Israel's Associated Regime: Exceptionalism, Human Rights and Alternative Legality

Author:Federica D'Alessandra
Position:Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, United States
Pages:30-46
Federica D’Alessandra, ‘Israel’s Associated Regime: Exceptionalism,
Human Rights and Alternative Legality’ (2014) 30(79) Utrecht
Journal of International and European Law 30, DOI: http://dx.doi.
org/10.5334/ujiel.cm
Introduction
‘The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened’. John F.
Kennedy
The Israeli government is criticised by most of the international community for widespread human rights vio-
lations that take place in the territories under its control.1 To justify its policies, Israel has cited a permanent
1 In 2013, the UN adopted 21 resolutions against Israel, of which 17 relative specifically to the Palestinian situation, (the rest took a
broader look at the Syria situation). Among these resolutions: UN General Assembly, Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people
in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their
natural resources, UN Doc. A/C.2/68/L.27; UN General Assembly, The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, UN Doc.
A/C.3/68/L.68; UN General Assembly, Assistance to Palestine refugees, UN Doc. A/RES/68/76; UNGA, Persons displaced as a result
of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities, UN Doc. A/RES/68/77; UNGA, Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UN Doc. A/RES/68/78; UNGA, Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues, UN Doc. A/
RES/68/79, UNGA, Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People
and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, UN Doc. A/RES/68/80, which ‘Deplores those policies and practices of Israel that
violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories’, receiving votes in favor, 8 against,
and 73 abstentions, and: UN General Assembly, Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in
Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territo-
ries, UN Doc. A/RES/68/81, and many others available at: 3/11/25/this-years-22-unga-
resolutions-against-israel-4-on-rest-of-world/>, all accessed on March 4, 2014.
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Israel’s Associated Regime: Exceptionalism, Human
Rights and Alternative Legality
Federica D’Alessandra1
1 Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, United States
federica_dalessandra@hks.harvard.edu
UTRECHT JOURNAL OF
INTERNATIONAL AND EUROPEAN LAW
Keywords: Israel; Occupied Palestinian Territories; Palestine; Arab; occupation; Human Rights;
Right to Life; Humanitarian Law; distinction; military necessity; proportionality
In the context of Israel’s declared permanent state of exception, this article focuses on the
legal protection awarded to the Palestinian populations under Israeli control. To broaden the
discussion over Palestinian people’s rights, which generally focuses on the conscation of land
and the right to return, the author consciously focuses on anti-terrorism and security meas-
ures, which contribute to the creation of what the International Court of Justice has dened
as an ‘associated regime’ of occupation. The article is divided into three parts. In the rst
part, the author discusses Israel’s domestic obligations towards Palestinians (arguing the case
of both Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Palestinian residents) and their
de jure
and
de facto
discrimination. The second part discusses the applicability of humanitarian law, specically the
applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This section discusses the applicability of the
Convention to both territories and people under Israeli control. The third part discusses the
applicability of international human rights law to all territories under Israeli control and delves
into the issue of the mutual relationship between the two international legal regimes in the
territories under occupation. The article posits that Israel’s rationale for the non-applicability
of such legislation to the Palestinian territories and populations it controls constitutes a form
of ‘alternative legality’. The article concludes that Israel’s disproportionate application of secu-
rity practices and anti-terrorism measures to the Palestinian segment of its population violates
Palestinian rights protected under Israel’s domestic and international legal obligations.
D’Alessandra 31
state of exception2 and adopted a logic of ‘alternative legality’ that sees the application of human rights
law valid only for its Jewish population, while Palestinians under Israeli control are kept under a regime of
curtailment.3 Israeli municipal law distinguishes between the notions of ‘citizenship’ and ‘nationality’; such
that ‘Jewish nationals’ of Israel receive preferred treatment over non-Jewish citizens. The treatment of non-
Jewish citizens further differs according to residence rights, which change frequently following settlement
expansion and military regulations. Existing literature on Palestinian people’s rights mostly focuses on land
dispossession and issues of refugees’ ability to return. In an effort to broaden the conversation, the author
of this article consciously focuses on anti-terrorism and security measures, which contribute to the creation
of what the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has defined as an ‘associated regime’ of occupation.
Palestinian people’s rights to life and freedom of the person are constantly under attack by means of retal-
iatory actions and counter-terrorism incursions, which often lead to targeted assassinations and administra-
tive detentions.4 These practices contravene Israel’s laws on the sanctity of life and freedom from arbitrary
searches. Likewise, the Israeli occupation’s barricades and checkpoints prevent the Palestinian population
from the enjoyment of the very same rights Israel protects for its Jewish population: the right to an edu-
cation; the right to health; the right to water and sanitation; the right to freedom of profession; the right
to dignity; and, most importantly, the right to the security of the person. Besides violating fundamental
rights enshrined in Israel’s municipal law, these violations contravene Israel’s international legal obliga-
tions. While admitting the applicability of humanitarian law to the territories under military occupation,
Israel’s position of exceptionalism denies that the Fourth Geneva Convention is applicable. Most impor-
tantly, Israel denies its responsibility under international human rights instruments in the territories under
occupation, advocating a separation of applicable legislation.5 After discussing the issue of human rights
protected under Israeli municipal law, the article deals with the applicability of international legal instru-
ments. Positing that both human rights and humanitarian law are applicable to the people and territories
under Israeli control, this article aims to expose the invalidity of Israel’s position concerning its domestic
and international legal obligation.
1. On the Application of Domestic Legislation to the Territory of the State of
Israel
1.1. Human Rights in Israel and the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty
Israeli national law recognises the value of man, the sanctity of his life and individual freedom.6 The Basic
Law on Human Dignity and Liberty (Basic Law) is Israel’s domestic provision that protects human rights at
the highest level of legislation. The Knesset (the legislative branch of the Israeli government) gave it ‘super-
legal status’, giving Israeli courts the authority to disqualify any law contradicting it at any lower level.7
Among the rights protected there are the following: the right to life; the right to property; the right to pri-
vacy and intimacy; the freedom to leave and enter the country; and the freedom from arbitrary searches of
the person and private premises.8 Despite the fact that several cardinal human rights are missing from the
document (the right to equality, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion and the freedom of protest,
to name a few), the Basic Law’s protection is interpreted as extending beyond its text. Some jurists, such as
former President of The Supreme Court of Israel Aharon Barak, see these rights as directly derived from the
right to dignity protected in the Basic Law under Sections 2 and 4 (respectively, ‘preservation’ and ‘protection
2 For a comprehensive discussion of Israel’s constant state of exception, see: Shaid M. Alam, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing
Logic of Zionism (Palgrave Macmillan 2010). The author prefers the use of the expression ‘alternative legality’ to the more general
term ‘exceptionalism’ because she believes the expression translates more figuratively the arbitrary nature of Israel’s position con-
cerning the application of the legislative norms discussed herein.
3 UN General Assembly, Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities, UN Doc. A/RES/68/77, UNGA,
Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues, UN Doc. A/RES/68/79, UNGA, Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli
Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, UN Doc. A/RES/68/80,
and others (n 1).
4 Administrative detention is the arrest and detention of individuals by the state without trial, usually for security reasons. The legal
basis for Israel’s use of administrative detention is the British Mandate 1945 Law on Authority in States of Emergency as amended
in 1979, see: Amnesty International ‘Administrative Detention in Israel/Occupied Territories’[1978] 32 Middle East Journal 3, 337.
5 From which the term ‘alternative legality’.
6 Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty 1948, Israel
Dignity_and_Liberty.html?MFAH00hi0>. Retrieved April 20, 2013; the full text of the law can be found on the Israeli Knesset’s
website .
7 Basic Law: Human Dignity (n 6) sec 8, 12.
8 Ibid sec. 2-7.

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