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by Salomon Benzimra


When we are faced with a protracted stalemate in the resolution of a political conflict, it is probably the time to question the basics.

Disinformation on the Middle East conflict has been rampant for the past decades, most notably against Israel. Since the entry of the notion of a "Palestinian people" into the political lexicon over thirty years ago, an anti-Israel mindset has grown steadily. It finally produced a legal document at the International Court of Justice which practically denies Israel the right of self-defense against attacks perpetrated by "non-States", and excoriates the "occupying Power" (Israel) for holding "occupied Palestinian territory".

Let us examine the recent historical record.

When the UN voted Resolution 181 in November 1947 -- 33 for, 13 against (including all Arab and Muslim countries of the time) and 10 abstentions (Britain among them) -- the Jewish Agency in Palestine accepted the Partition Plan, while their Arab counterparts did not. Not only did they reject it, but they vowed to oppose it by force. In the threatening words of Azzam Pasha, the Secretary of the Arab League, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades." Arab riots erupted immediately thereafter in Palestine and, upon the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948 -- a decision fully compatible with Res. 181, Part I/A/3 -- the Arab armies launched a "holy war of extermination to murder the Jews," fuelled by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, himself a staunch admirer of Hitler. This was the first armed aggression after WWII and the first breach of the UN Charter, because UN Res. 181 invoked Chapter VII of the Charter which authorized the UN, through its Security Council, to use force against any violator of the Resolution. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort was done and Israel was left on its own for its self-defense against the combined Arab armies.

At the end of the war in 1949, there were no longer "Palestinian Jews" but "Israeli Jews". On the other hand, the Arabs lost the lands allocated to the "Palestinian Arab State" by Res. 181. Those Arabs who remained became "Israeli Arabs" (now, 20% of the population of Israel). The interesting part is that no sane person today questions the validity of this conquest of territory by Israel, following the war of aggression launched by the Arabs in violation of a UN resolution enforced by Chapter VII of the Security Council. No one, that is, except the militant Arabs (who now include the majority of the "Palestinians") for whom the whole notion of a State of Israel is illegal and the country must be wiped off the map. But, by and large, the State of Israel has been recognized by all the civilized world within its borders of 1949.

Fast forward to 1967. The Six Day War in June 1967 was actually an extension of the war of 1948-49, after a not so peaceful hiatus of 19 years. Even Egyptian President Nasser recognized this when he declared, on the eve of the war (May 28, 1967), that "the war with Israel is in effect since 1948." Comparing the two wars, we find that:

The Arabs' objectives were the same:  the eradication of the State of Israel through a war of aggression, as attested by the endless calls for the "annihilation of the 'Zionist entity'" issued by Nasser and other Arab leaders in May-June 67.

Their methods were similar,  in that the Arabs violated international law by breaching the armistice agreement of 1949 and by closing the international waterways of the Strait of Tiran to Israeli navigation, a recognized casus belli.

And the result of the 1967 war was also the same:  loss of predominantly Arab populated territory (the "West Bank", Eastern Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights).

In that regard, why should the outcomes of these two wars be treated differently? On the one hand, nobody contests the Israeli territory acquired in 1948-49, and on the other hand, most people see the "West Bank", the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as "occupied Palestinian territory." These territories are as "occupied" as western Galilee, Beersheba and Ashdod, all areas included in the Arab State proposed in the Partition plan of 1947.

So, the United Nations is artificially differentiating two similar situations. In the preamble of UN Resolution 242, we read about "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, referring, among others, to the "West Bank" acquired in the 1967 war. Either this "inadmissibility" only applies to wars of aggression and therefore it is irrelevant to Res. 242, or it applies to all wars, regardless of the originator, and, in that case, Israel should revert back to the Partition Plan borders of 1947. But even the UN does not envisage the latter alternative: the ICJ ruling on the "wall" clearly authorized Israel to build any defense system outside the "Green Line", thus implicitly recognizing Israel's pre-1967 borders. We are then left with the wrongly worded preamble of Resolution 242, which is at the core of the notion of "occupied territory".

Soon thereafter, the fictitious "Palestinian people" was introduced, and the UN, the EU and most of the world now refers to "occupied Palestinian territory" without raising any brows.

Albert Camus was right: "Misnaming things deepens the troubles of the world".

Salomon Benzimra is a chemical engineer, who does front end design for the petrochemical industry. He lives in Toronto, Canada.


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