By JEREMY SCAHILL article The charter of human rights has been a source of conflict between Israel and the United States for nearly a century, and its origins are often shrouded in mystery.
In the 1960s, the United Nations, a non-governmental body, proposed that the charter of the International Criminal Court (ICC) be changed to include a prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Since then, the charter has been used to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and to justify the killing of civilians in the West Bank.
But when Israel’s current president, Benjamin Netanyahu, signed the charter into law in January, he was doing so with the explicit intent to change it.
In an interview with a local radio station, Netanyahu said that the new charter would bring Israel “into compliance with international law and international law has never demanded Israel adopt a policy of war.”
The Israeli president’s announcement came as a shock to many who had been anticipating his decision to move forward with the changes.
The changes, which took effect on January 6, were intended to be temporary, but they were immediately challenged by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and, later, by human rights groups.
Palestinians argued that the changes would violate international law, as well as Israeli law and Palestinian sovereignty, by transferring the charter’s protection to the Israeli military.
“The charter itself is not a declaration of war, it is not an instrument of state, and it is clearly not a treaty of peace,” said Ahmed Qusai, the head of the Palestinian legal center and the PNA’s spokesperson.
“But this was a decision to bring Israel into compliance with the law of war and not to take a decision based on international law.”
In an effort to find a way to reconcile Israel’s new policies with international legal principles, Amnesty International, the Middle East and North Africa Program, and others have pushed for the charter to be revised to explicitly refer to the Palestinian state and to explicitly state that the Palestinian people are entitled to the rights set out in the charter.
Amnesty and other organizations have also lobbied the UN for more robust protections for Palestinian rights in the context of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West, and for the creation of a Palestinian state with borders of land, waters, and airspace.
But the charter changes have faced stiff resistance in the United State, where some Republican lawmakers, including Sens.
Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, have repeatedly expressed reservations about the changes, as has the U.S. State Department.
Some of these concerns, however, are not rooted in the actual policy changes but rather in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself.
“Israel’s policies towards Palestinians and Palestinians in general are inconsistent with the United Nation’s Charter of Principles on Human Rights and International Law, and therefore inconsistent with our national interest,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.
“That is why we have repeatedly called for a resolution of this conflict through negotiation, direct negotiations, and a two-state solution.”
However, some of Israel the United Sates most powerful allies in Congress, like Sens.
John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Cory Booker, have also called for more restrictive Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.
“I think that Israel has made it clear that they do not want to have a peace agreement,” McCain told Al Jazeera.
“They don’t want to be a partner of the United Kingdom, for example, or the United Arab Emirates.
They’re very much against that.”
But these calls have failed to convince Israel, which has used every means possible to undermine the peace process.
The Israeli government has pushed to make the charter an impediment to any peace deal.
In February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview that he would not be willing to accept any Palestinian state that is based on the 1967 borders, as that would violate the charter and threaten Israel’s security.
The Palestinians have been deeply skeptical of this argument, arguing that the 1967 lines are merely a temporary boundary between Israel’s “sovereign” territories and the Palestinian territories in the Gaza Strip.
“As long as they maintain this illusion that they’re on the right side of history, Israel will continue to ignore its obligations under international law,” Qusair said.
The United States has been more willing to put pressure on Israel, but not to the extent of demanding that Israel change its policy.
In a speech at the Brookings Institution in June, Obama argued that Israel had the right to protect itself, and that Israel’s policy of settlement expansion would be counterproductive.
“We will not accept Israel’s claim that the only legitimate place for the Jewish people is in their land, even if that means accepting their occupation of Palestine,” Obama said.
“There are legitimate reasons why Israelis might prefer to continue building settlements and settlements along the Jordan River, or along the borders of the occupied Palestinian territories.”
This strategy has paid off for the United Congress, where it has been able to push for more restrictions on Israel’s expansion