Posts Tagged State of Palestine

Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again

Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again

The Palestinians won’t achieve statehood, but they will consign the ‘peace process’ to history.

By Robert Fisk

photo by Ahmad Mesleh

September 20, 2011 “The Independent‘ – -The Palestinians won’t get a state this week. But they will prove – if they get enough votes in the General Assembly and if Mahmoud Abbas does not succumb to his characteristic grovelling in the face of US-Israeli power – that they are worthy of statehood. And they will establish for the Arabs what Israel likes to call – when it is enlarging its colonies on stolen land – “facts on the ground”: never again can the United States and Israel snap their fingers and expect the Arabs to click their heels. The US has lost its purchase on the Middle East. It’s over: the “peace process”, the “road map”, the “Oslo agreement”; the whole fandango is history.

Personally, I think “Palestine” is a fantasy state, impossible to create now that the Israelis have stolen so much of the Arabs’ land for their colonial projects. Go take a look at the West Bank, if you don’t believe me. Israel’s massive Jewish colonies, its pernicious building restrictions on Palestinian homes of more than one storey and its closure even of sewage systems as punishment, the “cordons sanitaires” beside the Jordanian frontier, the Israeli-only settlers’ roads have turned the map of the West Bank into the smashed windscreen of a crashed car. Sometimes, I suspect that the only thing that prevents the existence of “Greater Israel” is the obstinacy of those pesky Palestinians.

But we are now talking of much greater matters. This vote at the UN – General Assembly or Security Council, in one sense it hardly matters – is going to divide the West – Americans from Europeans and scores of other nations – and it is going to divide the Arabs from the Americans. It is going to crack open the divisions in the European Union; between eastern and western Europeans, between Germany and France (the former supporting Israel for all the usual historical reasons, the latter sickened by the suffering of the Palestinians) and, of course, between Israel and the EU.

A great anger has been created in the world by decades of Israeli power and military brutality and colonisation; millions of Europeans, while conscious of their own historical responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and well aware of the violence of Muslim nations, are no longer cowed in their criticism for fear of being abused as anti-Semites. There is racism in the West – and always will be, I fear – against Muslims and Africans, as well as Jews. But what are the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, in which no Arab Muslim Palestinian can live, but an expression of racism?

Israel shares in this tragedy, of course. Its insane government has led its people on this road to perdition, adequately summed up by its sullen fear of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt – how typical that its principle ally in this nonsense should be the awful Saudi Arabia – and its cruel refusal to apologise for the killing of nine Turks in the Gaza flotilla last year and its equal refusal to apologise to Egypt for the killing of five of its policemen during a Palestinian incursion into Israel.

So goodbye to its only regional allies, Turkey and Egypt, in the space of scarcely 12 months. Israel’s cabinet is composed both of intelligent, potentially balanced people such as Ehud Barak, and fools such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Ahmadinejad of Israeli politics. Sarcasm aside, Israelis deserve better than this.

The State of Israel may have been created unjustly – the Palestinian Diaspora is proof of this – but it was created legally. And its founders were perfectly capable of doing a deal with King Abdullah of Jordan after the 1948-49 war to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs. But it had been the UN, which met to decide the fate of Palestine on 29 November 1947, which gave Israel its legitimacy, the Americans being the first to vote for its creation. Now – by a supreme irony of history – it is Israel which wishes to prevent the UN from giving Palestinian Arabs their legitimacy – and it is America which will be the first to veto such a legitimacy.

Does Israel have a right to exist? The question is a tired trap, regularly and stupidly trotted out by Israel’s so-called supporters; to me, too, on regular though increasingly fewer occasions. States – not humans – give other states the right to exist. For individuals to do so, they have to see a map. For where exactly, geographically, is Israel? It is the only nation on earth which does not know and will not declare where its eastern frontier is. Is it the old UN armistice line, the 1967 border so beloved of Abbas and so hated by Netanyahu, or the Palestinian West Bank minus settlements, or the whole of the West Bank?

Show me a map of the United Kingdom which includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it has the right to exist. But show me a map of the UK which claims to include the 26 counties of independent Ireland in the UK and shows Dublin to be a British rather than an Irish city, and I will say no, this nation does not have the right to exist within these expanded frontiers. Which is why, in the case of Israel, almost every Western embassy, including the US and British embassies, are in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem.

In the new Middle East, amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. So locked into Israel has US foreign policy become, so fearful of Israel have almost all its Congressmen and Congresswomen become – to the extent of loving Israel more than America – that America will this week stand out not as the nation that produced Woodrow Wilson and his 14 principles of self-determination, not as the country which fought Nazism and Fascism and Japanese militarism, not as the beacon of freedom which, we are told, its Founding Fathers represented – but as a curmudgeonly, selfish, frightened state whose President, after promising a new affection for the Muslim world, is forced to support an occupying power against a people who only ask for statehood.

Should we say “poor old Obama”, as I have done in the past? I don’t think so. Big on rhetoric, vain, handing out false love in Istanbul and Cairo within months of his election, he will this week prove that his re-election is more important than the future of the Middle East, that his personal ambition to stay in power must take first place over the sufferings of an occupied people. In this context alone, it is bizarre that a man of such supposed high principle should show himself so cowardly. In the new Middle East, in which Arabs are claiming the very same rights and freedoms that Israel and America say they champion, this is a profound tragedy.

US failures to stand up to Israel and to insist on a fair peace in “Palestine”, abetted by the hero of the Iraq war, Blair, are responsible. Arabs too, for allowing their dictators to last so long and thus to clog the sand with false frontiers and old dogmas and oil (and let’s not believe that a “new” “Palestine” would be a paradise for its own people). Israel, too, when it should be welcoming the Palestinian demand for statehood at the UN with all its obligations of security and peace and recognition of other UN members. But no. The game is lost. America’s political power in the Middle East will this week be neutered on behalf of Israel. Quite a sacrifice in the name of liberty…

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper

© 2011 The Independent


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Dichter’s Law by Uri Avnery

Dichter’s Law

13/08/11  by Uri Avnery

THE PEOPLE Demand Social Justice!” 250 thousand protesters chanted in unison in Tel Aviv last Saturday. But what they need – to quote an American artist – is “more unemployed politicians”.

Fortunately, the Knesset has gone on a prolonged vacation, three months. For as Mark Twain quipped: “No man’s life or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”

As if to prove this point, MK Avi Dichter submitted, on the very last day of the outgoing session, a bill so outrageous that it easily trumps all the many other racist laws lately adopted by this Knesset.

“DICHTER” IS A German name and means “poet”. But no poet he. He is the former chief of the secret police, the “General Security Service” (Shin-Bet or Shabak).

(“Dichter also means “more dense”, but let’s not dwell on that.)

He proudly announced that he had spent a year and a half smoothening and sharpening this particular project, turning it into a legislative masterpiece.

And a masterpiece it is. No colleague in yesterday’s Germany or present-day Iran could have produced a more illustrious piece. The other members of the Knesset seem to feel so, too – no less than 20 of the 28 members of the Kadima faction, as well as all the other dyed-in-the-wool racist members of this august body, have proudly put their name to this bill as co-authors.

The very name – “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” – shows that this Dichter is neither a poet nor much of an intellectual. Secret police chiefs seldom are.

“Nation” and “People” are two different concepts. It is generally accepted that a people is an ethnic entity, and a nation is a political community. They exist on two different levels. But never mind.

It is the content of the bill that counts.

WHAT DICHTER proposes is to put an end to the official definition of Israel as a “Jewish and Democratic State”.

He proposes instead to set clear priorities: Israel is first and foremost the nation-state of the Jewish people, and only as a far second a democratic state. Wherever democracy clashes with the Jewishness of the state, Jewishness wins, democracy loses.

This makes him, by the way, the first right-wing Zionist (apart from Meir Kahane) who openly admits that there is a basic contradiction between a “Jewish” state and a “democratic” state. Since 1948, this has been strenuously denied by all Zionist factions, their phalanx of intellectuals and the Supreme Court.

What the new definition means is that the State of Israel belongs to all the Jews in the world – including Senators in Washington, drug-dealers in Mexico, oligarchs in Moscow and casino-owners in Macao, but not to the Arab citizens of Israel, who have been here for at least 1300 years since the Muslims entered Jerusalem. Christian Arabs trace their ancestry back to the crucifixion 1980 years ago, Samaritans were here 2500 years ago and many villagers are probably the descendents of the Canaanites, who were already here some 5000 years ago.

All these will become, once this bill is law, second-class citizens, not only in practice, as now, but also in official doctrine. Whenever their rights clash with what the majority of the Jews considers necessary for the preservation of the interests of the “nation-state of the Jewish people” – which may include everything from land ownership to criminal legislation –their rights will be ignored.

THE BILL itself does not leave much room for speculation. It spells things out.

The Arabic language will lose its status as an “official language” – a status it enjoyed in the Ottoman Empire, under the British Mandate and in Israel until now. The only official language in the Nation-State etc will be Hebrew.

No less typical is the paragraph that says that whenever there is a hole in Israeli law (called “lacuna”’ or lagoon), Jewish law will apply.

“Jewish law” is the Talmud and the Halakha, the Jewish equivalent of the Muslim Sharia. It means in practice that legal norms adopted 1500 years ago and more will trump the legal norms evolved over recent centuries in Britain and other European countries. Similar clauses exist in the laws of countries like Pakistan and Egypt. The similarity between Jewish and Islamic law is not accidental – Arabic-speaking Jewish sages, like Moses Maimonides (“the Rambam”) and their contemporary Muslim legal experts influenced each other.

The Halakha and the Sharia have much in common. They ban pork, practice circumcision, keep women in servitude, condemn homosexuals and fornicators to death and deny equality for infidels. (In practice, both religions have modified many of the harsher penalties. In the Jewish religion, for example, “an eye for an eye” now means compensation. Otherwise, as Gandhi so aptly said, we would all be blind by now.)

After enacting this law, Israel will be much nearer to Iran than to the USA. The “Only Democracy in the Middle East” will cease to be a democracy, but be very close in its character to some of the worst regimes in this region. “At long last, Israel is integrating itself in the region,” as an Arab writer mocked – alluding to a slogan I coined 65 years ago: “Integration in the Semitic Region”.

MOST OF the Knesset members who signed this bill fervently believe in “the Whole of Eretz-Israel” – meaning the official annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

They don’t mean the “One-State solution” that so many well-intentioned idealists dream about. In practice, the only One State that is feasible is one governed by Dichter’s law – the “Nation-State of the Jewish People” – with the Arabs relegated to the status of the Biblical “hewers of wood and drawers of water”.

Sure, the Arabs will be a majority in this state – but who cares? Since the Jewishness of the state will override democracy, their numbers will be irrelevant. Much as the number of blacks was in Apartheid South Africa.

LET’S HAVE a look at the party to which this poet of racism belongs: Kadima.

When I was in the army, I was always amused by the order: “the squad will retreat to the rear – forward march!”

This may sound absurd, but is really quite logical. The first part of the order relates to its direction, the second to its execution.

“Kadima” means “forward”, but Its direction is backward.

Dichter is a prominent leader of Kadima. Since his only claim to distinction is his former role as chief of the secret police, this must be why he was elected. But he has been joined in this racist project by more than 80% of the Kadima Knesset faction – the largest in the present parliament.

What does this say about Kadima?

Kadima has been a dismal failure in practically every respect. As an opposition faction in parliament it is a sad joke – indeed, I dare say that when I was a one-man faction in the Knesset, I generated more opposition activity than this 28-headed colossus. It has not formulated any meaningful stand on peace and the occupation, not to mention social justice.

Its leader, Tzipi Livni, has proved herself a total failure. Her only achievement has been her ability to keep her party together – no mean feat, though, considering that it consists of refugees (some would say traitors) from other parties, who hitched their cart to Ariel Sharon’s surging horses when he left the Likud. Most Kadima leaders left the Likud with him, and – like Livni herself – are deeply steeped in Likud ideology. Some others came from the Labor Party, arm in arm with that unsavory political prostitute, Shimon Peres.

This haphazard collection of frustrated politicians has tried several times to outflank Binyamin Netanyahu on the right. Its members have co-signed almost all the racist bills introduced in recent months, including the infamous “Boycott Law” (though when public opinion rebelled, they withdrew their signature, and some of them even voted against.)

How did this party get to be the largest in the Knesset, with one more seat than Likud? For left-wing voters, who were disgusted by Ehud Barak’s Labor Party and who dismissed the tiny Meretz, it seemed the only chance to stop Netanyahu and Lieberman. But that may change very soon.

LAST SATURDAY’s huge protest demonstration was the largest in Israel’s history (including the legendary “400,000 demo” after the Sabra-Shatilah massacre, whose real numbers were slightly lower). It may be the beginning of a new era.

It is impossible to describe the sheer energy emanating from this crowd, consisting mostly of 20-30-year-olds. History, like a gigantic eagle, could be felt beating its wings above. It was a jubilant mass, conscious of its immense power.

The protesters were eager to shun “politics” – reminding me of the words of Pericles, some 2500 years ago, that “just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you!”

The demonstration was, of course, highly political – directed against Netanyahu, the government and the entire social order. Marching in the dense crowd, I looked around for kippa-wearing protesters and could not spot a single one. The whole religious sector, the right-wing support group of the settlers and Dichter’s Law, was conspicuously absent, while the Oriental Jewish sector, the traditional base of Likud, was amply represented.

This mass protest is changing the agenda of Israel. I hope that it will result in due course in the emergence of a new party, which will change the face of the Knesset beyond recognition. Even a new war or another “security emergency” may not avert this.

That will surely be the end of Kadima, and few will mourn it. It would also mean bye-bye to Dichter, the Secret Police poet.

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What ‘Israel’s right to exist’ means to Palestinians

What ‘Israel’s right to exist’ means to Palestinians

By John V. Whitbeck / February 2, 2007


Since the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israel and much of the West have asserted that the principal obstacle to any progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace is the refusal of Hamas to “recognize Israel,” or to “recognize Israel’s existence,” or to “recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

These three verbal formulations have been used by Israel, the United States, and the European Union as a rationale for collective punishment of the Palestinian people. The phrases are also used by the media, politicians, and even diplomats interchangeably, as though they mean the same thing. They do not.

“Recognizing Israel” or any other state is a formal legal and diplomatic act by one state with respect to another state. It is inappropriate – indeed, nonsensical – to talk about a political party or movement extending diplomatic recognition to a state. To talk of Hamas “recognizing Israel” is simply to use sloppy, confusing, and deceptive shorthand for the real demand being made of the Palestinians.

“Recognizing Israel’s existence” appears on first impression to involve a relatively straightforward acknowledgment of a fact of life. Yet there are serious practical problems with this language. What Israel, within what borders, is involved? Is it the 55 percent of historical Palestine recommended for a Jewish state by the UN General Assembly in 1947? The 78 percent of historical Palestine occupied by the Zionist movement in 1948 and now viewed by most of the world as “Israel” or “Israel proper”? The 100 percent of historical Palestine occupied by Israel since June 1967 and shown as “Israel” (without any “Green Line”) on maps in Israeli schoolbooks?

Israel has never defined its own borders, since doing so would necessarily place limits on them. Still, if this were all that was being demanded of Hamas, it might be possible for the ruling political party to acknowledge, as a fact of life, that a state of Israel exists today within some specified borders. Indeed, Hamas leadership has effectively done so in recent weeks.

“Recognizing Israel’s right to exist,” the actual demand being made of Hamas and Palestinians, is in an entirely different league. This formulation does not address diplomatic formalities or a simple acceptance of present realities. It calls for a moral judgment.

There is an enormous difference between “recognizing Israel’s existence” and “recognizing Israel’s right to exist.” From a Palestinian perspective, the difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified. For Palestinians to acknowledge the occurrence of the Nakba – the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinians from their homeland between 1947 and 1949 – is one thing. For them to publicly concede that it was “right” for the Nakba to have happened would be something else entirely. For the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, the Holocaust and the Nakba, respectively, represent catastrophes and injustices on an unimaginable scale that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

To demand that Palestinians recognize “Israel’s right to exist” is to demand that a people who have been treated as subhumans unworthy of basic human rights publicly proclaim that they are subhumans. It would imply Palestinians’ acceptance that they deserve what has been done and continues to be done to them. Even 19th-century US governments did not require the surviving native Americans to publicly proclaim the “rightness” of their ethnic cleansing by European colonists as a condition precedent to even discussing what sort of land reservation they might receive. Nor did native Americans have to live under economic blockade and threat of starvation until they shed whatever pride they had left and conceded the point.

Some believe that Yasser Arafat did concede the point in order to buy his ticket out of the wilderness of demonization and earn the right to be lectured directly by the Americans. But in fact, in his famous 1988 statement in Stockholm, he accepted “Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.” This language, significantly, addresses the conditions of existence of a state which, as a matter of fact, exists. It does not address the existential question of the “rightness” of the dispossession and dispersal of the Palestinian people from their homeland to make way for another people coming from abroad.

The original conception of the phrase “Israel’s right to exist” and of its use as an excuse for not talking with any Palestinian leaders who still stood up for the rights of their people are attributed to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It is highly likely that those countries that still employ this phrase do so in full awareness of what it entails, morally and psychologically, for the Palestinian people.

However, many people of goodwill and decent values may well be taken in by the surface simplicity of the words, “Israel’s right to exist,” and believe that they constitute a reasonable demand. And if the “right to exist” is reasonable, then refusing to accept it must represent perversity, rather than Palestinians’ deeply felt need to cling to their self-respect and dignity as full-fledged human beings. That this need is deeply felt is evidenced by polls showing that the percentage of the Palestinian population that approves of Hamas’s refusal to bow to this demand substantially exceeds the percentage that voted for Hamas in January 2006.

Those who recognize the critical importance of Israeli-Palestinian peace and truly seek a decent future for both peoples must recognize that the demand that Hamas recognize “Israel’s right to exist” is unreasonable, immoral, and impossible to meet. Then, they must insist that this roadblock to peace be removed, the economic siege of the Palestinian territories be lifted, and the pursuit of peace with some measure of justice be resumed with the urgency it deserves.

John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer, is the author of, “The World According to Whitbeck.” He has advised Palestinian officials in negotiations with Israel.

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Back to 1948

Back to 1948

Author: Jerry Haber
Posted by: Editor on July 25, 2011 1:00:00 AM


Most Jews of my generation (and younger) were raised with certain myths about the founding of the State of Israel that we now know bear no resemblance to the historical events. Even reciting these myths are embarrassing for the moderately informed. And we now also know that, even granting counterfactually that some of the myths were true, it wouldn’t help the Israel apologist, since the conclusions drawn from the myths are patently invalid.

For example, no educated person seriously accepts the proposition today that the Palestinian refugee problem was created when Arab states declared war on the State of Israel in 1948. That is because it is common and uncontroversial knowledge that half of the Palestinians left in months before the war was declared, when both sides were engaged in riots and skirmishes against each other. No historian, not even Ephraim Karsh, to my knowledge, denies that. But still you will read folks like, say, the Prime Minister of Israel, or, Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who repeat this narrishkeit about the Arab invasion of Israel being the cause of the refugee problem. I am not talking about who is responsible for the exodus. I am simply talking about the fact of the exodus.

Mahmoud  Abbas had written:

Sixty-three years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was forced to leave his home in the Galilean city of Safed and flee with his family to Syria.

Goldberg called that a “falsification” because one could understand Abbas to be claiming that he was forced to leave by Israeli soldiers pointing a gun at him, or that Israeli soldiers had it in for 13-year old Palestinian boys. But Mahmoud Abbas himself had said that his family left with many others because they feared reprisals from the Zionists. Goldberg calls this “self-exile”, rather than being forced to leave home. To drive the point home, his piece asks the question, “Was Mahmoud Abbas’ Family Expelled from Palestine?” (Since Abbas never claimed that it was, that is the quintessential straw man.)

So my question for Goldberg is simple: When Jews emigrated from Germany after Kristallnacht, was that “self-exile”? When Jews fled Poland during the Holocaust weeks in advance of the German arriving, was that “self-exile”? When Jews left Palestine in 1947 because they were afraid of Arab reprisals, was that “self-exile”? Or would he say they were forced to leave because of the circumstances.

What is a myth? A myth is a construction of beliefs that allows one to make sense of reality, even though those beliefs themselves are not true, or only part of the picture. For the uninformed Israel supporter, the myth of Israel’s founding is brief and simple. With the adoption of the UN’s Partition Proposal in 1947, the world recognized the historic rights of the Jews to a state in Palestine. The Zionists were willing to agree to a historic compromise that they would clearly honor; the Arabs were not. Instead, the Arabs initiated a war, called upon the Palestinian refugees to leave, so that the Jews could be thrown into the sea. They lost the war. So much the worse for them. Let’s move on.

Now, some of the above is arguably true; all of it is arguably false – but in any event, it is only a partial version of the events. It deliberately leaves out inconvenient truths, and fails to imply the conclusions that that apologists wish to draw from it.


The 1947 UN Partition Proposal did not recognize the historical rights of the Jews to a state; rather, it recognized the historical mess that Palestine had become, and so the UN called for its partition into two states, with an economic union of the two, and which excluded Jerusalem from either people’s sovereignty. The Zionists – to be precise, Ben-Gurion and Co. — accepted partition on paper, and either planned, or acquiesced to the partition of Palestine between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, not the Palestinian Arabs. Even if the acceptance of partition was more than tactical, it was abandoned at the first possible moment by the Zionists, and not because of Arab resistance – but because the Zionists had the upper hand, and they believed (as many do now) that all of Eretz Yisrael belonged to them. In any event, as soon as Arab rioting broke out following the UN acceptance of partition – rioting that quieted down, and then flared up again, with both sides engaging in illegal terrorist activity against the other and against the British, — implementation of the partition plan was put on ice, and UN Trusteeship, and the deferral of the establishment of the states, was put on the table. The Arabs accepted trusteeship (for a limited time); the Zionists rejected it. (This is never mentioned by the mythologizers.)

During this period, the exodus of Palestinians (and Jews, for that matter, but there were fewer of them) continued apace. By the time Israel declared independence partition had become a dead letter, and both the Zionists and the Arab states were ready to continue the land grab. During the interim period between November 1947 and May 1948, Arab states made clear their intention to go to war to protect Palestine (some had their own territorial ambitions) should Israel declare independence. When they did, they were not singled-out and condemned for doing so. Each side blamed the other for the ensuing war; the world blamed both sides equally.

When Israel advocates say, “The Arabs wrongly initiated the war, and hence they should suffer the consequence of defeat,” they are arguably wrong on the premise, and demonstrably wrong on the conclusion. For the declaration of the State of Israel could itself be seen as the casus belli; the fact remains that no international organization or state blamed the Arab states for wrongly initiating the war. But even if we grant that this was an act of aggression, and even granting, against the Fourth Geneva Convention, that territory acquired in a defensive war need not be returned to the aggressor, that would be the case if the territory belonged to the aggressor. But the Arab residents of Palestine were viewed only by the Zionists as the aggressors. Only on the racist premise that all Arabs are responsible for the acts of some, will that work.

And reflect – even if the Arabs were considered the aggressors, like, say, the Japanese, and even if the Zionists were allowed to keep the territory acquired in war — would this justify the large-scale displacement of their non-combatants – or even combattants, after the hostilities cease? Would it have been justified for the US to seize Japan and not let Japanese refugees return? Under what international norm?


It is at this point in the argument that the educated, informed, liberal Zionist, turns and says, “Look. Let’s not go back to 1948. If we do that, we will never get anywhere. That’s old history.”


That move is fundamental to the identity of the liberal or progressive Zionist. They can’t and don’t want to go back to 1948. They want to change the subject. And why not? Because they are educated enough not to buy the lukshen of the hasbaritas, progressive enough not to seem themselves as immoral dispossessors, and Zionist enough not to want to open the can of worms of 1948.

Thanks to Ehud Barak, Bibi Netanyahu, and Avigdor Lieberman, we have now gone back to 1948.


And, you know what? That may very well be a good thing.


Jerry Haber is an Orthodox professor in Israel

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The Jewish Ayatollahs

Uri Avnery

The Jewish Ayatollahs

THE ARCHBISHOP of New York announces that any Catholic who rents out an apartment to a Jew commits a mortal sin and runs the risk of excommunication.

A protestant priest in Berlin decrees that a Christian who employs a Jew will be banished from his parish.

Impossible? Indeed. Except in Israel – in reverse, of course.

The rabbi of Safed, a government employee, has decreed that it is strictly forbidden to let apartments to Arabs – including the Arab students at the local medical school. Twenty other town rabbis – whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers, mostly secular, including Arab citizens – have publicly supported this edict.

A group of Israeli intellectuals lodged a complaint with the Attorney General, arguing that this is a case of criminal incitement. The Attorney General promised to investigate the matter with all due haste. That was half a year ago. “Due haste” has not yet produced a decision.

The same goes for another group of rabbis, who prohibited employing Goyim.

(In ancient Hebrew, “Goy” just meant a people, any people. In the Bible, the Israelites were called a “holy Goy”. But in the last centuries, the term has come to mean non-Jews, with a decidedly derogatory undertone.)

THIS WEEK, Israel was in uproar. The turmoil was caused by the arrest of Rabbi Dov Lior.

The affair goes back to a book released more than a year ago by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira. Shapira is, perhaps, the most extreme inhabitant of Yitzhar, which is perhaps the most extreme settlement in the West Bank. Its members are frequently accused of carrying out pogroms in the nearby Palestinian villages, generally in “retaliation” for army actions against structures that have been built without official consent.

The book, called Torat ha-Melekh (“the Teaching of the King”) deals with the killing of Goyim. It says that in peacetime, Goyim should generally not be killed – not because of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” which, according to the book, applies to Jews only, but because of God’s command after the Deluge (Genesis 9:6): “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man.” This applies to all Goyim who fulfill some basic commandments.

However, the situation is totally different in wartime. And according to the rabbis, Israel has been at war since its foundation, and probably will be for ever more.

In war, in every place where the presence of a Goy endangers a Jew, it is permitted to kill him, even though he be a righteous goy who bears no responsibility for the situation. It is permitted – indeed, recommended – to kill not only enemy fighters, but also those who “support” or “encourage” them. It is permitted to kill enemy civilians if this is helpful for the conduct of the war.

(Intentionally or not, this is reflected in the tactics employed by our army in the “Cast Lead” operation: to protect the life of a single Israeli soldier, it is permissible to kill as many Palestinians as necessary. The result: some 1300 dead Palestinians, half of them non-combatants, as against five soldiers killed by hostile action. Six more were killed by “friendly fire”.)

What really set off a storm was a passage in the book that says that it is permitted to kill children, when it is clear that once they grow up, they can be “harmful”.

It is customary for a book by a rabbi interpreting Jewish law to bear the endorsement – called haskama (“agreement”) – of other prominent rabbis. This particular masterpiece bore the “haskama” of four prominent rabbis. One of them is Dov Lior.

RABBI LIOR (the name can be translated as “I have the light” or “the light has been given to me”) stands out as one of the most extreme rabbis in the West Bank settlements – no mean achievement in a territory that is abundantly stocked with extreme rabbis, most of whom would be called fascist in any other country. He is the rabbi of Kiryat Arba, the settlement on the fringes of Hebron that cultivates the teachings of Meir Kahane and that produced the mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein.

Lior is also the chief of a Hesder yeshiva, a religious school affiliated with the army, whose pupils combine their studies (purely religious) with privileged army service.

When the book – now in its third printing – first appeared, there was an uproar. No rabbi protested, though quite a number discounted its religious argumentation. The Orthodox distanced themselves, if only on the ground that it violated the religious rule that forbids “provoking the Goyim”.

Following public demand, the Attorney General started a criminal investigation against the author and the four signatories of the “haskama”. They were called in for questioning, and most did appear and protested that they had had no time to read the book.

Lior, the text of whose “haskama” testified to the fact that he had read the book thoroughly, did not heed repeated summons to appear at the police station. He ignored them openly and contemptuously. This week the police reacted to the insult: they ambushed the rabbi on the “tunnel road” – a road with several tunnels between Jerusalem and Hebron, reserved for Jews – and arrested him. They did not handcuff him and put him in a police car, as they normally would, but replaced his driver with a police officer, who drove him straight to a police station. There he was politely questioned for an hour and set free.

The news of the arrest spread like wildfire throughout the settlements. Hundreds of the “Youth of the Hills” – groups of young settlers who carry out pogroms and spit on the law – gathered at the entrance to Jerusalem, battled with the police and cut the main road to the capital.

(I can’t really complain about that, because I was the first to do so. In 1965, I was elected to the Knesset and Teddy Kollek was elected mayor of Jerusalem. One of the first things he did was to pander to the Orthodox and close whole neighborhoods on the Shabbat. One of the first things I did was to call on my supporters to protest. We closed the entrance to Jerusalem for some hours until we were forcibly removed.)

But closing roads and parading the released Lior triumphantly on their shoulders was not the only thing the young fanatics did. They also tried to storm the Supreme Court building. Why this building in particular? That t requires some explanation.

THE ISRAELI right-wing, and especially the settlers and their rabbis, have long lists of hate objects. Some of these have been published. I have the honor of appearing on most. But the Supreme Court occupies a place high up, if not at the very top.

Why? The court has not covered itself with glory when dealing with the occupied territories. It has allowed the destruction of many Palestinian homes as retaliation for “terrorist” acts, approved “moderate” torture, assented to the “separation fence” (which was condemned by the international court), and generally positioned itself as an arm of the occupation.

But in some cases, the law has not enabled the court to wriggle out of its responsibilities. It has called for the demolition of “outposts” set up on private Palestinian property. It has forbidden “targeted killing” if the person could be arrested without risk, it has decreed that it is unlawful to prevent an Arab citizen from living in a village on state-owned land, and so on.

Each such decision drew a howl of rage from the rightists. But there is a deeper reason for the extreme antagonism.

UNLIKE MODERN Christianity, but very much like Islam, the Jewish religion is not just a matter between Man and God, but also a matter between Man and Man. It does not live in a quiet corner of public life. Religious law encompasses all aspects of public and private life. Therefore, for a pious Jew – or Muslim – the European idea of separation between state and religion is anathema.

The Jewish Halakha, like the Islamic Shari’a, regulates every single aspect of life. Whenever Jewish law clashes with Israeli law, which one should prevail? The one enacted by the democratically elected Knesset, which can be changed at any moment if the people want it, or the one handed down by God on Mount Sinai for all time, that cannot ever be changed (at most can be interpreted differently)?

Religious fanatics in Israel insist that religious law stands above the secular law (as in several Arab counties), and that the state courts have no jurisdiction over the clerics in matters that concern religion (as in Iran). When the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, the most respected Orthodox rabbi easily mobilized 100 thousand protesters in Jerusalem. For years now, religious cabinet ministers, law professors and politicians, as well as their political supporters, have been busy chipping away at the integrity, independence and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

This is the crux of the matter. The Attorney General considers a book calling for the killing of innocent children an act of criminal incitement. The rabbis and their supporters consider this an impertinent interference in a learned religious debate. There can be no real compromise between these two views.

For Israelis, this is not just an academic question. The entire religious community, with all its diverse factions, now belongs to the rightist, ultra-nationalist camp (except for pitiful little outposts like Reform and Conservative Jewry, who are the majority among American Jews). Transforming Israel into a Halakha state means castrating the democratic system and turning Israel into a second Iran governed by Jewish ayatollahs.

It will also make peace impossible for all time, since according to the rabbis all of the Holy Land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River belongs solely to the Jews, and giving the Goyim even an inch of it is a mortal sin, punishable by death. For this sin, Yitzhak Rabin was executed by the student of a religious university, a former settler.

Not the whole religious camp subscribes to the unrelenting extremism of Rabbi Lior and his ilk. There are many other trends. But all of these keep quiet. It is Lior, the rabbi who Possesses the Light, and his like-minded colleagues, who chart the course.

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Indigenous and Women of Colour feminists endorse BDS

After witnessing Palestine’s apartheid, Indigenous and Women of Colour feminists endorse BDS

A group of Indigenous and Women of Color feminists who recently returned from a visit to Palestine has issued a strong statement endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Explaining their decision to travel to Palestine, the group wrote:

We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us – including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the US – was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.

The eleven-strong group includes pathbreaking authors and activists: Rabab Abdulhadi, Ayoka Chenzira, Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Melissa Garcia, Anna Romina Guevarra, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Premilla Nadasen, Barbara Ransby, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Waziyatawin. Their statement culminates with a strong call to action:

Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation. We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the US and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end US financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation.

Read the full statement and affiliations (for identification) of the delegation members below.

Justice for Palestine: A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists

Between 14 June and 23 June 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and women of color feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, we sought to affirm our association with the growing international movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us—including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the US -— was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.

During our short stay in Palestine, we met with academics, students, youth, leaders of civic organizations, elected officials, trade unionists, political leaders, artists, and civil society activists, as well as residents of refugee camps and villages that have been recently attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Everyone we encountered—in Nablus, Awarta, Balata, Jerusalem, Hebron, Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Birzeit, Ramallah, Um el-Fahem, and Haifa—asked us to tell the truth about life under occupation and about their unwavering commitment to a free Palestine. We were deeply impressed by people’s insistence on the linkages between the movement for a free Palestine and struggles for justice throughout the world; as Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted throughout his life, “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Traveling by bus throughout the country, we saw vast numbers of Israeli settlements ominously perched in the hills, bearing witness to the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions. We met with refugees across the country whose families had been evicted from their homes by Zionist forces, their land confiscated, their villages and olive groves razed. As a consequence of this ongoing displacement, Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the world (over five million), the majority living within 100 kilometers of their natal homes, villages, and farmlands. In defiance of United Nations Resolution 194, Israel has an active policy of opposing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes and lands on the grounds that they are not entitled to exercise the Israeli Law of Return, which is reserved for Jews.

In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in eastern occupied Jerusalem, we met an 88-year-old woman who was forcibly evicted in the middle of the night; she watched as the Israeli military moved settlers into her house a mere two hours later. Now living in the small back rooms of what was once her large family residence, she defiantly asserted that neither Israel’s courts nor its military could ever force her from her home. In the city of Hebron, we were stunned by the conspicuous presence of Israeli soldiers, who maintain veritable conditions of apartheid for the city’s Palestinian population of almost 200,000, as against its 700 Jewish settlers. We crossed several Israeli checkpoints designed to control Palestinian movement on West Bank roads and along the Green Line. Throughout our stay, we met Palestinians who, because of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and plans to remove its native population, have been denied entry to the Holy City. We spoke to a man who lives ten minutes away from Jerusalem but who has not been able to enter the city for twenty-seven years. The Israeli government thus continues to wage a demographic war for Jewish dominance over the Palestinian population.

We were never able to escape the jarring sight of the ubiquitous apartheid wall, which stands in contempt of international law and human rights principles. Constructed of twenty-five-foot-high concrete slabs, electrified cyclone fencing, and winding razor wire, it almost completely encloses the West Bank and extends well east of the Green Line marking Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It snakes its way through ancient olive groves, destroying the beauty of the landscape, dividing communities and families, severing farmers from their fields and depriving them of their livelihood. In Abu Dis, the wall cuts across the campus of Al Quds University through the soccer field. In Qalqiliya, we saw massive gates built to control the entry and access of Palestinians to their lands and homes, including a gated corridor through which Palestinians with increasingly rare Israeli-issued permits are processed as they enter Israel for work, sustaining the very state that has displaced them. Palestinian children are forced through similar corridors, lining-up for hours twice each day to attend school. As one Palestinian colleague put it, “Occupied Palestine is the largest prison in the world.”

An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance. Everywhere we went we met people who had either been imprisoned themselves or had relatives who had been incarcerated. Twenty thousand Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons, at least 8,000 of them are political prisoners and more than 300 are children. In Jerusalem, we met with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are being protected from arrest by the International Committee of the Red Cross. In Um el-Fahem, we met with an Islamist leader just after his release from prison and heard a riveting account of his experience on the Mavi Marmara and the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. The criminalization of their political activity, and that of the many Palestinians we met, was a constant and harrowing theme.

We also came to understand how overt repression is buttressed by deceptive representations of the state of Israel as the most developed social democracy in the region. As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of “pink-washing,” the state’s use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice. We met the President and the leadership of the Arab Feminist Union and several other women’s groups in Nablus who spoke about the role and struggles of Palestinian women on several fronts. We visited one of the oldest women’s empowerment centers in Palestine, In’ash al-Usra, and learned about various income-generating cultural projects. We also spoke with Palestinian Queers for BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], young organizers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as part and parcel of a comprehensive framework for self-determination and liberation. Feminist colleagues at Birzeit University, An-Najah University, and Mada al-Carmel spoke to us about the organic linkage of anti-colonial resistance with gender and sexual equality, as well as about the transformative role Palestinian institutions of higher education play in these struggles.

We were continually inspired by the deep and abiding spirit of resistance in the stories people told us, in the murals inside buildings such as Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, in slogans painted on the apartheid wall in Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, and Abu Dis, in the education of young children, and in the commitment to emancipatory knowledge production. At our meeting with the Boycott National Committee—an umbrella alliance of over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the General Union of Palestinian Women, the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI], and the Palestinian Network of NGOs—we were humbled by their appeal: “We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state.”

Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation.

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the US and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end US financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation. We call upon all people of conscience to engage in serious dialogue about Palestine and to acknowledge connections between the Palestinian cause and other struggles for justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

•         Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University*

•         Ayoka Chenzira, artist and filmmaker, Atlanta, GA

•         Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz*

•         Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz* G.

•         Melissa Garcia, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University*

•         Anna Romina Guevarra, author and sociologist, Chicago, IL

•         Beverly Guy-Sheftall, author, Atlanta, GA

•         Premilla Nadasen, author, New York, NY

•         Barbara Ransby, author and historian, Chicago, IL

•         Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University*

•         Waziyatawin, University of Victoria*

*For identification purposes only 
For press inquiries, please contact feministdelegation at gmail dot com

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FAQ – Questions about U.S. Policy and Recognition of the State of Palestine

Questions about U.S. Policy and Recognition of the State of Palestine

+ 1 – Can’t the United States exercise its veto power in the Security Council to prevent the State of Palestine from being recommended to the General Assembly for UN membership?

According to UN procedures, the Security Council must first recommend UN membership with at least nine yes votes and no vetoes by its permanent members. The General Assembly must then approve the recommendation with at least a 2/3 vote.

It is very likely that the United States could prevent the State of Palestine from becoming a member of the UN by vetoing its application in the Security Council. There is an infrequently used mechanism in the General Assembly, called “Uniting for Peace,” which enables it to circumvent the Security Council when it is blocked from taking action.

Some analysts contend that Palestinians may try to invoke “Uniting for Peace” in case of a U.S. veto in the Security Council. But Palestinian international lawyer Victor Kattan concludes that “this is a risky strategy” because the International Court of Justice ruled in 1950 that the General Assembly cannot admit a new member of the UN in the absence of a Security Council recommendation to do so.

If the United States vetoes Palestine’s application for UN membership, then the General Assembly still may be able to take symbolic action in September such as passing a resolution urging the Security Council to act affirmatively on the application.

+ 2 – Is it true, as the United States claims, that the UN is not the appropriate venue for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that it can only be solved through U.S.-brokered negotiations between the two parties?

The United States has wrongly arrogated to itself the role of convening and mediating the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” The United States likes to portray itself as an “honest broker” but it is actually nothing of the sort. The United States provides Israel with the weapons it misuses to entrench its illegal military occupation and commit human rights abuses of Palestinians, while shielding Israel at the UN from accountability for its actions.

Documents revealed by WikiLeaks and the Palestine Papers show the inside details of what outside observers have long acknowledged: the United States coordinates positions with Israel in negotiations and then jointly pressures the Palestinians to accept Israel’s demands while relegating Palestinian rights to the distant background.

It is within this context that the United States insists that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be resolved by the parties in negotiations sponsored by Washington, and not at the UN. However, with such a vast disparity of power between the two sides, and with an actor as biased as the United States is toward the much stronger side, such an arrangement cannot resolve the conflict.

The UN, which bases its resolutions and actions on standards of human rights and international law—not on what is solely in Israel’s interests as the United States does—is actually the more neutral institution, the more legitimate actor, and the more legally appropriate venue to resolve this conflict. U.S. claims to the contrary are only designed to strengthen its grip over the never-ending and disingenuously named “peace process.”

+ 3 – Will the United States still be relevant to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if it tries to block the State of Palestine from becoming a full member of the UN?

It is already doubtful whether the United States is relevant to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as things stand now. Palestinians, who are clearly frustrated and disillusioned by twenty years of negotiations in a U.S.-led “peace process” (that has been all process and no peace), appear to have largely abandoned the constraints of deferring to U.S. dictates.

Since the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations broke down in October 2010, due to Israel refusing to halt its illegal settlement activities, several events have occurred that point toward a new Palestinian diplomatic strategy that would avoid the trap of futile U.S.-led talks.

For example, its chief negotiator resigned over the Palestine Paper leaks and the PLO shuttered the Negotiations Support Unit, which provided research to its negotiating team.

Rather than rely on the United States for relief, Palestinians took their case regarding Israel’s illegal settlements directly to the UN in February 2011. In that instance, the United States demonstrated by its veto that it is willing to stand against the entire international community to protect Israel’s illegal actions, even when Washington claims it disagrees with those same actions.

In May 2011, Palestinian political parties Fatah and Hamas signed a unity agreement that appears to include their cooperation on moving forward this diplomatic initiative at the UN. (It should be noted, however, that the Fatah-Hamas agreement so far only touches upon their roles in the Palestinian Authority, created by the Oslo Accords to administer some of the West Bank and Gaza. The PA does not conduct peace negotiations with Israel; only the PLO has that authority, and as yet Hamas is not a member of the PLO.)

If the United States were to attempt to block the UN from providing the State of Palestine with full membership, then it would only be one more nail in the coffin for U.S. efforts to portray itself as an “honest broker” and to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would likely steel Palestinian determination to go around, not through, the United States to achieve their long-denied rights.

Questions about Palestinian Rights

+ 1 – Will Palestinian membership at the UN advance Palestinian human rights?

Full membership at the UN and further recognition of the State of Palestine may advance the cause of Palestinian freedom from Israeli military occupation for Palestinians living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard argues that with the State of Palestine enjoying full membership in the UN, “Israel can expect a legal tsunami, which for the first time will claim a price for violating human rights in the occupied territories.” For example, the State of Palestine could sign international treaties, including the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, which could result in Israeli officials being prosecuted retroactively and in future cases for their human rights abuses of Palestinians.

As such, this initiative may constitute an important step towards Palestinians achieving freedom, justice, and equality within the framework of human rights and international law.

+ 2 – Will the admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the UN change realities on the ground?

In and of itself, the admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the UN will not change realities on the ground. Israel will still be the Occupying Power under international law and it will likely continue to violate its obligations under the 4th Geneva Convention. Israel will likely still expand its illegal settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and still impose its collective punishment on the Gaza Strip through its illegal siege.

However, the initiative will not, in and of itself, achieve justice for Palestinian refugees because it will not ensure they can exercise their right of return to their homes in what is today Israel. (For additional details on the US Campaign’s position in support of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, see its fact sheet “The Palestinian Right of Return.”) Nor will the initiative, in and of itself, achieve equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Both justice for Palestinian refugees and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel are necessary for the establishment of a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace and for reconciliation between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis.

+ 3 – Assuming that even if the State of Palestine attains full membership at the UN, and Israel still occupies the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, treats its Palestinian citizens unequally, and denies Palestinian refugees their right of return, then isn’t this all much ado about nothing?

In addition to the State of Palestine attaining increased rights and functions at the UN that could lead to the protection and advancement of Palestinian human rights, the initiative—whether or not it is successful—is likely to further increase global opposition to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, as well as U.S. support for these policies. This is partly why Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak referred to the initiative as a “diplomatic tsunami.”

Legal Questions

+ 1 – Will full membership in the UN change the legal status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories?

Since 1967, Israel has maintained a belligerent military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. As the Occupying Power of these territories, Israel is already legally obligated under the 4th Geneva Convention to provide for all the needs of its residents and not to change its demographics. This is why Israel’s policies and actions of injuring and killing civilians, destroying infrastructure, building settlements for Israelis to move into the occupied territories, demolishing Palestinian homes, establishing curfews and travel restrictions, etc. are all illegal.

Admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the UN will not change the legal status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. They will still be held by Israel under belligerent military occupation and the 4th Geneva Convention will still apply.

The only difference would be that the UN would be recognizing that Israel is occupying the territory of a country that is a member state of the UN. It would also demolish Israel’s specious argument that the Occupied Palestinian Territories are “disputed” rather than occupied.

+ 2 – Is there a difference between a state being admitted as a full member of the UN and its recognition as a state by others?

Whether or not a country decides to recognize a member of the UN is left to the discretion of that country; the UN does not have the power to “recognize” states. Were the State of Palestine to secure full membership in the UN, this would provide it with credentials to participate in all aspects and functioning of the UN, including by signing treaties and joining other inter-governmental agencies just like all other members of the UN. If the General Assembly were to vote on full membership for the State of Palestine, then its non-recognition by Israel and/or the United States would not prevent it from fully participating in the UN.

+ 3 – Could the United States recognize the State of Palestine if it wanted to?

The United States currently accredits the Palestine Liberation Organization Delegation of the United States as the Palestinian diplomatic mission in this country. It does not recognize the State of Palestine, although it has discretion to do so if it chose, just like the other 100+ states which already have done so.

U.S. recognition of Palestinian statehood could have important legal and political implications for ending U.S. support for Israeli military occupation. The United States has ratified the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which affirms that “The territory of a state is inviolable and may not be the object of military occupation nor of other measures of force imposed by another state directly or indirectly or for any motive whatever even temporarily.”

Referring to the Montevideo Convention, international legal scholar John Whitbeck notes that “Both domestic and international law require[s] the U.S. Government to respect and observe its provisions, which are not subject to any geographical qualifications or limits.” He also observes that the United States could recognize the State of Palestine even in the absence of that state controlling its territory, as the United States continued to do with the Baltic States after they were absorbed by the Soviet Union by the end of World War II.

In September, Palestinians are expected to make a push for the United Nations to admit the State of Palestine, whose territory would comprise the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, as a full member of the organization.

The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) are designed to provide groups, activists, and concerned individuals with information to help them think through the ramifications of this important diplomatic initiative.

Historical Questions

+ 1 – Didn’t the UN already call for an Arab State to be created in Palestine in the 1947 Partition Plan?

In 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181 to partition Palestine into two states—a Jewish state (55%) and an Arab state (45%)—with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum, an open city administered by the UN. At the time of partition, Palestinian Arabs owned approximately 93% of Palestine, and Jews owned 7% of the land.

The partition plan was never implemented. Pre-state Zionist militias and later the Israeli army, which came into existence upon the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, drove Palestinians from their homes both within and beyond the territories allocated for a Jewish state under the partition plan. Other Palestinians fled their homes under war conditions, fully intending to return when the situation was calm.

By the time armistice agreements were signed between Israel and neighboring Arab countries in 1949, somewhere between 750,000 and 1.1 million Palestinians had become refugees, and Israel controlled 78% of historic Palestine. Of the remaining 22%, part was annexed by Jordan (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem) and part placed under military administration by Egypt (the Gaza Strip). This situation remained until 1967, when Israel captured and occupied these remaining Palestinian territories as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

+ 2 – Didn’t the Palestine Liberation Organization already declare independence in 1988?

Yes, the Palestine National Council, the legislative arm of the PLO, declared the independence of the State of Palestine at its 19th session, held in Algeria in November 1988. The declaration acknowledged that the UN’s partition plan “still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty.”

The anticipated September 2011 move focuses on gaining full UN membership for the State of Palestine, along with recognition of that state from additional countries that had not recognized it earlier.

+ 3 – Don’t other countries already recognize a State of Palestine?

Around 100 countries already recognized the State of Palestine soon after its independence declaration in 1988. Since 2009, many Central and South American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela), most of which were under U.S.-backed non-democratic governments in 1988, have recognized the State of Palestine as well.

Countries Recognizing the State of Palestine

+ 4 – Don’t Palestinians already have a diplomatic presence at the UN?

The PLO is recognized as “Palestine” at the UN as an Observer, not as a Member State. Its official presence is termed the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, which affords Palestinians a limited diplomatic presence at the UN.

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