It’s Beyond Time -- To Set the Record Straight
A Response to SPHR’s Commentary: “It’s Beyond Time” published in The McGill Daily, 07/01/20
On July 1, 2020, The McGill Daily published a letter attributed to the SPHR (Students for Palestinian Human Rights, McGill) that made a number of allegations against the State of Israel. These allegations consist of fabricated narratives couched in inflammatory language and intended to demonize Israel, delegitimize its entirely valid rights, and inflame readers who, through no fault of their own, are entirely unfamiliar with the realities of Middle-Eastern history; both ancient and over the last century. This response provides evidence that contradicts these contrived and repeatedly stated accusations that are in compliance with Goebbels’ famous dictum that “Even a big lie will be believed if it is repeated often enough.”
Triggering this latest regurgitation of familiar Palestinian Arab myths is the possible imminent “annexation” (more accurately application of sovereignty) of areas west of the Jordan River and inhabited by Jewish Israelis, under President Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” The first allegation states,
“Illegal under international law, annexation poses a grave threat to Palestinian life; it would deprive thousands of Palestinians of life-sustaining resources they depend on, by formalizing and intensifying Israel’s decades-old theft of their homes, their lands, and their water.”
The reality is that the Jewish people’s rights to the land of Israel has been enshrined in international law since 1920, although given the bias shared by mainstream media and unfortunately many academics, this inconvenient reality has been under-reported if not silenced, explaining why so few, if any, readers of the McGill Daily were previously aware of it. Prior to the First World War, the approximately 600-year-old Ottoman Empire stretched from Bulgaria and the Black Sea on the north, Greece and the Aegean Sea on the west, Russia and Persia (present day Iran) on the east, and much of the Arabian Peninsula (extensive parts of current Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Gulf States) to the south-east. The Ottomans were on the losing Axis side in World War1, and as is the fate of losing countries, they lost their colonial possessions. In an historical first, the victorious allies did not simply turn the Ottoman colonies into colonies of the victors. They actually wished to end the colonial system. The method chosen, whether ideal or not, was to administer the previous colonial provinces as “Mandates” with strict guidelines leading to having the various Mandates become independent countries when they became capable of governing themselves.
France took Mandatory responsibility for what became Syria and Lebanon, while England took Mandatory responsibility for “Palestine”, which included present-day Israel including areas west of the Jordan River, (i.e.what Jews since ancient times have called Judea and Samaria), and the Arabs (since after the War of 1967,) call the West Bank) along with contemporary Jordan and Iraq.
Critical from the international law perspective is that the “Principle Allied Powers” (Britain, France, Italy and Japan) fashioned this “San Remo Resolution” (April 25, 1920), with the agreement of the Turkish government (as the residual of the Ottoman Empire) that included the creation of a National Homeland for the Jewish People.
The League of Nations (precursor to the present United Nations) incorporated the San Remo Resolution into its Article 22, establishing the National Homeland of the Jewish People under international law, just over a century ago. This happened almost two decades prior to the Holocaust, rendering the notion that the State of Israel was born by European guilt over the Holocaust absurd. International law does not countenance abrogation of previous decisions and commitments, and consequently the provisions of Article 22 were retained when the United Nations superseded the League of Nations.
Professor Jacques Gauthier: https://vimeo.com/427815248
Professor Avi Bell: https://bit.ly/Professor-Avi-Bell
Professor Eugene Kontorovich: https://bit.ly/Professor-Eugene-Kontorovich
The historical realities of the area since ancient times are captured well by Professor Rashid Ismail Khalidi, Director of the Middle East Institution, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Columbia University. Professor Khalidi notes:
“The word Palestine derives from Philistia, the name given by Greek writers to the land of the Philistines, who in the 12th century BCE occupied a small pocket of land on the southern coast, between modern Tel Aviv–Yafo and Gaza. The name was revived by the Romans in the 2nd century CE in “Syria Palaestina,” designating the southern portion of the province of Syria, and made its way thence into Arabic, where it has been used to describe the region at least since the early Islamic era. After Roman times the name had no official status until after World War I and the end of rule by the Ottoman Empire, when it was adopted for one of the regions mandated to Great Britain; in addition to anarea roughly comprising present-day Israel and the West Bank, the mandate included the territory east of the Jordan River now constituting the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan, which Britain placed under an administration separate from that of Palestine immediately after receiving the mandate for the territory.” https://www.britannica.com/place/Palestine
It is historically noteworthy that the Roman conquerors imposed the name “Palestina” on the original Jewish homeland approximately 1800 years ago. Jews have an unbroken record of dwelling in that land throughout the intervening history despite the exile of the majority of the Jewish people across the globe (aka, the Diaspora.”) Throughout the often-tortuous and prolonged national displacement, in three daily prayers, observant Jews repeat the plea to return to Zion (Jerusalem.) We also see from Professor Khalidis’ exposition that the British, in possible violation of their mandatory commitment “to establish a National Homeland for the Jewish people,” unilaterally undertook to partition the Palestine Mandate, forming contemporary “Trans-Jordan” from the land ostensibly assigned for the Jewish National Homeland.
In fact, approximately two-thirds of the Mandate for Palestine was given to a non-native Bedouin tribe, the Hashemites, who were seeking a share of the burgeoning petroleum resources and power in their native Arabian peninsula. This act of removing a potential political rival bought the British political standing with the dominant House of Saud in what became Saudi Arabia. It is important to note that the name “Trans-Jordan” refers “the other side of the Jordan”…the east side, while the entire area west of the Jordan River (i.e., Judea and Samaria/the “West Bank) remained an intrinsic part of the area designated as the reduced Jewish National Homeland.
In concert with the November 29, 1947 United Nations’ General Assembly vote, favouring Israeli independence by a 33-13 margin with 10 abstention, Israel declared its independence, on May 14, 1948. Notable among countries voting for Israeli independence were the Soviet Union and its Eastern European “Soviet satellite states,” Poland, Ukraine, and Byelorussia. Of the 13 which voted against it, 10 were Islamic states (Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen) with only 3 non Muslim republics, India, Cuba and Greece, voting against Israeli Independence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_recognition_of_Israel#List_by_country.
In response to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Arab world decided to initiate a war of extermination against the nascent Jewish state. Christian Heller notes,
“Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, proclaimed, ‘This will be a war of extermination, a momentous massacre.’  Hassan al-Banna, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, stated, ‘All Arabs shall arise and annihilate the Jews. We shall fill the sea with their corpses.’ ” https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2018/9/24/weakness-into-strength-overcoming-strategic-deficits-in-the-1948-israeli-war-for-independence citing Saul S. Friedman, A History of the Middle East (pg. 248; North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2006.)
The ensuing military struggle found Israel expelling five Arab armies from most of its territories; the exception being the area west of the Jordan River referred to in Hebrew as Yehuda and Shomron or Judea and Samaria by the Israelis, and the West Bank by the Arabs. The demarcation between this “disputed territory” and Israel was land previously assigned to Israel but occupied by the Trans-Jordanian army when the belligerents signed the Armistice, but did not reflect any negotiation between the parties. These disputed territories were captured by Israel, their original owner, during the 1967 “Six Day War” after fierce fighting with Jordan (the Trans was dropped from its original name to obfuscate its original restriction to the East Bank of the Jordan River), after which Jordan was evicted. To the Israelis, this result was a liberation of Yehuda and Shomron from an occupying foreign power. For the Arabs, it was a second catastrophe. Translated to the present context, the term “annexation” with its intrinsic negative connotation of illegality is misleading because the territory in question was previously part of the area assigned to Israel under international law from 1920. “Application of sovereignty” is the accurate term and simply means that the area will be governed no longer under Israeli military administrative law but under Israeli civil law.
An informal summary of this position is:
“Since time immemorial, Jews have always exercised aboriginal rights of entry, sojourn and settlement in their ancestral homeland. During and after WW1, these Jewish aboriginal rights were officially recognized in a consistent series of declarations, resolutions, and treaties from 1917 to 1924. The Jews are an age-old aboriginal People, with a millennial right to live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” (J.H. Hertz)
Looking critically at the other side of the claim, it has been noted that there has never been a sovereign Arab state in Palestine. None of the neighboring Arab countries (comprising 99.9% of Middle East territory) ever recognized a Palestinian Arab country, considering its inhabitants part of the Arab nation inhabiting part of “Greater Syria.” When offered the 1947 Partition Plan by the United Nations, and during Trans-Jordanian occupation of the disputed territories, there was never a request for a “Palestinian Arab State.” Prior to the de novo claim for a Palestinian Arab state beginning in mid-1960, the term “Palestine” was associated with Jews, and Jewish activities and causes. To wit, during the investigations by the Royal Palestine Commission (aka the Peel Commission) in 1937, local Arab leader Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi testified that “There is no such country [as Palestine]! Palestine is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries, part of Syria.” http://www.mythsandfacts.org/article_view.asp?articleID=273
The highest-ranking security officer ever to defect from the Soviet bloc, head of Romanian Security, Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, not only confirmed the absence of a pre-existing Palestinian entity or identity, but also identified the parties and purpose for the disinformation campaign. The KGB decided that they required a way to alienate the United States from the Middle-Eastern, oil-rich Arab states, but needed to change the “narrative” to one that would appeal to the better instincts of fair-minded, but naive people in the West. The “Palestinian as victim” of “Israeli Colonialist dispossession” aided by the United States appeared to fit the bill, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization headed by Ahmad Shukari in 1964, (from 1969-2004 by Yassar Arafat) was born.
Subsequent events flowed from this decision, and morphed into global terrorism, effected primarily by the KGB. https://www.nationalreview.com/2006/08/russian-footprints-ion-mihai-pacepa/
Reinforcing these ideas of the contemporary global problems are the prescient words of another former Russian KGB propagandist and defector, Yuri Bezmenov (1984.)
This background provides reasonable hypotheses for why the representatives of the Palestinian Arab people never have agreed to formation of a Palestinian Arab state. Twice in the last two decades, Israel made offers to the Palestinian Arabs to create a state, first in 2002 (involving Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, U.S. President Bill Clinton and PA President, Yasser Arafat) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/may/23/israel3 and again in 2008 (by Israeli President Ehud Olmert, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President, G.W. Bush) https://www.jns.org/erekat-olmert-offered-abbas-more-than-the-entire-west-bank/ . If the entire purpose for Palestinian Arab identity is to demonize and delegitimize Israel as an occupying colonial power, accepting Palestinian Arab statehood and explicitly recognizing Israeli rights would immediately nullify the purpose of their existential narrative. More fundamentally, acceptance of an Israeli state would legitimize the Western notion of “international law” that may not be accepted in the Middle-East and likely not by the communist world as is exemplified at present by the situation in Hong Kong. Regardless of the reason, the historical reality is that twice, Israel has seriously offered the Palestinian Arabs a state on approximately 97% of the West Bank and they have turned it down. Do they really want a state of their own? Others (e,g., Robert Spencer, The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Process. Bombardier Books, 2019) believe that the intransigence stems from Islamic beliefs relating to the notion that once a land has been under Muslim (i.e., Ottoman) control, it must forever stay under Muslim control. These different world views may represent different aspects of the issue ie that Israel must be destroyed hence conflict over peace, for different members of the Palestinian Arab community.
Turning to a second serious allegation made by the McGill Daily letter:
“According to a report by the United Nations, Israel has already set up an extensive system to divert Palestinian water to Israeli settlements, while Israeli drilling and pollution contaminates the waters still accessible to Palestinians. Given Israel’s current behaviour, the annexation of the Jordan River Valley can only be understood as an extension of its policy of environmental racism against Palestinians, and only further serves to deny them their human rights. It would also facilitate and accelerate the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Jordan Valley and other regions targeted for annexation.”
Again, contextualization of this report is critical. It may surprise the reader to learn that the report referred to, entitled, “Water Resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” Prepared for, and under the guidance of, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. UNITED NATIONS. New York.” appeared in 1992, or almost 3 decades ago. https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-197919/
Apparently, after 28 years in the interim, the dire predictions of the “Committee” did not come to fruition. The McGill Daily article failed to disclose not only the date of the cited article, leaving the casual reader to conclude that this report has current applicability, but also obscures the significant events that occurred in the interim. A reading of the policy paper, The Issue of Water between Israel and the Palestinians (2009) ( http://www.water.gov.il/Hebrew/about-reshut-hamaim/The-Authority/FilesWatermanagement/Israel_and_the_Palestinians.pdf ) reveals that Israel has worked with Jordan and the Palestinians to craft a fair resolution to the formidable water issues facing them and all countries in the Middle East. Israel arrived at interim agreements with Jordan (1994) and with the Palestinian Arabs (1995) through a body called the Joint Water Commission (JWC.) Somehow, the authors of the McGill Daily neglected to mention this more recent positive development, preferring a slanderous claim in a dubious 28-year-old document without disclosing its date in the article. (See https://www.un.org/unispal/committee/ )
Far from attempting to commit “environmental racism” on the Arab Palestinians, the “Issue of Water…” article states:
“In 2005, as part of Israel's disengagement from Gaza, water supply systems that had served the Israeli communities, including 25 wells, storage reservoirs and a well-developed transmission system, were also transferred to the Palestinians. At the end of the process, all 3 water supply and sewerage systems in the Gaza Strip were under exclusive Palestinian control.”
To further contextualize the issue, it was noted in 2012 that,
“In 1967, only 10% of Palestinian households were connected to water infrastructure. Today, this figure has risen to 95%. Palestinian cities in the West Bank currently have better access to water than residents of Amman and Damascus.” https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/3274.pdf
However, not all has been rosy in the interim. Between 2010 and 2017, JWC meetings with the Palestinian Arabs were suspended. The Palestinian Arabs boycotted the meetings leading to the cessations on the grounds that they did not want to sit on a committee that would discuss water for Israeli communities. (See https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/israel-gives-pal-authority-limited-water-autonomy-in-west-bank-478672 .)
The article further states, “The PA Water Authority, which operates mostly in Areas A and B of the West Bank, said that, as part of the new agreement, a mechanism had been formed that allowed it to implement infrastructure and sewerage projects without receiving the approval of the Joint Water Committee.”
Some necessary background: Geographically, Areas A and B of the disputed territories are inhabited primarily by Palestinian Arabs while Area C is inhabited primarily by Jews. According to President Trump’s peace proposal, as of July 1, 2020, Israel could proclaim sovereignty over Area C with its primarily Jewish population. Requirements of the Palestinian Arabs under President Trump’s Deal of the Century include formal recognition of the State of Israel, cessation of payments to jailed terrorists and their families, an end to indoctrinating their children and adults to hate Israelis, no pursuit of charges against Israel or the United States in courts, among other conditions. If the Palestinian Arabs implement the plan within four years, they could have a demilitarized State of their own, with a very generous financial package from the U.S. and others to establish a modern economy. The plan gives the Palestinian Arabs an opportunity to live autonomously and be in control of their domestic affairs, but not the ability to attack Israel. If they want autonomy and an opportunity to provide well for their families, this is a reasonable choice. If they see their existence in terms of destroying Israel, once again, they will not accept the opportunity. Their response, under President Trump’s plan, will make their intent clear.
Indeed, there is optimism looking forward. Thanks to recent technological innovations, Israel is the world leader in water technology including water recycling, conservation and desalination. Israel at present draws approximately 80% of its water supply from the Mediterranean. ( https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/how-israel-used-desalination-to-address-its-water-shortage-1.3959532 .) Unfortunately, the McGill Daily letter does not even allude to these realities.
The letter in the McGill Daily went on to state: “Today, the Israeli government has pledged to begin annexing large parts of the West Bank, without granting citizenship rights to its Palestinian residents. As it did in occupied East Jerusalem, annexation would essentially formalize and entrench an Israeli policy of apartheid which has existed since 1967 in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli settlers enjoy full access to natural resources, infrastructure, and the protections of civil law, while Palestinians endure a brutal military regime of checkpoints, house demolitions, land theft, environmental destruction, deportation, and murder at the hands of Israeli soldiers, police, and settlers. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue to live in ever-worsening conditions under a destructive blockade, where attempts to protest or resist the siege are met with the bullets of Israeli snipers.”
What the McGill Daily letter failed to mention was that the mutually agreed upon Oslo Accords-II, divided the disputed territories into 3 distinct regions for administrative purposes. Specifically, “The Oslo II Accord divided the Israeli-occupied West Bank into three administrative divisions: Areas A, B and C. The distinct areas were given different statuses, according to their governance pending a final status accord: Area A is exclusively administered by the Palestinian National Authority; Area B is administered by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel; and Area C, which contains the Israeli settlements, is administered by Israel. Areas A and B were chosen in such a way as to just contain Palestinians, by drawing lines around Palestinian population centers at the time the Agreement was signed; all areas surrounding Areas A and B were defined as Area C. … Area A comprises approximately 18% of the total territory of the West Bank and Area B about 22% of the territory, together home to some 2.8 million Palestinians. As of 2015, Area C is home to 150,000 Palestinians in 532 residential areas. It is also home to 389,250 Israelis, in 135 settlements, as well as 100 outposts unrecognized by the Israeli government. Additionally, Area A is prohibited to Israelis as are Israeli settlements prohibited in Area B. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Bank_Areas_in_the_Oslo_II_Accord#:~:text=The%20Oslo%20II%20Accord%20divided,Areas%20A%2C%20B%20and%20C.&text=It%20is%20also%20home%20to,unrecognized%20by%20the%20Israeli%20government.
Presently, the Israeli government is considering the option to normalize the legal status of Area C, by fully applying Israeli civilian law to this Jewish majority sector. https://www.wsj.com/articles/dont-buy-the-annexation-hype-11592932454 . It is also noteworthy that although Arabs are free to, and do live in this Israeli designated area, no Jews are permitted in Areas A and B. As PA President Abbas has insisted, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli - civilian or soldier - on our lands,” Abbas said in a briefing to mostly Egyptian journalists. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-israel-abbas/abbas-wants-not-a-single-israeli-in-future-palestinian-state-idUSBRE96T00920130730 .
The reality clearly is that the PA seeks to prohibit Jews from their aspirational Palestinian Arab state, but falsely accuses Israel of imposing an Apartheid policy on the Palestinians. This “Apartheid” accusation is a frequently repeated trope used by those who seek to discredit Israel, such as the BDS movement. Apartheid is a negative emotionally charged word, used to delegitimize a political opponent. Is Israel actually an “Apartheid State?”
One way to answer the question would be to learn what Arabs living in Israel have to say about their experience. A range of opinions would be reasonable if you were to ask people inhabiting most countries about how to rate their satisfaction, except of course those living in countries in which they were persecuted. Arabs living, working and voting in Israel have chosen to remain there and have never been prevented from leaving. The following two brief videos describe how two Arabs, one Israeli and one Palestinian Arab, view their situations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3VhfLey_-o and
At very least, the “Apartheid” stereotype pronounced by the McGill letter is not likely shared by the significant number of Arabs who choose to continue living under Israeli governance. Many more such testimonials exist and it takes courage for people making them to say what they do because of fears of reprisal from the PA.
More broadly and conceptually, in Israel unlike in Apartheid South Africa, there is no forced separation between people on racial grounds. Religious identification of the parties governs marriage practices (a holdover from Ottoman law), and neither Islam nor Orthodox Judaism condone or conduct inter-religious marriages. However, Israel recognizes inter-religious marriages performed outside of the country, despite the possible disapproval of their respective co-religionists. Israeli Jews and Arabs use all public facilities and utilities, including public beaches, shopping centres, rest rooms, theatres and transportation systems without separation. Arab Israelis vote and even have Arab majority political parties and elect Arab Muslim candidates in the Israeli Knesset…many of whom adopt political positions alien to the bulk of Jewish Israelis. Israeli Arabs are represented in universities in proportion to Arabs in the population, approximately 20%, and Arabs graduate from Israeli medical schools and practice medicine in Jewish and Arab hospitals throughout the country. The same holds for other professions. All of this happens despite the not infrequent politically motivated violence that overwhelmingly targets Jewish victims. Consequently, any comparison between the existing Jewish-Arab Israeli situation and the Afrikaners-Coloured structures in South Africa are factually inaccurate and another example of fabricated vilification and incitement for political purposes.
References to the hellish conditions in Gaza: a) overstate the misery and characteristically b) lay the blame on the “Israeli blockade.” There are wealthy and poor people in Gaza, like in any country as is evident from the description of a mall in Gaza https://alchetron.com/Gaza-Malland other upscale areas https://www.bridgesforpeace.com/the-gaza-they-do-not-want-you-to-see/ . The McGill letter neglects to mention that the Israelis instituted the blockade to prevent delivery of modern weapons to the belligerent Hamas Gazan government which has been firing rockets into nearby southern Israeli cities. A list of Palestinian rocket and mortar shells fired into Israel from Gaza at southern Israeli cities such as S’derot, Ofakim, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Beersheva since 2009 is available at: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/palestinian-rocket-and-mortar-attacks-against-israel . The effects have been most commonly psychologically harmful, especially to children as they have less than 15 seconds to enter a sheltered spot after the incoming sirens begin to wail. Many developed PTSD. However, there were significant deaths and serious injuries accruing from these sustained attacks over the years. Much of the cement entering Gaza has not been used not to help the Gazan population but instead has been used for construction of “terror tunnels” from which to attack Israeli towns in the Negev. Again, the McGill letter did not provide the actual context leading to the understandable and legal under international law Israeli blockade. It should also be noted that Egypt too maintains a blockade on Gaza.
Space and time do not permit a detailed rebuttal of all allegations made in the McGill Daily letter, restricting the response to the major accusations. Clearly, the information provided in the McGill Daily consists of fabrications, omissions of necessary contexts, mis-contextualizations, fully intended to mislead well-intentioned people to make decisions based on emotional appeal and bad data. It is natural for decent people to take the side of a perceived underdog. That is why it was critical for the “Palestinian Narrative” to paint the Palestinian Arabs as victims and Israelis (read ‘Jews’) as the evil colonialist racists, thieves and murderers. The reality is that it is the PA and its corrupt leadership which has sanctioned and carried out the terrorism that they project on Israel. They have and continue to inflict violence not only against Israelis and worldwide Jewry, but also among their own people, if they do not conform to their ideological dictates, and against any others who stand in their way.
The present situation is a contemporary replication of a millennia-old technique of vilifying the Jewish people, making Jews the political foe, leading eventually to a wish to destroy Jews. In European history, the haters and those utilizing hatred for political purposes accused the Jews of murdering Christian children to use their blood in baking the Passover Matzos. Although completely counterfactual (Jewish religious law prohibits Jews from consuming even blood from mammals and birds), this very horrific and entirely false allegation was too often taken as real, resulting first in hatred, then in disgust and demonization, followed by dehumanization, and finally, all too often, a license to commit mass murder. Israel today is the Jew!
The question now becomes whether You, students of McGill University and all young Canadians will succumb to this manufactured narrative, presented repeatedly by the extremists, relying on the powerful emotion of hate. Will you stop, step back and think about all of the information now available to you, consider the context of a very complex situation and arrive at a logical resolution based on evidence not false claims? Will you listen to both sides, not just one side? Will you join the pogrom or stay home and sit this one out? Will you side with those who seek to suppress expression of the other side, a tactic necessary for those short on answers?
As students of one of the world’s leading universities, You have the intellectual ability and responsibility to evaluate the reasonableness of the two sets of claims, and it is essential to do so.
Thank you for taking the time to read this response.