12 June '14..
h/t to international law expert, Eugene Kontorovich..
Though Guardian contributors often complain that pro-Israel forces instill a ‘enforced orthodoxy‘ over the debate about Israel in the media and in Western capitals, they suddenly lose their passion for dissent when encountering views at odds with the Palestinian narrative on the disputed territories in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Thus, shortly after the Australian Attorney General issued a statement declaring that the government would no longer refer to east Jerusalem as “occupied” – arguing that the term is “freighted with pejorative implications” – the Guardian published their predictable denunciation in the form of an op-ed by a lawyer (and anti-Israel campaigner) named Ben Saul.
Saul begins by complaining that “Australia’s new view” on Jerusalem “corrodes the international rule of law and violates Australia’s international law obligations”. He then cites international legal conclusions which purportedly back up the claim that east Jerusalem is “occupied” – including the 2004 opinion of International Court of Justice (ICJ), which he even acknowledges was only an ‘advisory’ opinion – and therefore is not binding on Israel, let alone Australia.
Further, despite their position on east Jerusalem, Australia’s policy vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has not undergone a substantive change. They merely decided to avoid using a term they believe is unhelpful in the context of efforts to reach a two state solution. As Australia’s Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, explained (per an article by Yair Rosenberg at Tablet) in response to questions about the Attorney General’s decision, “the government’s policy hasn’t changed at all”. Sharma also noted that the Australian position is still that “final status issues as identified by Oslo—and that includes the status of Jerusalem, borders, right of return—are all amenable only to political negotiations and a political solution”.
Rosenberg summed it up thusly: In other words, Australia’s policy is not intended to endorse one side over the other, but rather to maintain neutrality and avoid prejudging the outcome of negotiations.
Later in his Guardian op-ed, Saul misrepresents a key element of the history of the city.
In the 1967 war, Israel displaced prior Jordanian control over east Jerusalem. Jordan’s claim was contested by Israel. Jordan’s claim was contested by Israel. Jordan later renounced its claim in favour of the Palestinian right of self-determination.
However, his claim that Jordan’s legal claim on east Jerusalem “was contested by Israel” is extraordinarily misleading. In fact, their annexation of east Jerusalem was universally rejected by the international community, with the lone exception of Pakistan (Great Britain accepted the annexation of the West Bank, but not east Jerusalem). Also of interest, though almost every country in the world refused to recognize Jordanian sovereignty over Jerusalem, we could find no evidence than any country officially referred to it – between 1949 and 1967 – as “occupied”.