The decision by a commission of legal scholars, led by retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, that Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria is legal, created a storm of protest from the usual quarters.
Today I’m going to dissect one paragraph that epitomizes the misconceptions surrounding Israel’s legal rights in Judea and Samaria. It happens to appear in a New York Times editorial, but that’s really not important (unless you are still awed by the ignorance or malice of the editors of that newspaper).
Here is the paragraph:
“Most of the world views the West Bank, which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, as occupied territory and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004. The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
Most of the world
This can’t mean most of the world’s 6.9 billion people, most of whom don’t give a rat’s posterior about Israel. It probably refers to most of the members of the UN General Assembly, where there has been an automatic majority against Israel on every imaginable subject since the 1970s. Is this supposed to add authority to their argument?
view the West Bank
“West Bank” is a term applied to what had previously been called by its biblical names, Judea and Samaria, by Jordan in 1950. Using this expression obscures the historical Jewish connection and suggests that Jordanian control of the area, which lasted only 19 years, was somehow ‘normal.’
which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war
This continues the theme that the normal situation was usurped by Israel in 1967. But when Jordanian troops marched into the area in 1948, killing and driving out the Jewish population, they violated the provision of the Mandate that set aside the area of ‘Palestine’ for “close Jewish settlement,” and the one that called for the civil rights of all existing residents — Jewish or Arab — to be respected. It also violated the UN charter which forbids the acquisition of territory by force. Only Pakistan and the UK recognized the annexation of the area (even the Arab League opposed it).
The Jordanian invasion and annexation of Judea and Samaria was, in fact, illegal under international law. Israel’s conquest in 1967, on the other hand, can be seen as a realization of the terms of the Mandate.
as occupied territory
As I wrote yesterday, the concept of a ‘belligerent occupation’ does not apply here. What country owned the territory that Israel ‘occupied’? Not Jordan, which was there illegally, nor Britain, whose Mandate had ended, nor the Ottoman Empire, which no longer existed. The nation with the best claim was Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, who were the intended beneficiaries of the Mandate. Judea and Samaria are disputed, not occupied, and the Jewish people have a prima facie claim based on the Mandate.
and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004.
This refers to the advisory opinion against the security fence issued by the International Court of Justice. The opinion refers to Israel as an “occupying power” and says that the fence is built on “occupied Palestinian land,” despite the fact that there is no legally delimited border between Israeli and ‘Palestinian’ land.
The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
Since the land is not ‘occupied’, the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply. And even if it were occupied, legal scholars (including the Levy commission) have made excellent arguments that the Convention was not intended to apply to voluntary ‘transfers’ of population like settlements, but to forced deportations like the Nazi transfer of German Jews into occupied Poland.
Forty-five years after the Six Day War, declassified transcripts of the Israeli cabinet and government committee meetings in the days after war that ended on June 10, 1967 were released this June. The documents provide a breathtaking insight into the efforts of Israeli leaders to reach a peace settlement with the countries and groups which had been at war with Israel. The evidence of the hard work and the varied opinions on the part of the Israeli ministers, all eager to reach a peace treaty and an understanding with the Palestinians and Arab states, presents a revealing contrast to the long-term refusal of the Arab parties to come to the negotiating table — an attitude that was reiterated at the summit meeting of the Arab League on September 1, 1967 in Khartoum, Sudan. As has now been revalidated by the declassified transcripts, the Israelis were ready to negotiate land for peace; the Arab leaders instead issued their statement of the three “nos:” no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel — an unconditionally negative position taken by Arab leaders that still persists.
The Arab and Palestinian intransigence – the refusal to accept a peace agreement – has a long history and is all too familiar. In 1922 the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was officially established. Under it a Jewish Agency, set up in 1929, and composed of representatives of world Jewry, would assist the British administration in establishing the Jewish National Home in Palestine. The Jewish Agency then organized an infrastructure of political and social institutions that became the basis for the state of Israel. The Arabs refused the offer to create a similar Agency.
In 1922 the Arab leaders who refused to participate with the Jews in any plan or in a joint legislature, in which anyone other than the Arabs would have been the majority; rejected the proposal for a Palestinian Constitution with a Legislative Council in which the Arabs would have formed the majority, and boycotted the election for the Council.
In 1937 the Arab Higher Committee rejected the idea of two states, first officially proposed by the British Peel Commission Report. The Report had recommended a Jewish state in about 20 percent of Palestine, about 5,000 square kilometers, while most of the rest was to be under Arab sovereignty. The Report also suggested a transfer of land and an exchange of population between the two states. The Peel Commission Report was accepted, in principle, by the Jewish Agency, even though it meant that the Jewish state would be a small one, but it was totally rejected by the Arab Higher Committee, which called for a single state in all of Palestine.
In 1939, in the last attempt before World War II, to reach some agreement, the British Colonial Secretary organized a Round Table Conference in London that February. Failure was inevitable: the representatives of the five Arab states and the Arabs in Mandatory Palestine who were present refused any direct contact or discussion with the Jewish representatives — even to sit in the same room with them.
The Arabs also refused to accept United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181(II) of November 29, 1947, which adopted the recommendation of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) that Western Palestine — the area outside of Jordan — be partitioned into two states, one Jewish, one Arab, with an internationalized Jerusalem as a corpus separatum, or separate body. The Jewish state would have about 55 percent of the area, but not the historic areas of Judea and Samaria. The Resolution was accepted by the Jewish leaders, but rejected by the Palestinian Arabs and by six of the seven member states — Jordan being the exception — of the Arab League, which at that time had replaced the League of Arab States.
Arab refusal to enter into peace negotiations persists to this day, inflexible as ever. The Palestinians decline to enter into negotiations with Israel unless Israel first accepts the “pre-1967 borders” (borders that have never existed; they are merely the armistice line of where the fighting stopped in 1949), agrees to Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, and ends all construction in areas acquired by Israel as a result of the 1967 war.
These signs hang by one of the passageways between H1 and H2 zones in Hebron.
H2 zone comprises Jews and some 40 thousand Arabs.
H1 zone, which spreads over the vast majority of the city, has only Arab residents, and Jewish entrance into it is against the law.
These rules were sanctioned in the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, also known as The Hebron Protocol or Hebron Agreement.
The agreement was signed by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat, under the supervision of US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and been in effect in the City of the Patriarchs since January 17, 1997.
The agreement called for redeployment of Israeli military forces in Hebron in accordance with the “Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” “Oslo II” of September 1995.
As a result, Hebron Jews have been barred from many thousands of potential housing units, which could bring prosperity and growth to the oldest Jewish city in the world.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised to bolster Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria by as many as 850 housing units.
Above: an earlier view of the signs, circa 2000, without the Jew-specific inscription. The signs mark the “1929 Junction,” which commemorates the 67 Jewish victims of the August 24, 1929 Hebron massacre that eventually decimated the Jewish community in the city. The community was resurrected after the city was liberated, in 1967.
30,000 boy and girls from schools around the country participated in the Jerusalem Day Dance and Flag Parade on Sunday, May 20, 2012.
The parade began with dancing in front of the Great Synagogue, followed by a march to the Old City, walking through the gates of Jerusalem, and finally, culminating at the Kotel.
The parade celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967.
Photo Credits: Stephen Leavitt, Flash90: Noam Moskowitz, Miriam Alster
One of the Six-Day War’s most famous landmarks, Ammunition Hill, was vandalized early Monday morning. This is the fourth related incident in less than a week, just days before Israel marks its Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism.
According to Army Radio, the vandals spray-painted anti-Israel slogans, including “Günter Grass was right,” [referring to the German Nobel laureate's recently published poem in which the former SS officer said Israel was a danger to world peace] and “Zionism — the root of all evil” as well as “lame Zionists.”
Here is an excerpt from a description of the battle of Ammunition Hill by Yaakov Lozowick:
Between 1949 and 1967, while Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan, there was an Israeli enclave about a mile to the east of the border, in the Jordanian part of town. This was Mount Scopus, with the campus of the Hebrew university and Hadassah hospital. There was an agreement whereby every two weeks 200 Israelis would cross Jordanian territory to the enclave, and sit there until the next group replaced them two weeks later.
Throughout the whole period everyone knew that sooner or later the war would resume, and that when that happened Israel would try to reconnect the mountain with the city. To prevent this the Jordanians built a series of fortifications in that mile, and its centerpiece was Ammunition Hill, an apt name borrowed from the days after the British conquered the city in 1917 and General Allenby stored his army’s ammunition there…
On the night between June 5th and 6th 1967 the paratroopers, backed by a few tanks, made their attack, directly on the Jordanian fortifications. The section of the battle on Ammunition Hill raged from about 2am to 5:30, early next morning. It was face to face combat, between the best forces each side had. 71 Jordanians were killed, and 35 Israelis: most of the defenders died, as did a quarter of the attackers.
A story I heard not long afterward told that in the early morning the IDF troops gathered the fallen Jordanians into a pit and covered it, with a makeshift sign that read “Here lie 71 brave Jordanian soldiers”.
A few hours later the paratroopers were at the Kotel.
The perpetrators of the vandalism could have been anti-Zionist Haredim, Arabs, or left-wing extremists. Judging by the content of the literate Hebrew graffiti, my guess is that in this case they are the former.
For example, the message in the photo above reads: “Wretched Zionists, whom do you dominate? The miserable Arabs? Zionism — mother of sin!”
It is simply impossible for me to imagine what would motivate Israeli Jews to desecrate a monument to men who died defending the Jewish state that protects and, in many cases, feeds them.
I would like to see the vandals, who spit on Jewish sovereignty, banished to a place where it doesn’t exist. They have made their statement, let them live by it.
Dreading Purim (I)
I applaud your giving front-page prominence to Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb’s article about substance abuse among Jewish youngsters (“Why I Dread Purim,” front page essay, March 2).
The problem has assumed ominous proportions and has and will damage if not destroy the futures of many of our young people. It is only through thoroughly ventilating the problem with thoughtful discussions that we may be able to move it toward a solution. I hope parents will read, absorb, and take Rabbi Weinreb’s message to their children.
Edward Wishner (Via E-Mail)
Dreading Purim (II)
I enjoyed Rabbi Weinreb’s article. Unfortunately, the fact is that today’s children come by their addictions “honestly.” That is, they are reared by adults who can’t seem to cope with or work through their problems without drugs or alcohol. Children are far from stupid and are much more perceptive and honest with themselves than prior generations at the same age. Parents teach by example and the sad lesson from all too many can be encapsulated into “There is a pill for that.”
I was disappointed that Rabbi Weinreb did not delve into what is meant by the admonition to drink until we cannot discriminate between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai.” It certainly is not self-evident that reliance on a mind-altering substance was being urged. Rabbi Weinreb quoted sources who ruled that drunkenness was not what was contemplated. But what still remains a mystery, at least to me, is how those words are otherwise to be interpreted.
Gary Kleinman New York, NY
Playing The Race Card
Re “African-Americans for Obama” (editorial, March 2):
President Obama is only partially to blame for calling on African Americans to support him in November “because I look like you.” Campaigning is the art of getting elected and Obama learned from the 2008 presidential campaign that when it comes to the race card, the media will always give him a pass. Sure enough, his shameless appeal to African-Americans to vote for him has caused barely a ripple in the media.
I wonder, though, what the reaction would have been to a call by Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum for Caucasians to join a project called “Whites for Mitt” or “Whites for Rick.” Actually, I know the answer. The media would have screamed “racism” non-stop.
Reuven Michaels (Via E-Mail)
Opposition To Obama Not Racial
Reader Howard Feinberg’s sweeping denunciation of frum Jews who oppose President Obama is misguided and wrong (Letters, March 2).
One need not read between the lines to discern that Mr. Feinberg is of the opinion that this opposition is grounded upon race. As an observant Jew, I can state with conviction that my opposition to Obama has nothing to do with his race. It has everything to do with the president’s ruinous economic policies that have resulted in the worst American unemployment figures since the Depression.
To add insult to injury, the president appears to be more concerned with moving his radical social agenda forward than with putting Americans back to work. And with gasoline prices approaching five dollars per gallon, the president opposes real alternatives that would alleviate the economic plight of most Americans and kowtows to environmentalists and other special interests.
On Israel, Mr. Feinberg claims the president is simply following his predecessors concerning settlements and the 1967 borders. While that statement is arguable, what is inarguable is that President Obama is the first American president to publicly advocate for borders between Israel and the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines with some undefined swaps of land.
Anyone with an elementary knowledge of Israel’s security and the current state of world affairs knows a return by Israel to its 1967 borders in any form would be suicide and a non-starter.
When an American president repeatedly states that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” refers to Israeli “occupation” and cannot differentiate between rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and Israel’s response, Jews, observant or not, take notice. That is why I will join with many of my fellow Jews and millions of other Americans this November in voting against President Obama.
Gerald M. Jacobs Staten Island, NY
Disagrees With Reviewer
This is in response to the Feb. 17 review of the book Girl for Sale by Faigie Heiman. While I respect everyone’s right to voice an opinion and I certainly do not question the credentials and expertise of reviewer Yocheved Golani, I emphatically disagree with several aspects of her conclusions.
First of all, just to set the record straight, the maiden name of the heroine of the story, Miriam Mendlowitz, is undisputedly Miriam Gross, not Miriam Azidowicz, as the reviewer erroneously reported. Nor does she have a middle name, as a reference to Miriam A. Mendlowitz would lead us to believe. Other statements are more subjective in nature and consequently less blatantly incorrect, though I personally disagree with the majority of the criticisms the reviewer cites.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s statement last Saturday that “Israeli intransigence” was behind the collapse of the recently convened Israel-Palestinian talks in Jordan may provide a moment of truth for President Obama.
According to The New York Times’s Ethan Bronner, citing senior officials from both sides, Israeli negotiators told their Palestinian counterparts that their guiding principle for future borders in a two state solution would include existing settlement blocs as part of Israel. The Palestinians summarily rejected this. Significantly, a Palestinian spokesman said that “Our starting point is the 1967 borders with minor swaps and theirs is the wall and settlements.” (The wall refers to the separation barrier Israel has been building for a number of years.)
President Obama famously said last spring that he favored final borders based on the 1967 lines with mutual swaps – by which he said he meant to include the major Jewish population centers in the West Bank. Mr. Obama’s formulation, which he claims to have been initially misunderstood, caused a very public confrontation with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The Palestinian position now pushes things beyond the debate over what President Obama really meant. In the here and now, the Palestinian focus on the 1967 lines with “minor changes” is plainly inconsistent with the notion that “swaps” would include tradeoffs for large population centers.
The question is thus whether President Obama is prepared to take the next step and tell the Palestinians that America stands for Israel’s retaining the major settlement blocs. At the very least, he should declare who he thinks is at fault for the breakdown in the talks.
There appears to be a newly energized effort underway to delegitimize any identification of the modern state of Israel with biblical Israel. This sort of thing has been around for a while but it was usually engaged in by Arab nations and hardcore critics of Israel.
Thus it was disappointing, but not surprising, that in his September speech to the UN General Assembly, PA President Mahmoud Abbas referred to the Holy Land as the “land of Palestine, the land of the Prophet and the birthplace of Jesus.”
And UNESCO’s granting of full membership to the Palestinians is certain to stimulate ever-greater efforts by that body to undermine Israel’s cultural and historical connection to the Holy Land. A little over a year ago, UNESCO classified Kever Rachel as a mosque and “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories.” And the Palestinians, separate and apart from the negotiating process, are asking UNESCO to recognizing 20 sites – including Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem – as “Palestinian World Heritage Sites.”
Particularly dismaying is the broad traction achieved by a new book, The Unmaking of Israel, from Israeli journalist and longtime settlement critic Gershom Gorenberg. Mr. Gorenberg’s thesis is that by keeping and settling territory it conquered in 1967, Israel has undermined both its status as a democracy and the rule of law. He says it has led to corrosive ties between state and synagogue, promoted religious extremism and distorted Judaism.
Absent from his analysis is any notion that Israel has biblical/historical ties to the lands it won in 1967. And the fact that Israel has been given no real opportunity over the years to accommodate the Arabs (other than by marching into the Mediterranean) seems to play no role in Mr. Gorenberg’s thinking.
Not surprisingly, the Gorenberg book has been well received in academic and intellectual circles. Also hardly a surprise, The New York Times this past Sunday saw fit to publish an op-ed piece by Mr. Gorenberg (titled “Israel’s Other Occupation”) which was basically a screed against Israeli policies within the so-called “green line,” accusing Israel of doing to its Arab citizens what it is allegedly doing to the Palestinians of the West Bank.
Another article meriting mention is political scientist Ronald R. Krebs’s “Israel’s Bunker Mentality: How the Occupation Is Destroying the Nation,” which appears in Foreign Affairs, the influential journal published by the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Krebs argues that Israel’s continuing presence in the territories has played a central role in transforming a country once brimming with optimism into an increasingly despondent and illiberal place.
Like Mr. Gorenberg, Mr. Krebs not only provides a distorted narrative about the facts on the ground, he seems quite oblivious to the realities foisted on Israel by the Arab world and totally unconcerned with Israel’s biblical/historical ties to the land.
We hope to see informed rejoinders to the likes of Messrs Gorenberg and Krebs, in both popular and intellectual media outlets, in the coming weeks.