My adopted Polish mother, Malgorzata, emailed me about the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334 on Israel and Palestine, which you can find here. Among its stipulations are these (taken from Abu Yehuda’s site; Yehuda also has questions and answers about the resolution, which he considers “unbalanced”, while CNN lists other questions and answers):
- The statement that Israel’s establishment of settlements across the Green Line (including eastern Jerusalem) “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace,” and the demand that Israel “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”
- The condemnation of attempts to change the “demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.”
- The statement that the UN will recognize no changes in the pre-1967 lines except those agreed upon by both sides.
- The call for “all States … to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
- The condemnation of violence, terrorism, incitement, etc. (The “fig leaf” that allowed the US to abstain on what was originally a 100% anti-Israel resolution).
- The request that the UN Secretary-General report on the progress of implementing the resolution every three months.
The resolution also includes designating area of the Western Wall (“Wailing Wall”) as “occupied territory.”
The significance of this vote, as CNN notes, is this:
. . . this is the first Security Council resolution in more than 35 years to deal with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The resolution lays out guidelines for dealing with the settlements, which is something no US President has done at the Security Council since 1980.
The vote on this resolution was 14 in favor, none against, with one country abstaining: the U.S. Previously the U.S.—clearly under Obama’s direction—had voted “no” in favor of similar resolutions, which canceled them, but the US abstention here, which led to the resolution passing, was designed by Obama to send a message: Israel better stop building settlements. As CNN noted, “Obama has exercised the veto power of the United States at the Security Council on every other resolution relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Now this resolution isn’t binding in any meaningful sense, and Trump, who is more sympathetic to Israel than is Obama, may try to overturn it, but that’s unlikely given the Security Council. But the resolution does send a signal to the world that, according to Malgozata, Israel is uniquely bad among all countries.
At any rate, Malgorzata was very disturbed by this resolution and the U.S.’s abstention rather than veto. I asked her to tell me why the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal, and she gave me this answer (indented and in quotes, all quoted with permission):
“There is no ban on building in a territory occupied legally (i.e., taken in a defensive war with no possibility for a peace treaty) in any of the legal texts comprising international law—until the UN resolution of 23 December 2016 declaring Israel’s building – as the only state in the world in a similar situation – as being illegal. The Geneva Convention, as so many are quoting, does not speak about voluntary movement of people from one territory to the other but about forced transfer of populations and was, according to the authors of this convention who were interviewed many times, not applicable to Israel’s situation (it was designed to prevent repetition of the actions of Stalin and of the Nazis). In other situations, like Cyprus, Tibet, and West Sahara, nobody is ever talking about “illegal building”. On the contrary, the E.U. had even an aid project for building homes in the part of Cyprus which is occupied by Turkey. You can’t have an international law which is directed to just one country. The law must apply to all countries in a similar situation.
Israel is building houses mostly on the areas which it absolutely needs for defence reasons. This is in Area C, which is not an occupied territory (or at least wasn’t until December 23, 2016) and which, according to the Oslo Accords, is fully under Israeli administration and is a disputed territory; the fate of this territory was supposed to be negotiated between Israel and Palestinians. The blocks of settlements, according to negotiations done until now that area was understood (and confirmed in writing by consecutive American Presidents) to remain in Israeli hands and Israel was supposed to compensate Palestinians with other pieces of Israel proper.
By the way, Israeli settlements on the West Bank occupy less than 2% of West Bank’s area. And the building that the West is shouting about takes place INSIDE existing settlements when a new school, kindergarten or flats are needed. There are other settlements, built by Jewish fanatics, far from the border, which are built without any Israeli permission and are deemed illegal according to Israeli law. They have been mostly demolished. If you don’t know about that, it’s only because nobody in the West writes when an Israeli house is demolished, only when houses belonging to Arab murderers are demolished. But this is a digression.
So, until 23 December of this year, there was no international law saying that Israeli settlements are illegal, nor international practice to judge such settlements illegal when it was not Jews building them. However, the Security Council is a body which has powers to establish new laws. And now they did just that. Who did it? Russia (occupies Crimea, not to mention Chechnia); China (occupies Tibet), former colonial powers France and Britain (and what about Gibraltar and Falkland Islands?), New Zealand—a colonial creation—and assorted groups of dictatorships and failed states.
There is also a problem of what is an occupation. According to Wikipedia: “Military occupation is effective provisional control of a certain ruling power over a territory which is not under the formal sovereignty of that entity, without the volition of the actual sovereign”.(Actual sovereign is a state.) So whose territory is Israel occupying?
A very short history: the territory was for 400 years under the rule of Ottoman Empire. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations divided its lands into mandates. They established a British Mandate for Palestine which encompasses the territory of today’s Jordan, Israel, West Bank and Gaza, with the aim of building there a Jewish National Home for Jewish people persecuted in Russia, Eastern Europe, Arab world and other places. The civil rights of existing Arab population were to be guaranteed, but the national rights belonged only to Jews.
After a short time Great Britain cut off over 70% of the land and created Transjordan, which was accepted by the League of Nations statement that Transjordan would be for Arabs (Jews who lived there were expelled and no Jew was allowed to settle there), while the rest, from Jordan River to Mediterranean Sea, was to be Jewish (without moving any Arab from this territory).
Jews accepted, Arabs refused. British allowed uncontrolled Arab immigration to the Jewish part and very, very restricted immigration of Jews – contrary to their Mandate.You often hear the argument that Arabs were a majority in the land: the above is an explanation of why it was so. In 1948, when Arab armies invaded the newly established Israel (after rejecting the UN Resolution about Partition which Jews accepted), Jordan managed to occupy the West Bank and the part of Jerusalem containing the Old Town and places considered most holy by Jews. They murdered and expelled all Jews from this part of Jerusalem (Jews were for quite a few centuries a majority population of Jerusalem), blew up synagogues, and destroyed Jewish homes. Of course, no Jew was allowed to visit the Temple Mount or the Western Wall.
This part of the old Mandate of Palestine came back into Jewish hands 1967, when Jordan, in spite of entreaties by the Israeli government and in the belief that Arab armies would destroy Israel any moment, started to shell the Jewish part of Jerusalem and went into attack. Because Jordan didn’t have any rights to this piece of land and there was no other state that could be called sovereign over it except the League of Nations resolution about the Jewish state stretching to River Jordan – how can Israel be considered an “an occupying power”? There is a very good paper about it “Palestine, Uti Possidetis Juris and the Borders of Israel” by professors Abraham Bell and Eugene Kontorovich. Moreover, a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994 states this:
The international boundary between Jordan and Israel is delimited with reference to the boundary definition under the Mandate as is shown in Annex I (a), on the mapping materials attached thereto and coordinates specified therein. The boundary, as set out in Annex I (a), is the permanent, secure and recognized international boundary between Jordan and Israel, without prejudice to the status of any territories that came under Israeli military government control in 1967.
There is more (for example, treating an armistice line from 1949 as “1967 borders”) but perhaps this is enough to give you an idea why I think that the U.N. resolution is a shameful scandal. I don’t know what to do now: there are over 500,000 Jews who live in settlements which are now legal according to Israel and illegal according to the new “international law” which is applicable to only one state in the world. And this new “international law” says that Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem is illegal. Evicting squatters in the West often causes demonstrations and protests. But the world wants now to evict from their homes over half a million people, many of whom were born there and had their own children there. Well, why not—after all, they’re all Jews, aren’t they?”
I then asked Malgorzata this: “Why were the settlements widely called ‘illegal’ BEFORE December 23, though?” Her reply:
“The answer why it was called illegal is another long story. Arabs en masse thought that any state which is not Islamic on a territory once in possession of Muslims is illegal. This is stated in the Koran. The more fanatic among them even think that Spain is illegal because of Andalusia. Additionally, Jews having their own state was something that was for them absolutely abhorrent. Jews, if they are allowed to live at all, should be “dhimmi”— subservient and humiliated. The USSR, which initially hoped for Israel would be its Communist colony in the Middle East, discovered that Israelis are not too keen on Communism. So they changed their mind and started to slander Israel however they could. It is a Soviet invention to equate Israel with a colonial enterprise. Catholics (and broader Christians with the exception of Evangelical Christians) felt threatened. Judaism was supposed to disappear and Christians to take the place of Jews as God’s Chosen People. The restoration of the state of Israel and Jewish Jerusalem was an anathema to them. (The Vatical recognized Israel only in 1993.)
So you have many strands which converge on illegality of Israel as such: Islam, Christianity, Communism, anti-Americanism and anticolonialism. Now, Israel was recognized by U.N. and in 1967 the memory of the Holocaust was fresh enough, so nobody except Arabs were comfortable saying that Israel as such was illegal. But when in 1967 Israel got more territory in the defensive war with Arabs, well, now they could start to shout about illegality and the Palestinian nation.
You do know that while Judea and Samaria (renamed the “West Bank” by Jordan after it occupied it – illegally – 1948), as well as Gaza, were in Arab hands from 1948 to 1967, and yet nobody talked about a Palestinian State, not to mention building one. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), established in 964 (what were they suppose to “liberate” when the “West Bank” was in Jordanian hands?) even had in their charter an article stating that they have no wish to take the West Bank from Jordan and that the West Bank is NOT a subject of their aspirations.” The UN, with its automatic anti-Israel majority (first Communist states and their clients plus Arab states, then just all Islamic states and all dictatorships) passed a disproportionate number of resolutions condemning Israel. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said himself: “Over the last decade, I have argued that we cannot have a bias against Israel at the U.N. Decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports and committees against Israel. In many cases, instead of helping the Palestinian issue, this reality has foiled the ability of the U.N. to fulfill its role effectively.” Here you have some numbers of resolutions calculated by UN Watch:
- UN Human Rights Council: From its creation in 2006 to 2016, the UN Human Rights Council, over one decade, adopted 135 resolutions criticizing countries; 68 out of those 135 resolutions—more than 50%—were against Israel.
- UN Nations General Assembly: From 2012 through 2015, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted 97 resolutions criticizing countries; 83 out of those 97 have been against Israel (86%).
- UNESCO: Each year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopts around 10 resolutions a year criticizing only Israel. UNESCO does not criticize any other UN member state in a country-specific resolution (100%). An exception occurred in 2013, when, under pressure from UN Watch, UNESCO adopted one resolution on Syria.
- World Health Organization: For one week every year, the UN World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), meets to formulate global health policy. Resolutions are adopted to address global health issues. There is one exception: the annual resolution entitled “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan,” which singles out Israel for condemnation; no other country in the world is condemned by the WHO.
- ILO:The International Labour Organization (ILO) was established to improve conditions of labor, regulate work hours, fight unemployment, assure adequate living wages, and protect workers worldwide. At its annual conference, however, the ILO produces a single country-specific report castigating Israel.”
That ends Malgorzata’s take on the resolution. I just want to add that Fatah, considered the more moderate faction of Palestinian politics, published two cartoons about this resolution, which apparently thanked the 14 countries voting in favor of this resolution. PMW notes this:
Three days ago Fatah’s official Facebook page posted a drawing of its map of “Palestine,” which includes all of Israel and painted like the Palestinian flag, being used to stab the word “settlement.” The text above the image: “#Palestine will defeat the settlement ” (First drawing below)
Yesterday in response to the UN Security Council resolution declaring Israeli settlements illegal, Fatah republished the identical image but added a pool of blood at the bottom, and the words “Thank You” above the image, and the names of the 14 countries that voted in favor of the UN resolution (second drawing below):
Readers are invited to discuss all this, and I expect Malgorzata will be around to give comments and answer questions.