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The UN and Palestinian Statehood
“It is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”
Lord Hewart, 1870-1943
In late July, the Palestine Israel Action Group, a subcommittee of the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (Quakers), released an updated map of the West Bank that graphically illustrates what remains of Palestine as the communities of the world await the anticipated vote to recognize the rights of the Palestinians to an independent state. Information used for the map was garnered from these organizations: ifamericansknew.org, Foundation for ME Peace, FMEP.org, Israelis for Human Rights, BTSELEM.org, and Palestinianinitiative:MIFTAH.org. PIAG notes that as Quakers “…we deplore the use of violence to solve human problems; we believe such actions harm both the victims and the perpetrators. As Americans we are complicit in Israel’s violence…As global citizens, we support international law, yet Israel’s attempts to achieve state security violates: United Nations Resolution 242, the Fourth Geneva Convention, UN Resolution 194, the rights of refugees… The UN Committee Against Torture Report 2001, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child…” (PIAG statement 12/15/2006).
Of particular concern to all should be the reality that purported “peace negotiations” between the Israeli government and the PLO (a representative organization not representing a state) have led to more than 40 years of delay, destitution and destruction of Palestinian land and its people. As the map accompanying this piece demonstrates, and as Dr. Jeff Halper so lucidly explains in his chapter in The Plight of the Palestinians, “The Problem with Israel,” attempting to bring about “peace” through the “brokered” control of the United States has only decimated the future home of the Palestinians, leaving them a questionable 14% of their original land before the UN Partition Plan of 1947, Resolution 181. Halper states the issue forcefully and simply: “Let’s be honest (for once). The problem in the Middle East is not the Palestinian people, not Hamas, not the Arabs not Hezbollah or the Iranians or the entire Muslim world. It’s us, the Israelis.”
All of which brings us to the impending moment in September. The US cannot be an objective broker in the peace process; it must relinquish that responsibility to the United Nations as the overseer of all nations in the world and responsible for enforcing its resolutions that Israel has so blatantly defied for the past 63 years. The President has declared his resolve to work toward peace in the mid-east; that is only possible if he removes the United States from interfering in the determination of the world communities to recognize the rights of the forgotten people of Palestine, those who are indigenous to the land and its rightful owners. Since the UN established the conditions that gave existence to the State of Israel, it should reestablish its authority to bring into existence the State of Palestine.
If President Obama’s “peace in Palestine” rests on a foundation of Justice, it must address the defining reality of the principles that give substance to the need for a Palestinian State contiguous to and existing in peace adjacent to the State of Israel. To accomplish this end, it must recognize the legitimacy of the United Nations’ acceptance of the division of Palestine into two parts as delineated in Resolution 181 of 1947, a division that gave the Jewish people 55% of the land and the indigenous population 45%. Nothing in the ensuing actions of the United Nations has negated the recognition of two distinct peoples living on two defined areas within Palestine. That the Palestinian delegations at the time of the partitioning rejected the division of their lands does not negate the recognition by the United Nations of their right to reside in their land. Indeed, subsequent resolutions by the UN enforce the understanding of Palestinian rights within Palestine, including the Palestinians living within what is now Israel and occupied Palestine. The historic right to a homeland for Palestine is recognition of a state for Palestine making them an equal force in subsequent negotiations.
Recognition of the UN’s initial resolution implies that the United States should not be a unilateral actor serving as broker between two parties. It implies rather that the United States accepts the authority of the UN to arbitrate the differences between the two parties. With the UN serving as the Principal of note, two things are accomplished: the US is removed from the unfortunate position of being the judge and jury of the resolution that would provide for two states, a status that puts the US in jeopardy of damnation by either side if a mutually satisfactory outcome were not achieved, and the resolution would be the action of the world body, accepted by all, thus establishing after 60 years what was proposed and desired when first voted in 1947. Since the US is perceived by almost all nation members of the UN as being partial to Israel, indeed subservient to the interests of Israel and, therefore, not an objective participant in such deliberations, for the US to remove itself as the principle negotiator would serve to bolster the justice of the proposed resolution of the crisis and remove the President as a target for blame once the peace discussions get under way.
The logic of having the UN serve as the instrument of resolution blunts whatever condemnation might be raised by either side since it has no vested interests in that parcel of land other than resolving what it had determined 60 years ago and has continued to assert ever since. But because the parties would have to acquiesce to the process of implementation using the already defined boundaries as its foundation, a clear point of beginning is introduced avoiding the conundrums of “conditions on the ground” or disputes arising from the 1967 conflict.
Since Israel has defied every resolution authored by the UN, even those accepted by the United States, it would stand against the member nations as the sole defender of its present state, a position particularly difficult to uphold when Israel has joined with other nations in condemning member states who defied similar resolutions like Iran, Syria, and Iraq. Consider this reality: Iraq was the subject of 69 UNSC resolutions between 1967 and 2000 while Israel was the subject of 138. As a result of the United States’ President removing America from the process as the primary negotiator, Israel would have to stand before the UNSC with no predetermined veto of its actions possible and no legal or ethical base to stand on since it has found the virtue of UN resolutions to be positive when it has been to its advantage. Without the US protecting its interests by UNSC veto, or serving as the primary broker as it did at the Oslo accords or Camp David or with its partners in the Road Map, Israel would be called upon to accept the legitimacy of the UN resolutions. One might assume that Israel would want to propose numerous alternatives to 181 as a result of conditions that have transpired since its passage in 1947. Such discussions could result in modifications to the partition as initially conceived, and might result in a more creative division of land for the Palestinian state.
No doubt fierce objections would be raised in the US House and Senate should such an action be proposed by President Obama, but the validity of this approach negates those objections. These same legislators have accepted the logic of enforcing UN resolutions, witness the case against Iraq, and have agreed to the nation’s acceptance to be a member of that organization. The potential outcomes of such an approach warrant serious consideration. With a UN commission established having representatives from Arab, Asian, and African countries together with Israeli, Palestinian, American, European, Indonesian and Russian representatives, few could quibble with the inclusiveness of those working on a settlement, even our Congressmen. The outcome would provide an equitable solution that would ensure both Palestinians and Israelis a viable homeland.
By withdrawing as the sole arbiter of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the United States opens the door to a serious settlement. Consider the following: Resolution 242 of 1967 would force a “just and lasting peace” made possible by the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”; “termination of all claims or states of belligerency, and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries”; and affirms the necessity for “guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area” and resolution of the refugee problem as well as “territorial inviolability and independence of every state including establishment of demilitarized zones.” These stipulations were reasserted in Resolution 338 of 1973 and Resolution 446 in 1979, and by implication in more than a 100 similar resolutions adopted by the UNGA up to the present day.
Resolution 446 is worthy of more consideration since it rests on the just premise that all peoples have a right to live in their own land and, hence, practices that thwart that principle must be expunged. “The Council determines that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle-East; Calls once more upon Israel, as the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to rescind its previous measures and to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and in particular, not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories.” In short, acceptance of the authority of the UN to oversee the creation of two viable states would result in the Israelis confronting the actions that have made their efforts anathema to the world’s communities.
Arguments will be made that Israel has the right to protect its citizens. It does. However, Israeli action since 1947-48 has resulted in the untenable situation that makes it impossible to determine what boundaries contain Israeli citizens since hundreds of thousands of those citizens reside on Palestinian land as determined by the UN’s Resolutions 181 and 242 in particular. That is precisely why the UN must be the principal agent in resolving this crisis. Consideration of the Saudi Prince’s Peace Plan of 2002 could provide a solid base for discussions as it accomplishes two things, the determination of boundaries and the recognition of Israel by all Arab nations. Boundaries must be determined, but those boundaries must be just, i.e. boundaries established providing specific land to each party as 181 does. Should negotiations result in modification of those lines, both Palestinians and Israelis would have to be accepting of those changes.
Once boundaries are reestablished, the UN must provide a Peace Patrol that will ensure the safety of both populations. Practical considerations would suggest that the UN peacekeepers would be stationed along the boundaries which will in many places be along the existing wall. However, as negotiations continue and as time passes, the wall must be torn down. It is illegal as determined by the International Court of Justice. Given enough time for successive generations to live beside each other, with peacekeepers serving as mediators for both groups, the two communities will confront the necessity of shared living which should result in shared employment, shared water resources, shared travel between the populations, shared knowledge of each others’ values, traditions, customs, arts and even cuisine.
The placement of an outside objective authority between the two populations will resolve the issues as detailed in all of the UNSC resolutions since 1967 – 248, 252, 259, 267, 271, 298, 338, 339, 381, 446, 452, 465, 468, 469, 471, 476 (with emphasis on all occupied territories and Jerusalem), 478 (focuses on the illegal actions of the Israelis regarding Jerusalem), 484, 512, 513, 517, 520, 521, 573, 592, 605, 607, 608,611, 636,641, 672 (specifically reaffirms resolutions 242 and 338), 673, 681, 694, 726,799, 904, 1073, and 1322 (2000). Under President Bush, no actions against Israeli aggression were countenanced and hence no UNSC resolutions were enacted or enforced. (See a detailed accounting of these resolutions and Israel’s defiance of them in an open letter to “Mr. Bush, What about Israel’s defiance of UN Resolutions?” Michael Ladah and Suleiman I. Ajlouni, 2002).
What benefits accrue from this action? First, Israel returns to a legal status in the eyes of the world’s communities with acceptance of all UNSC resolutions; Second, Israel is assured of security by the International community and by the Peacekeepers placed in Palestine/Israel to protect both populations; Third, Israel removes the cost of its military operations that forces it to occupy Palestine; Fourth, Israel opens up a new population, living beside it in peace, to commercial pursuits, a population in dire need of most goods; Fifth, Israel gains the recognition it has sought these many years should the provisions of the 2002 Peace Plan serve as the instrument for reconciliation; Sixth, Palestinians are assured of a homeland, of independence to determine their own government and laws; Seventh, with the help of the International community, Palestinians could rebuild their cities and towns, economic system, and infrastructure; and, Eighth, and finally, both populations would benefit from cross fertilization of their respective economies including shared understanding of their respective cultures.
Acceptance of the UN as the force that can bring about a lasting peace rests upon the following points: 1. The US is not and should not be the authorizing agent between these two populations since resolution of the crisis is ineluctably international in scope and was formed by international action by the accepted international body, the United Nations; 2. The US should not continue its military assistance to Israel on such a scale, thereby saving the American taxpayer billions of dollars annually while forcing Israel to confront existence in the mid-East without America’s unconditional support, a position that Netanyahu ironically supported when Prime Minister years ago; 3. Without US military and economic aid, Israel would have to defy the International community, be forced from the United Nations, and survive alone or accept that it must join the International community as a contributing partner and legal member; 4. The albatross that has hung from the neck of the United States these past 60 years, the control of its government by the forces supporting Israel both within that country and in America, would be severed, releasing as a consequence both the President and the congressional representatives from their subservience to a foreign power, allowing America to be free once again.
The world has witnessed the ruthlessness of the Israeli state in its razing of Lebanon in the fall of 2006 and in its devastating destruction of Gaza trapped within the Israeli constructed entombment wall that surrounds them just three years ago. That ruthlessness, witnessed by the peoples of the world through film made available over the Internet, undertaken in open defiance of International law, of the Geneva Conventions, of the Charter of the United Nations, and in total disregard for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, declares to the world community of nations that Israel abides by no laws but its own, respects no sanctity of life but its own, submits to no authority but its own, defies all boundaries of established States to achieve its own ends, judges who will live and who will die by extrajudicial execution mocking thereby the laws of civilized states, shoots at will mothers and children seeking refuge where there is none, imprisons Palestinians without charge or due rights, tortures its prisoners, bulldozes the homes of helpless people, constructs walls to enclose those unable to protect themselves, lays siege to those it has incarcerated denying them even the basic food stuff of life, cripples the infrastructures of the helpless depriving them of medical supplies creating in the process unsanitary conditions destructive of human life, and without shame stands before the Nations United as the victim of discrimination, hatred, and racism, seeking from them license to continue these crimes against humanity.
Who will defend the actions of this state that threatens even now the state of Iran, that has attacked the state of Syria without provocation, that continues to defy the air space of Lebanon, that offers no recompense to that state for the destruction it caused costing billions of dollars, offers no compensation to the Palestinians or the UN for the destruction it caused in Gaza, has attacked its perceived enemies in Sudan and Somalia without seeking aid from the respective governments, and has declared openly that it will attack its alleged enemies anywhere in the world without consultation with countries involved? This is a state that seeks unending war. This state defies the International community, mocks it, and challenges it to intervene by condemning any acts taken against it as anti-Semitic and potentially genocidal.
Perhaps it is time for the United Nations to shoulder the burden of this state that stands in defiance of its very Charter and of all the International agreements that provide for the security of its members including nuclear non-proliferation treaties. Perhaps it is time for this President to stand against the state that shackles America into unending wars by forcing the US to support its constant aggression against its neighbors. Perhaps Emanuel’s trumpet has sounded the death knell of Israel’s hold over the United States releasing America to march to a different drummer, one who understands the chains that bind, the fires that burn, the walls that surround, and the illusions created by the ruthless that bury truth and freedom. “Justice after all,” in the words of Lord Hewart, “must not just be done, it must manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”
[This article returns to comments I published in 2009 when President Obama seemed on the verge of confronting the Israeli state and Netanyahu’s conviction that the US did what Israel told it to. I’m afraid Netanyahu knew what he was speaking about.]
William A. Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, The Rape of Palestine, The Chronicles of Nefaria, and The Plight of the Palestinians published a year ago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his web site www.drwilliamacook.com.