Origins of the Present Campaign to Achieve Immediate Global Recognition of a “State of Palestine.”
When, back in the 1890s, the first generation of Zionists proposed the creation of a Jewish State somewhere in “Palestine,” Arabs everywhere united in a declaration of eternal opposition. Then, after the State of Israel became a fact of life in 1948, this refusal to accept Israel’s creation was immediately replaced by an undying vow to remove it from the face of the earth.
The campaign to achieve a State of Palestine is relatively new in the world, however, and can be traced back to November 15, 1988, when the Palestine Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in Algiers at an “extraordinary session in exile of the Palestine National Council.” The Declaration was promptly acknowledged by a range of countries, not limited to Arab and/or Muslim ones; and indeed by 1989 ninety-four Member States of the United Nations – about one-half of the membership at that time – had formally recognized the “State of Palestine.”
The proclamation of the Oslo Accords on the lawn of the White House on September 12, 1993, was supposed to have changed the programme for both Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Now the PLO was formally committed to peaceful negotiation with the Jewish State of all the differences over boundaries and all other matters that seem to the PLO to be obstacles to exercise of sovereign authority in a future State of Palestine. Nonetheless, despite its unambiguous commitments under the Oslo Agreement, the PLO (now formally entrusted with plenary responsibility for government of the Palestine Authority, the interim administration of the Palestinian Arab territories) has continued, without interruption, its illegal campaign for immediate recognition of a State of Palestine. On all Palestine Authority documents, “Palestine” described as having the boundaries that it would have if Israel surrendered all of its claims, and embraced all of the Palestinian ones.
This unremitting campaign, conducted since 1993 in brazen violation of the Oslo pledge, had by September2013, brought declarations of formal recognition of the State of Palestine from 134 of the 193 member states of the United Nations. Then, on November 29, 2012, in a vote of 138 to 9 (with 41 abstaining) the General Assembly passed Resolution 67/19, which promotes “Palestine” to the status of a “non-member observer” at the United Nations.
Particularly galling to Israel and friends of Israel was the fact that Mahmoud Abbas had contrived, with the complicity of the majority of the nation States, for the vote to take place on November 29, the sixty-five anniversary of the General Assembly’s decision for Partition of the Palestine Mandate. The intention was that this should be the moment when the United Nations formally expressed its considered regret for the decision taken on November 29, 1947. With this deed, the majority of the current member states officially saluted and signed on to a new motto: that the Partition decision, far from being the proud moment that it seemed at the time and that most decent people in our part of the world still consider it to be, was in fact “the Nakva (Catastrophe’) – the event around which the Palestinian politician have tried for decades to reorganize all thinking about the Middle East.
Acts of Recognition of the State of Palestine Completed or Pending in the West.
In the months that followed the General Assembly’s grant of “non-member observer status” to “Palestine, a clear “spin-off effect” could be seen in accelerated campaigns in the legislatures of several Western nations for recognition of “Palestine” as a sovereign state. Sweden’s Parliament has now stepped out and become the first. (“British Parliament votes in favor of Palestinian state recognition,” Jerusalem Post, October 24, 2014; “Sweden to become first European country to recognize “Palestine”, Jerusalem Post, October 24, 2014.)
It is abundantly clear that the present anti-Jewish mood in Sweden is owing to panic of the Swedish public in face of the nation’s failure to satisfy the ever-enlarging demands of massive immigrant Muslim populations. (“Influx of refugees blamed for Sweden recognizing Palestinian state,” Times of Israel, October 5, 2014.) There are now some 700,000 Muslims in Sweden – a number swollen during the year 2014 alone by 80,000 refugees from Arab lands now undergoing the blessings of “Arab Spring.” Most of these are in flight from Iraq and Syria. (The entire population of Sweden is around 9 million.) This circumstance clearly disposes Sweden’s parliament, courts, police and governmental institution to nod with agreement to Muslim spokesmen who urge that Sweden should stand with the oppressed Palestinian masses against the State of Israel
Profoundly paradoxical is the fact that Sweden, of all the Scandinavian nations, comes off best in the matter of treatment of Jews during the years of the Holocaust. Hitler considered it beneficial to himself to allow Sweden to remain neutral – a circumstance that allowed the Swedes to shelter not only local Jews but also many of those fleeing from the Nazi-occupied regime in Denmark. It is therefore particularly painful to see Sweden signing on to the foundation principle of today’s anti-semites: that only the Jews, of all the people on earth, have no right to self-defense against declared mortal enemies –that Israel’s efforts at self-protection are acts of “genocide”.
It All Goes Back to November 29, 1947.
The moral implications of this current surge of enthusiasm for recognition of the State of Palestine are profound. To see this clearly we have to go back to the first post-War year, 1945, when the newly-invented United Nations assumed responsibility for the legal and moral assets and liabilities of the now-defunct League of Nations. Among these was what is remembered as the Balfour Declaration, first published on November 2, 1917:
His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish population, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
This declaration originated in November, 1917, as a document of the British Cabinet but was subsequently formally endorsed by France, by the other principal allies at the time of the Great War, by the Congress of the United States a few years later, and, as of 1922, by the League of Nations.
On November 29. 1947, the nations represented in the General Assembly of the United Nations were asked to vote on the establishment of two states within the area of the Mandate that Britain held in “Palestine”. One was to be “a Jewish State” and the other “an Arab State” – not a Palestinian State, as the notion of an “indigenous Palestinian population,” all speaking Arabic, had not yet been invented.
A two-thirds vote was required. Thirty-three states (including Canada) voted in favour. Thirteen states voted nay: these included all six of the Arab states that were then members of the United Nations, four other Muslim states (Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey), plus Cuba, Greece, and India. Nine others, including (to her eternal shame), Great Britain, abstained.
Thus, in a moment of time, the nations of the world recorded their confidence that the Jews of the world could be entrusted with the responsibility of building a State, which should thereafter be the Homeland of the Jewish People.
Although disappointed by the small dimensions of her new land, and discomfited by the erratic character of the boundaries, the Zionists nonetheless publicly accepted the terms of the Partition. The Arab states that neighboured on Israel (most of them newly carved out of League of Nations Mandates or colonies or protectorates of the Empires of Britain, France or Italy) refused to accept the decision of the United Nations to permit the creation of a State of Israel – a miniature state, that would have been about 1/500th the land-mass of the Middle East, and about 1/250th of its population – the only non-Muslim State in the Middle East. As most Zionists had always expected, the Arab nations immediately set about to crush it brazenly defying the United Nations and bringing on the First Arab-Israeli War (1948-1949.)
As the years passed, the citizens of Israel exceeded the basic requirements of patriotism, national unity and good government. Many who had previously only condescended gradually developed authentic admiration for the Jews. But there were many others whose picture of the Jews was not improved by Israel’s persistence. Resentment began to intrude into many hearts where condescension had reigned before. There were many who simply never came to terms with the picture of the triumphant Jew. This company included those whose anti-Semitism had not been set aside when the question had been “Should the Jews be allowed to try to make a State in Palestine?” but was only momentarily forgotten, or repressed, or denied, or transmuted tentatively into condescension. As the years passed — as the Israelis drove out their enemies, and expanded their boundaries, making life less than everything it might be for Arabs reluctant to leave or unable to leave and unwilling to accept the situation of a minority — anti-Semites began to resort to old habits of mind, simultaneously coining new vocabulary to conceal their primitive disdain for the Jews. In this new world – where “Israel” was not a thing of the past or a thing of the future or a “metaphor” for all kinds of things, but a living, breathing State – anti-Semitism took on new life as “Anti-Zionism”.
As the United Nations was approaching its decision in 1947, most of the speechmaking of politicians and the diplomats, and most of the arguing of the editorialists, was couched in the rhetoric of “justice”. In the long background of this perception that the cause of the Zionists was “just” was the two thousand years of Jewish diaspora, characterized by many kinds of deprivation and persecution. In the immediate background was the Holocaust. In the foreground was the reality of several hundred thousand homeless European Jews. Given that the alternative to a Jewish state in Palestine was the absorption of these hundreds of thousands of displaced Jews into gentile lands, it was not difficult to see what “blessing” Israel required at this moment, nor to appreciate that in so blessing Israel, we too – the nations of the West – would also be blessed.
Partition and the Cold War.
When the year 1945 began, it had seemed improbable that the two-third figure could be achieved. The Cold War had begun, and one of its principal theatres was the United Nations. To accomplish a two-thirds vote in circumstances where the Soviet Union was opposed, three things were required: harmony between the United States and Western European nations (which was normal); a united voice among the nations of the Western hemisphere (which normally followed the American lead); and the compliance of at least a handful of the member states of Asia and Africa—most of these newly-liberated ribs out of the side of European Empires. But the issue of Palestine cut across this normal arithmetic. Britain intended to abstain – out of cussedness. Arab states and Muslim states, which normally saw their best interest in lining up with the Americans, were united in determination to prevent the addition of a Jewish state to the company of nations. In this situation the support of the Soviet Union and its satellites was essential.
As things turned out, the USSR decided to support the decision for partition. Abba Eban, who led the Zionist lobby at the UN at that time, later said: “There was something almost messianic in this convergence of American and Soviet ideas.” The historian of Zionism Walter Laqueur writes: “Traditionally, the Soviet attitude towards Zionism had been extremely hostile, and since Moscow reverted to its earlier position [of anti-Zionism] not long after the State of Israel came into being, one can only conclude that the short-lived rapprochement came entirely at the right moment for the Zionists. Without it they would not have stood a chance.”
But then, almost immediately upon the creation of the State of Israel, Israel began to be counted as one of the issues which caused the greatest friction between the Superpowers. The creation of Israel proved to be not only the first but the last act of cooperation on a major issue between the two Superpowers until one of them collapsed— and in doing so made possible the actions against Iraq in 1990-1991. (More detail on this story, together with sources for items quoted, can be found in my book, Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel (2001), Introduction and Chapters One and Two.)
Moral Foundations of International Relations at the End of World War Two.
The very thought that the “Recognition of Palestine” project is today commanding the hearty support of legislatures in places like the U.K. and Sweden points to the moral bankruptcy of international politics today.
An entirely different set of premises governed world affairs when the Parliament of Mankind reviewed the future of the Palestine Mandate in November, 1947. At that time, leaders of the Allied Powers which had just defeated Hitler and his regime were facing up to the challenge of dismantling their Empires. India and Pakistan had become independent nations just a few months before the decision for Partition of Palestine was taken. Many new nations would soon be presenting their credentials for membership of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and as they did so would profess willingness to prescribe to the Four Freedoms, the several Declarations on Human Rights, Freedom of Religion, and so on that were then coming down the chute from the several UN Commissions.
Recent European History afforded much proof of the frailty of popular support for basic freedoms in times of economic crisis. During the 1930s, some of the most venerable democracies had slid overnight into totalitarian hands. Pessimists feared that these values, painfully acquired over centuries by experiment in the most venerable European democracies, could not be simply adopted overnight. Standards of fairness in political life would decline; dictatorships might slip past the admission test and become voting members in the General Assembly of the United Nations. That is exactly what happened: In fact, the majority of nations subsequently admitted were at the time, or swiftly became, tyrannies of one kind or another. Today (according to Freedom House) only 87 of the current 193 UN member-states are fully-free democracies
The General Assembly of the United Nations, originally envisaged as the Parliament of Mankind, has become an Assembly dominated by tyrant-regimes. In a nutshell, that is the sufficient explanation for the success of the current campaign within the United Nations for reversal of the Partition Decision of 1947.