Monday, January 09, 2023



Ralph Wilde, an associate professor at the Faculty of Laws, University College London, writes in OpinioJuris that Israel's presence anywhere beyond the 1949 armistice lines is illegal - not the settlements, but the "occupation" of every square centimeter. 

It is a classic case where the opinion precedes the evidence, and the evidence is then shoe-horned into the argument.

There is a great deal of garbage there, but here's an argument that I had never seen before, that is profoundly stupid.
 Neither United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, nor the so-called Oslo Accords, provide an alternative legal basis for the existence/continuation of the occupation. Indeed, the Oslo Accords are themselves violative of international law, because ‘consent’ to them by the PLO was coerced through the illegal use of force, and, relatedly, they conflicted with norms of international law that have a special non-derogable/jus cogens status (the prohibition on the use of force other than in self-defence, and the right of self-determination).  

According to Wilde, the Oslo Accords were illegal because the PLO was coerced to sign them by Israel.

No one to my knowledge has made that claim, ever. Not during the Oslo process from 1993-2000, not during the second intifada, not afterwards. 

The PLO itself certainly never made this claim; to this day, Mahmoud Abbas charges Israel with violating the Oslo Accords but he has not once said that they don't apply because the PLO was coerced

What next? Do we retroactively invalidate the Treaty of Versailles because the Germans lost World War I and therefore were subject to coercion if they didn't sign?

Wilde's illogic is remarkable. But he really tries to make it seem reasonable. In his more expansive article on the topic, he writes:

Given that much of international law operates on the basis of a fiction of sovereign equality despite de facto inequality, treaties between unequal parties are not necessarily invalid for that reason. But one red line is when the powerful party, as here, is subjugating the other party in a particular manner—through an illegal use of force—in a way that has so compromised the freedom of action of that other party when it comes to their consent to the agreement, that the agreement can be understood to have been “procured” through that particular form of subjugation. The Oslo Accords meet this test and are legally-void on this basis. Indeed, their procurement in the context of the occupation constitutes a manifest and egregious form of coercion prescribed by the equivalent rule of customary international law to the provision in the [Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties] when it comes to invalidity.

This means that every case of occupation can never be ended through negotiations because the occupied party is by definition coerced into its agreement. 

Wilde's bizarre argument brings up another question. Who determines, under his fantasy version of international law, that one party is being coerced? Normal people would say that it would be the coerced parties themselves. But if the PLO doesn't claim they were coerced to sign the agreements, and indeed make constant arguments that Oslo is valid and Israel is violating it, then how can anyone else possibly make that assertion as fact? 

Apparently, Wilde thinks that his own opinion on what constitutes coercion outweighs that of the party he says was coerced! This is no longer the pretense of interpreting international law - this is an attempt to create international law based on what a single uninvolved anti-Israel academic thinks.

Beyond that, we have another problem. If Oslo was signed under coercion, then why didn't the PLO sign the proposed peace agreements from Camp David and Taba, when they were being pressured not only by Israel but by the world's only superpower at the time, the United States? How did Arafat resist that pressure but succumb to the much milder coercion of 1993? What changed - under an international law framework - from his being unable to have free will in 1993 and his freedom in 2000?

It gets better. If Oslo is retroactively illegal, then the Palestinian Authority created by them must retroactively disappear, and any agreements that it signed  over the past 25 years are also meaningless, since it never existed. And since the UNGA-recognized "State of Palestine" is simply a renaming of the PA, then it must also disappear - and its signature erased from all the treaties it signed. 

Wilde, for all his erudition and expertise, proves himself to be a fraud in this argument. He is clearly twisting international law to fit his own pre-determined conclusion. 

And that should disqualify him from teaching anyone. 

(h/t Irene)



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