May 3, 2009
Middle East Justice For AllBy Ted Belman
The Arabs cry out for justice. The Jews cry out for security.
The Arabs demand their rights, even non-existent rights like the "right of return". The Jews have forgotten they have any rights.
As a result, the world considers the Palestinians as oppressed and the Israelis as the oppressors.
Recently, Tony Blair delivered a speech in Chicago on Global Affairs in which he said,
So Blair believes that Palestine is a matter of "justice". And he is joined in this belief by all the countries in the world.
They believe that the West Bank -- Judea and Samaria -- is Palestinian land and that justice demands it be given back to the Palestinians. This claim is based primarily on the fact that Palestinians lived there in 1920 or 1948.
Since when did living in a place or owning some of the land give one sovereign rights -- particularly when these lands had been awarded to Jews as their national home at the San Remo Conference in 1920. Great Britain was named the trustee of Mandatory Power.
Great Britain, in violation of the trust imposed on it on behalf of Jews, gave away the southern tip of the Golan and the Trans Jordan, both of which had been included in the award to the Jews, to the Syrian Mandate and to Abdallah bin Hussein, the grandfather of the King Abdallah II, respectively. Jewish rights over these lands were ignored.
The League of Nations in 1922 created The Palestine Mandate over the remaining 23% or so. It gave political rights only to Jews.
The Mandate provided:
Contrary to this provision, Great Britain restricted Jewish immigration, particularly during the Holocaust, and allowed Arab immigration. Was that just?
The Partition Plan passed by the UN General Assembly in 1947 allocated part of the Mandate lands to the Arabs, as the Palestinians were then called. Some suggest that this resolution terminated Jewish rights to these lands. This argument is not sustainable.
The General Assembly has no power to alter the commitments in the Palestine Mandate or to make law. It only has the power to make recommendations. In this case, contrary to international law and its own Charter, it recommended, that the land, previously given to the Jews, be divided into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Was that just? The Arabs rejected this recommendation and invaded the newly recognized state of Israel in 1948.
Because of this rejection, the Jewish rights to Judea and Samaria remained unaltered and remain so to this day. As a result, Jewish settlements in the West Bank are legal and the settlement freeze is illegal. Furthermore, Israel acquired possession of these lands in '67 as a result of a defensive war and by international law, is entitled to keep them.
Security Council Resolution 242 did not and could not cancel the legal rights the Jews had to Judea and Samaria. It simply provided a formula for how to achieve peace. Israel was given the right to remain in occupation, so much for the "illegal occupation", until she could withdraw from territories, decidedly not "all territories", to "secure and recognized" borders. By withdrawing from Sinai and Gaza, she has withdrawn from most of the territories, nevertheless.
Some argue that the Geneva Convention applies and that such convention makes the settlements illegal. The article, The Real Tragedy in Israel, argues persuasively that both contentions are wrong.
In the late-seventies, following Henry Kissinger's advice, the Arabs reframed the conflict as between Israel and the Palestinians rather than as between Jews and Arabs. The West then embraced the Palestinian cause, in disregard of Jewish rights in order to curry favor with the Arabs. It did so, not as a matter of justice, but as a matter of self-interest.
Some believe that Israel forced the Arabs to flee in 1948 and so, as a matter of justice, the Arabs and their descendants should be allowed to return. Whether or not the Arabs were forced to flee or chose to, there is no precedent mandating the return of refugees who fled during a war. In fact, there is ample precedent for their relocation.
It is important to note that UNRWA considers as refugees, "individuals and their direct descendants who lived in Palestine a minimum of two years preceding the 1948 conflict." To be fair to the Jews who were barred from entering Palestine for perhaps 10 years preceding the conflict, this two year period should be extended to 10 years, thereby reducing the number of refugees.
What would further reduce the number of refugees, and dramatically so, would be to delete "and their direct descendants" from this classification. Doing so would accord with the legal definition of refugees generally applied throughout the world. You can only be a refugee from a country in which you "habitually resided".
The Roadmap called for "agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue". The Roadmap based itself on Resolution 242 of 1967, which called for "a just settlement of the refugee problem". One has to wonder how the addition of the words "agreed", "fair" and "realistic" changed matters. The Roadmap, against the wishes of Israel, recited the Beirut Arab Summit Declaration of March 2002. The US said it was non-negotiable. Was that just? That declaration called for the "achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194." But this requirement was not repeated in the operative terms of the document.
The Roadmap refers to the "refugee problem", thereby including Jewish refugees from Arab lands, whereas the Arab declaration limits it to the Palestinian refugees and, pursuant to Res.194, recommends "that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so". But this resolution, like all General Assembly resolutions, is a recommendation only.
Both formulations stress a just solution, but what is "just"? It is certainly not a one-way street. Justice must take into account the claims and rights of both parties. But there is no impartial court or judge to be found to make the determination. Therefore, issues must be freely negotiated. But Israelis aren't allowed this luxury...and not just with the refugee issue.
The international community imposes narrow limits to the negotiations and doesn't permit Israel to opt out or say "no". The Roadmap requires Palestine to be created, "viable" and "contiguous". These should be matters for negotiation. Ultimately, the resolution of these issues is a matter of power politics, not justice. It is a sham to embrace justice as your cause when it is anything but.
Furthermore, only Israel is expected to honor her commitments. The Arabs are given a pass. This is not just.
Israel is not bound by the Arab Declaration and will no doubt be asking for reciprocity when it comes to providing compensation to refugees. The compensation due Jewish refugees is many times more than the compensation that the Arab refugees may claim. Jews had lived for centuries in Arab countries, accumulating much wealth and land, which they were forced to leave behind when they were expelled. Justice demands equal treatment for both refugee groups.
All the advocates of the Palestinian "right of return" have been denying justice to the refugees themselves for sixty years. The refugees are forced to remain in squalid camps rather than resettled as is done for all other refugees. With such hypocrisy, how can one take their calls for justice seriously?
Some advocates for justice for the Palestinians consider that the creation of Israel, itself, was an act of colonialism and therefore not just. Justice, they say, demands that Israel be "wiped off the map". This argument gains no traction in law. At the San Remo Conference, the World War I victors held hearings, received evidence and made determinations. No better method has been devised to arrive at a just result. They determined the borders of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine and allocated each of these areas to certain rulers or people. Their decisions have the force of international law. The matter is res judicata.
The accusation of colonialism in the creation of Israel must be debunked. The decision in San Remo did not create an imperialist outpost but merely recognized "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country". Furthermore, more than 50% of Israel's inhabitants after the Arabs expelled Jews from Arab lands around the '48 war were indigenous to the area -- hardly a colonial outpost.
The Arabs also complain European countries created Israel in expiation of their sin of anti-Semitism culminating in the Holocaust. Never mind that the Holocaust came 20 years after San Remo. But even if it were true, it was an act of affirmative action. The US Supreme Court upheld affirmative action on the basis of past discrimination. If anyone is entitled to affirmative action, the Jews are, based on Christian and Islamic discrimination over centuries.
The Arabs, as Palestinians, present their cause as a national liberation movement and deny the Jews the same right. But Zionism, simple put, is a Jewish liberation movement. Eighty percent of the population of Jordan are Palestinians, so the West Bank Palestinians already have a Palestinian state in which to find their liberation. In fact, from 1948 to 1967 the West Bank, for all practical purposes was part of Jordan. A second Palestinian state is superfluous.
In fact by taking Trans Jordan out of the Jewish homeland in 1922, Britain already created the two-state solution. Now they want a three-state solution.
In 2004, prior to disengagement, President Bush gave a letter to P.M. Sharon in which he committed the U.S. as follows,
In flagrant breach of these three commitments, President Obama is pushing Israel to accept the Arab Peace Plan. Is this just or fair or honest?
The US and the Palestinians must honour their commitments if they expect Israel to honour her commitments. That's only just.
Those who advocate for justice for the Palestinians must, to be just, also provide justice for the Jews. You can't have one without the other.
Justice for all.