Failing to Mention the British White Paper of 1939 when Discussing Refugees

In article after article and Op-Ed after Op-Ed, writers have expressed their dismay about the United States ban on refugees fleeing from Muslim countries. Many of those articles described the US turning away the S.S. St. Louis, a boat full of Jews from Europe during World War II, sending the ship back to Europe where the Jews would be killed in the Holocaust, arguing that America closing its borders today would have similar ramifications for Muslim refugees.  Some journalists went so far to claim that Anne Frank is a Syrian girl today.

Many people called such comparisons outlandish, and a minimization of the atrocity and uniqueness of the Holocaust. They would point out that there are over 100 times more Muslims than Jews, and 50 Muslim-majority countries today while there were zero Jewish countries in World War II, so the Muslim refugees’ options for sanctuary countries today are not remotely comparable to the plight of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.

Curiously, while journalists attempted to connect the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe to the plight of Muslim refugees from the Middle East today by referencing the S.S. St. Louis or Anne Frank, they declined to ever mention the British White Paper of 1939 when discussing the “Muslim ban.” The pundits wouldn’t even discuss the White Paper when reviewing the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

On November 9, 1938, as Kristallnacht was shattering the lives of Jews in Europe, the British would call upon the leaders of the Arabs in Palestine to assess how to quell the riots they had been waging against the Jews for the prior two years. The result of the multi-week consultations was the British White Paper of 1939.

As the flames of the Holocaust began to incinerate the Jews of Europe, the British White Paper undermined the basic principle laid out in international law to facilitate the immigration of Jews to Palestine. The document set a five-year cap of only 75,000 Jews to be admitted to Palestine, at a time when the Jews of Europe were desperately fleeing the Nazi regime. The British-Arab edict likely contributed to over 100,000 Jews perishing in the Holocaust.

Not just a single Jewish girl like Anne Frank.

Not the nearly 1,000 Jews who were returned on a ship to Nazi Europe to perish in concentration camps.

Over 100,000 Jews, who died because of the British White Paper of 1939.


Arab riots of 1936 fighting Jewish immigration

(source: American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise)

Yet the discussions about refugees fleeing for their lives from the carnage in the Middle East today never mention the cap on admitting Jewish refugees into Palestine during the Holocaust. Why?

Could it be because of the lectures from progressive professors and politicians that the narrow strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is “Arab land” and “Palestinian land,” so the Jews don’t really belong there at all? Has the Palestinian propaganda machine so cloaked itself in the the mantle of victimhood, that people cannot fathom the reality that the Palestinian Arabs were complicit in turning away desperate Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust?

November 9 has long been remembered as a Day of Infamy, when the slaughter of Jews began in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. It is time to also mark it as the day that the British and Palestinian Arabs helped seal the fate of thousands of those innocent Jews.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Holocaust and the Nakba

Extreme and Mainstream. Germany 1933; West Bank & Gaza Today

Austria’s View of Kristallnacht

Palestinians of Today and the Holocaust

Stopping the Purveyors of Hateful Propaganda

Mahmoud Abbas’s Particular Anti-Zionist Holocaust Denial

If you Only Loved Refugees as Much as you Hate Donald Trump

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While Joe Biden Passionately Defends Israel, He Ignores Jewish Rights and the History of the Jewish State

Vice President Joe Biden addressed the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. on March 20, 2016. He spoke passionately about the importance of the security of Israel and America’s commitment to defend Israel.

At roughly the 29 minute mark of the speech, he said that “One thing is certain: the United States will constantly and forever have Israel’s back….no administration has done more to advance the security of Israel than we [this administration] have. Our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge is unquestionable; it will not change.” Putting aside the enormity of the pending threat of Iran from the JCPOA, the statement strikes many people in the Israeli government as accurate.

Biden_at_AIPAC

Vice President Joe Biden at AIPAC, March 20, 2016

However passionately Biden spoke about the importance of Israel’s security and America’s commitment to such, he confused the cause of safety, with the contours of  the basic history of the Jewish State. At three different occasions Biden spoke about the Holocaust and the current anti-Semitism in Europe. He stated that Israel needs to exist “as the ultimate guarantor of security for Jewish people around the world…Never, never, never again! And without Israel, there is no guarantee.”

The pro-Israel crowd rose to its feet in a standing ovation (video 33:30).

I was sad.

  1. “Never Again” is universal. It is the moral, ethical and primary responsibility of every government to protect each and every one of its citizens. It is true that many countries throughout history have turned on the Jews. But in 2016, I expect the Vice President of the United States of America to stand a foot taller and declare twice as loud as the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls who saidif 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”
    ”Never Again” should not just be a slogan inside of Israel; it must be the slogan of every country in the world. How could a leader of the greatest country in the world pawn off the security of Jews to Israel alone?
  2. Modern Israel is the Third Jewish State. Israel was not created as a reaction to the Holocaust in World War II. It was not made as the United Nations’ pen for holding people out of harm’s way. That is a mischaracterization that President Obama has made repeatedly over his term. In his interview in The Atlantic in 2015, Obama compared the security of Jews to American blacks when he said “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law. These things are indivisible in my mind.
    Nope.
    Israel was established in international law as the homeland of the Jewish people in 1920 in the San Remo Agreement, well before World War II. The 1922 British Mandate for Palestine clearly stated that the reason for the Jewish homeland in Palestine was specifically because of “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” The mandate facilitated Jews to move there, acquire property and citizenship once again.

Does the myopic view of Vice President Biden seeing and describing Israel solely as a safe haven for Jews matter?

You bet.

Without an understanding of Jewish history that dates back more than 3000 years in the land, and the international law that gives Jews the option of living throughout the land, Jews have no real rights.  They are interlopers and recent arrivals in “Arab lands,” rather than the indigenous people.  They are only entitled to security – and that security could be in an arbitrary, very small part of the holy land.

That is why the Obama administration calls Jewish homes east of the Green Line (EGL) as “illegitimate.”  That is why the administration could propose “settlement freezes.”  It leads to a view that Jerusalem, the holiest city to only one religion (Judaism), that has been the capital city of only one people in history (Jews), could be subject to negotiation and division.

When Biden said (video 20:45-22:45) that settlements hurt the chance for peace with Palestinian Arabs, he wasn’t just advocating splitting the land; he was segmenting his logic and ignoring facts.  To him, Israel has no inherent rights and Jews have no freedom to live where they want.  Israel and Jews are only entitled “to exist” with security.

For their part, the Democratic administration argues that Palestinians are entitled to “dignity and self-determination.”  And if that “dignity” means anti-Semitic laws, banning Jews and squashing the freedoms and rights of Jews, this administration will support it – as long as Israel has security.

Such a view destroys there ever being peace between Israel and Arabs.

The underlying reason preventing peace is the Arabs’ refusal to recognize the basic and fundamental rights Jews have for living in the land – regardless of whether it is under an Israeli flag, a Jordanian flag or a future Palestinian flag.  Sadly, the Obama administration holds the same position.

Perhaps, sadder still, is watching a pro-Israel community applaud.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Narrative that Prevents Peace in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Invisible Anti-Semitism in Obama’s 2016 State of the Union

Obama’s “Values” Red Herring

The Arguments over Jerusalem

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The New York Times on the History of Gush Etzion

The New York Times actually tried to give its readers some history of Gush Etzion for a change. Unfortunately, it still missed the critical points.
IMG_3663
New York Times article from December 15, 2015
In an article entitled “West Bank Shopping Center, a Symbol of Coexistence, is Shaken by Violence,” the Times gave more detailed history than typical when it provided background on the Gush Etzion “settlements” in Judea and Samaria/ West Bank of the Jordan River.  While the paper would typically state that “the world considers all settlements seized by Israel in 1967 as illegal,” it opted to give more historical context on December 15th.  It wrote:
“Gush Etzion, or the Etzion block, a cluster of more than a dozen Jewish settlements, lies south of Jerusalem, in the Bethlehem area. It is often described as part of the Israeli “national consensus,” a chunk of West Bank land seized from Jordan in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 that many Jewish Israelis assume will always be part of Israel, and it holds a special status in the country’s psyche, associated with tragedy and triumph.

The first Jewish settlers arrived in the 1920s. Four communities were established by the 1940s but they were destroyed in the war of 1948 over the creation of Israel. Jordanian forces killed scores of Jews who tried to defend the area and took scores more captive.

After Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, a group of Israelis, including some descendants of those who had fought to defend it in 1948, reestablished Jewish settlements there.

The Palestinians and much of the world consider all settlements in the territories seized in 1967 as illegal and an obstacle to establishing a Palestinian state. While most peace plans envisage exchanges of land that could leave at least part of Gush Etzion under Israeli sovereignty, Israelis and Palestinians have never agreed on the size of the block.”

The Times opted to repeat its often used language – twice – but it did give much more history than it normally does.  However, while it described Jews moving to area in the 1920s, and some of the new residents as descendants of those original settlers, the reader was still left with the wrong impression that Jews are living there illegally.
Key points that were omitted from the article:
  • The 1922 League of Nations Mandate specifically gave Jews the right to live and establish themselves THROUGHOUT the Holy Land. This was a matter of international law and the Jews availed themselves of this legal right.  In 1922, there was no concept of a “West Bank.”  It was all just “Palestine” and Jews legally purchased land and built homes in Gush Etzion.  As stated in Article 6, the Mandate “shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”  Further, Article 15 of the Mandate specifically stated that no part of Palestine should be off-limits to people based on their religion: “No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.”
  • When Jordan illegally attacked Israel in 1949 and killed the Jews in Gush Etzion, it did not undermine the legal rights Jews had for living in their homes.
  • Jordan’s illegal expulsion of all of the Jews from the region in 1949 counter to the fourth Geneva Convention was not mentioned by the Times.
  • The fact that Jordan illegally annexed the region in 1950 in an action that was never recognized by any country was also omitted.
  • Jordan (and Palestinians who had been granted Jordanian citizenship) attacked Israel in 1967, counter the Israel-Jordan Armistice agreement, and Israel was legally justified in responding in self-defense.
  • Jordan gave up all claim to the region in 1988.
It was nice to see the Times take steps to educate readers a bit more about Gush Etzion.  However, the details provided still left a reader with the impression that Jews live in Gush Etzion illegally, and it is only a matter of “national consensus” that leads Israelis to believe that the bloc will be formally part of Israel.  The many illegal activities of Jordan also continue to be ignored.
Perhaps the full facts disturb the Times’ narrative too profoundly to detail.

Related First.One.Through articles:

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The Narrative that Prevents Peace in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Everyone has a perspective.

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, was credited with saying “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

Our opinions and perspectives are shaped by many things including our backgrounds and biases. When two people look at the same incident at the same time, it is quite possible that they take away very different stories. When two people do not see things first-hand, but hear histories second and third-hand, the narratives of each could appear to describe two different events and worlds.

Yet, those strange worlds can coexist and the parties with alternative truths can get along. The reason is not solely because some events in question are not in direct conflict, but because those events do not define each party.

Many histories remain in the past and do not touch the present. Other narratives reach out from history and impact decisions and views of people in the present. The deepest – and potentially most dangerous – narratives are those that are embedded in a person’s psyche, which can distort history, make people act against their own interests and mar the future.

Arab-Israeli “Neutral” Narratives

There are many narratives that contradict each other in the Middle East. Some are conflicting perspectives and some have alternative facts. Here is just a small sample of events from pivotal moments in 1948, 1967 and 2000 from an Arab perspective, followed by an Israeli view:

  • The creation of Israel in 1948 was a “Nakba” (catastrophe) // the founding of the state was a celebration
  • During the “Nakba”, 711,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled by Israeli forces from their homes // Palestinian Arabs were encouraged to leave where they lived by their leaders, as the armies of five neighboring Arab states invaded Israel
  • Five Arab armies came into Palestine to defend the Palestinians from Israeli attacks // five Arab armies invaded Israel in an effort to destroy the nascent state
  • In 1967, Israel attacked Egypt, Syria and Jordan // Israel preemptively attacked Egypt and Syria after the parties made clear their intentions to attack and destroy Israel; Jordan then attacked Israel and Israel responded in self-defense
  • The West Bank has always been Palestinian land and cannot be settled by Israelis // Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) were always home to Jews and mandated under international law to be a homeland for Jews in 1922; only under the Jordanian expulsion were Jews barred from the land. International laws related to taking land in a defensive war is not the same as taking land in an offensive war
  • In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon went to the Al Aqsa Mosque in an attempt to claim control over Islam’s third holiest site, which brought about the Second Intifada // Sharon visited the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site during regular visiting hours; the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat launched the Second Intifada because he was unhappy with the “near-final” peace agreement with Israel

Consider the opposing narratives. Some can reside comfortably in history books, while others actively influence each party’s actions today.

abbas reuters
Acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas
(photo: Reuters)

PAST: Some of these points may be found in either an Arab or Israeli history book. Palestinian textbooks may write about forced expulsions from Palestine during the “Nakba”, while Israeli textbooks may write about Palestinian Arabs being encouraged to leave their homes by their leadership while the armies from five supportive Arab countries attacked Israel in an effort to destroy the country and drive the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. The arguments are not subtle differences of opinions, and each side holds onto their account of history with examples of stories of a family here, a village there, or quotes from Israeli and Palestinian leadership at that time to underscore their version of history.

Arguably, this is something for historians to debate and a thoughtful person would probably conclude that there are elements of truth to both sides. Whether it is 80/20% or 20/80% for the parties is beyond the point of this discussion. The thrust is that their narratives are stories of the past. While Arabs and Israelis will invariably bring up their point of view in a debate, it need not dictate the debates nor compromise the conversations of the future of the region. A “starting point” of the here-and-now can be established to find a solution for the future.

A second example is the conflict between Egypt and Israel. Each side’s view of who was the belligerent party in 1967 did not impede a path forward to a different future leading to a peace treaty.

PAST AND PRESENT: Some splits in narratives run throughout time. The past can consume the present and the versions of history touch daily dialogue.

Many Arabs argue that a state of Palestine has always existed, but has been occupied by various parties including Israelis, Jordanians, Egyptians and British. They carry placards to “Free Palestine” from current Israeli occupation. For their part, Israelis note that Palestine never existed as an independent country. It was never ruled by a local Palestinian Arab government. The parties are in negotiations to potentially “Create Palestine,” while dismissing the Arab narrative as factually incorrect. The competing narratives are in conflict, but needn’t prevent the parties from moving towards a future that is in alignment.

PRESENT: A last example of a “neutral” clash of each side’s take on history is current history. Israelis and Palestinian Arabs argue forcefully about who started the Gaza war in 2014 and which party is responsible for many civilian deaths. Politicians and people will argue their points forcefully and recommend actions to punish the other side and improve their own position. Ultimately, the war and responses will become part of the past. The parties could opt to move forward with plans for a future OR they could use the war as an excuse to undermine a future peace.

 Bibi -Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Arab-Israeli “Toxic” Narratives

The term “Toxic Narrative” is meant to describe the inability of the two sides to ever establish a true peace; it is not intended to suggest that a narrative is inherently evil.

PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE: The best example of competing viewpoints of the past that stretch into the future, is the Balfour Declaration (1917) and its incorporation into the San Remo conference (1920) and then the international law established by the League of Nations in the British Mandate of Palestine (1922). The two sides’ competing opinions impact the ability of the parties to establish peace for the future.

International Law: The Palestinian Arabs argue that the League of Nations had no right to declare a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. They contend such international decision was made without the approval of the local Arab population in Palestine, and as such, the law itself should be null and void. They further argue that the imposition of such mandate was an effort to colonialize Palestine. The Palestinian Arabs took many steps to halt the implementation of that mandate for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…and facilitate Jewish immigration…and close settlement by Jews on the land.” The most significant actions were the riots of 1936-9 which enabled the Arabs to get the British to issue the 1939 “White Paper” which would limit the Jewish population in Palestine to one-third of the country, leaving an Arab majority population and facilitate Arab rule.

The Israeli perspective is that the League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations) made a law specifically recognizing the Jewish right to a national homeland in Palestine. They do not believe that such international law was illegal in 1922, and when the United Nations voted in 1947 to only grant a small portion of the Mandated land as a Jewish State, the Jews were disappointed but voted in favor of the proposal anyway.  The Arabs rejected the 1947 proposal, just as they rejected the 1922 Mandate.

Historical Connection: As part of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, the international community recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” The history of the Jews in the land goes back 3700 years and the Jews were the only people to ever be self-governing in the land. They were also the only people to make Jerusalem its capital, which they did for the third time in 1950.

The history of the Jews has also been challenged by the Palestinian Arabs who continually deny Jewish history in the region and insist that Israelis are attempting to “Judaize” the country, and that Jewish presence in the region is a recent phenomenon. (They have even advanced that Jesus was a Palestinian, not a Jew, even though Arabs did not come to the holy land en masse until the Muslim invasions hundreds of years later).

In short, the two conflicting narratives relate to the RIGHTS of Jews to REestablish a Jewish majority in the land and be self-governing again.

The Palestinian contention is that the entire Zionist enterprise was illegal from the start: The call for Israel’s creation in 1922 was illegal; the declaration of the state in 1948 was illegal; and the assumption of additional land in 1967 was illegal. They view the entire region as “Arab land” and Jewish presence and rule is illegitimate and directly undermines the Arab rights in the land.

The Roadblock to Peace

The Future:  Some argue that despite such widely held opinion by Palestinian Arabs, acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has stated that he would recognize a state of Israel as part of a peace agreement. As such, the debate of narratives and facts is not truly “toxic” as the Arabs are willing to look past their past.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that is not so.

Netanyahu claims that a de facto recognition of Israel as a country that exists today will not prevent a war tomorrow.  A de facto peace treaty that does not recognize Israel’s RIGHT to exist is a flimsy veneer.  Over time the veneer will come off, and the underlying Palestinian Arab contention that Jews have no rights to live and rule on Arab land will lead to further war and bloodshed.  Without a break from the storyline that Jews have no history, no legal authority, nor basic rights to live and pray and be self-governing in Israel, there will never be peace.  No amount of land-for-peace swap could resolve an illegal Jewish claim until the entire state of Israel is under Arab rule.

The Palestinians have not been able to accept such a break with their narrative of the rights of Jews in Palestine.  They could not accept such vision of Jewish rights in 1922 and have been unable to accept it today, as Abbas has repeatedly stated he will never recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”.

As such, the seemingly innocuous request for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish State has potentially become a roadblock to final settlement talks. A statement that would have no practical impact (compared to tangible matters such as borders or “right of return”), has touched a key nerve in the Palestinian psyche.  They would rather forgo a brighter future than negate their narrative as the sole rightful owners of the land.


People typically speak of the Arab-Israeli conflict and refer to events at important time periods like 1948, 1967 and 2000.  While those events helped shape the present, they need not dictate the future.  Each side can maintain many narratives without destroying the prospects for peace.

The toxic narrative that prevents peace revolves around the rights of Jews to their historic homeland established in international law in 1922.  It is that narrative that must be addressed for the parties to arrive at a long-term peaceful future together.  It has been almost a century, and well past time for Arabs to recognize the legal and legitimate rights of Jews to live in the holy land and to be self-governing.


Related First One Through articles:

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria

 

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Summary: Almost every major media outlet refers to the Gaza Strip and the west bank of the Jordan River as “Palestinian Territories”, when in fact, those areas are actually “Israeli territories” and “Palestinian Authority Territories.”

Most places in the world are part-and-parcel of a country.  However, there are situations when a place is administered by a government which has not incorporated the land and assumed full sovereignty.

The United States of America historically had several large territories as the country expanded, including Alaska and Hawaii.  Today, the USA continues to have several territories including:

  • Puerto Rico
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • American Samoa

These territories have some rights and protections of the US government, but not others such as the right to vote.

Israeli Territories and
Palestinian Authority Territories
1995 to Present

It is easy and obvious to understand that there are no “Palestinian Territories”, because there is no such thing as the State of Palestine (as of this writing, in any event).  Most of the area east of the Green Line (EGL/ west bank of the Jordan River, WBJR), is controlled and administered by Israel.

Under the Oslo Accords, EGL was divided into three parts: Areas A, B and C. Area A was handed over to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and it has complete control of that land.  Area C is “Israeli Territory” and is completely controlled by Israel. Area B is a hybrid, which is under the civil administration of the Palestinian Authority, but security control of Israel.

Areas ABC
Breakdown of Areas A, B and C
on the west bank of the Jordan River

Gaza would ostensibly be called “Palestinian Authority Territory”, however, the PA has no control in the area.  The governing party is Hamas, which won elections in 2006 and routed any PA personnel from the region in 2007.  Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Israeli Territories
1967 to 1995

The Oslo Accords between the State of Israel and the PLO started the process of breaking the Israeli territories into areas with local Palestinian Arab control.  Before the Oslo Accords, all of Gaza and EGL/ west bank of the Jordan River (WBJR) were only Israeli territories.

Israel took control of Gaza from Egypt in June 1967 during the Six Day War.  Egypt had amassed a large army and announced its intention of attacking Israel, so Israel preemptively attacked Egypt and seized Gaza.  In response to Israel’s preemptive attack on Egypt, Jordan attacked Israel from the EGL/WBJR. Jordan lost the region and gave up all claims to the land in 1988.

Jordan and Egyptian Territory
1949 to 1967

In May 1948, the Palestinian Arabs and five Arabs armies attacked Israel as it declared independence from Great Britain. At the end of the war in 1949, Jordan assumed control of much of Judea and Samaria in an area which became known as the “west bank of the Jordan River (WBJR)” in the United Nations, ultimately shortened to the “West Bank”.  Jordan annexed that area in 1950, gave all Arabs living there citizenship and expelled all of the Jews from the area, counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Egypt assumed control of the Gaza Strip, but did not annex the area.

British Territory 1922 to 1948
Ottoman Territory 1517 to 1922

At the end of World War I, the defeated Ottoman Empire was carved up into several areas (including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan) which were administered by the French and British.  The lands currently known as WBJR and Gaza were part-and-parcel of the British Mandate and had no unique laws or characteristics.  Similarly under Ottoman rule for hundreds of years before the British, those areas were neither divided nor distinct.

As detailed above, there are not, nor have there ever been “Palestinian Territories”. Such terminology inherently upgrades the status of the Palestinian Authority and eliminates the legal role and status that Israel has in Areas B and C.


Related First.One.Through articles

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria

Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”

The Subtle Discoloration of History: Shuafat

The Legal Israeli Settlements

The Legal Israeli Settlements

Many people have argued that it is illegal for Israelis to live beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines (east of the Green Line, EGL/Judea and Samaria/West Bank).  The question of “legitimacy” (not legality) has been repeated often by the USA’s Obama Administration.  Those comments are more harsh towards Israel than prior American administrations that simply viewed new settlements as “unhelpful” to a peace agreement between Israel and the Arab states.  Jimmy Carter was the only US president that actually called the settlements “illegal”.  Below is a review of the international laws that apply towards the settlements.

IMG_2002
Street sign in Judea and Samaria

Fourth Geneva Convention

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention deals with the treatment of “occupied territory“.  It is unclear whether it applies to territory obtained in both offensive and defensive wars, but this review will assume that the law stands in either case.

The majority of Article 49 is about the treatment of the inhabitants of the occupied territory and not about the “Occupying Power” transferring in its own population.  The opening paragraph:

“Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons
from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”

This paragraph does not relate to Israelis living in EGL for several reasons:

  • The language is about people from the occupied territory, not to the occupied territory.  It underscores the flagrant illegal eviction of Jews from Judea and Samaria by the Jordanians in 1949.
  • As the Arabs living in EGL were not forcibly transferred to any country, Israel did nothing counter to this law.

The next paragraphs deal with exceptions to the main directive stated above for military reasons:

“Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. Such evacuations may not involve the displacement of protected persons outside the bounds of the occupied territory except when for material reasons it is impossible to avoid such displacement. Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.”

  • The law permits operations involving security.  This clause allows the building of the security barrier inside the West Bank that Israel erected in reaction to the Second Intifada, and relocation of people impacted to construct such barrier.

 “The Occupying Power undertaking such transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons, that the removals are effected in satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition, and that members of the same family are not separated. The Protecting Power shall be informed of any transfers and evacuations
as soon as they have taken place. The Occupying Power shall not detain protected persons in an area particularly exposed to the dangers of war unless the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.”

  • These paragraphs seek to protect people, even in the case of a necessary evacuation.  The only Arabs that Israel moved out of the West Bank were people who were arrested and therefore not relevant to this clause.

As seen above, almost the entirety of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention has to do with the local population- in this case, a theoretical transfer of Arabs out of EGL/Judea and Samaria/West Bank.  Only the last paragraph addresses the civilians of an “Occupying Power”.

 “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own
civilian population
into the territory it occupies.”

  • Israelis moving and living in EGL/J&S do so of their own free will.  The government does not “deport or transfer its own civilians” to EGL.
  • The “territory” in question, Judea and Samaria, was settled by Jews long before the Jordanians occupied the area and evicted the Jews. As such, Jews were part of the indigenous population before being illegally evicted in 1949. Returning to the region is in keeping with Article 49’s goal above stating “Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.
  • Additionally, this territory was never a distinct country, but part and parcel of the Mandate of Palestine which specifically called for “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”  As such, Jews moving to Judea and Samaria is part of the ongoing provision established internationally in 1922.

The Hague Regulations

Another law that people contend relates to Israel’s administration of EGL/West Bank is Article 55 of the Hague Regulations:

 “Art. 55. The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.”

This rule clearly affirms Israel’s role as administrator for public lands.  The Hague regulations – and this provision in particular – deal with situations that are temporary in nature, and are impractical for those that last for decades.  To wit, the Arab population in the West Bank has grown four times since 1967, in one of the largest population increases on the planet. New infrastructure was established to accommodate the growth in the region, and Israel authorized these new homes, roads and other infrastructure, thereby necessitating a change to public lands.

In terms of minimizing the changes to public lands, it is unclear whether the role of Israel is to maintain a status quo according to the laws of Jordan, which illegally seized and annexed the area, or to administer the region according to British laws which had an international mandate before the Jordanians took control.

  • The Jordanians took this area in an offensive war against Israel in 1948-9
  • The Jordanian annexation in 1950 was never recognized by the United Nations
  • The area in question was part of the internationally approved British Mandate of Palestine (from 1922-1948).

Therefore, to comply with Article 55 above, which rules were appropriate for Israel to maintain: the illegal occupying Jordanian laws of 1949-1967 or those accorded in international law in the British Mandate 1922-1948?

If the British laws regarding property were to be maintained, then those laws state that no person should be forbidden to live in any part of the entirety of the Mandate (including Gaza, Israel and the West Bank) on the basis of religion, per Article 15 of that 1922 Mandate:

“The Mandatory shall see that complete freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, are ensured to all. No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.”

As it relates to the use of public lands (which is the focus of Article 55 of the Hague Regulations), the British Mandate clearly states that public land is to be used for Jewish settlement:

“The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”

Administration under British law encouraged Jews to live throughout Judea and Samaria, including state lands, and it can therefore not be illegal for any Jew to live there.

The only possibility that Jews moving to and living in the West Bank could be considered illegal, was if Jordanian law was to be maintained in the area.  However, even if one were to assume that despite the Jordanian’s forcible seizure and illegal annexation of the area, that their laws should still be maintained, could any law possibly suggest that it be a requirement to maintain particular laws that were flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention such as the racist Jordanian laws that evicted and barred Jews from living in the land?

Even further, if Israeli actions of Jews moving to EGL/West Bank were somehow considered illegal (which is not the case), Article 3 of the Hague Resolution states that a “belligerent party which violates the provisions of the said Regulations shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation,” so remedy would be a fine, not eviction of the Jews.

(Also note that Hague Regulation Article 40, specifically gave Israel the right to attack Jordan after Jordan broke the 1949 armistice agreement in 1967.)

United Nations Reinterpretation for Israel

Since 1967, the United Nations crafted various resolutions condemning Israel for a wide variety of perceived “sins” such as the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution in 1975.  Many resolutions have inverted the meaning of the Geneva Convention such as a UN Security Council Resolution in 1980 which “Deplor[es] the decision of the Government of Israel to officially support Israeli settlement in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967.”  It continued further:

“[A]ll measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have
no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the
Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive,
just and lasting peace in the Middle East;”

Arguing that “new immigrants” (many of whom were actually returning residents from 1949) are a threat to the security of the existing population is xenophobia at its most extreme.  Arguing that is a “flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention” is disproved above.

Status of Jerusalem

The inclusion of Jerusalem in the United Nations attacks on Israel is telling.  Greater Jerusalem and Greater Bethlehem were planned to be an international “Holy Basin” according to the UN 1947 Partition Plan – neither Arab nor Israeli.  After Jordan attacked Israel and seized the eastern half of Jerusalem and annexed it, the United Nations remained silent.  The UN issued no declaration against the Jordanian invasion and land grab for the entire period it held the territory through 1967.  However, when Israel took control of Jerusalem and later annexed it in 1980, the United Nations went on tirades about the illegal nature of Israel’s authority. The UN’s motions are absurd and duplicitous in granting tacit approval to the Jordanian Arab illegal annexation of Jerusalem and condemning Israel for its annexation. If Jordan’s offensive war to take a planned international city was viewed as permissible, how can Israel’s defensive war be viewed any less so?

The ongoing dynamic in Jerusalem is also different than the rest of EGL/West Bank since the eastern part of the city was annexed by Israel and all of the residents were offered citizenship (almost all of the Arabs declined and took residency papers instead). As such, clauses in international law about offering citizenship to people are not applicable to the eastern half of Jerusalem (while still relevant in the remainder of EGL/West Bank).

As reviewed above, Israel abides by the global rules of international law relating to Jews living in EGL.  However, the United Nations reinterpretation of law solely as it relates to Israel – whether for national movements like Zionism, or for allowing Jews to move and live freely like other peoples in lands they lived in for thousands of years – is not law, but anti-Semitism.


Source:

Fourth Geneva Convention: https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/c525816bde96b7fd41256739003e636a/77068f12b8857c4dc12563cd0051bdb0?OpenDocument

Hague Resolution: https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/WebART/195-200065?OpenDocument

Hague Resolution Article 3: https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/ART/195-200004?OpenDocument

Hague Resolution Article 40: “Any serious violation of the armistice by one of the parties gives the other party the right of denouncing it, and even, in cases of urgency, of recommencing hostilities immediately.

British Mandate of Palestine: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/palmanda.asp

Israel-Jordan Armistice agreement: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/arm03.asp

UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1980): http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/5AA254A1C8F8B1CB852560E50075D7D5

UN Security Council Resolution 476 (1980) attacking Israel on Jerusalem: http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/6DE6DA8A650B4C3B852560DF00663826

UN call that Zionism is racism (1975): http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/761C1063530766A7052566A2005B74D1

FirstOneThrough article on the Green Line: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/the-green-line/

FirstOneThrough article on Judea and Samaria/ West Bank terminology: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/names-and-narrative-the-green-line-west-bank-judea-and-samaria/

Summary of US administrations attitudes towards Israeli settlements: http://www.cmep.org/content/us-statements-israeli-settlements_short#Obama