Would UN Vote for an Independent Palestine?

Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, there are enough existential and serious problems for regimes and states in the Arab and Muslim world, from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, and beyond, greedy, ruthless White Christian Crusaders pursuing mostly illegal policy of destruction and loot of  sovereign states like Libya, Iraq etc. There is relentless pressure on Assad regime in Syria, but the next hot item on the Middle East agenda is going to be the vote on Palestine Independence in United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September, 2011.

According to Israel’s Haaretz the UNGA is expected to okay an independent Palestinian state by a huge majority. “The wording of the draft, crafted in recent days by the Fatah leadership, is designed to enable even “problematic” countries such as Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic to climb on board, or at least abstain. This version will make it difficult for the United States and the Marshall Islands, and even for Israel, to explain their votes against the proposal. Instead of recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders, it will state that the permanent borders will be determined in negotiations with Israel based on the borders of June 4, 1967. This approach made it possible to enlist the support of leading moderates in Hamas, who claim that recognition of the1967 borders before the signing of a final-status deal means waiving the claim to the right of return.”

Given the Israeli government’s intransigence, the Palestinian leadership and its advisers feel that the option of settling the conflict via bilateral negotiations − the path pursued by the Palestinian leadership for 20 years − is no longer viable. Most of them “support the option of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital and a fair arrangement that will fulfill the right of return and the compensation of the Palestinian refugees. It rejects the possibility of continuing the statusquo, maintaining that the endless negotiations provide cover for expanding the settlements and consolidating the occupation. It will also erase from the agenda the option of a Palestinian state with temporary borders and limited sovereignty, under effective Israeli control.”

The Palestinian Authority leadership also examined other options like non violent resistance as in Egypt and Tunisia – or dismantling itself and restoring responsibility for the West Bank’s inhabitants to Israel or towards a model of a bi-national state or democratic state without distinction between Israel and Palestinian citizens. Even the possibility of a confederation between Jordan and the Palestinian state was examined. The last attempt was made by late Yasser Arafat after the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000. Arafat travelled to many capitals, to seek support for such a declaration. But most countries advised Arafat to continue with the peace negotiations rather than pursue a unilateral path.

This time the situation is different. There is little hope for real negotiations. The Arab revolts against pro-US leaders have created a favourable environment. Cairo, which was under US influence followed a pro-Israel policy. Now the transition government in Egypt has already called upon the United States to support Palestinianin dependence. Popular uprisings elsewhere will influence the governments in the Arab world to be more sensitive on the Palestinian issue. There is little doubt of deep support in the Arab and Muslim Street for the Palestinians.

As regards Turkey, Ankara’s relations with Israel have plummeted to very low depth with nine Turks killed by Israeli commandos on Mavi Marmara carrying aid for embattled Gaza citizens. Ankara recently withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv and asked Israel to apologise. Since many years Ankara has regularly criticized Israel and its policies. When Israel was reported to be interfering in north Iraq with the aim of creating problems in Turkey’s Kurdish South East, Turkish PM Tayep Erdogan had accused Israel of state terrorism in Gaza. Many other countries have made declarations of support but the critical issue is what the EU countries and the U.S. will do. Catherine Ashton, EU’s senior official told the media that the Palestinian Authority had made significant progress. Its institutions now compared favorably with those in the West. There have been several other positive reports by international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the U.N. that have studied the police force, municipal services and schools that indicate that the Palestinians are almost ready to run their own state.

But do not rule out Israel’s obduracy and its deep influence in US policy making apparatus and corridors of power.

Before proceeding further let us first have a look at the tortured history of region in general and Palestine in particular.

Almost all the states in the region were once part of the Ottoman empire and ruled by Caliph Sultan in Istanbul, which apart from Muslim countries in the regions also included Eastern Europe and Balkans right up to the gates of Vienna. As the West European powers from the end of 17 century rolled back the Ottoman arms from the Gates of Vienna, they annexed and began exploiting the former Ottoman territories beginning with Arab Muslim peoples of north Africa. The  French, the English and the Italians being the primary beneficiaries. But colonial settlements and genocide of natives took place by Europeans in Americas, rest of Africa and far off Australia, NewZealand too, along with Portuguese, Belgian, Dutch, Spanish and Germans also joining in. The whole of Africa was divided along arbitrary borders, forbrutal exploitation, specially by the Belgians and the Dutch.

Most of West Asia fell into European lap after the defeat of the Ottomans which had sided with Germans in WWI.

Background and Seeds of Arab-Israeli Disputes

Strategically and religiously speaking the Arab-Israeli disputes with its core problem of Palestine is as old as time, beginning from the days of the Trojan wars, the first struggle between the West and the East. Or the expulsion and dispersal of Jews from Palestine (if true), or from the differences between Prophet Mohammed and the Jews in Medina following the Hijra. Or the Christian Crusades to recover the religious sites in the Holy Land, except that the Crusaders had treated Jews then as brutally as the Muslims. And even the Orthodox Christians at Constantinople. And now, to control the strategic space and exploit energy reserves under Arab lands.

The Tigris and Euphrates region has a turbulent history. Following the exhaustion of the Persian and Roman/Byzantine empires the armies of Islam emerging from the arid sands of the Arabia carved an empire from the Atlantic to China in the 7th Century. But after the Ottoman Sultan annexed the caliphate and guardianship of Mecca and Medina in 16 century, the peninsula became a peaceful back water.

In the wake of the rollback of Ottoman Turks from the gates of Vienna, European powers started moving into Islamic lands in north Africa and from 18th century onward progressively colonized them. The British took over Cyprus and Egypt but World War I provided an opportunity for further colonial acquisitions when Turkey sided with Germany. To protect its Indian colonial possession and its lifeline, the Suez Canal, the British encouraged Arabs under Hashemite ruler Sharif Hussein of Hijaj to revolt against the Ottoman sultan caliph in Istanbul and deputed spy T E Lawrence to help out with promises of independence.

But the war's end did not bring freedom as promised; because by secret Sykes-Picot agreement, London and Paris arbitrarily divided the sultan's Arab domains and their warring populations of Shias, Sunnis, Alawite Muslims, Druses, and Christians.The French took most of greater Syria, dividing it into Syria and Christian-dominated Lebanon. The British kept Palestine, Iraq and the rest of Arabia.

When Sharif Hussein's son Emir Feisel arrived in Damascus to claim Syria as promised, the French chased him out. So the British installed him on the Iraqi throne. Feisel's brother Emir Abdullah was granted a new Emirate of Trans-Jordan, east of the River Jordan, created out of wastelands vaguely claimed by Syrians, Saudis and Iraqis.

By the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain had also promised a homeland for Jewsin Palestine. Under the Versailles conference in 1920, Britain was made the mandatory power for Palestine, which appointed Samuel Butler, a liberal Jew, as the first high commissioner to facilitate Jewish immigration and their settlement. So the European Jews began migrating to Palestine, and the trickle became a flood with the rise of anti-Semitic policies in Nazi Germany and elsewhere in Europe. From then on started fights, pogroms and battles between Palestinian Arabs and Jewish immigrants. After World War II, the State of Israel was carved out of British Palestine by the United Nations in 1948, but it was not recognized by the Arabs. The United States recognized Israel but not Palestine. In the ensuing first 1948 Arab-Israeli war, which the Arabs lost, Israel expanded its area, while Jordan in collusion with Israel annexed the West Bank and Egypt took over Gaza.

As if the Palestinians were then just another Arab people up for grabs.

After the rise of Arab nationalism in the early 1950s led by Colonel Gamal Nasser of Egypt, socialists and nationalists, mostly military officers, tookover the decaying medieval kingdoms of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, much to the consternation of Western oil companies. The Anglo-French attempt in collusion with Israel to cut Nasser down to size in the 1956 Suez war, opposed by the US and USSR, was an abject failure. Also a sign that the time of London and Paris was passe. 

But in the six-day preemptive war of 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt and occupied Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Syria's Golan Heights. Thus were laid the foundations for Arab-Israeli problems of the region. The core UN Resolution 242 requires that Israel vacate lands it occupied after the June 1967 war.

From its very inception, almost all its neighbors coveted Jordan. But astute King Hussein (who ruled from 1953-99) not only survived a dozen assassination attempts, he also fended off conspiracies against his land. When Hussein died in 1999 of cancer, the kingdom had become a keystone of equilibrium in the region and a modern flourishing state, despite lacking oil or other resources.

Palestinians makeup 60 percent of Jordan's population (some Israeli leaders say that in Jordan Palestinians already have their own state). Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) militants and Palestinian army officers conspired against King Hussein (King Abdullah, his grandfather, was assassinated by a Palestinian in 1951), so, he expelled Arafat-led PLO to Beirut in early 1971. The Hashemite Kings rely on tribal Jordanians for security and armed forces and have Chechens as their praetorian guards.

Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, who became prime ministers of Israel later had fought savage guerrilla battles against the British and the Arab Palestinians to create the State of Israel, were no different from leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others. The British were unable to handle the turbulent situation and handed over the hot potato to the (UNO), which in 1947 put forward a plan to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states.

Since then there have been three regional wars between Israel and the Arabs (1948, 1967 and 1973) and two Palestinian uprisings (intifadas) against Israeli occupation. It was either an Arab wish to control if not destroy the State of Israel or an Israeli attempt to extend its boundaries (to biblical frontiers) further into Arab lands. But after every war and uprising more Palestinians came under Israeli control or left their homeland and the refugees now number into millions. After each war Israel gained more territory. In 1948 it extended the Jewish areas under the partition plan to its present internationally recognized borders (but the Arabs of Israel do not have full and equal rights as citizens).

From these areas a large number of Palestinian refugees fled or were forced to flee the Jewish state in 1948. After the wars in 1948 and 1967, Israel began an illegal program of building new settlements in the Occupied Territories, which has continued all along and never really ceased.

The 1973 Yom Kippur war initiated by Egypt made Israel feel vulnerable and not that invincible (For the first time Israel threatened to nuke Cairo unless ... Since then Israel’s nukes run into many hundreds, the only nuclear armed power in the region.) Only a US military hardware air bridge and other help turned the tide for the Israelis. But Egypt gained little while oil-rich Gulf states became obscenely wealthy with four-fold increases in crude prices, with neo-rich Gulfis lording over in Cairo.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made a peace deal with Israel in 1978 at Camp David after his startling1977 visit and address to the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). Sadat was later assassinated for this act of treason by his own Islamist group of soldiers. But Egypt got its territory back from Israel, including oil wells in Sinai.

In 1982, when Sharon was defense minister, Israel invaded Lebanon and expelled Arafat and his guerrillas from there. It was then that massacres took place at the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatilla, for which Sharon was blamed after an inquiry. Arafat and his PLO headquarters were shifted to Tunis.

Jordan made peace with Israel after the Oslo Accords. In 1988 it gave up all its claims on the West Bank. But the Israeli conflict with other Arab states such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and others persists.
It is said that there can be no war against Israel without Egypt and no peace without Syria(with its armed forces in Lebanon till a few years ago and its support to Hezbollah). With Egypt neutralized, fears of a regional or wider conflagration receded but it stirred up Islamist terrorism, and hatred towards Israel's Western backers, primarily the United States and its poodle UK. France joins up when Syria and Lebanon come up. The hate in the Muslim and Arab world reached very high levels after the illegal US-UK-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its brutal occupation since then. However all agree that great injustice has been done to the Palestinians, now under Israel control or as refugees spread elsewhere, with millions still living in refugee camps. When former US president Jimmy Carter compared the situation of the Palestinians to apartheid South Africa, he faced the wrath of Jewish community and neo-cons in US and elsewhere.

First Intifada

After its agreement with Egypt, Israel felt that it had resolved the problem of Palestinians under its occupation, who also provided cheap labor. It was then that Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, refusing to be enslaved, revolted. This erupted as Intifada in 1987 in the Gaza Strip and then spread to the West Bank. Later other organizations took over and claimed credit for this spontaneous outburst of anger against repression and thirst for freedom. Except for stone-throwing by children, it was generally free from violence from theside of the Palestinians. These pictures on TV screens around the world brought home the injustice being perpetrated on the Palestinians in their own land and angered the Muslim world in particular.

The 1987 Intifada was somewhat like Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent movement against the British but in a Middle East setting. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan used to screen on its TV channel Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi on the anniversary of Intifada in November, which was easily received in the Occupied Territories, Israel, Syria and the neighborhood. Its implicit message was to keep the revolution (Intifada) non-violent and not let Israel divide the Palestinian people in their struggle. The horrendous results of use of violence with killings of Israelis by suicide bombers countered by carnage and destruction by Israeli military planes, helicopter gunships and missiles in the second Intifada from September 2000 was there for all to see.

Palestine and Gulf War, 1990-91
The US maneuvered Saddam Hussein into the 1991 war but without any strategic pre-planning. The West had supported Iraq's long war against Khomeini's Iran. US had granted loans to Baghdad worth billions of dollars. Amid high tension between Kuwait and Baghdad over common oil wells, two islands, and the return of a $10 billion loan, Iraq threatened Kuwait with war. A few days before the Iraqi invasion on August 2, 1990, US Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam Hussein that his dispute with Kuwait was a bilateral Arab affair. This was never clearly refuted by the US and Ambassador Glaspie disappeared from view. Meanwhile, all attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq-Kuwait row by Arab nations, led by King Hussein of Jordan and later joined by King Hassan of Morocco, were rebuffed bythe US, as was Kuwait's offer of indirect negotiations. Feelers for negotiations by the Saudis were drowned in Western cacophony. Saddam's reported offer to the UN secretary general to withdraw from Kuwait, made just before the US led war, was brushed aside. Efforts by Mikhail Gorbachev, who had just unraveled the USSR, were treated with disdain.

Bush had attacked Iraq in 1991 without informing the UN secretary general,undermining the world body (the 2003 invasion was against UN will and its Charter.) For the countries of the region, the war resolved nothing. Instead, the US made Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other allies pay through the nose, an estimated $100-$150 billion. Iraq was bombed into the Middle Ages. US and Iraq’s enemy Iran, was the major gainer. Before the war, to guard his back, Saddam agreed to the old boundary with Iran in the Shatt-al Arab waterway, disagreement over which had led to the Iran-Iraq War.

US promises turned sour in the aftermath of the Gulf War. George Bush Sr, also encouraged Iraqis,especially Kurds in the north and Shias in the south, to revolt. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, most of which had large Shia populations, were horrified, as a Shia state in south Iraq would strengthen Iran. The prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurds worried Turkey, whose own Kurds were fighting forfreedom. The hapless Iraqi Kurds, and the Shias paid a terrible price.

Turkish President Turgut Ozal, seduced by US hints of winning "lost" Kurdish areas of north Iraq, became an energetic supporter of the Bush coalition and almost opened another front in the war against Iraq, but was prevented by stiff opposition from his powerful military. But instead of getting oil-rich Mosul and Kirkuk, the economic sanctions against Iraq and closure of the Iraqi pipeline via Turkey cost Ankara $50 billion in lost trade. Unemployment rose as the sanctions halted the 5,000 trucks that used to roar to and from Iraq daily, aggravating the economic and social problems in Turkey's Kurdish heartland of rebellion.

A Turkish deputy prime minister once ruefully told this writer, "Mr Ambassador, you cannot trust the Americans, not even their written promises." A sobering thought for those who support the US blindly.

Saudi Arabia was misled in 1991 by doctored evidence of Saddam's intentions. The stationing of US troops on sacred Arabian soil after the war was resented by Arabs and Muslims all over the world. They also oppose oppressive pro-USArab regimes and their siphoning off of oil wealth. After September 11, most Muslims saw the Arab-Israel conflict and US illegal invasion of Iraq as part of Crusade versus Jihad (In fact this is the word George Bush used after 9/11.)

But Palestinians and their cause suffered the most both after 1991 war on Iraq and the 2003 invasion. Saddam Hussein was a staunch supporter of PLO. Even when financially squeezed he sent money to families of Palestinian suicide bombers. After the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, many Palestinians lost jobs in Kuwait and other Gulf states. But their education, language and ethnic similarity almost makes them indispensable in the Gulf region.

Israel and Palestine

It is amazing that those who suffered so much in the Holocaust, an acme of western material civilisation i.e. use of the last Jewish bone and for centuries earlier because of blind prejudice in Europe and elsewhere  are so capable of inflicting the same unspeakable horrors on the lives of others. What the Israelis are doing is indeed the action of "terrorists" who accuse Palestinians of "terror". When a person has to turn himself or herself into a humanbomb in order to fight for a cause, when children throw stones at tanks, these are acts of desperation from an oppressed people.

Israel is a powerful country, backed by the mighty power of the United States, both in money and in arms. Jews in US and neo-cons support Israel with Jewish AIPAC blackmailing US leaders and lawmakers by threatening to defeat them at polls by their financial and media clout. The world recognizes the plight ofthe Palestinians, and understands it, but is unable do much about such incredibly inhumane deeds and events.

Israeli Solutions!

Since the occupation of Palestinian territories after the 1967 war, the major policy debate in Israeli military and political elites has been about how to keep maximum land (and water and other resources) with minimum Palestinian population. Annexation of heavily populated Palestinian land, with high birthrates, would create a "demographic problem" and reduced Jewish majority. So two solutions were considered. Massive emigration from Russia was encouraged and organized in the early 1990s. The Labor Party's Alon plan consisted of annexation of 35-40 percent of the Occupied Territories, and either Jordanian rule or some form of autonomy for the remaining land to which the Palestinian population would be consigned.

It was a compromise since it was inconceivable to repeat the "solution" of the 1948 independence war, when much of the land was obtained "Arab-free", after mass expulsion of the Palestinians (nearly 700,000 were forced to flee). But in keeping with late Sharon's character, the second solution became the mission i.e. how to get more land by finding a more acceptable and sophisticated "1948-style" solution, i.e. squeeze out as many Palestinians as possible. "Jordan is Palestine" was the phrase Sharon and other leaders had repeated in the 1980s.

The 1993 Oslo Accords were along the lines of the Alon plan to which Arafat had agreed. In the past, the Palestinians had always opposed such plans, which would take away too much of their land. Arafat had agreed only because he was getting old and losing his grip on the Palestinian society. There was opposition to his dictatorial one-man rule and open corruption in his organization. Funds meant for the PLO were distributed among close associates (some of them look too well fed and content), which was talked about openly. This is a problem with all revolutionary organizations when they acquire levers of power.

Only an apparent "smashing victory" could have kept Arafat in power. So behind the back of the Palestinian negotiating team headed by Haider Abdal-Shafi, Arafat accepted an agreement that left all Israeli settlements intact, even in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli settlers occupied one-third of the land, while a million Palestinians are crowded in the rest. But as time went by, Israel extended the "Arab-free" areas by new settlements and connecting roads etc in the Occupied Territories to about 50 percent of their land. Labor circles began to talk about the "Alon Plus" plan, namely even more land to Israel. That would have still allowed some kind of self-rule in the remaining 50 percent of land under Palestinians, but like Bantustans in South Africa. Palestinians would be left with less than 20 percent of 1945 Palestine under the British mandate. This is what Sharon dreamt to break the unity of Palestine nationalism.

At the time of Oslo Accords, the majority of Israelis were tired of war. They thought fights over land and water resources were over. Haunted by the memory of the Holocaust, most Israelis believed that the 1948 War of Independence, with its horrible consequences for the Palestinians, was necessary to establish a state for the Jews. But now both sides with their states could live normally and peacefully. Most people on both the sides believed that what they were witnessing were just "interim agreements" and that eventually the occupation would somehow end, and the settlements would be dismantled. Two-thirds of Jewish Israelis supported the Oslo agreements in the polls. It was obvious there was no stomach for any new wars over land and water.

But the ideology of war over land never died out in the army, or in the circles of politically influential generals, whose careers moved from the military to the government. From the start of the Oslo process, the maximalists objected to giving even that much land and rights to the Palestinians. This was most visible in military circles, whose most vocal spokesman was then chief of staff Ehud Barak, who objected to the Oslo agreements from the start. Another beacon of opposition was, of course, late Ariel Sharon. In 1999, the army got back to power through the politicized generals - first Barak, and then Sharon.

So the maximalist generals-turned-rulers decided to correct what they view as the grave mistakes of Oslo. In their eyes, Sharon's alternative of fighting the Palestinians to the bitter end and imposing new regional order may have failed in Lebanon in 1982 because of the weakness of the soft Israeli society, but given the new war philosophy established through US military operations in Iraq, Kosovo, and, later, Afghanistan, the political generals believed that with Israel's massive air superiority, it might still be possible to execute that vision. However, in order to get there, it was first necessary to convince the Israeli society that, in fact, the Palestinians were not willing to live in peace, and were still threatening Israel's very existence. Sharon alone could not have possibly achieved that, but Barak did succeed with his generous offer-fraud. There was no real offer on the table. It was a media-assisted creation like the belief created in the US population that Iraqis were responsible for September 11.

”The Israeli press is as obedient as elsewhere, and it recycles faithfully the military and governmental messages. But part of the reason it is more revealing is its lack of inhibition. Things that would look outrageous in the world are considered natural daily routine.” Tanya Reinhart

Earlier the world was made to believe that Israel was willing to withdraw even from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. In the polls, 60 percent of the Israelis, hoping for peace, had enthusiastically supported dismantling all settlements in the Golan Heights. But the end of this round of peace negotiations ended in the same way as with Palestinians. It was made out that Syrian leader Hafiz al-Assad did not comprehend and had let the opportunityslip. Israelis then became convinced that it was the rejectionist Assad who was unwilling to get his territories back and make peace with Israel. Assad was a cool and wise statesman and was not fooled. Those close to the military now say that Hezbolla, Syria and Iran tried to trap Israel in a "strategic ambush" and that Israel had to evade that ambush by setting one of its own, i.e. another war like the 1967 preemptive war. And they are encouraging hawks in the US administration in that direction. The US and UK have shown the way in Iraq by their war on Iraqis to disarm Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction.

Why did Barak permit Sharon a provocative visit to Temple Mount/Haram to ignite the boiling frustrations accumulated in the Palestinian society? The massive security forces used rubber bullets against unarmed demonstrators. When the visit triggered more demonstrations the next day, Barak escalated the shootings and ordered Israeli forces and tanks into densely populated Palestinian areas. By all indications, the escalation of Palestinian protest into armed clashes could have been prevented had the Israeli response been more restrained. Even in the face of armed resistance, Israel's reaction had been grossly out of proportion, as stated by the General Assembly of the UN, which condemned Israel's "excessive use of force" on October 26, 2000.

The first Palestinian terrorist attack on Israeli civilians inside Israel took place on November 2, 2000, a month after Israel used its full military machine against Palestinians including helicopters, tanks and missiles. So it was not defense against terrorism as claimed by Israel. It would appear that another plan to destroy the Palestinian infrastructure and to discredit Arafat, i.e. that he had never given up the "option of violence", was ready in October 2000 and are contained in a manuscript known as the "White Book".

Late Professor Tanya Reinhart suggests in her book Israel/Palestine that despite the horrors of the past two years, there was still another alternative."Israel should withdraw immediately from the territories occupied in 1967. The bulk of Israeli settlers (150,000 of them) are concentrated in the big settlement blocks in the center of the West Bank. These areas cannot be evacuated overnight. But the rest of the land (about 90-96 percent of the WestBank and the whole of the Gaza Strip) can be evacuated immediately. Many of the residents of the isolated Israeli settlements that are scattered in these areas are speaking openly in the Israeli media about their wish to leave. It is only necessary to offer them reasonable compensation for their property. The rest... are a negligible minority that will have to accept the will of the majority."

That would leave only six to 10 percent of territories under occupation with large settlement blocks. This, along with the issues of Jerusalem and the right of return, could be left for negotiations, after the Palestinian society begins to recover, settle on the land that the Israelis evacuate, construct political institutions and develop its economy. According to a Dahaf poll of May 6 solicited by Peace Now, 59 percent supported a unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army from most of the Occupied Territories, and dismantling most of the settlements. Only this can renew the peace process.

Unfortunately, in the evolutionary ladder of governance, societies have moved up from the tribal model when the warrior chief, sometimes the head priest too, was the ruler. Security of the tribe and wars was their major preoccupation. Israel is the first Jewish state in history after two millennia. It is barely 50 years old. Based on its history of persecution leading to the Holocaust, inputs of messianic religious fervor, labor (kibbutz) ideals and other ideas brought by its ruling elite, mostly from the European states, the warrior-king construct dominates Israel's state philosophy and the political system, situated as it is among almost implacably hostile Arabs (tribes). "The hundreds of ex-generals who man most of the key posts in [the Israeli] government and society are not only a group of veterans sharing common memories. The partnership goes much deeper. Dozens of years of service in the regular army form a certain outlook on life, a political world view, ways of thinking and even language."

Unfortunately, policies and plans of Israel's political generals have now become intertwined into the views of US neo-conservatives. In the name of the fight against terrorism, more terror is being rained by Israel, where stability, security and peace remain elusive.

Gaza Strip: A Veritable Concentration Camp

The Gaza Strip or Gaza is one of the territorial units of Occupied territories. It is 41 km long and 6 to 12 Km wide, with a total area of 360 sq kms, borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. Its population of about 1.6 million, mostly Sunni Muslims who are descendants of or refugees form exodus to Gaza in 1948 following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Its boundaries were confirmed by the Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement of  24 February 1949. The Gaza Strip remained under Egypt and administered through the Palestine Government and then directly from 1959 until 1967, when Israel occupied it following the Six day war. Following the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993, the Palestine Authority was set up as an interim administrative body but with Israel maintaining control of Gaza's airspace. In 2005 Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza. Since July 2007, following the first ever freest elections (which US led West had insisted on and won by Hamas and a after a battle with PA), Hamas is the effective government in the Gaza Strip. 

Israeli Occupation (1967–2005)

Afterthe June 1967 Six day war, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and created in all 21 settlements covering 20% of area. Gaza also served its security concerns. The March 1979 Israel -Egypt Peace Treaty provided for the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula with the Egyptians agreeing to keep the Sinai Peninsula demilitarized. Cairo renounced all territorial claims on it. Until 1994 the Israeli military was responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services. After the Oslo Accords in May 1994, a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place except for the settlements blocs and military areas.The Palestinian Authority, led by Arafat chose Gaza City as its first provincial headquarters. After the second peace agreement in September 1995, the Palestinian Authority took over most of West Bank towns. It also established an elected 88-member Palestinian National Council (PNC).

The Palestinian Authority rule under Arafat suffered from serious mismanagement and corruption scandals.

The second Intifada of September 2000 provoked by Israeli over reaction and provocation led to waves of protests, civil unrest and bombings against Israeli military and civilians, many by suicide bombers, and the beginning of rockets and bombings of Israeli border areas by Palestinian guerrillas from Gaza Strip, especially from Hamas and Islamic Jihad volunteers. Tel Aviv began a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip from 15 August 2005, which was completed on 12 September 2005. Under the plan, all Israeli Settlements in the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank) and the joint Industrial Zone were dismantled. In all 9,000 Israeli settlers left Gaza and military bases and Philadelphi route separating Gaza with Egypt were evacuated. On 12 September 2005 Israel formally declared an end to Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip.

While Egypt patrolled its side of the border, Israel maintained its control over the crossings in and out of Gaza. The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was monitored by the Israeli army through special surveillance cameras. Official documents such as passports, I.D. cards, export and import papers etc had to be approved by the Israeli army.

The UN, Human Rights Watch and many other international bodies and NGOs consider Israel to be the occupying power of the Gaza Strip since Tel Aviv still controls Gaza's airspace and territorial waters, and does not allow the movement of goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea (only by land). Egypt has alternately restricted or allowed goods and people to cross that terrestrial border. Israel lies that Gaza is no longer occupied.

After Israel withdrawal in 2005, PA Chairman Mahmud Abbas stated, "the legal status of the areas slated for evacuation has not changed." Its attorney Gregory Khalil said “Israel still controls every person, every good, literally every drop of water to enter or leave the Gaza Strip. Its troops may not be there... but it still restricts the ability for the Palestinian authority to exercise control.” Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur said that the international humanitarian law applied to Israel "in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war." In 2009 Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the UNRWA described Israel an occupying power.

Palestinian Authority Control (1994–2007)

Inaccordance with the Oslo Accords PA took over the administrative authority of the Gaza Strip (other than the settlement blocs and military areas) in 1994. After the Israeli withdrawal of settlers and military from the Gaza Strip on 12 September 2005, the Palestinian Authority had complete administrative authority in the Gaza Strip.

In the Palestinian parliamentary elections held on January 25, 2006, Hamas won 42.9% of the total vote and 74 out of 132 total seats (56%). When Hamas assumed power the next month, the Israeli government and its supporters and the EU refused to recognize its right to govern as PA. Direct aid to the Palestinian government there was cut off, the resulting political disorder and economic stagnation led to many Palestinians emigrating from the Gaza Strip.

In January 2007, fighting erupted between Hamas and Fatah. By end of January 2007, a truce was negotiated between Fatah and Hamas. But clashes continued with both factions attacking vehicles and facilities of the other side. In response to constant attacks by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched an airstrike which destroyed a building used by Hamas. In the 2006-2007 fighting more than 600 Palestinians were killed in factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah. In the aftermath of the fighting violent acts killed 54 Palestinians, while hundreds were tortured.
Continued to Life and Times of Arafat; Mission Incomplete 


More by :  K. Gajendra Singh

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Comment The leftist dominated Indian intellectual establishment has long swallowed Arab propaganda regarding this issue, and it is quite disappointing that this article is a continuation of that trend.

The author casually mentions the dispersal of the Jews from Palestine, expressing his skepticism as to whether it is a true story of not. One wonders where exactly, in the author's opinion, the Jews are from, if not Palestine, given that their recorded histories are entirely centered around the region.

The author mentions the Balfour Declaration's promising a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, but fails to mention that "Palestine" at the time included what is now Jordan, which was made autonomous in 1921 via the Transjordan Memorandum, and eventually became independent in 1946 as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Hence, by 1948, Arabs controlled 80% of the British Mandate, and were offered another 10% to create another Arab state. Yet, they refused the offer because it would necessitate leaving the last 10% for the Jews, whom they have unsuccessfully tried to annihilate through war, terror, and disinformation campaigns. It is because Jordan has a Palestinian demographic majority that it is considered by some to be the true Palestinian state. Yet, even though the author is aware of this line of reasoning, he does not refute this notion.

The author then criticizes America for not recognizing "Palestine", carefully skirting around the fact that there was no "Palestine" for American or anyone else to recognize. As the author himself points out, the Arabs did not recognize Israel, and did not accept the UN Partition Plan that would have created an Arab state alongside Israel. Had the Arabs done as Israel did, and used the opportunity to create a new state, there would have been no war, and no subsequent refugee crisis. Instead, they opted for a genocidal war to push the Jews into the sea and destroy the Jewish state.

The author's use of the word "Palestinian" to refer to the Arabs at this period is quite anachronistic. The Arabs who lived in Mandatory Palestine did not see themselves as "Palestinian" Arabs in need of a "Palestinian" state, and that is why they did not bother to create one. The concept of Palestinian identity had not yet crystallized. During the years of the Ottoman Empire, the region was part of Ottoman Syria, and the Arabs who lived there thought of themselves as Southern Syrians, not "Palestinians." The word "Palestinian" was, at the time, used to designate anyone living in Mandatory Palestine, including Jews. It was only later that the Arabs would hijack the term and use it to refer exclusively to Arabs. Thus, the "Palestinians" were indeed just another Arab people up for grabs.

Furthermore, Israel's participation in the 1956 Suez Crisis was not without Egyptian provocation. Nasser and his government had been openly calling for Israel's destruction and trained and armed fedayeen to cross the border and kill Israeli soldiers.

Ironically enough, the word "Palestinian" had, until the late 1960s, referred to Jews, not Arabs. It was first officially used as a regional, not national, designation by the Romans. After conquering the kingdom of Judea, the Romans wanted to humiliate the conquered Jews, and thus renamed the region "Palestine", and Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina." The name "Palestine" came from the word "Philistine", the Jews' traditional enemies in the Bible. However, even they were not Arabs, but Greeks. It is for this reason, that the Jews had no problem using the word "Palestinian" to refer to themselves; the famous Jerusalem Post newspaper, for instance, was originally called the "Palestine Post." In contrast, even Arabs like historian Phillip K. Hitti and PLO executive council member Zuhair Muhsin explicitly rejected the term "Palestinian", admitting that the Palestinian people did not exist. The concept of a "Palestinian people" was only created as a strategy to fight against and destroy Israel. That is why the word "Palestinian" has no Arabic etymology, and the names of the "Palestinian" cities are Arabized versions of their original Hebrew names. In this respect, the "Palestinian nation" is similar to that of Pakistan; both are artificial modern constructs created by fanatical Muslims to perpetuate jihad against their hated infidel neighbors.

As a side note, it is revealing that the author considers Jordan to be " a keystone of equilibrium in the region and a modern flourishing state, despite lacking oil or other resources" yet does not shower similar accolades upon Israel, despite the latter being a true democracy, unlike Jordan, and achieving more prosperity, despite lacking natural resources and land.

The author then briefly refers to the Six-Day War as a "pre-emptive" war, but fails to go into detail about Nasser's impending attack on Israel that necessitated the pre-emptive strike in the first place. He also completely skips over the period between 1948 and 1967, ignoring both the suffering of the "Palestinian" Arabs under Jordanian and Egyptian rule, and the terrorist attacks Israel suffered during this period. One wonders why, if there is indeed a Palestinian "people" they did not fight to "liberate" their "homeland" from the "occupation" of "foreigners" from Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967? The answer is that there was still no concept of a nation of Palestinian Arabs at that time.

UN Resolution 242 also does not call for Israel to unilaterally withdraw from *all* "territories occupied in the recent conflict." The word "all" was deliberately excluded from the resolution, because there was no expectation that Israel would have to yield all of the territory captured in a defensive war back to those who had attacked it. The author also ignores the fact that the resolution also states that every state in the area has the right to live in peace within "secure and recognized boundaries." This implies that Israel did not have secure and recognized boundaries before 1967, and therefore cannot be expected to return to those insecure borders.

The author's claim that Arab-Israelis lack equal rights ignores the fact that they have more rights than any Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. They can vote in free and fair elections for Arab parliamentarians from Arab parties, work in whatever profession they choose, go to Israeli schools and universities and teach at them, serve in the armed forces, play on sports teams, act in Israeli cinema, etc. Though there is still discrimination against Israeli Arabs, Israel allows them to legally and peacefully have their concerns addressed in Israeli courts, upon which Arabs can and do serve.

Furthermore, when the author discusses the "millions" of Arab refugees, he ignores the fact that most of these refugees are the descendents of the original Arab refugees of 1948, and can no more be considered refugees than the descendents of the refugees of the Partition of India, or postwar Europe. It is only in the case of the "Palestinians" that the descendents of refugees are considered refugees indefinitely, making the "Palestinian" refugee population the only population of refugees that increases as time goes on, rather than decreasing due to their being absorbed by other states. The author also fails to mention that many of the Arab refugees from the 1948 war left their homes willingly at the behest of the invading Arab armies, who wanted them out of the way so that they could more easily destroy the new Jewish state.

An oft-ignored aspect of the refugee crisis is that, although many Jews willingly migrated to Israel from the Middle East, many were forcibly chased out by their repressive Arab governments. While the Arab refugees had to flee a relatively short distance to a region that was very similar to the one that they had left, the Jewish refugees had to flee to Israel, a country with which they were unfamiliar. Yet, Israel integrated them, and now half of its population is descended from them. In contrast, the descendents of the "Palestinian" Arab refugees continue to rot in refugee camps in the five Arab states that attacked Israel in 1948; they have not been absorbed by these states and are not considered citizens despite having been born in those states. They are not allowed to leave their camps, and are denied public services so that those states can direct the "refugees' anger and resentment towards Israel in the form of more terrorist attacks.

Further, Jewish settlement in the West Bank (actually called Judea and Samaria) is not illegal, nor can Israel's military control over the region be considered an "occupation." The word occupation is only used when one state uses its military to control another. However, there was no Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria in 1967, and neither Egypt nor Jordan had any legal justification for their annexing the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Further, the Jewish right of settlement between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea was guaranteed by the League of Nations Mandate, and further upheld by Article 80 of the UN Charter, which holds the UN to agreements made by the League. Ironically enough, thousands of "Palestinian" Arabs work in Israeli settlements that the world wants torn down in the name of "Palestinian" rights. It is rather ironic that the author complains about Israel's treatment of its Arab minority, yet desires that all Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria be dismantled. Hence, Israel is not only expected to have an Arab minority, but to treat them fairly, but the future "Palestinian" state is not expected to have any Jews whatsoever. Yet, it is Israel that is accused of being racist, while the Palestinians teach their children that Jews are descended from pigs and monkeys.

The reason that Jimmy Carter faced criticism when comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa is because Israel's military presence in Judea and Samaria exists to secure Israelis from Arab terrorist attacks. In contrast, apartheid South Africa imposed its restrictions on blacks out of racist contempt. Ironically, the inaccuracy of the word "apartheid" was pointed out by Carter himself in his book.

As far as the First Intifada is concerned, it is revealing that the author paints it as a purely nonviolent affair, without mentioning the "Palestinians" use of Molotov cocktails, grenades, and guns, and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and civilians, as well as "Palestinian"s' murder of other "Palestinian" "collaborators."

That "Palestinian" suicide bombing and other terrorist atrocities are acts of a desperate population is a tiresome fiction. If such was the case, then we would have expected "Palestinian" terrorism against Israel to have begun in 1967. Yet, even the author admits that there were anti-Jewish pogroms in Mandatory Palestine, and that the Arabs rejected the 1948 Partition plan in favor of war. Incidentally, they were in fact offered a state via the 1937 Peel Commission, but rejected that as well in favor of more Jew killing. Furthermore, while there were no terrorist attacks against Egypt or Jordan between 1948 and 1967, when they controlled the "Palestinian territories" there were indeed terrorist attacks against Israel during this period, despite Israel's not "occupying" anything at that time. Israel would not have to use its powerful military if the Arabs laid down their weapons and accepted Israel's right to exist in practice, and not just on paper. It is rather ironic that the author, while in one breath, lamenting the Holocaust, parrots the antisemitic "Jews control America" stereotype. If Israel were truly acting along the lines of Nazi Germany, then one wonders why its Arab minority have more rights and freedoms than any Arabs in any Arab state. The conflict will not end if Israel withdraws its military from Judea and Samaria and dismantles its settlements, because it began before either of those things happened. The conflict will only end when the Arabs end their genocidal campaign against Israel. Indeed, that Hamas responded to Israel's unilateral military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and dismantling of settlements with rocket attacks is evidence of this fact.

It is often said that Ehud Barack did not offer the "Palestinians" a viable state, instead offering only disconnected "bantustans" under Israeli military control. However, Barack offered Arafat 97% of the West Bank as well as a capital in East Jerusalem. That Barack offered Arafat a contiguous state is evident from the maps shown in "The Missing Peace" a book by U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross. Furthermore, that the Second Intifada was caused by Sharon's walk on the Temple Mount is also false. That Arafat planned the Intifada in advance was admitted even by his wife, Suha Arafat, and by Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat's successor.

It is also revealing that the author criticizes Israel for refusing to recognize Hamas' government in the Gaza Strip, while completely ignoring Hamas' history of sending rockets and suicide bombers to murder Israelis, its brainwashing children with messages of hatred against Jews and glorification of "martyrdom" and its Charter's call for the destruction of Israel and the killing of all of its Jews.

It is truly bizarre that the author acknowledges the Palestinian National Authority's corruption and mismanagement under Arafat, yet simultaneously says that its institutions are comparable to those of Western countries, and that the Palestinian National Authority is almost ready to govern itself. The Palestinian National Authority is still horrendously corrupt, and brutally autocratic towards the very citizens it is expected to govern. Its "President" has not faced an election since 2009. It bans land sale to Jews on pain of death, because that might bring a peaceful end to the conflict. The Palestinian National Authority does not want peace, because its entire existence is predicated on keeping the conflict going to milk more international aid money to stash away in Swiss Bank accounts, or use to fund more suicide bombers to kill Israelis. The very concept of a Palestinian nation is predicated upon a denial of Jewish history in the region, and a desire to destroy the Jewish state. There can only be peace in the region if the Arabs stop this foolish quest for Jewish annihilation that ensnares and defines generation after wasted generation of radicalized Arab youth, and promotes more Israeli crackdowns.

30-Jul-2012 15:22 PM

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