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.
Another great session at Tomorrow 2012 – the President’s Conference in Jerusalem. This time, it was Peter Beinart in a specially arranged session for bloggers.
Peter Beinart has written a book called The Crisis of Zionism. When I agree with the New York Times, you know something is amazing. Here‘s what was written about his book in the NY Times:
He [Beinart] sets out to save the country by labeling many of its leaders racist, denouncing many of its American supporters as Holocaust-obsessed enablers and advocating a boycott of people and products from beyond Israel’s 1967 eastern border.
I’ll start by saying I haven’t read it – maybe Mr. Beinart wants to send me a complimentary copy? Probably not. So let me write about what he said, and not what he wrote. Perhaps had I read the book, I’d have been more prepared. I wasn’t.
He began with a justification for an argument that I’ve had with myself for many years, even before I moved to Israel. If it isn’t your son on the border of Israel, do you have the right to criticize, to advise, and perhaps even to condemn Israel for what it does to survive and thrive in this area of the world. This touches on information from a second session that I don’t want to write about here. I want to focus on Beinart.
I’ll start by saying he was charming and he is clearly a great thinker. He spoke of his Egyptian-born grandmother (who disagrees with his politics and thinks, as I do, that he is painfully naive). He’s a man with an opinion, that is clear and he’s stubborn. Facts are unlikely to sway him. Interestingly enough, he touched not just on Israel, but on American Jewry and there his views come close to mine. I’ll explain that one in a second.
First, about Israel.
He has built a mountain on shifting sands; an argument on facts that simply are inaccurate. He said, “what legitimizes Israel is its democracy.” What an absurd statement. First, why does Israel need to be legitimized? When was the last time anyone asked what right the US had to exist? Wait, the US is a democracy. Okay, when was the last time someone asked what right North Korea has a right to exist or what legitimacy it has?
Then, Peter Beinart decided to play a game – an insulting one and one of the many reasons why he does not have a right to think his opinion should mean anything here – until it is his son on our borders. He has decided that it is acceptable to boycott products from the West Bank but he encourages purchasing products from what he inaccurately and annoyingly refers to as “democratic” Israel. Here again is the latest form of idol worship that plagues Beinart and many left-wing American Jews – democracy. It is not God who determines the future, the present, the right and wrong of things – it is the idol known as democracy, that Beinart worships.
I’m all for democracy. I would vote for it anytime. But Israel is greater than our democracy. Our democracy is a sign of our humanity, our freedom, and who we are – it is not what we are.
I wanted to ask Beinart if he was a Zionist and if he had answered that he was, I would have asked him to define Zionism because I do not believe you can be a Zionist and at the same time support a path that could so easily lead to our destruction. His path for our future involves our taking all the risks at a time when we have no peace partner. I wanted to ask him who our peace partners are – these non-existent dreamers that he trusts them with our future and security but he had already quickly dismissed security as “another argument” in this intellectual game. And to a large extent, that’s what Israel is to him and to others who came to the conference to share their opinions with us – an intellectual game, an academic exercise. As Beinart was talking, almost literally, Israel was being hit by rockets. Nine today, and the day is still young; and only one day after Israel was hit with almost 70 rockets.
When the conversation finally turned to American Jewry, Beinart was not optimistic about its future. His best line was clearly, “We’ve built better Holocaust memorials than we’ve built Jewish schools.” I agree.
His discussion reminded me of something Yaakov Kirschen of Dry Bones said years ago – almost 30 years ago to be exact. He said to a rather shocked and disbelieving crowd of young college students at Columbia University (paraphrased slightly): in another few generations, there will be no Jews in America. I asked him did he really believe that all American Jews were going to make aliyah? I said it in the voice of the doubter, as if I was so smart, and he so stupid. I thought he was impossibly naive and though I shared his pro-aliyah (moving to Israel) dream, I really wanted him to wake up to reality. And then he looked at me and I realized it wasn’t him being naive and I certainly wasn’t the smart one in the conversation. And quietly, slowly, he responded “I didn’t say that.”
Years later, I would learn an interesting fact of history – when the Jews left Egypt…not all the Jews left. According to most sources, 4 our of 5, 80% never left. The first time I heard this, I thought of American Jews – 80%, I would guess, will never come to Israel – will be lost. It fits with what remains of my family in America.
I don’t know what the future of American Jewry will be – if my family there is a measure, American Jewry is in deep trouble (in one case, one uncle’s children are running at 75% having married non-Jews). I do know that Peter Beinart’s naive, academic and decidedly inaccurate view does indeed damage Israel – because he gives others the false idea that peace is within our hands and to achieve it, we must take risks that he, from the safety of his American shores, suggests for my sons.
When it is your sons on the borders of Israel, Mr. Beinart, let’s talk. Till then, maybe your next book should be, The Crisis of American Jewry. At least that book, you have the knowledge and the right to write.
Brooklyn’s district attorney has inflated the results of a program for combating child sexual abuse in the Haredi Orthodox community, a New York Times investigation concluded.
The Kol Tzedek program was launched in 2009 by the district attorney’s office in order to combat sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s large Haredi community and encourage reporting of such crimes. The office has faced criticism over its refusal to publicly identify abusers prosecuted as a result of Kol Tzedek, but claimed that the program has led to 95 arrests.
The Times reported that using public records it was able to identify the names of suspects and other details related to 47 of the 95 cases. “More than half of the 47 seemed to have little to do with the program, according to the court records and interviews,” the paper reported.
“Some did not involve ultra-Orthodox victims, which the program is specifically intended to help. More than one-third involved arrests before the program began, as early as 2007,” the article continued. “Many came in through standard reporting channels, like calls to the police.”
The article noted that one of the cases involved a café owner convicted of molesting a Hispanic female employee and that three others involved Orthodox defendants accused of groping women on public transportation.
Hynes declined to be interviewed for the article.
The chief of his office’s sex crimes division, Rhonnie Jaus, told the paper that Kol Tzedek has been “an incredible success,” increasing the number of cases that the office has been able to address.
“Our numbers are not inflated,” she said. “If anything, they are conservative.”
Hynes’ critics say his office has not been aggressive in prosecuting sexual abusers in the Haredi community.
The article also reported that Hynes has not publicly challenged the position of the leading haredi advocacy group Agudath Israel of America, which instructs followers to confer with rabbis before reporting allegations of sexual abuse to police.
In a NY Times obituary for Benzion Netanyahu, the father of Israel’s PM, who died on Monday at the age of 102, this sentence appears:
Ultimately, Israel was created as a result of the partition the revisionists opposed.
The “revisionists,” of course, are the followers of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinski, who believed that the state of Israel should comprise all of historical Eretz Yisrael, which includes all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan (plus some parts east of the Jordan that were given to the Arabs by the British in 1922). They saw the proposed partition, which gave the Jews only a sliver of the original Mandate, as unacceptable.
Much can be written about revisionist Benzion Netanyahu (who once served as Jabotinsky’s secretary) and his son, including the true but trivial remark of an unfriendly commentator that “to understand Bibi you must understand the father.” This is true for all of us that have fathers, but the PM has certainly taken a different political path than his father.
But I digress. I want to talk about the sentence from the obituary that I quoted above. Was the state of Israel created as a result of the 1947 partition resolution?
That is what I was taught as a child: that the throng of Palestinian Jews in the photograph above were celebrating the creation of the state. But what was passed at the UN in New York was a non-binding resolution of the General Assembly, and while the ‘official’ representatives of the Zionist movement — the Jewish Agency, controlled by Jabotinsky’s ideological opponent, David Ben Gurion — accepted the proposal, both the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab nations vehemently rejected it. As a result, it was not implemented and did not create the envisioned Jewish and Arab states.
The British retained control until May 14, 1948. During this time they refused to assist in implementing the plan (they had abstained from voting on the resolution), because they hoped to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state. Arthur Koestler (Promise and Fulfillment – Palestine 1917-1949, p. 163) wrote,
And indeed war, between the Jewish forces (primarily the Hagana) and the Palestinian Arab militias, along with Arab ‘volunteers’ from other countries, continued. After the declaration of the state of Israel, several surrounding Arab nations invaded Palestine, hoping to grab territory for themselves as well as to finally put an end to the threat of Jewish sovereignty in their midst. The war left the Jews in physical possession of the land up to the ‘Green Line’, the 1949 armistice line between the armies.
The partition resolution, therefore, had little to do with the creation of the state of Israel and nothing to do with its boundaries (its eastern border is still undefined in international law). Its only function may have been to provide a pretext for British withdrawal.
On May 14, 1948, Israel declared independence, and the state was recognized immediately by the US and shortly thereafter by the USSR. Other nations soon followed suit. On March 4, 1949, the UN Security Council recommended that Israel be admitted to the UN and on May 11 the GA voted her its 59th member. Thus the international community recognized the Jewish state. But who or what created it?
In the 19th Century, Theodor Herzl recognized the truth that the Jewish people could only be secure in a sovereign state, and inspired the Zionist movement to bring Jews back to the land of Israel. In 1922, the League of Nations accepted the principle of a Jewish home in Palestine and wrote the text of the Balfour Declaration into the Palestine Mandate. The Mandate entrusted the creation of this home to the British.
The British, unfortunately, did their best to subvert the intent of the Mandate, in the process dooming countless Jews to death in the Holocaust. But the Jews of Palestine worked to create the structure of a Jewish state during the Mandate period, building institutions of governance, security, education, communications, health care, etc. They waged an anti-colonialist struggle against the British, while protecting themselves against terrorism (even then) from Arabs opposed to Jewish sovereignty.
When the British left, they were prepared to establish a state. Since then, Israel has defended her sovereignty in several wars.
So the answer to the question posed by the title to this post is simple: Zionist Jews in the Land of Israel created the state, and not any UN resolution.
“For three years, attempts at negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership have failed because of a lack of trust. It now seems highly unlikely that the two sides will return to negotiations,” wrote Ami Ayalon, a former commander of the Israeli Navy and head of the Israeli GSS, Orni Petruschka, an entrepreneur, and Gilead Sher, peace negotiator and chief of staff to Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in Monday’s NY Times op-ed section, adding this hopeful note: “but that does not mean the status quo must be frozen in place.”
For starters, it’s gratifying to see three of the leading promoters of the two-state solution according to the Oslo accords accepting the reality of the failure of their program. Those men did not get where they are by deluding themselves, so that if they tell us there won’t be serious negotiations with the Palestinians in the foreseeable future, we should trust them.
But the turn these three are taking at this juncture, where everyone agrees Oslo is bust, is remarkable. It takes guts to state, as they do:
“Israel doesn’t need to wait for a final-status deal with the Palestinians. What it needs is a radically new unilateral approach: It should set the conditions for a territorial compromise based on the principle of two states for two peoples, which is essential for Israel’s future as both a Jewish and a democratic state.”
I believe it was the late Albert Einstein who said that Madness is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results. Indeed, every single time the prospects of two states for two peoples have been entertained seriously and officially, beginning with the 1936 Peel Commission, through the 1947 UN partition resolution, through the 1992 Oslo accords and then at the 2000 Barak-Arafat-Clinton Camp David summit, followed by the 2007 Annapolis conference, every single one of those attempts ended in rivers of blood.
It is a guaranteed, indisputable law of History, supported by thousands of dead bodies of Arabs and Jews: the mere senior-level discussion of a two state solution, never mind the enactment of it, is a recipe for war.
Yet these three gentlemen are tenacious in their insistence that “Israel can and must take constructive steps to advance the reality of two states based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps — regardless of whether Palestinian leaders have agreed to accept it.”
They remind me of the old Communists, back when those still survived in the wild, who, when challenged about the horrors of the Soviet Union, would answer that over there they’re not doing it right, but when we turn Communist it’ll be completely different.
But those three Israeli authors are men of deeds. They’re not just shouting slogans about peace and equality and about turning the other cheek. They write: “Through a series of unilateral actions, gradual but tangible changes could begin to transform the situation on the ground.”
Here’s what they’re planning:
“Israel should first declare that it is willing to return to negotiations anytime and that it has no claims of sovereignty on areas east of the existing security barrier. It should then end all settlement construction east of the security barrier and in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. And it should create a plan to help 100,000 settlers who live east of the barrier to relocate within Israel’s recognized borders.”
Easy as pie, right? It’s like that Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese and Eric Idle explain how to rid the world of all known diseases. It’s simple: first of all become a doctor and discover a marvelous cure for something, and then, when the medical world really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right so there’ll never be diseases any more.
And, like all things Pythonesque, the article is also terrifying. And like a Python sketch, it is also deeply autistic, written entirely without the perception of the humans it is setting out to “organize.” It also reminded me of the speeches of those pathetic Neturei Karta representatives to the Palestinian Authority, who have no roots at all within the society about which they’re passing judgment.
I could take the time and assign to the three authors a plethora of unkind motives, to explain why they would propose uprooting 100,000 Jews for the sake of an admittedly failed plan – but I’m sure the reader can do that part without my help.
What I wish to stress instead is just how very mad these three men, and the hundreds who support them, really are.
Have a happy and joyous and free Independence Day, and come to our barbecue if you’re in Netanya tomorrow around 4 o’clock.
Ginia Bellafante writes in the NY Times about the Park Slope co-op wars we told you about a week ago (In-Fighting at Brooklyn Food Co-op over Israel Boycott). She points out the obvious: “Calling for a boycott of Israeli-made foods at the Park Slope Food Co-op turns out to be a lot like calling for a boycott of Speedos in Minsk. In addition to Sodastream seltzer makers and replacement cartridges, there are currently only a handful of foods in the whole establishment produced in Israel. One of them, an olive spread made by a company called Peaceworks, uses olives grown in Palestinian villages and glass jars made in Egypt. The company diverts 5 percent of its profits to peace-promoting causes.”
And, predictably, the use of a health food-related organization for political reasons has enraged the Hummus Party. I kid you not.
“‘The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a campaign first initiated on 9 July 2005 by 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations in support of the Palestinian cause for Boycott, Divestment and International Sanctions against Israel) people have been having their events in the co-op itself,’ Marion Stein, a 15-year member, told me, ‘and that’s something that we in the Hummus group find very upsetting.’”
Essentially, objections to using a food co-op to attack Israel was a running theme among the objectors, like Matt Lewkowicz, a young composer, who said: “The whole thing is ridiculous, I have plenty of outlets for my political opinions. The co-op isn’t one of them. I just want really good dried fruit.”
It’s difficult for a religious person to observe from a strictly secular and factual point of view the emerging conflict between Israel and US over Iran’s nuclear program, a conflict which is about to reach its peak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to President Barack Obama Monday.
That the meeting is to take place in the week of Purim, our national commemoration of an attempt – some 2500 years ago – on the part of a Persian prime minister, to annihilate the Jewish nation, has not escaped, I’m sure, the attention of many shul rabbis, who took the opportunity this past Shabbat to make the obvious connection for their flock – as if they hadn’t figured it out by themselves.
So who are the Megillah characters in this round? We definitely have our Hamman in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. King Achashverosh should be President Barack Obama. Benjamin Netanyahu is more Esther than Mordechai, given his direct dealings with the ruler of the free world. What we’re missing is an obvious Mordechai, that stubborn, unrelenting, proud and morally upright man of state, whose wisdom and reassurance would guide our modern-day Esther through the maze of Washington politics.
If you ask me, I’m voting in favor of Amos Yadlin for the role of Mordechai (even though some amateur mystics in my shul have pointed out that Netanyahu’s first name, Benjamin, is reminiscent of Mordechai’s tribal association and the ancient observation that only the sons of Rachel—not Leah—are capable of fighting Amalek, our primeval nemesis).
On June 7, 1981, Amos Yadlin, who later became chief of Israeli military intelligence, was one of eight Israeli fighter pilots who bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. He recalled that event in a NY Times Op Ed Friday, one of those rare moments when you remember why you’re the last Jew on your block who still reads the Times.
The pilots sat down with then IDF chief of staff, the late General Rafael “Raful” Eitan, and laid out all their concerns regarding the mission: running out of fuel, the possibility of an Iraqi retaliation, damage to Israel’s relationship with the US, and the fact that even after a successful strike destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear facility the international condemnation would rain down Israel.
“Listening to today’s debates about Iran, we hear the same arguments and face the same difficulties, even though we understand it is not 1981,” comments Yadlin.
Raful’s decision in 1981 did not necessarily ignore all the very good and complex reasons against striking Hussein’s nuclear facility. Instead, the old war horse, who had been a soldier since before the creation of the Jewish State, did what he could at the time to stop a real threat, and chose to deal later with the inevitable collateral damage: mission difficulties, retaliation, US ire, and international condemnation. He simply did the math and decided that facing all of those outcomes was less risky than facing a nuclear Iraq.
He was right, and delivered a stupendous, unprecedented victory, the kind that has been becoming sadly rarer in the IDF’s recent history. A victory that in hindsight saved two US presidents from confrontation with a nuclear foe in dealing with Iraq.
Yadlin writes that the Pentagon could not understand how the Israelis were able to do it, using US made F-16s that “had neither the range nor the ordnance to attack Iraq successfully.”
In Yadlin’s opinion, it came down to “Israel’s military ingenuity.” They “simply” maximized fuel efficiency, and relied on the best pilots on the planet, who trained tirelessly for that specific mission. In the end, all they really did was attack the Iraqi reactor “with pinpoint accuracy from so close and such a low altitude that our unguided bombs were as accurate and effective as precision-guided munitions.”
It’s maddening how the same political and military system is facing almost exactly the same challenge, and so far has not been able to follow General Eitan’s straight forward thinking: deal with the nuclear target first, everything else couldn’t possibly be a worse threat than a nuclear enemy at Israel’s doorstep.
President Obama last week told The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg that both Iran and Israel should not ignore the possibility of a US attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.” He said to Goldberg. “I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”
In the interview, Obama remarked that “all options are on the table,” and that included the “military component.” But the president insisted that sanctions have pushed Iran into a “world of hurt,” and that economic duress might soon force Tehran to rethink its nuclear ambitions.