Posts tagged ‘Occupied Territories’

09/21/2011

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.

09/19/2011

Palestinian State: Listen To Jimmy Carter

Since the question of a Palestinian State is heading to the UN this week, now is a good time to review the contents of former President Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine Peace, Not Apartheid, (2006), which is the source of the information in this article.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire controlled Palestine for 402 years, from 1516 through 1918. Only 30,000 Jews lived there as of 1880. In WWI, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), promising Palestine for the Jews, if Turkey surrendered. Following Turkey’s defeat, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate in 1922 to govern Palestine, a territory that spanned from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. As Jews from Europe moved into Palestine, their numbers grew to 150,000 by 1930, and increased another 608,000 by 1945.

Following WWII, the United Nations partitioned Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish areas in 1947, over Palestinian objection. The Arabs received only 45% of the territory, as the Jews were given 55%. Jerusalem was internationalized. Jewish groups, such as Irgun, then intensified their terrorist acts against the British, forcing them to withdraw from Palestine in 1948.

Once Britain had vacated Palestine, Israel declared independence, triggering an Arab-Israeli War (1948), in which 420 Palestinian villages were destroyed, and 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes. Under a 1949 Armistice, new borders, accepted by the UN, increased Israel to 77% of what was formerly Palestine.

In 1967, Israel started another Arab-Israel War, by launching pre-emptive strikes against Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. As Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and other areas, they forced even more Palestinians from their homes. UN Res. 242 (1967) labeled Israel’s taking of land by force a violation of international law, and ordered a withdrawal from the occupied territories. UN Res. 465 later instructed Israel to dismantle all settlements erected in the occupied areas, since 1967. When the right-wing Likud Party came to power in Israel in 1980, the construction of settlements on Arab lands simply escalated.

Although Israel finally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, to this day, they tightly control it, by denying any access by land, sea, or air.

Israel also built a Wall through the West Bank which surrounds Bethlehem and other Palestinians cities, and separates Arabs from each other. The demolition of Palestinian homes in the process violated international law, as the 4th Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from deporting civilians. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 the Wall was illegal, and ordered Israel to remove it, but Israel ignored the judges, and instead declared the Wall in 2006 to be the new Israeli-West Bank border.

The U.S. must resolve the Palestinian question, since it is a major source of anti-Americanism. Although official U.S. policy labels Israeli settlements in Palestine illegal, Israel’s friends in the media keep Americans unaware of the situation. Few Americans know that the U.S. stands alone in supporting Israel, and that the U.S. is widely condemned for supplying weapons. Carter correctly said the U.S. has squandered international prestige and goodwill, and intensified global anti-American terrorism, by unofficially condoning Israeli confiscation of Palestinian territories.

The U.S. has various forms of leverage over Israel to make them compromise. The U.S.: 1) supplies their weapons; 2) allows Israel to control economic aid to Palestine; and 3) has used the UN veto over 40 times to block resolutions critical of Israel.

Israel argues the Palestinians refuse to recognize their right to exist, but the truth is Arab states acknowledge a permanent Israel, and most Palestinians accept the reality they will never be erased from the map. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said in 1988 they would accept UN Resolutions recognizing Israel within the pre-1967 borders, and they again in a 1993 letter unequivocally recognized that Israel had a right to exist.

Israel must now comply with international law, stop colonizing Palestine, dismantle settlements, and recognize a Palestinian state. Although Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu promised never to exchange land for peace, Israel’s borders must return to those used from 1949 through 1967, and the Jewish state must once share the City of Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

03/31/2011

Syria and Israel: Solve Golan Heights

Internal politics in Syria is now getting a lot of attention. For the past 40 years, the country has been ruled by the Assad family. Al-Assad was chosen president in 1971 and ruled for 29 years. Bashar Assad, his son, started in 2000 and has served for 11 years.

While change may soon come after 40 years of one-family rule, there is an even more important international issue that has been festering for the past 44 years that must be addressed by Syria and Israel. It is an issue that can and should be solved, soon after there is a change in domestic Syrian politics.

Syria shares a border with Israel. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel invaded Syria and occupied the Golan Heights. Thousands of Syrians were driven from their homes and became refugees. The UN condemned the taking of the Golan Heights and called on Israel to return the occupied territories (UN Res. 242).

In the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Arab troops from as far away as Morocco assembled to open a Syrian Front against Israel in an attempt to retake the Golan Heights. Syria demanded the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. A UN Disengagement Observer Force supervised a ceasefire (1974).

Israel announced in 1981 it was annexing the Golan Heights and that it would impose Israeli law upon the people living there. Their action was declared null and void by the UN, under the Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of civilians, living under the rule of an occupying power.

To this day, the occupation continues and the settlements remain. After 44 years, the problem has not been resolved and it cannot simply be ignored, or swept under the rug. They only way Israel may enjoy a truly lasting peace is to come to terms with Syria.

A peace treaty with Syria can be made. Israel made peace with Egypt in 1978, with the help of Jimmy Carter. During the Clinton Administration in 1994, Israel made peace with Jordan, due to King Hussein’s cooperation. A peace treaty between Syria and Israel was nearly reached in 2000. Soon, the time will come to get it done.

President Obama is the right middle-man to broker the deal. What needs to happen is for Americans, particularly the friends of Israel, to put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party. They need to be told in no uncertain terms to remove the settlements from the Golan Heights, and to give the land back to Syria, so that a lasting peace may be implemented.