Palestine — 65 Years Later

Briefly, as is known, historic Palestine was the home of adherents of the three major Abrahamic religions — Jews, Christians, Muslims.  In 20th century Palestine, prior to and during the British Mandate, and prior to and after Israel’s Declaration of Independence in May 1948 (following the drawing up of the UN plan for partition of Palestine), the populations were–

1914        Jews-60,000                     Arabs-731,000
1922        Jews-83,790                     Arabs-668,258
1931        Jews-174,606                    Arabs-858,708
1941        Jews-474,102                    Arabs-1,111,398
1950        Jews-1,203,000                Arabs-1,172,100
1960        Jews-1,911,300                 Arabs-1,340,100
1970        Jews-2,582,700                Arabs-1,045,000 (Six Day War was in June 1967)
1980        Jews-3,282,000                Arabs-2,100,000
1995        Jews-4,495,100                 Arabs-3,506,900
2005        Jews-5,275,700                Arabs-5,139,100 [1.]

Source:
http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000636

There was a major displacement of Palestinians within their homeland and as refugees in the late 1940’s.  For sixty-five years there has been hardship and suffering related to their loss of ancestral land, once shared.  The Nakba can be neither denied nor ignored.  Sadly, the directive of the Balfour Declaration “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…” [1] was not honored.  As well, United Nations Security Council Resolutions  for amelioration of the devastating results of armed conflicts in the area have eluded the carrying out of the action required —

(a)  United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967) in the aftermath of the Six Day War called for “(i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; (ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force”;

(b)  United Nations Security Council Resolution 338 (October 22, 1973),  among other statements,  called for “the parties concerned to start immediately after the cease-fire the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) in all its parts;…”

Is ‘Eretz Israel’/Greater Israel the goal of the Israeli Government?  Where does the U.S. Government stand in this regard?  Clearly, there has been  Israel’s reluctance to restore the pre-June 5, 1967 borders.  In addition, there is the insistence on long-term control of the West Bank length of the Jordan River Valley (for security it is said — but, inter alia, cutting off Palestinian access to any significant body of water and its border with Jordan).  Unhindered, the Israeli Government has continued usurpation of Palestinian rights and has continued territorial expansion in the West Bank.  Examples of on-going transgressions —

(a)  Parts of the Israel West Bank barrier wall are built on Palestinian land and parts separate Palestinians from their land.

(b)  The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition reported that “Since 1967 Israel has demolished more that 28,000 Palestinian homes, businesses, livestock facilities and other structures vital to Palestinian life and livelihood in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” [2.]

(c)  Nearly half (48%) of the agricultural land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is planted with 8 million  olive  trees:  the vast majority are in the West Bank.  The olive oil industry makes up 14% of agricultural income for the OPT and supports the livelihoods of approximately 80,000 families.  The number of barrier gates increased to 73 in 2012 but the majority are closed year round except for the olive harvest period and then only for limited hours.  In the West Bank over 7,500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians were damaged or destroyed by Israeli settlers between January and October 2012. [3.]  Violent attacks seem to be facilitated by refusal of Israeli authorities to allow Palestinians to visit their groves sometimes for years. [4.]

(d)  Haifa is in Israel, Tel Aviv is in Israel, the Negev is in Israel. Hebron is not in Israel, Ma’ale Adumin is not in Israel, Beit El is not in Israel — they are in the West Bank.  As of July 2012, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry,  350,150 settlers live in 121 officially recognized settlements in the West Bank, 300,000 live in settlements in East Jerusalem.  The three largest settlements in Modi’in Illit, Maale Adumin, and Beit Illit are cities of over 30,000 residents. [5.]

The settlements, created on West Bank lands occupied in the 1967 Six Day War, are settled in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949, Article 49) “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian population into a territory it occupies.”  In May (2013) the Israeli Government approved construction of nearly 300 new settler homes in Beit El (unofficially plans have been frozen, announced by the Prime Minister). [6.]

Hebron, in the West Bank, has been separated into Palestian and settler sections.  In 1994 the Israeli authorities closed  Shuhada Street – a residential and shopping center – to Palestinians, causing great economic hardship, forbidding access to or departure from their homes  via  Shuhada street, and making complicated and sometimes difficult their daily movement about town.[7.]

(e)  In September 2011 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there were 522 road blocks and checkpoints obstructing Palestinian West Bank movement.  There have been deaths due to checkpoint delays.[8.]

(f)  Nearly three million Palestinians in the West Bank may not travel to Gaza (except through Jordan and Egypt, and then they must try entry through the Rafah crossing) and 1.5  million Gazan Palestinians may not travel to the West Bank using any crossing.  It is a fact of life under the military occupation.[9.]

(g)  In June 2008, an informal truce was agreed to by Hamas and Israel — Egyptian mediator — Hamas agreed to cease rocket attacks and Israel to allow limited shipments across  the Israel/Gaza border.  Hamas it seems kept the ceasefire.  However, on November 4, 2008, Israeli forces attempting to stop construction of a tunnel, killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas then responded with rocket attacks.  It indicated willingness to stop attacks and to renew the truce if Israel stopped its “aggression.”  On December 27 and 28 Operation Cast Lead began and ceased on January 18, 2009.[10.]   Israel security forces killed 1,387 Palestinians during the Operation.  Palestinians killed nine Israelis during the operation. [11.]

1(a).  In January 2013 a United Nations Panel, carrying out an inquiry for the UN Human Rights Council, said Israel has pursued a creeping annexation of the Palestinian territories through the creation of Jewish settlements and committed  multiple violations of international law, POSSIBLY including war crimes.  It called for an immediate halt to all settlement activity and withdrawal of all settlers.  Israel’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as “counterproductive and unfortunate.” [12.]

1(b).Israel became the first country to withhold cooperation from a United Nations review of its human rights practices and indicated to the Human Rights Council that it wanted to delay its participation. [13.]

2.  In response to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations in November 2012, Israel withheld from the Palestinian authority, but restored in March 2013, tax transfers of about $100 million each month. [14.]

U.S. RESPONSE TO PALESTINIAN INITIATIVES

1.  A year after the United States cut off its financing to UNESCO, following the UNESCO vote to make Palestine a full member, the organization remains engaged in efforts to cut back programs, reduce costs and raise emergency funds. [15.]   Why was the U.S. cut in UNESCO funding considered necessary?   Could Palestine UNESCO membership have any effect on the ‘peace process’?

2. For forty four years the conditions set for peace talks having been basically imbalanced in favor of Israel and consequently, even when initiated, talks not having  had beneficial results, the Palestinian Authority  sought and received on November 29, 2012, United Nations  acceptance as a non-member State with observer status — the vote: 138 members affirmative, 41 members abstaining, 9 members negative.  The response of the U.S. Ambassador to the UN was that  UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19  an  ‘unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path of peace’ and that the US opposes any acknowledgement of a Palestinian state at the UN until a permanent peace agreement has been signed with Israel.'[16.]   Interestingly, Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert supported the measure. [17.]   In his ‘New York Times.’ Op Ed article, April 24, 2013, Thomas Friedman commented “I thought it foolish for (President Mahmoud) Abbas to go to the UN but I thought it irresponsible for America’s Congress to cut off aid to the Palestinians for doing so — when we’ve never retaliated for the even more obstructionist building of settlements by Israel.”  He noted further that “the loss of millions of dollars in aid tanked the Palestinian economy.”  (We mention here the Government of Israel receives from the U.S. more than 3 billion dollars a  year ($10,000,000 per day) in military aid.  In good conscience, especially as the occupation continues,  should not the U.S. Government rethink this tax dollar payment to Israel in the light of uses of the U.S. provided  weaponry in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?)

Palestine has been the Palestinian homeland for centuries and should be so recognized.  In this connection are ‘land swaps’ a necessary or even a just part of a just peace plan?  Is implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 242 possible?  The great loss in this conflict has been the Palestinian loss.  Why is ‘land swap’ a consideration when under international law the land in question was settled into illegally?

In his book ‘Brokers of Deceit — How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle EAST,’ Rashid Khalidi notes ‘…significant commitment to Israel was embodied in a secret 1975 letter from President Gerald Ford to Prime Minister (Ytzak) Rabin which in effect made American diplomatic initiatives in future Middle East peace negotiations conditional on prior approval by israel’;  it states “should the US desire in the future to put forward proposals of its own, it will make every effort to coordinate with Israel its proposals with a view to refraining from putting forth proposals that Israel would consider unsatisfactory.” [18.]

Since the US is key in the Israel/Palestine conflict, its promotion of respect for human rights and international law should be  principal undertakings in its intercessions and should be a stated requirement of all concerned parties.  In this connection, it is hoped that any consideration of the recently re-presented Arab Peace Initiative and other conflict resolution initiatives will this time focus seriously on addressing Palestinian requirements and on rectifying Palestinian losses (e.g. their land).

For information, the following is a list of ‘Israeli-Palestinian Diplomacy and Proposals’ – 1937 to 2007:  Peel Commission (1937), United Nations Partition Plan (1947), Armistice Agreements (1949), Allon Plan (1967), Rogers Plan (1970), Geneva Conference (1973), Camp David Accords (1978), Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty (1979), Madrid Conference (1991), Oslo Accords (1993), Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace (1994), Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David (2000), Taba Summit (2001), The Israel Initiative (Elon Peace Plan) (2002), Road Map for Peace (2003), Geneva Accord (2003), Sharm el Sheikh Summit (2005), Annapolis Conference (2007) [19.] [footnote 21.

To convey messages on this matter to the President and to your Representatives and Senators,  please contact —

The White House:   202-456-1111 (telepjone);   http://www.whitehoue.gov (e-mail)

Representatives and Senators:  202  225 3121

Footnotes:

1. ‘The Balfour Declaration – The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict,’ Jonathan Schneer, Random House (New York), 2010, p. 341.

2. ‘Israel’s Policy of Demolishing Palestinian Homes Must End:  A Submission to theUN Human Rights Council by the Israel Committee Against Hose Demolitions, March 3, 2013 – publication date.

3.  Olive Harvest Fact Sheet, October 2012, United Nations, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory – (Mondoweiss – Abraham Horowitz, October 16, 2012).

4.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/israel_settlement

5.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/israel_settlement

6.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-mjddle-east-22465358

7.  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/03/20133585443672.html

8.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/israel_checkpoint

9.  ‘West Bank-Gaza Movement Is Still Restricted,’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daoud-Kuttab/west-bank-gaza-movement_b_2728076.html

10.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas#Gaza_War (and) http://chomsky.info/articles/20121104.htm

11.  http://btselem.org/download/20090909_cast_lead_fatalities_eng.pdf

12.  ‘New York Times,’ January 31, 2013  –  Nick Cummings-Bruce and Isabel Kershner.

13.  ‘New York Times,’ January 29, 2013 – Nick Cummings-Bruce.

14.  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/25/us-palestinians-israel-idUSBRE92O0GS20130325

15.  ‘New York Times,’ October 11, 2012, Steven Erlanger.

16.  http://www.studentnewsdaily.com/daily-news-article/un-vote-recognizes-state-of-palestine-u-s-objects

17.  ‘Exclusive:  Former Israeli PM Olmert Supports Palestine UN Bid,’ Bernard Avishal, ‘The Daily Beast,’  29 November 2012.

18.  ‘Brokers of Deceit — How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East,’ Rashid Khalidi, Beacon Press, 2013, p. 8.

19.  ‘Atlas of the Middle East’ (Second Edition), National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2010 (?), p. 99.

– Barbara Walker [Retired United Nations staff member — assignments included United Nations Truce Supervision Organization – (UNTSO), Jerusalem, 1990-1991]
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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