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.

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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Ramallah, hears about Palestinian statehood plans

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Ramallah today, during a trip in an exceptionally tense period to the region.

According to a report in Haaretz, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Gates that Israel should end the occupation of the West Bank by September.

Almost two years ago, Fayyad announced plans to have the institutions of Palestinian statehood ready by September 2011.

In recent months, with the negotiations towards a two-state solution at a stalemate, Palestinian officials in Ramallah have spoken about going to the United Nations to begin preparations to request admission to UN membership of a new state of Palestine.

The Haaretz report, published here, “Fayyad stressed to Gates the importance of meeting the September deadline set in what he called the ‘Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State’ program, a statement issued by the premier’s office said. According to this two year program, by the end of August the Palestinians would have completed building their state institutions and enforced security on the ground, to allow them to establish their independent state. Fayyad told Gates that Israeli restrictions are obstructing Palestinian efforts to build their state institutions. He also said that Israel’s settlement expansion and military incursions into Palestinian Authority-run cities in the West Bank caused problems”.

Israeli officials are saying that a unilateral Palestinian move would be catastrophic, because it would bring a strong Israeli reaction — but, since they are now convinced of the urgent necessity for any solution to be a two-state model, it’s hard to understand their aversion to the Palestinian leadership’s planned moves — except as a compulsive need to maintain control.

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Fifth anniversary of the International Court of Justice opinion on The Wall – the first attempt at legal clarification, according to Egypt's Judge Al-Araby

From the separate opinion of Justice Nabil el-Araby of Egypt, in the International Court of Justice’s opinion on The Legality of the Construction of A Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, on 9 July 2004, who argued that the UN has a special responsibility for Palestine:
“What I consider relevant to emphasize is that this special responsibility 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 remain wholly or partially unfulfilled. The United Nations special responsibility has its origin in General Assembly
resolution 118 (II) of 29 November 1947 (hereafter, the Partition Resolution). Proposals to seek advisory opinions prior to the adoption of the Partition Resolution were considered on many occasions in the competent subsidiary bodies but no request was ever adopted … The Sub-Committee in its report, some two weeks before the vote on the Partition Resolution, recognized that: ‘A refusal to submit this question for the opinion of the International Court of Justice would amount to a confession that the General Assembly is determined to make recommendations in a certain direction, not because those recommendations are in accord with the principles of international justice and fairness, but because the majority of the representatives desire to settle the problem in a certain manner, irrespective of what the merits of the question or the legal obligations of the parties might be. Such an attitude will not serve to enhance the prestige of the United Nations. . . .”  The clear and well-reasoned arguments calling for clarification and elucidation of the legal issues fell on deaf ears. The rush to vote proceeded without clarifying the legal aspects. In this context, it is relevant to recall that the Partition Resolution fully endorsed referral of “any dispute relating to the application or interpretation” ‘ of its provisions to the International Court of Justice. The referral “shall be . . . at the request of either party. Needless to say, this avenue was also never followed. Thus, the request by the General Assembly for an advisory opinion, as contained in resolution 10114, represents the first time ever that the International Court of Justice has been consulted by a United Nations organ with respect to any aspect regarding Palestine”.

Justice el-Araby’s opinion, part of the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on The Wall,  can be read in full here.

UN now has a "provisional" geographical definition of Shebaa Farms

A small corner of land that belongs either to Syria or to Lebanon is a real problem that many grown men have not been able to solve. It is the Shebaa Farms.

The United Nations took the position a few years ago that it belonged to Syria — and it just so happens that that part of Syria is occupied and has been “annexed” by Israel, though this annexation has been declared “null and void” by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly.

Syria and Lebanon wrote letters to the United Nations saying that the Shebaa Farms belongs to Lebanon — but the UN says that Syria did not provide enough documentation.

Hizballah, formed to resist the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, says that its mission will not be accomplished until the Shebaa Farms is returned to Lebanon.

And, an Israeli reserve Brigadier General told a group of journalists during a very recent tour of the Golan Heights that of course the Shebaa Farms is Lebanese. What, the journalists asked, is the problem then. But, he says, Hizballah is on the case, and the Lebanese Government does not want anything to do with Hizballah. So, the matter will stay as it is.

Israel invaded south Lebanon in 1972 because of Palestinian cross-border attacks. It withdrew unilaterally, after years of fighting Hizballah, in May 2000. Since then, Hizballah has insisted that its resistance will continue, because Israel’s withdrawal was not complete. The UN was asked to physically demarcate the Israeli-Lebanese border on the ground, and it more or less did so, with blue pillars, and painting stones blue — making the Blue Line. The UN relied on documents from the period of the French Mandate that ruled Syria, formerly part of the Ottoman Empire that was defeated during the First World War. The UN did not take Hizballah’s side.

Last summer, Israel went to war with Lebanon after Hizballah attacked a small group of Israeli soldiers near the Shebaa Farms, and seized two of them, who are still being held captive without any contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross. (Lebanese detainees are being held by Israel and Hizballah wants them returned to Lebanon.)

Yesterday, according to Haaretz, UNSG BAN Ki-moon “released the findings of cartographer Miklos Pinter, whose assignment had been to determine the borders of the disputed area. ‘I am pleased to report that, based on the best available information, the senior cartographer has arrived at a provisional definition of the Shaba Farms area’, writes the Secretary General. He also points out that ‘this exercise has not been aimed to delineate international boundaries as regards to the Shaba Farms, but should assist Lebanon and Syria in their efforts to agree upon their common border’. According to Pinter’s findings, the territory in question includes many IDF military positions, and serves as a strategic crossroads between the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

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