There are two matters that are playing out in this part of the world right now that have captured some attention.
One is the sudden emergence of the “legality” of the “settlements” as an issue for national debate. Or non-debate. Whatever. It is difficult to even appreciate how much this is progress. Up until very recently it was simply taken as a given that the “settlements” were “illegal” under “international law”. Everybody knew that. Everybody said so. It was said every time the “settlements” were in the news. The BBC (and therefore the ABC) sometimes added the faintly condescending and misleading rider “although Israel disputes this”. Journalists such as John Lyons of The Australian didn’t even bother to do that.
I will return to this issue because of its importance but here’s a snapshot to go on with. It started last week with an article in The Australian by Bob Carr, former Foreign Minister – Never Again (File Stamped: Do Not Employ) still smarting from being thwarted from what he saw was to be the overarching achievement of a grey and mediocre career by any standard — the de-legitimisation of Jews who live on the wrong side of the “Green Line” by declaring them as “illegal”, thus in his mind paving the way for the two state solution as the only show in town.
It’s all so easy in Bob’s imagination. Once you imagine the “Green Line” dividing Jerusalem and the “West Bank” from Israel then everything else falls into place. The Jews have to be rescued from themselves and it is his job to help. This “nudges” the parties towards peace. This is what he says. What a stupid man.
Carr was answered comprehensively, elegantly and far more politely than I could ever manage in a piece by Mark Leibler of AIJAC however I saw something during the week that might have included some free and fair advice for people like us and that I think deserves a response.
Here it is:
THE contention of Bob Carr (”West Bank settlements always illegal”, 12/2) that “all” Israeli settlements are illegal and have “always” been illegal goes beyond any reasonable view.
International lawyers who are generally critical of the settlements, and even the PLO, have conceded that some of the settlements are built on land that was privately purchased by Jews before Israel was established and to which the current occupants have full and proper title.
Politicians, lawyers and others are entitled to their opinions about the legality or illegality of the settlements, but should not be presenting their views as incontrovertible truths.
There has never been a legally binding determination of the issue by the International Court of Justice or any other court.
Further, Carr’s opinion is at odds with the common view that the major settlement blocs will become a part of Israel in any peace deal, in return for equivalent land within pre-1967 Israel that will become part of a state of Palestine.
The debate about the legality or illegality of the settlements will therefore not decide the issue.
Peter Wertheim, Executive director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Sydney
I agree the debate about the legality or illegality of the “settlements” will not decide the issue. That is why it is so important. There should not even be a debate. Or if there is it should be even handed and both sides should be heard.
With respect I am going to decline Peter Wertheim’s advice to not present my views on this with some force and the reason for that is not just because I have a strong view on it but also because I have not lost all hope in the two state solution. It is because I think there is still a chance and it should not be thrown away. Even if the two states in the solution turn out to be Egypt and Jordan.
Those who fret over this even being raised need to ask themselves why. We ignored it after Oslo because we thought it was moot. Why even talk about it. It can only do harm. Let them have their fantasies. We know its a crock but then again so is the whole “Palestinian” story really so let it slide. There’s about to be a deal and then everyone will be nice.
Instead we got the Second Intifada and everyone got very ugly. Especially them. At least around here they did. And that was just the politicians like Bob Carr and the journalists like … let’s give John a pass for now … pretty much all of them really except Greg Sheridan also of The Australian.
“The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies.”
Come on. A break needed at this point please. The first time I read that this line was being interpreted to deem people acting on their own volition as “illegal” based on what a liberal democratic”power” did not do, could not do and legally did not even have the power to do, in regard to “territories” that are not even “occupied” within the context, and therefore those same people are actually liable for deportation or transfer, I thought I was inside some legal parody from hell. A Kafka story come to haunt us. That this “legal” principle was to be applied only once and for the first time in all of history only to Jews living in Jerusalem, even born in Jerusalem, not even to mention Judea and Samaria, could only be a script written by something very strange and sinister indeed.
The Australian Greens for example. They don’t come much stranger and more sinister than that. From the Greens national policy:
2.1 the removal of Israeli settlers and Israeli security and military forces from the Palestinian territories
● the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli military from all Palestinian cities, towns, refugee camps, surrounding areas and transport routes, allowing freedom of movement of Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza
● the immediate freezing of all Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories (including natural growth) and the simultaneous commencement of the repatriation of the Israeli settlers from the Palestinian territories
● an associated withdrawal of Israeli security and military forces from the areas evacuated by the settlers
● the immediate dismantling of the separation wall
So when Jews exercise their right to live lawfully and peacefully where they choose, this is the “deportation or transfer” of part of the population of an occupying power. But their dispossession and forcible eviction (Greens policy) is “repatriation”. This is where this leads. Buying or renting in a Jewish neighbourhood of Jerusalem is “deportation or transfer” (provided you are Jewish. It is not if you are an Israeli Arab.) What happened in Gaza however was “repatriation”. That is probably a fair summary of “elite progressive opinion” on this subject through out the West.
How do you “freeze natural growth” by the way? Are the Greens advocating compulsory contraception as an interim measure?
What on earth are you thinking, Bob Carr? Where is your head at, John Lyons?
Bob Carr and others emphasis the illegality of the “settlements”, and others are nervous about this even being forcefully challenged, because they believe that the “settlements” are an obstacle to peace and that their “apologists” (Carr’s word) necessarily have an agenda that includes destroying any prospect of a two state solution. “Settlements” make “Palestine” harder or even impossible.
But why? Why is the presence of Jews such anathema to those who say they are striving for an independent sovereign “Palestine”? It’s almost as if the very thought for some of Jews living among them even as a minority with equal and full rights as citizens is repulsive at its very core. Of course its illegal.
It’s not the “settlements” that are the problem here. It is not their “illegality”. It is not “international law” at all, which is largely irrelevant. After all no one talks about international law when it comes to racist incitement and indoctrination by the PA and Hamas, the use of children in insurrection and war or the indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians. The problem is a deep seated and carefully nurtured fear and hatred of Jews everywhere and especially in their own homeland.
Unless that is addressed there will be no peace. It does not help at all to concede or leave unchallenged the notion that Jews are illegal if they live outside of their part of the city. We know about those laws. We can do without them.
And that is the whole point. We are better off without any international law than “international law” such as this. It may come to that.
Bob Carr, John Lyons, the BBC, the ABC, the Greens and all the rest should shut up about international law and it is not just because they do not know what they are talking about. It is because there can only be peace between peoples if they deal with each other with mutual respect and as equals. Not if one side is see as a people that are “illegal” by their very presence on the land as if it was some kind of divine curse that passes from generation to generation.
Oh wait …
I say again I agree with Peter Wertheim that the illegality or legality of the “settlements” will not determine the issue. That is why it is important to blast this perverse notion out of the water with all guns. Then maybe the way might be cleared for real negotiations for a genuine two state solution. At least the view from the West on what is going on might be a little clearer without all the mud in the water.
Which brings me to John Lyons, the ABC and the other matter being played out around here.
To be continued …
cross posted Geoffff’s Joint