On Wednesday, Switzerland hosted an entirely useless conference.
Here is how Switzerland's foreign ministry described it:
Representatives of 126 High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention met in Geneva today to adopt by consensus a ten-point Declaration recalling applicable international humanitarian law (IHL) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East-Jerusalem. The conference was hosted by Switzerland in its capacity as Depositary of the Geneva Conventions.For years, the Swiss worked to convene a conference whose entire purpose was to confirm the conclusions of two previous conferences. Finally, they succeeded in getting enough countries interested in reiterating their bashing of Israel.
The ten-point Declaration adopted by consensus by the Conference today reaffirms fundamental principles of international humanitarian law which all High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War must respect. It emphasizes that these principles also apply to non-state actors. The Declaration reaffirms the outcome documents of two previous conferences of 1999 and 2001 and reiterates legal obligations relating to developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 2001.
In his opening statement, the Chairman of the Conference, Ambassador Paul Fivat, noted that through the declaration, the participating States reaffirmed that international humanitarian law and in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention continued to apply in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and needed to be respected for the benefit of affected civilians. Representatives of the ICRC, of UNRWA and of several groups also spoke.
Switzerland, in its capacity as Depositary of the Geneva Conventions and acting as a facilitator, had concluded last week that the Conference would be convened, after consulting High Contracting Parties about this question from 28 July to 3 December 2014. The Depositary undertook these consultations pursuant to a recommendation of the United Nations General Assembly contained in resolution 64/10 of 5 November 2009. While an initial round of consultations in 2009 and 2010 had remained inconclusive, the consultations during the last four months had revealed a cross-regional critical mass of High Contracting Parties requesting the reconvening of a Conference, as had been the case in 1999 and 2001. A small of number of High Contracting Parties expressed their opposition and did not attend the Conference.
There is something notable about this conference, though.
The last one was in 2001. Since then, Israel has withdrawn its troops and people from Gaza. As I noted recently, by the ICRC's own pre-disengagement definition, this means that Gaza is not occupied.
Yet the closing declaration of this conference did not mention the fact that Israel does not exercise effective control over Gaza, the textbook definition of occupation. It doesn't even acknowledge that there has been any change since 2001. It simply declares that all the territories are still occupied without the tiniest thread of legal argument.
The topic, apparently, didn't even come up.
Which proves that the purpose of the conference was for no other reason than to bash Israel.
This conference was effectively identical to the many such Israel bashing conferences held in Muslim countries every month. The fact that it was proudly hosted by Switzerland tells us much more about Switzerland than it does about Israel.