Palestinian Resistance: The Political, Social and Human Right of Self-​Defense

“The entire enter­prise of a Jew­ish state in Palestine is built upon an express rejec­tion of inter­na­tional law.”

~ Brayer

by Lynda Brayer | 19 November 2012

Once again the bombs are fall­ing on the Gaza Strip, a stretch of ter­rit­ory excised from Palestine proper as a res­ult of con­tinu­ing illegal and ille­git­im­ate actions by Israel. In fact, Gaza has become a closed ghetto, first cut off from Palestine in viol­a­tion of the par­ti­tion plans and polit­ical pro­grams and then turned into a sealed ghetto, fol­low­ing the demo­cratic elec­tions which brought the Islamic Res­ist­ance Party ­­— Hamas — into power. Cat­egor­ized as a ter­ror­ist organ­iz­a­tion in the United States, with some of its lead­ing sup­port­ers there imprisoned for over twenty years for send­ing human­it­arian aid to Palestini­ans in Gaza, it can come as no sur­prise that the Israeli and West­ern media accuse Hamas for attack­ing Israel with rock­ets, rather than report­ing that Hamas sent off the rock­ets as a response to an Israeli attack!

This method of report­ing is part of con­tin­ued efforts of de-​legitimization of the Palestinian struggle for free­dom from the yoke of Zion­ist gen­o­cidal oppres­sion and viol­ence. Fur­ther­more, the con­dem­na­tions have not been accom­pan­ied by ref­er­ence to the his­tor­ical record: that the Zion­ist war, both cold and hot, against the Palestini­ans has not stopped for even one day since 1948, and that it went into relent­less high gear since 1967 and con­tin­ues unabated. This con­tinu­ous aggres­sion — admin­is­trat­ive and mil­it­ary — is never brought into the West­ern vis­ion or under­stand­ing, although a quick per­usal of the web­sites of the Palestine Cen­ter for Human Rights loc­ated in Gaza City, Mah­som Watch and Betselem provide chilling and detailed inform­a­tion of this con­tinu­ing quo­tidian warfare.

For any­one who has not suc­cumbed to Zion­ist pro­pa­ganda, it is a known fact that when rock­ets are fired from Gaza it is always in response to an Israeli attack, espe­cially when this attack is a blatant and poin­ted act of viol­ence given high vis­ib­il­ity by the Israelis. Although Israel had begun pound­ing Gaza on 13 Novem­ber 2012, which appar­ently led to a truce agree­ment being for­mu­lated, the assas­sin­a­tion of Ahmed Jabari on 14 Novem­ber 2012, the head of the Palestinian res­ist­ance forces, was executed in order to jus­tify full-​scale Israeli war­fare. High vis­ib­il­ity in this case was the cre­ation of a video of the event uploaded on the web­sites of the Israeli news out­lets so that the view­ers could enjoy a repeat per­form­ance! The reason for this latest attack is given on the Israel Defense Forces [sic] web blog:

On Novem­ber 14, the IDF embarked on Oper­a­tion Pil­lar of Defense[sic], meant to defend Israel’s civil­ians from the incess­ant rocket fire they’ve suffered dur­ing the past 12 years, and cripple the ter­ror organ­iz­a­tions in the Gaza Strip.

Their Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the name of the mil­it­ary oper­a­tion is inac­cur­ate, and I sus­pect that this is delib­er­ate. The name in Hebrew is ‘Amud Ashan —  Pil­lar of Smoke — a meta­phor cre­ated to eli­cit delib­er­ate com­par­ison in the Israeli mind with the pil­lar of fire and the pil­lar of clouds from the bib­lical story of the Exodus accord­ing to which God led the Chil­dren of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt on their jour­ney to free­dom in the Prom­ised Land! Of neces­sity, this name and this image brings about an inver­sion of the roles of the Israelis and the Palestini­ans: the Israeli aggressor once again becomes the per­se­cuted vic­tim, as per the Exodus story, while the Palestini­ans, immob­il­ized and strangled in the ghetto-​prison of Gaza, enclosed within elec­tri­fied walls and fences, are trans­mog­ri­fied into the pharaonic ter­ror­ists relent­lessly and heart­lessly per­se­cut­ing the inno­cent Israeli vic­tims. This inver­sion involves more than labels: besides invert­ing the moral order and the facts of real­ity, it serves, once again, to rein­force the image of the Palestinian as enemy, as demon, as sub-​human, an entity not entitled to any respect or con­sid­er­a­tion! It is a tried and tested for­mula for dis­tract­ing atten­tion and blame from the real per­pet­rat­ors of death and destruc­tion on to the vic­tims of those acts of aggressions.

Polit­ical assas­sin­a­tion is the spe­cialty du jour of Israel, a praxis adop­ted whole­heartedly by Pres­id­ent Obama and his own per­sonal drone “kill list”. Using murder to delib­er­ately under­mine the polit­ical ech­elon in the hope of weak­en­ing it with respect to the pos­sib­il­ity of polit­ical recu­per­a­tion after a war is an act which viol­ates the third prin­ciple of legit­im­acy of the laws of war — the prin­ciple of chiv­alry — a prin­ciple recog­niz­ing the human­ity of the enemy. The enemy must be treated with respect in order for nor­mal social life to be com­menced or resumed at the end of hostilities.

Clause­witz’ aph­or­ism — that war is a con­tinu­ation of polit­ics — is not descript­ive but pre­script­ive. Nego­ti­ations lead­ing to peace must be the pur­pose of a legit­im­ate war of defense. It is in this light that one should under­stand the inform­a­tion released by Ger­s­hon Baskin, an Israeli polit­ical act­iv­ist, that the Palestinian lead­er­ship in Gaza, includ­ing Ahmed Jabari, had received a draft for a truce agree­ment just hours before his assas­sin­a­tion. It is there­fore obvi­ous that the assas­sin­a­tion was executed for the spe­cific pur­pose of pre­vent­ing such a truce. What this indic­ates, at the very least, is flag­rant bad faith on the part of the Israelis, but more import­antly, it is another instance of pro­voc­at­ive treach­ery, a sub­ject which deserves a sep­ar­ate ana­lysis.

The right to pro­tect human life is abso­lute, even if the means used are con­di­tioned. There­fore, accord­ing to all human norms, nat­ural law, legal norms and inter­na­tional law and jur­is­pru­dence, the Palestini­ans have a legit­im­ate right of response. It must be remembered how­ever, that the Palestini­ans have been denied a state and an accom­pa­ny­ing army by Israel and the United States. There­fore the response avail­able to the Palestini­ans in Gaza is extremely lim­ited and is con­fined to rock­ets fired into Israel. These rock­ets are prim­it­ive weapons and not extremely accur­ate which is why they have been defined as fire­works. But that is all that the Palestini­ans have for their defense. This response is the only avenue open for a soci­ety under mil­it­ary attack to try and force the ces­sa­tion of such an attack when the aggressor will not nego­ti­ate with you in good faith.

The Israelis are proud of the fact that their army is the fourth largest in the world, and as far as they are con­cerned, also the best, the most effect­ive and the most moral! Because of the expo­nen­tially huge dis­pro­por­tion in power between Israel and the Palestini­ans, the Palestini­ans simply can­not afford to react to each and every attack against them. They have to care­fully and pruden­tially weigh their pos­sib­il­it­ies of response which is the reason why the Israelis never have to cease their relent­less attacks of vary­ing intens­ity. But it is also the dis­pro­por­tion­ate attacks by the Israeli army that viol­ate the prin­ciple of pro­por­tion­al­ity under­ly­ing legit­im­ate warfare.

The Right of Res­ist­ance is the Right of Self-​Defense

It can be argued cogently that since the right to self-​determination was delib­er­ately and expli­citly denied the Palestinian people fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Otto­man Empire, with no right or jus­ti­fic­a­tion what­so­ever in the cir­cum­stances, the Palestini­ans are still entitled to demand and fight for such rights. (see endnote).

Instead of free­dom, they were faced with a real­ity of the col­on­iz­a­tion of Palestine by for­eign­ers against the wishes of the local pop­u­la­tion, a col­on­iz­a­tion which ulti­mately led to an expul­sion of nearly 90% of the indi­gen­ous Palestinian pop­u­la­tion cre­at­ing a long-​festering and long-​suffering Palestinian refugee prob­lem. A struggle for self-​determination is legit­im­ate in inter­na­tional law, as it expresses a struggle for free­dom, the basic qual­ity of life neces­sary in order for human beings to be able to ful­fill their poten­tial as indi­vidual per­sons and as social beings. Those who deny such self-​determination are guilty of viol­at­ing that same inter­na­tional law. That this denial of such a right is the case with respect to Palestini­ans can be found in sev­eral let­ters of cor­res­pond­ence of Brit­ish min­is­ters. In a let­ter to the Prime Min­is­ter by Lord Arthur Balfour dated 19th Feb­ru­ary [1919 LB] he states:

… The weak point of our pos­i­tion of course is that in the case of Palestine we delib­er­ately and rightly [sic LB] decline to accept the prin­ciple of self-​determination. If the present inhab­it­ants were con­sul­ted they would unques­tion­ably give an anti-​Jewish ver­dict. Our jus­ti­fic­a­tion for our policy is that we regard Palestine as being abso­lutely excep­tional; that we con­sider the ques­tion of the Jews out­side Palestine as one of world import­ance and that we con­ceive the Jews to have an his­toric claim to a home in their ancient land; provided that home can be given them without either dis­pos­sess­ing or oppress­ing the present inhabitants…

In a later memor­andum addressed to Lord Curzon by Lord Balfour on 11 August 1919 a sim­ilar notion is repeated:

… The con­tra­dic­tion between the let­ters of the Cov­en­ant [League of Nations Cov­en­ant LB] and the Policy of the Allies is even more flag­rant in the case of the ‘inde­pend­ent nation’ of Palestine than in that of the ‘inde­pend­ent nation’ of Syria. For in Palestine we do not pro­pose even to go through the form of con­sult­ing the wishes of the present inhab­it­ants of the coun­try, though the Amer­ican Com­mis­sion has been going through the form of ask­ing what they are.

The Four Great Powers are com­mit­ted to Zion­ism. And Zion­ism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-​long tra­di­tions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far pro­founder import than the desires and pre­ju­dices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.

In my opin­ion that is right. What I have never been able to under­stand is how it can be har­mon­ized with the declar­a­tion [Anglo-​French of Novem­ber 1918], the Cov­en­ant or the instruc­tions to the Com­mis­sion of Enquiry.

I do not think that Zion­ism will hurt the Arabs, but they will never say they want it. Whatever be the future of Palestine it is not now an ‘inde­pend­ent nation,’ nor is it yet on the way to become one. Whatever defer­ence should be paid to the views of those liv­ing there, the Powers in their selec­tion of a man­dat­ory do not pro­pose, as I under­stand the mat­ter, to con­sult them. In short, so far as Palestine is con­cerned, the Powers have made no declar­a­tion of policy which, at least in the let­ter, they have not always inten­ded to violate…

(Doreen Ingrams, Palestine Papers 1917 – 1922 Seeds of Con­flict [Lon­don 1972] pp. 61 and 73).

Des­pite the Great Powers flag­rant denial of Palestinian rights at the time, such denial did not and does not give rise to either their loss or their fall­ing into desu­et­ude. As long as a people wish to real­ize such rights, they have the right to demand their real­iz­a­tion. The Palestini­ans never relin­quished these rights, although they have made innu­mer­able attempts to reach a modus vivendi with the Zion­ist state. Their accom­mod­a­tion has been rejec­ted for the very reason that a com­prom­ise and shared con­domin­ium in Palestine is not part of the Zion­ist pro­gram and never was.

We could there­fore come to the fol­low­ing con­clu­sion at this point. The Palestini­ans have the right to res­ist on sev­eral grounds. Firstly in response to the Israeli pro­voca­tion in the form of the assas­sin­a­tion of Ahmed Jabari . (We can ima­gine an Israeli response to an assas­sin­a­tion of Ehud Barak or any other min­is­ter). Secondly they have the right of res­ist­ance to the actual dec­ades long Israeli gen­o­cidal con­trol over Gaza which is bring­ing about the actual phys­ical demise of the pop­u­la­tion which exhib­its a gen­eral level of ill-​health attrib­ut­able dir­ectly to the Israeli strangle­hold over the ter­rit­ory. Thirdly, they have the right of res­ist­ance against the con­tinu­ing incur­sions, raids, arrests, impris­on­ments, and sup­pres­sion of eco­nomic activ­ity in the West Bank/​East Jer­u­s­alem. And fourthly, the actual fact of their being for­cibly denied their polit­ical rights jus­ti­fies resistance.

So why are the Palestini­ans in gen­eral, and Hamas in par­tic­u­lar, depic­ted as Terrorists?

The term ‘ter­ror­ist’ is not a legal term and has no legal ref­er­ence. It has been man­u­fac­tured in order to bypass the lim­it­a­tions that inter­na­tional law imposes with respect to the man­ner of deal­ing with an adversary. It is used to demon­ize those people who do not agree with the US/​Israel/​European hege­monic demand and rule of the world and it is espe­cially used in order to deny such people the right of res­ist­ance, the right to struggle as free­dom fight­ers. It is this ter­min­o­logy which has cre­ated such con­fu­sion and dis­crep­ancy in the gen­eral public’s under­stand­ing with respect to the real­ity in Palestine and the actual state of affairs that pre­vails there. But we may ask the fur­ther ques­tion as to why Palestini­ans are seen in the West as “ter­ror­ists” and intransigent mur­der­ers, a people who under­stand only viol­ence and not peace.

In order to under­stand this conun­drum, it is neces­sary to under­stand the nature of Amer­ican soci­ety in par­tic­u­lar, and its mech­an­isms of con­trol. The United States is a cap­it­al­ist soci­ety in which power is exer­cised by the financial-​media-​military-​industrial com­plex. A main source of cap­it­al­ist exploit­a­tion is the oil depos­its in the Middle East, its refine­ment and dis­tri­bu­tion to the rest of the world. It is a sine qua non for the con­trolling cap­it­al­ist elite that it con­trols these resources and their dis­pos­i­tion. Such con­trol is not in the interests of the local pop­u­la­tions of the ter­rit­or­ies in which the oil is depos­ited, who are nearly all Muslims.

In order to min­im­ize, if not elim­in­ate, the crit­ics and cri­tiques of cap­it­al­ist exploit­a­tion, the United States uses the media to manip­u­late the minds of its pop­u­la­tion, as Pro­fess­ors Noam Chom­sky and Edward Her­man explained in their book Man­u­fac­tur­ing Con­sent. How­ever, since the second Bush admin­is­tra­tion, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secur­ity (DHS) — a title straight out of George Orwell’s 1984 — was formed to exer­cise fur­ther con­trol over the pop­u­la­tion through the use of poli­cing power. The events of 9/​11 have been exploited expo­nen­tially by both the media and the DHS towards the demon­iz­a­tion of Islam and Muslims, and Palestini­ans auto­mat­ic­ally fall into this cat­egory. All are deemed to be ter­ror­ists or poten­tial ter­ror­ists, and there­fore they are, by defin­i­tion, the enemy. The level of pro­pa­ganda gen­er­ated by the media branch of this com­plex, to which the pop­u­la­tions in the West are sub­ject, in par­tic­u­lar in the United States and Israel, has brain­washed the pop­u­la­tion into an auto­matic neg­at­ive response to all Muslims, Palestini­ans included.

The Muslims as ter­ror­ist, Islam as a reli­gion of viol­ence and hatred, the Jew as eternal vic­tim, the Holo­caust as a unique his­tor­ical event, the unique­ness of which is echoed in the polit­ical mani­festo of ‘mani­fest des­tiny’ and ‘excep­tion­al­ism’ of the United States of Amer­ica, the ‘good guys” of World Wars I and II, con­sti­tutes the cur­rent pro­pa­ganda pas­tiche determ­in­ing the lim­its of polit­ic­ally cor­rect dis­course. Any cri­ti­cism against Israel is auto­mat­ic­ally trans­lated into anti-​Semitism and cri­ti­cism of the United States is unpat­ri­otic or even treason.

The Palestinian polit­ical party of Hamas is on the ter­ror­ist list in the US and sev­eral Muslims have been con­victed and imprisoned for exten­ded peri­ods, in one case for more than twenty years, for the crime of aid­ing and abet­ting ter­ror­ists by send­ing human­it­arian aid to Palestine. Israel has never ceased to refer to Palestini­ans as ter­ror­ists and treats them as such accord­ingly. As men­tioned earlier, it has broken and/​or under­mined all its agree­ments with the Palestini­ans, the most egre­gious viol­a­tion being the con­tinu­ation of the build­ing of Jew­ish set­tle­ments in the West Bank conquered in 1967, becom­ing a col­on­iz­ing power, which is in dir­ect viol­a­tion of inter­na­tional law. In addi­tion, Israel has viol­ated all United Nations Res­ol­u­tions but is pro­tec­ted by the US veto, thus provid­ing it with a long leash to do what it wants in Palestine. The real­ity of Israeli force, the real­ity of its illeg­al­it­ies con­sti­tutes a viol­a­tion of both the moral and the legal order. It is known by both Israel and the US and there­fore there is such vicious con­tinu­ing pro­pa­ganda against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians.

There can be little doubt that there is no easy solu­tion for the Palestini­ans. Des­pite their rights de iure as well as de facto and their legit­im­ate res­ist­ance and struggle and the use of weapons that do not come up to the min­imum stand­ards of a mod­ern army, it is only the vic­tim­ized people of the world who under­stand their plight together with those com­ing from the West who are termed rad­ic­als. At this junc­ture in his­tory the people have no power, but it behooves us to con­tinue the struggle for free­dom and justice in any way we can, without des­troy­ing the planet, as our friends the cap­it­al­ists are doing. If, how­ever, there is one iron law of life and exist­ence, which must sus­tain our hope and energy, it is that all insti­tu­tions, all powers, ulti­mately col­lapse because everything is chan­ging and tem­por­ary in our con­tin­gent world. Situ­ations can­not help but change. When such a change comes in the dis­tri­bu­tion of power, we should be ready to insti­tute a reign of justice and peace for the well-​being of all of mankind.

End note

The entire enter­prise of a Jew­ish state in Palestine is built upon an express rejec­tion of inter­na­tional law.

The only legit­im­ate grounds for polit­ical sov­er­eignty of an indi­gen­ous people are the laws of ius soli or ius san­guine as recog­nized in inter­na­tional law, which trans­lates into a right of sov­er­eignty based upon hab­it­a­tion in a par­tic­u­lar ter­rit­ory or being a des­cend­ent of someone in a par­tic­u­lar ter­rit­ory. The third option grant­ing a right to sov­er­eignty would be the dis­cov­ery of a terra nul­lius that is an unin­hab­ited ter­rit­ory. Palestine was never a terra nul­lius, and its inhab­it­ants were entitled to a sov­er­eign state in Palestine as part of Greater Syria, if they so chose, accord­ing to the ius soli fol­low­ing the demise of the Otto­man Empire at the end of World War I in 1917 and 1918. If their chil­dren were out of the coun­try at the time of its estab­lish­ment at a par­tic­u­lar time, then they would be gran­ted cit­izen­ship on the grounds of the ius san­guine if they had not been born in Palestine or Greater Syria.

European Jewry did not ful­fill either of these qual­i­fic­a­tions in 1917, when the Balfour Declar­a­tion, a doc­u­ment pre­pared by inter­na­tional Jew­ish lead­er­ship, and addressed by Lord Arthur Balfour, the United Kingdom’s For­eign sec­ret­ary at the time, to Lord Wal­ter Roth­schild, a scion of the lead­ing Jew­ish bank­ing fam­ily in the world, res­id­ent in Eng­land, was writ­ten sup­port­ing a Jew­ish home­land [sic] in Palestine.

The carving up of his­tor­ical Palestine to excise the bulk of its ter­rit­ory for an impor­ted unequi­voc­ally for­eign pop­u­la­tion at the expense of the indi­gen­ous soci­ety was recog­nized not to be a polit­ic­ally legit­im­ate action. Its destruct­ive con­sequences should have been obvi­ous a pri­ori, and his­tory has proved such expect­a­tion accur­ate. Such an excision has harmed the indi­gen­ous pop­u­la­tion in every and all aspects of its life: polit­ical, eco­nomic, social, edu­ca­tional, cul­tural, reli­gious, his­tor­ical and geo­graph­ical. The destruc­tion of Palestine, the expul­sion of the over­whelm­ing major­ity of its pop­u­la­tion and the delib­er­ate and con­tinu­ing gen­o­cidal attacks on the remain­ing pop­u­la­tion liv­ing under Jew­ish con­quest, only high­lights the ille­git­im­acy of the Jew­ish pres­ence and its con­tinu­ing aggres­sion against the Palestinians.

Lynda Burstein Brayer, a gradu­ate of the Hebrew Uni­ver­sity of Jer­u­s­alem Fac­ulty of Law, is a rad­ical polit­ical and legal com­ment­ator who prac­ticed human rights law in Palestine/​Israel rep­res­ent­ing Palestini­ans in their struggles against house demoli­tions, land theft, and fam­ily destruc­tion and in their efforts to obtain travel per­mits for health, study and fam­ily reas­ons. She lives in Haifa and can be reached at lyndabrayer@​ymail.​com

Lynda will be pleased to respond to any com­ments and quer­ies via the com­ments sec­tion below.



For who does not understand the need or concept of the lawful right as stipulated in International Law of resistance regarding occupied Palestine, recommended reads:




For continuous insight bookmark the following two pages which are live updates 24/7 regarding all Israeli attacks, assaults and violations of Palestinians and their rights, violent and non violent by policies.

All Israeli Attacks Timeline | All Israeli cease Fire Violations - Timeline



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