Thursday, June 21, 2012

John Quigley On "The Wall"

Hey, you know what's really missing on the Huffington Post? Criticism of Israel's policies! Fortunately the Huffington Post recruited a brand new blogger named John Quigley. And you know that he's an objective critic because of the books that he has written: The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and The Six-Day War and Israeli Self-Defense: Questioning the Legal Basis for Preventive War. So as you might expect, his article is very heavy on lawfare and aimed entirely at Israel. So while people die in Syria, the Huffington Post is commissioning more bloggers to whine about (a) settlements and (b) the security barrier. Let's get right into it.

Throughout the entire article Prof Quigley refers to the security barrier as a "wall," even though all sources agree that at most 10% of the barrier is in fact a wall. So right away we see a preference for spectacle over substance, and that continues as he moves to the ICJ:
"The International Court of Justice (ICJ) made that statement in the course of a formal opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall, issued at the request of the UN General Assembly. In no uncertain terms, the Court said that the wall must come down."
What I am most interested in is this last section. Did the court say that "the wall must come down?" No, they did not. Richard Falk, 9/11 Truther and known Israel hater did. And he said it five years after the ICJ made their ruling. At least, this is according to Professor Quigley's own link. Now if Professor Quigley had meant that the Court implied that the fence must go and linked to Richard Falk to back this up, that's one thing. But it involves misleading his audience and putting words in the mouth of the Court (who had a problem mostly with the location of the fence, if I recall correctly). Which is also dishonest and deserves criticism.

For the next couple paragraphs he wanders into general complaining about about whether the West Bank is occupied vs disputed, before coming back to his favorite subject. Read the whole section even though it's long, because it's important:
"The ICJ's opinion is dismissed by the Israeli Government on the grounds that it is only "advisory," therefore not binding. This is technically true. Israel has taken care not to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the Court in a way that would allow other states to sue it over what it does in the West Bank. The Court's decision could be issued only via another route, a request by the UN General Assembly for an advisory opinion. While the decision does not bind Israel in a formal sense, it reflects the opinion of the world's leading judicial body that the law requires the dismantling of the wall."
Again, the most important bit at the end, because Professor Quigley is wrong on multiple levels. As he himself admits, nothing the ICJ says or does "requires" anyone to do anything. If that isn't what it means, then don't use the word. Secondly, as biased and weak as the ICJ's opinion was (and it was) it still doesn't say what Professor Quigley wished it did. The ICJ never said that "the law requires the dismantling" of the security barrier. It only said that its presence on "Palestinian territory" was illegal. Read the actual opinion and you will find that they are very careful to say "wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory" as opposed to just a "wall." A country building a wall/fence on its own territory never has been and never will be illegal.

Too long, didn't read version: The ICJ has only ever had a problem with the location of the fence. Not the fence itself. And as a professor of law, Professor Quigley ought to be aware that details matter. Which is why his claim that "the wall must be dismantled" is so dishonest. According to the ICJ, it doesn't need to be dismantled. Only moved.

Having attempting to build a column on a sound foundation, he then makes massive strides into uncharted territory. Emphasis mine:
"The Court was not asked broader questions, like the legality of the occupation itself, or whether Israel has any lawful basis for its military presence in the West Bank. The answers could only have been devastating to the Israeli Government and to its ally, the United States. Since June 5, 1967, the United States has concealed its knowledge that Israel attacked Egypt on that day with no legal cause. In the war that followed, Israel seized the West Bank when Jordan came to Egypt's defense. Israel's control of the West Bank is thus the product of aggression."

Obvious question time: If the USA has concealed this, then how do you know about it? It's the same problem as the ancient castle that holds a monster inside, from which no one has ever returned. If no one has ever returned, how do you know there's a monster inside?

Anyway, if Professor Quigley would like to make the case that Israel's preemptive strike against Egypt was somehow illegal, he's welcome to do so. However, that would require more than the usual circular logic of declaring his opinion to be fact and moving on (a very common tactic among Huffington Post bloggers). And in fact the sole arbiter of international law, the UNSC, didn't bother to mention this when they weighed in at the end of the Six Day War. So maybe Professor Quigley is correct, but if so he has yet to prove it adequately, so I see no reason to listen to him.

That's basically it, to be honest. Another Huffington Post blogger repeating the same tired arguments, with just enough new stuff there to hold our attention. But then again, what do you expect from a professor at Ohio State?

That's right. I went there.


  1. "No legal basis for the Six Day War"...
    Humm, so the removal by Nasser of the UN Peace Keeping forces along the border between Israel and Egypt, in May 1967, wasn't Casus Belli enough for Mr. Quigley?
    What about the closure of the Tiran straits, in that very month(May, 1967), a clear violation of international law, recognized as such by the UNSC, but one that could've suffocated Israel economically(since no one was willing to help Israel, at the time)?
    What about repeated Fedayeen attacks, from Egypt(Gaza Strip) and the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, killing scores of Israelis, from 1956-1967?
    I guess in Quigley's imaginary world, none of those things existed. Fortunately, honest intellectual assessment of the facts would cosign Quigley where he belongs: a mental institution.

  2. Anonymous:
    Quig-o actually DID cite the Tiran Straits as a defense of EGYPT's actions in 1967. He argued that Egypt had every right to close the Straits and that Israel's rightful response under international law was to say thank you and ask Cairo to hit them in the face again (almost as unbelievably, the British government took the lead in telling Jerusalem to learn to live with the Egypt-Syria balance of power). So his comments here aren't surprising, even if the fact that someone this myopic/stupid being a professor of anything is.

  3. You might find this useful the next time someone calls Israel the aggressor in ’67. The Soviets tried repeatedly and failed to get that in a resolution.

    UNGA Discussions from Friday, 14 July 1967

    My two favourite paragraphs
    “66. I refer especially to the charges repeated this morning and this afternoon by the representatives of Bulgaria and the Byelorussian SSR and others who have spoken of Israel aggression. Here is a State which was encircled, blockaded and openly threatened with extermination, which was in a situation in which. multitudes throughout the world thought that its days were numbered, which defended itself successfully. Israel is now denounced for having refused to die.”
    “67. The question whether Israel is an aggressor is not even an open question in the viewpoint of the United Nations organs, for twice-once in the Security Council [1360th meeting] and once in the General Assembly [1548th meeting]-has this question been put, and on both occasions this monstrous charge of Israel aggression has been overwhelmingly rejected by the majority of Member States.”
    The UNISPAL site is AWESOME BTW if you want original documents.

    And this is from a renowned international jurist Julius Stone, it’s mainly on Article 49 of GCIV

    Also this is the best article of the week:
    The Cold War’s Arab Spring
    Stolen Kremlin records show how the Soviets, including Gorbachev, created many of today’s Middle East conflicts


Hey guys we've started to employ a slight comment policy. We used to have completely open comments but then people abused it. So our comment policy is such: No obvious trolling or spamming. And be warned: unlike the Huffington Post we actually enforce our comment policy.