Observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in Cairo

29 Nov

(text of my remarks delivered in Cairo at joint UN/Arab League ceremony marking the observance of the 2012 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, 29 Nov 2012, some 10 hours prior to the historic vote in the UN General Assembly)




Your Excellency, Dr. Nabil Elaraby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States

H.E. Barakat Al Fara

H.E. Amre Dou Al Atta

Dr. Mohammad Gimi’a

Bishop Macos

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:


It is an exceptional honor and challenge to speak on such an occasion. We meet at a tense historical moment with heavy potential consequences for the Palestinian people and for the peoples and governments of the region. I along with many others throughout the world share Nelson Mandela’s view that the denial of Palestinian rights remains the “the greatest moral issue of our time.” This 2012 International Day of Solidarity with the People of Palestine possesses a special significance. A ceasefire ending the latest orgy of violence afflicting the two societies, but especially affecting the people of Gaza, has been agreed upon just over a week ago, and appears to be holding.  And in a few hours the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer State within the UN, a status similar to that of the Vatican. When this initiative is approved later today it means an upgraded status for Palestine within the UN System, including probable access to other organs of the UN.


Meeting here in Cairo on this occasion has an added resonance. It was the Egyptian government that played such an instrumental role in producing the ceasefire in Gaza, and it is the democratization of Egypt that has done more to improve Palestinian prospects than any other recent regional or international development. It also raises expectations that Egypt will in the future exert its influence to bring this conflict that has lingered far too long to a just end by working toward a peaceful solution based on the recognition of Palestinian rights under international law. Nothing would better convey to the world that the Arab Spring represents a regional declaration of independence from the dominion of external influence. In doing so it would enlarge upon the earlier historic achievement of unexpectedly bringing about the downfall of a series of dictatorial regimes reigning throughout the Middle East.


Those innocent Palestinians who lost their lives and were injured during the latest Israeli military attack upon Gaza should be remembered and mourned on this day as martyred victims of Israel’s latest onslaught. This attack was carried out with ferocity and using the most modern weaponry against an essentially entrapped and acutely vulnerable people. We should be thankful that this latest violent interlude has come to an end, and all of us should resolve to work toward the good faith implementation of the ceasefire agreement not only with respect to the violence, but in its entirety. Such an implementation would uphold what was achieved through the energetic and flexible diplomacy of Egypt, and other regional forces.


There are already disquieting signs that Israel is downplaying the conditions set forth in the ceasefire text, especially those pertaining to a prohibition on future targeted assassinations and on establishing the mechanisms mandating the opening of the Gaza crossings. The blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel in mid-2007 is nothing other than the collective punishment of the entire Gazan population, and hence a flagrant violation of Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention. If the ceasefire agreement is faithfully carried out the blockade will finally be brought to an end, after more than five years of punitive closure. Goods and persons will be able to flow in both directions across the borders between Israel and Gaza. This is unlikely to happen without concerted pressure from Israel’s neighbors. Israeli officials are whispering behind the scenes that nothing more was agreed upon, despite the clear language of the brief ceasefire text, beyond the cessation of the violence. The Israeli claim is that everything else was a mere pledge to discuss, without any obligation to act. Such a disappointing of the Palestinian expectations must not be allowed to happen. Without implementation of the full agreement, this ceasefire will evaporate in a cloud of smoke, the rockets soon will again fall on Israel, and Gaza will again become a killing field while the world once more looks on helplessly at this awful spectacle of an ultra-modern war machine killing and maiming at will, and once more terrifying with unforgiveable impunity the entire civilian population of Gaza.


Such a situation presents the regional and world community with both a responsibility and an opportunity. As I have suggested, without pressure brought to bear Israel is unlikely to implement the ceasefire. There are levers of influence that can be pulled, and if they are, it will convey a new seriousness on the part of Arab governments, to take concrete measures to enforce the international legal rights of the Palestinian people. States such as Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties with Israel that can be suspended due to fundamentally changed circumstances or diplomatic relations downgraded or even drawn into question. The more affluent Arab governments could commit to supplying UN agencies with funds to offset any refusals to pay the normal assessed financial contributions of Israel and its friends. There are many concrete steps that can be taken if the political will to do so is present.


Shockingly, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador at the United States, declared a few days ago that in this recent attack, ‘Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran.” He added that the attack on Gaza should be understood as ‘a rehearsal’ for militarily engaging Tehran. Such an acknowledgement is tantamount to a public confession by a high Israeli official to commit crimes against humanity, spilling Palestine blood so as to play what amounts to a war game to test how effective the Iron Dome would likely be in dealing with Iranian rockets expected to be released in the aftermath of an Israeli attack, if in fact Israel actually goes ahead with such a military venture at odds with the UN Charter.  


This assertion by someone of Ambassador Oren’s stature reinforces the call to the UN Human Rights Council to form a high level fact-finding mission to Gaza that evaluates allegations of war crimes on all sides of the struggle as was done with mixed results after the Gaza War of 2008-09. Such a step has been proposed in a letter of 22 November 2012 to Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, from the highly respected director of the Palestine Centre for Human Rights, Raji Sourani. I believe firmly that it is our responsibility as citizens of the world, and especially those of us associated with the UN, to do whatever necessary to avoid having flagrant violations of international humanitarian law being swept under the diplomatic rug. Further, it my hope that this time, unlike the unfortunate experience with the Goldstone Report four years ago, that whatever recommendations are made to the UN do not get buried beneath the weight of geopolitical influence, but are carried out in a timely and diligent manner. The UN to be credible and relevant to the aspirations of the Palestinian people must at this time move beyond its authoritative and oft repeated affirmation of inalienable Palestinian rights under international law to the undertaking of concrete steps designed to implement those rights.


Ambassador Oren’s comments are revealing in another way. They are an extreme example of Israel’s frequent reliance on ‘a politics of deflection’ to divert attention from their highest priority concerns. Such deflection takes various forms. On a simple level it means attacking the messenger to avoid the message, or claiming that the UN is biased so as to avoid discussing the abuses alleged. Such a pattern was epitomized by the recent unlawful and criminal attack on journalists in Gaza, in effect eliminating the messenger to prevent delivery of the message. On a more complex level it means shifting attention away from the real drama of the occupation. Periodic attacks on Gaza totally redirects the attention of the world away from Israel’s expansionist projects. It should be clear to all by now that Israel’s highest priorities in Occupied Palestine are associated with their controversial and unlawful settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel builds an unlawful security wall on occupied Palestinian territory, in the course of which it seizes additional Palestinian land, and when the World Court declares this unlawful wall should be torn down and Palestinians compensated for the harm done, Israel callously attacks the highest judicial body of the UN and carries on with its construction efforts without suffering any adverse effects.


Similarly, Israel continuously expands its settlements and has made a recent major move to legalize its approximately 100 ‘outposts,’ smaller settlements that had been previously illegal even under Israeli law. The attention of the world is guided toward Gaza, while settlement building gets a free pass. The passage of time is not neutral. For Israel is allows expansionist policies to move forward uninterrupted, for the Palestinians it diminishes ever further their prospects for realizing their primary goal of sovereign territorial statehood. It is part of the Palestinian tragedy that the international community and the media are so easily manipulated. Responsible action requires vigilance, and it is a positive step in this regard that the HRC authorized a fact-finding mission to assess the settlement phenomenon from the perspective of international law and human rights standards. This is a concrete step that represents an effort to refocus world attention where it belongs. Make no mistake. Every additional settler, every new settlement outpost, is one more nail in the coffin of the two state consensus.


In considering the Palestinian situation, it is misleading to become preoccupied, as is the case with the Western media, with pinning the blame on one side or the other for a particular breakdown of the precarious armed truce that exists. More relevant is an appreciation of the broader context. As Sara Roy, a Harvard specialist on Gaza, reminds us, “The current crisis is framed in terms devoid of any real context. The issue goes far beyond which side precipitated the terrible violence that has killed innocents on both sides. The issue—largely forgotten—is one of continued occupation and blockade, a grossly asymmetrical conflict that has deliberately disabled Gaza’s economy and people.” (Boston Globe, Nov. 23, 2012). This defining reality of the occupation applies, of course, to all of occupied Palestine, but the asymmetry of human loss is particularly evident in relation to Gaza, and is partly conveyed by a comparison of the grisly statistics of death: more than 160 Palestinians, and 5 Israelis. According to figures compiled by the Israeli human rights NGO, B’Tselem between the ceasefire established in January 2009 and the outbreak of this recent cycle of violence not a single Israeli had been killed, while Israeli violence was responsible for 271 Gazan deaths.


Looking at the overall casualty ratios, the Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, writing in Ha’aretz (25 Nov 2012), observes the following: “sometimes numbers do reflect reality, and this reality can no longer be ignored. Since the first Qassam rocket fell on Israel in April 2001, 59 Israelis have been killed –and 4,717 Palestinians. The numbers don’t lie, as they say in less lethal fields, and this proportion is horrifying.” It should help us realize that Israel had an alternative to this turn once more toward mass mechanized violence directed against an occupied people enduring a siege that is crippling its society materially and bringing the mental and physical health of the Gazan population to a point of near collapse.



In my role as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, I have tried to move in this proposed direction, that is, from rhetoric to action, in my most recent report to the General Assembly. I have recommended a boycott of those corporations that do business with unlawful Israeli settlements, naming several of the prominent corporations making profits in this unacceptable manner. We also voiced support for the ongoing international civil society campaigns of boycott originated by a coalition of Palestinian NGOs in a call that dates back to 2004. These are practical steps taken only after efforts by way of confidential communications with these corporations had failed to persuade them to live up to their legal and moral responsibilities to respect for human rights. This encouragement of civil society also recognizes that other political actors have failed to live up to their responsibility as members of the organized international community. When Israel a member state of the UN fails to cooperate and is guilty of persistent gross violations of international law, then something should be done in reaction. It is notable, and regrettable, that the most direct challenges to the unlawful blockade of Gaza have come, not from the UN or from member states in the region and beyond, but from civil society in the form of the Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla. It is equally notable that the most serious challenges to Israel’s archipelago of expanding settlements has been mounted by the BDS Campaign of solidarity with the Palestinian people and not by states or international institutions.


We should also remember Rachel Corrie, in this connection, an American peace activist who was brazenly killed by an Israel bulldozer almost ten years ago while trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah. Rachel was an idealistic young woman who pierced the dehumanizing myths surrounding the plight of the Palestinian people. In a letter to her mother back in Olympia, Washington Rachel just days before her death she wrote, “I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside.” It is such brave persons who bear witness to the daily ordeal being experienced by Palestinians, not just for days or months, or even years, but for decades and generations. It should not have been necessary for Rachel Corrie to sacrifice her life in this manner if the world system had done its job of enforcing the rights of the long oppressed Palestinian people. We who have witnessed and documented these realities of oppression must do our best to honor Rachel Corrie’s legacy.



The time has come for practical measures that back up UN assessments of Israeli unlawfulness.  This unlawfulness is sustaining a cruel and prolonged occupation of Palestine that has over time assumed the character of territorial expansionism coupled with an apartheid structure of control. As many as 600,000 Israeli settlers are fully protected by the Israeli rule of law while Palestinian residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem are held captive decade after decade without rights and without the protection of law. Such conditions are often worsened by prison detentions and lifelong confinement in refugee camps, either within Palestine or in neighboring countries. It is an intolerable status quo, and has been for a period spanning several generations of Palestinians. The international community recently, with much fanfare, avowed ‘the responsibility to protect’ as a new international norm intended to guide the UN in responding to situations of humanitarian catastrophe. Only the maliciousness of geopolitics can explain why the people of Palestine, and especially the residents of Gaza, have not been given the protection that they so desperately need, and deserve. It seems time to challenge this maliciousness in the name of peace and justice, and the

dignity of a people whose inalienable right of self-determination has been too long denied. A starting point might be the deployment of UN peacekeepers to monitor adherence to the ceasefire. The Palestinians are the most glaring example in this post-colonial era of a people who have not managed to gain their independence and national sovereignty despite almost 65 years of struggle, strife, and humiliation.


Prolonged occupation is a special condition that deserves a special recognition that it has not yet received. The occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza since 1967 exacts a terrible cost from the captive population. The framework provided by international humanitarian law, while helpful in situations of short term occupation, falls far short of its claims to offer the protection needed when an occupation extends beyond ten years. One aspect of occupation is to silence those who represent the people of such a society. The UN General Assembly is being given an opportunity to take belated account of this situation on this very day by recognizing and acknowledging Palestinian statehood, something 132 governments have already done by establishing diplomatic relations with Palestine. The very least that a people living for more than 45 years under occupation deserve is this right of access to the institutions of the world to present their grievances on a global stage, to have a voice, and if not a full-fledged seat at the tables of decision, at least a stool. Let us hope that the UN General Assembly will give us all something positive to celebrate on this International Day of Solidarity.


Let me bring these remarks to a close with several observations:

–I think the most important lesson that can be learned by all sides is that political violence is not the answer. It brings neither security nor liberation. Such learning is particularly important for the militarily superior side that often wrongly associates its future security with a willingness to make use of its military dominance. What recent history has shown, and not only in relation to Israel/Palestine, is that political outcomes are at sharp odds with military outcomes. The United States essentially won every battle in Vietnam yet lost the war. An Afghan saying makes the same point: “you have the watches, we have the time.”


What follows from this is obvious: if political violence begets more political violence, then it is time for the stronger side to turn to diplomacy, compromise, respect for law and rights. Until Israel appreciates that its security can only be achieved by turning to peaceful means, there will be insecurity for both Israelis and Palestinians, the dance of death will go on. It was only when the British made this switch that the conflict in Northern Ireland changed from being ‘irreconcilable’ to becoming ‘negotiable,’ and a substantial peace followed.


This is a time when the test of solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people needs to be expressed by deeds, by walking the walk, no longer being content with talking the talk. It is time for civil society actors throughout the world to lend robust support to the BDS Campaign. It is time for governments to consider the sort of economic sanctions so effectively imposed on the South African apartheid regime. It is time for the UN to accord recognition of statehood to any people that has been occupied for more than ten years starting with the people of Palestine. It is time for the members of the Quartet, which includes the UN, the EU, Russia, and the United States to explain to the world how it imagines a Palestinian state to be possible in light of Israel’s continued settlement expansion and the related determined attempt to give East Jerusalem a distinctly Jewish character. Without such an explanation it is bad faith, and a trap for the Palestinians, to urge a return to another diversionary round of negotiations, a roadmap to nowhere!


In other words, it is time for us finally, wherever and whoever we are, to act responsibly toward the Palestinian people. The great Jewish religious teacher, Abraham Heschel, expressed this sentiment with memorable words: “Few are guilty, all are responsible.”


I want to give the last words to the extraordinary Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, some lines from his long prophetic poem, “Silence for Gaza,”

written in 2007, but more relevant today than when written. These lines refer to the plight of Gaza, but they apply as well to all Palestinians, whether living under the yoke of occupation, in refugee camps, or consigned to an involuntary diaspora throughout the world:


            Enemies might triumph over Gaza (the storming sea might triumph

            Over an island…they might chop down all its trees)


            They might break its bones.

            They might implant tanks on the insides of its children and women.

            They might throw it into the sea, sand, or blood

            But it will not repeat the lies and say ‘Yes’ to invaders.

            It will continue to explode

            It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it

            deserves to live. It will continue to explode.

            It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it

            deserves to live.


                        [translated by Sinan Antoon from Hayrat al-‘A’id (“The Returnees  Perplexity, Riyad al-Rayyis, 2007]

27 Responses to “Observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in Cairo”

  1. Fred Skolnik November 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    I think, Professor Falk, that the problem with human language is that it is possible to present a distorted picture of reality in sentences that observe the rules of grammar and therefore “sound” correct. This is what you are doing in essence. You can thus say that terrorists are freedom fighters, self-defense is aggression, Jews are usurpers, Israelis are Nazis, and each of these statements will seem to make sense. Certainly you won’t be challenged in Cairo. All you have to do to make such arguments is to omit whatever contradicts them. You then get a “clean” page with all inconvenient truths edited out. What you are editing out in your version of the Arab-Israel conflict is the historical and unbroken connection of the Jewish people with the Land of Israel, the legitimacy of the State of Israel as a sovereign nation, the unwillingness of the Arabs to accept this legitimacy, the wars the Arabs have initiated “to drive the Jews into the sea,” the thousands of terrorist acts they have committed against innocent people, the unflagging determination of the terrorists to destroy the State of Israel, and the refusal of the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. As I have said many times before, you are not doing the Palestinians any kind of service by legitimizing their terrorism, bolstering their intransigence and feeding their fantasies. You and they may win a few rhetorical victories but the losers will always be the Palestinians themselves, until they renounce violence, show a real willingness to compromise, and liberate themselves from the kind of rhetoric that you habitually engage in. That is what you should be encouraging them to do.

    • monalisa November 30, 2012 at 12:29 am #

      to Fred Skolnik:

      are you unable to bear the truth ?

      The truth is too much blatant and your own “rhetoric” just points towards your wishful thinking.

      Freedom fighters are those people who want their homeland is free of oppressors and invaders, free from phosphoric bombs, drones and house demolitions, just free to be able to plant olive trees which aren’t permanently stolen.

      Meanwhile almost the whole world is aware what is going on inside Palestine. The whole world knows that Palestinians are oppressed, murdered openly and without hesitation from Israel’s side.

      Facts are facts.


    • Ray Joseph Cormier November 30, 2012 at 5:00 am #

      The Palestinians under Abbas renounced violence and still their homes are being destroyed, “Jews only” roads exist, and the occupied people are still having their land stolen from under them and subjected to daily humiliations. Non violence has not stopped Israel from the violence done to the Palestinian people.

      • monalisa November 30, 2012 at 5:49 am #

        to Ray Joseph Cormier:

        even if Israel doesn’t abandon its meanwhile well known evil activity against oppressed Palestinians as well as other minorities within its territory as well as occupied territority far too many countries are aware of its illdoing.

        In my opinion Israel’s politicans don’t act wisely at all.
        It seems that its politicans are obsessed with the idea they can do what they want murder other groups of people as long as they want and will get away with it.
        The result could be extremely fateful for them.
        Celestial mills work slowly maybe however, history is full of it.
        Ignorance and arrogance are the branches countries fell.


  2. rehmat1 November 30, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    Arab League, just like the United Nations – is an international advocacy forum serving the imperial powers. Arab League has no love for the plights of Palestinian people. On the other hand, AL is is supporting Western regime changes in the Muslim capitals which support Palestinian resistance, like Iran, Syria, Sudan, Hizballah and others.
    The Palestinian Authority (PA) is a dead horse, as veteran British journalist and author Alan Hart said recently. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is a known double agent. His mandate expired in January 2009.
    The recent 8-day Israeli attacks on Gaza has confirmed that Palestinians will never achieve their national dignity or statehood with non-violent struggle. European Jews stole the land by terrorism and they will only return some of it through military resistance.
    The Palestinians and their supporters who still believe that Washington will help them to establish even a tiny statelet – should listen to Obama’s former national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski’s recent speech in which he called Americans “Stupid Israeli Mules”.

  3. Rabbi Ira Youdovin November 30, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    An Open Letter to Prof. Falk

    As I Jew and a Zionist, I welcome yesterday’s vote of the UN General Assembly resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood on land occupied by Israel in 1967. Mine is by no means a lone voice. More than a few Jews and Jewish NGO’s in Israel and the Diaspora support the resolution, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

    The resolution explicitly endorses the concept of a two-state formula for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the independent states of Palestine and Israel living side-by-side in peaceful co-existence. It implicitly rejects Hamas’ refusal to accept Israel as a permanent reality in the Middle East, which Hamas pointedly reaffirmed through its spokesman Salah al-Bardaweel,: “We do not recognize Israel, nor the partition of Palestine, and Israel has no right in Palestine…Getting our membership in the U.N. bodies is our natural right, but without giving up any inch of Palestine’s soil.”

    You have repeatedly demanded that Israel and the United States recognize Hamas as a legitimate actor. But what constructive role can Hamas play if its raison d’etre is in radical conflict with commitments the Palestinian Authority has made in demanding and accepting the resolution with wording that was not jammed down their throat, but was requested by them.

    Like you, I, hope that Hamas and Fatah will reconcile at the earliest possible moment. Israel cannot and should not be asked to negotiate with both—as you demanded in a previous post—any more than Russia or England or Naru should be required to negotiate separately with Democrats and Republicans. But unless that reconciliation entails an affirmation of commitment to the format of “two states for two peoples,” it will discredit the legitimacy of the PA’s appeal for UN recognition, and condemn Israelis and Palestinians to more years of bloodshed.

    To date, you have resisted criticizing anything Palestinian. Perhaps the time has come for you to re-assess whether or not this approach helps the Palestinian people. Toward the conclusion of your Cairo speech, you call upon Israel, as the stronger of the two parties, to turn from military force to diplomacy. But why not say the same thing to Hamas, which indiscriminately hurls rockets at civilian neighbors, not only during wartime, but ceaselessly over a period of years? Part of the greatness of Ghandi and Dr. King is that they demanded of their own people the same standard of conduct they demanded of their enemies. Theirs is an example worth emulating.

    Apropos, your approach on this blog and elsewhere is relentless condemnation of Israel and its supporters, primarily American Jews and the government of the United States . You doubtlessly believe that all of your allegations are valid, and that they were essential to the cause of bringing Palestine to the attention of world leaders. But whatever efficacy this strategy may have had in the past, it is now dangerously counter-productive. The U.N. resolution envisions peaceful co-existence, which can be achieved only through reconciliation, a process that entails building mutual understanding and finding common ground. Your Cairo speech, replete with accusations and recollections of past incidents, works in precisely the opposite direction. Old hurts need not be forgotten or forgiven. But they do need to be overcome.

    Your proposal for creating a Goldstone Commission clone to “investigate” alleged Israeli crimes during Operation Pillar of Defense is also ill-advised. The U.N. has opened a window of opportunity for progress toward peace and reconciliation. A Goldstone-clone investigation and subsequent recriminations would inevitably be a distraction and potentially fatal obstacle. (I appreciate that many readers of this blog will condemn this as a cheap trick for shielding Israel. However, a significant precedent can be found in Nelson Mandela’s exercise of restraint in similar circumstances.)

    Finally, both Israel and the Palestinians need to evaluate what they really want and need in a peace agreement, moving from rhetoric to reality The U.N. resolution is deliberately vague on borders, saying only that the borders of the new Palestinian state be drawn “on the basis” of the 1967 borders. Some will read this as demanding total Israeli withdrawal. But that’s not what resolution calls for. It calls for negotiations

    There is good reason for this. The 1967 borders, also called the Green Line, was nothing more than an armistice line marking where Israeli and Arab forces stood when they halted their fighting in 1949. Because it was not a negotiated international border, it included flaws that would have been addressed by negotiators poring over maps. These flaws can now be negotiated on the basis of the 1967 lines, which will need to be modified to meet Israel’s security requirements, but in accordance with the U.N. resolution’s requiremeht that Palestine be “contiguous and viable”, and with Israel providing “land swaps” from inside the Green Line to compensate for land lost by the Palestinians as a result of these modifications, a concept already proposed by Mr. Netanyahu.

    In contrast, insisting on return to the 1967 borders is a non-starter. In addition to restoring indefensible borders, as noted above, it would require relocating several hundred thousand people, which is a lethal disincentive. Under any circumstances, the Likud government will have to halt settlement expansion, abandon legal maneuvers to legalize under Israeli law dozens of very small settlements scattered far deep into the West Bank, and be prepared to dismantle other settlements according to the criteria stated above. But if the objective is creating a viable and contiguous Palestine for the future, not returning to 1948, this challenge is not so daunting as it may appear. David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has compiled maps demonstrating that 80 percent of the settlers live on 5 percent of the West Bank in communities close to the Green Line. These maps are available on-line.

    A similar cooperative approach could yield agreement on other issues, including the particularly difficult matter of refugee repatriation. Insisting on return to the actual homes they or their forebears occupied in 1948 is a non-starter. After 65 years, many of those structures no longer exist. And allowing huge numbers of Palestinians to settle in Israel would be Israel’s “death by demographics.” However, Netanyahu and his government have offered the refugees unlimited repatriation to the new State of
    Palestine, with compensation for the homes they lost.

    Prof. Falk, there is a choice to be made here: it’s between seeking peace through reconciliation, or continuing the struggle through angry rhetoric and what has been characterized as “lawfare”. If the latter, Shakespeare’s celebrated prescription in “Henry VI” is apt—although not be taken personally or literally.

    Perhaps more fitting are the words of a great religious teacher and social activist, Rabbi Joshua Heschel, with which you conclude your remarks in Cairo, and which I now re-direct to you: ”Few are guilty; all are responsible.”

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

  4. peripamir December 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    As monalisa says, facts are facts. There must be something İsrael is not doing right for the majority of the people of the world to perceive events the way they do, unless all these people are somehow either stupid or biased or anti-Semitic… Could that be possible ?

    • Ray Joseph Cormier December 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      The Jews who were once the oppressed, now that they have the weapons and economic control, have become the oppressors. In spite of all the trials God brought them through, still have not learned the fundamental lesson.

      Gaza is an open air prison-Ghetto under Israeli control as the Nazis controlled the Warsaw and other Jewish Ghettos in Europe. Now that they have power, the Jews did not learn, but commit the same mistakes with another weaker people, blind and oblivious to the fact what they are doing Today, is like the Nazis behaved in Time Past with them.

      It was Israel that broke the Truce with Hamas on November 5, 2008 that held for 6 months prior to an Israeli incursion into Gaza violating the terms of the Truce. Because of the Israeli breach, Hamas then resumed rocket fire into Israel.

      All of this was done while the world was preoccupied with the Global Financial Meltdown-Economic Pearl Harbour-Tsunami of September 2008. Because of the murderous ferocity of the Israeli air and ground campaign of Operation Cast Lead was, Israel hoped it was the Jewish version of the “Final Solution” to the “Gaza problem.”

      Israel, having a more refined and practised Propaganda machine, convinced the world it was Hamas who started it without questioning.

    • Rabbi ira Youdovin December 2, 2012 at 4:09 am #

      Dear peripamir,

      I admire the integrity and moderation of your post, and will endeavor to respond to this one in the same spirit in which it was written.

      As you might have surmised from my earlier posts, I believe Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza should end, and do not support many of the policies of the current Israeli government. In this regard, I agree with monalisa when she writes that “In my opinion Israel’s politicians don’t act wisely at all…”

      However, in her praise for Palestinian “freedom fighters”, she omits the fact that Operation Pillar of Defense was a response to ceaseless bombing of Israeli civilians by cells inside Gaza, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose intent unambiguously stated in Hamas’ Charter, is not only to end the Occupation, but to annihilate Israel. Monalisa is not to blame from this omission. Her source is Prof. Falk, who recklessly dismisses Hamas’ solemn words as a “vague aspiration.”

      In fact, Hamas states this aim with absolute conviction, and is armed by Iran and others to pursue its goal. On the day the U.N. formally recognized Palestinian statehood on the West Bank and Gaza, thus rejecting Hamas’ intention to overturn the UN’s 1947 partition resolution, Hamas spokesman Salah al-Bardaweel said: “We do not recognize Israel, nor the partition of Palestine, and Israel has no right in Palestine…Getting our membership in the U.N. bodies is our natural right, but without giving up any inch of Palestine’s soil.”

      Unquestionably, some actions by Israeli soldiers and civilian settlers in the Occupied Territories are unlawful. Some are exceedingly cruel. These are regularly cited by Israeli human rights NGO’s, freely reported in the Israeli press, and, if indicated, brought to the attention of civil and military courts. However, the accounts of alleged Israeli atrocities found on this blog, and in the Arab press, are most often grossly exaggerated or entirely fabricated. What monalisa calls “facts” are not facts. Words like “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” appear regularly. Neither is applicable. “Genocide” means annihilating an entire race, religion or nation. “Ethnic cleansing” means driving an entire race, religion or nation from its land. The Palestinian population in Israel has grown since 1948. The Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories has grown since 1967. As one Israeli leader put it, “If we’re attempting genocide or ethnic cleansing we’re doing a very poor job of it.”

      In response to your question: “[why do] the majority of the people of the world to perceive events the way they do, unless all these people are somehow either stupid or biased or anti-Semitic… Could that be possible?” I want to make two points.

      1. After the Nazi Holocaust, one cannot dismiss the role of anti-Semitism. And while I don’t say that people are “stupid”, I do believe that many are uninformed or misinformed. I include in this category numbers of Jews who mistakenly see all Palestinians as being terorists.

      2. Do you really know how the “people of the world” perceive these events? Do you have polling data? To be sure, a vast majority of Arabs and Middle East Muslims regard Israel as a vile and unwanted presence in the Arab Middle East. (This view is reflected in Prof. Falk’s posts, and in the comments of many of his followers.) And there is significant opposition to Israeli policy in Europe. But if you say that a majority of the world’s people see Israel as the personification of evil or, as Hitler put it, “a race polluting the bloodstreams of Europe, I’d say that your perception is incorrect.

      Often overlooked is a significant nuance in the UN resolution on Palestinian statehood. It explicitly limits the new state to land acquired by Israel in 1967. The pre-1967 Israel is not to be touched by Hamas or anyone else. Whatever a majority of the world’s people are said to think, a substantial number of their representatives to the UN voted to reaffirm their commitment to a sovereign Jewish State of Israel.

      Thanks for your attention and consideration. These are greatly appreciated.

      Rabbi Ira Youdovin

  5. Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Some weeks ago, Fred Skolnik observed that most of the people posting on this blog are not pro-Palestinian but anti-Israel, including a disturbing number whose posts reflect anti-Semitism. The Palestinians are referenced only as victims of alleged Israeli criminal acts. Their future as a national and people seems irrelevant. Sounds crazy? But it’s true

    In the nearly three days since the United Nations overwhelmingly endorsed Palestinian statehood, only one post on this blog made reference to this historic event. Palestinians dance on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza. But on this blog there is only indifference. Meanwhile Monalisa, rehmat1, Ray Joseph Cormier, et al go about their business as usual, trashing Israel, as if nothing of any importance happened.

    Incredibly the one post that praised and welcomed the UN resolution was written by a Zionist, which makes him part of an international colonialist conspiracy, and a Jew, who, to quote Walker Percy learned scholarship, is the product of generations of abusing fathers and crazed mothers going back to biblical times.

    My post opened with the words:

    “As I Jew and a Zionist, I welcome yesterday’s vote of the UN General Assembly resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood on land occupied by Israel in 1967.”

    On this blog with its pretenses of being pro-Palestinian, one would not have expected mine to be a lone voice, but it is.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Ray Joseph Cormier December 2, 2012 at 5:08 am #

      Rabbi, it is possible to be pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli. The purpose of this comment is to be pro-Rabbi Ira Youdovin in the way you express yourself in this discussion even when you take exception to what another expresses.

      I pray to Almighty God both Israel and the Palestinians should enter Good Faith negotiations and discuss calmly and patiently without rancor as you exemplify, in resolving all outstanding issues as descendents and co-heirs of Abraham. The roots of this conflict go that far back.

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

        Dear Ray Joseph Cormier,

        Thank you. Your generous words mean a lot to me.

        I should note, however, that a majority of Jews in Israel and throughout the world favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is the essence of the two-state solution, which sees Palestine, as an independent living side-by-side in peaceful co-existence with Israel. Polls show that it is supported by majorities in Israel, Palestine and Diaspora Jewish communiities.

        Throuble is that leaders on both sides of the conflict can’t manage to get their act together.

        Once again, many thanks.


      • Ray Joseph Cormier December 3, 2012 at 7:30 am #

        Rabbi, In terms of True Democratic Representation, there are problems with the 1st past the post system, and the proportional representation system.

        CanaDa is a good example of the UN-Democratic and perverse result of 1st past the post. In the April 2011 Canadian election, 40% of the electorate did not bother to vote to support the Harper Conservatives. Of those who did vote, 40% did support the Conservatives, but 60% of the electorate voted against the Conservatives. The Conservatives claim to have an overwhelming mandate from the Canadian electorate.

        There is no denying the 1st past the post system gave the Conservatives a majority with a minority of the votes. That is the Democratic system, but it it Representative Democracy?

        I believe the majority in Israel favour a two state solution but that is only wishful thinking without the concrete steps necessary to make it a reality.

        In observing the world’s Democratic proportional representative systems, coalitions of compromise are essential to the proper functioning of the State.

        The problem in Israel is the competing mainstream parties who do represent the majority wishing for the Peaceful, viable two State solution and might take the difficult Trust Building steps with the Palestinians, are always high jacked by the extreme minor religious parties needed to form a coalition with the centrist parties. Again the minority has the power over the majority.

        But if the people were to remove their rose tinted glasses, they would understand in this world, no matter the Party name or promises, once in power, it is the rich who call the shots.

        In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.”

        This transcends the traditional, ritual religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and even Atheism. This takes Individual action, not wishful thinking, not leaving it up to others to do.

        As Mother Teresa recognized, “You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.”


  6. peripamir December 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Dear Rabbi Youdovin,

    My first comment is that i did refer to the GA vote, but placed the remark in Richard Falk’s previous posting on Gaza where i also wrote a longer commentary you may not have seen. Just because people didn’t comment to this event on this blog does not imply indifference in my view.

    Secondly, why do you put words in my mouth ?

    When did i say or imply that people believed İsrael to be “a personification of evil”, or that it did not deserve to exist as a sovereign state ?

    These are extreme positions few would support.

    However i would wager that most people perceive Israel’s policies towards Palestinians to be supremely aggressive and highly unjust. This does not necessarily excuse Hamas’ stance towards İsrael, but given the cycle of violence and the desperate situation Gaza finds itself in, described even by IDF soldiers themselves as “an open air prison”, it unfortunately explains it. History is replete with instances of occupied peoples lashing out at their occupiers by all means possible, and of the latter mercilessly crushing those attempts.

    Whatever our respective perspectives, we all hope for a permanent solution of some kind. But what despairs some of us is the belief that İsrael has no intention of ever supporting a two-state solution. This impression is reinforced each time the İsraeli government announces its decision to build a new set of settlements in the occupied territories as it just did, barely 24 hours after the GA vote, which even drew US disapprove. For someone who says he does not support İsrael’s occupation of the WBank and Gaza, do you not think such decisions send the wrong kind of impression across the world and, especially to the Palestinians themselves ?

    i certainly don’t agree with you about people being misinformed. Thats a pretty arrogant presumption. And İ don’t know about anti-Semitism as İ personally abhor any form of racism. But what i observe is that İsrael is definitely attracting a lot of antipathy upon itself with the policies it is pursuing.

    • Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Dear peripamir,

      Much or your response is to things I never wrote nor implied.

      1. Where do I criticize you for not mentioning the U.N. resolution?

      2. I never said you believe Israel to be evil. As I clearly stated, that was a reference to monalisa’s post. However, your comment on that was “monalisa has the facts.” Yes, it is an extreme position that few would support. But more than a few of those who do post on this blog, rehmat1, and Walker Percy among them. I might add that Prof. Falk has never written anything but condemnation of Israel on this blog—I mean that literally. And he has called Israelis “Nazis”. That pretty much casts Israel as the personification of Israel. All his past posts are on available on-line. You can check it.

      3. I regret that you know nothing about anti-Semitism (your words). How can anyone understand the history of the 20th century without knowing about the Nazi Holocaust?

      4. You can “wager that most people perceive Israel’s policies towards Palestinians to be supremely aggressive and highly unjust,” but without statistical proof, you’d have a hard time collecting on your bet. I simply don’t know what “most people” think; and neither do you. This is not to say that I endorse the occupation. I don’t. Nor do I deny that aspects of it are cruel and must be terminated. But I object to the tendency among people on thus on blog and elsewhere to assert that their perspective is shared by most other people. That, my friend, is arrogant!

      5 That a substantial percentage of any human population is uniformed or misinformed on anything is standard thinking among those who study these patterns. I include many supporters of Israel who are unaware of positive developments in the Palestinian community.

      5. I totally agree with you that Israel’s announcement of plans to build 3000 housing units in the e-1 sector near Jerusalem was precisely the wrong thing to do. I’m currently on my way home from a meeting of a majpr American Jewish organization which adopted a resolution that said just that.

      Despite these misunderstandings, I continue to admire you for your integrity and moderation.

      Rabbi Ira Youdovin

  7. monalisa December 3, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    to Rabbi Ira Youdovin:

    I have one question only to you:

    what would you do if you are living in an open air prison, fenced by an extremely big wall and military patrolling permanently and having children. There is not enough clean drinking water, not enough to eat, not enough seed to plant anything and neither enough medicial treatment facilities nor medicine.

    Would you just sit and pray ? Or what would you do ? Wating until your children die ?

    Or would you looking after the tiniest thing to bring our world community to some awareness that there is something rotten with the occupier of your place/country ?

    So what would you do ????

    Rabbi: Since I read you posts in this blog I was hoping to find at least some tiny words/sentence of wisdom. Unfortunately I found nothing till today.
    Hopefully you will get some glimpse of the light of wisdom before it is too late – considering that you are just a few years older than me.

    Just for your info: to me it doesn’t matter which belief a person has. Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim or Mosaic belief of the Jews. To me it is important to see the integrity of the personality, to see the wisdom of the human law expressed that we all are just one. We have only this earth to live on. And this for hundreds of years to come, maybe even thousands.
    The wisdom that whatever the individual belief is the whole of our humankind is considered the important factor.


    • Fred Skolnik December 3, 2012 at 7:01 am #

      Dear monalisa

      I am not replying for Rabbi Youdovin, but what I would do is to get rid of my leaders and throw their rockets into the sea. Then suddenly I would discover that there are no walls and no blockade. The next thing I would do is negotiate a settlement with Israel. That is what I would do. Believe me, it’s worth trying, because anything is better than living in an open-air prison.

    • Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      Dear Monalisa,

      You ask an important question. Fred Skolnik has already given an excellent answer. Allow me to add a few thoughts of my own.

      You ask, what would I do were I a Gazan?

      I suppose I would begin to asking myself some questions:

      1. Why are we still at war with Israel when seven years ago, Israel removed all Israeli settlers and military personnel from Gaza? Not one remained. The Israeli government characterized this as giving the Palestinians an opportunity to develop an effective and peaceful government with no outside interference. Why didn’t we take advantage of the opportunity?

      2. Why did Gazans tear down the greenhouses, residential and commercial buildings the departing settlers left intact as a goodwill gesture and asset to help them revive their economy?

      3. Why, in national elections held a year later, the Palestinians, given a choice between Fatah, which advocates peaceful co-existence with Israel, and Hamas, which advocates Israel’s destruction, chose the latter—knowing that Hamas’ record of terrorism and stated intention to destroy Israel would precipitate an embargo to block rockets and other lethal weapons from entering the District?

      4. Why, in 2007, did the Gazans stand by idly while Hamas staged a bloody coup and drove Fatah from Gaza? A short while later, Hamas began using Gaza as a launching pad for hundreds of rockets raining down fear and terror on civilian men, women and children living in southern Israel. Why didn’t we stop them?

      5. Why didn’t the Gazans realize that the Israeli government, bearing the responsibility to protect its citizens, would have no choice but to stage a counter-attack?

      6. Why, following Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) did the Gazans again stand by idly while Hamas smuggled thousands of Iran and Syrian-made rockets into Gaza? Why didn’t they realize that the continued shelling of Israeli civilians would make a second Israeli counter-attack inevitable?

      7. Why do the Gazans not protest when Hamas stores rockets and positions rocket launchers inside their homes, guaranteeing that there will be civilian casualties to show on television to raise the world’s sympathy?

      8. Why do Gazans tell outright lies, such as accusing Israel of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing? In fact, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates the annual growth rate at 3.3% and predicts that the population will double in 21 years. This figures is substantially greater than the’s UN estimates the world’s current average population growth is 1.17%. If Israel is committing genocide and ethnic cleansing, it isn’t doing a very good job of it.

      9. Why don’t the Gazans confront Hamas and tell them to leave and allow them to live in peace. As Fred Skolnik notes, when Hamas stills its guns and removes its weapons, Israel will open the transit points and remove the blockade—and life in Gaza will return to what it was on September 12, 2005, the day the last Israeli settler and soldier left Gaza.

      Please note that I’m not making any of this up. It can all be fact-checked on Google and elsewhere.

      Please note, also, that I’m not claiming that Israel is blameless. Far from it. But your one-sided perspective absolves the Palestinians of any responsibility for the tragically sad situation in Gaza. This is both inaccurate and unhelpful to the Gazans, who must be made aware of the consequences of their actions.

      I hope this answers the very important question you ask.


      Rabbi Ira Youdovin

  8. Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 5, 2012 at 5:42 am #

    Dear Joseph Ray Cormier,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post on electoral politics. (But why do it capitalize the D in CanaDa? Does that D/d key on your computer stick?)

    No electoral system is perfect. In the US, which does not have a parliamentary system but does have an electoral college, it’s possible to be elected president without winning the popular vote (i.e. Gore vs. Bush). Israel’s system is more complicated than most, because its demographics are more complicated than most.

    Israel’s system of proportional representation (all voters choose from among slates of candidates proposed by the various parties. Every voter sees the same list. Every voter casts one vote. The number of seats each party wins in the Knesset [Parliament] is determined by the percentage of the total votes its slate receives—btw, I’m aware that you know these details but other readers may not). This format is dictated by two factors:

    1. Israel is a small state where regional differences do not dictate political interests (as they do in the US, where we have agricultural states, industrialized states, etc.) In Israel, political interests transcend geography. For example, the kibbutzim, which are everywhere throughout the country, favor a socialist economic policy. Were electoral districts drawn geographically, their vote would be eclipsed by the larger non-kibbutz vote in their district. Taken collectively, they elect several Knesset members.

    The system could work to the advantage of Palestinian Israelis, whose right to vote is the same as all Israeli citizens. Comprising 20% of Israel’s population, they could hold 24 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, which would constitute the second largest Knesset bloc and make them strong players in Israeli politics—which would be good for Israel. Regrettably, few Palestinian Arabs vote, which is another example of ill-advised guidance from their inept leadership.

    2. After two millennium of political impotence, Israel’s founders thought it essential to have an electoral system which afforded a maximum number of voters the satisfaction of feeling that their voice had been heard. This doesn’t happen in a winner-take-all system such as in the United States. In the recent election, nearly half the voters voted for Romney but came away with nothing. This doesn’t happen in Israel.

    The negative side is that the system encourages a multiplicity of parties (more than two dozen in the last election) capable of winning a handful of seats, and hoping that these will be needed by the plurality party seeking to put together a governing coalition of at least 61 seats. This sometimes gives small, single-issue parties inordinate clout in determining coalition policy. As I said, no system is perfect.

    This being said, I must disagree with your pessimism over the possibility of achieving a two-state solution. Whatever its defects might be, the Israeli electoral system has produced three of the last four prime ministers committed to a two-state solution (Rabin, Barak and Olmert…Netanyahu is the exception). But Netanyahu’s Likud party didn’t receive the largest vote. That went to Kadima, which favors a two-state solution. Netanyahu was able to form a coalition by attracting several parties which have no strong commitment to expanding settlements, but were attracted by Likud’s economic and domestic social policies.

    All of this is happening in a context of Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution. Fatah favors it, but the far stronger Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction (despite Prof. Falk’s cynical apologetics on the matter). So long as the Palestinians do not repudiate the rejectionism of Hamas and smaller groups such as Islamic Jihad, the Israeli peace camp has little traction in coalition politics. When a ray of hope appears from the Palestinians, the Israeli electorate will respond positively.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

  9. Beau Oolayforos November 10, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    Reading your pieces now, they sound like what you observe about Darwish’s poetry, that they are even more relevant today than when written – unfortunately, since recent history has borne out some of your worst fears, we can only hope that the future will ultimately fulfill your positive visions. I join with the millions who wish you Many Happy Returns, and think of the Sanskrit poet –

    …out on the creator that he was too stingy
    to give such men a thousand years of life…

    • Richard Falk November 10, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

      Such high praise however undeserved I receive as a blessing on the days just before my birthday!
      Especially appreciated as I studied Sanskrit for two years and once was fortunate enough to have
      dinner with Darwish. Thanks so much for touching these deep roots of my being!

      • Beau Oolayforos November 14, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

        And for my part, I feel deeply grateful, not only for being instructed about momentous issues in our time and in History, but also for being allowed to join in discussions of same. The quotation is from verse #1242 of Vidyakara’s “Treasury”, as translated by DHH Ingalls, Harvard Press, 1972, Lib. of Cong. #67-29627….the glories of the Gupta, no?

  10. Beau Oolayforos November 15, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Oops – pardon – Vidyakara lived long after the Gupta period


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