dozens of Israeli soldiers stormed al-Aqsa mosque during the final Friday prayers of Ramadan, spraying worshippers with rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and flash bang grenades, leaving hundreds injured and dozens hospitalised – did the US Government respond by saying, “Palestinians have a right to defend themselves”?

No, it did not.

How about when Israeli warplanes bombed a residential building in Gaza on Sunday, killing 20 Palestinian civilians, including 9 children – did the US Government then say, “Palestinians have a right to defend themselves”?

No, it did not – and never once in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has the US government uttered the words those words, but what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did say on Monday, after all of the above events had taken place during the past two weeks, and only after Hamas fired rockets from Gaza in retaliation is: “Israel has a right to self-defence.”

Thus demonstrating once again that the seven most morally corruptible words in the lexicon of the US Government are “Israel has a right to self-defence.” 

No other phrase has done more to distort the reality of the conflict and the comparative military power of the respective belligerents – the occupier and the occupied. The latter has none. The former is the Middle East’s most formidable military force.

It doesn’t matter how many Palestinians are killed, injured, displaced or expelled from their homes in violation of international law, as it’s doing now in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the US stubbornly refuses to offer the right of self-defence to the Palestinian people. 

“Israel has a right to self-defence” is what the Obama administration said when Israeli forces killed 2,200 Palestinian civilians, including 500 children, during its 2014 invasion of Gaza. They are the same words the Trump administration offered when Israeli snipers shot and killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protesters, journalists and medics during the Great March of Return protests in 2018-19.

This heinous trope was exposed for all of its manipulative and deceptive qualities when a reporter asked US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Tuesday whether the Palestinians “in any way have a right to self-defence?” while pointing out that two dozen Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli forces during the preceding 48 hours.

A clearly embarrassed and visibly uncomfortable Price offered the following nonsensical and hypocritical reply: “Broadly speaking, we believe in the concept of self-defence. We believe it applies to any state. I don’t think that - I certainly don’t want my words to be misconstrued.”

A second reporter then accused Price of not answering the question, seizing upon what he called a “big problem” in his response, specifically for stating the right to self-defence “applies to any state.”

“Do you regard Palestine as a state,” the reporter then asked.

“I was making a broader point that was not attached to Israel or Palestinians in that case. I’m not in a position to debate the legalities,” answered Price.

The great American con is revealed right there, because Price knows all too well that Palestine is recognised by the United Nations, and thus international law, as a nation state, but refuses to acknowledge that because doing so means admitting Palestinians have a right to self-defence. 

What Price and the Biden administration also know is that under international law, it’s the Palestinians who have the right to self-defence in the context of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and it’s Israel that does not.

In fact, international law is unambiguous in its endorsement of “armed struggle” for peoples who seek self-determination under “colonial and foreign domination.”

United Nations resolution 37/43, dated 3 December 1982, “reaffirms 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, including armed struggle.”

Moreover, the resolution’s preamble makes clear that it refers not to a hypothetical in the abstract, but rather specifically to the rights of Palestinians, stating: “Considering that the denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, sovereignty, independence and return to Palestine and the repeated acts of aggression by Israel against the peoples of the region constitute a serious threat to international peace and security.”

In other words, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is illegal, and therefore Palestinians have a right to “armed struggle” against their illegal occupier – Israel, ipso facto, Palestinians have a right to defend themselves against Israel, but Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian resistance is not guaranteed in the same manner.

With the Israeli government signalling that it in in the throes of launching an Operation Protective Edge-style military operation, as it sends military reinforcements to the Gaza border, the time to recognise the Palestinian right to self-defence has never been more urgent.

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