Why the United Nations Matters (even for the Palestinians)

18 Jan


There are many reasons for persons with very different worldviews to feel disillusioned by, if not angry at, the United Nations. These negative feelings arise usually because the UN stands idly by the sidelines while terrible national and human tragedies unfold as the world media visually narrates horrific events in real time. At other times the hostile feelings toward the UN arise because the Organization is seen as a plaything of geopolitics, as bowing to crude leverage wielded by major funding governments, and in the process violating the letter and spirit of the UN Charter. Such behavior undermines the UN’s constitutional foundations and casts doubt on the central claim that the Organization is dedicated to the cause of war prevention.


No people have more reason to be disappointed with the UN, international law, and the precepts of international morality than do the people of Palestine. From the moment the UN was established up until the present moment, the Palestinians have been victimized either by the use of the UN to pursue geopolitical goals or by the inability of the UN to implement its own decisions and assessments that are responsive to Palestinian grievances or supportive of Palestinian aspirations.


Obviously, there is present a world order puzzle that needs solving. Many believe, especially here in the United States, that it is Israel that is the victim of UN bashing and bias, being singled out at the UN for continuous censure and criticism, and it is the Palestinians that have over the years received aid and comfort in the halls of the UN for their contentions, however inflammatory. For our dualistic Western minds, incapable of reconciling opposites, something must be wrong. It seems impossible for both the Palestinians and Israelis to be both victimized at the UN.


Yet this is precisely the case. The Palestinians are victimized because the UN doesn’t mean what is says, at least not on the plane of action. The UN gives the Palestinians the pabulum of words, while refraining from the reality of deeds, which over time gives rise to resentment and cynicism summarized by the sentiment: ‘what good are words, if nothing happens, and the situation on the ground even deteriorates.


At the same time, partly in reaction to this sense of impotence when it comes to imposing its views effectively on behavior, the UN slaps, sometimes strongly, the defiant Israelis. And the Israelis, never above playing the anti-Semitic card, keep telling the world that they are singled out for bashing even though their wrongs are far less bad than that of others. Of course, never far in the background is the weight of geopolitics, with the United States wielding a punitive stick on Israel’s behalf.


History needs to be taken into account in sifting through the complexities of argument and counter-argument carried on now for decades about the performance of the UN in relation to Palestinians and Israelis. With respect to the geopolitical explanation of Palestinian disillusionment, the UN already in 1946 accepted the responsibility to supersede the United Kingdom, which had been administering Palestine on behalf of the international community since the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I., in working out a solution on behalf of the two peoples. Yet instead of consulting the resident population of Palestine on its wishes with respect to the implementation of the right of self-determination, the UN on its own initiative proposed an Orientalizing solution that gave Israel 55% of Palestine despite less than 33% of the population being Jewish. This demographic disparity existed despite several decades of Jewish immigration spurred by energetic Zionist efforts around the world as well as by the British, eager for strategic reasons of their own to carry out the Balfour pledge of 1917. Jewish immigration was also greatly encouraged by the rise of Nazism, which intensified the search for a sanctuary that could protect Jews, especially those fleeing Hitler’s Germany.


Then to compound this imposition of a settler colonialist outcome, repugnant from the outset to the majority Arab population, the UN proceeded in 1948 to accept Israel as a member of the UN without first making obligatory provision to ensure an equitable future for the Palestinian people. This flawed UN response to the end of the British mandate has been compounded by years of Israeli expansionism, especially since 1967. Such an internationally tilted outcome reflected intense liberal guilt toward Jews in the aftermath of the Holocaust combined with the skill and tactics of the Zionist movement in influencing the Jewish diaspora as well as government policy in Europe and North America. It was an early demonstration of geopolitics triumphing over international law and global justice within the UN. It should not be forgotten that the UN was established in ways that gave leading states a geopolitical comfort zone, more familiarly known as ‘the veto,’ a blunt instrument for opting out of responsibilities, and useful to protect friends and batter enemies.


Turning to the impotence of the UN when it comes to its resolutions and decisions that encounter geopolitical resistance, the pattern has been evident all along. After the outcome of the 1967 War, the international community by way of the UN acquiesced with hardly a whimper to the extension of Israeli territorial claims from 55% to 78% of mandate Palestine. Ever since, this enlargement of Israeli territorial expectations has formed the basis for the two-state consensus, and was even accepted by the Palestinians as the realistic territorial baseline for a compromise solution.


Beyond this central issue of territorial allocation, the UN General Assembly affirmed the right of return of Palestinians forced to leave their homes in the 1947-48 War in General Assembly Resolution 194, and a second wave dispossessed in the 1967 War. The resolution has been pointedly rejected by Israel without any adverse consequences.


In similar fashion, the expansion and annexation of Jerusalem has been strongly condemned, most canonically, by the UN Security Council in Resolution 478 (1980), a unanimous vote except for the U.S. abstention. Finally, despite this, and the periodic Security Council denunciations of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestine territory, Israel has continued year upon year to build and increase the settler population. Against this background, it is to be expected that the Palestinians feel that having their rights affirmed at the UN is a worthless exercise, if not a feeble way to obscure UN impotence, given that the Palestinian ordeal has worsened year after year, decade after decade.


And yet despite all this the Jerusalem resolution of last December (passed by a vote of 128-9 with 35 abstentions and 21 absences) repudiating the Trump initiative is significant, partly because symbols are of great, if indirect, importance in international life. Symbolic victories at the UN do on occasion have subtle, yet real, behavioral impacts. The UN for all its weaknesses has long been the primary source for authoritative determinations of the legitimacy and illegitimacy of internationally recognized claims and grievances. This resolution is illustrative, supported by every important country in the world including the closest allies of the United States, with the symbolic and unequivocal rejection of the Trump diplomatic gesture of recognition being clear and consequential.


The Jerusalem resolution seems likely to produce a series of consequences: it greatly weakens, if not terminates, the central role that the United States has played as the only recognized third party mediator between Israelis and Palestinians, thereby creating an opportunity for the EU and individual European states to fill the diplomatic vacuum that seems to have formed; besides this, demonstrations around the world opposing the U.S. recognition initiative are translating support throughout the world for the Palestinian global solidarity movement that is likely to be expressed in several ways, especially by way of a more robust Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign. And at least for the moment, the Palestinian Authority, and its leadership, has moved away from adopting a quasi-collaborative stance in its relations with Israel, insisting that Trump’s move caused a damaging rupture. In effect, if diplomacy is to go forward in the future, it will have to proceed under new auspices, possibly Europe, maybe even China or the UN. Such radical expectations, while expressing a welcome refusal to be coopted by the Tel Aviv/Washington charade carried on for so long within the Oslo framework, is totally unrealistic in the near term. Israel would much rather be a pariah state than to submit its fate to Chinese or UN diplomacy, or for that matter, any intermediary that would seem fair to the Palestinians rather than partisan as in the past in favor of Israel. For so long Israel has

been coddled by American leaders that it became a hardened expectation with little wiggle room as Barack Obama found out early in his presidency when he dared to take baby steps in search of a middle ground.


It is worth recalling the anti-apartheid campaign against the South African racist regime that achieved prominence in the decades after 1945. The UN played a crucial role by its authoritative condemnation of apartheid as a crime against humanity and by its indirect encouragement of nonviolent resistance to South Africa racism throughout the world. This anti-apartheid experience is an instructive precedent, raising hope for the eventual success of the Palestinian national struggle, although the South African leadership had been far less creative and effective than the Israelis in insulating their governing process from external pressures.


What is analyzed with reference to Palestine and the Jerusalem resolution can be understood as a template for a general appreciation of both what the UN can and cannot do. The UN has this central role to play in either confirming or dismissing symbolic claims associated with the grievances and rights of subjugated peoples in the world. It is for this reason that governments fight so hard to have their policies accepted at the UN, or at least not criticized, censured, or punished, none more so than the government of Israel. Israel’s vicious attacks on the UN should be understood as disclosing the Israeli appreciation that, despite everything, the UN is a crucial site of struggle in the contemporary world order. Its findings of legitimacy and illegitimacy, especially if they resonate with feelings of justice around the world, impact strongly on civil society and often exert a strong influence on international public opinion and media coverage.


At the same time even if there is intense support for a symbolic outcome, it will rarely be self-enforcing, and it will be almost impossible to enforce at all absent a rare supportive geopolitical consensus. For instance, with respect to imposing sanctions on North Korea given its provocative nuclear program and accompanying diplomacy, it has been possible for all 15 members of the Security Council to agree sometimes on a common course of action, although as worried by Trump’s blustering belligerence that increases the danger of a universally unwanted and feared war. The geopolitical divergencies that were present at the UN were temporarily overcome by compromises. In this instance, the shared goal of avoiding a war on the Korean Peninsula encouraged governments to find some common ground.


The role of the UN in the Middle East has been particularly lamentable, First, the legacies of colonialism have left artificial political communities throughout the region. The Middle East also suffered from the geopolitical ambitions of the U.S., including its Cold War containment policy, strategic priorities accorded Gulf oil reserves and the security of Israel, and since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, its resolve to limit the spread of Islamic influence and political extremism. In effect, when the geopolitical stakes are high and associated with the policy priorities of dominant states, then the UN becomes marginalized, playing only trivial roles as in the long international civil wars that have caused such massive suffering in Syria and Yemen.


The conclusion to be reached is to view the UN realistically, affirming its central role with regard to symbols of legitimacy and its relative impotence if geopolitical forces are mobilized against any UN calls for action. Sometimes, arguably, the UN can be too effective, as when geopolitical forces turn a blind eye to issues of sovereignty and justice in a weaker country. This happened when in 2011 the Security Council was hoodwinked into endorsing a NATO regime-changing intervention in Libya undertaken in the name of freedom and democracy, but resulting in chaos, violent strife, and ethnic tensions.


The prospects for a stronger UN presence in international life involve tethering geopolitics by taking steps that now seem politically impractical: abolishing the veto power of the five permanent members of the Security Council, making resolutions of the General Assembly binding if supported by ¾ of UN members, basing UN funding on an independent tax base tied to international civil aviation or transnational financial transactions, and removing the selection of the Secretary General from the filter of P-5 approval. These steps have been long advocated by those seeking a more effective UN, but have been blocked by states that do not want to diminish their international status or their geopolitical leverage.


Until the international system experiences a shock or intense stress, it is hard to imagine such steps being taken. In fact, given Trump’s regressive approach to global policy and thinly disguised hostility to the UN, it is more likely that the UN will be even more constrained in the near future as to what it can do to make the world more peaceful, prosperous, sustainable, and just. The diplomatic rebuff of the U.S. after its irresponsible Jerusalem unilateralism, including the failure of its bullying tactics, has undoubtedly made the Trump presidency realize that the UN will not be a venue in which to push its regressive version of ultra-nationalist militarism.


Despite understandable degrees of disillusionment, people of good will dedicated to UN ideals should not give up on the Organization or its potentiality, but work harder to make the UN come closer to fulfilling its original promise, needed now more than ever. Justice for the Palestinian people, however long deferred, remains the defining moral prism by which to assess the shifting balance between achieving global justice and bowing to the whims of geopolitics at the UN and elsewhere.

16 Responses to “Why the United Nations Matters (even for the Palestinians)”

  1. Sean Breathnach January 19, 2018 at 1:13 am #

    Thank you Professor for your analysis of the UN, which is spot on. Life could be so much better, if the power brokers took the time to read your piece.

  2. ray032 January 21, 2018 at 8:03 am #

    How can the Secretary-General of the United Nations remain silent on this approaching Human catastrophe? The latest from Jonathan Cook reporting from Nazareth.

    Why is the Israeli army suddenly concerned about Gaza?

    More than 10 years ago Israel tightened its grip on Gaza, enforcing a blockade on goods coming in and out of the tiny coastal enclave that left much of the two million-strong population there unemployed, impoverished and hopeless.

    Since then, Israel has launched three separate major military assaults that have destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, killed many thousands and left tens of thousands more homeless and traumatised.

    Gaza is effectively an open-air prison, an extremely overcrowded one, with only a few hours of electricity a day and its ground water polluted by seawater and sewage.

    Last week Israeli military officials for the first time echoed what human rights groups and the United Nations have been saying for some time: that Gaza’s economy and infrastructure stand on the brink of collapse.

    After a decade of this horrifying experiment in human endurance, the Israeli army finally appears to be concerned about whether Gaza can continue coping much longer.

    In recent days it has begun handing out forms, with more than a dozen questions, to the small number of Palestinians allowed briefly out of Gaza – mainly business people trading with Israel, those needing emergency medical treatment and family members accompanying them.

    One question asks bluntly whether they are happy, another whom they blame for their economic troubles. A statistician might wonder whether the answers can be trusted, given that the sample group is so heavily dependent on Israel’s good will for their physical and financial survival.

    But the survey does at least suggest that Israel’s top brass may be open to new thinking, after decades of treating Palestinians only as target practice, lab rats or sheep to be herded into cities, freeing up land for Jewish settlers. Has the army finally understood that Palestinians are human beings too, with limits to the suffering they can soak up?

    According to the local media, the army is in part responding to practical concerns. It is reportedly worried that, if epidemics break out, the diseases will quickly spread into Israel.

    And if Gaza’s economy collapses too, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians could be banging on Israel’s door – or rather storming its hi-tech incarceration fence – to be allowed in. The army has no realistic contingency plans for either scenario.

    Nonetheless, neither Israeli politicians nor Washington appear to be taking evasive action. In fact, things look set to get worse.

    Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week there could be no improvements, no reconstruction in Gaza until Hamas agrees to give up its weapons – the only thing, in Hamas’s view, that serves as a deterrent against future Israeli attack.

    Figures show Israel’s policy towards Gaza has been actually growing harsher. In 2017, exit permits issued by Israel dwindled to a third of the number two years earlier – and a hundredfold fewer than in early 2000. A few hundred Palestinian business people receive visas, stifling any chance of economic revival.

    The number of trucks bringing goods into Gaza has been cut in half – not because Israel is putting the inmates on a “diet”, as it once did, but because the enclave’s Palestinians lack “purchasing power”. That is, they are too poor to buy Israeli goods.

    Mr Netanyahu has resolutely ignored a plan by his transport minister to build an artificial island off Gaza to accommodate a sea port under Israeli or international supervision. And no one is considering allowing the Palestinians to exploit Gaza’s natural gas fields, just off the coast.

    In fact, the only thing holding Gaza together is the international aid it receives. And that is now in jeopardy too.

    The Trump administration announced last week it is to slash by half the aid it sends to Palestinian refugees via the UN agency UNRWA. Mr Trump has proposed further cuts to punish Mahmoud Abbas, the increasingly exasperated Palestinian leader, for refusing to pretend any longer that the US is an honest broker capable of overseeing peace talks.

    The White House’s difficulties will only be underscored on Sunday evening, when Mike Pence, the US vice-president, arrives in Israel as part of Mr Trump’s supposed push for peace.

    Palestinians in Gaza will feel the loss of aid severely. A majority live in miserable refugee camps set up after their families were expelled in 1948 from homes in what is now Israel. They depend on the UN for food handouts, health and education.

    Backed by the PLO’s legislative body, the central council, Mr Abbas has begun retaliating – at least rhetorically. He desperately needs to shore up the credibility of his diplomatic strategy in pursuit of a two-state solution after Mr Trump recently hived off Palestine’s future capital, Jerusalem, to Israel.

    Mr Abbas threatened, if not very credibly, to end a security coordination with Israel he once termed “sacred” and declared as finished the Oslo accords that created the Palestinian Authority he now heads.

    The lack of visible concern in Israel and Washington suggests neither believes he will make good on those threats.

    But it is not Mr Abbas’s posturing that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Trump need worry about. They should be listening to Israel’s generals, who understand that there is no defence against the fallout from the catastrophe looming in Gaza.

  3. Fred Skolnik January 22, 2018 at 7:27 am #

    Hiding? Rationalizing? Can’t handle it?

    by Fred Skolnik

    It may have been Jimmy Carter many years ago who first got it into his head to call Israel an apartheid state. In any case, the idea caught on pretty quickly, for the tactic of the Israel haters has always been to expand the meaning of commonly understood terms of opprobrium for the sole purpose of applying them to Israel, as with Nazism, fascism, genocide and ethnic cleansing. However, in the case of apartheid there was a great deal of confusion. At first it was used with reference to Israel’s occupation of Judea and Samaria, but the people who first used the term in this context probably didn’t understand what apartheid was, or didn’t understand the meaning of military occupation, or thought that the inhabitants of the West Bank were citizens or residents of Israel. When they finally understood their mistake, they simply changed their tune and began saying that Israel itself was internally an apartheid state or society. Once they had the word, they just couldn’t let go of it. It was like the original version of the fiction that 4,000 Jews didn’t show up for work at the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11. The original version declared that 4,000 Israelis didn’t show up for work there, which was a distortion by the Arab press of the Israel Foreign Ministry’s announcement that around 4,000 Israelis were thought to have been in the New York and Washington areas that day. When it was realized how unlikely the WTC fiction sounded, it was simply altered from “4,000 Israelis” to “4,000 Jews.” In the same way the apartheid fiction was shifted from the West Bank to Israel itself, even though the haters must have known that none of the features of apartheid exist in Israel. Facing this dilemma, some of them then went back to the West Bank version, some stuck to their guns with the Israel version, and others even argued now that apartheid existed in both places.
    Recently Richard Falk went them one, or two, better, telling us that Israeli apartheid exists in no fewer than four places: in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, in Israel, and among the Palestinian refugees – all this in a recent report called “Israel’s Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” commissioned by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), which consists entirely of 18 Arab member-states. In the end the UN itself repudiated the report.
    Be that as it may, Richard Falk also faced a dilemma of credibility in fabricating his report, for, as Falk confesses, apartheid had been defined by the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid as consisting of “deliberate and systematic acts of racial discrimination with the purpose of maintaining unlawful structures of racial domination, that is, a dominant race subjugating another race.” “Our report,” he continued in his blog (“Is Israel an Apartheid State?”), “also considered whether, in the context of inquiring into the presence of apartheid, it was appropriate to consider Jews and Palestinians as distinct races; we found that there were abundant grounds for doing so. As our report shows, ‘race’ in this legal context is treated as a socially and politically constructed category developed to identify a distinct people. It has no necessary correlation with biogenetic realities, which in this case actually shows an overlap between Jews and Palestinians.”
    “No necessary correlation with biogenetic realities”! One has to take a very deep breath before attempting to appreciate the insanity of what Falk is saying, or, if one is so inclined, to appreciate the elegance with which he overcomes a seemingly insurmountable obstacle with some inspired double-talk. First, let it be noted that as much as he might wish to define the Jews as actually constituting a distinct or dominant “race” in the accepted sense for the sake of the apartheid argument, he is hindered from doing so by one of the basic tenets of Israel hatred, namely, that Ashkenazi or European Jews (the “usurpers” or “colonists” or “foreigners” in hate jargon) are the descendants of Khazarian converts and therefore have no connection with the Land of Israel and nothing in common genetically with the indigenous people of the region, which include what the haters like to call Jewish Arabs or Arab Jews (and hence the “biogenetic overlap”), the implication being that the Jews are a “mongrel” people. On the other hand, coming from the opposite direction, the Jews themselves undercut the separate race argument, and, ironically, religious Jews more than any others, for the Bible itself speaks of a common ancestor and Jews in Israel even refer to Arabs as “the cousins” (“benei ha-dodim”). At the same time, Falk also has no intention of acknowledging that the Jews are what they actually are, namely a nation or people, for then he would have to face the fact that Israel is a Jewish national state with an Arab or Palestinian national minority in precisely the same way that Turkey, for example, is a Turkish national state with a Kurdish national minority, which would undercut his own efforts to undermine its status. Therefore he prefers to call Israel an “ethnic” state, for no other purpose than to diminish and delegitimize it and thereby open the door to extinguishing its Jewish national life, dismantling its Jewish national institutions, and eliminating its Jewish national symbols (flag, anthem, national holidays, etc.).
    It may well be that his feelings about Jewish nationality were partly shaped by his upbringing in an America where the Jews could indeed be seen as an ethnic minority (like Italian or Irish Americans) and “Jewishness” consisted solely of adherence to the Jewish religion or to Jewish culture. Even American Zionists saw Israel as just one among many centers of Jewish life and refused to countenance the idea that Israeli statehood took precedence as its most legitimate and fruitful expression. But there is undoubtedly also a psychological factor at work in the vehement and malicious anti-Israel stance that Falk takes, for beyond “rivaling” American Jewish life, the existence of a Jewish national state also intimidates a certain kind of Jew because it challenges something very insecure in him, and that is his identity, for the small number of Jews who are hostile to Israel see it viscerally as something that threatens their idea of themselves – an idea that most often includes alienation from their own country as well, insofar as it embraces the idea of a national purpose and destiny – and resent Israel deeply for the implied demand it makes on them to assert themselves as Jews. All this is of course nothing more than plain and simple pathology.
    How then does Falk make Israel fit the apartheid definition so that he can somehow criminalize it? Both elegantly and absurdly, as we said, by treating “race,” again, “as a socially and politically constructed category developed to identify a distinct people” that “has no necessary correlation with biogenetic realities.” Seeing is believing when it comes to nonsense, for what Falk is saying is very much like declaring: “For our purposes we shall treat ‘childhood’ as ‘a socially and politically constructed category’ with no necessary correlation to age,” or, perhaps more to the point: “For our purposes we shall treat ‘murder’ as ‘a socially and politically constructed category’ with no necessary correlation to the act of killing anyone.” And so on and so forth.
    Having now redefined “race” to suit his purposes and having coopted the 1973 Apartheid Convention, basically by using a legal term in a figurative instead of a literal sense – and this from a professor of law – he gets down to the serious business of condemning Israel for what he construes as its maintenance of an apartheid regime. “Adopting what we believe to be an innovative methodology,” he writes, “we approached this challenge by dividing the Palestinians into four domains that correspond to the manner in which Israel has exercised its authority over the course of many decades, although the specific tactics of control vary through time” (the challenge of course being to make something seem to be what it is not and the innovation being to do what no self-respecting scholar would permit himself to do).
    Concerning the West Bank “domain,” here is the Falk case: “It [a previous study] called attention to the discriminatory treatment of Palestinians, who are subject to military administration as compared to the Jewish settler population, which enjoys the full benefit of the rule of law as it is observed in Israel in relation to Jewish nationals. That study found that ‘settler-only roads,’ dual legal systems, and the draconian separation of the two populations into regions on the basis of race [are the] hallmarks of apartheid.”
    It hardly needs to be said that if Israel’s occupation were a form of apartheid, then all occupations would be forms of apartheid, including the Allied occupation of Germany. A military occupation by definition entails separation between the occupying power and the occupied population and the existence of two different legal systems for occupying and occupied nationals, one civil and one military. Furthermore, all separation measures instituted by Israel are solely for purposes of security and it makes absolutely no difference in this sense if the Israeli presence in the West Bank is in the form of army bases (certainly legal under an occupation) or settlements (irrespective of their legality). With or without the settlements, Israel would maintain order and fight terrorism in precisely the same way (security roads, the security fence, checkpoints, roadblocks, curfews, arrests). And of course no one has “separated” the Palestinians into regions. They remain where they have always been, in their towns and villages.
    Concerning Jerusalem he writes: “Here the apartheid character of Israeli rule is exhibited in the way the government of Israel severely undermines the human security of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, manipulating their rights of residence as well as imposing a variety of discriminatory practices, ranging from fiscal measures, demolitions, to the arbitrary withholding of building permits.”
    It should be remembered that almost all East Jerusalem residents opted out of Israeli citizenship in 1967 and therefore became permanent residents and as such suffer certain natural disabilities vis-à-vis citizens. To label as apartheid what Falk himself calls “discriminatory measures” is a perfect example of how he transforms a lesser evil (“discrimination” in this case) into a greater evil by using a “dirtier” word (“apartheid”) when talking about Israel.
    “The third domain deals with the Palestinian minority living in Israel, perhaps the most problematic component in terms of establishing a definition of apartheid that encompasses the entire Palestinian population. In this category are some 1.7 million citizens of Israel, who are allowed to form political parties and vote in elections. But this minority, which makes up about 20 percent of the overall Israeli population, is prohibited by law from challenging the proclaimed Jewish character of the state and is subject to a wide range of discriminatory nationality laws as well as administrative practices that severely restrict their rights, with effects on land acquisition, property, immigration, family reunification, and marital freedom.”
    Of course this is problematic, since Israeli Arabs eat in the same restaurants as Jews, travel on the same buses and trains, use the same public spaces, are treated in the same hospitals as Jews, treat Jews in these hospitals as doctors and nurses, serve as lawyers and judges in Israel’s legal system, teach and study in the universities, and, as he acknowledges, vote and serve in the Knesset. This is certainly not the situation or condition that the word apartheid was coined to describe. What enables Falk to call this apartheid is again his refusal to recognize the simple fact that Israel is a Jewish national state and the Arabs are a national minority. Of course they cannot challenge the Jewish character of the state. Can the Kurds challenge the Turkish character of Turkey? In fact, dozens of countries have laws, especially with regard to immigration, that favor their own nationals.
    “A fourth domain, and the one affecting the largest demographic segment, is made up of Palestinians registered as refugees by UN procedures or living under conditions of involuntary exile. In the background is Israel’s rejection of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948), which confirms that Palestinians dispossessed or displaced by Israel in 1948 enjoy a right of return. General Assembly Resolution 3236 declares this right of return or repatriation to be an ‘inalienable right,’ which thus presumably incorporates those additional several hundred thousand Palestinians later displaced by the 1967 war. As far as is known, no Palestinian displaced since the establishment of Israel in 1948 has been granted a right of return to resume residence.”
    Concerning the refugees, suffice it to say that there is no legal or historical precedent for defining or treating the descendants of refugees born outside a country of origin as refugees themselves. And even with regard to the original refugees, Resolution 194 speaks of refugees wishing to return to their homes “and live at peace with their neighbors.” This latter condition was never fulfilled as the two sides dug in behind armistice lines in an ongoing conflict characterized by the declared Arab refusal to live in peace with Israel. All this without noting that an equal number of Jews were displaced from Arab lands in the war period and lost everything they owned.
    There is no question that living under a military occupation can be oppressive. The oppressiveness, however, is related directly to Arab terrorism. Imagine how the Allies would have responded under the Occupation if the Germans had refused to make peace or disavow their Nazi leaders and had engaged in acts of terror against Allied civilians inside and outside Germany. To call this apartheid is nothing more than a perversion of language. It should be remembered too, with regard to the knowledge and understanding that Prof. Falk brings to his task of delegitimizing the State of Israel, which one would at least expect to be scholarly, that there is very little scholarship in evidence here, for the simple reason that Prof. Falk does not understand a word of Hebrew or Arabic and therefore gets all his information at second and third hand (reason enough to disqualify himself), at the most visiting the area for the express purpose of working up his anti-Israel UN reports and willingly being led around by the nose by Hamas officials in a strictly controlled environment where at best he gets to talk to a few ordinary people through a Hamas interpreter or in pidgin English without the remotest possibility of verifying or evaluating anything he is told. Any historian gathering information in this manner would simply be laughed off the stage.


    • Richard Falk January 22, 2018 at 4:14 pm #

      Aside from the gratuitous insults, your major premise is legally fallacious: ‘apartheid’
      is an international crime based on the maintenance of structures of subjugation and domination
      based on racial or ethnic identity; there is no requirement that Israeli apartheid structures and
      practices resemble South African apartheid. The fact of important differences does not mean that
      Israeli policies and practices are any less subject to the allegation of apartheid. And the most
      respected of anti-apartheid figures in South Africa, such as Archbishop Tutu or Nelson Mandela, have
      asserted that the Israeli form of apartheid is worse for the Palestinians than the South African form
      was for the Africans.

      • Fred Skolnik January 22, 2018 at 10:16 pm #

        In the end, all you have done is to redefine the term “apartheid” to make it apply to Israel and you have done so solely to criminalize Israel. Reasoning it out and finding respected figures who agree with you from among those who don’t agree with you may look like scholarship but it is no different from gratuitously tossing around words like Nazism, fascism and genocide with reference to Israel, and as I mentioned, it is also no different from stating that you intend to treat childhood or murder as “socially and politically constructed categories” with no necessary correlation to age or to the act of killing anyone – in a word, it is a perversion of language. A military occupation is not a form of apartheid, nor is the social, professional and political condition of Israeli Arabs as I outlined it above.

      • Richard Falk January 26, 2018 at 10:50 am #

        Read carefully the following article pasted below that takes for granted the apartheid dimensions of the
        Israel structures of control. Jeff Halper, whom I know well, has lived in Israel as a devoted
        Zionist for decades, has brought up his children in Israel, and is as far from ‘a Jew hater’ as
        anyone can be. Actually, Israeli officials and leaders, as far back as Rabin, have been warning Israel
        about the risks of apartheid if no peaceful solution is found. It is not my redefinition of apartheid,
        but the accepted international law understanding of the crime as distinct from its South African origins.


        The ‘Two-state Solution’ Only Ever Meant a Big Israel Ruling Over a Palestinian Bantustan. Let It Go

        Portside Date: January 25, 2018
        Author: Jeff Halper
        Date of source: January 19, 2018
        Haaretz (Israel)

        In his Haaretz op-ed (What the ‘One-state Solution’ Really Means: Israeli-sanctioned Apartheid or Eternal, Bloody Civil War) Eric Yoffie asks: “Are there not sane Israelis – left, right, and especially center – who comprehend the dangers of [a one-state solution]?”

        That question could be posed just as well in reverse: What else has to happen before Israelis, left, right and center, finally realize that their government has already deliberately, systematically and effectively eliminated the two-state solution?

        Yoffie proposes a false symmetry: a “hard” left and a “hard” right both supporting, de facto or explicitly, a single bi-national state, while a putative future Israeli government will once again embody a “proud, liberal and democratic Jewish homeland,” living peacefully alongside its Palestinian neighbor in a two-state solution.

        This is a skewered view, to say the least. In fact, every Israeli government since 1967 has failed to live up to those proud liberal values by pursuing an expanded Israel ruling over a truncated Palestinian Bantustan, even if they did it under the guise of a “two-state solution.”

        Palestinian girls play at their family’s house in Khan Younis, Gaza. March 10, 2015
        credit: רויטרס // Haaretz
        Within weeks of the start of the occupation in 1967, the Allon Plan (under Labor prime minister Levi Eshkol) already proposed Israel annexing territory surrounding and isolating the Palestinian population centers.

        This plan has guided Israeli settlement policy these past 50 years and is today an irreversible fait accompli. When the Oslo “peace process” began, there were 200,000 settlers (and, yes, I do include East Jerusalem, which is occupied, regardless of what Israel and the Trump Administration claim).

        By Oslo’s end in 2000, there were 400,000 settlers in massive “settlement blocs” that fragmented the Palestinian territory into some 70 tiny enclaves of Areas A and B, plus the prison that is Gaza. Today, the settler population approaches 800,000.

        A banner supporting the creation of a single state for Israelis and Palestinians: ‘If I had to choose between one state and two states, I would choose one state.’ Ramallah, West Bank. Feb. 23, 2017
        credit: Nasser Nasser/AP // Haaretz
        If the two-state solution is gone, it is because of successive “sane” Israelis in government, in particular those of Golda Meir and Ehud Barak, as well as of the Likud, Kadima and the religious right, and the Zionist left, “hard” right, and the always malleable center that put them into office.

        Netanyahu and the religious right proclaim the end of two states from the rooftops, while both parties of the Zionist left, Labor and Meretz, have effectively abandoned the struggle for peace, declaring themselves “social democratic” parties concerned primarily with domestic Israeli affairs. Labor leaders, particularly, have for several years explicitly agreed with the Likud that “the time is not ripe for a two-state solution.”

        If any sector of Israeli society ever genuinely supported the two-state solution, it was the “hard” left – to the left of Meretz – which fought tirelessly for it outside of every government (and let’s be honest, the Palestinian Authority under Arafat and Abbas have also supported it, even when Israeli governments were eating away at it).

        Who, if not the extraparliamentary left, continually demonstrated against the building of settlements, an enterprise pursued as vigorously by Labor as by the Likud?

        When, in 1999, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared after the collapse of the Camp David negotiations, that “There was no [Palestinian] partner for peace,” the Israeli Jewish public, including Meretz, Peace Now and the rest of the “Zionist left,” abandoned the search for a just peace – but not the “hard” left that has stayed engaged even as the two-state solution has disappeared before our eyes.

        But Yoffie is also wrong about how he characterizes what he calls the “hard left’s” one-statism. Left groups who acknowledge the death of the two-state solution have not moved to a one-state alternative – at least not yet. Jewish Voice for Peace, which Yoffie demonizes because of its support for BDS, does not actively advocate for such a solution. And the rest of the “hard” left is still wrestling with where to go.

        Although many of us still support the two-state solution as a workable, if not just, solution, it cannot mean apartheid. If the “hard” left has indeed, moved to a one-state solution, it is simply because we have had the courage to recognize political reality and the “facts on the ground”: The two-state solution died when the settlement enterprise reached a critical mass, when the fragmentation of Palestinian territory rendered a viable and sovereign Palestinian state no longer possible.

        We are now left with only one way out. We must transform the single apartheid state Israel has created into a democratic state of equal rights for all its citizens. A democracy – which shouldn’t be a terribly foreign concept to an American like Yoffie, or to Israelis who claim their country is the only democracy in the Middle East.

        The “hard” left must now lead the battle for a single, democratic, bi-national state in Israel/Palestine, not because we wanted to, but because it was Yoffie’s “sane” Zionists that left us with this as the only possible option to apartheid. It is the only way to prevent Jews becoming the Afrikaaners of the Middle East, or worse.

        A rainbow over Palestinians in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. January 15, 2018
        credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters // Haaretz
        We want a way out of political Zionism’s dead end, and a return to the cultural Zionism of Ben-Yehuda, Henrietta Szold, Ahad Ha-am, Judah Magnes and Martin Buber that envisioned a Hebrew people living together with their Palestinian neighbors.
        This is a challenge that will truly liberate both peoples, a positive project of a new generation of cultural Zionists. We need a state which offers equal rights to all of its citizens – one citizenship, one vote, one parliament – but which constitutionally ensures the right of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs to their identities, narratives and institutions.

        There is no reason to believe this would lead to “endless and bloody civil war”, as Yoffie claims. Israeli Jews would have the right to live anywhere including the settlements; Palestinian refugees can come home; a common civil society would emerge; economically, the country would flourish, supported by two parallel affluent and educated Diasporas, Jewish and Palestinian.

        This is the challenge the “hard” left must work to bring to reality. Like it or not, it is all that that the “sane” Zionists touted by Yoffie, together with the “hard” right Zionists that rule us, have left us.

        [Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He is an Israeli anthropologist, and the author of War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (London, Pluto Books, 2015).]

      • Gene Schulman January 26, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

        Thanks Richard. I’ve read Halper’s book but seriously doubt if Fred would ‘soil’ his hands on it. No matter what arguments you offer, Fred will not listen to them. As a professional troll, he is only here to insult you. Those insults are so blatant that they don’t have any sting left in them. I thought you (we) had decided not to joust with him any more. It is a waste of time to even think about him, let alone print his gibberish.

        Hope you’re doing well after all the shocks the environment has laid on you.

      • Richard Falk January 26, 2018 at 5:40 pm #


        I used Fred’s comment as an excuse to share Jeff’s very perceptive and important way of constructing
        the alternative futures for Israel and Palestine. And I do keep wavering as to whether to allow his
        voice a space. Actually, you have not read his more abusive comments as I have been blocking those,
        and others from likeminded ‘contributors.’

        Oddly, Santa Barbara is only today allowing those living in next door Montecito to return to their homes.
        We have been sheltering friends the past two weeks. The post-calamity realities of Montecito linger, while
        SB proper has been unaffected, and almost unaware of the devastation that 15 minutes of severe rain produced.

        Warm greetings,


  4. Kata Fisher January 24, 2018 at 12:00 am #

    There is no hope in human-progress … contemporarily humanity is psyhoticaly sick. Good luck to the state dealing with the human problems! Over the ages humans in satanic seals have wiped themselves out — and anything that came in betwixt of them.

    I am reading this article and I am realizing — why are these people going over things and people that are in satanic seals … over, and over, and over again — this is boring! If it were a book — it would fly straight through the window like a halloween witch!

    Curse that never expires and it shall never be broken off — nothing helps!

    Perhaps, if they would realized what has accursed them — there would be some not accursed. What a extreme joy to the Church of this generation to see curses never canceled but revisited upon each Generation of Non-Churched.

    Human race is in hellish state and they won’t change! They got their problem solving keys in the past! They will never accomplish anything until they acknowledge their guilt. Their guilt remains and never is canceled — they only are and will be in witch brew cycles, accursed — never broken off.

    Curse that never expires and it shall never be broken off — nothing helps!

    None of those wicked people will solve their problems until Church says it will be otherwise. Until, there will be collective punishment upon all. That’s actual reality. There is no another.

    • Beau Oolayforos January 24, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

      Thank you, Kata – don’t we also love JFK’s friendly, witty banter with the DC press corps at his press conferences – how low we’ve fallen!

      • Kata Fisher January 26, 2018 at 9:05 pm #

        Hi there stranger,

        Don’t forget the historical and cultural context of his friendly and witty banter.

        I belong to the folks that are always thankful (in all ages/historical ) — and for that reason, civil rights movement is on our favourite agendas, and reflecting how bad things are — and at least having some historical-measuring-sticks to go by (right now).

  5. Laurie Knightly January 27, 2018 at 11:04 am #

    If one deleted the well-deserved criticism of the UN cited here, there would be little left but a desire that they might become what they promulgate. It would seem that the population ratio in 1917 is a more significant date when the UK began their generous donation plan of Palestinian land – 7 to 11% Jewish at that time. There is nothing in international law or common decency that validated the actions then – or that have unceasingly followed. The UN granted statehood to bands of international marauders similar to the Islamic State. Also, what the Palestinians accept is not relevant considering that they have never been free agents to make demands. Given better weaponry, they could make ‘signature strikes’, like the 506 that Obama made with drones, in order to defend themselves.

    As to commenters – besides personal smearing, inaccuracies, failing to address the subject, absurd analogies, etc, there are the messages coming from Satan. This is a new low for ethical discourse. Satanic Seals, are cited on objects like autos, Starbucks, the UN etc. The Star of David/Solomon’s Seal has been listed because the hexagram reveals the 666 of Satan. The unintelligible gibberish spouted by the Charismatics is considered a sign of their divine anointment. Some Charismatic Churches pass out buckets so people can puke out demons. David and Solomon are loathsome characters who are probably appropriate for their place on the Israeli flag without need to blame some type of devil’s decision. Would think that the Me Too Movement might protest their elevated stature.

    I have no authority to block the type of expression to which I have many times objected. What I can do, is remove myself from what has become a bucket serving the above.

    • Laurie Knightly January 28, 2018 at 8:10 am #

      In case there was any misunderstanding, I have appreciated the comments that don’t fit the description I described. The trolling others, however, spoil the blog and the person who publishes them has a responsibility. One can dispute or add to the subject matter in a constructive manner. Stephen Shalom does this in his essay entitled, A Just War? in which he differs completely with Falk on the Afghan War as did many of us – and we did so at its initiation.

      Along with Richard Falk, Jeff Halper is one of the most outstanding persons of our time and it was good to see his words repeated again. The Semitic religions are especially vindictive on persons considered apostates and those who persevere deserve extra accolades.

      • Richard Falk January 29, 2018 at 8:40 am #

        I constantly waver, Laurie, on these issues as my disposition is to allow open discussion. At
        the same time, I agree that those who insult and repeat tired arguments with dogmatic force do,
        as you say, spoil the comments section of the blog. I will once more do my best to strike a balance,
        but I am sure to fail again. You have not seen the rather larger number of comments that I do block
        if their content is clearly abusive of others and offers no constructive contribution. Thanks for your

  6. Gene Schulman January 28, 2018 at 2:53 am #

    Given the fact that this post is devoted to apartheid, and Jeff Halper has been appointed spokesman for the discussion, I thought you might want to hear his words on the subject. The above link is to a video of a talk he gave in Oregon way back in 2008 (ten years ago) called ‘Apartheid and Warehousing’, and is as relevant today as it was then. I spent two hours of my weekend listening to him, and was in rapture the whole time. Not Kata’s kind of rapture, rather one of intellect and learning. As much as one may have admired the Kennedys and/or Jimmy Baldwin, Halper goes them one better. Do take the time – he’s humorous, too.

    • Richard Falk January 29, 2018 at 8:42 am #

      Thanks, Gene, for this. Halper is a fine speaker. We have spoken together on several occasions,
      and I always feel humbled by his blend of oratorical skills, informed experience of the reality
      of Israel, and acute analysis of the unfolding conditions, especially those afflicting the Palestinian

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