These days much of the efforts to dismantle Israel’s apartheid and settler colonial systems of domination over the Palestinian people appear to be following a legal approach.
Scholars, activists and even policymakers invested in the issue increasingly suggest the path towards Palestinian liberation is through securing a legal opinion officially defining Israel’s violent expulsion of Palestinians as apartheid and colonialism.
The recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution calling on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to give an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories is the most recent example of this trend.
I wholeheartedly support and encourage all such efforts, and I am pleased that the UNGA passed this important resolution. Though sceptical, I truly hope that the ICJ opinion will reflect the real conditions that Palestinians suffer, and help dispel Israeli propaganda. Yet I do not believe it is productive or wise to confine all efforts towards Palestinian liberation within the frames of human rights and international law.
The Palestinian struggle for liberation must be multifaceted and multidimensional. We need to ensure that the legal approach does not become the predominant face of the Palestinian struggle. It is – and should remain – merely one of its facets. After all, the core of the Palestinian struggle has never been and will never be a legal one. It is a struggle of and for justice, not law. There is a critical difference between the two.
The legal approach has several shortcomings which means that, if it is pursued on its own, or posited as the leading facet of the struggle, it will harm the Palestinian cause.