July 14, 2012

Dissecting Jonathan Tobin’s Latest Lies

Appearing on Democracy Now!, Jonathan Tobin claimed that Israel’s West Bank settlements are perfectly legal.  His argument:

Under international law—and I think Israel’s position is quite sound—the right of the Jews to live in the West Bank was guaranteed in the League of Nations mandate for Palestine, which was the last sovereign in that area that was recognized by everybody.[1]

Now it’s true that the League of Nations guaranteed “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” But it’s also true that the League of Nations guaranteed that “nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”[2]—and yet the majority of non-Jews living in Historic Palestine have been stripped of many of their most basic rights.  Palestinians in the West Bank, for instance, have nowhere near the same legal rights as Jewish settlers.[3]  They have access to just a fraction of water resources in the West Bank.[4]  Their travel is severely restricted.[5]  They are frequent victims of collective punishment.[6]  And that’s just Palestinians in the West Bank; those in Gaza have it much worse.

Given all this, it’s plainly clear that Israel has violated the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate.  Tobin must know this.  He must also know that Israel does not perpetrate these crimes for the sake of its own citizen’s security.  For these crimes are not the actions of a state acting in self-defense.  They’re the actions of a state trying to make life for the natives exceedingly miserable, so miserable that—it’s hoped—the natives will eventually decide to get up and leave.  For the clear goal of the Netanyahu government is Greater Israel.  Just read the Likud Party’s platform.[7]

Because Tobin must know the truth, he’s forced to invent lies to justify Israel’s crimes.  So he proceeds to claim that, even though he believes the settlements are legal, Israel would be perfectly willing to tear them down and withdraw from the West Bank if only the Palestinians were willing to make peace:

The problem here is that it’s not a question of whether [the settlements are] legal or not, because if the Palestinians wish to make peace, if they wish to compromise, if they wish to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn, they can do so, and Israel has approved it will withdraw from territory, if offered peace. The problem is, the Palestinians won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, the legitimacy of Jewish life anywhere in that country. 

Tobin’s lie here should be plain to anyone who’s been paying even the least bit attention over the past several years.  Palestinian leaders have long recognized Israel’s right to exist and have shown that they are willing to compromise on every single core issue of the conflict.  Consider the 1999 Camp David Summit.  Although many claim that the summit failed because Yasser Arafat essentially got greedy, the truth is that he made tremendous concessions to Israel.  Robert Malley, who served on Clinton’s peace team during the summit, has written:

The Palestinians were arguing for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, living alongside Israel. They accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of [roughly 9% of] West Bank territory to accommodate settlement blocs. They accepted the principle of Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem—neighborhoods that were not part of Israel before the Six Day War in 1967. And, while they insisted on recognition of the refugees’ right of return, they agreed that it should be implemented in a manner that protected Israel’s demographic and security interests by limiting the number of returnees. No other Arab party that has negotiated with Israel—not Anwar el-Sadat's Egypt, not King Hussein's Jordan, let alone Hafez al-Assad's Syria—ever came close to even considering such compromises.[8]

And yet Israeli leaders felt that these concessions didn’t go far enough.  Even though, according to international law, Israel is obligated to withdraw from all of the West Bank, not just 91% of it.[9]  And even though, according to international law, Israel is obligated to withdraw from all of East Jerusalem, not just its Arab neighborhoods.[10]  And even though, according to international law, Israel is obligated to allow all of the refugees to return, not a predetermined number intended to preserve Israel’s Jewish majority.[11]

Palestinian leaders continue insisting that they are willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist within its 1967 borders.  In other words, Palestinian leaders continue demanding a mere 22% of Historic Palestine.[12] From October 2010:

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Yasser Abed Rabbo said…that the Palestinians will be willing to recognize the State of Israel in any way that it desires, if the Americans would only present a map of the future Palestinian state that includes all of the territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem…
“If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour,” added Rabbo.[13]

The Netanyahu government, by contrast, refuses to offer Palestinians anything that remotely resembles a state.  Yes, Netanyahu says that he’s willing to grant the Palestinians a“state,” but his idea of a Palestinian “state” isn’t really a state at all. Not only has he made it clear that Israel will permanently retain large areas of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, but he has stated that any future Palestinian “state” will not be allowed to have an army and that Israel will maintain complete control over the area’s borders and airspace.[14]

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Notes

[1] “Are Israeli Settlements Legal? Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah vs. Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin,” July 11, 2012.

[2] Palestine Mandate (1922), accessed at Wikisource, July 13, 2012.

[3] Palestinians in the West Bank cannot vote.  Moreover, while Jewish settlers are subject to the Israeli legal system, Palestinians live under military rule. Consequently, “settlers enjoy liberties and legal guarantees that are denied Palestinian defendants…charged with a similar offense. The authority to arrest an individual, the maximum detention before being brought before a judge, the right to meet with an attorney, the protections available to defendants at the trial, the maximum punishment allowed by law, and the release of prisoners before completion of sentence— all of these differ greatly in the two systems of law, with the Israeli system providing the suspect and defendant with more protections” (“Dual system of law,” B’Tselem, January 1, 2011).

[4] Palestinians face discrimination in numerous other ways. For instance, although Palestinians make up 83% of the West Bank’s population, Israel prevents them from accessing the Jordan River and allows them to use just 20% of the Mountain Aquifer, the area’s other main water source (“West Bank,” CIA World Factbook; “Troubled Waters—Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water,” Amnesty International, 2009).

[5] Israel excludes the Palestinians from more than 60% of the land in the West Bank (“Palestinians excluded from bulk of occupied West Bank,” Mel Frykberg, IPS, March 2, 2010). Through a network of walls, checkpoints, and roads, it has splintered the remaining Palestinian land into an archipelago of sixty-four enclaves (“Faces of Hope: Learn About the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict,” American Friends Service Committee; “370 - Palestine's Island Paradise, Now With a Word from its Creator,” Frank Jacobs, March 30, 2009). While Israel allows its own citizens to travel between Jewish settlements and Israel proper, it often restricts Palestinian movement between these different enclaves, sometimes shutting down roads for several days at a time (“Restriction of Movement,” B’Tselem, January 1, 2011).

[6] It seems clear that Israel often imposes these travel restrictions as collective punishment, something it never does to its own citizens (“Ground to a Halt: Denial of Palestinians' Freedom of Movement in the West Bank,” B’TSelem, August 2007).  Other forms of collective punishment Israel has employed include imposing curfews in Palestinian areas and even demolishing Palestinian homes (“Restriction of Movement,” B’TSelem, January 1, 2011; “House Demolitions as Punishments,” B’TSelem, January 1, 2011).[7] The Likud platform states: “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river” (“Likud Party Platform from the 15th Knesset,” Jewish Virtual Library).

[8] Robert Malley, “Fictions About the Failure at Camp David,” New York Times, July 8, 2001.

[9] Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion, July 9, 2004.

[10] “What is the legal status of East Jerusalem?” diakonia.

[11] “Palestinian Refugees: Frequently Asked Questions,” Palestine Media Center, May 17, 2003.

[12] “Maps of Israel and Palestine,” If Americans Knew.

[13] “PLO chief: We will recognize Israel in return for 1967 borders,” Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, October 13, 2010.

[14] “Netanyahu: Israel must have West Bank presence after peace deal,” Associated Press, 20 January 2010; Barak Ravid and Agencies, “Netanyahu: Israel will never share Jerusalem with Palestinians,” Haaretz, 12 January 2010; Jonathan Lis, “Netanyahu: Israel will never cede Jordan Valley,” Haaretz, 3 February 2010; “PM’s Speech at the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University,” Prime Minister’s Office, 14 June 2009.

1 comments:

michaelkupfer@ymail.com said...

Hey Don, A friend of mine created an amazing short video I think would be great for your blog.

Its called Palestinian Oppression:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI6d3zRN6RM&feature=plcp

It shows how the Palestinians have been oppressed, and what the real issues are.

Please let me know if it is something you may consider using.

Thanks,

Michael