Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Right to Exist

 

It is a curious phrase this “right to exist”. Israel wants the world to accept its “right to exist” as a state, but it denies the indigenous Palestinians their right to exist as a people in their own land. International relations only acknowledges the rights of people, not states. [1] States exist because of the formal recognition afforded them by other states, and now that Israel is recognised as a state, it in fact exists. It makes no sense to demand that a political party recognise Israel’s “right to exist”, much less punish 4 million Palestinians because a majority voted the Hamas Party into government. Yet, these are the very words that are holding the Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, to an impossible ransom.

For the outside world, Israel’s demand for the “right to exist” seems a natural enough request and easy enough words to say. However, most people have no idea of the real import of those words for the Palestinians. For them to accept the “right to exist”, effectively means that they accept their own dispossession. That dispossession is still going on after 60 years and there are now some 6 million Palestinian refugees who are refused their right to return home or even a modicum of compensation. And, that is not counting the 4 million Palestinians under Israel’s occupation who daily see more of their land taken from them while they are squeezed and contained in what remains, or the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens in Israel whose rights are being increasingly compromised and denied. As long as the Palestinians exist, Israel will always see them as an obstacle to its ultimate quest for an exclusively “Jewish state” in a greater Israel.

Israel’s demand that its “right to exist” be recognised, is constantly fluid. Israel refuses to accept any demarcated borders and certainly not the internationally-recognised Green Line of 1967 and is the only nation in the world without declared borders. [2] As far back as 1948, Israel determined that its territory had to be more than the 55 per cent given it by the UN partition and wasted no time in its ruthless expropriation of Palestinian land–driving out the Palestinians or simply forcing them to live under Israel’s occupation. The 78 per cent of Palestinian land that it amassed is now recognised as Israel, and it is that area that was painfully acknowledged by Palestinian Chairman Arafat in 1988 as “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security”. His crucial mistake was to ask for nothing in return. He should have demanded that Israel recognise the right of Palestinians to exist as a free people in the remaining 22 per cent. Israel, of course, accorded no such right to the Palestinians who continued to live–and still do – without any peace or security under Israel’s occupation. The grave injustice of Palestinian dispossession has never been redressed.

When Arafat held up the olive branch and said “do not let the olive branch fall from my hand’, that was the moment that Israel could have freed the Palestinians from its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and allowed a Palestinian state to exist side by side with Israel. Edward Said saw it clearly when he stated “only the Palestinians explicitly recognised the notion of partition. Israel never has.” [3] Instead, Israel intensified its illegal settlement enterprise and continued with its mass immigration program of Jews from around the world to settle them inside occupied Palestinian territory. By the time Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak made his fallacious “generous offer” of land to the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000, [4] the Palestinians had barely 12 per cent left of their historic homeland, and seven years later, it has been whittled down to around 7 per cent. So, it is perfectly legitimate for the Palestinians to ask–on how much of the land does Israel want to exist?

Every policy and action undertaken by Israel is focused on creating an exclusively Jewish state in all of Palestine. From the very beginning, Zionist leaders made sure that all land taken would be held in trust on behalf of “the Jewish people in perpetuity”. [5] Through a process of confiscation and transfer–known as “redeeming the land”–Jews worldwide have available to them land for lease in Israel. This discriminates outrageously against the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens living inside Israel who are not given equal rights with the immigrant Jews and who are allowed to live on only 3 per cent of the land while the rest is available only to Israel’s Jewish citizens. They are finding themselves more and more isolated from the rest of Israeli society with none of the privileges as Israel finds even more fiendish ways to contain its demographic problem. It is a problem because Israel wants a “Jewish” state, not a “state for all its citizens”; a democracy for “Jews only”, not a democracy for all its citizens. This should give pause to everyone holding up Israel’s “beacon of democracy” as something to admire.

Furthermore, when Israel insists on the Palestinians accepting its “right to exist”, it has everything to do with the Palestinians signing off on their own dispossession and nothing to do with Israel’s fear of an existential threat. Israel’s survival is guaranteed because of its overwhelming military might and not by the Palestinians recognising its “right to exist”. It is the fourth most powerful army in the world [6] and there is not an Arab nation today that would challenge Israel’s war machine. If Israel allowed a Palestinian state to exist, Israel knows very well that it would never have the military capacity to threaten Israel’s existence. However, it makes for powerful propaganda as the world is still in thrall with the David and Goliath illusion.

A worrying development for the Palestinians in the past week has been the report that Palestinian President Abbas has already given Israeli Prime Minister Olmert a commitment to recognise Israel as “a state for the Jews”. If true, it would really give free rein to Israel’s already racist policies and practices. The Palestinians living inside Israel would suddenly find themselves not only discriminated against, but very likely in danger of being ethnically cleansed from the Jewish state. It would also absolutely negate the inalienable right of Palestinians to return home, and all the rights the Palestinians have under international law would suddenly become irrelevant.

Needless to say, such reports (if indeed they are true) leave the Palestinians wondering what is left to them after all the years of sacrifice and struggle. Despite the 67 United Nations resolutions that have been passed acknowledging their rights, despite Israel flagrantly breaching international law and continuing to violate their very person and property, despite the meticulously documented evidence of Palestinians having been massacred and terrorised into fleeing so Israel can appropriate their land, despite the voices of respected world figures exposing Israel’s apartheid practices, despite Jewish voices increasingly raised in protest against Israel’s racist policies, despite internationals risking and losing their own lives to help the Palestinians in non-violent acts of resistance, the Palestinians are staring at a future that refuses to recognise the gross injustices done to them, much less provide any protection for their existence: that is, if Israel has its way.

No other nation in the world demands a “right to exist”. It most likely arose in international relations because former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in 1975 that the US “will not recognise or negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as long as the PLO does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and does not accept Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338”. [7] The international community took up the refrain and continues posing the question “What about Israel’s right to exist?” without giving a single thought to Palestinian rights, especially their right to exist.

With each demand, we are seeing Israel edge closer to its ultimate goal. Ehud Olmert let us know as much last year when he said to the US Congress on 24 May that he believes the Jewish people have “an eternal and historic right to this entire land”. [8] It could not be clearer: Israel demands the right to exist as an exclusively Jewish State in all of Palestine. No wonder previous peace negotiations have failed: there is nothing to suggest that the November peace conference will be any different. As long as Israel refuses to recognise Palestinian rights, and as long as international interlocutors insist on Israel’s “right to exist” over the rights of people, every attempt at negotiating peace will be doomed to failure.

The situation for the Palestinians right now is very dangerous. Israel’s settlement enterprise has been largely achieved: 40 per cent of the West Bank is off limits to the Palestinians and the rest has been virtually cantonised with movement all but restricted between them. Gaza is totally isolated. There is not a border or space in or around Palestinian land that is not controlled by Israel. Also, Israel is creating facts on the ground that have already made it impossible for the Palestinians to have their state within the 1967 Green line. What is left has been made deliberately confusing and has led to the myth of the “generous” offer. The 92 per cent that Israel is again offering the Palestinians, is 92 per cent of the 22 per cent of land left within the Green line, not 92 per cent of the whole that the Palestinians originally owned. Such an offer is frankly insulting and so are the further border adjustments that Israel is making even as the offer is on the table. It shows to what audacious lengths Israel will go to exist as a Jewish state. That it is at the expense of the Palestinian right to exist in their own land, is illegal and immoral. It would be suicide for the Palestinian leadership to agree to anything that is not reciprocated, particularly the unconditional recognition of the Jewish state and the demand for its “right to exist”.

SONJA KARKAR is the founder and president of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. See www.womenforpalestine.com

 

Footnotes.

[1] Burchill, Dr Scott–“Does Israel’s “right to exist” actually exist?” crikey.com, 10 October 2006 “According to some theorists from the “realist” tradition of international relations, states have no “right” to exist because such a right cannot be enforced by a higher authority than the state. . . Acknowledging a state’s right to exist, or insisting on such a pledge from others, is therefore a meaningless gesture — or worse, a political tactic.”

[2] Said, Edward–“What Israel has done”, The Nation, 18 April 2002
(6 May, 2002 issue)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) “‘How Generous is Generous?’ in Crossroads of Conflict: Israeli-Palestinian Relations Face an Uncertain Future”, Special Report, Winter 2000

An analysis of the Israeli proposals by FMEP concluded that Israel:

1. only proposed to relinquish control over between 77.5-81 percent of the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem, which most likely included Israel’s retaining of the Jordan Valley.

2. wanted sovereignty over one-third of occupied East Jerusalem and all of West Jerusalem.

3. wanted control of the third holiest site in Islam, al-Haram al-Sharif (which Israel refers to as the ‘Temple Mount’), where “Israel, incredibly, also demanded Palestinian agreement to the construction of a synagogue.”

[5] Palestine Land Society, “Financing Racism and Apartheid–Jewish National Fund’s Violation of International and Domestic Law”, August 2005, p.4

[6] Hassan, Ghali–“Are Israel’s Interests in America’s Interests?” Countercurrents.org, 29 March 2006;

Pilger, John–“Children of the Dust“, New Statesman, 28 May 2007

[7] Israel-United States Memorandum of Understanding, 1 September 1975
“Accord on Geneva 2. The United States will continue to adhere to its present policy with respect to the Palestine Liberation Organization, whereby it will not recognize or negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization so long as the Palestine Liberation Organization does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and does not accept Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.”

[8] Address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Joint Meeting of US Congress, 24 May 2006

 

 

More articles by:
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail