On 23 August 2023, Al-Haq sent a letter to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, to welcome the laudable and corrective position of the Labor Government in reinstating the terminology on the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Notably, the continuing status of Israel’s military presence and effective control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip since 1967 is widely recognised as a de facto temporary belligerent occupation, the administration of which is regulated by provisions of the Hague Regulations (1907), the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), general international law and international human rights law. As such, the inalienable collective right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over national resources in occupied Palestine vests in the Palestinian people, while Israel, the Occupying Power merely governs the territory as a temporary de facto military administrator under occupation law.
The status of the Palestinian territory as occupied territory is widely recognised as such by the United Nations, Third States, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, amongst others. The failure to recognise the occupation of the Palestinian territory, would effectively amount to a recognition of Israel’s purported annexation of the Palestinian territory, and essentially give legal effect to a prohibited acquisition of territory through use of force, an internationally wrongful act. In this vein, Al-Haq similarly welcomes your personal commitment during a Labor Party caucus briefing to “strengthen the government’s objection to settlements by affirming that they are illegal under international law and a significant obstacle to peace”.
It is increasingly recognised that Israel not only occupied the Palestinian territory in 1967, but also that the continuing 56-year belligerent occupation itself amounts to an unlawful occupation jus ad bellum in breach of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
Further, the occupation is taking place within the context of a settler colonial apartheid regime implemented since 1948 to maintain Israeli Jewish domination over the Palestinian people, as two separate racial groups, while systematically displacing the indigenous Palestinian people from their lands and appropriating Palestinian immoveable properties for exclusive Israeli Jewish use. There is growing recognition that the situation is one of apartheid, as recognised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Member States of the Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and African Union, Namibia and South Africa amongst others. We would additionally ask that the Labor Government recognise the situation on the ground under the two parallel legal frameworks, as a settler colonisation and apartheid regime, and as a belligerent occupation of the territory.
Al-Haq strongly welcomes the commitment made by the Labor Party in 2021 to recognise the State of Palestine as an issue of “priority”. The 56-year belligerent occupation is forcibly maintained through grave breaches of international law, including inter alia exponential settlement expansion, settler transfer in, house demolitions, wilful killings, suppression of civil and political rights, collective punishment, persecution and apartheid. As Israel’s de facto and de jure annexations of territory threaten the contiguity of the Palestinian territory and viability of a Palestinian State, it is imperative that the Labor Party joins the 139 States that have already recognised the State of Palestine in their international relations.
Al-Haq wishes to thank Minister Penny Wong and the Labor government for its strong principled stance on the realisation of the collective inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, as represented in the commitment to recognise the State of Palestine. By reinstating terminology on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Labor government is once again reconciling the position of Australia with the rule of international law.