Saturday, 24 December 2016


by Igor Slamoff
It was Barack Obama’s swan song. In an unprecedented move, the US abstained from a Security Council vote on Israeli settlements, allowing a vote of censure to pass. Finally Obama could get back at his nemesis Netanyahu, now that he had nothing to lose.[1]
There's no dispute that international law is on the Palestinian side. However, and at the risk of being denounced as a Zionist agent provocateur of the most sordid stripe, I think it’s stretching it a bit to be so pernickety about international law IN THIS SPECIFIC CASE.
How so?
The West Bank Israeli settlements (not to be confused with the Bank for International Settlements) breach the law of war, which says that a country whose army occupies foreign territory is barred from settling its own people on the occupied land. So far so good.
But IS IT foreign territory?
What country DO the West Bank and Gaza belong to, if not to Israel? Some people say Palestine. This answer is intuitively obvious and satisfies common sense. However law is not based on intuition, and even less on common sense. Law has a reasoning of its own, in which purely procedural and formal aspects play a crucial role.
Brief discussion of international law
The manner of legal reasoning varies considerably from one field of law to another. Unlike in domestic law, in international law there is no legislator whom everyone accepts as such, for example an elected legislature. Instead, as in religious law and English common law, the law is worked out through scholarly discussion, precedent and agreements among recognized authorities, which in the case of international law means international treaties.
Just as international law has no legislative branch, it also lacks an executive branch capable of enforcing decisions. Instead, international law is enforced – if at all -- analogously to the way its laws are created, namely through agreements among the big shots of the day, which nowadays usually means the UN Security Council and its posse of hangers-on.
Well the upshot of all this is that international law is not a highly refined tool like bankruptcy law or tax law or criminal law, in which clear rules exist because there have been millions and millions of cases, and every possibility, no matter how unlikely, has already occurred dozens if not thousands of times, so that all practitioners agree on the ground rules and on much else.
Well, one established rule of international law is that the principal actors in international law are sovereign states or their successors. Actions and omissions performed by actors other than sovereign states have secondary important, if any. So during the many years between 1765 and 1944 when no independent Poland existed, a continuity persisted, so that when Poland became independent again in 1944, the new Polish state assumed automatically all the powers and rights of the old Polish state.
Now Palestine has never been a state, sovereign or otherwise, so to claim that Palestine possesses territory is kind of iffy, more of a pious wish than a statement of legal fact.
And why has no Palestinian state ever existed? Is that Israel's fault?
No, as a matter of fact, it is the Palestinians’ fault.
For some mysterious reason, the two leaders Palestinians have had over the last century, to wit Amin al Husaini (led 1920-1960) and Yasser Arafat (led 1968-2004) were both very hard bargainers, and as a result of this trait, they never struck any bargains.
But as we have seen, international law needs agreements, otherwise nothing gets done.
And the fact is that – at least until Arafat’s death by polonization in 2004 -- Palestinian leaders were never willing to make the concessions needed to swing a deal with the Zionists.
They both preferred to go on struggling to the bitter end, because no doubt they believed firmly that their cause would triumph in the end. Presumably they counted on divine intervention to help them out of tight spots, although historical experience offers precious little reassurance on this score. As a matter of fact, if they really did count on providence, this is merely one more argument in the rhetorical panoply of the League for Eradicating Primitive Superstitions (that I have the honor of presiding), namely to the effect that excessive reliance on prehistoric myths and tribal savvy (not to mention primitive superstitions) is a seriously pernicious trait that is sure to cause everybody involved a lot of headaches in the long run.
The Israeli Labor Party has always been more willing to make deals with the Palestinians than the Israeli right. That’s because Labor is bunch of incorrigible softies. When Israel AGAIN licked the Arabs in the 1967 war, Israel's first Prime Minister Ben-Gurion came out of retirement and made a speech on Israeli TV exhorting Israel to prompt withdrawal from the freshly seized lands.  Ben-Gurion warned that any delay in returning the West Bank and Gaza to Arab rule (I suppose he meant returning them to Jordan and to Egypt respectively) would cause future conflict. History seems to have proven him right. In 1974 the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in Cairo pledging to recover Palestine by force. Its leader was Yassir Arafat. Nonetheless even after the Israelis bungled by hanging onto the conquered land, there were still various escape routes at its disposal. So deciding to glom onto the West Bank and Gaza after 1967 was an error, but not necessarily a fatal one.  
At Camp David in 2000 – with the active on-the-spot wheeler-dealership of Bill Clinton – Israeli P.M. Ehud Barak made Arafat an independence offer that would have cleared out all Israeli settlements except for East Jerusalem and handed back 98% of the West Bank and Gaza free and clear,[2]
Here is Ehud Barak’s description of Arafat’s approach at Camp David, as relayed by Benny Morris:
Arafat, says Barak, believes that Israel “has no right to exist, and he seeks its demise.” Barak buttresses this by arguing that Arafat “does not recognize the existence of a Jewish people or nation, only a Jewish religion, because it is mentioned in the Koran and because he remembers seeing, as a kid, Jews praying at the Wailing Wall.” This, Barak believes, underlay Arafat’s insistence at Camp David (and since) that the Palestinians have sole sovereignty over the Temple Mount compound (Haram al-Sharif—the noble sanctuary) in the southeastern corner of Jerusalem’s Old City. Arafat denies that any Jewish temple has ever stood there—and this is a microcosm of his denial of the Jews’ historical connection and claim to the Land of Israel/Palestine. Hence, in December 2000, Arafat refused to accept even the vague formulation proposed by Clinton positing Israeli sovereignty over the earth beneath the Temple Mount’s surface area.
Arafat must have known that Barak was likely to be the last Labor P.M. of Israel for a very long time. The rightward trend of Israeli politics has been clear since 1978. Between 1978 and 2001 Labor cabinets became scarcer and scarcer, and the Labor Party itself grew more conservative.[3] 
So that even when Arafat knew that it was now or never, he steadfastly refused to accept the terms Barak offered him. [4]
Consequently, if we ask why the 1947 UN deal to split Palestine never jelled, one can plausibly argue that Palestinian intransigence was a big part of the reason.
Why should Israel be required to comply with an ancient treaty that never took effect because the Palestinians were so inordinately stubborn? Palestine is the only territory I ever heard of that turned down not one, but SEVERAL opportunities to become a sovereign state with a guaranteed seat at the UN.
The Palestinian leaders were betting on their luck.
But their luck ran out.
Now they want the rest of the world to bend Israel to their will, since they bungled their chances through sheer incompetence and recklessness.
I say fuck those Palestinian bastards.
For a long time now the sordid history of Palestinian politics has escaped the attention of world opinion.
Now, however, the jig is up.
We have Wikipedia and sundry other resources at our disposal, where we can find out the facts that Palestinian apologists have been hiding from us for decades.
I used to march in Palestinian demos. Then I started reading Palestinian history.

[1] US Rebukes Israel in UN Vote on Illegal Settlements. U.S. abstains from Security Council vote, allowing resolution to pass. By Sarah Lazare, AlterNet, December 23, 2016
[2] Camp David and After: An Exchange (1. An Interview with Ehud Barak), by Benny Morris, The New York Review of Books, June 13, 2002
[3] See graph Prime Ministers of Israel 1948-2016
[4] Moreover, as pointed out by Zenobia van Dongen, right after the Camp David talks, Arafat instigated a rebellion against Israel. In reaction to this rebellion (the Second Intifada) the Labor Government lost its majority in the Knesset and was forced to call general elections, which it promptly lost to the right-wing Likud. Thus Arafat nudged Likud into power in 2001, where it has remained ever since. See Groaning Under the Zionist Jackboot on

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