Last month, the United Kingdom initiated a parliamentary petition calling for sanctions against the Israeli regime to ban all trade, especially arms exports. The petition received more than 386,000 signatures, forcing the British Parliament to start a debate on the topic. The British government’s response is clear: it resolutely opposes sanctions and boycotts against Israel on the grounds of “close relations.”

In Ireland, the issue of sanctions against Israel was also raised in an amendment condemning the “de facto annexation” of Palestinian land. Although the amendment was not passed, the topic of sanctions was placed in the first and center position.

The petitions and amendments are driven by a strong public response to the Israeli regime’s intensified violence against Palestinians in the past few months, including the recent Israeli regime’s bombing of Gaza, which killed more than 256 Palestinians, including 66 children.

However, the call for sanctions against Israel has long been the focus of the Palestinian struggle. In fact, it is the core pillar of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign launched in 2005, which calls on people to pressure the government to fulfill its obligations under international law and impose sanctions to end Israel’s apartheid. These measures may include prohibiting business with illegal Israeli settlements, terminating free trade agreements, curbing military trade, and suspending Israel’s membership in international forums such as United Nations agencies, sports federations, and international cultural organizations.

More than a century ago, the League of Nations established international sanctions to prevent aggression and war. Since then, they have been included in the international legal system as an appropriate and effective way for third countries to punish those who violate international law.

For example, sanctions, including arms embargoes, were used to oppose South Africa’s apartheid regime to help end its racist rule over the country. Most recently, in 2014, the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia after Russia illegally annexed the Crimea Peninsula of Ukraine.

But sanctions are also used as a form of collective punishment. For example, three years after the Cuban Revolution overthrew the pro-American government, the United States imposed an embargo on all trade with Cuba in 1962. It had a devastating effect on the Cuban economy and the entire people.

Although sanctions continue to be abused, many people still regard them as a legitimate tool to combat violations of international law.

As Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, recently told the UN Security Council: “[Sanctions] They are the key tools we can use to combat violations of international law, weapons proliferation, prevent weapons from flowing into the war zone… combat human rights violations and target individuals who try to disrupt the peace process… They are designed to bring changes in policies or activities. “

According to Borel’s logic, there is no reason not to impose sanctions on the Israeli regime and make it responsible for many violations of international law. However, the Israeli regime, described by human rights organizations as an apartheid system and currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court for war crimes against the Palestinian people, has not been subject to such sanctions.

In fact, although all Israeli governments have so far violated the rights of Palestinians, it is worth noting that Western countries that quickly sanctioned those who violated international legal norms have not done so against Israel. Not only that, the Israeli regime continues to maintain comprehensive diplomatic and trade relations with most of the international community.

Israel continues to be part of media organizations such as Eurovision and EU research projects such as Horizon 2020. It also enjoys lucrative arms deals and financial support. As Israel’s most generous supporter, the United States has so far provided about 146 billion U.S. dollars in military and financial assistance. European countries also support the Israeli army, providing it with weapons worth about 777 million euros (927 million US dollars) between 2013 and 2017.

Obviously, the Israeli regime is not the untouchable state it should be. Even the mere suggestion of sanctions against the Israeli regime will raise calls for exceptionalism and prejudice against it. However, as outlined in international law, sanctions are a legitimate response to Israel’s continued violation of international law. Not using them against the Israeli regime is a mockery of the international legal order and human rights.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


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