Craig Murray: The Right of Self-Defense

By not acting against Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians, the U.K., U.S. and European Union are failing an obligation in international law spelled out in a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice. 

International Court of Justice in The Hague. (R Boed, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Craig Murray

Israel does have the right of self-defence, but only in precisely the same way other countries do. In fact, the only unique factor about Israel here is that it is the only country to have been found by the International Court of Justice specifically to have abused and exceeded the concept of right of self-defence, in its treatment of the Palestinians.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion to the U.N. General Assembly, ruled illegal Israel’s construction of its great Wall, which is a fundamental part of the Israeli apartheid system. The court considered Israel’s argument of self-defence and ruled that this did not justify the numerous breaches of international law represented by the Wall:

“While Israel has the right, and indeed the duty to respond to the numerous and deadly acts of violence directed against its civilian population, in order to protect the life of its citizens, the measures taken are bound to remain in conformity with applicable international law. Israel cannot rely on a right of self-defence or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall. The Court accordingly finds that the construction ofthe wall, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law.”

It flows from this that Israel cannot use “self-defence” as a trump card to tear up international law in the current situation in Palestine. The use of collective punishment against a civilian population — including via starvation, thirst and deprivation of medicine, the carpet bombing, the use of white phosphorus, the attacks on medical facilities, the attacks on medical staff, the execution of prisoners, the clearly genocidal attempt — none of these war crimes is excusable as “self-defence.” 

The military cooperation of the U.S., U.K. and Australian governments — in an attack which they know is engaged in committing egregious war crimes — also opens those responsible to war crimes charges for their active complicity and indeed conspiracy.

Furthermore, there is in fact a positive legal duty on states to be acting against Israel in view of Israel’s refusal to dismantle the Wall and the apartheid system in the occupied territories — including the widespread criminal settling and stealing of land which that system embodies. This is the International Court of Justice judgment on the obligations of other states:

“Given the character and the importance of the rights and obligations involved, the Court is of the view that all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction.

It is also for all States, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to see to it that any impediment, resulting from the construction of the wall, to the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination is brought to an end. In addition, all the States parties to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 are under an obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.”

[Related: Biden Risks Complicity in Genocide, Warns Brief and Lawless in Gaza: Why the West Backs Israel No Matter What]

Read that paragraph very carefully. Israel has not undertaken any of the actions specified by the ICJ and has indeed built more settlements and imposed more restrictions. It is absolutely plain that the U.K., U.S. and European Union are not only not fulfilling their duty in international law as set out by the International Court of Justice, they are acting directly opposite to their obligation in international law under the ICJ ruling.

The BDS movement is acting precisely in line with the obligations set out by the International Court of Justice, while the states attempting to ban the BDS movement are acting precisely against the obligations imposed on them by the International Court of Justice.

Finally, the ruling must imply the Palestinians do indeed have the right of self-defence. Because you cannot have the “right of self-determination,” which the court acknowledges, without the right of self-defence. Because it is impossible to exercise self-determination if somebody else can remove your bodily integrity at whim.

That right of self-defence must perforce be exercised by whoever has de facto control of Palestinian territory at the time.

Dec. 9, 2006: Palestinian farmers waiting to be let back through the Apartheid Wall to their West Bank village after going to their land. (FREEPAL, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I am indebted to a number of staff and national delegates at the United Nations in Geneva for pointing out to me the importance of the 2004 ICJ ruling in the current context.

I hope it helps you understand why the lies of U.S. President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, U.K. Labor Leader Keir Starmer, French President Emmanuel Macron etc. are indeed lies.

Subject to an “anti-terrorism investigation,” I do not view it as safe currently to return to the U.K.. Whether the investigation relates to my support for WikiLeaks or to my support for Palestine, or to both, I do not know, as the police have not said why I am being investigated. 

I honestly believe I am not fighting for me, but against encroaching fascism in Western societies. It is for freedom from an ever-encroaching police state and from a political class trying to enforce a monopoly of information to the public. The fight can only happen at all with financial support from the amazing readers of this blog. You have seen me through so much, and I am very grateful.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

33 comments for “Craig Murray: The Right of Self-Defense

  1. mr bog
    November 13, 2023 at 18:23

    I just absolutely love Clare Daly, thanks for posting the clip.
    She’s the only politician I ever made a t-shirt of with her picture which I did after I saw this piece on obama the war criminal:
    It’s great to see her still so very much on point.

  2. Dude Lebowski
    November 13, 2023 at 15:37

    From having gone to Sunday School, I do not believe that members of the Jewish or Christian faiths have a ‘right to self-defense’. Certainly, not a right to kill in self-defense.

    The old testament says that to get to Heaven, people need to follow the Law of God. “Thou Shall Not Kill.” No asterisks, or footnotes or references to other sections. The new testament adds to this the message of Peace and Love, and says to Love Thy Brother and that Blessed Are the Peacemakers.

    So, in both religions, if a member of the faithful, who has led a life as God and Jesus have taught them, is threatened with mortal harm, they do not have a right to kill in self-defense. How can they claim a right to break God’s Law, in order to avoid getting a chance to get to heaven? According to the Bible, the correct answer, both Old and New Testament, is to bear one’s breast to the sword and then decide on the first thing you are going to do when you reach the Promised Land.

    The right to kill in self-defense is Man’s law, but not God’s Law. God kept its law to four simple little words. Thou shall not kill.

  3. Selina Sweet
    November 13, 2023 at 13:01

    How weird! all this intellectualism when your gut tells you the ecological (applied to humanity) law of balance has been smashed into smithereens by the Israelis – past and present. They are the tsunami of all tsunami of locusts engorging on wheat. What is so complicated about this? And this dancing hesitation stamping the USA as genocidal assistants to the megalomaniac criminal Netanyahu? Of course the USA is. Duh! Do you think the Israelis will actually use all that billions and bullets and bombs to destroy the last living Palestinian breath? One of the many criminal acts being played is Biden’s delusional rationalization of support for Netanyahu. Pure fantasy. And the USA is racking up lots of fantasies in its support for more war here there and yonder. Good wars every one of them. We may not win them but the military industrial infotainment complex are mighty happy fellers and girls. You betcha.

  4. Tony
    November 13, 2023 at 06:03

    Where are the calls for sanctions?
    If any election in Latin America does not go the way DC wants, the politicians fall all over themselves to sanction that country. SMH…….

  5. Paula
    November 12, 2023 at 19:51

    “Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into reality. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. Make no mistake of it we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility and security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plans the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.” Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun, 1939.

    When international law is ignored, it is time for armed rebellion as if our lives depended on it. For most of us, without militarized weapons, signs and slogans, and solidarity, writing to our elected leaders who no longer hear us, are our only weapons, and the vote, if the voting process isn’t fixed or corrupted. I don’t think the world has time to sit on its hands trying to use failing diplomatic means and international laws the ruling oligarchs ignore, esp. time after time. Before any relief will happen, all the Palestinians will be dead.

  6. frits
    November 12, 2023 at 17:38

    waarom staat Putin op het internationaal strafrecht tribunaal omdat hij weeskinderen vanuit de Ukraine naar Rusland verhuisde en de Israelische president en zijn medewerkers nog niet? Weleens gehoord dat Putin ziekenhuizen bombardeerde? Kijk naar het nieuws en zie hoe het land dat zich mag verdedigen dat excuus aangrijpt om de daden van Heinrich Himler te overtreffen.

  7. robert e williamson jr
    November 12, 2023 at 14:02

    Just remember the U.S. government has no claim to not encouraging this behavior. Long before the tragedy of the horrendous bombing of the USS Liberty the United States Government turned a blind eye to the evil deeds committed by the Israeli government. WHY?

    One could ask, quite genuinely what does Israel hold over the head of the US government that results in the subservient behavior of the US to the Israeli government?

    It does not require genius to see clearly the Israeli’s have cut deep inroads into how the government, states and most of law enforcement deal with US citizens in the methods of policing it’s population in criminal cases, civil disobedience, dissent and crowd control. I left out the long championed Israeli intelligence that is supposed to protect national security. In the process becoming ever more analogous to the less and less democratic Israel, which now , in my opinion resembles a full blown authoritarian police state.

    America Wake the Hell Up!

    Thanks CN

    • robert e williamson jr
      November 13, 2023 at 12:36

      Self defense. Look into most the courts in most states here in the US. See for yourself what exactly self defense constitutes as prosecuted by the private citizen in this country.

      Now ask yourself what exactly would pass for any Palestinian whether they were defending themselves from Hamas or Israeli fighters.

      More “white wash” to purify the Israeli governments arguments for their genocidal offensive actions.

      Did anyone happen to catch Dana Bash on CNN Saturday morning,Nov 11, 2023, pitching the propaganda stating that through out history when anti-semitism grows with in the masses, democracy is threatened?

    • mr bog
      November 13, 2023 at 21:58

      Did you see this? This answers your question in a 10 second clip:
      Joe Biden 1986: hxxps://

  8. Harry Law
    November 12, 2023 at 08:57

    Most leaders of the UK political establishment say “Israel has a right to defend herself”. What is applicable to the war on Gaza is Israels duty to act within the perametres of International law, in this case the Geneva Conventions. Because Gaza is controlled by Israel,it is regarded as occupied territory, just like the West Bank [including East Jerusalem] and the Golan Heights, therefore Israel must administer those occupied territories according to the laws of occupation. This means occupation forces are obligated to take care of the occupied people and ensure they are treated well, until such time as the illegal occupation ends.
    The Israeli government from day one of its assault on Gaza disregarded all International law and proceeded to indescriminately target the whole of the civilian population with bombs and the withholding food, water and energy, clear war crimes.
    The UK political elite agree with this policy and to this day will not agree to a ceasefire, in other words they want the war crimes and crimes against humanity to continue. They will all pay a price, guaranteed.

  9. J Anthony
    November 12, 2023 at 07:37

    Because the US/Israeli conglomerate has the bigger stick, it will bully all it wants until someone, somehow, someday stands up to it. In the meantime they will flaunt and disregard any and all forms of international law or standards, as they (“they” being the primary actors that make the decisions and carry out the heinous orders) are drunk on their power and see no challenge to their military might. It really is a case of bullying, in a nutshell. The rest of us must continue to act up and speak out as we’re left with no other options, as what’s paramount is to stop all the warring and the madness borne from it, and maybe with enough push-back from the citizens living in the belly of the beast, the bully will be made to back down. Because realistically, it is doubtful that any other country, as much as they probably would like to, will mount a counter-invasion on the west, as that could easily lead to the end of the world as we know it, and possibly the end of our species. IMHO the only way to stop this and survive is a mass uprising of, by, and for the people, which, thank goodness, is underway.

  10. wildthange
    November 11, 2023 at 20:21

    So where does self defense figure in the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan.Or the Gulf of Tonken attack. The rules based world order has already been significantly debased. The bigger a countries weapons the more defensive they seem to be, or offensive to human values.

    • harry law
      November 12, 2023 at 09:14

      ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’ is a phrase which was coined by Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. According to US Foreign policy, he was correct.

  11. RWilson
    November 11, 2023 at 20:09

    I see the situation in Palestine as analogous to a bank robber in mid-robbery claiming he has the right to self defense.

    Extending the metaphor, imagine a sophisticated gang robbing Fort Knox. They are interrupted in mid-robbery and claim the right to self defense. Further, they have bribed the President and Congress, who all rise up and declare support for the gang’s right to self defense.

    Where is James Bond when we need him?

    • Jack Stephen HepburnFlanigan
      November 12, 2023 at 04:46

      Bloody Hell Wilson! You stole my line! “Where is James Bond when you need him?” I had been considering those exact words in relation to the idea of nuking Davos.


      • RWilson
        November 12, 2023 at 20:03

        LOL! Very glad to know others are thinking along the same lines. Not sure I would use a nuke, but I would definitely include the City of London and Wall Street on the list of decision centers.

  12. Graeme
    November 11, 2023 at 17:30

    Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant certainly quashed (if ever there was) any and all doubts as to the IDF deliberately carrying out a collective punishment of Palestinians.
    He is reported as saying, in a warning issued to Hezbollah, that by
    “dragging Lebanon into a war that may happen, … it is making mistakes,”
    Gallant went on to make his meaning crystal clear:
    “If it makes mistakes of this kind, the ones who will pay the price are first of all the citizens of Lebanon.
    What we are doing in Gaza we know how to do in Beirut.”


  13. ray Peterson
    November 11, 2023 at 16:36

    Israel’s claim to a “right to self-defense” is sounding
    more and more like Big Brothers’ O’Brien answering
    Winston Smith’s tortured query about the future:
    “A boot stomping on a human face–forever!”
    Nineteen Eighty-Four is here and now.

  14. November 11, 2023 at 13:55

    So why does Israel get away with it? Why does the rest of world not do something to dissuade the sponsors of Israel? Couldn’t they recall their Diplomatic Representation? Are certain privileged countries so above the law that murder and ethnic cleansing can be done with impunity?
    The oil rich countries could stop this madness with a total blockage of oil in a week. G.Hedley

    • November 12, 2023 at 07:43

      The reason is that this is a plan that includes the powers! The long-term agenda is gaining the land mass that was called the world island by Mackinder early in the 20th century. Israel is a plant in the Ragon for this plan. No number of bodies is to many. They have their eyes on the prize so to speak. The world island includes all the middle east, all! Russia, China. This would be the largest land mass on the planet, and Mackinder stated rightly that whoever controls the world island controls the world. In light of this knowledge, it makes more sense as to the why we invaded five of these countries in the last twenty years does it not? Power concedes nothing ever! It will murder hundreds of millions to get what it wants, and this island is what it wants. Nothing is going to stop it and certainly not international law! Henry the Devil Kissinger stated “The illegal we do instantly, and the unconstitutional will take a little longer. What do you suppose he means by this? He means exactly what he said, and now we have no Constitution at all.

  15. Maria Gerber
    November 11, 2023 at 13:41

    RFK Jr. and Bernie Sanders could do A LOT to bring this Palestinian genocide to a halt. The fact that both stand with Israel is beyond comprehension for any human with a moral compass. RFK Jr. is especially sickening given his stance as a man of great principle, as well as the founder of Children’s Health Defense. The last time I checked, MURDER was bad for children’s health. RFK’s campaign website does not give a phone number, so I am leaving messages at Children’s Health Defense.

    • Rebecca
      November 13, 2023 at 06:09

      That anyone with a conscience could describe RFK Jr as “a man of great principle” is incomprehensible. He has a long and sordid history of dangerous, unscientific anti-vaccination claims; his Children’s Health Defense propaganda setup is deeply harmful to the lives of children. He claimed that COVID-19 could have been “ethnically targeted” to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people. His statements show him to be a false anti-elitist, always arguing from a far right perspective, with no interest in improving the lives of the American working class.

    • TP Graf
      November 13, 2023 at 06:50

      I don’t know that either could stop it, but by-damn not to try is a complete betrayal of their proclaimed ethic for peace. Meanwhile large numbers of Americans continue to cheer it on–including presidential candidates. It is completely sickening. I guess we shouldn’t be a bit surprised when we so willingly cheer on the slaughter of Ukrainians for the sake of our misguided proxy war against “evil Putin.” If our “allies” matter not, certainly dead Palestinians matter even less–as we are blatantly proving to the world hour by hour.

  16. John Manning
    November 11, 2023 at 13:14

    If my memory is correct it was Joseph Goebbels who coined the phrase “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” This describes well the nature of modern Israel. They tell the lies and everyone seems happy to repeat them.

    Israel is actually claiming its “Right of Revenge” described differently to please a European audience.

  17. Carolyn L Zaremba
    November 11, 2023 at 13:09

    Thank you, Craig Murray, for clearing up this obligation and thank you in general for standing for justice. Those who are “investigating” you, who have committed no crime, are the same forces who are supporting war crimes in Israel. I share your fears about the rising of fascistic disregard for international law, especially in the United States, where I live. The UK and the EU are no better. I will continue to send support for you and your work.

  18. Steve
    November 11, 2023 at 13:06

    These people either think that through their ultimate victory over the desire for Palestinian statehood and multipolarity, they will not be held accountable. Just like Curtis Le May stated after the Second World War. Or they believe that nobody will be left alive or anyone powerful enough to prosecute them for the horror that they have inflicted upon innocent people.

  19. November 11, 2023 at 11:32

    Israel is “defending its right to exist” in much the same manner as the U.S. was “defending its right to exist” in bombing the crap out of Iraq.

    Sadly, as a so-called “leader”, the U.S. has set a large number of bad examples for the rest of the world to follow.

  20. November 11, 2023 at 11:28

    Thnak uou Craig, you cite the obvious but which is universally ignored and distorted by the media and the governments that most hypocritically claim to stand for the rule of law, liberty and democracy.

  21. Horatio
    November 11, 2023 at 10:51

    Israel doesn’t have to abide by international rules. The United States have given this nation license to kill, which includes American citizens. Most people in the U.S. haven’t heard of the attack on the US Liberty in 1967 which killed 34 American sailors and wounded over 100 more. Nor have they heard that during this war Israel executed a large number of Egyptian POWs. Again, since Israel has license from the United States to kill, this was brushed under the rug. I’m a bit surprised and heartened with the protests all over the world with the killings of Palestinians. But this too, will be brushed under the rug and Israel will continue with its slaughter. Not to allow them to kill is considered anti-semitic.

  22. Joy A
    November 11, 2023 at 10:42

    Thank you Craig, and Consortium News for standing up for humanity, justice and truth!

  23. November 11, 2023 at 10:20

    Hurray for Mr. Murray!

    The legal scholars are in agreement:

    “Peoples and the national liberation movements representing them may engage in militarily organized armed resistance as a last resort, including a full-fledged war of national liberation, if their right to self-determination is forcibly denied due to colonial domination, unlawful alien occupation, or a racist regime.”

    Jan Hessbruegge (10 April 2017) Human Rights and Personal Self-Defense in International Law, pg. 316, SSRN. Available at: hXXps:// (Accessed: 27 October 2023).

    Noura Erakat (11 July 2014), No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jadaliyya. Available at: hXXps://,-Israel-Does-Not-Have-the-Right-to-Self-Defense-In-International-Law-Against-Occupied-Palestinian-Territory (Accessed: 27 October 2023).

    Marjorie Cohn (14 May 2021) Under International Law, Israel Isn’t Entitled to ‘Self-Defense’ Against People Living Under Its Occupation, Truthout. Available at: hXXps:// (Accessed: 27 October 2023).

    • jank
      November 12, 2023 at 18:25

      Suppressed groups can engage in armed resistance but w/o better weapons than those they are faced with, it’s certain suicide. The one who is ALWAYS RIGHT, is the one with the best weapons. You can’t see this basic truth?

  24. Valerie
    November 11, 2023 at 10:09

    27th October 2022 the UN Human Rights had this to say:

    “Israel’s occupation is illegal and indistinguishable from a “settler-colonial” situation, which must end, as a pre-condition for Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination, the UN’s independent expert on the occupied Palestinian territory said on Thursday.”

    Good for you Ms. Daly. I always admire your direct speech. It’s amazing that Von der Leyen, as a physician, appears to dismiss the injuries and death being rained upon these innocent children, by not calling for a cease fire; a shame on the Hippocratic Oath .

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