by Elias Davidsson, 30.8.1993
The Palestine Question has been on the agenda of the United Nations since 1947. In 29 November 1947, the General Assembly proposed a Plan for the Partition of Palestine into two states, a ‘Jewish’ and an ‘Arab’ State. The Plan included details regarding rights of the population inhabiting each part and provisions regarding economic cooperation between the states. This proposal was not endorsed by the overwhelming majority of UN members. A substantial minority supported the Arab proposal that Palestine become a democratic and unpartitioned state, where the rights of every inhabitant, including Jews, be ensured through a written Constitution. The Partition Plan allotted to the Jews in Palestine (most of whom had just come from other countries) 55% of the Palestinian territory whereas the indigenous Palestinian Arabs were alloted 45% of the territory. At that time the Jews, individually and collectively, owned less than 6% of the land.
This UN resolution had no legal basis nor legal relevance. But it constituted nevertheless the first international statement of intent that both the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs possessed the right to self-determination.
Since then, Israel’s behaviour towards its neighbors, including numerous unprovoked acts of military aggression on Tunis, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, was the subject of dozens of Security Council resolutions, in which Israel was unequivocally condemned. These resolutions would have been much more numerous and much stronger were it not for the persistent use by the United States of its veto power and other manipulative practices, which made those resolutions approved by the Council toothless. Thus, successive Israeli governments learned that they could defy the Security Council resolutions with impunity. The United States would always shield Israel from any real sanction. This practice is continuing until this very day, thus disqualifying the Security Council of being an instrument for the maintainance of international peace.
The General Assembly was much more forthcoming in its condemndation of Israel. Each year, since the establishment of the State of Israel, resolutions condemning Israel for aggression, racist behaviour and human rights violations were approved by the vast majority of UN member states. The number of such resolutions as well as the number of member-states supporting these resolutions increased in recent years, reflecting the growing impatience of the world community with a defying Israel.
But the General Assembly did not only condemn for the sake of condemnation. It also specified the blueprint for a just, peaceful, lasting and comprehensive solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This constructive endeavour by the General Assembly was not widely reported in Western media. On 6. December 1989, 151 member states, including all NATO and OECD countries (with the notable exception of the United States) reaffirmed such blueprint – which was reiterated in subsequent years. This resolution is highly significant in the history of the Palestine question: For the first time, a quasi universal consensus emerged concerning the solution of this persistent conflict, including endorsement by all Arab states and the PLO. The full text of this resolution is attached as a separate topic. However, due to United States and Zionist power, it was not possible to implement this resolution. The U.N. Charter has provisions for the General Assembly to overrule Security Council resolutions. But US allies did not wish to resort to this mechanism, and thus all General Assembly resolutions voted by a overwhelming majority were left as a dead letter. So much for international derelictions towards the Palestinian people, the main victim of this century-old tragedy.
After the demise of the Soviet Union, an opportunity opened up for the United States and Israel to impose their common agenda: To consolidate the annexation of Jerusalem and the creeping annexation of other parts of the occupied territories, prevent the emergence of an independent Palestinian state and liquidate the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right of return. The ‘Peace process’ has been going on – officially – for 22 months. In the course of this process it appears that the United States government succeeded in alienating the Palestinian leadership from the masses, so much so that serious commentators expect Israel to provide protection for these leaders from the enraged Palestinian masses.
It must be reiterated here that the US-led ‘peace process’ was not and is not based on principles of international law nor on the international consensus, as represented by General Assembly resolutions. The United States imposed the selective use and interpretation of UN Security Council resolution 242 and 338 as a reference. These resolutions do not even address the right of the the Palestinian people to self-determination nor the status of Jerusalem. Security Council resolution 242 (1967) refers to Palestinians solely as refugees, not as a people. The Palestinian delegation had to accept the degrading procedure of being ‘accepted’ by the Israeli government as valid partner for the discussions. The United States did not even attempt to hide its overwhelming bias towards, massive economic support to, and strategic alliance with Israel while expecting from the world community to be viewed as a fair peace broker! The mass media succeeded – itself a not meagre feat in propaganda techniques – to create the illusion in Western public opinion, that the United States administration can be a fair broker acting in good faith, despite its principled rejection of Palestinian rights and its unequivocal strategic support of Israel.
Many Palestinian cadres of the occupied territories – among the most capable ones – are in Israeli prisons. More than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners are still in Israeli prisons: A high figure even by standards of repressive regimes. It is significant that the PLO has not made it conditional for any agreement that Israel release these political prisoners and allow the deportees to return to their homes, in accordance with Security Council resolutions. This is no oversight. The PLO leadership clearly prefers these prisoners to wait in prison until Palestinian prisons are erected. Any deal that does not include freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners and the unconditional repatriation of deportees, will certainly be considered suspect by the Palestinian masses.
The PLO is generally regarded as representing the Palestinian people. But such representation is not unconditional. The Palestinian people can, at any time and in democratic procedures, withdraw the mandate they give, implicitely or explicitely, to the PLO, or for that matter, to any organisation deemed to represent their interests. If the PLO, for some reasons, legitimate or illegitimate, decides to waive any of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination, the right of return and principles of international law, the people – in whom sovereignty resides – are entitled and are justified to withdraw the mandate given to the PLO. The emergence of Hamas and the claim of Hamas to numerous seats in the Palestinian National Council, can been understood as a vote of non-confidence to the PLO leadership.
If the current opposition of secular and religious Palestinian organizations and individuals to the ‘deal’ made between the PLO and the Israeli government, is considered extremist, then it is also true that UN General Assembly Resolutions endorsed by the vast majority of UN member states are extremist resolutions. Western media highlight calls by terrorist leader Jibril to assassinate Yassir Arafat, while giving scant coverage to the non-violent opposition of eminent Palestinian personalities and to the disintegration of the PLO leadership. It is as if the aim were to discredit the struggle of the Palestinian people for its legitimate and unfulfilled rights.
Among supporters of Palestinian rights there are some who maintain that although the ‘deal’ is unsatisfactory, it is still a ‘step in the right direction’ which can lead to bolder steps towards complete disentanglement from Israeli control. Thus, it is claimed, the decision of the PLO leadership to sign this ‘deal’ should be supported. This school of thought does not provide any tangible evidence to support this claim. After a certain period of ‘good behaviour’, the Palestinians might obtain from the Israeli occupier a few more minor concessions, that is if the occupier agrees (and who will force him, if he does not wish to agree ?). The Occupier would of course demand that the Palestinians stop the Intifada – which was the only tangible pressure they could put on the Occupier. The Palestinians, so the story goes, would get rid of the occupation by stopping to struggle it. A real Zionist idyll !
Another school of opinion has it that the Palestinian leadership, having gained ground in parts of Palestine, would expand its struggle for the redemption of the land and for the liberation of Palestine from Zionism. Although no known Palestinian organization advocates any more such dreams, this imagined scenario is used by the Israeli right wing to warn against any ‘concessions’ made to Palestinians. By ‘warning’ against such dangers, the Israeli right serves an important function: It helps to sell the image of the Israeli government as moderate. No Israeli with senses in his head actually believes that Palestinian self-rule under Israeli control can in any way endanger Israeli security. By creating Palestinian Bantustans in Gaza and Jericho, Israel is in fact enhancing its security by delegating the task of crushing Muslim Fundamentalism to Palestinian auxiliaries. Israel has great experience in this domain.
Suffice to say that the basis of the ‘deal’ signed between some PLO leaders and the Israeli Government on 31.8.1993 (1) is extremely shaky, legally, morally and politically. For that reason, any jubilation about an ‘historic breakthrough’ is out of place and creates dangerous illusions. Peace will only be attained on the base of truth and justice. These values are glaring by their absence in the present ‘deal’.
(1) This was an error. The “deal”, also known also as the Oslo Accords and the “Jericho-Gaza First Agreement,” was tentatively agreed to in Oslo by Shimon Peres and probably Yassir Arafat between August 20 and August 29, 1993 and signed in Washington on September 13, 1993. However, the details of the “deal” were leaked to the press on the day in which the above article was written.(E.D. August 2007)