The term paranoid defines an individual psyche wherein the individual is suspicious of other’s intentions, often finding oneself in a siege mentality - with the thought that everybody is out to inflict harm and that everything must be done within their power to deter such an attempt. Modern nation-states are no different, as they often exhibit a mindset corresponding to the national psyche. Whether this corresponding phenomenon happens because the state warps the mind of the individual to its psyche or vice versa is irrelevant.
As I mentioned in my article “A Less Secure World,” international precedents forming international customs have the largest impact on international law. The accepted actions of the state by the international community, and their lack of punishment for said actions cement those actions as legal international law, which could then be used by other states to justify their actions. One such case study is Israel, which was established on the 14th of May 1948 within the British Mandate of Palestine, with the region supposed to be divided into the Arab state and the Jewish state. The next day began the Arab-Israeli war, with Israel capturing 60% of the newly divided territory of the Arab State.
What began from there was a country that exhibited extreme paranoia as it repeatedly aired its fears of aggression from its Muslim neighbors, and thus used this paranoia to not only justify a military buildup, but also annex regions that were not allotted to it within the partition plan. The international community not only ignored this paranoia, but also enhanced it by supporting the Israeli government in expanding this narrative - giving it support to become militarily aggressive. This was exhibited when Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion ordered military operations into sovereign neighboring nations in retaliation to terror attacks absent any restraint or negotiation, a paranoid and aggressive posture of power politics even by the relatively lax standards of the the pre-modern era. In his own words, “…. We do not have power to ensure that the water pipe lines won't be exploded or that the trees won't be uprooted. We do not have the power to prevent the murders of orchard workers or families while they are asleep, but we have the power to set a high price for our blood, a price which would be too high for the Arab communities, the Arab armies and the Arab governments to bear…”
Rather than condemning Israel for taking such a military offensive absent any attempted negotiation, deescalation or absolute provocation, the world defended these actions and cemented that a siege mindset is justification for hostile and provocative operations.
UN Truce Observers such as Lt-Gen E. L. M. Burns criticized this policy as extremely provocative, but the world acquiesced. This was further displayed when an Israeli armored thrust, supported by France and the British occupied Sinai, a territory three times the size of the country for five months. It would annex said territory for 15 years after the Six-Day War of 1967 till the Egyptian Army fought a war in 1973 for the return of the territory. The world did not condemn this abhorrent action, but defended it as justified against hostile neighbors whose territory Israel was violating repeatedly. The paranoia of the state went one step further when Israel launched a massive military strike against Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi airfields as a pre-emptive attack, thus cementing another militarily aggressive international custom called the pre-emptive doctrine, which would go on to deteriorate the security of the world.
Rather than condemning Israel for taking such a military offensive absent any attempted negotiation, deescalation or absolute provocation, the world defended these actions and cemented that a siege mindset is justification for hostile and provocative operations. The victory in the Six-Day War was hailed by the international community and the losing nations were condemned as the aggressors. This support for the paranoid narrative that Israel received allowed said paranoia to grow and for it to become even more hostile as it repeatedly violated the sovereignty of its neighbors through raids in Karameh, repeated raids into Egyptian territory in the Gulf of Suez, raids into Egypt and then outright invasions into Lebanon among other violations. All these actions received little international condemnation and were often supported by the international community as justified legal customs.
If a state functions in a siege mentality, exhibiting a paranoid mindset and using such paranoia as justification for their actions, then the acceptance of these actions will create a precedent and at this point, it is clear that the mollycoddling of Israel and the constant justification for its illegal actions have formed a legal doctrine that stems from paranoia and affirmed that for a state, it is justified to showcase aggressive military hostility if such state feels that it is under a state of siege by its neighbors. Russian invasions into Crimea and Ukraine are another example of the Paranoid Doctrine, where Russia annexed sovereign territories and invaded a sovereign nation to mitigate NATO influence.
There is no doubt that we are standing at the crossroads of international law and the path the world will take will determine the birth of new doctrines. The Paranoid Doctrine being cemented as an international custom is just one of those instances.
Israel has used this doctrine repeatedly to justify their actions and as the international community provided Israel with this international custom, emboldened, the state further started committing excesses against civilians, treating them as military targets. What is currently happening in Gaza is the culmination of this doctrine. The genocide where a conservative estimate places 20,000 dead and more than 37,000 injured being committed by a paranoid state that feels it must display absolute horror to deter any action is the crowning moment of the Paranoid Doctrine. A paranoid state can now partake in such genocide and use the Israeli case study as its international defense.
There is no doubt that we are standing at the crossroads of international law and the path the world will take will determine the birth of new doctrines. The Paranoid Doctrine being cemented as an international custom is just one of those instances. As Russia batters Ukraine, Israel commits genocide in Gaza and the Arab Nations bomb Yemen, it is clear that paranoia is being used to justify extreme military actions to violate the sovereignty of nations with the Western nations watching helplessly. They can’t mobilize nor take action since the excuses used by these nations were previously used by the West and their allies.
The international community cannot allow this to go unchecked any longer. It must stand together and condemn the Israeli actions in Gaza and penalize the state for its military response to highlight that paranoia is no longer an excuse to violate and subvert international humanitarian law. The line must be drawn from here and extended further so that such aggressive doctrines find no place in international law.
A colleague of mine stated that international law is dead with the invasion of Gaza. I responded, “No. what is happening in Gaza is the culmination of the doctrine and customs supported by the international community. It is the ugly side of international law.”