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Call for Papers: BDS as a Means of Enforcing International Law in Palestine

The Theme of Volume XVII of the Palestine Yearbook of International Law is “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as a Means of Enforcing International Law in Palestine”.  One of the principle criticisms of public international law remains the relatively impoverished mechanisms available for its effective enforcement, particularly when compared with those that exist under advanced municipal legal systems.

The Theme of Volume XVII of the Palestine Yearbook of International Law is “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as a Means of Enforcing International Law in Palestine”. 

One of the principle criticisms of public international law remains the relatively impoverished mechanisms available for its effective enforcement, particularly when compared with those that exist under advanced municipal legal systems. It cannot be said, for instance, that there exists at international law a practical equivalent of the long-established common law principle expressed in the maxim ubi jus ibi remedium – “where there is a right, there must be a remedy”.[1] To be sure, while international law includes a regime that governs responsibility for wrongful acts of both States and, to a lesser extent, individuals, with very few exceptions these norms can only be enforced with the cooperation and express support of States, which in turn requires sufficient levels of political will of governing elites that can be very difficult to secure. The result has been to leave unaddressed a growing number of grave violations of international law, many of which are at the core of regional or global conflicts, where aggrieved parties are either powerless to defend their rights or cannot rely on States to do so, even where such States may be under legal obligations to act.[2]

Perhaps more than any other international conflict, the situation in Palestine stands out as one of the greatest exceptions to the principle that where there is a right, there must be a remedy. For there exists a litany of rights that pertain to Palestine and its people under international law, but with no effective means through which to have them vindicated outside of the traditional mechanisms of State-centered power and international institutions. Despite the ample goodwill of many third-world States and the regional and international mechanisms through which they operate, true progress has been woefully inadequate. What we are left with is a world where Palestinians enjoy rights in theory, with practical implementation left in the hands of a few actors who have little ability or desire to effect their realization.[3]

In answer to the seeming inability of the contemporary State-centered international system to enforce Palestinian rights, there has emerged an alternative approach that finds its base in the global grassroots and in the history of other similar international struggles for justice and human rights. In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a uniform call for a global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law and, in particular, the rights of the Palestinian people. The BDS movement has followed closely in the footsteps of its successful precursor in the South African anti-apartheid struggle, and has become a key element of what Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, has called “the leading moral struggle of our time”.[4]

As the BDS movement continues to capture the imagination of ordinary men and women around the world, the aim of Vol. XVII of the Yearbook is to examine the movement and its ideas through the lens of international law. The Yearbook is edited at Birzeit University’s Institute of Law (West Bank, Palestine), and published by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (The Hague, The Netherlands). The Editor-in-Chief of the Yearbook is Mr. Ardi Imseis.

Topics of interests include, but are not limited to:

  • Why is BDS necessary from a legal perspective? Where has the State-centric model of enforcement of international law failed? Where has it succeeded? What are its limitations? Can these limitations be overcome?
  • What is the international legality of BDS activities, including cultural, economic, and social (i.e. academic, sport) boycott?
  • To what extent can global civil society influence the enforcement of international law, both domestically and internationally? How can it do this? What examples can be drawn from Palestine and beyond?
  • What methods have been employed by global civil society to influence the enforcement of international law in the past, and what lessons can be drawn from them?
  • What role can global civil society actors play in influencing state-centric international institutions to adopt a more principled and effective stance vis-à-vis Israeli actions in Palestine?
  • Are there lessons to be learned from the methods adopted by anti-apartheid legal activists that can be applied in the BDS context?
  • What theoretical questions arise when considering the role of non-state actors, specifically civil society, in enforcing international law?

Important Dates and Contacts:

  1. It is preferred to express interest by e-mailing the Yearbook Assistant Editor Ms. Reem Al- Botmeh and sending an abstract of the suggested paper.
  2. Draft papers to be submitted by 1 September 2011.
  3. Final papers with suggested amendments that might follow from the editing process, no later than 1 October 2011.

Palestine Yearbook of International Law - Editorial Board

Editor-in-Chief: Ardi Imseis

Consulting Editor: Anis F. Kassim
Assistant Editor: Reem Al- Botmeh
Copy Editor: Eliane Drakopoulos

Editorial Board: Anis F. Kassim, Camille Mansour, Ghassan Faramand, Jamil Salem, Ardi Imseis, , Reem Al- Botmeh

For further information please contact:

You may contact Ms. Reem Al-Botmeh, Assistant Editor of the Yearbook, at, or alternatively, you may communicate directly with Mr. Ardi Imseis, Editor-in-Chief at

[1] Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) at 163.

[2] One glaring example of this in the context of Palestine is the continued political and material support Israel enjoys, as an occupying Power, from a host of third party States who are duty bound as High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (GCIV), 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 287, to not only “respect” but to also “ensure respect” for the terms of the Convention “in all circumstances” (art. 1). The GCIV outlaws, inter alia, collective punishment (art. 33), settlement by an occupying Power of its civilian population into the territory it occupies (art. 49), and the destruction of real or personal property not rendered absolutely necessary by military operations (art. 53). Art. 147 prohibits a number of “grave breaches”, equivalent to war crimes at international law, including willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, deprivation of a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Under art. 146 of the GCIV, “the High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention...  Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a prima facie case.” See generally, A. Imseis, “On the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (2003) 44:1 Harvard International Law Journal 65.

[3] Without detracting from the force of its all-important normative findings, one particularly good example of this is to be found in the concluding segments of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Following lengthy reasons in which the Court establishes that the construction of the wall by Israel is contrary to international law, it offers its view (at para. 162) that the “situation can be brought to an end only through implementation in good faith of all relevant Security Council resolutions”, expressly invoking the Council’s approval of the Quartet’s Roadmap in resolution 1515 (2003) “to initiate negotiations to this end” and drawing attention “to the need for these efforts to be encouraged with a view to achieving as soon as possible, on the basis of international law, a negotiated solution of the outstanding problems” between the parties. But given the dismal, even regressive, record almost 20 years of US-sponsored bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization has produced, one wonders just what would be required to give effect to the august ends the ICJ speaks of? While the principal judicial organ of the United Nations cannot be faulted for the State-centered institutional framework within which it operates, there is something to the argument that from a practical standpoint its normative findings effectively fall flat through its exhortation to continue negotiations that have roundly been condemned as a failure, not least for their complete disregard of international law and legitimacy.

[4] Richard Falk. “The Goldstone Report: Neither Implemented Nor Ignored” (2010) Vo. XVI Palestine Yearbook of International Law.


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