The 'Charlie Brown Rain Cloud Effect' in International Law: An Empirical Case Study

76 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2010

Date Written: September 3, 2007


In this article, I apply the metaphor of Charlie Brown, the Charles Schulz comic strip character who seems to always travel with a rain cloud permanently hovering atop him, to a peculiar phenomenon in international law and foreign relations that affects only one nation: Israel.

I explore recent manifestations of and the resulting legal consequences stemming from Israel's subjection to this phenomenon, which is termed the "Charlie Brown Rain Cloud Effect," an irrational, troubling occurrence that ensures Israel will succumb to public opinion pressure and be forced to depart from its objectives, whether in war or during peace. Illustrating the far-reaching ramifications of the "Effect," I argue that an omnipresent, extrajudicial, anti-Israel bias has been cultivated and perpetuated in order to impede Israel's legal rights to which it is accorded as a sovereign and a member of the United Nations, and to impose impracticalities upon its exercise of those rights. Continually faced with conclusive allegations demonizing it as an occupying, hegemonic colonial power, Israel, I contend, stands alone as the unwitting beneficiary of the selective and convenient dilution of the United Nations Charter and principles of international law.

I utilize the "Effect" as a didactic tool to expose the several spheres in which it promotes disparate application of principles of international law. First, I explore the "Effect" within the United Nations, setting forth the instances of institutional bias against Israel through the organization's own violation of substantive and procedural legal requirements for adjudicating Israel's membership application. Second, I dissect recurring manifestations of the organization's disparate treatment - reserved only for and limited to Israel - and analyze the extrajudicial requirement of group membership, an impermissible imposition placed upon Israel to limit the full rights to which it is entitled under the United Nations Charter as a member. Third, I consider the 2004 advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice at the Hague that condemned Israel's counterterrorism initiative as a violation of international law and proscribed Israel's ability to exercise self-defense against terrorism. I then elaborate upon this proscription - and the accompanying manifestation of the "Effect" - by discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that erupted in southern Lebanon in July 2006 and the ramifications of the Hague Court's pronouncements. Ultimately, I conclude that, unless integrity and the vitality of law prevail over the numerous extrajudicial requirements and impositions to which Israel is subjected, the various manifestations and permutations of the "Effect" create a dire existential question for a democratic nation that should be accorded the same rights and privileges as all members of the United Nations.

Keywords: international law, law of self-defense, United Nations, International Court of Justice, extrajudicial bias

Suggested Citation

Caplen, Robert A., The 'Charlie Brown Rain Cloud Effect' in International Law: An Empirical Case Study (September 3, 2007). Capital University Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 693-767, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Robert A. Caplen (Contact Author)

Hunton & Williams LLP ( email )

United States
202-955-1677 (Phone)

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