The truth about international law and BDS

The BDS folks, and the people among us here who are sort of in favor of “at least” boycotting Judea and Samaria, back up their argument using international law. Well, Judea and Samaria aren’t “Palestinian territories” — at most they are disputed territories: We also lay claim to them based on the juridical concept of “permission of the nations,” history, justice and the Bible. These arguments were made by world-renowned legal scholars from the time of the Six-Day War in 1967 and onward.

In any case, the enemies of settlement on the central mountain ridge claim that international law prohibits helping the economic activity of an occupying force in belligerent territories. Well, here’s a surprise: There is no such law. When the BDS storm was raging, Professor Eugene Kontorovich, an expert in international law and a senior member of the Kohelet Policy Forum, published a research paper in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law titled “Economic Dealings with Occupied Territories.”

Kontorovich examined legal rulings and economic conduct of European nations and demonstrated that from a European perspective, there is no international law that forbids economic activity in occupied territories. European companies operate in Western Sahara, a region occupied by Morocco in 1979 and unrecognized by any country; the same goes for northern Cyprus, which was occupied by Turkey in 1974.

While Europe prohibits business dealings over the Green Line, it signs business contracts with Morocco that aid the Moroccans’ presence (“the occupying force”) in Western Sahara — French firms included. They don’t do that because they don’t care about the law when it comes to Morocco, but because no such law exists!

The amazing thing about the Orange telecom story is that a French appellate court recently and specifically held that a French company was not in violation of the Geneva Convention or other international law by operating beyond the Green Line, even in partnership with the Israeli government. The British Supreme Court reached a similar verdict. There are no cases in which the rulings were different. Prominent U.K. law professor James Crawford, who was hired by the British trade unions to write a legal opinion justifying BDS, was forced to conclude that there is no international law rule against doing business in “the territories.”

It’s not just hypocrisy; BDS proponents argue that they cannot do business with us, not because they are anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic, but because of “international law.” Well, there isn’t any law like that — it’s just how the Europeans operate. In fact, the law they are trying to apply to Israel is so problematic that they cannot apply it to other places.

“The representatives of the Israeli Right speak in a language and use terms that the Western academic Left doesn’t understand or accept. … It would be better if they kept quiet.” That’s what Yedioth Ahronoth commentator Sever Plotzker wrote about Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Journalists turning their rudeness into ideology is nothing new. Historical and religious rights are part of the stock of claims to Israel’s own right.

Business organizations that take action against us will find themselves entangled with European law. And even if we don’t convince the Europeans, it’s important that we know that BDS supporters aren’t quoting the supremacy of any law, because no such law exists.

Dror Eydar