Last week I attended the kick-off event of a new Anglo civic group in Israel called Hadar. Several persons of prominence were invited to address the question ask to whether the UN would accept Israel today. This question was posed with the anniversary of the UN vote to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947 in mind.
With all that has been going on, I have not had a chance to discuss this until now…
The consensus, of course, was that the UN would not have us today, so thoroughly has that body changed in the intervening years. But I rather like the comment of Alan Baker, lawyer and former Israeli ambassador to Canada, who said that the real question was whether we would want to belong to such an organization. (The fact that we do already belong being treated as a separate issue.)
Baker pointed out that, as things stand, we are a second class nation at the UN, not included in any regional grouping. We can never be on the Security Council (there are rotating members) or serve on the International Court of Justice. The UN does not observe its own charter, but there is no international body to stop it from how it does conduct itself.
Baker says that international law is anachronistic. The last protocols came from the time of the Vietnam war, and do not address today’s international terror. Goldstone, he says, applied these outdated rules, such as no firing on churches, which don’t account for such phenomena as terrorists who store weapons in mosques and use them as a base for firing.
What seems to be the case, however, is that revising those protocols would not be a simple matter. According to Baker, a new convention on terrorism was brought forth immediately after 9/11, but was tabled within two weeks because it didn’t have a clause that pertains to actions against occupying powers. Translation: The Palestinian Arabs we refer to as terrorists aren’t really terrorists at all, they are simply acting in a legal and justified manner against the occupier, Israel.
Baker, as a lawyer concerned with legal process, spoke about those nations — e.g., Britain, Switzerland, Spain –that have universal criminal jurisdiction, which permits individuals to initiate actions against Israeli leaders with regard to acts allegedly committed elsewhere. He says that if we carry out bone fide inquiries ourselves, with regard to presumed charges, then legally it neutralizes action against us in criminal jurisdiction cases.
Dore Gold — head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Israeli ambassador to the UN — sees matters with regard to Israeli inquiries differently. We already have investigative mechanisms in place via the Judge Advocate General’s office that offer very strong civilian oversight. The danger with launching inquiries in addition to this is that they may hamper the readiness of the IDF to act: if there is always fear that a legal mechanism in the country will second guess how a soldier acts, he will be afraid to act. This is a situation that would put us at risk.
Baker says we should launch an additional inquiry into the Goldstone Report charges. Gold advises fighting Goldstone in public opinion, not the courts. (My own inclination is to agree with Gold: a further inquiry will appear to be an admission of guilt.) He believes the problem with Goldstone is the mis-use of international law, not the lack of law.
As some of you may be aware, Ambassador Gold debated Goldstone recently at Brandeis University. Here’s a link to his remarks from that event, compiled and expanded:
Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister, speaking to this issue of public opinion, said that the foreign ministry is intensifying cooperation with the Dovrei Tzahal — spokespersons for the IDF — so that information can be disseminated quickly.
However, said Ayalon, the world tends to judge Israel only with regard to our military conflicts and not our merits. Thus the Ministries of Education, Science, etc. must cooperate in informing the world about who and what we are. (My “Good News Corner” is promoted by some of the same logic.)
Gold addressed the ways in which the world is attempting to delegitimize us. They challenge our legal and historical rights, which we must assert with vigor.
We must, as well, expose radical networks and make it clear that they represent a risk to the entire West and not just Israel.
Our work is cut out for us, and then some.
While November 29 was a focus for the forum, consider what today’s news brings us:
Yesterday began “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” at the UN. Enough to turn your stomach in and of itself. There is no other solidarity day at the UN. Not with Kurds or Tibetans, or any other people. The Palestinian Arabs are very special indeed, it seems. So special that this “day”– which has been observed since 1977 and is noted as “a time of mourning” — actually lasts for two days. Scheduled for this year are speeches, an exhibit on the “refugees” and a film. To top this all off, yesterday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that a Palestinian state was a “vital” component necessary for regional peace.
Sigh… No, much too mild and tolerant. I take that back. Grrr!
Meanwhile there is on-going debate about Israel at the UN General Assembly. (This, it should be noted, is what Anne Bayefsky is most frustrated at not being able to monitor because her credentials have been taken from her, pending a January or February hearing.) Six anti-Israel resolutions are expected.
And once again there is talk that the Palestinian Arabs are going to ask the UN Security Council to declare a Palestinian state with the ’67 line as its border and eastern Jerusalem as its capital. I carefully researched the legality of this several days ago, and have already reported on it. What is being proposed, according to international law, should not be possible. The Security Council does not “declare” the existence of states. However, I note Alan Baker’s words, above, that the UN does not observe its own charter and that there is no international agency to stop it from how it does conduct itself.
I still seriously doubt that matters will get that far out of hand, but I am clearly unable to say with genuine certainty that what the Palestinian Arabs are planning cannot happen because international law will not permit it. Not when the international community in many regards does as it damn pleases. Ultimately, it might — in a worse case scenario — fall to the US to veto a resolution.
But let’s take a closer look at statement by PA president Mahmoud Abbas that PLO representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, read at the General Assembly: In the 61 years since the nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic, meaning the creation the State of Israel), Palestinians “continue to suffer under colonial occupation.”
He said more, of course, but this is for me the key statement, and, regretfully, not enough will be made of this — even though it is the tip-off to the core of the issue.
The Palestinian Arab claim, certainly the purported claim of the Palestinian Authority, is that there should be two states, essentially divided by the Green Line (’67 line). The purported claim is that we are occupiers in Judea and Samaria, which should be theirs for a state. But we haven’t been in possession of Judea and Samaria for 61 years; it’s been ours again only since 1967, for 42 years.
What the Abbas statement makes clear is that, as we are considered “occupiers” for 61 years, there is no acceptance of us within the Green Line either. All of Israel, in its totality, is considered to be a “colonial occupation.” There is no sincerity with regard to the “two state solution.” We know that this is the genuine Arab position, but it becomes public in such a statement. And who will pay attention?
It’s unbearable. Intolerable. I know no other way of saying this. (And no, I’m not laughing now.) At a press conference today, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Qin Gang, said that what’s needed to resolve the impasse with Iran is more dialogue, not sanctions. “All parties should step up diplomatic efforts.”
So much for the cautiously hopeful observation that China may be growing weary of the Iranian stance.
Reports from Washington and London indicate increasing Western anger with Iran, with “sanctions possible next month.” We’re waiting.