Varieties of Disruptive Diplomacy – Part IV Responses to Trump

Varieties of Disruptive Diplomacy – Part IV Responses to Trump

by

Howard Adelman

I have considered both critical and defensive analytical reactions to Trump’s initiative in previous blogs. The gist of the latter was that the initiative was a realistic but disruptive move to shake up the peace process. Trump’s disposition, motivated by domestic reasons, had been shaped into a well-crafted and plausible move, with the possible scenario that it could free up the sclerotic process and remove the clots preventing any movement. Now I want to consider other explanatory accounts.

Did the initiative express a preference for disruption and thereby risk all as American diplomacy in the Middle East and the rest of the world – Iraq, Syria, Somalia and North Korea – may appear to indicate?

In the end, was the pronouncement an expression of irrationality, the mad impulsive move of a narcissistic and unthinking leader, or was it based simply on stupidity? A third irrational foundation might be sentiment, namely the 18th century belief that all beliefs, if they can be ascribed any moral value, serve to enhance a harmonious cosmic order even as they appear to be disruptive. Or the resort to disruptive diplomacy, perhaps an oxymoron, may be an amalgam of all three. Certainly, both the rational comprehensive constructivist as well as realist approaches to international relations have been questionable since George W. Bush instigated an absolutely dumb war in Iraq and Barack Obama began the American retreat from global involvement leaving vacuums in its wake.

However, constructivist realism, combining moral goals with realist policies, has been under stress everywhere in the world. Have the UN and UNESCO, as well as peace operations, such as UNIFIL, verified John Mearsheimer’s 1995 thesis on the “False Promise of International Institutions,” the bankruptcy of liberal institutionalism intended to deter destructiveness and protect victims? Has the inability of peacekeeping to deal with such complex conflicts as the Rwandan-Congo security impasse put a nail in the coffin of traditional methods? Has the rise of the internet and the prominent role of social movements totally altered the international landscape and introduced populism to international relations as well as domestic national politics? Has Robert D. Kaplan’s prognostications in his 1994 thesis on “The Coming Anarchy” reinforced a conviction that the continuing destruction of our environment, tribalism, the emergence of new diseases, the official endorsement of white crime and the theft by the rich of a grossly disproportionate share of surpluses produced by innovation, simply worked together to destroy the social and institutional fabric of the planet, creating room for disruptive efforts in the international arena? Have international power politics married to our contemporary political culture not only failed to prevent the emergence of North Korea as a nuclear power, but enhanced that outcome in defiance of conventional wisdom?

Before exploring disruptive diplomacy based on various types of irrationality, I want to reiterate the positive case for rational disruptive diplomacy in the context of a reduced respect for law and traditional rational diplomacy. According to that thesis, President Donald Trump’s declaration last week that the United States will officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is good news. Partially, this is because it recognizes the long-evident facts on the ground: Jerusalem, the ancient capital of the people of Israel for thousands of years, has finally been declared capital of the modern state of Israel, though this has been the actual case for seventy years. It is undeniable that some configuration of the city will remain so forever regardless of future negotiations concerning the city’s eastern side. There’s no serious question of that, except in the minds of fanatics who truly believe the population of a (putatively) nuclear-armed state will one day be driven into the sea.

Yet the world’s political and diplomatic elites have indulged in the delusion that Palestinian leaders mean to be equal partners in pursuit of a better, more peaceful life, and that a deal was always tantalizingly close at hand. Surely no one genuinely believes that any longer. But that fiction was, at least for mandarins and diplomats, for political scientists and philosophers, too polite and convenient to abandon. The illusion that there is some progressing peace process in the Middle East has itself ironically become the latest impediment to peace. Smashing that illusion carries risks. But, as the last five decades of violence between Palestinians and Israel make clear, so does indulging that belief.

According to this thesis, the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an inspired move; the Canadian government’s decision to respond judiciously is also considered to be very commendable. Nothing useful in the Middle East peace process has occurred since Rabin’s assassination, but the correlation of forces in the region and the ambitions of the Arab powers have evolved. For decades, Israel’s most fanatical enemies were Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The first two countries disintegrated. Not so secretly, Saudi Arabia is now an Israeli ally with Egypt against Iran.

Yet columnists, such as Doug Sanders in The Globe and Mail, echoed Tom Friedman and insisted that Trump threw away Israel’s last hope for peace when the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In contrast, Conrad Black in an 8 December op-ed in The National Post argued that the goal of reducing violence would be brought about by means of four other r’s of realistic rational international diplomacy:

  1. Reiteration
  2. Reassurance
  3. Responding Proportionately and in a Timely Fashion (sequencing)
  4. Restoring the Use of Quiet Diplomacy

Before I review that thesis, I want to examine three versions offering a non-rational basis for disruption as the new foundation for international diplomacy – madness, stupidity and sentiment.

The madness thesis seems to be the most prevalent one. It is certainly widespread. Elizabeth Drew made this point in an article entitled, “The Madness of King Donald” for the Project Syndicate (4 December 2017) where she opined that Trump’s increasingly bizarre behaviour in various spheres as well as the Israeli-Palestinian case had been evident, such as at the ceremony honouring the Native American heroes of World War II where he once again used the racist term “Pocahontas” to describe a Democratic Congresswoman, his re-tweets of a British neo-fascist’s anti-Muslim rant, his revival of the calumny re Barack Obama’s birthplace, and his sudden denial that the tape record of his grabbing women by their genitals was fake even though he had admitted making the remark and apologized for it. All those provided a portrait of Donald Trump as a president detached from reality and a great danger when it came to North Korea and the Middle East.

There is also the stupidity thesis. This was articulated by Leil Leibowitz in Tablet (“Trump’s Embassy Statement”). “Instead of his [Trump’s] statement the other day, he could’ve simply refused to sign the waiver that delays the embassy’s mandated move to Jerusalem, in accordance with the 1995 law. He didn’t do that. Nor did he gut Obama’s disastrous Iran deal, another one of his campaign’s promises. Instead, he left untouched a Middle East in which Teheran continues its march towards regional hegemony, gleefully threatening to wipe Israel off the map, failing to prevent Iran from establishing bases inside Syria and completing its takeover of Lebanon while shamefully continuing to fund the Lebanese army, which Iran and its proxies now control. He has also failed to take any significant action to protect the Kurds or to provide Israel with anything more substantial than loud proclamations.” In sum, Trump was all rhetorical excess with little policy depth.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reacted to Trump’s move on Israel and echoed the assessment of stupidity, but for very different reasons. “Their announcement of Quds [Jerusalem] as the capital of Occupied Palestine [Israel] proves the incompetence and failure [of the U.S.]. In regard to Palestine, they are helpless and unable to achieve their goals. Victory is for the Islamic nation. Palestine will be free, and the Palestinian people will be victorious.” Hannah Ashrawi echoed this sentiment, though with far less aggressive threats. “This decision will be interpreted by Palestinians, Arabs and the rest of the world as a major provocation. It will cause irreparable harm to Mr. Trump’s own plans to make peace in the Middle East, and to any future administration’s efforts as well. It will also undermine the United States’ own national security.” Why? Because the recognition was not just symbolic but sent a signal that the U.S. would no longer set up roadblocks over Israel’s efforts to cement its control over the whole city. Trump had legitimized Israeli actions and its policy of creeping annexation.

Then there is the sentimental thesis that has its modern roots in the Scottish leaders of the Enlightenment, David Hume, Adam Smith (the author of The Wealth of Nations), Francis Hutcheson and Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury). The sentimental thesis is based on a teleological belief that all events serve to enhance a harmonious cosmic order even as they appear to be disruptive. That is because, in the end, all human behaviour, if it is moral at all, is rooted in a universal moral sensibility. Human behaviour is not governed by self-interest, with the possible exception of the pursuit of material goods. Correct moral judgments are always based on sentiment.

Less concerned with either the motivation, the rationale or the geopolitical significance, Rabbi Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, is an example of someone who praised the Trump initiative and greeted the pronouncement as a song to Jewish hearts. He articulated what the historic recognition meant for Jews for whom Jerusalem had been at the centre of their prayers for two thousand years. He also believed that the message sent to the rest of the world was a message of peace, for Jerusalem was the city of peace, of shalom, even though it had been ravaged by wars over the centuries. The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a manifestation of divine design as well as of virtue.

While the madness and the stupidity theses accounts of disruption predict disaster and chaos, the rational and sentimental justifications envision an emerging harmony.

Tony Berman in the Toronto Star argued that the “unilateral decision by the Trump administration to favour Israel, defy the world and recognize the fiercely divided city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” sabotaged any lingering hope of peace and that the conflict can be resolved through negotiating a two-state solution setting a dangerous new stage for the conflict. Like the PA, Berman predicted that the result would be a one-state solution with Israel put at risk in the process. Whatever the possibility of that outcome, it was not based on the destruction of a peace process which has been in a state of rigor mortis for years.

Hezbollah’s Nasrallah called on the world to support a new Palestinian intifada, and stories of violence in response to the announcement seemed to initially verify the prognostication that this would be the result: riots in the West Bank and Gaza, a Molotov cocktail thrown at a synagogue in Goteborg, the demonstration in front of the American embassy in Lebanon breaking out into violence, an Israeli citizen killed in a stabbing attack, a 9-year-old girl slightly injured by a Palestinian rock thrower, two Palestinians killed as police attempt to control protesters. However, journalists had also been interviewed who had been called to witness staged events with “more journalists than protesters.”

 

Even in the protests at Rachel’s tomb, only 450 protesters appeared. Whether these were the exception, the general consensus was that the three days of rage were relatively mild and would not be a portent of a Third Intifada. The best clue was the speed with which the story had been relegated to the inside pages of newspapers. The violence and protests seemed far less than predicted, though, as could be expected, Turkey’s foreign ministry accused Israel of responding excessively at the Damascus Gate but has not, as yet, broken off relations with Israel as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had promised.

While civil war has raged in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, while the relations between Hezbollah and the Sunnis in Lebanon remain tense, while Hamas throws a few rockets at Israel and Israel responds with bombs, Joshua Sharf asked why, after recognizing a three thousand-year-old truth, was Trump going to set the region aflame?

 

Tomorrow in Part V My own summary and assessment.

With the help of Alex Zisman

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Israel-Diaspora Relations Part III Palestinians

Israel-Diaspora Relations Part III Palestinians

by

Howard Adelman

In addition to her TV interview last Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) also addressed the Knesset on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that recently passed a resolution declaring Hevron and the Cave of the patriarchs (Mearat Hamachpelah) as “endangered Palestinian heritage sites.” UNESCO is an esteemed international agency based in Paris. Its declared objectives are “to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law and human rights.” Was the resolution, widely considered in Israel to be so, an anti-Israel motion? If so, why is UNESCO engaged in such activities?

This was not the only resolution of this type passed by UNESCO. In the same week, in Kraków, Poland, of all places, where the scene of the Nazis ruthlessly clearing out the ghetto of Jews and shipping most residents to the gas chambers in Belzec, were portrayed in Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (remember the girl in the red coat), the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (UNESCO-WHC) voted to have the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the Old City of Hevron inscribed as a Palestinian world heritage site. The Committee also determined that the site was also “in danger.” From what and why?

The latter motion establishing the tomb as an endangered heritage site was passed by the 21 countries [Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe] 12-3 (those 12 are easily picked out of the list since they regularly support anti-Israel motions) with 6 countries abstaining. Though the vote usually takes place by a show of hands, Poland, Croatia and Jamaica requested a secret ballot. Israeli Ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen stormed the chair, accusing the Polish diplomat in charge of failing to conduct a truly secret ballot. The vote was not held behind a curtain; ballots were placed in an envelope in full view of the delegates. The chair called in security.

The issue was NOT declaring Hevron, the Cave and the Tomb heritage sites. Hevron was declared to be an Islamic city. It was the third site recognized by UNESCO as located in the “State of Palestine.” Whatever the history being recognized or not recognized, the resolutions were clearly political rather than educational and cultural in nature. Israel was deliberately disassociated from a site widely recognized, certainly in the Torah, as the burial grounds of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel. Israeli diplomats called it “an ugly display of discrimination, and an act of aggression against the Jewish people.”

Upon passage of the resolution, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki hailed a Palestinian diplomatic victory. “Despite the aggressive Israeli campaign, spreading lies, distorting and falsifying facts about the Palestinian right, the world recognized our right to register Hevron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty and on the World Heritage List.” For Maliki, the issue was about Palestinian sovereignty and NOT about the location of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs.

The issue was also about sovereignty when the same committee earlier in the week explicitly denied Israel’s claim to the Old City of Jerusalem. In May, UNESCO’s executive board ratified a 2016 resolution denying Israel, not only legal, but also any historical link to Jerusalem. Israel was deemed an “occupying power,” a designation never applied to Jordan when that country overran the Old City in the 1948 war. UNESCO regularly criticizes Israel for its archaeological work and excavations in Jerusalem and Hevron.

However, the Committee did not explicitly deny the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem resolution recognized the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions.” Further, the Temple Mount compound was not referred to solely as “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif” as in a 2016 resolution that called the Temple Mount “a Muslim holy site of worship.” Hevron, Bethlehem and the Old City of Jerusalem were all defined that way.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry decried the decisions and insisted that Jerusalem remained the capital of the Jewish people. “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and no decision by UNESCO can change that reality. It is sad, unnecessary and pathetic.” For Palestinians, UNESCO votes offered additional proof that in the minds of the international community, Jerusalem was “the capital of the occupation.”

Did it matter that Avraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivka, Yaakov and Leah, and even Adam and Eve, were allegedly buried in the cave, or that Avraham bought the Cave from Ephron the Hittite long before Islam existed? One has no sense from the debate that this belief and cultural identification was relevant let alone crucial to the decision. Recognition of Palestinian sovereignty was at stake.

However, whatever the myth or historical reality, the debate upped the ante in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Reuven Rivlin of Israel may have tweeted: “UNESCO seems intent on sprouting anti-Jewish lies, while it remains silent as the region’s heritage is destroyed by brutal extremists,” but Palestinians could boast of another significant political victory in an important international forum piled on top of winning membership in UNESCO in 2011. The cost, however, has been another repeated gesture politicizing a cultural and historical issue. When debates over memory, history and culture are brought into the centre of a conflict, the stakes are raised enormously. With regard to the sites mentioned above, unlike any other one recognized as a heritage site (Aztec sites in Mexico City are but one example; Cordoba in Spain is another), there was never any attempt to deny the historic connection to the site. In all three cases in Israel/Palestine, the Jewish connections to the sites were omitted. The Ibrahimi mosque in Hevron, known as the Sanctuary of Abraham, built in the 14th century, however, is identified.

In UNESCO commemorating sites, Battir, called Beitar in the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome and even in Arabic dubbed “Khurbel al-Yahud (the Jewish ruin), is recognized to be “representative of many centuries of culture and human interaction with the environment.” Cultural genocide is the systematic destruction of traditions, values, language, and other elements which make a one group of people distinct from other groups. It is both the height of irony that an organization like UNESCO, in order to advance a Palestinian political position, finds it fit to extinguish Jewish historical and cultural links to sites in Israel and Palestine. Why would even Jews who defend the right of Palestinians to have their own state be complicit in cultural genocide? There are also political repercussions. The more Israelis and other Jews alienated from around the world, the less likely they are to support a Palestinian state alongside Israel if cultural genocide is a consequence. Are any of these sites “culturally endangered” as Palmyra has been in Syria?

UNESCO does recognize many other sites in Israel as having a Jewish connection and as heritage sites – Tel Aviv as the White City and foremost representative of the Bauhaus or International style, Masada, the Necropolis of Beit Shean, and six others, but none on the other side of the Green Line. When the fight becomes a cultural and historical one and not simply political, the very purpose of UNESCO is threatened. But perhaps that is inherent in UNESCO. In its charter, culture, science and education are viewed as ways to advance political objectives, even as those objectives are spelled out in the lofty language of freedom, rights and the rule of law.  UNESCO memorialized Ernesto Che Guevera in the World International Documentary Collection even though he has been widely accused of committing massacres by the Cuban community in Miami. On the other hand, it was Israel which could be said to have instigated the process by designating the Cave of the Patriarchs, Hevron, Rachel’s Tomb and Bethlehem, as “national” heritage sites in 2010.

Ever since that date, UNESCO and Israel have been engaged in a cultural war, but one in which UNESCO has engaged in fostering cultural genocide. In January 2014, UNESCO escalated the conflict beyond Israel and swept all Jews into the maelstrom when Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, initially and indefinitely postponed a Paris exhibit promoted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center on the 3,500 year relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. On the basis of this totally obvious bias, indeed official endorsement of cultural genocide, last month both Israel and the US announced that each would be withdrawing from UNESCO, the US for the second time – it had rejoined in 2002 after an absence of 18 years. Even Christians have become upset with UNESCO when it named the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as a “Palestinian” heritage site, ignoring the fact that Jesus was a Jew.

It is against this background that the venom Tzipi Hotovely spewed against UNESCO should be viewed as well as Princeton University Hillel’s cancellation of Hotovely’s speech on the day it was to be given at Hillel’s Center for Jewish Life. The speech was cancelled under pressure from the Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP). Hotovely belongs to the Israeli hard-right. She is opposed to creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. She does not disregard any Palestinian sovereignty claims to the land as AJP stated; she strongly opposes such claims. She was in Princeton to explicitly make the case that settlements are not an obstacle to peace. (Even though I oppose the settlements, I would even insist that they are not the prime obstacle to peace.)

The effort to deny Hotovely the right to speak (she did speak, but under the auspices of Chabad) blackens the reputation of progressives at the same time as it deepens the chasm between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. AJP claimed that Hotovely’s stance damages the prospect of peace, something on which I would agree. Nevertheless, I defend her right to advance her position just as I defend the right of Palestinians to advocate their own One State solution. I do not have to attend, I do not have to participate in such occasions. But they do not foster violence or cultural genocide. Both sides offer fundamental differences over sovereignty.

However much I disagree with Hotovely, however much I oppose the government’s claims on behalf of the settlements, however much I declaim her contention that peace has not yet been achieved between Israelis and Palestinians because of incitement and a generation of young Palestinians who were not educated for hope, I have not read any evidence that she practices cultural genocide and denied any Islamic connection to the Haram al-Sharif in her address in the Knesset directly aimed at Palestinian MKs. Was it not enough to disagree with her over giving priority to Jewish claims to the site?  Even if one radically disagreed with her, she was not being uncivil as she claimed that Palestinians are “thieves of history” and accused them of attempting to Islamicize Jewish history. I go further than her. I claim that the Palestinian efforts are part of a campaign of cultural genocide. I strongly support a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Should I be silenced if I characterize the efforts in UNESCO as advancing a program of cultural genocide even it if is for what I regard as a worthy political purpose?

AJP in its open letter in The Princetonian expressed its shame that the Committee on Jewish Life (CJL) at Princeton misrepresented “our Jewish community’s politics and values. We will not sit by quietly as the Israeli government continues to entrench its control over Palestinians. We will not be silent as members of our Princeton community further these hateful and racist policies.” Subsequently, AJP claimed that it was not its intention either to censor MK Tzipi Hotovely or to cancel the event, but “to highlight the CJL’s systematic silencing of leftist voices on campus through uneven application of its ostensibly neutral Israel policy.” There was no evidence that I found that they supported Hotovely’s right to speak.

Further, no one said that AJP should be silent. No one said they should not oppose the Israeli government efforts to control Palestinian land or to even deny that it is Palestinian land. But that does not make the opposing position racist. Even more importantly, no group, absolutely no group, can claim to speak for the Jewish community as a whole, especially for its values.

Nothing so exacerbates the Israeli-Diaspora divide than the claim that Jews should speak with a singular voice, that Jews should be united. Hotovely to her credit, however disagreeable I find her views, has not insisted on a unified Jewish voice but a clearer opportunity to have the hard-right voice heard. In my view, nothing is more divisive among Jews than the argument about Jewish unity and who is most responsible for promoting that disunity and who is in the best position to defend that unity. The reality is that Jews have never been united.

Nor should nor need they be. The quest for unity is a chimera and itself a very divisive issue.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Few and the Many: Gregory Baum and the Creation of Israel

The Few and the Many: Gregory Baum and the Creation of Israel

by

Howard Adelman

In the previous two blogs, I tried to show why Gregory Baum was wrong in arguing first, that Orthodox Jews hesitated to support Israel because they believed that Israel could only be recreated by an act of God – indeed, only a small Orthodox sect, the Neturei Karta believed that. Second, Gregory argued that had there been no Hitler and no Holocaust, there would have been no Israel. Though there is a thread of plausibility in this thesis, and a few arguments and pieces of evidence support it, and though this is a belief also widely held in the Jewish community, I offered a number of arguments to demonstrate it is an erroneous thesis.

In this blog, I want to take up the other six quantitative theses of Gregory Baum’s anti-Zionist position in a slightly different order than first presented. Before Gregory shifted to theology, he earned an MA in mathematics. Therefore, it is thus more surprising to read the gross numerical errors concerning Zionism. The six quantitative theses are as follows:

  1. The Zionist Ideology Minority Thesis (ZIM) prior to Hitler.
  2. The Few Thesis: only a “few thousand arrivals…wanted to create a Jewish cultural community in Palestine” prior to Hitler.
  3. The Arab Opposition (AO) Thesis: those few thousand “would have found a space there without gravely disturbing the local population.”
  4. The Zionist Majority Thesis (ZM): large scale migration to Palestine led to the shift to majority support for Zionism.
  5. The Creation Thesis: that mass migration led to the creation of the State of Israel.
  6. The Conflict Thesis: mass migration also led to the conflict with the Arabs.
  1. The Zionist Ideology Minority Thesis (ZIM) prior to Hitler.

Gregory is correct. Prior to Israel, Zionism was a belief held by only minority of Jews. But so was Bundism (Socialism), Communism, Orthodoxy, Ultra-Orthodoxy, Liberalism, Assimilationism, or the Reform Movement. This is certainly true compared to what emerged after the creation of the State of Israel. Zionism became the clear majority belief among all Jews; it has remained the predominant belief since then. The issue is not that Zionism was a minority ideology before 1933, but whether Zionists constituted a significant minority prior to the accession of the Nazis to power. World Jewry has never articulated its views in a single voice. Even currently, when a majority of Jews support Israel, there are many different ways in which that support is manifested and different beliefs supporting the myriad of voices.

  1. The Few Thesis: only a “few thousand arrivals…wanted to create a Jewish cultural community in Palestine” prior to Hitler.

There is a hint of truth in this thesis, but one which reveals its overall gross distortion. With the rise of Hitler, the level of support for Zionism in 1936, particularly in America, was significantly higher than in 1932. But that does not mean that Zionist support prior to the rise of Hitler was insignificant. More particularly, with the plight of German Jewry worsening and the gates closing on immigration to America, Zionists could promote resettlement in Palestine in a way they could not in the years prior to Hitler’s accession to power. Those efforts earned support among individuals who would previously had nothing to do with Zionism. On the other hand, Britain began to close the gates even more to Jewish immigration in 1935, just 3 years after Hitler was first elected. Given the growing trend in the pattern of Jewish migration to Palestine prior to 1932, and had the original number of Jews been allowed to stay alive, it is safe to assume that, by 1947, the total number of Jews interested in migrating to Palestine would have grown in at least the same proportion as it did prior to the rise of Hitler. At the very least, there would have been as many Jews in Palestine as there were after the rise of Hitler and the catastrophe of the Shoah.

My focus will be on the five decades between 1882 and 1932 to assess whether there were only “a few thousand” Jewish arrivals in Palestine during this period.

The numbers of Jews and Arabs in Palestine who arrived in each of the following decades after 1880 before the rise of Hitler is a matter of some controversy. So are the Jewish and Arab percentages of the total population. I do not intend to sort through the various positions. Nor do I have to, for it takes very little effort to demonstrate an overwhelming consensus that the claim that, prior to the rise of Hitler, only “a few thousand arrivals…wanted to create a Jewish cultural community in Palestine,” is false. The claim is not only demonstrably false, it is so erroneous, regardless of the estimates used, that it constitutes a gross misrepresentation and misperception.

Without getting into the variation in estimates, in 1880, only 3% of the population of Palestine was Jewish out of a total population of about 450,000; 94% were Arabs. Jews lived in Safed and Jerusalem and constituted the largest plurality in the small populations in those two towns at the time.

In the Third Aliyah between 1917 and 1923, in spite of quotas imposed on Jewish immigration to Palestine, 40,000 more Jews migrated to Palestine, bringing the total number by 1923 to 90,000 halutzim or pioneers who had resettled in Palestine (see the August 1925 “Report of the Executive of the Zionist Organization.”) It was a period when marshes were drained, roads built and towns established. Even critics of the Zionist figures, such as Justin McCarthy, agree with the British census that the total population of Palestine had risen to 725,000 by 1922 of which 84,000 or about 12% were Jewish. Other estimates offer a percentage of 12.4% or 90,000.

In the Fourth Aliya from 1925 to 1931, another 80,000 Jews resettled in Palestine. The number of Jews had doubled and the percentage of the total population had increased to over 16%. Of the almost 225,000 Jews who resettled in Palestine in the Fifth Aliya between 1931 and 1939, in the first two years an estimated 60,000 more had arrived. Thus, Zionist migration to Palestine probably totalled about 230,000 by then. This is not “a few thousand.” In the next fifteen years, in spite of the British barriers to migration imposed in 1935, the total Jewish population of Palestine had risen to 630,000 representing almost 32% of the population by 1947.

Without the rise of Hitler, given the rate of increase of the Jewish population over the previous fifteen years from 1917-1932 and projecting forward, without even considering the constant acceleration in the number of arrivals, the Jewish population would have doubled again to 460,000 rather than 630,000. If the rate of acceleration is taken into account, bracketing the war, the Holocaust and British barriers, it is estimated that about the same numbers would have arrived that actually did. That is, without Hitler, without the Holocaust, the number of Jews in Palestine would have been at least as many in 1947 as ended up there.

  1. The Arab Opposition (AO) Thesis: those few thousand “would have found a space there without gravely disturbing the local population.”

Quite aside for the number of Jews numbering far more than a few thousand, the thesis that if only a few Jews had migrated into Palestine, the Arab populations would have received them in peace is even a larger falsification. First, the Jews who arrived did not displace any Arabs prior to 1947. Though there is a debate over numbers, there is a general agreement that the booming Jewish economic sectors in Palestine attracted an in-migration of Arabs. Yet, in spite of the economic benefit, in spite of the fact that in 1922 Jews only constituted 12% of the population and totaled only about 80,000 to 90,000, Haj Amin el-Husseini emerged as the radical voice of the Palestinians. He organized fedayeen (suicide terrorists) who began to attack Jews in 1919.

Thus, Gregory perpetuates a double misrepresentation. First, that Jewish immigration prior to the rise of Hitler was small. Wrong! Second, that the initial reception of Arabs was peaceful. Wrong again! The leadership was violent even when the in-migration of Jews, though significant, was not threatening at all. In 1920, the first of a series of Arab riots began during Passover. Attacks increased in 1921. In spite of that history, in spite of being arrested and sentenced for sedition, in 1922, the British government released el- Husseini and appointed him Mufti.

Further, from that position, he consolidated power over the Arab community, taking control of all the assets and income of the mosques as well as controlling the educational system and the administration of sharia law. Like many dictators in the Arab world that succeeded him, like Erdoğan in Turkey or Putin in Russia, and, frankly, consistent with the actions of Donald Trump currently, no one could hold a position unless personally loyal to the Mufti. Given the power he accumulated so quickly, the British mandatory authority tried to assuage him by restricting Jewish immigration to “absorptive capacity.” But even that was not sufficient. Husseini insisted on zero immigration. Gregory Baum’s thesis on this issue is just balderdash.

  1. The Zionist Majority Thesis (ZM): large scale migration to Palestine led to the shift to majority support for Zionism

This causal analysis reminds me of the tale of the scientist working on the causes of drunkenness. He conducted an experiment giving his subjects equal amounts of gin and water on day 1, bourbon and water on day 2, vodka and water on day 3, scotch and water on day 4, and rye and water on day 5. After he observed that the subjects became equally intoxicated each day, the scientist concluded that the cause of the intoxication was the water.

Gregory’s error was rather more egregious, for there is a temporal factor. Mass migration took place AFTER the creation of the State of Israel with the huge influx of Jews from Arab lands as well as a good part of the survivors left in the DP camps in Europe. Yet evidence suggests that the support for Israel became a majoritarian perspective with the creation of the State of Israel. Majority support for Israel preceded large scale migration.

  1. The Creation Thesis: mass migration led to the creation of Israel

This is virtually the same issue, but applied to the non-Jewish world. Britain prevented mass migration to Israel from 1935 to 1948. The migration that took place mostly occurred in spite of British policies. In 1947, the UN members offered majority support for creating the State of Israel to get rid of the 250,000 refugees in the camps as well as for a host of reasons within Palestine. The creation of the state and the Arab resistance to that majority decision, the invasion of the nascent State of Israel by Arab states and, mostly, the persecution of their own Jewish citizens by those and other Arab states, led to the mass migration. Mass migration followed and did not precede the creation of the State of Israel.

  1. The Conflict Thesis: mass migration led to the conflict with the Arabs.

The above account also demonstrates the perfidiousness of this final thesis. I want to end, not by summarizing, but by asking how such a genuinely good man could arrive at such heinous conclusions. They are not the conclusions of Gregory alone, but of leaders in the United Church in Canada and of my other three friends and colleagues who joined with him in writing the terrible 1970s ecumenical paper based on more or less these same arguments.

One explanation is that none of the four were historians. But most of the information cited above was publicly available. One did not have to be a historian to avoid such egregious errors in judgment. Another approach to find an explanation examines the development of their ideas in the context of their personal and institutional histories. Gregory’s position must be viewed in such a context. He is a Roman Catholic. However, there has been a movement of reconciliation with Judaism in the last fifty years among Catholics. On the religious level, Gregory played a leading role. But not on the political level! The Holy See established formal relations with Israel only in 1993, well after Gregory’s influence had waned. Historically, the papacy had been consistently hostile to Zionism as an ideology. The Church actively opposed diplomatic efforts to promote the Zionist cause through resettlement of Jews in the first decades of the twentieth century. (Cf. Sergio Minerbi, The Vatican and Zionism, Oxford U.P., 1990)

However, I believe the main cause is mindblindness, an inability or unwillingness to see what is in front of you plainly in view. One final example. In that older seventies paper I recall one of the arguments was over the Crusades, an argument in which Gregory expressed a specific Christian responsibility for the Crusades that was the exertion of Western power against the Arabs in the Middle East. Whatever the value of that thesis, most noticeable was the omission of any effects of the Crusades on the Jews who had been devastated by pogroms perpetrated by the Crusaders.

When guilt over the Crusades was married to guilt over the desire to ethnically cleanse European Jews, the two premises were synthesized in the willingness and desire to dump Europe’s problems with Jews onto the Arabs. Whether or not neo-colonialism should be viewed as a modern extension of the Crusades, the assumption of guilt for pushing the Jewish problems onto the Arabs seems totally unwarranted, especially given that almost half of the Jewish population in Israel is made up of Jews forced to flee Arab countries. However, I do not believe that mindblindness should be viewed as a form of antisemitism.

Gregory Baum – Israel’s creation depended on Hitler and the Holocaust

Corrupt History II – Gregory Baum on Pre-Independence Zionism

  1. The Hitler/Holocaust Thesis

by

Howard Adelman

Gregory Baum wrote, “If there had been no Hitler and no Auschwitz, Zionism would have remained a small movement.” In yesterday’s blog on Orthodox opposition and support for pre-independence Zionism, I pointed out a number of factors which suggest that, although Hitler, and to a minor extent, the Holocaust itself, had an impact on the creation of Israel, both were relatively minor factors with mixed effects, a position much against the widespread beliefs in both those critical of Zionism and its defenders, though not among most scholars.

One positive, if horrific fact, supporting the thesis is that 80% of the ultra-Orthodox – who strongly opposed secular political Zionism – were killed in the Holocaust. The slaughter of the Hasidim reduced a major source of diaspora opposition to Zionism and may even have increased the percentage of Jews supporting Zionism.  Of course, this is not generally what is meant when writers claim that without Hitler, there would have been no Israel. They really refer to enhancement of the motivations of Jews and guilt created by the Holocaust among bystanders. (“Understanding for Zionism and sympathy for its cause has waned in Western countries as the memory of the Holocaust has receded” – the Herzl Institute.) However, there is only miniscule evidence for this thesis. Nevertheless, the historical facts offer some data to suggest why the thesis could possibly be correct.

Though Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London 2000-2008) claimed that Hitler had supported Zionism, this is false news. However, there is a second argument that might suggest that Hitler enhanced the Zionist cause. On 25 August 1933, Nazi Germany and Zionist German Jews signed the very controversial Haavara (transfer) Agreement. The Anglo-Palestine Bank under the direction of the Jewish Agency had been part of the negotiations. Allowing German Jews to use a portion of their assets for Jewish businesses in Palestine to purchase German goods permitted German Jews, if they resettled in Palestine, to be compensated by those Palestine businesses. In six years between 1933 and 1939, Germany was able by this means to export about US$35,000,000 worth of goods. Jews who went to Palestine were able to recover about $US100 million of their assets. However, while a significant injection, this represented a very small part of the productivity in Palestine between 1933 and 1939. Far more than that was lost as a result of the 1936-1939 Palestinian uprising.

The deal also facilitated the migration of 60,000 Yekkes from Germany to Palestine under what today is known as an immigration investor program. Whatever the support for Zionism in Eastern Europe, among German Jews, there had been very little support in 1933 for Zionism. Their numbers represented about 2% of the German Jewish population and this is a significant source of the belief of Gregory Baum that Zionism was a small movement.

The Haavara Agreement strengthened Zionism on the ground in Palestine. However, it also set a precedent for breaching the anti-Nazi worldwide Jewish boycott imposed on Germany, a boycott instigated by the persecution of Jews with the firing of Jews from the government, the boycott of Jewish businesses, and the quotas imposed on Jewish enrolment in schools and universities. While the agreement led to the rescue of a significant number of Jews, it also created a deep chasm within the Zionist movement, a rift that some would argue seriously weakened it because of this schism. As Edwin Black wrote, “The Transfer Agreement tore the Jewish world apart, turning leader against leader, threatening rebellion and even assassination.” My interpretation is that the damage caused was more significant than the benefits, but it is a claim that is hard to make, for most of the 60,000 Jews might not have otherwise been saved.

Supporters of the H/H thesis also claim that Hitler and the Holocaust greatly increased the sympathy for Zionism. However, the reality was that the general antisemitism prevalent throughout Europe before Hitler even came to power had made Zionism a much stronger movement in Eastern Europe than most of its competitors even though it had an insignificant impact among German Jews. Zionism was NOT a small movement in 1933.

Further, the evidence seems to be clear that in 1933 there was already a movement among Orthodox Jews to support Zionism. This movement initially opposed  the community establishment and prominent rabbis that culminated in 1937 in Agudat Israel, an Orthodox political movement, formally shifting from an anti-Zionist to a non-Zionist position. On the other hand, even after Hitler, even after the Holocaust, Agudat Israel opposed the United Nations motion in November 1947 recommending partition and the creation of a Jewish state. If Hitler and the Holocaust had been so consequential in the creation of the State of Israel, then a major political party representing certainly the leadership in the Orthodox community would have shifted to support the creation of Israel. But they did not. So at least in this area, there is clear evidence that the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust had no major influence on Agudat Israel’s support for Israel.

One argument supporting the claim that without Hitler there would have been no Israel is based on the fact that WWII so weakened the British economy and military capacity after the war that Britain was unable to defeat the Zionist rebellion. On a broader scale, this position really credits Hitler for the dissolution of the British Empire, ignoring the worldwide forces behind the principle of self-determination quite independently of both Hitler and British power.

There is another argument that claims that the Holocaust benefitted Israel. As a result of the Holocaust, Germany paid Israel reparations and those reparations helped Israel to grow economically. But this happened after Israel was created and may indeed have played a role in ensuring the economic viability of the state. But it is not an argument supporting the claim that the Holocaust helped bring Israel into being. It is difficult to understand why the claim is so widely accepted that, “the Holocaust motivated large numbers of immigrants to move to Palestine” thereby creating a critical population mass. I will deal with this latter claim, namely that the Holocaust motivated large numbers of Jews to move to Palestine, in a separate blog on migration.

Further, roughly half the population of Israel came from Arab and other Middle East states. Their move to Palestine started before the Zionist movement developed tracks and mostly continued without formal Zionist help. But the really large movement came after the creation of the State of Israel. If Hitler and the Holocaust were the major sources for this movement, then the effort of Jews from Arab lands and other Middle East countries (Turkey, Iran) would have increased enormously after the war and put enormous pressure on the British attempt to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine. There was no significant pressure from Jews in Arab lands and in Iran and Turkey. The push came after the state was created, suggesting strongly that the creation of the state, for various reasons, stimulated the large migration from these sources. Migration pressure from this source did not result from the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust to influence the creation of Israel. Quite the reverse! The creation of the State of Israel instigated the mass migration.

Even within the major denomination of Jews in the New World, the sympathy for Zionism in Reform Jewry only took off well after WWII, well after the Holocaust. The latter two may have had an influence, but the evidence suggests that the Six Day War was really the turning point. The reason is that, in the build up towards that war, Jews who did not identify with Zionism identified with their fellow Jews under threat of annihilation and even feared that Israel would lose and the Jews would be slaughtered. Thus, solidarity with live Jews under threat acted as a much greater catalyst than the dead Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust, though the Holocaust had begun to haunt world Jewry as well as the rest of the world. But by then, Israel was already nineteen years old.

What about the effects of the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust on the sympathies of non-Jews? Hitler rose to power in the 1930s. Was there any dramatic effort to stop Hitler from persecuting Jews? Were there strong government boycotts? Did countries open their borders to Jews in flight? If the rise of Hitler had such an impact, why was that impact not translated into some significant action then? There were a number of options available to countries which, at the very least, they could have considered.

During the Holocaust, and certainly afterwards, the West was chastised for not bombing the railroads transporting the Jews to the extermination camps. There is now ample evidence that those in positions of power knew about the transports. I happen to believe, based on my reading, that bombing the railroads leading to the camps by the West was not realistic since the fighter escort craft guarding the bombers would not have had enough fuel to get to places like Poland and back to Britain. But when I was reading documents in the British archives providing background for my research on Jewish refugees after WWII, I never read any evidence that there was a serious study of the alternatives available to interfere with the murder machine, quite aside from whether any of the alternatives was realistic.

Most significantly, immediately after the war, when the Anglo-American Committee visited the refugee camps in 1946, the concern was how to get rid of the refugees. Try to find any significant evidence of guilt over the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust influencing the decision to recommend that Britain allow the entry into Palestine of 100,000 Jews. If countries felt guilt about Hitler and the Holocaust, surely they would either have pressured Britain, a country on the economic ropes at the time, to change its policies and/or resettle the refugees. No significant pressure was applied. By 1947, the Jewish refugees collected in European camps totalled about 250,000.

When I read both the minutes of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine as well as the archival files and memoirs of some of the members, I could not find a hint of guilt about Hitler or the Holocaust, let alone some discussion of both. Instead, a very major concern was again the disposition of the refugees, by then increased to 250,000. I would argue that this problem, as well as the difficulties of any other solution, would lead both the Majority Report that recommended partition and the creation of a Jewish state, and the Minority Report recommending a federation, to see Palestine as a repository for the Jewish refugees.

In 1946, when a survey was undertaken of the Jewish refugees about where they wanted to resettle, the majority indicated Palestine. However, there is plenty of evidence to indicate that representatives of the Jewish Agency manipulated both the refugees and the vote to ensure that outcome. In 1946, though Zionism was certainly a significant movement by then, in spite of Hitler, in spite of the Holocaust, a majority of Jewish refugees did not prioritize Palestine as a place to resettle.

However, this changed by the time UNSCOP visited the camps in 1947. The numbers had more than doubled. But genuine support for Zionism in the camps was now almost overwhelming. Why? Neither Hitler nor the Holocaust held positions as intervening causes. The reason was the recognition that Jews still were unwanted by the nations of the world. Without Palestine, the Jews might remain warehoused in camps for years. They did not anticipate that the West would begin to unlock the gates, especially in North America.

In sum, the evidence suggests that both Hitler and the Holocaust were reasons why the pressures among Jewry decreased in Europe because there were far fewer Jews, both to oppose and to support Zionism. Hitler and the Holocaust did not give Zionism a boost, but severely undermined its efforts by slaughtering 95% of the populations from which it drew its main base of support.  There is no significant evidence that either the Holocaust – which in the 1940s was still little discussed outside legal circles – or Hitler enhanced the Zionist movement in any way. The dedication of Zionists to converting more of the Jewish masses to their cause, their efforts in diplomacy with nations from whom they could get potential support, the military preparations on the ground, and, most importantly of all, the effect of the military victory in the War of Independence after the state had been created, had the most profound influence on support for the nascent state both among Jews in the diaspora and among non-Jews.

Why then the myth that Zionism became a significant movement only because of Hitler and the Holocaust. After all, even Nahum Goldmann, once president of the World Jewish Congress, claimed that “without Auschwitz there would be no Israel.” I will try to answer that question by the time I finish reviewing the other six theses that Gregory Baum put forth. In the interim, the preponderance of evidence undermines the thesis that the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust provided Israel with the resources, the population, and the approval of other nations to come into existence and subsequently thrive.

Israeli and Palestinian Role and Response: UNSC Resolution 2334

Israeli and Palestinian Role in and Response to UNSC Resolution 2334

by

Howard Adelman

The Palestinian reaction to Resolution 2334 seems obvious. Ever since the Fatah faction of the PLO decided that they could not win militarily on the ground, in contrast to Hamas, even as the battle shifted from direct warfare to guerilla warfare or terrorism, Fatah resorted to trying to win in international diplomatic and legal fora. On 4 August of 2009, at the sixth general conference of Fatah held after a hiatus of six years, and specifically convened symbolically in Bethlehem next to the Church of the Nativity within Occupied Palestine and not in a foreign Arab capital, with over 2,000 in attendance, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sold his movement on the proposition that Palestinians had to adopt a different form of opposition to Israeli power and focus on increasing international support.

“We should introduce new forms of resistance to attract universal public opinion” to reinforce Palestinian rights within the context of international law. Peaceful methods, though not exactly Gandhi’s form of non-violent resistance, recommended earlier by Faisal Husseini before the first intifada, would supersede, but not exclude, military armed struggle to become the foundation stone for building a Palestinian state. It was an explicit rejection of the proposal of President Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to achieve peace through economic cooperation and integration, a proposal Bibi put forth just after he assumed office in April of 2009.

There is, of course, a huge irony in all this. While Fatah pursued the backing of international law, Abbas consolidated his monopolization on domestic power at the expense of the rule of law. “He is the president of the Palestinian Authority, head of the Fatah movement, head of the PLO’s Executive Committee and the commander in chief of the Palestinian security forces. He neglects the law (my italics) and the movement’s statutes that govern its institutions. He monopolizes power and is abusive toward those who disagree with him.” These are not my words but those of Abdel-Hakim Awad, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council who nominated Abbas to his position, but recently was excluded from the movement’s seventh congress in Ramallah held in December because of his criticisms. This step, along with the monopoly of the control of media and lifting the parliamentary immunity of opponents, are sure signs that a leader had turned towards adopting totalitarian methods.

In that Fatah quest for the imprimatur of international law, Jerusalem was front and centre. Not East Jerusalem, but Jerusalem. Jerusalem was to be the capital of the new Palestinian state. The target became freezing settlement activities in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. No freeze then no peace negotiations. The cessation of settlement activities became the sine qua non for resuming peace negotiations. Settlement activity anywhere in the West Bank and East Jerusalem had to be branded as illegal.

Resolution 2334 was a peak victory in that effort. The upcoming French Peace Summit on 15 January, just next week, may be another, especially if the representatives to that summit endorse a pace plan along most of the lines proposed by John Kerry. I would not expect them to agree to sharing Jerusalem as a joint capital, but if they also get that summit to declare all settlements across the old Green Line as not just an impediment to peace, not just as illegitimate, but as illegal, it would mean defining the Jewish Quarter in the Old City and twelve very large neighbourhoods in Jerusalem as illegal as well as the settlements in Area C and beyond the Separation Barrier, not to speak even of the outposts illegal even under Israeli law. The effort to relocate the Amona settlers to land owned by ‘absentee landlords’ to legalize the settlement in accordance with Israeli law and in contravention of past practice of not putting settlements on Palestinian privately owned property, will become irrelevant.

Further, from now on, as Italian journalist Giulio Meotti wrote, “any Israeli, civilian or military, involved in the ‘settlements,’ will be liable to judgment for violating the Geneva Convention. The Israeli army, which administers areas B and C, may be indicted if it demolishes the homes of terrorists, if it expropriates the land for reasons of ‘security’, if it plans new Israeli homes. The decision is now in the hands of the Hague prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, who has already opened an investigation about the ‘Israeli settlements,’ believing they constitute a ‘war crime.’ Israeli military personnel and politicians could be subject to warrants if they land in London, as occurred with Tzipi Livni.” Further, Israeli banks operating even in the “illegal” Jerusalem neighbourhoods could be charged under international law. The European Council on Foreign Relations has already proposed sanction against some Israeli banks – Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi and the Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank.

Another nail will have been driven into the coffin of Resolution 242 which indirectly gave Israel permission to trade peace for territorial acquisitions. The old armistice lines would become once more a reference point for negotiations. Further, if the Summit follows the lead of Resolution 2334 and, on the issue of violence, ignores John Kerry’s speech, Palestinian incitement and celebration of terrorism could continue as a supplementary rather than prime form of resistance. Ostensibly committed to a non-violent path to peace, documents and proposals that emerge from the Summit will only be generalized condemnation of violence with no effort to pinpoint centres of responsibility.

Further, the PA can be expected to use the International Criminal Court to pursue Israeli individuals and charge Israel with more specific legal actions. In addition, the resources of the UN, now being used to prepare the organizational ground for a more comprehensive targeted boycott of Israeli goods, will get a further impetus. Finally, the U.S., Israel’s strongest defender, will be further sidelined and the Trump administration castrated in the world of international diplomacy and international law as much as Trump might shift American policy to a much stronger pro-settler position. The U.S. has been pushed from the centre to the margins in Israel-Palestinian negotiations, a position very unlikely to dent but possibly increasingly cement the close ties on military defence and intelligence issues as well as the huge economic exchange between the two countries.

At the same time, the Trump administration with Democratic Party support will likely fight back on behalf of Israel, threatening legal action against European banks if they begin to boycott Israeli banks, bar European institutions and pension funds from American-controlled systems of economic exchange if they proscribe Israel from investments and if Israeli companies are blacklisted. Instead of the regional economic cooperation that Bibi had proposed in 2009 as a pathway to peace, we will have international economic, legal and diplomatic warfare. How can one argue that Resolution 2334 enhances the prospect of peace?

There is one illusion that has accompanied Resolution 2334. Since it was passed under Article VI of the UN Convention instead of Article VII, many interpret the Resolution as non-binding. General Assembly resolutions are clearly only recommendations, but they also influence practices and budgets of the UN administration. Recommendations of the UN Security Council under Chapter VI have no enforcement mechanisms. However, though disputed by many international legal experts, the ruling of a majority of the International Court in The Hague in 1971 declared that all UN Security Council decisions are binding. There may be no coercive power attached to them, but they have a tremendous influence politically and diplomatically and help build a widespread world consensus on certain matters. In this sense, a resolution can be morally binding even if compliance is only voluntary. One should never underestimate the power of morality even in a dog-eat-dog world.

Of course, Israel’s challenge to Obama on his home turf over the Iran nuclear deal did not help Israel win friends among many Democrats. As Martin Sherman, Executive Director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Affairs put it in a relatively understated matter, the “appalling and infuriating outbursts of vindictive pique” of Israeli politicians led by Bibi Netanyahu probably damaged the Israeli position more than anything and, as Sherman predicted, prepared the ground for the UN Resolution. Then there was a total absence of preparation for the impending storm, either through diplomatic initiatives to propose putting the two-State solution and peace negotiations back on track or, on the other hand, using the stick to get the Palestinians to back off by tightening the economic screws through which Israel primarily controls Abbas. None of these entailed freezing settlement activities.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also criticized Bibi for not working to prevent the passage of Resolution 2334 much more assiduously. There is not a single bit of evidence that Israel intends to accept Resolution 2334 as a basis for negotiation, notwithstanding Bibi’s endorsement of a two-State solution in his famous 2009 Bar-Ilan speech. For Israel, while ostensibly holding up that goal, did virtually everything in its power to undermine it, often through means that appeared to any reasonable observer to be disingenuous and insincere, deceptive and deceitful. This became abundantly clear when Bibi vowed that there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch. It is the height of folly to endorse a two-State solution on the one hand and then promise it will never come into being while you are in office on the other hand. Will Israel seek to engage its old European democratic partners once again in dialogue, as extensive as the disagreements are, or will Bibi go on an all-out warpath against them? Merely to ask the question reveals the answer.

The debate in Israel will shift to whether the objective should be strengthening the control and demography of Area C, while also thickening the settlements on the other side of the Separation Barrier, versus those who want to go after all of the West Bank, perhaps sharing part in a condominium arrangement with Jordan, but, in that alternative, denying the possibility of a Palestinian state coming into existence side-by-side Israel. In the wider field, Israel will increasingly become an opponent of the expansion of international law and legal norms and will have surrendered the turf of international diplomacy and law to Palestinian machinations. As Palestine becomes more authoritarian and totalitarian, ironically it increases the number of democracies at the front line of its defence.

Thus, there are divisions within Israel, the majority favouring one or other form of two-State solution and a minority aiming for territorial maximalism. Whatever the divisions, most Jewish Israelis find themselves united in opposition to the premises of Resolution 2334. Given the right-wing character of the Israeli government, the Israeli polity will ensure that not only no transportation link between Gaza and the West Bank will be established, but that Gazan students pursuing higher education degrees will not be allowed direct access to the West Bank. If a man and woman from the West Bank and Gaza fall in love, they will only be permitted to live together in Gaza. Other mechanisms of depopulating Area C of Palestinians will continue.

While Palestinians are increasingly united on the diplomatic and legal strategy but divided on their military and security strategy, on the ground barriers, between Palestinian communities grow. Abdel-Hakim Awad, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and the Palestinian National Council, has attacked Abbas even though he originally made the motion to make Abbas head of the PA. He accused Abbas of excessively cooperating with Israel to maintain security in Area B. The irony is that, while legally and politically, the international community has moved to legitimize Palestinian control over all territories outside the Green Line, on the ground, that line is increasingly totally irrelevant. If a peace agreement is by some far out chance agreed to, Palestinian communities will have to be linked together by a series of sunken and exclusive roads, provided they are part of the agreement and Israel implements those clauses.

What has also evaporated, Kerry’s rhetoric to the contrary, is the vision of two alternatives – an Israel that is Jewish but non-democratic or an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic because it lives within much more restrictive borders. Israel can leave out the major population of Palestinians, use various devices to ensure that Palestine does not become a full self-governing state, and remain both Jewish and democratic. The real choice is between different variations of a Jewish and democratic state.

In a very expansionist scenario, outposts will be “regularized.” In a middle range objective, only Area C will be viewed for incorporation into Israel. In a very modest and dovish proposal, but one which only a small minority of Jewish Israelis share, Israel will just keep the new neighbourhoods of Jerusalem across the Green Line and the Old City. The latter two alternatives allow for a Palestinian state alongside Israel occupying 22% of the territory of the original Mandate. The first does not. But none of these include the most extreme and aggressive Zionist option of a one state solution where there is no Palestinian state at all but where Jordan is expected to play a specific role, one to which it is very unlikely to agree.

In light of the passage of UNSC Res. 2334, what might the effect be of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem? For one, it would send a clear and unequivocal message that America is no longer bound by international law. Many others would be further alienated from both the U.S. and Israel. As Martin Indyk (no admirer of Trump) pointed out, Trump might so shake things up that the peace process could possibly be reconstituted. According to Indyk, it would start by resolving the thorniest issue of all first in contrast to my preference for bracketing Jerusalem as unresolvable. It depends on buying into Kerry’s vision of Jerusalem as a joint capital, which neither the Israelis, Trump and his supporters or even the Palestinians endorse. While Israel would run into this proposal like a bull, the Palestinians would try to bite their tongues and stay out of the fray to gain more diplomatic and legal points. The move of the American embassy will be a demonstration of even more impotence on the part of the international community and a reaction by both Netanyahu (or his successor) to install more footprints in the sand.

Indyk himself admits his proposal is far-fetched, but he felt he had to grasp for straws. I prefer to breathe the political air that is actually out there.

One of the great benefits of Kerry’s speech is that it agreed with and backed the Israeli position that no solution can be imposed from outside, but that the parties themselves would have to come to some compromise. There were other gains. Kerry specifically mentioned the need to endorse Israel as a Jewish state. He also explicitly said that the refugee issue would be resolved through compensation and not through return. However, as important as these gains are, they pale in significance compared to the diplomatic and legal costs of Resolution 2334.

The result will not only be very much increased diplomatic, legal and economic wrangling on the world stage, but greatly increased tensions within the Fatah movement and within Israeli political institutions, all likely to be at the cost of democratic practices. The tensions over democratic norms within Israel are nowhere comparable to those taking place on the West Bank. However, if the treatment of Deputy Attorney General, Dina Zilber, is any indication, democratic institutions in Israel will be roiled in conflict. Zilber’s report recommended that all settlement activities be made accountable to the government and not relegated to a non-accountable World Zionist Federation. This report was thrown in the trash heap. If this treatment is any indication, then the independent advice of professional mandarins is likely to be set aside and ignored. Highly qualified mandarins will be castrated because their professional activities frustrate the ambitions of the more extreme members of the right-wing Israeli cabinet. The civil service will become far less civil and much more partisan in exclusive service to the party then in power.

Instead of peace, Resolution 2334 has opened the floodgates to a huge expansion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the world stage. As Miriam Na’or of the Supreme Court of Israel stated, “You cannot ignore international law.” Conflict will not only increase between Palestinians and Israelis, but also within both Palestine and Israeli governmental structures. In Israel, the efforts to bend Israeli law to serve partisan political purposes is bound to increase at the same time as the prospect of a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians becomes more remote each day.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution: Part B Current Contentions and Historical Background

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution:
Part B Current Contentions and Historical Background

by

Howard Adelman

What happens when an extreme dove like myself agrees with Israel’s current Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation, Ayoob Kara, who reiterated the Netanyahu cabinet position that the key problem with respect to peace is not the settlements. Kara is also part of the faction that contends that, “There is no way to put a state between Jordan and Israel.” He and other extreme right-wingers oppose the creation of any Palestinian state whatsoever. It is very dangerous to share one point of agreement with such proponents because you risk being identified with their entire position.

What if you share two positions? Arutz Sheva published the following in an OpEd by Ted Belman on 1 January entitled, “Since when did Palestinians become entitled to a state?” “Another example of invoking a law that doesn’t exist is the clause which cites “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”. Howard Adelman makes short shrift of this proposition. There is no such law.” The citation was based on my first blog in this series which was re-published and circulated on Israpundit. Though this is not quite the way I would have worded a summary of my position, it is not a distortion either.

I agree with the Israeli right that the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force is peculiar when it seems to be applied to only one case. I also agree with the Israeli political right that the key issue preventing peace is not the settlements, as much as I opposed settlements for years. I used to think the biggest issue was and would remain the refugee return issue, but there is now an understanding on that problem. I contend that the central issue preventing a peace agreement is Jerusalem, particularly the Old City and its immediate surroundings. Though I agree with Kara that the settlements are not the main obstacle to peace, I disagree with both him and the general thrust of and increasing tendency of the current Israeli cabinet to declare that, “First and foremost, the Palestinian issue is not relevant. There is no government and no leadership that will accept this state. Most of the citizens in the PA do not want for (sic!) Israel to leave. They want to be under the regime of Israel. Only the extremists want this state. They are trying to pretend that they want a peace process but they are liars.” Again, part of the problem when you agree on one or two points with the opposition, there is a propensity to believe you have other agreements with them as well.

The Palestinian issue is extremely relevant, and to dismiss it is the height of irresponsibility. Though there is currently no government or Palestinian leadership that will accept the Palestinian state on offer from Israel, it is blatantly untrue that they will not accept a state. The core problem is that they will not accept a state on offer from the majority of Jewish Israelis regardless of the differences among them. Further, most Palestinians do not want to be under Israeli rule. To assert that only the extremists want a Palestinian state is to engage in either delusion, propaganda or both. Why Jewish Israelis overwhelmingly do not want to give up the Old City is not a matter of security. It is a matter of identity and ideology, the same reason that the Palestinians want control of the Temple Mount or al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf. This, and no longer security, is the main obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, though security for both sides is extremely important.

However, Resolution 2334 does not reiterate, but alters, the fundamental framework for negotiating a two-state solution. It certainly does nothing except undermine the reality of Israel as a democratic state and the possibility of Palestine becoming one. Rather than stabilizing the region, the Resolution will further destabilize it. There are certainly negative trends on the ground. The expansion of settlements is definitely one of them. But the resolution attempts to reverse the negative trends on one side while only paying lip service to negative trends on the other side. In so doing, the saboteurs on both sides are strengthened, not weakened. In any case, those trends do not entrench a one-State solution as much as some might wish they do, especially the right in Israel.

There has indeed been a very aggressive effort by the Netanyahu government to both thicken and normalize the settlements. In questing for the former, thickening the settlements, he has undermined their normalization in the predominant view in the international community. But he has also entrenched the settlements more firmly as a de facto and irreversible reality, creating a significant hurdle for peace, but not the insurmountable one portrayed in the Resolution.

Under any scenario, settlements will indeed grow, but no longer in significant numbers. As a result, the possibility of a two-state solution need not recede, except for those who want to use the settlements as a propaganda instrument to advance one side, including idealist international diplomats who refuse to take realities on the ground as important components in conducting diplomacy.

The failure to recognize the above and allowing oneself to get caught up in that illusion is part of the explanation for the terrible mishandling of the Israeli-Palestinian issue by the international community. Rather than creating conditions for successful final status negotiations, the Resolution ensures that no such negotiations will take place in my lifetime. The Resolution does even more to undermine a lifetime of work on behalf of a secure and democratic Israel living side-by-side a proud and respected Palestinian state than all the efforts of either Netanyahu or Bennett on one side or Abbas and his cohorts on the other. The Resolution was a travesty and a reward for the politics of illusion and delusion rather than a politics which analyzes power and tries to constrain and direct that power by lofty values.

Will the Resolution do anything for the 100,000 Palestinians living among 400,000 Jewish Israeli, Palestinians who live under martial law and are denied equal rights with the Jewish residents of the area? Since Israel is the occupying force in the area, will the Resolution enhance and strengthen Israel’s responsibility to protect Palestinians in Area C and prevent some extremist Israeli settlers from attacking Palestinians and targeting their lands and properties? The reality is that Israeli authorities are lenient towards violent settlers, rarely charging them and even more rarely meting out proportionate punishment. At the same time, the Abbas government, while discouraging terrorism, also lauds the perpetrators and gives them honours.
Most recently, the fight over the Old City has focused on the immediate surroundings, in particular, Batan al-Hawa in Silwan. There are 50 parcels of land in Batan al-Hawa. The Ateret Cohanim Asociation now has control over nine of them. 81 families have received eviction notices. It is one thing for Israel to seek to reinforce the Jewish presence in a contested area like the Old City and its immediate surroundings. It is quite another to treat Palestinians unjustly. It is absolutely unacceptable to use Border Police and private security firms against local residents simply because they are living in properties to which they are deemed not to have legal title. It is incumbent upon Israel as the occupying power to ensure that all residents are treated with respect and dignity.

At the same time, will the Resolution do anything for the 80,000 Jews who live on the other side of the separation barrier among well over a million Palestinians, Jews who are subject to attacks by terrorists? Does it foster good will between and among those Jews as well as among the large majority of Muslims with whom Jewish Israelis live in the larger region and among whom they will likely continue to live even if and when Palestine becomes a state? Or will the resolution help perpetuate a belief that the Palestinian state should and must be Judenrein and cleansed of all Jews?

Is there any gain for passing the Resolution in advancing peace in the region? Or is the purpose of the Resolution to assuage the guilt of idealists who have proven so impotent in the past and have become even more determined than ever to reaffirm that impotence? Those so-called idealists, those pretenders to the throne of advancing Palestinian rights, never face up to the repeated question of why Israel is cited as the main villain in repeated resolution after repeated resolution while heinous crimes all over the world are relatively ignored? Will those movers and shakers face the possibility that efforts on behalf of the Palestinians have done more to harm the development of democracy within that proud and estimable community than the cumulative wrongs imposed on Palestine by the settler movement?

North Korea with its mad leader will become an effective nuclear power next year. There were twenty resolutions put before the UN denouncing Israel in 2016. One, Resolution 2270, imposed fresh sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) as the UN denounced in the most vigorous terms nuclear testing by North Korea. The UN has done nothing really and deeply effective to stop North Korea’s march, “in violation and flagrant disregard” of a succession of UN impotent measures, towards becoming an actual real nuclear power.

The Israeli right, joined on this issue by the centre and even the moderate left, are never given an answer for the query of why Israel is isolated for such focused attention and given such a persistent priority and such negative treatment in the UN. Have the idealists defending the just cause of a Palestinian state living side-by-side Israel ever asked themselves the question why such efforts have rarely worked? Demonstrating outrage is a poor substitute for a demonstrable lack of political acumen, especially when it is expressed in such a one-sided and distorted way. Is it not at least understandable why many Jewish Israelis and many other Jews around the world have come to believe that this form of criticism of Israeli politics is but a new form of anti-Semitism?

Why is the UN prone to demonstrate repeatedly that it is unable to wed lofty ideals with effective action? In the waning days of the Obama administration, why has the U.S. joined in this chorus of false moralizing? As the Oslo peace talks showed, the settlements are not the major barrier to peace between Israel and a nascent Palestine. The disposition of Jerusalem, particularly of the Old City, is, and its problematic status has little to do with the issue of settlements. Yet the resolution conflates the two issues and does so on such a weak historical foundation that it would be laughable if it were not so troublesome.

The Resolution went out of its way to explicitly condemn Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and failed to distinguish between the Jewish Quarter in the Old City from the West Bank or even the rest of Eastern Jerusalem. Instead, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews pray, are treated and referred to as occupied territory. The failure of distinction in the Resolution is a travesty.

Is that not the most provocative claim that one could throw at the Jewish orthodox community such that it undermines any possibility of sympathy for the other side emerging? This mindblindness undermines any sincere effort to decrease the momentum in Israel for refusing to accept the idea of a Palestinian state. The Jewish quarter of Jerusalem goes back much more than two millennia. Making it part of an Arab Palestine free of Jews is such a flagrant betrayal of history. Resolution 2334 is an important landmark in promoting Jewish ethnic cleansing.

The Resolution does designate every home in the Old City as well as every home on French Hill and in Gilo and the other neighbourhoods of West Jerusalem as violations of international law. The Resolution predetermines the basis for negotiations by designating those populations as living on “occupied Palestinian territory,” not just occupied territory. But today, fifty years later, the effort to continue to condemn those settlements already built and occupied as not only the major obstacle to peace, but also illegal and even further, that they were built on Palestinian territory, prejudges the results of negotiating a peace agreement and favours the Palestinian cause, however just that cause of creating a Palestinian state may be. This step is as foolhardy as the initiative to build many of the settlements originally.

For the unmistakable fact is that they have been built. Hundreds of thousands of Jews live in them. The vast majority of those Jews will only be removed if Israel is destroyed as a predominantly Jewish state. Further, Palestinians in their negotiations understand that. They have negotiated land swaps for those settlements becoming part of Israeli territory. What the Palestinians have not agreed to, what, as far as I can see after following the negotiations over decades, they will not agree to is recognizing not only East Jerusalem but the Old City as part of Israel. It is a perfectly understandable position. But it is also a position which remains as the one obstacle to a final peace agreement, not all the settlements.

Right wing Israelis and Jews worldwide are fond of going back to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as promising that the mandatory area of Palestine would be a “homeland” for Jews, though not a Jewish state. They leave out the latter. The Balfour Declaration was endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922. But that document did not designate Israel and the West Bank as a “Jewish national home” in the sense of a state, but as a home where Jewish nationals could live. In fact, the League of Nations document almost one hundred years ago created a recognized single legal territory of Mandatory Palestine out of the sanjak of Nablus, the sanjak of Acre, a segment of southern Syria and the southern portion of the Beirut Vilayet as well as Jerusalem. Until 1917, and until the recognition given to the British 1917 document by the international community, there was no Palestine. Following the Treaty of Lausanne, Palestine came into existence on 29 September 1923 and with it Palestine Arabs and Palestine Jews.

At the same time, Jordan also came into existence as a recognized international state in which the promise of its use for settlement of Jews was explicitly removed. The principle of all of Mandatory Palestine as a homeland for Jews had a very short lifespan and that authorization was now restricted to Mandatory Palestine West of the Jordan River. The territory east of the Jordan was ruled out for resettling Jews. Originally also a mandatory territory, it became recognized as an independent state in 1946.

Authorizing Mandatory Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people explicitly did not entail Jewish sovereignty over the territory as either an aspirational goal and certainly not as a reality. The relevant and much repeated Balfour Declaration affirmed in the 1919 Peace Agreement provided: “Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Usually omitted by the heirs of Jabotinsky and the right in Israel is that the British and French together rejected drafts that recognized, “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the claim which this gives them to reconstitute it their national home.” The Jews were not given the right to create a sovereign Jewish state. Nor was the Jewish historical connection with the land ever recognized. All that was recognized is that Jews had grounds and a claim for reconstituting a national home.

With the creation of the United Nations, the Mandate of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea came under the auspices of the UN as a trusteeship of Great Britain, a trusteeship Britain “threatened” to abandon. The abandonment was endorsed by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, UNSCOP, in 1947 and affirmed in a UN General Assembly Resolution. That committee recommended dividing the Mandate into three entities, one as a national home for the Jewish people, one as an independent Arab state, and the city of Jerusalem was to become an international city administered by the United Nations. In fact, those three territories became three very different territories with the cease fire lines of the 1949 armistice agreement serving as a de facto border between what was declared as the independent state of Israel, Jordan which occupied and annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Gaza occupied by Egypt, not because all of them were able to “stand alone,” as the previous colonial language had provided, but because new rulers were in place which were the de facto governing powers.

The territory governed by Israel after the 1949 Armistice Agreement became a sovereign state and was no longer occupied territory. The West Bank and Jerusalem continued to be occupied territory, occupied by Jordan, while Gaza was occupied by Egypt. When Egypt and Jordan were defeated by Israel in 1967, those territories were then occupied by Israel. What must be recognized is that throughout the one hundred years since 1917 and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, there has always been a disjunct between legal instruments recognizing administrative authority,
geographical references and sovereignty claims. Only the territory occupied by Israel in 1949 has been recognized as a sovereign territory, one governed by the State of Israel. The governing and administration of the other territory in former Mandatory Palestine has changed de facto over the years, but without de jure sanction since 1948. De jure sanctions are influenced by usage, but treaties or accession agreements are needed to determine the final internationally recognized areas under sovereign control. Unilateral annexation, whether of the Golan or an enlarged Jerusalem, does not change that, though sufferance of the governance of a territory over years does tend to shift towards legal legitimation as decade after decade passes.

The League of Nations document did authorize Jewish settlements in all of the Mandatory territory. The partition agreement changed that, but the outcome of the 1948 war, rather than UN Resolutions, effectively brought into being three territories, an Israeli State occupying a much larger territory than the one recommended in the partition resolution. West Bank and Jerusalem had been annexed by Jordan. Gaza was administered by Egypt. The West Bank and Gaza had been made Judenrein in that war. At the same time, 720,000 residents of Palestine, including 35,000 Jews, fled or were forced to flee and become so-called refugees, though most were internally displaced persons who continued to live in what used to be called Mandatory Palestine. A minority lived outside the borders of these three new entities.

With the help of Alex Zisman

UNSCOP – Wrap

UNSCOP – Wrap

by

Howard Adelman

Where does this analysis of the process by which the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) arrived at the recommendation that Palestine be divided into a Jewish state and an Arab state leave us? The conclusions fall into a number of headings. The first and most important deals with historical myth and fact. The very widespread belief that the creation of Israel was supported by non-Jews because of guilt over the Holocaust proves to be a myth. If the proceedings of the UNSCOP offer any clue, and I believe they offer a very core and central piece of evidence, there is absolutely no support for this belief. It can and should be relegated to the ash heap of academic history as a total myth. Of course, it would be of great historical interest to trace the origins and consolidation of that myth as a critical part of interpreting the story of Israel. But that is a job for another time and another person.

Israel began its national life by declaring itself as a redeemed state by and for the Jewish people and accomplished by the dedication, labour and sacrifices of those people. Israel was not brought into being because of a series of reports culminating in that of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) or the resolution in November 1947 in support of partition. However, UNSCOP’s majority recommendation for partition and the United Nations General Assembly majority vote endorsing that recommendation did add a considerable measure of legitimacy to the Israeli declaration of independence, but it was not the reason Israel came into being. Further, even in the reasoning behind legitimating this outcome, few believed that the outcome was just and justified because it would be the realization of a dream of self-determination of the Jewish people. The much more important factor was where to settle the 250,000 Jewish refugees in Europe in 1947 when very few states indicated any willingness to resettle the refugees in any significant numbers.

A second set of conclusions entail explaining historical events in general and in explaining this precise event in particular. I wrote my PhD thesis on historical explanation. There were two predominant theories in contention. The positivist thesis, the foremost proponent of which was Carl Hempel, argued that events were explained when we enunciated all the relevant historical laws and all the specific kinds of particular events that would allow us to predict the occurrence of the event as a definitive or, at the very least, probable outcome. A rational explanation was akin to a scientific explanation and was valid when it retrospectively facilitated prediction.

Opposed to this positivist account was an idealistic one, led by Bill Dray when I was a graduate student. That thesis argued that one explained an event when one could re-enact the internal thinking of individual historical agents so that, instead of propositions such as Hempel proposed – If C1, C2, C3…Cn (the classes of historical conditions) and L1, L2, L3…Ln (the presumptive laws of history) then (probably) E, where the event, E was the class of events into which the specific event being explained fell. The idealist model, in contrast argued that, “If C1, C2, C3…Cn (the specific conditions as perceived by the agent) and P1, P2, P3…Pn (the general norms held by the agent) then the thing to do would be A (the action in question, in this case, vote for and recommend the partition of Palestine).

If the positivist account in which scientific modelling was imposed on all thought now seems so ludicrous and irrelevant, one wonders why it was taken so seriously seventy years ago. Certainly, no scholarly historian has been shown to undertake his work in conforming to such a model. Further, theoretically, there is no way he could since history has never been about predictability but more often about unpredictability until positivism began to rage across the intellectual stage in the nineteenth century and scholars tried their hand at devising large scale historical laws.

The idealist explanation gained much more traction because it had a much better pedigree when discussing an actual historian’s work. Certainly one of the intellectual devices used by historians was a re-enactment of the thinking process of an agent involved in making a significant historical decision. However, as useful as this device is in understanding one person’s decision-making in some circumstances, it is useless in most actual cases. Even in the cases cited as illustrations, my thesis argued that the model and the actual case were incongruent. Further, what is most often being explained is the result of collective decision making an action rather than the decisions of an individual. In addition, as I have argued in this case, most of the processes of thinking and drawing conclusions are a mixture of deliberation, pre-fixed ideologies, current and recent experience, dialogue with others and chance circumstances and external pressures. The latter may be limited when a committee is truly set up to be independent.

The most important reason why the above models are totally inadequate is that historians do not explain events or actions or decisions so much as events, decisions and actions are used to explain conundrums or puzzles about history. And one of the duties of a historian is to discover those puzzles. In the case of the UNSCOP recommendation, I argued that the puzzle was why UNSCOP recommended partition when the initial alignments as discovered and documented by historical research indicated that such an outcome was quite unlikely.

In this case, key factors that came into play were not allowed for in either the positivist or the idealist model of historical explanation. Chance is perhaps the most important. The outcome could not have been and should not have been expected because who knew that, during most of these proceedings, John Hood of Australia and Dr. N.S. Blom of the Netherlands were toadies of the foreign affairs departments or the foreign ministers of their respective states rather than independent-thinking contributors to the work of the committee. More importantly, until the last three weeks of the deliberations, both were instructed to oppose partition. The first ended up abstaining because his Foreign Minister did not realize his ambitions for which he needed the support of the Arab states and the second reversed himself and supported partition when, in August, the Arab League came out and openly supported the Indonesian nationalists in their fight against the Netherlands.

However, the role of serendipity is not the only factor to challenge the models held in such high esteem seventy years ago – at least by philosophers though not so much by most historians who recognized that what they did had very little to do with the models put forth by philosophers at that time. Ideology is critical. That is the predispositions with which decision makers and deliberators bring with them to the table are extremely important. Well, perhaps some might argue, this fits in with the idealist model where general principles held by an individual are taken into account in a calculation. But there is no indication that any of the deliberators held that the principles they believed in governed universally even if they were disposed to believe that this should be the case. They may have believed that the principles they held should be universal, but nowhere is there any evidence that they argued that those principles should govern, though perhaps Dr. Jorge García Granados of Guatemala) came closest.

In fact, in examining the deliberations one comes to the conclusion – accepted implicitly by most historians and political scientists – that in the deliberations, as well as in the expectation of each of the parties, there was a belief that a practical solution had to take into account the incompatibility of the principles in contention. The process was a matter of negotiations and not deductive decision making, whether from descriptive or prescriptive laws.

That is why a person like Ivan Rand looms so large in understanding the proceedings of UNSCOP. Sandström may have quietly looked down on him as unprincipled given his shape-shifting during the discussions. Ralph Bunche may have regarded him as an opinionated verbose loudmouth and blowhard. However, Ivan Rand emerges as the key individual seeking compromise and, thereby, was perfectly positioned to write the draft of the majority recommendation. In the process, he was critically influential in shifting two of the eleven members from supporting a single state dominated by Arabs to a federal solution (the minority report) and shifting one of the delegates to support partition because the draft made room for that representative’s primary concern with the role of Christianity in Jerusalem.

Beyond the serendipity of exogenous factors, the ideological differences and dispositions of the members of the committee, the process of compromise involved and the role of a mediating entrepreneur, there was also the most fundamental split of all in the committee, the one between the East and the West, and, more specifically, between Muslims on the committee and others.

There are also implications for more substantive matters. One is Jerusalem. When one knows that the recommendation to internationalize Jerusalem and make it an independent state arose primarily from the need to win over one member to the partition side, when you add to that the total ineffectiveness of the UN in taking over the governance of the city after the mandate ended, when one notes that in all cases, the city has been governed by those that took it by force, how can one expect it to be divided again by a peace treaty, in spite of my idealist expectations that, in the name of peace and recognition of the position of the East Jerusalem Arabs, I personally would be willing to divide the city.

My desires are a matter of indifference to historiography. It is precisely such an expectation that is as unrealistic as Martin Buber’s hope for a bi-national state was at the time. When you add to that the current fact that Jerusalem is now Israel’s largest city (of course, Greater Tel Aviv is larger, but not Tel Aviv per se), and that 350,000 Jews live in what was once Jordanian governed territory, it is totally unrealistic to expect Jerusalem to be placed partially under Palestinian sovereignty, whatever my hopes might be, and whatever the desires of those unwilling to fight for a different result.

Though requiring much more stretch, the same might be said about the West Bank or Judea and Samaria, at least of the densely populated Jewish parts of those areas. A trade of land was once a realistic prospect, but since Yasser Arafat walked away from the compromise proposal post-Oslo, as each year passes, the prospect of surrendering the Jewish populated parts of the West Bank even for land to be given to an independent Palestinian state grows more remote and more unlikely. This is a major reason for the shrinkage of the peace camp and the left in Israel. In the process, the role of the revisionists is now being read in a new light by historians, just as the hagiography on Israeli history had to be rewritten as a result of the work of the new historians beginning thirty years ago.

Truth has often been said to be a silent casualty of war but there may be an even larger more valid generalization. Hopes projected onto polities by dreams of peace may be an even greater casualty when war is found to be the main determiner of the actual outcomes in deep-seated conflicts, a conclusion that is diametrically at odds with my role as a peacenik my entire adult life.

This set of blogs has been an inquiry into why UNSCOP made a recommendation for partition, admittedly shortened by a focus on only one of the two sub-committees supplemented by references not documented in the series. It is clear that a very few members of UNSCOP did agree with the Zionist narrative of restoration and self-determination and a few others referred to this as one argument favouring partition, but one is convinced in reading the discussions that, although this was a factor, this was not a major consideration in their thinking. Further, there was never a majority of the members who supported this position even though, in the final analysis, 7 of the 11 members voted to recommend partition.

What is unequivocally clear is that in no one’s minds was the occurrence of the Holocaust and certainly not guilt over it offered as a reason. The most common reason for sympathy to the Zionist cause, even among the three members who supported the minority report advocating a federation, was the plight of the 250,000 Jewish refugees still remaining in Europe and the fact that no country wanted to resettle them in any significant numbers. There was also admiration by many members of the committee for the accomplishments of the Zionists in agriculture, education, science and commerce. There was a parallel distaste for the working conditions of Arab employees, including the employment of children, when committee members visited a cigarette manufacturing business. The failure of the Arabs to fully cooperate with the committee did not help. But what united the committee was the conclusion that the Mandate had to end, and end sooner rather than later, even by an Anglophile like Dr. Blom.

This was no partition like any other peaceful partition one can recognize – Norway from Sweden or Slovakia from Czechoslovakia. It had far greater similarities with the breakup way of Pakistan from India and of Yugoslavia where there were some areas of concentration of ethnic groups, but many other areas of overlap. In Palestine, the same situation existed and, hence, the recommended division into eight segments. Further, the partition recommendation for Palestine involved religion in a unique way – three religions were recognized as contenders for control of the eighth segment – the recommended assignation of Jerusalem to international control to settle the irreconcilable positions of the different sides was unique to this conflict. This meant that good-will diplomatic efforts could come up with a Goldberg contraption, but the facts on the ground, and the willingness of people to fight for what they believed in, counted rather more than any determination as a result of decisions resulting from rational deliberations.