Even though the world agenda has focused on the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Ukrainian crisis, the Gaza question has lost priority even though a solution is still a long way away. Moreover, international institutions only exacerbate the deadlock, as there is a harmful and distorted assumption, whether consciously or unconsciously, that Israel has a "right to exist." However, this assumption becomes a topic of discussion the moment Israel's political choices, which fall into the category of "crime against humanity," are legitimized under the guise of its right to exist.
Israel's right to exist should undisputedly be accepted. However, this right is not different from of any other country's right to exist, whether it is Mozambique or Germany. Just as Germany's right to exist does not give it the right to attack or occupy Poland or any other country; Israel's right to exist does not give it the right to invade the Palestinian territory in legal terms.
When the concept of Israel's right to exist is used to legitimize its actions, it becomes a trouble spot. In this sense, Israel, in its own perspective, may attribute a special meaning to this concept. It may also believe that the right to exist should have a special meaning due to its 2,000-year history which is full of exiles, exclusion and genocide; and it is not that unfair at all. In this sense, it is possible to say that Israel has a moral demand; however, its addressee is neither the Islamic world nor the Palestinians. It should acknowledge the actual perpetrators of this exile, exclusion and genocide, instead of being consumed with occupying Gaza.
One of the most important indicators of civilization is the principle of "individual criminal responsibility" (nulla poena sine culpa). Israel can defend itself through this principle against the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany in particular. It can request for the right to exist from those who are against its historical victimization. In the case that Israel's request is not answered, some meaning can be attributed to the fact that Israel takes further steps to legitimize its political violence.
Nevertheless, this moral demand cannot be used as a pretext to attack the Palestinians who have nothing to do with their exile, solitude and genocide. If Israel resorts to violence as a solution, it can also be legitimized in the same category if the white people, who were exposed to religious discrimination in Europe, go to the Americas and resort to an armed cleansing against the natives with the demand of the right to exist.
Today, nobody discusses the U.S.' right to exist despite the Indian massacre and the U.S. does not regard reactions against its imperialist politics as an objection against its right to exist. On the contrary, it knows that this is a conflict between the "U.S.'s interests" and that country's "struggle to exist independently from the U.S."
The same goes for Israel. Israel cannot associate its right to exist with its operations that are conducted outside its borders, which were drawn in 1967. This illegitimate occupation entails a legitimate resistance of the other party. There are legitimate lines of resistance which are determined by international law. In this context, the violence inflicted on civilian people and attacks conducted outside the 1967 borders are not legitimate either. Therefore, resistance movements that are conducted against Israel in the Palestinian enclave are not denial of Israel's right to exist, but rather a struggle to defend its own existence.
Under these circumstances, it is obvious that the U.N. falls short of discharging its moral and legal responsibility, which it assumes in the rest of the world – albeit rather insufficient – when it comes to the Palestinian question.
Soon we will mark the 70th anniversary of the U.N.'s establishment. However, it is very difficult to approve of this silence and passivity on the Palestinian question, while the first two Articles of the Charter of the U.N. are dedicated to maintain universal peace and security and to develop friendly relations on the principle of equal rights.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.