The Guardian • Issue #2085


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2085

Among the many aspects of Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians is the claim by Israel that resistance forces such as Hamas will not acknowledge Israel’s ‘right to exist.’ The criteria for statehood are laid out in the 1933 Montevideo Convention, namely: a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and capacity to enter into relations with other states. While Israel is a state and has been recognised as such by many other states, it should not be forgotten that there is a fundamental distinction between the act of recognising a state and the mere fact of being of a state, or a state’s ‘right to existence.’

Recognition of a state is accorded under international law by way of two processes, namely recognition on the basis of objective criteria and explicit recognition by other states. Explicit recognition is not necessary if the first factors (criteria for statehood) exist, though it obviously carries political significance.

This was illustrated by the Peoples Republic of China, a state of considerable size and stature, whose recognition was blocked by Western powers led by the US, so that China was only able to join the UN in 1971.

Many states, members of the UN, have also refused to recognise Israel, or have withdrawn diplomatic relations, for political reasons. In 1975 the UN General Assembly approved a resolution declaring Zionism “a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

Recognised ‘existence’ carries with it many obligations, including the obligation to treat the inhabitants of territories under its control (occupied or otherwise) in accordance with human rights and humanitarian law. This includes respect for the rights of minorities, no discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or national origin and full and equal participation of all its citizens.

Further, a ‘right to existence’ for a state is not an esoteric right; it must materialise within a clearly defined territory. Although this ‘right to existence’ is intrinsically connected with the issue of borders, the fact is that the borders of Israel remain undefined.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: Serco, the company given control of the NDIS. Serco started life in 1929 as the British division of the Radio Corporation of America. It was eventually listed on the stock exchange, and began its inexorable rise as a result of the Blair government’s privatisation binge. It has not looked back. It runs prisons in the UK and the US. It runs border security services and is building military hospitals in Germany. It offers an ‘information management system’ to upload all the data required by the British government’s name-and-shame school reporting system. It runs Britain’s Skynet military communications network. It even runs buses in Adelaide.

The secret to Serco’s success is no secret. It steps in to administer services for governments wanting to downsize and ultimately abandon their social functions. Savings are achieved by skimping on standards and safety, and by screwing workers. This is the company that was chosen to manage the Villawood immigration detention centre which in response to rooftop protests, placed protestors in maximum-security isolation as punishment, sparking a hunger strike. The NDIS was set up to fail.

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