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Pompeo’s gift


Good news. Bad news.

The US has declared that settlements on the West Bank are not illegal according to international law, despite nearly everyone else claiming they are. “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters, “The United States has concluded that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law. Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace.” 

I have always been against the occupation. As the late Professor Yeshaya Leibovitz said: “ It destroys a nation’s soul.” But I saw no alternative when there was no leader willing to make the compromises necessary. And where Israel’s security was under constant threat. 

Israel did indeed make peace with Jordan and Egypt.  But the status of the West Bank was left in limbo. Legality is debatable. Who did it belong to? The Ottomans, the British, the Jordanians? Such things have to be agreed officially, not unilaterally. But there has been no agreement. No decision on borders or whose land belongs to whom. 

In this vacuum, propaganda, lies became tools of war. If you tell a lie often enough, people come to believe it. The lies much of the world has been telling or accepting as fact were that settlements beyond the Green Line were illegal under international law. Not only but illegality was decided on the basis of one man’s report from within the State Department in the USA. Adopted by them as truth. And reiterated by President Obama in the UN just before he left the White House.

The Green Line was a ceasefire agreement that ended the Israel Arab war from 1948 to 1949. It was not a peace treaty. It was a temporary agreement and it remains so to this day. In that war, the West Bank and Jerusalem were occupied by Jordan. And Jordan was always in breach of the cease-fire by expelling Jews from Jerusalem and other towns. Destroying synagogues and graves.

In 1967 the Arab States went to war against Israel again. Jordan attacked and Israel kicked them out, much to the delight of the Palestinian population. Later, Jordan ceded its claim to the West Bank to the PLO. The PLO refused to make peace and resorted to violence. In 1993 it accepted the UN Security Council motions 242 and 338 and rejected violence. In return, Israel recognized the PLO. But since 1993 the PLO has officially encouraged hatred and has suspended its recognition of Israel.

The polemic against Israel has grown exponentially. Even in the USA, it is now the dominant voice on campuses, the media, and the left. One of the most widespread claims is that settlements on the West Bank are an impediment to peace and are illegal. Israel has always argued that the fate of the settlements should be settled by negotiations. Up to now, everyone has said they were illegal. And yet for all that support for the PLO peace negotiations have stalled. 

One of the Palestinian conditions is that all settlements should be removed from their claimed territory. Given that there are Palestinians living freely within the Jewish state, to refuse to have any Jews living in a Palestinian state is a clear example of the very racism they like to accuse Israel of. Israel has always said that in a peace treaty Jews should be able to decide if they wanted to stay in the West Bank under Palestinian rule. 

For the past eighty years, the United Nations has consistently lied and defamed Israel. Partly it is because there is a powerful Muslim bloc of votes. Europe too has singled Israel out for obloquy, possibly because of a guilty conscience on its part over their cooperation or refusal to help the Jews under the Nazis and their assistants. Guilt does bad things to people. They often come to resent being made to feel guilty. They turn on the very people they wronged.  And they accept the false narrative that Jews never had a right to return to their homeland and the Holocaust was the excuse for a colonial invasion. 

For these reasons, the UN passed a declaration that Zionism was Racism in. It maliciously picked on Israel and the Jews over every other state in the world. It was only thanks to the USA and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan specifically, that the disgraceful motion was revoked in 1991.  

All legal systems are open to interpretation and debate. Up to now, the world has accepted the Palestinian narrative that the settlements are illegal even though there is no universally accepted definition of legality where no peace treaties have been established. Yet recently the EU has declared the settlements illegal and demanded that all products sent to Europe from them should be labeled as such. Notice they have said no such thing of Chinese products coming from occupied Tibet or Russian products from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

It is often said, even in some Jewish circles, that President Trump’s concessions to Israel are an obstacle to peace. But peace has been beyond reach for 80 years. The agony has been prolonged by friends of the Palestinians urging them not to accept compromises and hold out for better deals. And by a long war of attrition, supported by Iran. Appeasement has not worked before and it won’t work again. If I thought there was a cat’s chance in hell of it working, I would immediately recant.

Israel lives under constant tension, fear of violence and warfare. It inevitably affects the mood of its people. Israel will never give up. It continues to pour money and talent into being constructive instead of destructive. And many in the Arab world now realize that co-operation with Israel is in their best interests too. Diaspora Jewry is also suffering from constant pressure, lies and even violence and the concerted international effort to undermine Israel’s legitimacy. And everywhere anti-Semitism is on the rise.

So this is good news. I am delighted that Mike Pompeo has made this latest declaration of US policy. But here is the bad news. As I said, occupation is de-humanizing. Israel has wasted the opportunities after 1967 to be more creative and supportive of the Palestinians. There is too much arrogance and aggression towards them in Israeli society. I believe this is morally dangerous and counterproductive. Even if I understand full well that living under constant threat of death is enough to harden the softest of hearts. Preaching hate on either side is corrosive. 

This new development has emboldened the extreme right in Israel who see no problem in annexing and then denying Palestinians citizenship and voting rights. Because they know full well if they do concede, Israel might be a democracy but not a Jewish one. And most Palestinians now would vote for Hamas.

If only Hamas and the PLO would use their energies and financial support to create a positive dynamic world of their own instead of breeding and encouraging hatred. Israelis are not inherently cleverer or better. It is the culture of hatred that is getting in the way of improving the Palestinian lot. There are so many Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for peace and work for peace and better relations. We must support and encourage them. And pray that our politicians who are so busy fighting against themselves will come to realize that there has to be another way of doing things.

Hatred will never cease from the earth. Ephraim Kishon once wrote: “The State of Israel wasn’t founded so that anti-Semitism would end. It was founded so that we could tell the anti-Semites to shove it.”  We need Israel and Israel needs peace. For all our sakes.

12 thoughts on “Pompeo’s gift

  1. I think it’s time for you to enter the political mainstream. You’d make a great and logical senator to whom both sides would (or should) listen.
    Shabbat Shalom, Jeremy.

  2. Thats do sweet of you but the last thing I would want to do is to enter politics. I am neither crazy enough nor able to lie well enough. I am a coward! Shabbat Shalom

  3. How can there possibly be anything advantageous in endorsement, after legal analysis no less, from anyone currently helping the police with their enquiries? If Fiona Hill had come to the same conclusion, “after carefully studying all sides of the legal debate”, it would look a whole lot more kosher than it does at the moment. 

  4. The shortest answer is that I think Pompeo’s help is like six men short. I am looking at things principally from the perspective of diaspora Jewry facing the challenge of defending Israel from the usual accusations. It’s my ex JSoc president knee-jerk.
    However, if things still remain unclear, could you explain please exactly what it is you don’t understand? Otherwise, all I’ll be doing is recapping the ongoing news. I’m asking for detail because on other occasions when you’ve asked for clarification, I’ve provided one clarification after another, only to be met with requests for further clarification. I don’t mind how slow the pace may be on this occasion.
    I’ll begin with Fiona Hill. Admittedly, a complete unknown until a few days ago when she explained at the impeachment hearings that attempts to blame Ukraine for meddling in the US election were a fictitious narrative promulgated by Russia which had gained some traction in America. 

    Have you heard of Fiona Hill?

    If yes, do you think she comes across as someone of absolute integrity and intelligence? 

    If yes, don’t you think it would be good to have someone of her calibre in our corner?
    If yes, do you think there’s a world of difference between her and Pompeo? 

    If yes, that is the point I was making. (Half the point but an explanation of Pompeo’s shortcomings hardly seems necessary given the daily revelations of extra governmental activities.)

    1. First may I say that my English is clearly limited. No I did not understand most of what you are driving at. For example what does six short men mean? I have never heard that expression.

      Secondly I do not trust the impeachment witnesses on either side. Everyone is so biased politically and career wise I really have no idea at all who is telling the truth whether Democrat or Repulican, which only reinfoces my disdain for politicians and indeed career diplomats.

      The only line I did understand was your ex-Jsoc president knee jerk.
      From this I deduce you are saying that there is no value to what I am saying apart from stock responses to the conflict which see no problems with current Israeli policies.

      But I have said time and again that I do not agree with current Israeli policies or right wing politicians . I find I agree more with the old Brit Shalom aspirations and giving everyone a vote and a path to citizenship as the only way to break the curret internal political deadlock and a realignment of democracy in Israel. As well as a more equitable solution to the Palestinian problem. Though I do not believe the other side incuding Gaza would accept it.

      I hope you understand what I am saying. I have no problem continuing a dialogue so long as you can excuse my difficuties of comprehending yours without getting shirty.

  5. Hi Jeremy.

    Whilst I thought your article well balanced (as always) in almost every respect, there was one thing which disappointed me.

    You said….
    But the status of the West Bank was left in limbo. Legality is debatable. Who did it belong to? The Ottomans, the British, the Jordanians?

    My issue is why did you not include “The Jews” ?? It is absolutely arguable in legal terms that at the San Remo conference of 1920 all land on the west bank of the Jordan was disposed to the Jewish people by the Supreme Council, who had received the title to Palestine which had been renounced by Turkey after their defeat in 1917. It was then the role of the UK to take care of the Mandate in anticipation of a Jewish State in due course. The British never had (nor claimed to have) title to the land.
    None of this has ever been superseded in law by anything which has happened subsequently (including not by the United Nations in 1947, since the Arabs never accepted the partition and there was no legal transfer of title) and therefore Israel (being now the Jewish State) maintains title to the land. Jordan was only ever an illegal occupier!

    Certainly Israel has a better claim than Turkey, the British, or the Jordan, all of whom you did see fit to mention.
    So the Pompeo intervention, whilst of course more about politics than legality, actually has some defendable legality behind it!

    Were you just avoiding the politics because it is not PC to mention such a claim?
    Or do you at least agree that there is some merit in the legality argument I have outlined above?

    Best regards, Maurice

  6. You are absolutely right, I should have included the Jews. I took it for granted given the Mandate borders and the body of my piece but you are right, I shoud have spwcified as indeed I should have questioned the very notion of what Occupation means. Thank you.

  7. I think we’ve already arrived at the conclusion. We’ll have to agree to differ.

    “His help is like six men short” is an expression my father used, translated from Yiddish which was used in Bethnal Green. I thought it was pretty understandable.

    I think you haven’t understood what I meant by my ex JSoc president knee-jerk. I meant that assuming that Jewish students are having to do the same thing as once I had to do, defend Israel (in my case, in the 80s when the sole topic we were faced with was student union ‘debate’ over whether Israel had the right to exist) it’ll be more difficult with an endorsement from Pompeo, someone who even if he turns out to be purer than the driven snow, is right now under suspicion. It’d be far handier (from the point of view of dealing with attacks on Israel) to have someone endorse Israel who really was, by any usual estimation, a worthy advocate. As she’d only just been in the news, I compared the usefulness of Pompeo’s endorsement to a hypothetical one from Fiona Hill.

    I do not disdain civil servants, here in the UK or in the US. I think for the most part, they are intelligent, honourable people doing the best they can under often difficult circumstances. I also think they protect us from the worst excesses of populist governments. 

    I am willing to believe mainstream, conservative news sources such as the Wall Street Journal when they conclude that the case against Trump has been made. If you can’t, there isn’t anything more we can say on the topic.

    As for Israeli politics, I’ve always felt that since I don’t actually live there, my right and indeed ability, to have an opinion about where they’re going right or wrong, is distinctly curtailed by both my lack of detailed knowledge and because I don’t have to live with the practical consequences of whatever it might be I think they should be doing.

    As you see (I hope), we differ on every single point. I am sorry I thought you were being obtuse. I simply didn’t imagine you held the opinions you do.

  8. Clearly there is no point in going round in circles.

    I have no sympathy for Trump and I never had. But I do believe that almost all Presidents have told lies, inexactitudes, been dishonest and corrupt when it suited them and used whatever means at their disposal to win.
    And that the State Departmet and the Foreign Office have always been antgonistic towards Israel.

    But you did not rise to my bailt about Brit Shalom.
    What’s your solution? One State? Two States? Federal? Unitary? Lets hear smething constructive please.

  9. I’m too practical to have a conversation about Brit Shalom. It just seems philosophical theorising and I have no bent at all for this kind of discussion, sorry. It’d be the same if you’d said you were more inclined to Buber than to Herzl. All I could add is that I never cared for Buber and it’s Herzl for me (minus Uganda though.)
    The other problem is, as I explained already, I am reticent about having theoretical discussions about Israel from the comfort of the diaspora. I know there are distinct differences between what you’re doing, what other Jews may do, and what people ever eager to bash Israel do but for all these debates, I still think that the starting point should be acknowledgement that if we don’t live there, we don’t have the same right to comment as the people who do. If we could get this recognised as a reasonable principal, as the UK Labour Party purportedly has just done in describing Kashmir as a bilateral matter for Pakistan and India to resolve, I think that would go a long way to denting the widespread belief that voicing ill informed opinion about Israel is perfectly acceptable. I know this is not going to happen but the logic is irrefutable and I insist on it every time I have to talk to some idiot with a fashionable bee in their bonnet about Israel and the Palestinians. That makes more sense to me than attempting to form an unqualified theoretical opinion about “One State? Two States? Federal? Unitary?” I have no idea about these but demanding that Israel is entitled to the same degree of respect as Pakistan (with its fantastic reputation for corporate integrity, judicial freedom, feminism, LGBT rights, environmentalism and religious tolerance) doesn’t take any effort at all.

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