Today is the 97th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration…

Here it is –>


We’ve written about this earlier, see here

The Balfour Declaration was incorporated, word for word, into the Palestine Mandate, under the jurisdiction of the League of Nations, created by the Allied victors, as a forum for the international community at the end of World War One, to “to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security”…

The Palestine Mandate, significantly, gave international recognition to the Jewish people … as a people.

    The Balfour Declaration [and the Palestine Mandate] also said: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”…

The Balfour Declaration and the subsequent Palestine Mandate led, 25 years later, to the Declaration of Independence, made on May 15 1948 in Tel Aviv, of the state which announced its name as Israel.

It took another 26 years after that for the Palestinian people to obtain international recognition [in the United Nations, created as successor of the defunct League of Nations] of their right, as a people, to self-determination…in UN General Assembly resolution 3236 of 22 November 1974, which

    Recalled its relevant resolutions which affirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,
    Recognized “that the Palestinian people is entitled to self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”, and
    Expressed “its grave concern that the Palestinian people has been prevented from enjoying its inalienable rights, in particular its right to self-determination”
    1. Reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine, including:
    (a) The right to self-determination without external interference;
    (b) The right to national independence and sovereignty;
    2. Reaffirmed also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return;
    3. Emphasized that full respect for and the realization of these inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are indispensable for the solution of the question of Palestine;
    4. Recognized that the Palestinian people is a principal party in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East;
    5. Further recognized the right of the Palestinian people to regain its rights by all means in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
    6. Appealed to all States and international organizations to extend their support to the Palestinian people in its struggle to restore its rights, in accordance with the Charter;
    7. Requested the Secretary-General to establish contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization on all matters concerning the question of Palestine;
    8. Requested the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its thirtieth session on the implementation of the present resolution;
    9. Decided to include the item entitled “Question of Palestine” in the provisional agenda of its thirtieth session.

The Palestine Mandate, awarded by a decision of the Council of the League of Nations [predecessor of the United Nations] to Britain [which had administered Palestine after defeating the Ottoman army there at the end of 1917], did not actually go into effect, formally, until Turkey finalized [in Lausanne in 1923] the Ottoman surrender after its defeat in the First World War…

The Palestine Mandate can be read in full here, among other places…

Continue reading Today is the 97th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration…

[Rare, Old] Palestinian banknotes sold at London auction

Al-Arabiya reported on its website today that “An Arab buyer in London has paid £65,000 (almost $100,000) for a rare Palestinian banknote that was auctioned this week in the British capital. The note, which was offered by Spink Auctions on Thursday, appeared for the first time in 40 years and was on sale with another 1,690 rare notes, many of them Palestinian”.

Rare 100-pound Palestinian banknote with special serial number
Extremely are 100-pound Palestinian banknote with special serial number

According to Al-Arabiya, “The 100-pound Palestinian note, issued in 1929, is extremely rare and has attracted great attention at the auction, Ayman Abdou, an expert in rare banknotes said this week. ‘The price which the note was sold at is not actually that expensive … At the time, this note could have bought an entire plot of land in the most beautiful parts of Palestine’, Abdou said. Abdou also said the note was particularly special because it remained in good condition, adding that its serial number is ‘A000000’. ‘The notes that have zeros are usually very rare. They are printed to be distributed amongst central banks across the world. This means it had been rare since the day it was issued’, he said”.  This story is published here.

[Land in Ramallah is going for something astronomical {like $1,000,000 a dunam or so} these days…]

We did an earlier post on these Palestinian banknotes, here.

Levy report finalized in record speed, handed to Netanyahu weeks before release = Israel's preferred solution?

According to Jonathan Cook, Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu “was handed the [Levy] report more than a fortnight earlier but was apparently reluctant to make it public … It was Netanyahu himself who established the committee earlier this year to assess the legality of the Jewish settlers’ “outposts,” ostensibly unauthorized by the government, that have spread like wild seeds across the West Bank”.

The Levy Report, published in Hebrew, is now available in summary form in English translation here.

The Levy Report seems to be Netanyahu’s answer to the U.S./Quartet demand to both Israelis and Palestinians to put down in writing what they see as the solution.

This is what many — though not all — Israelis want; it is the plan that’s been filed away in the drawer for years, just now brought out for view. Netanyahu has promised to study it, and has not yet moved to formally adopt it.

The Palestinian response has already been given: it is, as it was in the 1988 declaration of the State of Palestine by Yasser Arafat [and approved by the PLO’s Palestine National Council on the land that was not under Israeli control on 4 June 1967 just before the Six-Day war.

In recent years, particularly since the Geneva Initiative of December 2003, this was tempered with an apparent agreement to have “minor” territorial swaps of equal size and quality. The Palestinian opening position was that this swap should amount to something like 1.7% of the total land area, while for Israelis [under Prime Minister Olmert] this should be just about 10%. [PLO sources have suggested that in a successful negotiation, this swap should thus end up being something like 4.6%…]

In The Independent last September, just prior to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ formal submission of a request for full UN membership — which has been blocked by Israeli disapproval backed firmly by the U.S., Donald Macintryre wrote here that the reason for this opposition is Israel’s settlement enterprise in the West Bank [which the U.S. rather ineffectively disapproves]. Macintryre said that: “the issue at the heart of the high diplomacy thousands of miles away in New York, where President Mahmoud Abbas is trying through the UN to take another faltering step towards a Palestinian state” is this: “If that state existed, Yitzhar [one of 100-200 Israeli settlements in the West Bank], seen most of the international community, including Britain, as an illegal settlement, along with many others circling Nablus, would not”…

In my own trip up to Nablus in the northern West Bank on Thursday, the main north-south axis [Road 60] is dotted all along the way by orderly housing on the hilltops that are immediately identifiable as Israeli settlements, most with red-tiled roofs, and some, in Ofra, with wooden exteriors and roofs. Peripheral mobile homes signifies expansion, and this sight is common. There are plenty of other Israeli settlements off the major roadway, in an eastern tip of the West Bank which is not far from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. There are also many Israeli settlements hidden in the hilly land between Road 60 and the well-paved and lit Israeli-built road running directly east from Maale Adumim to the Jordan Valley, and also along Road 90 running north-south parallel to the Jordan River.

The dusty Palestiniah houses and villages along the way, the people walking along the roadside or waiting for a careening yellow overcroweded minivan to do errands or go shopping from rows of roadside shops, visibly testifies to the comparatively poorer style of life by comparison with the thousands and thousands of Israeli settlers who drive through as fast as possible, and for whose protection there are multiple mobile Israeli military patrols always nearby.

Though the phrase is blunt and cannot convey the full and gritty reality, a celebrated metaphor used by of the Palestinian negotiators in recent years descibes the effect: “We were negotiating about dividing up a pizza while they are eating it!”

There is not unanimity in Israeli public opinion about keeping [much less expanding] these settlements. Former Knesset speaker [from 1999 – 2003] Avraham Burg wrote in early June, about a month prior to the publication of the Levy Report, in another piece published in The Independent, here, that “anyone who wants to erase the pre-1967 border is essentially asking to erase the basic values on which the State of Israel was established: democracy, equality, the rule of law, secularism and modernity. Colonising Palestinian land across the Green Line goes in the opposite direction: it generates fanatic, nationalistic, fundamentalist and anti-democratic energies that threaten all civilised Israeli foundations. I have decided to not buy any product that comes from the settlements. I do not cross the Green Line, not to promote public causes and not for family events. Because everything happening across the Green Line is the dark alter ego of Israel. Its hidden personality is manifest there. Evil, aggressive and impenetrable. This personality threatens to take over the good and humane parts of the legitimate Israel. With international help, we must return these demons to their bottles, or rather to those positive domains for which this state was established”.

Tamar Feldman, Director of the Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Department in the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, wrote in response to the Levy Report that its conclusions “are legally unfounded and their purpose is to authorize and deepen the injustice that Israeli governments are performing in the Occupied Territories in the past 45 years. The settlement enterprise created a wrongful situation of absolute preference, in all areas of life, to the interests of settlers over those of Palestinians, while appropriating the land and water resources of the occupied population and injuring this population’s most basic rights – such as the right to property, to freedom of movement, to personal safety, and above all to equality before the law. The devastating consequences of Israeli settlements on the human rights of the Palestinian population are the ultimate proof of the importance of following the directives of international law in general and the laws of occupation in particular … Since 1967, consecutive Israeli governments held a steadfast and unequivocal position that the Occupied Territories are being held in belligerent occupation, meaning a military occupation, and they do not constitute a part of the State of Israel. There is complete agreement on this matter between Israel and the rest of the world, and rejecting this position – through a committee appointed by the Prime Minister – is outrageous.”

    Cook noted, in his article that was published both on the Electronic Intifada website here and earlier in The National, here, that “Certainly, Levy’s opinion should have come as no surprise. In 2005 he was the only Israeli high court judge to oppose the government’s decision to withdraw the settlers from Gaza. Legal commentators too have been dismissive of the report. They have concentrated more on Levy’s dubious reasoning than on the report’s political significance. They have noted that Theodor Meron, the foreign ministry’s legal advisor in 1967, expressly warned the government in the wake of the war that year that settling civilians in the newly seized territory was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention“.

    But, Cook added, if according to the reasoning of the Levy Report the West Bank [and Gaza] are not occupied [for, if they were, Israel should move out its settlers and its troops], then they should be annexed [and form a Greater Israel] — but both are problematic. However, he wrote, “from Israel’s point of view, there may, in fact, be a way out of this conundrum. In a 2003 interview, one of the other Levy committee members, Alan Baker, a settler who advised the foreign ministry for many years, explained Israel’s heterodox interpretation of the Oslo accords, signed a decade earlier. The agreements were not, as most assumed, the basis for the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories, but a route to establish the legitimacy of the settlements. ‘We are no longer an occupying power, but we are instead present in the territories with their [the Palestinians’] consent and subject to the outcome of negotiations’, Baker said. On this view, the Oslo accords redesignated the 62 percent of the West Bank assigned to Israel’s control — so-called Area C — from ‘occupied’ to ‘disputed’ territory“…

As Israel has said almost non-stop, the status of the “disputed” territory is to be resolved in negotiations.

That seems to mean that the Palestinians come to the table and sit down to listen to what Israel wants — and then basically to agree, with possible very minor adjustments.

From Israel’s point of view, the status of Gaza is no longer their problem, because of their unilateral 2005 “disengagement” from Gaza. However, most legal experts continue to believe that Gaza remains occupied, because of Israel’s “effective control” of the Gaza Strip [though it has no “boots on the ground” on any regular basis, Israel can and does intervene militarily as it wants, usually from a distance or by remote control, to save the lives of Israeli soldiers]. Israel also maintains total control of Gaza’s air and sea space, and this control alone is an indication of occupation.”

Israel did effectively annex, about two weeks after the June 1967 war, what it has since called the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality” — and what Israel means by that is the Old City of East Jerusalem, plus an arc of West Bank territory running in a crescent around the Old City, from near Ramallah in the north to almost Bethlehem in the south.

So, that leaves the rest of the West Bank. Now, Israel has made increasingly clear that they intend to keep the “settlement blocs”. This is unspecified, and used to mean Ariel, Maale Adumim, and Gush Etzion. Now, the claim is much more extensive, and apparently includes Beit El, a huge area of Israeli military bases, military administrative offices, and civilian housing for Israelis only. The Jordan Valley, or large parts of it, seem also to be included.

Israel’s opposition leader who was Deputy Prime Minister for the past 70 days after forming a coalition with Netanyanu that he has just dissolved, Shaul Mofaz, said in Washington DC on June 20 that the settlements Israel wants will then form the eastern border of the State of Israel.

Ramallah, which is the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, will become an enclave within this expanded Israel — a reality which is being sketched out on the ground right now, with Ramallah increasingly isolated by the monstrous and dangerous bottleneck it has created in and around Qalandia Checkpoint. Any other way to Ramallah is many times longer, and can easily be cut off.

Unfortunately, for the extremely uncomfortable Palestinians in the West Bank, what this Israeli unilateral plan seems to envisage for them is not integration into a greater state, but a continuation of the status quo: continued military occupation in enclaves, with military control over most aspects of their lives.

Cook’s article suggests that this may also involve some movement of Palestinians out of the West Bank Area C, in or near the areas Israel intends to keep, and into the already-chaotic Palestinian cities in Area A of the West Bank, under some form of continued Palestinian Authority control — if the PA can hold together in such circumstances [which is a very big IF]:

    “Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the Levy report is preparing the legal ground for Israel’s annexation of Area C”, Cook wrote, [and] “over recent weeks, there were indications of Israel’s next moves to strengthen its hold on Area C. It was reported that Israel’s immigration police, which have been traditionally restricted to operating inside Israel, have been authorized to enter the West Bank and expel foreign activists. The new powers were on show the same day as foreigners, including a New York Times reporter, were arrested at one of the regular protests against the separation wall being built on Palestinian land. Such demonstrations are the chief expression of resistance to Israel’s takeover of Palestinian territory in Area C. And it emerged that Israel had begun a campaign against OCHA, the UN agency that focuses on humanitarian harm done to Palestinians from Israeli military and settlement activity, most of it in Area C. Israel has demanded details of where OCHA’s staff work and what projects it is planning, and is threatening to withdraw staff visas, apparently in the hope of limiting its activities in Area C … If the PA refuses to, or cannot, take on these remaining fragments of the West Bank, Israel may simply opt to turn back the clock and once again cultivate weak and isolated local leaders for each Palestinian city”.

The Levy Report: the West Bank is not occupied, settlements are not illegal

A bombshell. One that probably should have been expected. But it still came by surprise.

A report from a committee appointed by the current Israeli government, and headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, has just said, basically that the West Bank is not occupied.

As Israeli Attorney Michael Sfard wrote in an explanation in Haaretz today [the Levy Report is not available in English] that: “The West Bank is not occupied, it announced, but rather ‘a territory designated as the national home of the Jewish people… which the governments of Israel… chose not to annex but to approach pragmatically to allow peace negotiations’. And why is that? Because the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the committee tells us, and the British Mandate, designated the territory for the Jewish state. There, in 1922, ended legal history, as far as the committee is concerned…It dismisses the Partition Resolution of 1947, that established the principle of founding two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, with the strange statement that it was ‘a plan that did not gain purchase in international law’. The committee does not even bother to mention dozens of statements and declarations by almost all the countries in the world and the many international bodies that actually do recognize the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza. Nor does it mention the advisory opinion of the International Court in Hague. The same goes for all of the experts on international law, who in a rare consensus, agree that this is a clear case of occupation. The report does not try to contend with the enormous existing discourse, it tries to silence it”. This commentary by Michael Sfard is published here.

Part of the Israeli argument that the West Bank [and Gaza] are disputed rather than occupied rests on the constructed argument of “no prior legitimate sovereign” — that is, the Jordanian and Egyptian armies [and a few others] moved in on 14-15 May 1948, after Israel’s proclamation of independence. They moved into an area vacated by the British without any arrangement in place for its continued governance or administration. This area where Jordanian and Egyptian and other Arab troops showed up had been part of the League of Nations Mandate that was administered by Britain after they threw the remaining Ottoman military out in 1918, and the Mandate finally officially conferred to Britain at British insistence in 1923. So, the Israeli argument goes, since there was no legitimate prior sovereign, the territory was without a ruler for a few hours, and cannot be considered occupied.

The upshot of the Israeli argument that this territory is disputed and that the Jewish people have a claim which will have to be settled in negotiations. But meanwhile, Israeli civilian law will continue to apply to the areas that Israel chooses, and at least until the present moment Israeli military law applies to the Palestinians living there.

So, while Israeli Defense Minister (now, Ehud Barak) rules the Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory under Israeli belligerent military occupation, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu rules the Israeli settlers in the West Bank…and the Israeli Army that protects them.

Another part of the argument in the Levy Report apparently rests on the argument that Israel’s military actions in the June 1967 war were part of a “defensive war” — an argument that scholars increasingly challenge. In the Egyptian submission to the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on The Wall in July 2009, the Egyptian government argues that Israel was the initiator of this war. Egypt’s removal of UN peacekeeping observers from the Sinai and its closures of the Strait of Tiran, which Israel cites as provocation initiating the 1967 war, are instead viewed by these scholars as acts of aggression that fall short of acts of war, and therefore do not justify the launch of military operations in response.

The rest of our analysis — partial though it is — of this report which proposes to enshrine the present awful reality in the West Bank, where Israeli settlers live as free and protected Israeli citizens under the protection of law, but where Palestinians are subject to overwhelming, arbitrary, disruptive and cruel military rule, can be read on our sister blog, UN-Truth, here.

The Quartet's 3-month "deadline" comes + goes

Today is the three-month marker of the Quartet plan presented to the Palestinian leadership after their “UN bid”, the formal request for admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, made on 23 September 2011 at UN Headuarters in New York.

The Quartet Plan was presented to stop the P.L.O. from pursuing their “UN bid”, or pressing it for a vote, because Israel was terribly upset, and the U.S. threatened to use their veto power to block it in the UN Security Council.

At the first 3-month mark, the two parties were to have met, and they were to have exchanged ideas on what the borders for a two-state solution should look like, and on security arrangements.

So, what has happened?

In December, the Palestinians let it be known that if Israel doesn’t present its idea of borders for a two-state solution by this date, the “hudna” or “truce would be over, and the Palestinians would again unleash all efforts for international recognition and admission to the international organization.

In a calm and rather leisurely reaction, the U.S. State Department said a few days later that the three-month marker was not a rigid or fixed “deadline” … and urged efforts to continue to bring the parties back to the table for direct negotiations.

[Only the Palestinians were refusing, saying it would be useless, mainly because Israeli settlement-building activities continued, while Israeli officials said to anyone who would listen that they were ready for direct talks, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even repeated his offer to go anywhere, almost anytime — even to Ramallah…]

Then, King Abdullah II of Jordan flew by helicopter over the Israeli-controlled West Bank and landed in the refurbished helicopter pad at Ramallah Presidential Muqata’a for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — a day before Abbas himself was due to travel through Jordan, on his way to another session of Palestinian reconciliation talks with Hamas officials in Cairo… Little was revealed publicly about that meeting, and some diplomatic sources suggested that the real purpose was that Abdullah needed help and had panicked, and was really asking Mahmoud Abbas for help .

What is more significant is that U.S. State Department envoy David Hale, who had met Abbas the evening before, was back in Jerusalem to meet Israeli PM Netanyahu just before Abdullah II landed in Ramallah. Then, Hale drove overland to Amman, and met Abdallah II back in Amman that evening.

Not long afterwards, Jordan announced that it would be hosting talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman — which would include direct meetings for the first time since September 2010. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh announced that further contacts would be held — but not announced.

The U.S. Secretary of State then announced the date of the second meeting, in early January…

There was criticism from different Palestinian political groupings, from Hamas to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], and Palestinian “youth groups” organized a couple of demonstrations outside the Muqata’a to protest.

A total of five meetings were held in Amman, prior to today’s deadline.

The Palestinians presented their maps and border proposals in an early meeting.

It was not until the last meeting of negotiators [the P.L.O.’s Saeb Erekat, and Israel’s Yitzhak Molcho] that the Israeli delegation screeched up to the meeting, just hours before the deadline, with a kind of power-point presentation about its general ideas — but reportedly without any very specific indications of what Israel thought the borders for a two-state solution should be… and not much indication about security, either.

Continue reading The Quartet's 3-month "deadline" comes + goes

Rashid Khalidi evaluates the PLO's September "UN bid"

PLO and Fatah strategist Nabil Shaath told journalists in Bethlehem just before Christmas that the Palestinians are observing a “hudna” or truce in pursuing the “UN bid” they filed at UNHQ in NY on 23 September for full UN membership for the Palestinian State declared in 1988 — after the failure of negotiations brokered by the United States and backed by the Quartet [USA, EU, Russia + UN.

Shaath said that this “hudna” would last until January 26, the end of the three-month period that the Quartet gave the two parties [Israel + the PLO] to meet and agree on intitial steps to resume negotiations.

After that, Shaath indicated — and unless Israel stops settlement building by then — the PLO will resume its international efforts, including the suspended “UN bid”.

The admission of the State of Palestine to full membership in UNESCO in Paris on 31 October was something of an unplanned surprise, Shaath suggested: “It’s been on the agenda every year since 1989”, he suggested, but this year, it just happened: “we won”, he said. After that, Shaath told journalists, Abu Mazen [Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas] declared a moratorium on any further moves [well, a lot of donor funding, including USAID money, as well as the immediately-important Israeli transfer of the PA VAT + Customs duties it collects, which goes to pay PA salaries, was at stake].

Shaath also said that separate efforts to join distinct UN agencies and international bodies was just a lot of wasted effort, because if accomplished through the “UN bid” — or, otherwise, by taking the easier and more immediately productive route of going to the UN General Assembly to ask for an upgrade in status from observer organization to observer but non-member state.

Meanwhile, Palestinian-American professor Rashid Khalidi has talked to Victor Kattan — the transcript is published here — analyzing the PLO strategy for its “UN bid” filed on 23 September for full UN membership for the Palestinian state:

Rashid Khalidi [RK]: “…If your objective is a narrow diplomatic one to obtain maximum benefits at minimum costs, which is a perfectly rational approach, it might have been advisable to have avoided the Security Council and to have gone directly to the General Assembly. If, however, this was part of what I would call a declaration of independence from the United States, and the idea was to illustrate the fact that the United States is an obstacle to a just resolution of the conflict, then I don’t see why a defeat in the Security Council, by a U.S. veto or a lack of necessary votes, doesn’t serve that purpose and then that could be followed by going to the General Assembly and achieving the same objective. Obviously you don’t want to suffer a defeat if you don’t have to and another argument would be why should the Palestinians accentuate their differences with the U.S..

Continue reading Rashid Khalidi evaluates the PLO's September "UN bid"

On "Invented People"

This one got under my skin.

An American politician [and presidential candidate — it doesn’t matter which one, but it happens to be Newt Gingrich] picked up and mindlessly repeated one of the more insufferable commonly-expressed attitudes in Israel: Palestinians are an “invented people”.

This argument goes like this: the Palestinians don’t exist, they’re just a collection of opportunists who moved to Palestine for jobs or economic opportunity or whatever, they never had their own state before [so, why should they have one now]? etc, etc, etc…

I have heard this from people who I otherwise consider to be friends. I have heard this on the media. I have heard this from educated Israelis. I have heard this from educated Israelis who had responsible positions in major international organizations including the United Nations… it is repeated almost non-stop, without shame, without a bat of the eye, without a flush of the skin, without a quiver of the chin.

This is despite the decision of the United Nations from 1974 [yes, following the visit of PLO Yasser Arafat, in fatigues, waving an olive branch with a pistol in a holster at his waist] endorsing the Palestinian right of self-determination — a right that belongs to a people, the Palestinian people…

And, as M.J. Rosenberg wrote, in an article entitled “The Real ‘Invented’ People” published on Al-Jazeera’s English-language website, Jews were recognized as a people for the first time less than seven decades earlier, in the Balfour Declaration — that later was incorporated in the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate .

Rosenberg attributes this, in his opening paragraphs, to the Zionist movement. But, it became a fact — the Jewish people were recognized as a people for the first time in history — however little understood, after this proposition was formally accepted by the post-First-World-War League of Nations.

True, many Palestinians don’t like this — they do not like the colonialist idea, taken up by the essentially anti-colonial League of Nations, that their ancestral homeland was given for sharing to another people [declared as a people before the Palestinians were awarded the same courtesy], so long as their own national rights were safeguarded [which they were clearly not].

True, many Palestinians think they can define Jewishness as membership in a religious community, and continue to refuse to recognize the Jewish people as a people, not too much unlike themselves.

M.J. Rosenberg wrote, in his article posted here, that:

    “Seventy-plus years later, it is impossible to argue that the Israeli nation is not as authentic and worthy of recognition as any in the world (more authentic than some, in fact). The Hebrew language is spoken by millions of Jews and Palestinians. The Israeli culture is unique: Bearing little resemblance to any other in the world … And the Palestinians are every bit as much a nation. If the ultimate definition of authentic nationhood is continuous residence in a land for thousands of years, the Palestinian claim to nationhood is ironclad. They never left Palestine (except for those who either emigrated or became refugees after the establishment of Israel).

    Those who deny that Palestinians have a nation base their case on two arguments, both of which are logically incoherent. The first is that Palestinians never exercised self-determination in Palestine; they were always governed by others from ancient times to the present day.

    The answer to this is: So what?

    Most nations in the world lacked self-determination for long periods of their history. The Polish nation existed between 1790 and 1918 even though the state was erased from the map – divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary. It achieved independence in 1918 only to again lose it to the Nazis, and then the Soviets from 1939 until 1989. Would anyone today argue that the Polish nation was invented? The idea of it is ridiculous, especially when offered by Israelis or Americans (or Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians… ) whose national existence would have been unimaginable a few centuries ago.

    Continue reading On "Invented People"

Mahmoud Abbas to Israeli TV: We were wrong not to accept UN's 1947 Partition Plan

An Associated Press story published in Haaretz late Friday night reports that, in an interview with Israeli TV’s Channel 10, PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas has said that “the Arab world erred in rejecting the United Nations’ 1947 plan to partition Palestine into a Palestinian and a Jewish state … ‘It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole’, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Channel 2 TV in a rare interview to the Israeli media. ‘But do they (the Israelis) punish us for this mistake for 64 years?’…”

This report is posted here.

Has Abbas forgotten that the PLO accepted the late Yasser Arafat’s decision to issue a Palestinian Declaration of Independence at a meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers on 15 November 1988 –a Declaration which was based in part on the UN’s 1947 partition plan contained in UNGA resolution 181 of 29 November 1947…

Professor John Quigley, an American expert on international law, recently discussed aspects of UN Resolution 181, during a visit to Ramallah, as we reported on our sister blog,, here. In response to a question about the legality of UNGA Resolution 181, which many Palestinians believe was a serious infringement on their right to self-determination, Quigley replied that what gave UNGA Resolution 181 legality, or legitimacy [he avoided specifying the term] was the PLO’s own acceptance of it, over 40 years later, as the basis for the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988…

According to the AP report, in tonight’s interview on Israeli TV Channel 10 Abbas also “confirmed Olmert’s account that the Israeli leader was prepared to withdraw from 93.5 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians, Abbas added, responded by offering to let Israel retain 1.9 percent of the West Bank. Peace talks stalled three years ago and last month, Abbas bypassed bilateral negotiations to ask the UN to recognize an independent state of Palestine. In his TV interview, Abbas acknowledged the Palestinians might not be able to muster the necessary nine votes in the 15-member Security Council to approve the statehood bid”…

U.S. recognition of Israel in 1948

Here is the document – marked up by Truman himself:

Truman letter of 14 May 1948

It might be said that this was the first U.S. recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, though a whole polemic has grown up around Truman’s personally crossing out the second reference on the document…

More recently, Glenn Kessler wrote from Washington in the Washington Post late last year (2 October 2010) that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, in a speech in November 2001, that “Palestinians must eliminate any doubt, once and for all, that they accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state“.

After an internet search, I found this Colin Powell speech posted here and here.

BUT, Kessler wrote in his recent WPost (or WAPO) article, “Powell doesn’t recall how the phrase ended up in his speech” … “David Ivry, then Israeli amb to US, says he ‘persuaded an aide’to slip Jewish state reference in Colin Powell 2001 speech…Kessler wrote that David Ivry said he contacted Powell aide Richard Armitage, but Powell said that he asked and Armitage doesn’t remember this either … However, Kessler reported, “Aaron David Miller…who wrote 1st draft of Powell speech, said..[the reference to the need for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state]..didn’t ring many alarm bells“… This October 2010 article by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post is published here.

So, the Israeli Ambassador whispered into the ears of some U.S. State Department officials, and Powell mentioned it in his 2001 speech — and now only Aaron David Miller remembers how the reference [to the need for Palestinian acceptance of “the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish State”] got into the this Powell speech?!

Next reference is a clear Israeli demand, in point 13 of Ariel Sharon’s May 2003 list of 14 “reservations”, or objections, to the American/European/Quartet’s Road Map: “In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state”…

Then, it comes up again only in 2007, as a demand (ignored by Palestinian negotiators by Ehud Olmert at the start of the American-led Annapolis process of Direct Negotiations…

Now, it is an insistent demand of Benyamin Netanyahu (recognition as a Jewish State, or alternative version as the “state of the Jewish people:) every time the American administration of Barack Obama mentions anything about resuming talks with the Palestinians…

And recently Obama has shown, again [in his two speeches in May, the first at the State Department, the second to AIPAC], that for the U.S., at least, there is no problem to say that Israel is a Jewish State, or the homeland of the Jewish people. Obama’s words, in May, were: “A lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people”.
Continue reading U.S. recognition of Israel in 1948

Nabil ElAraby – new Foreign Minister of the new Egypt

Egyptian diplomat and international law expert Nabil ElAraby has been named the new Foreign Minister of the new Egypt.

He has served at the United Nations, and has been a member of the UN’s International Law Commission, and he also served as a judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

In a very important separate opinion, concurring with the ICJ’s July 2005 Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Construction of a Wall in occupied Palestinian territory, ElAraby wrote:
“What I consider relevant to emphasize is that this special responsibility [of the United Nations for Palestine, as mentioned in the main body of the Advisory Opinion of July 2004] was discharged for five decades without proper regard for the rule of law. The question of Palestine has dominated the work of the United Nations since its inception, yet no organ has ever requested the International Court of Justice to clarify the complex legal aspects of the matters under its purview. Decisions with far-reaching consequences were taken on the basis of political expediency, without due regard for the legal requirements. Even when decisions were adopted, the will to follow through to implementation soon evaporated. Competent United Nations organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, have adopted streams of resolutions that have remained wholly or partially unfulfilled. The United Nations special responsibility has its origins in General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, hereafter the Partition Resolution”…

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