by Stephen Lendman
Israel wants it all. For decades, it's been systematically stealing Palestinian land and resources.
Al Haq's new report provides more evidence. Titled "Pillage of the Dead Sea: Israel's Unlawful Exploitation of Natural Resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," it details grand theft and war crimes. They benefit Jews by harming Palestinians. More on it below.
Yesh Din defends Palestinian human rights. It exposes Israeli abuses. It champions long denied accountability.
In March 2009, it petitioned Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ). It wants lawless West Bank mining operations stopped. Israel and 11 Israeli corporations steal Palestinian resources rightfully theirs. It demanded all quarrying and mining activities cease.
It argued that Israeli companies pillage Palestinian resources for profit and Israel's benefit. Doing so also violates fundamental international law. As an occupying power, Israel is obligated to protect, not exploit, Palestinian rights.
On December 26, 2011, the HCJ rejected Yesh Din's petition. It sanctioned lawless pillage. On January 10, 2012, Yesh Din requested another hearing before a broader panel of judges.
Seven distinguished Israeli legal experts stood with Yesh Din. They took issue with the Court's ruling. Their collective opinion matters. It provides greater impact.
On July 25, 2012, the HCJ spurned Yesh Din again. In his decision, retired Deputy President Judge Eliezer Rivlin said the December 2011 ruling rejected Yesh Din's petition mainly because Israel and the Palestinian Authority addressed the issue earlier. They agreed to an interim 1995 deal.
He failed to explain its terms. It explicitly said "quarries must be transferred to the Palestinian side within 18 months." Israel still controls them. The Court's ruling OK'd its right to steal.
Seven leading international law experts disagree. They unequivocally call Israel's mining operations lawless. In their judgment, the Court's ruling was troublesome. Judge Rivlin addressed their opinion, saying:
"I did not ignore the opinion of the experts on international law submitted in support of the petitioner's argument. The learned opinion raises important questions and analyzes them most skillfully and eruditely."
"However, in the concrete circumstances of this case, since no precedent was set in the decision that would justify a further hearing, there is no need to discuss them at this stage."
In response, Yesh Din attorney Shlomy Zachary said:
"This decision by the High Court of Justice recognizes the serious flaws of the court's decision on the original petition, and mutes its conclusions."
"The court is also aware that the decision's determinations must be decided in the future, and therefore the decision on the concrete matter cannot serve as a binding precedent."
"The opinion of the leading experts from Israel's universities, submitted as part of this case, added another level that reinforced the need to minimize the determinations about this matter, and we welcome that."
Israel's High Court tried having it both ways. In initially rejecting Yesh Din's petition, HCJ President Dorit Beinisch said:
"The belligerent occupation of Israel in the area has some unique characteristics, primarily the duration of the occupation period that requires the adjustment of the law to the reality on the ground, which imposes a duty upon Israel to ensure normal life for a period, which…is certainly long-term."
At the same time, the Court spurned international law. It also dismissed the opinion of seven distinguished Israeli legal experts.
Their judgment is indisputable. Rule of law principles back it. It carries weight. It concluded saying "the license granted to Israeli corporations to mine exhaustible natural minerals in territory under belligerent occupation is illegal."
High Court judges know it but ignored them and fundamental international law anyway. Their ruling was not only dishonest, it was convoluted.
Outrageously, the Court said militarized occupation and Israeli Civil Administration operations benefit Palestinians. In other words, controlling them at the point of a gun and pillaging their resources helps. How, the Court didn't explain. It merely said:
"Royalties paid to the Civil Administration by the operators of the quarries are used to finance the operations of the military administration, which promotes various kinds of projects aimed to benefit the interests of the area."
Stealing what's theirs doesn't help. Military occupation spurns their rights. Employment for small numbers of Palestinians at slave wages neither benefits them or the collective population.
Virtually all resources mined help Israel and its settlements. Mining fees, levies, and royalties flow straight to Israeli state coffers. Palestinians are denied what's rightfully theirs.
Al Haq's report offers more proof. Black's Law Dictionary calls pillage "the forcible taking of private property by an invading or conquering army from the enemy's subjects."
The 1907 Hague Regulations, Fourth Geneva, and other international laws prohibit doing so under all circumstances. The Statute of International Criminal Court calls "pillaging a town or place, even when taken by assault," a war crime.
Various military manuals prohibit pillage/plunder. The UN and other international organizations condemn it. Looting is absolutely forbidden. It's punishable under international, military, and general statute laws.
Israel spurns rule of law principles in all forms. Al Haq calls exploiting West Bank resources "the war crime of pillage." Its report examines Israeli Dead Sea area operations.
It's "prohibited from exploiting them in a way that undermines their capital and results in economic benefits for Israeli citizens, including settlers, or for its national economy."
The Dead Sea borders Jordan and Israel to the east and the West Bank to the west. It's in the Jordan Rift Valley. It lies over 400 meters below sea level.
It's 67 km long, 377 meters deep, and 18 km across at its widest point. With 33.7% salinity, it's one of the world's saltiest water bodies.
In 1967, Israel seized control. Jordan previously controlled the area. Oslo granted Israel military and administrative control. Vast land areas became closed military zones. Palestinians are denied entry to land rightfully theirs.
Since 1967, pillage accompanied occupation. Palestinians were dispossessed from their own land and resources. Israel stole and exploited the Dead Sea and surrounding areas by declaring them "State land." No legal basis whatever permits doing so.
Numerous military orders violate international law. It's been twisted, inverted, manipulated, distorted, undermined, and spurned to justify the unjustifiable.
Israel invents its own version of reality. Orwellian doublespeak defines it. Fundamental occupying power obligations are violated. State authorities and settlers reap benefits.
At the same time, unsustainable water extraction and mining methods let water levels decrease significantly.
Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories was licensed to steal. It mines Dead Sea mud. It's used for company products. Al Haq's General Director, Shawan Jabarin, said:
"The Israeli authorities are denying Palestinians access to their natural resources all across the OPT, but this practice is particularly evident in the occupied Dead Sea area. This also clearly demonstrates how Israel is benefiting economically from the occupation."
"Given that the settlers in the area and Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories directly profit from the appropriation of the Dead Sea natural resources and from the trade of the products extracted and processed in this region, they should be considered as primary perpetrators of the war crime of pillage."
Consumers have a right to know that Ahava operates illegally. Its products use stolen Palestinian resources. Doing so costs them nearly $150 million annually.
Ahava's based in Mitzpe Shalem settlement. It lies on the Dead Sea's western shore. It's Israel's only company licensed to mine area mud, silt, sand, gravel, and other minerals.
It operates subsidiaries in America, Britain and Germany. Its products have unique cosmetic qualities. They're used for various skin disorders. Exports provide about 60% of its revenue. The remaining 40% comes from Israel and tourism.
The Dead Sea has unique geographical, mineral, climatic, and archeological features. Its natural resource riches include ground and surface water, springs, and minerals. It's a potential world heritage site.
Its landscapes are stunning. Its climate is mild. Its potential for economic development is significant. Its tourism, industry, and agriculture thrive.
Israeli development plans include hotels, water parks, shopping malls, and urban facilities. Enhanced mineral and water extraction are also planned. Palestinians are entirely deprived of what's rightfully theirs.
The area is also environmentally vulnerable. Its ecosystem is endangered. At issue is over-extraction and other abuses. The Jordan River Basin's water system is affected. Large sinkholes emerged. As many as 3,000 exist. Dead Sea shrinkage is worrisome. It's divided into two lakes.
Upstream water diversion projects and southern Dead Sea mining caused serious sea level erosion. Over-exploitation is destroying the area. Domestic, agricultural, and industrial wastewater flows directly into the Dead Sea. Surrounding land areas are affected.
In 2004, Ahava got illegal mining rights. Authority granting them must cease and desist. Third-party states must demand it. Pressuring Israel to stop violating international law is vital. Aiding and abetting lawlessness can't be tolerated.
Relations with Ahava and other Israeli companies profiteering from pillage must cease. Importing their products is illegal. Everything originating from settlements should be barred. Failure to do so constitutes complicity with grand theft and war crimes. Israel is a serial abuser.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.