Human rights activists regularly demand Israel abide by international law in vain. Noura Erakat’s “Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine” gave me a clear view of what enables the ongoing catastrophe in my family’s homeland and what it might take to revitalize our movement for liberation.
If you are beginning your research on the question of Palestine, this piece of literature is a perfect place to begin. Erakat, a human rights attorney, lays out the history of the issue in chronological order and argues that “the rule of law is not synonymous with justice.”
Throughout the book, Erakat cites several examples of how Israeli objectives, “then and now are the same: to achieve and maintain a Jewish demographic majority and also to acquire the greatest amount of land with the fewest possible number of Palestinians on it.” But most importantly, she demonstrates how civil law in Israel, administrative law and martial law in East Jerusalem, martial law in the West Bank, and all out warfare in Gaza is used to help Israel commit all of its atrocities against Palestinians unscathed.
In her text, Erakat critiques United Nation resolutions that in theory should have protected Palestinians’ rights to self determination, but instead allowed Israel to poach more Palestinian land. For example, Israel was able to manipulate Security Council Resolution 242 to justify its colonial project. According to Israel’s interpretation of the resolution, it does not have an obligation to return all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but instead could exchange a fraction of the land for peace and its security needs would dictate which lands are returned.
By the time you reach Erakat’s conclusion, your naivety surrounding international law will be shattered. People with limited knowledge on the plight of the Palestinians, will no longer look to using international law as a clear solution to the problem. As Erakat explained early in the text, “the casual observer may attribute injustice to a failure of law or to its nonexistence and thus prescribe more law, better law, and/or stricter adherence to law as the requisite corrective.” But as she eloquently proves in clear terms, law’s “malleability” often interferes with its ability to create a fair outcome. This is why she refuses to offer another legal framework as a solution.
“Justice for Some” is a must read for anyone seeking to understand what led to the occupation of Palestine, and what continues to give it life. Published by Stanford University Press, you can order a copy of Erakat’s book here.