Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

3. Pre 1967 Palestinian-Arab Cultural and Political Identity

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Palestine has never been an exclusively Arab country. Although Arabic gradually became the language of most of the population after the Muslim invasions of the seventh century, no independent Arab or Palestinian state has ever existed in the territory called Palestine.

When the Jews began to immigrate to Palestine in large numbers in 1882, fewer than 250,000 Arabs lived there. “The great majority of the Arab population in recent decades were comparative newcomers – either late immigrants or descendants of persons who had immigrated into Palestine in the previous 70 years.” (Carl Voss,The Palestine Problem Today, Israel and its Neighbours” Beacon Press 1953 cited in Bard)

Prior to partition in 1948, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted:

    We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds (Yehoshua Porat, Palestinian Arab National Movement 1918-1929, London Frank Cass 1977 pp.81-82 cited in Bard)

This perception of Palestine persisted even after World War I, when in 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, stated in evidence before the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine:

“There is no such country [as Palestine]! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries, part of Syria. (Jerusalem Post, November 2, 1991)

As late as 1947 the political perspective of the Arabs in Palestine had not changed. The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations submitted a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947 stating: “Palestine was part of the Province of Syria” and that “politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity.” A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the Security Council: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”

Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post-World War I creation but it did not become as a significant political movement until after the 1967 Six-Day War when Palestinian-Arab terrorist organisations emerged as the embodiment of  their vision for self-determination to be realised by violent struggle. The adoption of a distinctive Palestinian identity was forged initially during the first Intifada, (1987–1993) while the resort to violence in the attainment of self determination still remains still remains a potent element as ever in Arab culture and Palestinian segmentary society.  This topic will be examined in depth in a later Chapter (see Tal Beker, Self-Determination in Perspective: Palestinian Claims to Statehood and the Relativity of the Right of Self-Determination, (1998) 32 Israel L. rev. 301)

4. Emerging Issues flowing from Arab Cultural Characteristics

Friday, September 12th, 2008

The above brief introductory discussion on Arab cultural characteristics, tribal spirit and loyalties, the unifying force of Islam and that of Palestinian identity raises a number of important issues which will emerge with greater prominence as the historical, political and legal aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict develop.

  • Palestinian Identity and Interest Differentiated from other Arabs
    Under Ottoman, British and Jordanian rule, the Palestinians had not displayed any characteristics significantly different from those of the Arab population in Jordan and Syria. It was only after the Six Days War that a significant Arab population came under Jewish-Israeli control and Arabs living in Judea and Samaria directly confronted the “other”- the Jews. The issue is whether without destroying the territorial integrity of the State of Israel, the Palestinians are a sufficiently differentiated people not only from the Israelis but also from the populations of the other neighbouring Arab states to justify and sustain a claim in international law for self determination as an independent viable state politically and economically.
  • Concentration of Power
    As been shown above, in Arab society honour and power are intertwined and the exercise of power is decentralised. In the West, by way of contrast, the exercise of power is not only the exclusive preserve of state governments but in international conflicts, there are political moves towards extending the centralisation of the exercise of power in the hands of the United Nations or under the auspices. Such tendency appears to be at odds with Arab–Islamic values as seen recently in Afghanistan, Chechnia and Iraq.
  • Arab Customs in the Initiation and Conduct of War Diverge from those Pertaining in the West
    Even if the resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is unattainable by negotiation, and the parties continue to resort to violence, given their cultural and religious differences, it is necessary to review afresh whether contemporary rules and customs of international law in relation to war and the pacific settlement of international disputes can be truly applied to a clash between Islam and the West.
    As will be shown in Chapter VI and subsequent Chapters, the movement to establish the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, as new international institutions dedicated to pacific resolution of international disputes were led by Western statesmen. Although the customs and norms in relation to the initiation and conduct of war may now be seen as secular they nonetheless developed out of Christian western values, namely,
    • maintaining a distinction between combatants and non-involved ‘civilians’
    • military necessity, and
    • proportionality.

These values form the bedrock of western military culture but they have no express parallel in Arab tribal ‘military’ culture and tradition. There, the bearing of arms is considered a sign of masculinity in the protection of personal, family and tribal honour, as are their women and children.

However, in confronting a non-Muslim enemy, war -  Jihad – expresses a religious rather than a nationalist objective. Persons who do not submit to the dominance of Islam may become legitimate targets: combatants do not appear to be differentiated from non-combatants; males are slain while females are taken into captivity for purposes of reproduction to maintain the strength of the tribe or clan.

A recent Arab declaration on the subject of Jihad declares

“the sanctity of the blood of women, young children, and elderly infidels is not absolute. There are cases under which it is permitted to kill them, if they are part of a nation of war….[I]f only one of these circumstances holds true, then he must permit the operations because the circumstances are not conditional upon fulfilling all of them, but only one will suffice. …
Muslims are permitted to kill infidel innocents reciprocally; if the infidels are targeting the women, the young children and the elderly Muslims, then it is permissible for the Muslims to act reciprocally, and kill just as they were killed. in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, and other places”
(
Communique from Qu’idat al- Jihad Concerning the Testaments of the Heroes and the Legality of the Washington and New York Operations, April 24, 2002, in David Cook, Understanding Jihad, U of California Press, 2004, pp 175 et seq.)

  • The objectives of fundamentalist Islam are in conflict with the Western notion of the illegality of resorting to war except in self defence or in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions. For Islam, a higher value is the submission of all peoples to the will of Allah which is to be achieved by jihad if necessary.
    (
    Muhammad And The Treaty Of Hudaybiyya, http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/hudaybiyya.htm; Holy Prophet’s Life, Joint Conspiracy of Qoraish and Jews and Ghazwah Ahzab http://www.anwary-islam.com/prophet-life/holly-p-13.htm ;see also http://www.historyofjihad.com/ )
    See particularly David Cook, Understanding Jihad, University of California Press, Berkley
  • Even the accepted Western principle that agreements and international pacts are to be observed by all parties is in conflict with Islamic tradition and values. Islamists who, for the time being, may be unable to overcome stronger infidel opponents and decide therefore, for strategic reasons, to enter into a truce or even a peace agreement with such opponents, are permitted by Arab cultural and religious tenets to breach that agreement if at some later date the earlier Islamists’ position of weakness is reversed to one of superiority. See Treaty of Hudabeya http://www.witnesspioneer.org/vil/Articles/companion/19_ali_bin_talib.htm;
    Denis MacEoin, Tatical Hudna and Islamic Intolerance, Middle East Quarterly, Summer pp.39-84 http://www.meforum.org/article/1925 )

Thus, to what extent should Israel rely on Arab promises and solemn undertakings?

Assuming that the European and Western powers see themselves as possessing a unified western-orientated cultural system and identity and wish to differentiate themselves from other peoples in the Middle and Far East – a questionable assumption today – they view Israel as a Western oriented nation and expect her act as such. In so doing she in direct confrontation with the cultural norms of the Arab peoples and is the European vanguard against Islamic expansion. In a regional and local military confrontation with Arab states and with the Palestinian population in the Territories, she is expected to abide by Western international customary and conventional laws of war even if her enemies do not.

Given the above factors it is difficult to fathom why Israel encounters so much opposition from a number of Western states. It may be due to an unfounded naïve belief and myth that all the conflict between the West and the Arabs is due Israel’s illegitimate birth and her continued existence. Perhaps most of the answer can be found in the West’s voracious need for Arab controlled oil the necessity for securing untrammelled access to its sources.

Israel, as a small and western-oriented Jewish state lying within dar Islam but dependant to a large extent for her continued security on the support of the United States, seems to constitute an impediment to the realisation of Western interests and can therefore be sacrificed in the arena of public opinion

In contrast to Arab society, public opinion in Western democratic societies exercises a powerful influence in governmental and non-government organisational decision-making. Public opinion is moulded by public relations, information and propaganda campaigns operating overtly and covertly in Western civil society. “Acting contrary to international law” has become a mantra in media communications employed by one antagonist to advance its political platform or objectives and to malign or destroy those of its opponents. Initially dominated by the ‘fourth estate’ comprising newspapers, radio and television, this arena is slowly being eclipsed by emergent interactive internet websites and linkages. They have the potential to exert a major influence on national decision-making not only in western democratic states but have even more potential in promoting the free flow of information in non-democratic states.  On the other hand both news media and cyberspace activists are not accountable to any institution or constituency for the veracity of their communications.

In evaluating an assertion that a State, such as Israel, is “acting contrary to international law,” the addressee must be in a position to know not only the factual background on which the accusations are based but also what provisions of international law are allegedly being violated. It is often the case that the specific international legal proposition in question is inapplicable in the territory where an apparent violation has occurred or that the State alleged to be in violation has not acceded to the treaty or Convention in which the norm or principle was formulated; thus opening the way for uninformed and unjustified condemnation.

With the foregoing considerations in mind, Chapter VI is designed to assist and hopefully enable the reader to assess the validity of what is alleged to be in accordance with or contrary to international law or, if this is impossible, it is hoped that the material presented may place the reader at least in a better position to question the assertion being advanced.

However in order to assess the legality of subsequent Israeli actions, it is still necessary to examine in a little more detail the political, demographic and economic conditions which prevailed in Palestine prior to the end World War I and to assess their effect upon Palestinian Arab claims of the being dispossessed of their land by early Jewish land acquisition and immigration. These claims are examined in the Chapter IV following next.

2. Arab-Palestinian Narrative

Friday, September 12th, 2008

The fundamental structural elements of the Arab perception of its case encompass the following assertions to which a brief response is given and expanded later:

  • “Palestine was and is a country which the Arabs have occupied for more than a thousand years, and any Jewish historical claims to the land are rejected.”
    • Response:
      • Jews, too, have maintained an unbroken contact with Palestine since their involuntary dispersion 2000 years ago by the Romans and have never severed their connection with it.
      • There is no justification for rejecting a historical claim if that claim has been maintained uninterruptedly since the dispersion.
  • “The British Government, in issuing the Balfour Declaration   (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/balfour.htm ) was disposing of something that did not belong to it.”
    • Response:
      • The text of the Balfour Declaration and its issuance received prior approval of the American and French governments
      • Contemporaneously with the issuance of the Declaration in 1918, Britain had conquered Palestine and in accordance with the laws of war pertaining at the time, she would have been entitled to protect her interests there. Were it not for American involvement, she would have utilised the territory for her own uses. In the absence of outside investment she would have been left in deficit to manage an under-populated territory incapable of being financially and economically independent – as Palestine was under Ottoman rule. In the circumstances and with the agreement of the Allied powers she legitimately promoted demographic and capital inflows while protecting the civil rights if the existing inhabitants.
  • “The Mandate was in conflict with the Covenant of the League of Nations from which it derived its authority.” (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/leagcov.htm).

    • Response:
      • Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant recognises that some territories were almost ready to stand alone, while others needed further “tutelage.”
      • Sub article 1 relates to those territories which are inhabited “by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” The Syrian and Iraqi (Mesopotamia) mandates fell under this head.
      • In contrast, subarticle 4 refers “certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized. The Palestine mandate
        falls under this provision.
  • “The part played by the British in freeing the Arabs from Turkish rule after World War I did not empower Great Britain, France or the other Allied Powers to dispose of “their” country.”
    • Response:
      • Rather than constituting a pre-existing aspiration, Arab independence was in fact a new vision following the Ottoman defeat – a by-product emerging from the deliberations and fiats of the victors. In the process of securing her interests Britain permitted and even encouraged Arab self-determination but only in those areas where British interests were not compromised
      • Britain’s intention in going to war with Germany and her ally Turkey did not specifically encompass freeing the Hashemites or any other Arab tribe from Ottoman rule.
      • In any case Britain did not agree to recognise Hashemite interests extending into Palestine and Hussein, Hussein, King of Hajaz at the time, deferred his claim to Palestine until the conclusion of WW I.
  • “Turkish rule was preferable to that of the British rule, if the latter involved their eventual subjection to the Jews.”
    • Response:
      • Arab preference for Islamic rule over that exercised by a dhimmi people (see later for extended discussion) presupposes that Islamic hegemony is justifiable.
      • Past experience has shown that Jewish and Christian inhabitants in Arab lands under Muslim rule have not been treated as equals in the exercise of their civil and religious rights and their holy places have been desecrated.
      • In contrast, the Jewish State of Israel permits freedom of worship and respects almost all sites claimed by Islam and other beliefs as Holy Places
  • “The Mandate was and is a violation of the Arab right of self-determination since it forced upon the Arab population within its own territory an immigrant non-Islamic and foreign people whom they did not desire and would not tolerate. In short they regarded the Mandate as a Jewish invasion of Palestine.”
    • Response:
      • The Arab position presuppose that no other peoples in the Middle East have a right of self-determination
      • Jews living in Arab lands also have an equal right of self-determination which the Arab majority in the Middle East unjustifiably refuses to recognise.
      • The Husseini Arab leadership’s hatred of Jews generally, and as foreign interlopers to Palestine particularly, is racially prejudicial and is unsupportable in international law.
  • Palestinians assert that the promises made to the Arabs by Great Britain in 1915 in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, and the later assurances given to Arab leaders by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman concerning Palestine, had been understood as recognition of the principle that Palestinian Arabs should enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by the populations of the neighbouring Arab states. Thus the emergent opposition to the idea of a Jewish National Home predated the issue of the Mandate in 1922 and again before the 1942 Biltmore Program expressed its support for a Jewish State. (See Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, Chapter VI, paras. 2 and 3 http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/anglo/angch06.htm)
    • Response
      • Refutation of this argument is presented at length in Chapter II.
      • Suffice it to say here that the conclusions drawn from the Hussein-McMahon correspondence by the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular do not coincide with the evidence. (see Isaiah Friedman, Palestine: A Twice Promised Land The: British, The Arabs and Zionism 1915-1920, Transaction Publishers, Edison, NJ 08837,  2000)
  • Since by 1947 all the surrounding Arab States had been granted independence, Palestinian Arabs argue that they were just as advanced politically as were the citizens of the nearby States, and the suggestion that self-government should be withheld from Palestine until the Jews had acquired a majority was outrageous
    • Response:
      • Arab political advancement is inconsistent with the evidence on the ground:
      • Government is tribally autocratic not democratic (see later).
      • Self-government remains government by elites and is unaccountable to the general population.
      • Sexual equality remains undeveloped and the exercise of other internationally acknowledged human rights is suppressed.
      • The Jewish majority in the State of Israel recognises, as a matter of principle, the equality of the Arab population. That it is not always implemented in practise, is to be regretted.
      • Immediately following Israel’s declaration of Independence in 1948 five Arab armies invaded the territory lying to west of the Jordan River. Israel, acting in self defence, succeeded in retaining the area designating by the United Nations as the territory of the Jewish State, but also encroached on some of the territory designated for the Palestinian Arab state. The balance became occupied mainly by Jordan, and small areas by Egypt and Syria.
  • After 1948, but before 1967, the Palestinians added one further claim in addition to those mentioned above. Those Palestinians who had fled, been driven out, or otherwise dispossessed of their lands located in what subsequently became the State of Israel as a result of the War of Independence (Israeli nomenclature) or “al-Nakba“, the “catastrophe” (Palestinian Arab nomenclature) have the “right of return” to their original homes.
    • Response:
      • The United Nations Security Council Resolution 194 does not support a right of return as the exclusive remedy available to Palestinian refugees. Compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement are alternative possibilities
      • The Resolution refers to refugees who wish live at peace with their neighbours. The desire for peaceful co-existence has not been manifested in practice by the refugees or their leadership.
  • Following the Six Day War in 1967, the Palestinians assert further that the following Israeli acts are illegal and contrary to international law:
  • the military occupation by the Israel Defence Forces of  the previously held Palestinian – Jordanian land;
  • the taking of that land by Jewish settlers; and
  • the annexation of East Jerusalem (and the Golan Heights) by the State of Israel.

Israel rejects the assertion of illegality in her above actions and the detailed response to these claims forms the major part of this book