Archive for March, 2009
Peace and international law
have nothing to do with it
By RALPH DOBRIN
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that Israel is indeed a pariah state. After all, not since Nazi Germany began seizing neighboring countries for herself in the second half of the nineteen thirties, has any one nation been so widely vilified and condemned as the State of Israel. And maybe all that condemnation is understandable. After all, the general impression that most people around the world get from what they see on their TV screens, is that Israel keeps bombing helpless Arab refugees, causing terrible death and destruction – all this after the Jews had stolen Palestine from the Arabs and chased them out of their own country.
Unfortunately, there is very little credible background appended to the images that people see on their TV screens or read in the newspapers and blog sites. Little is ever mentioned about the Arab intentions and attempts, at the outset, to wipe Israel off the face of the map. Full-scale invasions against Israel and terror attacks aren’t considered relevant factors in the ongoing conflict. Neither are Israel’s repeated withdrawals in order to facilitate peace in the region. And when any background material is actually presented, it is invariably the slanted Arab narrative that is told – sans the provocations against Israel but with lots of hyberbole and outright lie.
But two facts are indisputable. Firstly, Israel has indeed waged a number of full-scale wars and military campaigns against Arab states and terrorist organizations (deemed liberation organizations by many). Secondly, Israel occupies lands that were once under Arab rule. No doubt about this. Thus the perennial call of most leaders – Arab and non-Arab alike – as well as public figures, political commentators and journalists throughout the world, that Israel must withdraw from all these said lands as quickly as possible. Also, there is a broad consensus that Jewish settlement in any of these areas is totally unacceptable and in fact illegal.
However, when considering all this less-than-favorable focus on Israel, one would expect her detractors and other well-meaning observers to look around at what’s happening elsewhere and ask themselves why is Israel constantly singled out for condemnation, when at this very moment there are a dozen dreadful situations of warfare or the imposition of intended deprivation on whole populations in many parts of Africa and Asia, while hundreds of unresolved conflicts between neighboring countries or ethnic differences simmer on all continents of the globe. There are killings numbering in the tens and even hundreds of thousands of non-combatants.
One would also expect all the good folks from Western Europe and in other democracies around the world, who are so intent on pressuring Jews to relinquish Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. West Bank or “the occupied” or “conquered territories”), to question their own record of human rights. For hundreds of years the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Belgians sent ships to the other sides of the world and appropriated the lands of other nations, in many cases accompanied by terrible acts of cruelty and ruthless mass killings, and in the case of Britain and Spain – whole continents! So it seems like extreme hutzpah for these people to single out Israelis for criticism, especially when Judea and Samaria constitutes the Jews’ ancestral homeland, and bearing in mind that Israel’s adversaries have launched wars of intended genocide against her!
The hutzpah is more blatant when one considers the general complacency regarding continental-sized countries like China, hungry for ever more territory, annexing placid Tibet. Or Russia, with the largest national land-mass in the world, stretching over almost half of the length of the northern part of the globe, but nevertheless insisting on holding onto lands of many other nations, including in the east – the southern Kurile Islands, formerly belonging to Japan, while on the country’s extreme west, it keeps Karelia which it captured from Finland in 1939, as well as Chechniya and a whole array of other ethnic areas.
Who among all those concerned folks around the world, who refuse on principle to buy Jaffa oranges, are doing any demonstrating or boycotting against Russia or refusing to buy any “Made-in-China” products, that are often manufactured under the harshest, most exploitive and inhuman conditions.
We could go on and on about the millions of square kilometers of land that many scores of additional countries on every continent have grabbed from other nations. Indeed, there are very few borders in the world that were not drawn up (and redrawn) as the result of armed conflict at one time or another. At the moment there are over 200 territorial disagreements all over the world. Whether they are dormant or the scenes of armed conflicts, the territories in question are almost always termed by the media and in various international forums as “disputed territories.” But Judea and Samaria are called “occupied” or “conquered territories” – which are denigratory, politically loaded terms, expressing a flagrantly double standard with regard to Israel.
Countries have seldom lost any international trade or diplomatic standing by grabbing some neighboring or not-such-neighboring territory – especially when such land-grabbing had no global implications or bearing on power bloc manipulations. In the last generation, apart from international intervention in a few strategic trouble spots, or demonstrations accompanying torch bearers to the recent China Olympics and the boycott of Apartheid-era South Africa, censure, if forthcoming, might be limited to a few debates in the U.N. general assembly or security council. Usually even that is absent.
While the recent, well-attended conference to combat Anti-Semitism in London, indicates that many democratic governments are beginning to understand Israel’s plight, probably because of suicide bombings and growing Islamic unrest in their own countries, their continuing pressure on Israel to keep making concessions towards its hostile neighbors, expresses the double standard traditionally pinned onto Israel.
It’s a unique phenomenon. Israel, one of the smallest nations in the world, sitting on a scrap of ancestral land – 20,000 square kilometers in size, with the sea or a border to a hostile zone never more than about an hour’s drive away from any point within it, faces the enmity of the Arabs – actually one of the largest nations on earth, over 600 times larger in land mass and 50 times larger in population than Israel, and backed by yet another billion fellow-Muslims. Probably in all history there has never been such a disproportionate ratio between two conflicting sides. There has never been such an unfair expectation of one of the sides by the rest of humanity, nor such pressure, politically and economically imposed on any one side of a conflict. Even Israel’s major friend, the USA, continually limits Israel’s scope to defend herself. Seldom in history has any one nation been so thoroughly, unjustifiably and unfairly condemned by a large part of humanity, nor hampered over and over again in its struggle to defend itself militarily.
There are a number of logical reasons for all this. It’s Israel’s bad luck to find herself in a territorial confrontation with a nation that constitutes over 20 independent states controlling most of the world’s known oil reserves, while being backed by over a billion co-religionists, who also happen to share a large portion of the remaining oil reserves. Together, these two enormous groups constitute almost half the states in the world and therefore have tremendous political clout in the United Nations. All this means that any major outbreak of warfare in the Middle East jeopardizes the global supply of oil and can send prices to unmanageable levels. This alone can explain the readiness of many countries to please the Arab and Muslim world, or conversely not to flagrantly oppose it. Is it any wonder that Israel’s standing in international affairs will always be shaky? Indeed, one should admire those countries that don’t always capitulate to the strident demands of the anti-Israel line-up.
It is important to understand that this is the background to the hype about Israel’s conquest of Arab lands and the determined international quest to truncate tiny Israel even more. The legality of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria has nothing to do with moral rightness or wrongness; it has little to do with international law, even though legality is invoked all the time in international debate on Israel. If you have any doubts I suggest you visit the websites of the United Nations Organization, click “U.N. Charter”, and find “military occupation”, “occupied territories”, “international disputes”. Also click “Resolutions 181, 242, 339” as well as the “British Mandate of Palestine” and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any solid material to incriminate Israel. Also a visit to the official English-language websites of Hamas and Hizbollah will provide you with a candid perspective of their aims, not only against Israel but regarding the fate of the whole world. You will be able to understand very clearly why Israel cannot dare relinquish Judea and Samaria.
It is imperative that all who care about Israel and indeed the future of the world, keep contesting the big lie about “Israeli occupation” or the “conquest” of the “West Bank” or the “Territories.” All media outlets and personalities and ordinary people everywhere should be reminded over and over again that the region in question is called Judea and Samaria and that it is the Jews’ ancestral home, where Jews have always lived and where they have every right to live today. People should be reminded that seven-eighths of Palestine had already been alotted to the Arabs, and that rather than accept an independent Jewish state in the Jews’ ancestral land, they sought to obliterate it – over and over again – thereby actually casting doubt on any legitimacy for yet another Arab state in this region.
Another point that must be acknowledged is that even total withdrawal of any Israeli presence from formerly Arab-held territories does nothing to foster real peace. This has been expressed by the Arabs themselves time and again. Israel has withdrawn from Southern Lebanon, Gaza and parts of Judea and Samaria a few times.Yet the attacks on Israel continue from these areas. And the promises to destroy Israel get ever-more shriller.
While many Israelis and well-meaning friends of Israel might consider partial or full withdrawal from Judea and Samaria expedient for pragmatic, demographic reasons, it has nothing to do with its moral and legal right to these areas. Indeed, if Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria were deemed illegal by international law, then half the countries of the world have built up illegal cities, towns and farming communities in areas that had once been ruled by another ethnic or national entity.
The fact is that few people yearn for peace as much as the Jews. They would be mad not to yearn for peace after all they’ve been through as a people, and especially in the present ongoing confrontation against such a large part of humanity. But seldom has there been such a just struggle waged by any one people. Seldom has the Big Lie and Selective Omission been used against any nation by its friends and enemies alike, like it is in Israel’s case. That is what people all over the world must be told over and over again – until sanity and common decency prevail.
See also www.israelandtruth.org