December 30, 2016

Obama, Kerry, the UN and Our Post-Factual World

by Hal Gershowitz

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Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsIt seems everyone is doing it—even President Barack Obama and our Secretary of State, John Kerry. It’s almost Orwellian.  Truth is devalued like so much roadside flotsam.  Say something often enough and stridently enough and the words become truth, no matter how ridiculous the utterance. Where have we heard that theory before?

So, according to the US-supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334, Israeli settlements are the paramount obstacle to peace in that part of the Middle East between the West Bank of the Jordan River and the line where the infant Israeli nation stopped the invasion of four Arab nations nearly seven decades ago—the so called pre-67 border (the land Israelis and biblical scholars call Judea and Samaria).

One needn’t be a proponent of settlements on the West Bank (we’re not) to be offended by such an assertion. Reality contradicts the assertion.

Reality was the original League of Nations Mandate (Mandate Palestine) later subsumed by the United Nations recognizing the so-called West Bank as inclusive of a new Jewish Homeland that would exist among other religious identities.

Reality was the acceptance by Israel of the 1947 UN partition plan, which replaced the Mandate and the simultaneous rejection of the partition plan by the Arab nations.

Reality was a vicious war of annihilation in 1948 launched by four Arab nations, terminating the UN partition designed to create a Jewish and an Arab state in what had been Mandate Palestine.

Reality was the expulsion of all Jewish residents of Jerusalem’s ancient Jewish quarter by Jordanian troops in 1948 and the subsequent recapture of the entire city by Israel in 1967.

Reality was the pillaging and destruction by Jordanian troops of historic Jewish religious sites in the old Jewish quarter (the quarter the UN resolution calls “occupied territory”).

Reality was the destruction of ancient Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives.

Reality is the world’s misapplication of Article Forty-nine of the Fourth Geneva Convention, rendering Jewish settlements illegal for the first time. There has, in fact, been no forced transfer of populations into or out of the West Bank.

Reality was the Palestinian Authority secretly forging a unity government with Hamas, which controls 40% of the Palestinian population, while simultaneously “negotiating” a peace deal with Israel.

Reality is the Hamas Charter which demands the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews

Reality was PA Chairman Yasser Arafat scuttling peace talks in 2000, and admitting to President Bill Clinton that agreeing to peace with Israel would cost him his life. This was after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak surprised Arafat by, essentially, agreeing to two states on either side of the ’67 lines with land swaps to adjust the border to compensate for Israeli settlements along the border. Prime Minister Barak also agreed that Jerusalem would serve as the capital of both nations.

Reality was the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli settlements from Gaza over a decade ago, which resulted in the launching of tens of thousands of Hamas rockets from Gaza aimed at Israeli towns and villages.

Reality was Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas declaring that no Jewish communities would be allowed in a West Bank Palestinian State.

Reality was the Jewish communities that had once thrived on the West Bank throughout history.

We are not suggesting that we endorse Jewish settlements on the West Bank, or that we oppose a two-state resolution of this intractable dispute. We have strong reservations regarding the incorporation of a large, antagonistic, Palestinian population into territory perpetually controlled by Israel.  But the list of obstacles is long to an eventual two-state resolution of the conflict. Rejectionist voices are strong on both sides of this dispute.

Given that this disputed land has never belonged to any nation state other than, arguably, the Ottoman Turks (who, incidentally, welcomed Jewish settlement) referring to it as occupied land is ludicrous. The West Bank has been controlled by Jordan, Egypt, England and, today, Israel. Article Forty-Nine of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not comport with the circumstances on the ground on the West Bank. This has been disputed land since the end of the British Mandate, and, if anything, the British Mandate encouraged and anticipated Jewish presence on this land.  While the UN effectively replaced Mandate formulation with partition, the Arab nations clearly and resolutely rejected partition.  Only Israel accepted the UN partition plan. Israel controls the West Bank, because Israel was unsuccessfully attacked from the West Bank. Israel has always agreed that the West Bank is, indeed, disputed territory. To label it Occupied Territory as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention is ludicrous, even if the rest of the world considers it convenient to so label this land.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when proclaiming a lie often enough was considered sufficient to render it true. Much of the world seems to still succumb to such a formulation—to such larceny of language. Israel, however, is the wrong country and Israelis are the wrong people to target with such calumny.  They’ve been there before and they recognize it for what it is.

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One response to “Obama, Kerry, the UN and Our Post-Factual World”

  1. Janice Marcus says:

    Thank you for clearing that up for me. It’s so complicated and you made it seem quite clear.
    I hope that the next administration can make some head way in resolving this problem.

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