It's time for everyone to accept that occupied people have a right to resist - in every way possible.

International law recognizes the fundamental rights to self-determination, freedom and independence for the occupied.
 

Long ago, it was settled that resistance and even armed struggle against a colonial occupation force is not just recognized under international law but specifically endorsed.

In accordance with international humanitarian law, wars of national liberation have been expressly embraced, through the adoption of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (pdf), as a protected and essential right of occupied people everywhere.

Finding evolving vitality in humanitarian law, for decades the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) - once described as the collective conscience of the world - has noted the right of peoples to self-determination, independence and human rights.  

Indeed, as early as 1974, resolution 3314 of the UNGA prohibited states from "any military occupation, however temporary".

In relevant part, the resolution not only went on to affirm the right "to self-determination, freedom and independence [...] of peoples forcibly deprived of that right,[...] particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination" but noted the right of the occupied to "struggle ... and to seek and receive support" in that effort. 

The term "armed struggle" was implied without precise definition in that resolution and many other early ones that upheld the right of indigenous persons to evict an occupier.

This imprecision was to change on December 3, 1982. At that time UNGA resolution 37/43 removed any doubt or debate over the lawful entitlement of occupied people to resist occupying forces by any and all lawful means. The resolution reaffirmed "the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle".

In the relevant part, section 21, the resolution strongly condemns "expansionist activities" to constitute a serious obstacle to the realization of the self-determination and independence of the people".

Indeed, long ago and at least a full 50 years before before the establishment of the United Nations, many considered armed struggle already to be a lawful act of resistance. The UN later spoke of the right of armed struggle as a vehicle of indigenous liberation.

Self-determination is a difficult, costly march for the occupied. In Palestine, no matter what the weapon of choice - whether voice, pen or gun - there is a steep price to be paid for its use.

The steep price of self-determination

Self-determination is a difficult, costly march for the occupied. In Palestine, no matter what the weapon of choice - whether voice, pen or gun - there is a steep price to be paid for its use. 

Today, "speaking truth to power" has become very much a popular mantra of resistance in neoliberal circles and societies. For the occupied and oppressed, it is an all-but-certain path to prison or death. Yet, for generations of oppressed, stripped of the very breath that resonates with the feeling of freedom, history teaches there is simply no other choice.

Silence is surrender. To be silent is to betray all those who have come before and all those yet to follow.

For those who have never felt the constant yoke of oppression, or seen it up close, it is a vision beyond comprehension. Occupation sits heavy on the occupied, every day in every way, limiting who you are and what you may dare to become. 

The constant rub of barricades, guns, orders, prison and death are fellow travellers for the occupied, whether infants, teens in the spring of life, the elderly, or those trapped by the artificial confines of borders over which they have no control.

While so many stateless refugees still languish, stripped of a meaningful voice and opportunity, the world makes excuses built largely of political and economic gift boxes.

'If there is no struggle, there is no progress'

Millions of us worldwide dream of a better time and place ... free to spread our wings, to soar, to discover who they are and what they wish to become. Until then, I mourn not for the loss of those who stop their flight. Instead, I applaud those who dare to struggle, dare to win - by any means necessary.

There is no magic to resistance and struggle. They transcend time and place and derive their very meaning and ardour in the natural inclination, indeed, drive, of us all to be free - to be free to determine the role of our own lives. 

International law recognises the fundamental rights to self-determination, freedom and independence for the occupied. That includes everywhere the right to armed struggle, if necessary. 

Long ago, the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, wrote of struggle. These words resonate no less so today, than they did some one 150 years ago in the heart of the Antebellum South in the United States:

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."


(*) Adapted from and based on an article with focus on a specific problem area that was written by , a lawyer and human rights activist who has done extensive work in the Middle East and Africa.

 

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