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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

DEALING WITH POST-DISENGAGEMENT PRESSURES

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About Maurice Ostroff
A call for intellectual honesty

Maurice Ostroff                                 June 5, 2005

In the aftermath of the disengagement from Gaza, intense pressure from all quarters is building up to end the occupation and determine Israel's borders.

Unfortunately, Israel's inept public relations have, by default, given the Palestinians a head start in winning the support of international public opinion and prejudging the outcome.  In assuming that the justice of its cause was self-evident, Israel failed to challenge fundamentally incorrect statements, which have been repeated so often by Palestinian spokespeople, that they have been absorbed into conventional wisdom and accepted as fact by international politicians and journalists.

It has therefore become vital at this late stage, to identify the salient indisputable facts relating to arguments, which are already being raised.  Particular care needs to be taken to deal with the technique of  'Begging The Question' in which the matter to be proved is already assumed in the language used in the premise of the argument. Israeli interviewees on TV and radio are frequently guilty of failing to challenge statements  which prejudge the issue under discussion, such as 'Palestinian terror will cease when the illegal occupation ends'. This statement which is regularly made as a self-evident truth, not only ignores the undisputable fact that Arab terrorism was rampant prior to 1967 and even prior to 1948. (Endnote1) it also assumes that the 'occupation' is illegal, ignoring the fact that while the occupation may be considered undesirable, inadvisable or unwise it is not illegal in the opinions of eminent international jurists

The late Eugene W. Rostow, who played a leading role in producing the famous Resolution 242, as well as the late Professor Julius Stone, one of the twentieth century's leading authorities on the Law of Nations, both pronounced that the Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there. (Endnote 2) According to Rostow , the Armistice Lines of 1949, which are part of the West Bank boundary, represent nothing but the position of the contending armies when the final cease-fire was achieved in the War of Independence. And the Armistice Agreements specifically provide, except in the case of Lebanon, that the demarcation lines can be changed only by agreement when the parties move from armistice to peace. Resolution 242 is based on that provision of the Armistice Agreements and states certain criteria that would justify changes in the demarcation lines when the parties make peace.

While intellectual honesty requires open examination of all evidence, no matter where it leads, acknowledgement of authoritative arguments that the occupation is legal, does not preclude advocating withdrawal from part or all of the West Bank in order to achieve a peaceful settlement. It is however, intellectually dishonest to use the invalid assumption that the occupation is illegal to bolster a case for such withdrawal.

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank should not be seen as correction of an illegal situation. Rather it is a declaration, that despite that fact that Israel's presence in these territories was justified by the circumstances which prompted the 1967 war and legal in terms of international law, withdrawals and territorial adjustments have been made and more will be offered in a sincere effort to attain a meaningful peace.
The mantra 'end the occupation' is in itself wooly and should not be used without clarification of the intended meaning.  Some assume it refers only to territory gained by Israel in 1967. Others refer to all land beyond the 1947 partition boundaries. But the insurmountable obstacle to any long-term peaceful solution is that many Palestinian and Arab spokespeople openly declare that there is no place for Israel at all and that they will continue their attacks until Israel ceases to exist. Until his last days, the late Chairman Arafat wore a badge on his uniform depicting a Palestinian state, which included the entire area of present-day Israel, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.  This strategic Palestinian goal goes a long way to explain the dramatic rise in terror attacks while peace talks were in progress during 1993 and 1994.

Also misleading, is the repeated call to return the territories to the Palestinians, implying that the West Bank and Gaza were taken by Israel from them.  Intellectual honesty requires acknowledgement of the historical fact that the Palestinians never controlled either the West bank nor Gaza.

Jordan illegally entered the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1948 and remained in occupation until 1967. It attempted to annex the territory in 1951, but that annexation was not  generally recognized, not even by Egypt nor any other Arab state.  Gaza was occupied by Egypt prior to 1967 but Egypt, unlike Jordan never attempted to annex it. Interestingly, Egypt did not call for return of Gaza in its peace agreement with Israel. Jordan no longer makes any claim to the West Bank and as the only remaining claimants are Israel and the Palestinians, the most accurate and realistic description of the West Bank and Gaza is disputed territory, whose final disposition will be determined by negotiation. It is ironical that neither Jordan nor Egypt offered to create a Palestinian state in these territories when they were in a position to do so.

Very few indeed, even among the most ardent advocates of 'ending the occupation' call for Israel to relinquish, the Western Wall and access to Mount Scopus which had been inaccessible to Israel prior to 1967. If suggestions for a settlement are to be meaningful, the misleading expression 'end the occupation' must be avoided and replaced by the concept of 'territorial compromise' as contemplated in the careful wording of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. These resolutions require the Arab states and Israel to make peace, and that when "a just and lasting peace" is reached in the Middle East, Israel should withdraw from some but not all of the territory it occupied in the course of the 1967 war. The Resolutions leave it to the parties to agree on the peace borders.

Much has been written about the implications of resolution 242 and if we are to avoid the distortions introduced by propagandists, obviously, the most reliable source from whom to seek clarification are the persons who drafted it.  In drafting resolution 242, both British Ambassador to the UN in 1967, Lord Caradon, and American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, deliberately omitted a demand for Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders. In an interview in the Beirut Daily Star on June 12, 1974, Lord Caradon stated: 
"It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967 because these positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers on each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That's why we didn't demand that the Israelis return to them, and I think we were right not to."
Recommended Reading
Articles by the Late Eugene W. Rostow, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs between 1966 and 1969 who played a leading role in producing the famous Resolution 242.
a.        Historical Approach to the Issue of Legality of Jewish Settlement Activity  (The New Republic April 23, 1990).  http://www.take-a-pen.org/english/Articles/Art27012004.htm
b. Are the settlements legal? Resolved. (The New Republic, October 21, 1991).
http://www.take-a-pen.org/english/Articles/Art13122003.htm

ENDNOTES
 1. In the years 1951-1955, for example, Arab terrorists killed 922 Israelis. Typical was the March 1954 ambush of a bus traveling from Eilat to Tel Aviv, killing the driver and wounding most of the passengers. The terrorists then boarded the bus, and shot each passenger, one by one, spitting on their bodies.
.
2. An authoritative clear analysis of the legal status of the West bank and Gaza in terms of international law, by Australian lawyer, Ian  Lacey, may be downloaded from http://www.aijac.org.au/resources/reports/international_law.pdf

 

 

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