Institute of Law organizes symposium on transitioning to statehood under occupation

The Institute of Law at Birzeit University in Gaza, in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, organized a legal encounter entitled “The Transformation of the Palestinian Authority to a State Under Occupation – Legal and Economic Ramifications.” The encounter was presented by Dr. Anwar Al Tawil, a professor at the University of Palestine, on January 29, 2018.

Dr. Tawil explained the occupation state concept, saying, “A state of occupation includes temporarily interrupting the legitimate government from exercising its sovereign rights over its territories, and the occupying state’s commitment to follow the rules and regulations of international humanitarian law when approaching the people and the lands of the occupied state. The United Nations Security Council’s acknowledgment of the occupying state, or lack thereof, does not actually matter, as there is an actual, on-the-ground presence and actual control of the land, even if it wasn’t achieved militarily.”

“Occupation happens in two distinct cases,” added Dr. Tawil, “the first one occurs when the previous government is unable to overtly exercise its power over its territories, and the second occurs when the occupying state is in a favorable position that would allow it to position itself as a ruling entity, replacing the previous government.”

The presenter also reviewed the rules that govern belligerent or military occupation, starting from the ostensibly provisional nature of occupation. “Annexation and acquisition of lands are forbidden, and the power by which the occupying state exercises its rights is, by nature, military power, not legal, and remains invested in the previous government as per article 24 of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare,” he added.

“The occupying state should preserve peace and order in the occupied territories as per article 2/63 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and should also respect the rights of civilians in these territories. The administrative, legislative, and judiciary powers of the occupying state remain restricted as per articles 47-78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

The professor also explored the tactical and strategic justifications for the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) announcement of Palestine as a state under occupation. “The PA, by doing that, can regain sovereign control over Palestinian territories; seek the international community’s recognition of Palestine as a full-member state, as the Israeli occupation state is not fulfilling its obligations toward its occupied territories; bring a practical, legal end to the Oslo Accords, without bearing the responsibility of ending their commitment toward it; and retain the international treaties and agreements that the PA has signed or that Palestine has joined as a non-member state,” Dr. Tawil said. 

“In addition to that, the PA can keep the legal and political sovereignty to represent itself in international conventions and retain the sponsorship of international treaties despite not having actual control. The Israeli occupation state does not have any legal or political sovereignty over the occupied territories, as per the international law and the international humanitarian law, despite having actual control. The PA can also relegate the administrative responsibilities to the occupying state, including all legal administrative, and economic obligations toward the citizens of these lands; in addition to holding the occupying state internationally responsible for what happens in the occupied territories, and responsible for following the pertinent international rules.”

Audience members, at the end of the symposium, asked many questions on the fate of the Oslo Accords and the seriousness of the PA’s motives. Participants also raised questions on the justifications behind such a move, such as regaining the right to resist occupation, pressuring the occupying state to accept the two-state solution or fall into the one-state trap if it didn’t end the state of occupation, as well as pushing the international community to shoulder its legal and international responsibilities toward Palestinian citizens under occupation.