by Sean Gannon
The view that the Middle East peace process, the latest phase of which kicks off in Annapolis this week, [this article was written November 2007 just before the Annapolis Conference] is essentially a mechanism for the vindication of Palestinian rights over the West Bank and Gaza is widely held here in Western Europe, where an awareness of Israel's legitimate claims and entitlements has been a casualty of the predominantly left-wing media's embrace of the Palestinian cause. Whereas Arab prerogatives are exhaustively documented, the Jewish right to this land is almost entirely ignored. The anniversaries this month of three of the founding documents of the modern
November 2 marked the ninetieth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration,[in 2007] the letter in which the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, promised Lord Rothschild (and, through him, the Zionist movement) that his government would "use their best endeavours" to establish a Jewish "national home" in
The Declaration was not, in itself, a legally binding document and it has often since been dismissed as nothing more than a statement of British aspirations and intent. However, this ignores the fact that its incorporation virtually unchanged into the League of Nations' Mandate for
The right of the Jews to a state in their historic homeland was underscored by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (UNGAR 181). Passed sixty years ago on November 29, it called for the partitioning of Mandatory Palestine into "Independent Arab and Jewish states." Described by the former Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, as "
In what amounts to an astonishing u-turn, however, UNGAR 181's legal validity has since been strenuously asserted by the Palestinian side. For instance, the PLO's 1988 Declaration of Independence stated that UNGAR 181 provided "those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty." This position was still being advanced ten years later as Yasir Arafat sought global support for another unilateral declaration of statehood in the spring of 1999. He then proclaimed that "the right for a Palestinian state to exist is based on UNGAR 181 and not on the Oslo Agreements" while his UN representative,
But if, as the Arabs contend, UNGAR 181 serves as the legal basis of a Palestinian state, then it must, according to their logic, equally serve as the basis of a Jewish state too. Indeed, the text refers to a "Jewish state" on thirty occasions and demands that the British facilitate "substantial [Jewish] immigration" to effectively ensure that the future Jewish state be Jewish in nature. Therefore, the Palestinians' present refusal to recognize
The third significant commemoration this month was the fortieth anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (UNSCR 242). Unanimously passed on November 22, 1967, five months after Israel's stunning victory in the Six Day War, it has generally been interpreted as requiring a unilateral Israeli evacuation of the West Bank and Gaza, thus making illegal Israel's so-called "occupation" of the former. But UNSCR 242 in fact formalizes the status of these territories as "disputed" and therefore legitimizes the Jewish presence there. This status is rooted in the 1949 armistice agreements, which defined the new boundaries between
In effectively launching the 1967 war, the Arabs violated these boundaries, thereby invalidating them as de facto borders. The Israeli conquest, the result of a defensive war, constituted a legitimate redrawing of the armistice lines, pending a final settlement. UNSCR 242, drafted as the roadmap to this settlement, stipulates that
The fact is that
Sean Gannon is a freelance writer and researcher, specializing in Irish and Israeli affairs. He is currently preparing a book on the relationship between the two countries.
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