Palestine: Queen Noor’s Jordanian View


Queen Noor, born in the U.S. in 1951 and educated at Princeton, married the late King Hussein of Jordan in 1977, at age 26, and after his death, she commented on Palestine in her book, Queen Noor, Leap of Faith, Memoirs of an Unexpected Life (2003).

The Queen noted Palestinians have lived in Palestine for thousands of years. When Britain seized Palestine in WWI, Sir Arthur Balfour promised to create a home there for the Jews of Europe. Although Balfour stated: “nothing shall be done that may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities of Palestine,” the late King Hussein of Jordan called the Balfour Declaration (1917), “the root cause of all of the bitterness and frustration in our Arab world today.”

After WWII, the West alone determined the fate of Palestine, since much of the world was under colonial rule. UN Res. 181 (1947) partitioned Palestine into Arab and Jewish areas, triggering a civil war, because the Jews received 55% of the land, even though they had just 33% of the population. After Israel declared independence in 1948, their forces went house to house to drive the Palestinians out. Roughly 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly uprooted, as Israel took 78% of the land originally assigned to the Arabs. Palestinians fled to Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Homeless Palestinians lived in caves and makeshift tents, during the winter of 1948-49.

As the Israeli Air Force launched another Arab-Israeli War with a surprise attack against the Arab states in 1967, Jerusalem and the West Bank were occupied. Israel solidified their control of all of Palestine, as another 400,000 Palestinians became refugees. UN Res. 242 criticized Israel saying no land can be acquired by aggression, and ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Israel responded by naively suggesting the Palestinians be absorbed by Arab states.

Israel then destroyed Palestinian villages in the Jordan River Valley and built their own settlements, in violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law. By 1991, 100,000 Jews had settled in the occupied territories and 127,000 in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu lifted a ban on Jewish settlements in the 1990s, approved of more homes in the Jordan Valley, and stopped withdrawing troops from Hebron, where 130,000 Palestinians lived. He created a ring of settlements around Arab East Jerusalem, and precipitated another crisis by approving thousands of additional housing units on 425 acres of expropriated Palestinian land, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The UN Assembly again found Israel had violated international law.

Although the Palestinians are entitled to a return of the occupied territories and to an independent state, Israel continues to resist. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed back in 1985 already to recognize Israel’s right to exist, if they would only accept Res. 242, which requires a withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. For years however, neither Israel nor the U.S. would even negotiate. The two sides did not sit down together until 1991, when the PLO and Israel agreed to some things in Oslo, but failed to address refugees, settlements, security, and borders. They subsequently signed a Wye Memorandum in 1994, but did not resolve issues as to refugees, Jerusalem, and a Palestinian State.

Over the years, Queen Noor called President Carter one of the most knowledgeable and balanced voices on the region’s search for peace, but said the U.S. as a whole has a fundamental lack of understanding of the Middle East, and is unpopular in the Arab world, because of an unflinching support for Israel. Americans are blind, because the U.S. media only broadcasts the Israeli perspective. The Israeli Lobby exerts tremendous power in the U.S., which explains why Congress passes resolutions favorable to Israel. While the U.S. pays lip service to UN resolutions demanding an end to the settlements, they do nothing about it. While almost all UN members routinely vote against Israel, the U.S. is usually one of the only two votes in opposition.

It is time to recognize a Palestinian State. Nothing new is required as the UN could enforce UN Res. 181, which in 1947 partitioned British-ruled Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

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