Mike Pompeo scorns the law because powerful men like him never have to follow it

As we know from history, deciding who is right and who is wrong is the only way of bringing peace, for Israel just as much as the Palestinian people

Robert Fisk
in Beirut
Thursday 21 November 2019

Michael Pompeo – let’s use his real name – was very revealing when he ripped up the latest bit of international law which didn’t favour Donald Trump or Benjamin Netanyahu in the Middle East. Jewish colonies in the West Bank were not against international law. “Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked,” he boasted. This was not only egregious. It was a lie.

What Pompeo meant was that this vital adherence to world law – whereby, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, occupying powers cannot plant their own citizens on occupied and stolen land – no longer suited the United States and Israel. Of course it hadn’t “worked”, because the Palestinians rigidly trusted the laws which the world accepted after the Second World War.

Occupation is a very serious matter. But, according to Pompeo, “after studying all sides [sic] of the legal debate [sic], the United States has concluded that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se [sic yet again], inconsistent with international law”. To say otherwise “hasn’t advanced the cause of peace”.

Did US secretaries of state always lie so brazenly, so frighteningly, so mendaciously, so utterly without conscience?

True, Colin Powell told US embassies that they should delete “occupied territories” from their Middle East vocabulary. Henceforth, this pathetic ex-general announced, they were to be called “disputed territories”. It was a fabrication – he was trying to erase the very fact of the longest military occupation in modern history – and this helped to push open the door for the Pompeos and the Trumps to strip Palestinians of any hope of self-determination, dignity and human rights.

But Pompeo’s vicious argument went a step further. It was clearly not in America’s or Israel’s interest even to respond to the illegal status of the Jewish colonial project in the West Bank. The US did not, as it claimed, “study all sides” of international law – it certainly did not study the juridical side (and certainly not the Palestinian side) – nor is the law a “debate” between two sides.

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