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Old City of Jerusalem taken from the rooftop of the Austrian Hospice
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Israel is the legal occupant of the West Bank, says the Court of Appeal of Versailles, France

by Jean-Patrick Grumberg January 13,2017

Publié par Jean-Patrick Grumberg le 13 janvier 2017
Reprint or redistribution of this copyrighted material is permitted with the 
following attribution and link: © Jean-Patrick Grumberg for

For French court decision:

In a historical trial carefully " forgotten"» by the media, the 3rd Chamber 
of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declares that Israel is the legal 
occupant of the West Bank*.

When I first learned that the Court of Appeal of Versailles ruled that West 
bank settlements and occupation of Judea Samaria by Israel is unequivocally 
legal under international law, in a suit brought by the Palestinian 
Authority against Jerusalem’s light rail built by French companies Alstom 
and Veolia, that received no media coverage, I decided to put to work my 
years of Law Studies in France, and I meticulously analyzed the Court 

To my astonishment, pro-Israeli media did not cover it either. The few who 
mentioned the case did not have any legal background in French law to 
understand the mega-importance of the ruling, and, as a few lefty English 
speaking Israeli websites reported it, they thought that it was a decision 
strictly pertinent to the Jerusalem light rail. It’s not.

To make sure I did not overestimate my legal abilities and that I wasn’t 
over optimistic – as usual-, I submitted my analysis and the Court papers to 
one of the most prominent French lawyer, Gilles-William Goldnadel, President 
of Lawyers without borders, to receive his legal opinion. He indeed 
validated my finding. Then I decided to translate it to English, and it will 
soon be submitted to Benjamin Netanyahu thru a mutual friend.

First and foremost, the Versailles Court of Appeals had to determine the 
legal rights of Palestinians and Israelis in West Bank. Their conclusion: 
Palestinians have no right – in the international legal sense – to the 
region, unlike Israel, who is legitimately entitled to occupy all land 
beyond the 67 line.

The context :

In the 90s, Israel bid for the construction of the Jerusalem light rail. The 
tender was won by French companies Veolia and Alstom. The light rail was 
completed in 2011, and it cross Jerusalem all the way to the east side and 
the « occupied territories » (more about this term later).

Following this, the PLO filed a complaint with the High Court (Tribunal de 
Grande Instance) of Versailles France, against Alstom and Veolia, because 
according to PLO, « the construction of the tram is illegal since the UN, 
the EU, many NGOs and governments consider that « Israel illegally occupy 
Palestinian territories ».

The quest for the International Legislation to establish the rights of each 

In order to rule whether the light rail construction was legal or not, the 
court had to seek the texts of international law, to examine international 
treaties, in order to establish the respective rights of the Palestinians 
and the Israelis.

And to my knowledge, this is the first time that a non-Israeli court has 
been led to rule on the status of the West Bank.

Why is this an historical ruling: it is the first international case since 
the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948

It is the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 
that an independent, non-Israeli court has been called upon to examine the 
legal status of West bank territories under international law, beyond the 
political claims of the parties.

Keep in mind though, that the Court’s findings have no effect in 
international law. What they do, and it’s of the utmost importance, is to 
clarify the legal reality.

The Versailles Court of Appeal conclusions are as resounding as the silence 
in which they were received in the media: Israel has real rights in the 
territories, its decision to build a light rail in the West Bank or anything 
else in the area is legal, and the judges have rejected all the arguments 
presented by the Palestinians.

The Palestinian arguments
-The PLO denounces the deportation of the Palestinian population, and the 
destruction of properties in violation of international regulations. Relying 
on the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the UN resolutions, it considers 
that the State of Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian territory and is 
pursuing illegal Jewish colonization. Thus, construction of the light rail 
is itself illegal (1).
-The PLO adds that the light rail construction has resulted in the 
destruction of Palestinian buildings and houses, the almost total 
destruction of Highway 60, which is vital for Palestinians and their goods, 
and has conducted many illegal dispossessions. Therefore, several clauses 
from the annexed Regulations to the October 18, 1907 Fourth Hague Convention 
were violated (2).
-Finally, the PLO alleges that Israel violates the provisions relating to 
the « protection of cultural property » provided for in Article 4 of the 
Hague Convention of May 14, 1954, Article 27 of the Hague Regulations of 
1907, Article 5 of the Hague Convention IX of 1907, and Article 53 of 
Additional Protocol No. 1 to the Geneva Conventions.

The Court of Appeal does not deny the occupation, but it destroys one after 
another all the Palestinian arguments

Referring to the texts on which the PLO claim is based, the Court of Appeal 
considers that Israel is entitled to ensure order and public life in the 
West Bank, therefore Israel has the right to build a light rail, 
infrastructure and dwellings.

Article 43 of the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 stipulates that « The 
authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of 
the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to 
restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety ».

Israeli occupation does not violate any international law

« The Palestinian Authority misread the documents, they do not apply to the 
occupation »

The Court explains that the Palestinian Authority misinterprets the texts 
and they do not apply to the occupation:
-First of all, all the international instruments put forward by the PLO are 
acts signed between States, and the obligations or prohibitions contained 
therein are relevant to States. Neither the Palestinian Authority nor the 
PLO are States, therefore, none of these legal documents apply.
-Secondly, said the Court, these texts are binding only on those who signed 
them, namely the « contracting parties ». But neither the PLO nor the 
Palestinian Authority have ever signed these texts.

Propaganda is not international law

The Court, quite irritated by the presented arguments, boldly asserted that 
the law « cannot be based solely on the PLO’s assessment of a political or 
social situation.«

Humanitarian law was not violated

“The PLO mistakenly refers to the wrong legal document because the Hague 
Convention applies in case of bombing. And … « Jerusalem is not bombed. »

The PLO invokes the violation of humanitarian law contained in the Geneva 
and Hague Conventions.
-But on the one hand, says the judges of the Court of Appeal, international 
conventions apply between States and the PLO is not a State: « the 
International Court of Justice has indicated that [the Conventions] only 
contain obligations for the States, and that individual have no rights to 
claim the benefit of those obligation for themselves ».
-Then the Court says that only the contracting parties are bound by 
international conventions, and neither the PLO nor the Palestinian Authority 
have ever signed any of them.
-The Court draw the conclusion that the PLO is mistakenly referring to the 
wrong legal document because the Hague Convention applies in case of 
bombing. And … « Jerusalem is not bombed.«

The PLO and the Palestinians were dismissed

The PLO cannot invoke any of these international conventions, said the 

« These international norms and treaties » does not give the « Palestinian 
people that the PLO says he represents, the right to invoke them before a 

The Court of Appeal therefore sentenced the PLO (and Association France 
Palestine Solidarité AFPS who was co-appellant) to pay 30,000 euros 
($32,000) to Alstom, 30,000 euros to Alstom Transport and 30,000 euros to 
Veolia Transport.

Neither the PLO nor the Palestinian Authority nor the AFPS appealed to the 
Supreme Court, therefore the judgment has become final.

This is the first time that a Court has legally destroyed all Palestinian

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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