Gingrich-Republicans Wrong on Palestine


Former Congressman Gingrich incorrectly suggested the word “Palestine” was not commonly used until 1977, Palestinians are an “invented people,” and their “right of return” to Palestine, now illegally occupied by Israel, is based on a false story. Other Republicans have also harbored twisted views on the Mideast, including Santorum, who thinks, “the West Bank is Israeli land,” Romney who believes it’s wrong to criticize Israel for illegally erecting settlements in occupied Palestine, Perry who said the Palestinian request for statehood is a travesty, and Bachmann who complained when Obama said Israel should return to the pre-1967 borders. All of these Republicans need to learn some history.

Palestinians have continuously lived in Palestine for thousands of years. The Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Israel are all on land previously known as Palestine, an area ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire for 402 years (1516-1918). Only 30,000 Jews lived there as of 1880, and as of 1893, 95% were Arab. In WWI, as the Turks were about to surrender, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), without first consulting the Palestinians, in which he promised a homeland for the European Jews in Palestine.

Once WWI ended, the League of Nations gave Britain a formal mandate to govern Palestine (1920). They in turn gave the Jews of Europe permission to start settling among the Arabs of Palestine. As the percentage of Jews in Palestine grew from 11% in 1922 to 29% in 1939, opposition from Arab Palestinians grew.

After WWII, upon the disclosure of the atrocities inflicted upon the Jews of Europe, momentum developed for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. UN Res. 181 partitioned Palestine into two areas, one Jewish, and one Arab (1947). Because the Jews were only 33% of the population, but received 55% of the land, the Palestinians rejected the plan, triggering a civil war (1947-48).

Meanwhile, terrorist attacks by Jewish militants, caused the British to give up on Palestine. As they were leaving the country, Israel declared independence, which caused the 1st Arab-Israeli War (1948-49). The Arab nations around Palestine tried to stop the formation of a new Jewish state, but failed. Israel proceeded to destroy 420 Arab villages, and seized lands that had been assigned to the Arabs, as 700,000 Palestinian refugees fled to neighboring states. Homeless Palestinians lived in caves and makeshift tents, in the winter of 1948-49. Following a 1949 Armistice, the UN recognized Israel as a nation-state, but many Arabs, at least initially, refused to accept Israel’s UN based right to exist.

U.S. foreign policy under Republican President Eisenhower (1953-61) took a middle course, as Israeli requests for military equipment were denied. Israel was persuaded to return to the 1949 borders after the Suez War (1956), by a U.S. threat to cut off aid.

Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula (Egypt), Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and West Bank (Jordan), started in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. The UN Assembly censured Israel (99-0, 20 abstentions), and the Security Council found their seizure of lands illegal. The UN ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242). To this day, Israel has never fully complied.

Following the 1967 war, Israel ignored international law, and started building settlements in Arab East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The UN warned Israel in 1968 against changing Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252). They reminded Israel in 1971, it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel in 1971 to relinquish control over East Jerusalem.

The U.S. made a major foreign policy change in 1972, when they started vetoing UN Resolutions critical of Israel. The shift in U.S. policy came about through campaign contributions supplied by the Israeli Lobby to both parties. Without the help of the U.S., the Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, as Israel had superior firepower supplied by the U.S. The UN continued to demand withdrawal (Res. 344).

Progress was made in 1978 following talks between President Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Begin, and Egypt’s President Sadat, as Israel withdrew from the occupied Sinai, back to the pre-1967 Egyptian border, under the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979).

When the right-wing Likud Party however gained power in 1980, they reversed the process, by escalating settlement construction on Arab lands. As they imposed Israeli law in the occupied Golan Heights (1981), the UN declared it null and void, as a violation of civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions (Res 497).

Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), said as early as 1985, he would accept Israel’s UN right to exist, if only they would return to the pre-1967 borders.

President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, and Jordan’s King Hussein, made progress with another agreement in 1994, but the process stalled in 1995, when an Israeli extremist assassinated Rabin, and Netanyahu lifted the ban on new settlements in 1996.

Israel also damaged the peace process by building a Wall in and around occupied East Jerusalem, which now separates Arabs from each other. The International Court of Justice ruled the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the deportation of civilians by Israel to construct the Wall, amounted to an annexation and a violation of international law, under the 4th Geneva Convention (2004). Although Israel was ordered to remove the Wall, they ignored the court, and declared it their new West Bank border (2006).

While Israel finally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, they closed off all land, sea, or air access to that Palestinian territory, and made prisoners of the 1.5 million Palestinians who reside there. Today, Israel maintains strict blockades around Gaza, and continues to occupy East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.

President Carter, a person we should all listen to with regard to the Mideast, correctly said the U.S. squandered international prestige, and intensified global anti-American terrorism, by unofficially condoning Israeli confiscation of Palestinian lands.

President Obama also showed leadership in 2011, when he asked Israel to stop building illegal settlements and to end their longstanding occupation of Palestine, by withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders. He said Palestinians suffered the humiliation of occupation, and have a right to govern themselves in a sovereign state. He requested a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces.” “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” he said.

Although Netanyahu agreed: “The Palestinians…should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state” and the solution is “two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state, alongside the Jewish state,” he rudely lectured Obama, saying Israel cannot defend the old 1967 lines. The truth is the current borders are the ones that caused nothing but conflict and violence for 44 years, and are the lines that are indefensible.

The problems in the Mideast will never be solved as long as aspiring American leaders ignore the truth of what has happened there over the past 94 years. They at least have to get the facts straight. This Republican crowd, running for President in 2012, has an awful lot to learn about Palestine and the Mideast before they could even begin to be ready for the White House.

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