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Hard-won Palestinian rights victories show our judicial systems are both fragile and infinitely precious

HILARY WISE argues for increased vigilance in protecting the principles of international law

IT IS a cliche to say we are living in an increasingly polarised and dangerous world. 

On a rising tide of crude nationalism and racism, regimes across the globe are using the power of the state to push through and enforce legislation that is in direct violation of existing international law.

No state has been more opportunistic in this regard than Israel.

There is, of course, a logic to seeking to finalise the dream of a Greater Israel — ie a fully Judaised Palestine — while an unconditionally supportive US administration is in power and while Europe remains fragmented and distracted by the pandemic.

However, the last defence of democracy, independent judicial systems, still survive, albeit embattled and under threat. 

And in recent months they have shown themselves capable of opposing the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut of Israel’s colonial project.

Less than two months ago, the British Supreme Court made a definitive ruling that local government pension fund trustees may take ethical issues into consideration when deciding where to invest. 

This was the result of a long-fought campaign by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other organisations, that councils should have the right to avoid investing in Israel’s illegal occupation. No appeal against this ruling is possible.

Two weeks ago the European Court of Human Rights declared that the French courts had been in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, in imposing heavy fines on people campaigning against the import of Israeli goods. 

This ruling was the culmination of more than 10 years of legal battles.

Now, at last, the appellants have been awarded all costs and financial compensation — though one can only imagine what the mental and emotional cost must have been to them.

Since Britain will remain in the Council of Europe (as opposed to the European Union) and therefore a signatory to the Human Rights Act of 1998, this ruling will also apply to campaigning on the issue of Palestinian rights here in Britain.

Finally, just over a week ago we saw the culmination of a fierce debate on membership of the UN security council, the UN’s highest body. 

Canada was one of the candidates but an international campaign opposed its membership, pointing to its long record of supporting Israeli colonialist policies. 

In the event Norway and Ireland, much more supportive of international law on this issue, came out ahead and won seats on the council.

These recent hard-won victories are a reminder of how our judicial systems are both fragile and infinitely precious. 

The framework of international law was established following the horrors of World War II. A world without it simply does not bear contemplation.

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