ICJ Determination of Violations in Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories a Welcome Step

The Center for International Policy welcomed today’s advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) determining that Israel’s conduct in and policies toward the Occupied Palestinian Territories and its Palestinian residents constitute multiple serious violations of international law. In response, CIP president and CEO Nancy Okail issued the following statement:

“The Court’s advisory opinion affirms what virtually the entire world has recognized for decades – that Israel’s 57 year occupation of the Palestinian Territories has long served as a project to illegally dispossess the Palestinian people and annex their land.

International law allows for occupation as a temporary measure in a time of active conflict. It does not allow for occupation as a cover for relentless land theft, apartheid and other grave violations of the national and human rights of an entire people. The Israeli Knesset’s unequivocal rejection this week of any Palestinian state west of the Jordan River only provides additional conclusive evidence supporting the Court’s opinion.

While the ICJ’s action is non-binding, countries that seek to uphold international law should respect the Court’s determination and take all appropriate steps to counter the injustices of the occupation and bring it to a peaceful end. At a minimum, countries should not engage in actions which help to perpetuate the occupation and its discriminatory, annexationist goals. In particular, the United States must end the unconditional supply of arms that Israel uses in connection with the dispossession and settlement of Palestinian land and other violations of Palestinian rights.

We also reiterate the importance of rejecting all attempts to delegitimize, intimidate or penalize the ICJ or its officers in light of this or any of its other proceedings. The security and rights of people around the globe hang in the balance as the institutions tasked with upholding international law are being attacked by right-wing nationalist and autocratic figures worldwide. Disagreements with the Court’s actions may be expressed appropriately and challenged through the established processes, but attempting to undermine or criminalize the multilateral legal bodies that are a core part of the rules-based international system threatens essential US and global security interests.”

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CIP Condemns COVID Vaccine Disinformation Campaign by Pentagon

In response to the shocking report that the Pentagon initiated a social media manipulation-based disinformation campaign under the Trump Administration to discredit Chinese-origin vaccines and protective equipment among the Filipino public in an effort to undermine perceptions of China in the Philippines in the midst of the COVID pandemic, Center for International Policy President & CEO Nancy Okail issued the following statement:

“Americans should be outraged that their government launched a disinformation campaign under Donald Trump that essentially weaponized the COVID pandemic, imperiling the lives of countless innocent people in the Philippines and beyond.

Spreading dangerous lies about vaccines and personal protective equipment among an especially hard-hit population is inhumane in and of itself. To have done so for the sole purpose of eroding public perceptions about China in a partner country, while callously disregarding the certainty that it would jeopardize the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents, is utterly indefensible.

We are glad that the Biden Administration appears to have ended the campaign within its first few months of taking office. We call on relevant Congressional committees and leaders to seek a thorough investigation of this disinformation campaign and hold those responsible for it fully accountable.

It is dangerous to let an abstract geopolitical concept override the urgent necessity of saving human lives. The outrage and distrust of the United States this cruel gambit is already beginning to engender demonstrates some of the inherent dangers of the ‘great power competition’ mindset that is  shaping US foreign policy across the globe. Rather than cooperating in areas like global health where US and Chinese interests align, the obsession with undercutting China on every issue and in every region leads to outcomes that ultimately harm US standing and security. The United States can be clear-eyed about the need to address China’s destabilizing actions and repressive policies, while at the same time better serving our essential interests by engaging China in a manner that reduces dangerous tensions rather than exacerbating them.”

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Biden Ceasefire Push Welcome, Enforcement of US Red Lines Still Critical

Center for International Policy executive vice president Matt Duss issued the following statement in response to President Biden’s speech setting forth the terms for a ceasefire agreement now under consideration by relevant parties:

“The president’s promotion of a long overdue comprehensive ceasefire proposal is welcome. In nearly eight months of war, indiscriminate bombardment and siege, thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians have been killed, and hundreds of thousands more now fear for their survival amid mass displacement and famine. The hostages and their families have endured nearly eight months of unimaginable suffering. The security and well-being of both peoples depend on this ceasefire being agreed, and we applaud the administration’s efforts to secure it. 

We should also note Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement in reaction to President Biden’s speech, which identified different goals and conditions for ending the war and made a point of referring to the ‘exact draft offered by Israel.’ The possibility of daylight between a proposal Israel would accept and what President Biden outlined means that his administration must take concrete steps to enforce his red lines and secure the ceasefire he set out. As it stands, the US should immediately cease provision of offensive weapons as long as Israel continues to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid and disregard international law protecting civilians.”

The Center for International Policy has repeatedly urged the Biden Administration to pursue a ceasefire by using its full leverage, including an end to the unconditional supply of weapons to Israel and to US shielding Israel at the UN Security Council and other international legal fora.

CIP Condemns Deadly Airstrike on Rafah Tent Camp, Renews Call for US to Halt Arms

In response to an Israeli airstrike on a tent camp in Rafah that caused the deaths of at least 45 civilians, part of an ongoing offensive in southern Gaza, Center for International Policy’s Vice President for Government Affairs Dylan Williams issued the following statement:

“The mass killing of civilians seeking refuge, whether by mistake or otherwise, is exactly what President Biden said would be unacceptable about an Israeli offensive in Rafah. Biden shouldn’t wait for a pro forma Israeli investigation — he should stand by his word and halt arms right now.”

CIP has been warning for weeks that the Israeli offensive in Rafah is a violation of President Biden’s “red line.”

ICJ Order to Halt the Invasion of Rafah Must Be Respected by All

In response to the International Court of Justice ruling ordering Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, Center for International Policy executive vice president Matt Duss issued the following statement:

“We call on all governments to respect and abide by the International Court of Justice’s order requiring a halt to the invasion of Rafah and to reopen the Rafah border crossing. We specifically call on the United States government to help enforce the order, which is consistent with its own stated position in support of a ceasefire and release of hostages, by halting the transfers of US arms that Israel is using in Rafah.

This historic step to uphold international law and the rights of civilians in conflict is unfortunately necessary in light of the failure of previous appeals to Israel to prevent mass civilian casualties and stop the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. As the Court issues its order, hundreds of thousands of people – many of them already displaced from other parts of the territory – are being driven from Rafah without a plan to ensure they receive the food, shelter and other basic necessities they need to survive.

We also reject all attempts to delegitimize, intimidate or penalize the ICJ or its officers. The security and rights of people around the world hang in the balance as the institutions tasked with upholding international humanitarian law perform their duties. Disagreements with ICJ or International Criminal Court actions may be expressed appropriately and challenged through the established processes, but attempting to undermine or criminalize the multilateral legal bodies that are a core part of the rules-based international system threatens essential US and global security interests.”

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CIP Welcomes ICC Prosecutor Moves on Israel-Palestine

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the International Criminal Court seeking arrest warrants for senior leaders for events in Israel and Palestine beginning October 7, the Center for International Policy’s President and CEO Nancy Okail issued the following statement:

“We welcome the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s application seeking arrest warrants for senior Hamas and Israeli officials for numerous violations of the Rome Statute.

International law protecting civilians in conflict must be applied consistently and impartially. The failure to adhere to or enforce the laws of war not only contributes to an environment of impunity in the current conflict in Gaza, but undermines the rights and safety of people around the world. Today’s move by the ICC’s prosecutor is an urgently needed step toward restoring accountability under, and reinforcing the legitimacy of, international humanitarian law.

CIP calls upon countries, including the United States, to fully cooperate with – and in no way impede – the ICC process currently underway on this matter. One need not agree with the prosecutor’s allegations to respect and defend the legitimacy of the court, its processes and the law which it is tasked to enforce. Any attempt to penalize or intimidate the court or its officers must be categorically condemned.

The United States should also fulfill its own obligations and immediately cease military support enabling the violations of human rights and international law enumerated in the requested ICC warrants.” 

Flawed NSM-20 Report on Israel Undercuts Administration’s Own Efforts Alongside US Law, Interests and Values

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the Biden administration’s report to Congress treating Israel as largely in compliance with the requirements of National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20), Center for International Policy (CIP) executive vice president Matt Duss issued the following statement:

“The administration has once again ignored a mountain of evidence and failed to hold Israel accountable for severe violations of international and US law in its conduct in the Gaza war. While stating that it is ‘reasonable to assess’ that Israel failed to meet NSM-20’s requirements in certain instances, the administration’s failure to indicate meaningful US action in response is a clearly political decision that risks not only further harm, but contradicts the assessments of US lawmakers and civil society organizations.

This report comes as hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza face famine, continued bombardment and an invasion of Rafah against US warnings. While we welcome President Biden’s recent promise to withhold certain munitions out of concern for civilian harm, today’s report treating Israel as largely meeting its obligations under NSM-20 undercuts the administration’s own efforts to protect civilian lives and facilitate a ceasefire and the release of hostages still held by Hamas. Instead, it functionally greenlights Israel’s continued use of US weapons in ways contrary to our law, interests and values. 

The Biden administration must end its mixed messages and conflicting actions on Israel’s conduct in Gaza, as well as in the occupied West Bank, and bring its policy in line with its rhetoric. It must fully and consistently enforce international and US law by halting the transfer of all offensive weapons and other military assistance that Israel is using in the Rafah invasion or elsewhere to violate Palestinian rights. If this administration is serious about promoting peace and upholding human rights and international law, President Biden must finally and completely end US complicity in the grievous harm being done to civilians with our aid and arms.”

CIP Responds to UN General Assembly Vote Backing Palestinian Bid for Membership

In response to the UN General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution enhancing Palestine’s status in the United Nations and encouraging the Security Council to admit Palestine as a full UN Member State, Center for International Policy (CIP) president and CEO Nancy Okail issued the following statement:

“Today’s resolution is a welcome step. Further integrating Palestine into multilateral institutions and binding it to the privileges and obligations of statehood affirms international law and  Palestinians’ right to self-determination. It bolsters diplomacy in stark contrast to the horrific violence of the last seven months and the injustice of decades of occupation.

The United States has a moral duty and strategic interest in expanding opportunities for peaceful diplomatic engagement. Attempts to force the United States to cut off funding to the UN in response to this move are unjustified and counterproductive. 

We reject false assertions that passage of this resolution triggers outdated and injurious US laws defunding Palestinian relief and UN contributions if Palestine gains the same standing as full members of the UN. The measure adopted today expressly states that it does not confer such status upon Palestine and claims that it does serve to advance a longstanding rightwing effort to delegitimize Palestinian rights and the United Nations. 

It’s regrettable that the United States cannot support full Palestinian membership without jeopardizing US funding for the UN system, but it should still support the enhanced status this resolution confers on Palestine.”

CIP Names Gazan Analyst Omar Shaban as Inaugural Leahy Fellow

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Center for International Policy (CIP) is honored to award renowned Palestinian analyst and scholar Omar Shaban as CIP’s inaugural Leahy Fellow for Human Rights and Security.

Shaban, founder of Gaza-based think tank PalThink, is the first recipient of CIP’s Leahy Fellowship, which was established in 2023 to carry the legacy of Senator Leahy’s work by supporting the research and professional development of foreign policy professionals working to enhance global security and human rights. Bringing his experience and knowledge of Middle East affairs to CIP’s work, Shaban will help advance CIP’s goals of accountability and transparency for U.S. security assistance, and consistent application of U.S. laws that preserve human rights such as the Leahy laws. 

 “CIP is thrilled to welcome Omar Shaban, whose decades of work to advance peace and democracy have helped illuminate the rich tapestry of the Palestinian experience, a hopefulness and quest for dignity, while offering sound analysis and real solutions,” said Nancy Okail, CIP’s President and CEO. “At this critical, defining moment for U.S. relations with the Middle East, Omar Shaban embodies the human-centered policy work that is needed to achieve true security. His dedication to accountability and human rights in foreign policy and to diplomacy over militarism is a tribute to Senator Leahy’s incredible legacy.”

During his fellowship, Shaban will work closely with CIP’s experts and contribute to the Center’s research initiatives, including policy analyses and policymaker and public education. His research will focus on promoting economic development, social justice, and peacebuilding in the Middle East.

“I am honored to join CIP as its first Leahy Fellow to ensure more constructive exchanges with U.S. institutions to elevate the experiences and voices of people in this region as a factor in U.S. policy making,” said Omar Shaban. “Like all human rights struggles, the Palestinian peoples’ struggle for dignity and self-determination can be a tide that lifts all boats.”

As Senator Leahy commented when it was announced the fellowship would be named after him, “defending human rights and promoting democratic values in US foreign policy is critically important at a time when those rights and values are under assault around the world.”

CIP has been a leading progressive voice on U.S. foreign affairs for nearly 50 years. The Center works to make a peaceful, just, and sustainable world the central pursuit of U.S. foreign policy by promoting greater cooperation, transparency, and governmental accountability. Critical to this mission is the inclusion of diverse perspectives and the integration of new voices into research and policymaking circles. 

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CIP Analysis of New Congressional Ukraine and Israel Aid Proposals

We are hopeful that Congress will finally provide long overdue aid to help the people of Ukraine repel Russia’s illegal invasion. With Ukraine’s financial and critical military resources nearly exhausted, this US assistance is vital to preventing Vladimir Putin from achieving his goal of destroying Ukrainian independence and democracy.

In contrast to Ukraine’s demonstrated need for funds to counter conquest and occupation by an expansionist nuclear power, the effort to provide billions of dollars in new American taxpayer funding for weapons to Israel to use in its devastating campaign in Gaza is not militarily, financially or strategically justified.

While Israel has the right and responsibility to defend its people and take military action in response to Hamas’ horrific October 7, 2023 attack, Israel’s campaign in Gaza is failing to achieve its own stated objectives of rescuing the Israelis taken hostage or “eliminating” Hamas from the territory. Instead, Israel’s disproportionate bombardment and siege of the territory with US weapons has resulted in more than 30,000 deaths – two-thirds of which Israel itself estimates are civilians – nearly half of them children.

Despite calls by American lawmakers for meaningful conditions on US military assistance to prevent Israel’s continued use of US arms in a manner that President Biden himself has twice called “indiscriminate,” the stand-alone Israel aid bill being considered by the House of Representatives not only fails to include any such safeguards, but would reduce already insufficient opportunities for Congressional oversight of weapons sales to Israel under federal law. The White House’s issuance of National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20) requiring foreign military aid recipients like Israel to adhere to relevant international humanitarian and US law was a step in the right direction, but not a sufficient replacement for durable, statutorily binding safeguards – especially in light of the Biden administration’s resistance to enforcing either existing law or, thus far, NSM-20 with regard to Israel.

With a per capita GDP greater than that of the UK, Canada and Japan – and more than twelve times that of Ukraine — Israel has not made the case to Congress or American taxpayers that it will be unable to carry out essential, legitimate defense activities without the level of financial assistance specified in the bill. Such extraordinary additional subsidization is especially inappropriate in light of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government continuing to spend Israel’s own funds in connection with accelerating efforts to seize and permanently control territory in the occupied West Bank, including the largest expropriation of Palestinian land in the 30 years since the Oslo Accords. Helping Israel finance missile and air defense systems if it was unable to pay for them itself would be entirely reasonable. But providing ever-increasing amounts to fund the deadly munitions and other weapons Israel is deploying in Gaza is not. While Israel openly rejects US requests to use such arms appropriately, desist from violations of Palestinian rights in the West Bank, and refrain from further escalations with Iran, increasing US financing rewards rather than disincentivizes such Israeli actions that run counter to American interests.

Additionally, as Gaza’s civilian population faces a crisis of starvation and disease, the Israel aid bill unconscionably reinforces the recently legislated prohibition on US contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – the main provider of lifesaving aid and services in the territory — even as it provides a welcome increase in global humanitarian aid. UNRWA has already fired the 12 low-level staff alleged to have participated in the October 7 attacks and has committed to helping hold them fully accountable if the ongoing investigation confirms the allegations. Lawmakers should work urgently to reverse the funding cutoff as nearly all US partner countries have, rather than continuing to collectively punish millions of Palestinians who rely on UNRWA services, including the hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine in Gaza.

Far from addressing the growing threat to American and regional security that the war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza represent, the stand-alone Israel aid bill would cruelly exacerbate it at the very moment further Israeli escalation with Iran risks drawing the United States even deeper into another costly and avoidable quagmire in the Middle East. At this dangerous moment, lawmakers could best keep Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region — including US personnel — safe by pushing for a Gaza ceasefire that allows for massive humanitarian relief and the release of all hostages, while emphasizing the need for de-escalation in tensions with Iran.