Raja Shehadeh and Jonathan Kuttab, The West Bank and the Rule of Law (Geneva: International Commission of Jurists, 1980).

David H. Ott, Palestine in Perspective: Politics, Human Rights and the West Bank (London: Quartet Books, 1980).

Shehadeh and Kuttab are practicing West Bank lawyers. They have compiled an impressive document detailing the means by which the Israeli government has managed to transform the legal system of the West Bank into a tool to promote its goal of settlement and annexation. Over 850 military orders, effectively pieces of legislation, have been passed since 1967. These orders have an impact on nearly all aspects of political and economic life in the West Bank. This greatly exceeds the amount of legislation passed through Israel’s own Knesset, or by the Jordanian government before 1967.

The overall effect of this vast body of legislation has been to provide a legislative fig leaf for Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank, and to block any local opposition to it. Israel has maintained a facade of ostensibly keeping Jordanian laws in force, in line with international law, with changes only being made under “security” pretexts. This allows the pursuit of expansionist goals without any of the international repercussions that outright annexation of the West Bank would entail.

David Ott demonstrates convincingly that all of Israel’s claims to sovereignty over the West Bank, its “right” to establish settlements and its treatment of the Palestinians under occupation are contrary to both the spirit and the letter of international law. Ott guides the reader through the complexities of international treaties, charters and conventions in a comprehensible fashion. Together these books poignantly demonstrate that laws and legal systems serve those with the powers of enforcement. They can be used to deny rather than defend people’s rights.

How to cite this article:

Tim Coone "Books on Palestine and Human Rights," Middle East Report 116 (July/August 1983).

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