View of Ma’aleh Adumim in Judea, east of Jerusalem. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90) Yaniv Nadav/Flash90
Maale Adumim

The reality is that the Jewish People’s rights to the land of Israel have 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. 

The McGill Daily, the student-run newspaper of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, recently published a vicious anti-Israel commentary written by the Students for Palestinian Human Rights,McGill (SPHR). 

Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights, an NGO established in 2009 to educate Jewish youth and the general public about Israel’s Legal Rights under International Law, has written a rebuttal to what it describes as “a pernicious letter full of false allegations against the State of Israel.”

The Canadian AntiSemitism Education Foundation submitted the piece to the McGill Daily’s commentary editor and managing director, and copied it to Suzanne Fortier, principal and vice-chancellor of the university, but it appears to have been ignored. 

Following is the CILR article, which provides the correct historical background to the conflict.

On July 1, 2020, The McGill Daily published an article 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 comply 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 have 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 War 1, 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., including what Israelis call Judea and Samaria, and the Arabs call the West Bank) along with contemporary Jordan and Iraq.

map transjordan

Separation of Transjordan 1922 (MFA)

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.

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 an area 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.”

Name ‘Palestina’ Imposed on Judea

It is historically noteworthy that the Roman conquerors imposed the name “Palestina” on the original Jewish homeland approximately 1,800 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 Khalidi’s 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 Saudi 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 abstentions, 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 who voted against it, 10 were Islamic states (Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen) with only three – India, Cuba and Greece – voting against Israeli Independence not being Muslim republics.

‘This Will Be a War of Extermination’

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, a member of the Strategic Communications team at the National Security Council in Washington, D.C., notes:

“Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, proclaimed, ‘This will be a war of extermination, a momentous massacre.’ [43] 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.’ [44]” 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. 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 during the 1967 Six Day War after Jordan (the Trans was dropped from its original name to obfuscate its original restriction to the East Bank of the Jordan River), following fierce fighting and their eviction.

To the Israelis, this result was the liberation of Judea and Samaria from an occupying foreign power. To the Arabs, it was a second catastrophe – the first being the establishment of the State of Israel. 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.

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 “Grater 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.”

The Palestinian ‘Victim’

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 PLO headed by Arafat was born.

Subsequent events flowed from this decision and morphed into global terrorism, effected primarily by the KGB.

Reinforcing these ideas of the contemporary global problems are the prescient words of a 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 the formation of a Palestinian Arab state. Twice in the last two decades, Israel made offers to the Palestinians in 2002 (involving Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, U.S. President Bill Clinton and PA President, Yasser Arafat) and again in 2008 (by Israeli President Ehud Olmert, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and  U.S. President,  G.W. Bush).

If the entire purpose of 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 Hong Kong situation.

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 approaches may represent different aspects of the issue for different members of the Palestinian Arab community.

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