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Israel and the Nation-State Problem

The Underlying Problem is the Concept of "Nation-State"


It's been almost six months since Israel started bombing Gaza. Since then, tens of thousands of Palestinians have died, most of them children. For the first time since Israel was created, a consensus around the world is building that Israel has been breaking international law. Much of the discussion around this topic treats the state of Israel as a given and as a legitimate player on the world stage. But stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, one may start noticing the cracks building on the state-centric international legal order.


For the first time since the recognition of the state of Israel, the war crimes committed by Israel over the past 75 years are finally starting to be officially recognized by the international community. This is already huge, but there is more to that. Much more. Despite the ruling by the ICJ and the recognition that Israel might be committing genocide against Palestinians, Israel has completely ignored the recommendations from the ICJ. In fact, Israel has doubled down on the carnage. Furthermore, instead of providing Palestinians with enough food and water, as recommended by the ICJ, Israel and several of the Western powers such as the US, Canada, and the UK eliminated their funding of UNRWA, the main organization that has been keeping Palestinians alive, providing them with food and water. In the process, all these Western powers have become complicit in genocide. This is a huge blow to the international legal order because it calls into question its legitimacy and validity when the most powerful countries on the planet choose to completely ignore it.


Before the establishment of the current international legal order, territorial acquisitions by force were seen as legitimate. But under the current international law, it is not. What is unique about Israel is that it is a project of settler colonialism that continues to this day, in the 21st century, contrary to international law. What we observe today in Israel, the war crimes and the genocide committed by Israel's occupation, which observation is only possible through the communication technologies we have today, is the same process through which the majority of nation-states in the world were born. The main difference between them, other than the ability for all of us to watch the gruesome process of nation-building unfold, is that the process is not finished. So long as the project of settler colonialism is not fulfilled, the state of Israel remains incomplete. The state is only completed once the settler colonial process is finished, once all the territories of the state are occupied and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people is complete so that the Palestinian people don't exist anymore and only the Israeli state and people remain. Hence we see today the process that occurred throughout the planet, how indigenous people around the world were murdered and subjugated, and their freedom and self-determination rejected. In this context, we are told that the nation-states as they are today are legitimate, despite their bloody history. Their legitimacy, now, should be suspect to anyone who is paying attention. How can a global international legal order that was created through a process contrary to the established international law be legitimate?


The international legal order is built around principles that must be followed to make it legitimate. Without those principles, the international legal order ceases to be legitimate and states have no reason to abide by the legal rules established by the order. These principles are grounded in universal legal principles of what constitutes justice. As such, they are not subject to negotiation. The whole point of law and justice is supposed to be to protect the interests of those who are not powerful and to protect and provide restitution to those who have been wronged. Instead, the law is used as an instrument for the powerful to further consolidate power. This is what we see on the world stage, as the most powerful nation-states on Earth instrumentalize international law to their advantage. They proclaim to follow international law, and they urge other states to follow it, but they refuse to follow it when the law goes against their interests. Those states use their military power and economic influence to dictate their will to other supposedly sovereign states, which in turn must comply or potentially be "liberated". They use their economic power to sanction states that don't obey them, and they use their veto power at the UN to stop any motion that goes against their interests. The state-centric global legal order is a joke.


One of the core principles of the international legal order is the principle of self-determination. The principle of self-determination is crucial for the legitimacy of the legal order. The principle and, in particular, the internal principle of self-determination is that the people must have a voice, the people have the right to be able to run their affairs. Legitimacy comes from states truly representing the people that live within their territory and without self-determination states are not really legitimate. The right to self-determination exists in direct contrast and tension with the idea of state sovereignty and the monopoly of power they have over and above their citizens. The idea of the centralized state implies the domination of those who live under it. Of course one could argue that a state is legitimate if they truly represent the general will of the people, but when does that ever happen? Further, if the state did represent the general will, then it wouldn't need a monopoly of power to enforce the will of the state. The sovereignty of the state and its power over citizens goes directly against the principle of self-determination. We can either have jus cogens and the principle of self-determination or we can have states. We can't have both. So what is more important - to protect the state-centric global order or the right of people to govern themselves? The appropriate response is not to disregard the principle of self-determination but rather to build a global legal order that is capable of fulfilling fundamental requirements of justice such as self-determination.


Israel is a great example of how states break the principle of self-determination. The people of Palestine had no say in the Balfour Declaration and the creation of the state of Israel. Palestine was invaded, Palestinians were denied their right to self-determination, and then Israel was created. It's a completely illegitimate state, it's nothing but a colony of the UK and the US. Yet the international community recognizes Israel as a legitimate state. As the international community continues to recognize the state of Israel as legitimate, it legitimizes the way the state of Israel was created as a means by which states can legally be created. It legitimizes colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. It's all absurd! The principle of self-determination means NOTHING to the international legal order! It's constantly shoved aside to protect the interests of the powerful!


Wherein lies the Achilles heel of the international legal order. It was created after a global process of globalization and the creation of states through imperialism, genocide, and colonialism. All nation-states on the planet are either former colonies or colonizers. Therefore, if we take the principle of self-determination seriously, it follows that the vast majority of the nation-states on the planet, if not all, are illegitimate under international law because they were all the products of colonization, breaking the principle of self-determination, such as Israel, or they are colonizers who effectively act as rogue states refusing to follow the most fundamental principles of the international legal order.


But it gets worse than that. Much worse. The very idea of the "nation-state" is flawed. We can see the problem when we talk about the two-state solution. The whole idea of the nation-state, as a state that is organized around the concept of "nation", is that people organized as ethnic groups should have the right to self-determination. It stands to reason, then, that states could be created along ethnic lines. However, there is a very significant problem with that. Different ethnic groups often claim to be attached to the same territory. This ultimately leads to the creation of states where various ethnic groups fight over control of the territory. Indefinitely. But there is more. This division among ethnic lines also perpetuates a divisive global perspective, in contrast to a cosmopolitan outlook where all human beings are seen as equals, equally valued, and as equally deserving of human rights. Nation-states ultimately sow divisions. We saw the consequences of the creation of nation-states at the beginning of the last century - endless wars. The wars never ended. The world has been in an unstable state ever since the creation of the nation-state. This is thanks to the nature of the nation, as I have just explained, but there is more.


The state form of organization itself is deeply flawed. The state has a monopoly on violence which it can use on its citizens. Rather than citizens organizing themselves and being free to live their lives and govern themselves according to the principle of self-determination, citizens are effectively oppressed by their own governments. This is more obvious when we look at states that are governed by authoritarianism, dictatorships, and totalitarianism. But even so-called "democracies" routinely disregard the general will of their people. Democracies rarely, if ever, reflect the general will of the population. In virtually every state on Earth, the population is effectively subjugated by a state composed of "representatives" that represent nobody but the ruling classes of the state and the planet. What we have here, in the state, is a centralized force that routinely imposes its will on its people, against the will of the people. States are, thus, not legitimate legal actors and a legitimate global legal order cannot be formed with states as their legal actors.


Israel has repeatedly broken international law multiple times over the past 75 years of occupation with complete impunity, and it continues to do so. Much of the world stands against the occupation, including not only most people in protests against it all around the world but also many countries that were previously victims of settler colonialism and apartheid. Yet, the major Western powers that compose the United States Empire stand together in support of Israel and their immunity from the international laws that this very community created. As such, they expose their international legal order as a farce to consolidate and protect their spoils of war through colonialism, conquests, and territory annexations. The whole purpose of their international legal order is to justify their control over the planet. Every time any country stands up against the United States Empire, international law is used against them as a pretext for the protection of the Empire. But when any member of the Empire breaks international law, they are given complete immunity and allowed to do whatever they please. That exposes their international legal order as an illegitimate theater that is used to justify the domination of the United States Empire over the world and the oppression of all people under its global rule. Nothing makes this any more clear than the power of the United States to veto whatever resolution it pleases against the will of the entire international community.


Some of the principles of the international legal order, such as the principle of self-determination, are moral and just. However, it is very clear that the international legal order itself has become a sham. It is nothing but a means for the United States Empire to hold on to its stronghold over the planet. As such, we must consider an alternative global legal order. A new legal order that is not based on the authoritarianism of states but, rather, that emerges from the self-determination and general will of all people on Earth. We must abolish the state and rebuild the global legal order around self-governing communities, establishing a legal foundation that is based on the self-determination of all people.


The state as a legal form of organization is a threat to global peace and it must be abolished.

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