Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Talking Turkey on the Two-State Solution

In its 7/11/08 edition, The Australian Financial Review ran an Economist review (Statehood: Wrong to challenge Israel's, wrong to withhold from Palestinians) of a new book, Israel & the Family of Nations: The Jewish Nation-State & Human Rights, by Alexander Yakobson & Amnon Rubenstein. Essentially a defence of Zionism, the book is reviewed (anonymously) by a sympathiser, clearly irked by the fact that, 60 years after Israel's birth, anyone should feel it necessary "to argue the Zionist case all over again."

Yakobson and Rubenstein are concerned that "a new line of attack has returned to the fore... the notion that Zionism is colonial, that Jews are adherents of a religion and not a people, and a country that defines itself explicitly as a Jewish state cannot be properly democratic or protect the rights of its Arab minority," and claim that "The question of whether the Jews are a people, with as much of a claim as any other to national self-determination, was examined intensively by the United Nations in 1947 in the debates that preceded Israel's creation, and answered in the affirmative."

The General Assembly's 1947 partition resolution (181) is the key to their defence of the Zionist state, and they seem to be claiming here, if the reviewer has it right, that the UN at the time affirmed the concept of a Jewish state for the Jewish people, both those residing in Palestine at the time, and those without, that is, all Jews, everywhere. No evidence is adduced for this, of course (because there is none), it is simply asserted. The UN Partition Plan (Resolution 181) "did not promote the establishment of an exclusive Jewish state as defined by Israel. The Jewish state in the Partition Plan had an almost equal number of Jews and Arabs. It was supposed to adopt a constitution that affirmed the right of all to citizenship, including Palestinian Arabs, and to their property, non-discrimination, and human rights protections regardless of race, ethnicity, language or religion. Thus, the Jewish state under the Partition Plan was, like the Arab state, to be a state of all its citizens, on the grounds that it was a bi-national entity... " (BADIL, Bulletin 23)

The authors go on to say that the UN's decision to partition Palestine in 1947 into a Jewish and an Arab state "was based [squarely] on the political realities of the time: the actual presence in mandatory Palestine in the 1940s of two peoples whose equally authentic national aspirations seemed impossible to fulfil except by partition. The UN also noted that hundreds of thousands of displaced Holocaust survivors were desperate to leave Europe and they were welcome almost nowhere else."*

This is Zionist spin of course. To borrow their phrase "the political realities of the time" (minus the rest of their sentence) might be useful at this point: the overarching geo-political reality of the 40s was that, when push came to shove, the colonial demands of Europeans invariably trumped the rights of indigenous non-Europeans. As non-Europeans, the colonized Palestinians simply didn't stand a chance, as any objective account of their predicament at this time (or any other) shows:-

"The decision of the majority [of the UN Special Committee on Palestine] to propose partition reflected a linkage of the [Jewish] refugee and Palestine questions. Weizmann correctly stated that the United Nations 'was motivated pre-eminently by the purpose of solving once and for all the Jewish question in Europe, to get rid of the concentration camps and of the aftermath of Hitler's holocaust'. But others viewed this as a convenient solution for a problem that should have been handled otherwise. Morris Ernst, Roosevelt's advisor, decried 'the hypocrisy of closing our own doors while making sanctimonious demands on the Arabs'. Pakistan's UN delegate commented, sarcastically: 'Australia, an overpopulated small country with congested areas, says no, no, no; Canada, equally congested and overpopulated, says no; the United States, a great humanitarian country, a small area, with small resources, says no... they state: let them go to Palestine, where there are vast areas, a large economy and no trouble; they can easily be taken in there.' There was neither 'merit nor justice', said [British historian Arnold] Toynbee, in 'compensating victims at the expense of innocent third parties'. The Palestine Arabs were 'innocent of the crimes committed against the Jews by the Germans under the Nazi regime'. Toynbee thought that if a state were to be created as compensation, it 'should have been carved out of Central Europe'. A 'guilty Western people's territory was held to be sacrosanct, because, though guilty, they were Westerners... An innocent non-Western people's territory could, it was held, legitimately be given away to the Jews by the victorious Western powers. This amounts to a declaration of inequality of the Western and the non-Western sections of the human race. It is a claim that Westerners are privileged, however guilty they may be'. A US diplomat found 'no necessary connection between the humanitarian problem of succoring the displaced persons of Europe and the political problem of creating a new nationalist state in Palestine'...

"After receiving the Special Committee's report, the General Assembly constituted an Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestine Question to frame the Palestine issue for plenary debate... The ad hoc committee set up a subcommittee 1 to draw up a detailed plan for partition and a subcommittee 2 to draw up a plan for a single Palestine state. Subcommittee 2 asked the ad hoc committee to urge the General Assembly to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice before adopting any resolution on Palestine. It wanted the Court to determine whether the Balfour Declaration violated self-determination of the Palestine population, whether the indigenous population of Palestine had a right to determine the status of Palestine, and whether the General Assembly had the power to suggest or to enforce a territorial settlement for Palestine... The ad hoc committee narrowly defeated the request of the subcommittee for an advisory opinion... Subcommittee 1 approved the Special Committee's partition plan... and the ad hoc committee voted to recommend partition to the General Assembly...

"Robert McClintock, a US State Department official... likened the partition map to 'a portrait by Picasso'. The proposed Jewish state would have had 56 percent of Palestine. Jews owned 6 percent of the land and made up 30% of the Palestinian population, most of them mandate-period immigrants. Ernest Bevin, Britain's foreign secretary, noted the difficulty of drawing boundaries because of the sparseness of Jewish population. 'It is impossible to find in all Palestine, apart from Tel Aviv and its environs . . . any sizeable area with a Jewish majority'. In the envisaged Jewish state Jews would have been in a minority - 499, 020 Jews to 509, 780 Arabs. In the proposed Arab state there would have been only 9, 520 Jews to 749, 101 Arabs. The plan thus gave much Arab-populated territory to the Jewish state, but little Jewish-populated territory to the Arab state. On November 25, 1947, the ad hoc committee approved the partition recommendation of subcommittee I, by a vote of 25 to 13, with 17 absententions. While sufficient to carry the plan in the subcommittee, this margin was short of the two-thirds majority that would be required for passage in the General Assembly. By this time the United States had emerged as the most aggressive proponent of partition. Most European countries, including the Soviet Union, supported it, but most Third World countries viewed it as an infringement of Arab rights. The United States got the General Assembly to delay a vote 'to gain time to bring certain Latin American republics into line with its own view'. U.S. officials, 'by direct order of the White House', used 'every form of pressure, direct and indirect', to 'make sure that the necessary majority' would be gained, according to former Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles. Members of the U.S. Congress threatened curtailment of economic aid to several Third World countries...

"On November 29 [the General Assembly] adopted a draft legislation embodying the partition plan as Resolution 181. The resolution narrowly gained the required majority of two-thirds - 33 in favor, 13 opposed, and 10 abstaining. Included in the countries that switched their votes from November 25 to November 29 to provide the two-thirds majority were Liberia, the Philippines, and Haiti. All heavily dependent on the US financially, they had been lobbied to change their votes. Liberia's ambassador to the UN complained that the US delegation threatened aid cuts to several countries. Some delegates charged US officials with 'diplomatic intimidation'. Without 'terrific pressure' from the US on 'governments which cannot afford to risk American reprisals', said an anonymous editorial writer, the resolution 'would never have passed'. The fact such pressure had been exerted became public knowledge, to the extent a State Department policy group was concerned that 'the prestige of the UN' would suffer because of 'the notoriety and resentment attendant upon the activities of US pressure groups, including members of Congress, who sought to impose US views as to partition on foreign delegations'. Zionists packed the public gallery during the November 29 meeting to urge adoption of the partition plan. Several delegates said the resolution 'would have been carried in no other city than New York'." (The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective, John Quigley, 1990, pp 33-37)

Still, all is not lost. Yakobson and Rubenstein, as activists in Israel's peace camp, "happen to support a two-state solution, and note that most Israelis support it too." Their book, moreover, according to the reviewer, is not only "a methodical defence... of the Zionist idea but also of the two-state solution in Palestine..."

OK. Given their immense regard for the rectitude of the UNGA's partition resolution of November 1947, and their faith in its magical healing properties for homeless and stateless Jews, logic and morality surely demand the authors' support for its implementation in full on behalf of homeless and stateless Palestinians, that is, an Israeli return to the 1947 borders, the internationalization of Jerusalem, and the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes in the UN-proposed Jewish state. To support anything less would leave them open to accusations of hypocrisy, no?

[*See my 14/3/08 post, The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3, on this particular claim.]

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