‘Israel was attacked in ’47’ and other howlers from the pen of George Will

Israel/Palestine
on 27 Comments

Weiss: Praise the lord, George Will is in Jerusalem opining for the Washington Post in the most reactionary manner possible about the Jews’ ancient claim to the land based on a ring found near the western wall and other hokum. Max Blumenthal has a great response to Will that includes the statement: "To understand the sheer insanity of Netanyahu’s magical ring story, consider how I would be received if my grandfather, Hymie Blumenthal, changed his name to Hymie Quetzalcoatl, then I asserted a historical mandate to rule over Mexico because Quetzalcoatl was a deity of the inhabitants of the ancient Toltec city of Teotihuacan. I would have a hard time being taken as seriously as David Koresh or the Unabomber."

Meantime, Howard Kyle, a longtime student of the issue, sent us a letter he has sent to George Will. Here it is:

The following is a response to your August 19 column, Skip the lecture on Israel’s ‘risks for peace’.

I agree with your main point that it is “fatuous” or “obscene” to lecture Israel on taking risks for peace. Instead we should be lecturing Israel on their obligation to comply with international law in order to achieve peace.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice in an advisory opinion ruled that both Israel’s separartion wall and its associated regime of check points, settlements, and by pass roads in the West Bank were illegal. The ICJ further stated that an occupying power cannot claim that the lawful inhabitants of the occupied territory constitute a "foreign" threat for the purposes of Article 51 of the UN Charter. The ICJ noted that Israeli settlements and the displacement of Palestinians is a violation of Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The ICJ further cited Israel’s on going, oppressive policy of land confiscations, house demolitions, creation of Jewish only enclaves, restrictions on movement and access to water, food, education, health care and employment, as being in violation of its obligations under international law and the Palestinian right to self determination.

This is what anyone seriously interested in peace should be lecturing Israel about. All else, as they say, is just commentary. However, you completely ignore this most relevant point and go on to promulgate distorted history and and a completely Israelicentric point of view.

Let me start with this careless statement.

“On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations recommended a partition plan. Israel accepted the recommendation. On Nov. 30, Israel was attacked."

Israel didn’t come into existence until May 14/15,1948. It was the Jewish Agency that accepted the partition plan on behalf of the Jewish Community in Palestine. The plan was rejected by the Arab community and for good reason. The partition plan gave 57% of the land as well as 84% of the prime agricultural land to the Jews who constituted only 33% of the population and most of whom were recent immigrants. Jews comprised only 7% of the population in Palestine when the Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917.

Second, the recommended partition plan was just that – a recommendation. It did not have the force of law. That would have required a Security Council resolution. The partition plan also required certain preconditions be met. Among these were the establishment of both an Arab and a Jewish state as well an international zone to include Jerusalem for it to take effect. It was not a unilateral choice. The proposed states were required to adopt a constitution ensuring the civil and religious rights of all their citizens and to form an economic union. None of which ever happened. (Israel still has no formal constitution, generally considered a hallmark of a democratic state.)

You write sympathetically of Israeli parents, who ten years ago, during the intifada would put their school bound children “on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner.” Yet, you ignore the routine violence and harassment that Palestinian school children in the occupied areas experience today from ultra nationalist settlers.

Just this April, an Israeli settler deliberately drove his vehicle into a group of Palestinian school children as they walked to school in At-Tuwani. The children from this and the neighboring villages require a military escort to and from school because of repeated attacks by Israeli settlers from Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost. You might find it enlightening to read The Closed Road to Education: Palestinian Students suffer under violent settlement expansion by a group called Christian Peacemakers Team (For your convenience http://www.cpt.org/about/mission)

You get in a dig about the late Yasser Arafat whom you describe as a “terrorist and Nobel Peace Prize winner.” Was it your intention to create the impression that this irony is unique to the Palestinians? You must be aware that former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978. During the British Mandate era, Begin was head of the Irgun, which the British government declared a terrorist organization. Begin was responsible for the King David Hotel bombing in 1946 which killed more than 90 people and the massacre of 240 men, women and children on April 9, 1948 at Dier Yassin. Perhaps you buy into the discredited notion that he, unlike Arafat, was a “freedom fighter.”

You place responsibility for the intifada solely on Arafat, who you say “launched” it, even though a US fact-finding U.S. committee led by Senator George J. Mitchell reviewed such allegations and found “no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence.” However, Mitchell did note one cause:

Palestinians are genuinely angry at the continued growth of settlements and at their daily experiences of humiliation and disruption as a result of Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territories. Palestinians see settlers and settlements in their midst not only as violating the spirit of the Oslo process, but also as application of force in the form of Israel’s overwhelming military superiority.

You resurrect the old canard of Ehud Barak’s so called “generous offer.” You write that during the July 2000 Camp David meeting, then Prime Minister Barak “offered to cede control of all of Gaza and more than 90 percent of the West Bank, with small swaps of land to accommodate the growth of Jerusalem suburbs just across the 1949 armistice line” and by rejecting Israeli generosity those silly Palestinians missed an opportunity to have a state.

Let’s look at that so called generous offer in more detail. According to an analysis by Seth Ackerman:

The annexations and security arrangements would divide the West Bank into three disconnected cantons. In exchange for taking fertile West Bank lands that happen to contain most of the region’s scarce water aquifers, Israel offered to give up a piece of its own territory in the Negev Desert–about one-tenth the size of the land it would annex–including a former toxic waste dump.

Palestinians living in their new "independent state" would be forced to cross Israeli territory every time they traveled or shipped goods from one section of the West Bank to another, and Israel could close those routes at will. Israel would also retain a network of so-called "bypass roads" that would crisscross the Palestinian state.

Israel was also to have kept "security control" for an indefinite period of time over the Jordan Valley. Palestine would not have free access to its own international borders with Jordan and Egypt–putting Palestinian trade, and therefore its economy, at the mercy of the Israeli military.

The Palestinians would have permanently locked in place many of the worst aspects of the very occupation they were trying to bring to an end.

But don’t just take his word for it. Here’s what Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel’s Foreign Minister and key negotiator at Camp David had to say about the generous offer in a 2006 radio interview: "Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.”

You write: “The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state since the Romans arrived.” Yes, but Palestine was a defined territory when under Ottoman rule, and more importantly, was recognized as such by both the League of Nations and the UN. An indigenous population had been living there more than there for more than 1,000 years.

Under the League of Nations, Palestine was classified as a Class A Mandate. As such it was considered advanced enough politically and economically that a provisional independence could be granted, "subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance." Upon termination of a mandate sovereignty was to be automatically vested in the people of that territory. Palestine was the only Class A Mandate under the League that was not granted independent statehood.

You write: “In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called "the Arab world," Israelis have never known an hour of real peace.” Yes and was that not to be expected? No one forced Israel to declare itself into existence when and where it did. It knew the neighborhood and the risks. It knew that none of the Arab nations that would be its neighbors voted in support of partition nor would the partition resolution have passed in the General Assembly were it not for extensive United States lobbying.

By early 1948 it was widely accepted that the partition plan would not work. That is why the UN started to back away from it and began work on a U.S. proposed UN Trusteeship Plan for Palestine. Unfortunately, President Truman, yielding to Zionist pressure, killed this effort when he blindsided his own delegation at the UN by recognizing the new state of Israel 11 minutes after it declared its existence.

The Trusteeship Plan was intended to provide for a peaceful transition from the British Mandate into a new governmental entity in Palestine capable of serving and protecting all of its citizens – Jew, Christian and Moslem. It would have prevented the misery and suffering caused by the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinian refugees by Israel In its War for Independence that is the root cause of the problems there today.

US Secretary of State George Marshall and Defense Secretary James Forrestal both opposed Truman’s rapid recognition of the Jewish state. Their opposition was based in part on the regional instability that would inevitably result from establishing a colony of 800,000 recently arrived European Jewish immigrants in the midst of 22 million Muslims sympathetic to the Palestinians.

You mention the 1936 Peel Commission which originally proposed a partition plan for Palestine that was shot down by both Arabs and Zionists. It would have been more appropriate to reference the 1946 Joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine whose report has more relevance to the current situation. Among the Committee’s key recommendations:

In order to dispose, once and for all, of the exclusive claims of Jews and Arabs to Palestine, we regard it as essential that a clear statement of the following principles should be made: That Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine. That Palestine shall be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab state…We, therefore, emphatically declare that Palestine is a Holy Land, sacred-to Christian, to Jew and to Moslem alike; and because it is a Holy Land, Palestine is not, and can never become, a land which any race or religion can justly claim as its very own.

Truman rejected all of the Committee’s recommendations except one calling for a temporary increased Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Perhaps this “homeland” that, as you say, has “never known an hour of real peace” would have had a different fate if it had given the UN Trusteeship Plan a chance to achieve a peaceful resolution instead of undermining it.

If there is ever to be a resolution to the Palestinian Israeli issue, it will only be achieved by an open minded, thorough and honest understanding of the issues involved. A true peace, one that is just, sustainable and most importantly, grounded in international law, cannot be built upon myths and half truths. Your column does not help to achieve that type of peace. In fact, it does the opposite.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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