Archive for December, 2011

Salomon Benzimra responds

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Yesterday I reviewed the book The Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel, by Salomon Benzimra. I am very grateful to Mr. Benzimra for responding. Here are some of his comments on the review:

1. On the phrase “in all Palestine”: The third recital of the Preamble to the Mandate specifies the “connection of the Jewish people to Palestine.”  Article 2 of the Mandate makes the Preamble operative. There is no mention anywhere of “part of Palestine”, and this is in line with Article 5 (“…no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign power.”)  You state that the Palestinian Arabs would not consider themselves a “foreign power.”  That is true but every attempt to carve out territory in Palestine was done with the clear intention of creating eventually an Arab state which would be “foreign” in relation to the Jewish state, as it was originally conceived.  This happened in 1937 (Peel Report) and in 1947 (UN Resolution 181).  Therefore, my understanding of “foreign” is not related to “distant” or “established” but actually foreign in relation to the Jewish people, who were the sole recognized beneficiary at the San Remo Conference.  Otherwise, the drafters of the original Mandate would have specified the contours, within Palestine, of the area allocated to the Jewish National Home.  This never happened, except when the British introduced Article 25, a move [of] dubious legality.

2. On the connection between “national home” and “state”: It was the intention of Balfour to specifically mention “state” in his Declaration, but Nahum Sokolov and other members of the Zionist Organization believed it was not prudent to talk of a “state” in 1917, while WWI was still raging and the Ottomans were not yet defeated.

As you correctly mentioned, the Mandate for Mesopotamia clearly refers to a “state” but this document was drafted in 1920.  The question then arises as to why the word “state” was not included in the Mandate for Palestine, as it was confirmed by the Council of the League in 1922.

From the private correspondence of Balfour, it appears that as early as 1921 (and probably even earlier) Balfour interpreted the Declaration as meaning eventually the creation of a Jewish state, in opposition to Churchill’s interpretation (as reported by Sir Martin Gilbert in Winston S. Churchill: Companion Volume, Vol. 4, Part 3, April 1921-November 1922, p. 1559).  U.S. President Wilson, while at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, was also aware of the prevailing position of the League of Nations: “It will be the policy of the League of Nations to recognize Palestine as  Jewish State as soon as it is a Jewish state in fact” (reported by J.C. Hurewitz in The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: a Documentary Record, Vol. 2).

This is precisely the point:  the Jewish National Home could only turn into a democratic Jewish State when the Jewish population became large enough, which was not the case yet in the early 1920s.  A decade later, even the Peel Report recognized this fact (as mentioned in my book, in the section on the Peel Commission).

Finally, another aspect often ignored by many opponents to the Jewish State is to be found in the spirit and the letter of the fourth paragraph of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations which set up the Mandates System, specifically what is commonly known as “Class A” Mandates.  The text clearly shows that for those communities which already reached a certain “stage of development”, the natural outcome of the Mandate was to set up “independent nations [once] they are able to stand alone [after the Mandatory period].” Even “Class B” Mandates (applied to less developed populations of Africa) turned ultimately into independent states.  This is to say that the very institution of a Mandate for Palestine explicitly anticipated the creation of a state in due time.

3. “maximal Zionist position”: I do not believe the book presents a “maximal Zionist position.”  I have come across several positions taken by Zionists – some of them thoroughly documented –whose claims exceed what I think can be reasonably supported.  A case in point is presented in the section “The Mandate: first ‘partition’” where I explain my views on Transjordan.  I am sure you will find that my take on the Jewish claims to Transjordan are far more moderate than what you must have read elsewhere.

Having said that, I must commend you for your selection of excerpts, especially the two tables you reprinted.  I am sure your review will be useful to many readers of Fresno-Zionism who are acutely interested in the survival and well-being of Israel.

I was also very pleased to see your comments on the Kindle edition and the advantages it offers in accessing online references.  Other advantages include the “dynamic” Table of Contents for easier navigation; the quick search of any word or phrase as opposed to a tedious Index; the bookmarking, highlighting and insertion of comments; and the embedded Oxford Dictionary as you double-click any word…

As to the necessity of a printed edition, I fully agree with you.  Many people prefer to read on paper rather than on screen.  It is our intention to issue a print edition in English and in Hebrew (which we have already translated and is ready to be launched, pending the final decision from senior officials of the Israeli Government), as well as in French and Spanish.  We’ll certainly keep you posted on these developments.

Best regards,
Salomon Benzimra, P.Eng.
CILR – Toronto

Reactions to Gingrich miss the point

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Newt Gingrich. Apparently it's considered tacky or worse to insist on the truth.

Newt Gingrich. Apparently it's considered tacky or worse to insist on the truth.

Reaction to Newt Gingrich’s remarks about the Palestinians has been pouring in — from Republicans, Democrats, Palestinians, etc. — and they aren’t pretty. Mostly they have been the insults and name-calling that pass for political discourse today. I think it’s interesting that virtually all of his critics responded to Gingrich’s remark that the Palestinians are an ‘invented people’, and not, for example, to this one:

…you have Abbas who says in the United Nations, “We do not necessarily concede Israel’s right to exist.” You’ve had four PLA ambassadors around the world say flatly, “Israel does not have a right to exist.” In late November in India, the PLA ambassador said “Anybody who thinks there is a big gap between Hamas and Fatah is kidding themselves.” You know, and so you have to start with this question “Who are you making peace with?”

It’s a lot easier to take the cheap shot and call someone a ‘racist’ or ‘destructive’ than to deal with the brute fact that US policy is entirely disconnected from reality. So even when criticism is polite, it misses the point. Take this, for example:

But imagine, for the sake of argument, that what Gingrich says is true. So what? If Palestinians are just an undifferentiated group of Arabs who happen to live in the West Bank and Gaza, what are the implications of that?

Gingrich seems to think the implication is that Palestinians aren’t entitled to their own state, although he doesn’t quite say so. If he opposes a two-state solution, that puts him on the far fringe of both American and international politics. (His spokesman says he supports a two-state solution as part of a negotiated settlement.)

But more importantly, Gingrich is laying out a perverse definition of statehood. Does Gingrich think that states should be ethnocentric? The United States isn’t, although Gingrich’s appeal is largely based on white Christian ethnocentric nationalism. Israeli national identity is as much a twentieth-century invention as Palestinian identity.

There are several things to say about this:

1. Of course Gingrich does not think that all states should be nation-states (what the writer calls “ethnocentric” states). Israel is, France is, the US isn’t. Incidentally, the last sentence shows that he also has no clue about what a people is; Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, which has been in existence for several thousand years, and indeed maintained a nation-state in the land of Israel for longer than any other group. Nobody thinks there is an “Israeli people.”

2. The Palestinians are not simply asking for self-government for the residents of Judea and Samaria. If they were, they would not be able to insist that the Jewish communities there must be dismantled. They would not be able to demand that Arab refugees from 1948 and their descendents have a ‘right of return’ to Israel. They would not refuse to accept Israel’s own self-definition. They are demanding recognition as a nation and to establish a nation-state.

3. I can agree that whether the Palestinians are “just an undifferentiated group of Arabs” or a ‘people’ is not the only thing, or even the main thing, that is relevant to whether they should have a state. Since their state is planned to be next door to Israel, and indeed, if it is established it will be in the historical heart of the land of Israel, the attitude of this bunch of Arabs toward Israel and Jews is extremely important. As as Gingrich pointed out in some of the quotations that were not widely remarked upon, this attitude is anything but peaceful and neighborly.

5. There is also the question of intent. The Palestinian Arabs have for decades been doing their best to deny Jewish history, to substitute themselves for the Jews as the original inhabitants of the land, making the most outrageous claims (like being descendents of the biblical Jebusites), destroying archaeological evidence of Jewish provenance, claiming Jewish historical and religious sites as their own, etc. Arab lies are intended to delegitimize the historical right of the Jewish people to have a state, and to aid in the destruction of it. If  the ‘Palestinian people’ were invented, it was just for this purpose.

It seems that despite the lip service that is paid to historical truth, it is considered tacky or worse to point out that this particular emperor has no clothes. But in the real world, the US president has to make decisions. Good ones aren’t likely to come from fairy tales.

Theoretically — and I hope in fact it is true — the main objective of our Israeli/Arab policy is to end the conflict. This cannot occur as long as the history of it and a realistic understanding of the objectives of both sides, even an identification of all the players — it is not just Israel and the Palestinians — is not present. Our current president does not have this understanding, and indeed the administration’s Orwellian restrictions on language about the Middle East in general make it impossible for them to even speak about it sensibly.

Gingrich is a breath of fresh air in this respect.

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Review: The Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel

Monday, December 12th, 2011

The Jewish People's Rights to the Land of Israel, by Salomon BenzimraThe Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel, by Salomon Benzimra (Kindle Edition: Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights, 2011. No ISBN).

Reviewed by Vic Rosenthal

My first thought after reading this short book (about 100 pages) was: why hasn’t someone done this before?

Especially when almost every mass media outlet can’t mention Jewish communities outside of the 1949 armistice lines without adding “which are illegal under international law,” when NGOs funded by Israel’s enemies invent  legal principles to suit their purposes, when the President of the US takes it upon himself to demand that “settlements must stop,” when the false historical narrative of the Palestinians is more and more being accepted into the conventional wisdom, there is a need for a simple exposition of the facts, an antidote to the lies and inventions.

One does not need to agree with all of Benzimra’s arguments  (I don’t) to benefit from his exposition. Unlike many authors of polemics — and this book is frankly polemical — Benzimra exposes his premises and his logic. The electronic format has made it possible for him to provide exhaustive and invaluable documentation with web links to the text of primary sources, treaties, minutes of meetings, etc.

The exposition is clear, without dense legalese. Each chapter includes at least one chart or map, like this one:

San Remo Conference

Benzimra’s major argument, greatly simplified, is this:

The Balfour declaration, which became part of international law when it was incorporated into the British Mandate for Palestine, ratified by the Allied Powers at the San Remo conference (1922) and adopted by the US through the Anglo-American Convention (1924), became a binding international commitment to the Jewish people, based on the “historical connection of the Jewish people to Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national home there,” a commitment which has never been revoked.

The post-WWI mandates were intended to replace colonialism with a paternalistic system by which a people could be helped to ultimately obtain independence under the guidance of a more advanced power, which would be given temporary control of a territory:

On the strength of the concept of “self-determination” advocated by President Wilson in 1918, the Jewish people acquired legal sovereignty in Palestine, based on their historical connection to the land, even though this sovereignty was held in abeyance for the duration of the Mandate period. These national rights in Palestine were exclusive to the Jewish people, who became the national beneficiary under the Mandates System. Britain was assigned a triple role: a) as Mandatory, to secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home… b) as Trustee, to preserve the whole land in trust for the benefit of the Jewish people; and c) as Tutor… The Legal Title to Palestine was therefore transferred from the Allied Powers … to the Jewish people. [loc 1285, emphasis in the original]

Although the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate state that nothing in them is intended to prejudice the “civil and religious rights” of non-Jewish communities  in Palestine, there is a clear distinction between such rights and what Benzimra calls “collective political rights” (and I often refer to as ‘national aspirations’). Arab citizens of Israel that are demanding in essence a binational state are asking for such collective rights, which are not supported by this clause.

Benzimra interprets the phrase “in Palestine” in the Mandate as meaning “in all Palestine” primarily because of Article 5, which says that “no Palestine territory shall be ceded to … any foreign power.” He interprets this as meaning that any repartition of the land, such as the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state east of the Green Line, would be illegal. I think this is uncertain, since the Palestinian Arabs — while not the beneficiary of the Mandate — would certainly insist that they are not a ‘foreign power’.

He also says that “national home” must be interpreted as ‘state’. While it’s likely that Balfour, Lloyd George and others envisaged a Jewish state as a desirable outcome, the word ‘state’ is not used.  In contrast, the British Mandate for Mesopotamia [Iraq], established at the same time, clearly does refer to the ultimate creation of an “independent state.” Of course, the state of Israel as declared in 1948 (unlike the recent attempt to declare a state of ‘Palestine’) met all of the criteria for a sovereign state and rendered moot the question of whether the Mandate promised a state or something less.

He is on more solid ground, however, when he points out that the Mandate called for “close settlement by Jews on the land” in Article 6, and argues that this implies that Jews have a right to live anywhere in Palestine, including Judea and Samaria. It can be argued that the Mandate’s provisions will be operative until the Jewish home has been established with recognized borders. This hasn’t happened yet, and so until it does, there can’t be a limitation on Jewish communities in the area of the Mandate.

In summary, I think he has argued persuasively that the state of Israel’s legitimacy in international law is unquestionable, and is derived from the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate (and the declaration of independence of 1948), which in turn are based on the Jewish people’s historical connection to the land. He has also demonstrated that Jewish rights of settlement extend to all of the land of Israel, although I do not believe that it can be established that the Jewish ‘home’ — or state — must include all  of it.

Benzimra devotes several chapters to a description of British efforts to renege on the promise of the Balfour declaration, starting with its action to lop off the eastern portion of it in the period between the final draft of the Mandate and its ultimate adoption in 1922 (this territory ultimately became the Kingdom of Jordan), and — far worse, in my opinion — its gradual abandonment of the principles of the Balfour declaration in favor of the Arabs.

He provides an instructive chart which shows how episodes of Arab violence against Jews led to British “commissions of enquiry,” which then resulted in White Papers that restricted Jewish rights — culminating in the execrable MacDonald White Paper of 1939, which arguably sealed the fate of hundreds of thousands of Jews trapped in Europe:

The Mandate: from 1920 to 1939

The MacDonald White Paper not only limited Jewish immigration to a trickle, it called for a “Unitary Palestine State” from the river to the sea, encompassing both Jews and Arabs, with the Jewish population not to exceed 1/3 of the total! Need I add that this is a total renunciation of the spirit and letter of the original Mandate?

Benzimra also discusses the Arabs’ very effective propaganda tactic of presenting the Jewish presence as a conspiracy between European Jews and imperialists to steal and illegally occupy their land. This has been made possible, he says, by two things:

One is the fact that the legal rights of Israel have not been effectively upheld; in particular, he refers to the decision made after the 1967 war not to apply Israeli law to the conquered territories, but rather to treat it as a belligerent occupation. This was done to avoid the acquisition of a large number of Arab citizens, and in the hopes that the Arab nations would agree to negotiate a real peace in return for the territory, which did not happen.

The other is the way the historical facts about the Jewish connection to the land have been forgotten or obscured.

He concludes with a discussion of the need for any peace negotiations to include a recognition of the true facts, including the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land — which the Arabs and their supporters are doing their best to replace with what he calls their “forged narrative” — and the legal rights of the Jewish people.

I couldn’t agree more, and note that one of the main reasons that this has not happened is the power of the Israeli Left, in politics, media and academe, which has somehow forgotten Israel’s history and to a great extent accepted and promulgated the Arab story.

I found the book enormously useful insofar as it collects the secular legal and historical arguments and documentation for a maximal Zionist position and presents that position clearly. The electronic format is a mixed blessing: it puts supporting documentation at one’s fingertips, and provides handy links to the contents of the book. You can read it on a Kindle, if you have one, or you can download a free reader for the PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android phone. On the other hand, a printed book would make wider distribution of Benzimra’s arguments possible.

Update [Dec. 15 10:00 PST]: See Salomon Benzimra’s response here.

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It’s Fayyad who’s ignorant, not Gingrich

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Here are a few quotations from a recent interview with presidential candidate Newt Gingrich:

I believe that if somebody is firing rockets at you, they are probably not engaged in the peace process. I believe if somebody goes around and says you don’t have a right to exist, they’re probably not prepared to negotiate for peace. I think if someone says they wanna wipe you out, you should believe them.

I think we’re much more likely to see an Arab winter, than we are to see an Arab Spring. The fact is that when people point out that of the 1,200,000 Christians who were in Iraq when we arrived, 700,000 have fled the country. That doesn’t strike me as a success. When you know that Coptic Christians who have been in Egypt for 2,100 years are now being persecuted and having their churches burned, that doesn’t strike me as a success. I think the Israeli Defense Minister said the other day that he’s very concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in this recent election.

Remember, I think 15% of the seats went to people who are more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood…

So, I think there’s a lot to be concerned about, and whether or not the Arab world is going to evolve now in a very negative, probably very destructive, way.

…you have Abbas who says in the United Nations, “We do not necessarily concede Israel’s right to exist.” You’ve had four PLA ambassadors around the world say flatly, “Israel does not have a right to exist.” In late November in India, the PLA ambassador said “Anybody who thinks there is a big gap between Hamas and Fatah is kidding themselves.” You know, and so you have to start with this question “Who are you making peace with?”

I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at a time…remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940’s, and I think it’s tragic.

Well, I think it’s delusional to call [the Oslo process] a peace process. I mean, we have an armed truce with a Palestinian Authority that’s relatively weak. And on its flank is a Hamas authority which may become relatively weak, because it can’t deliver anything. But both of which represent an enormous desire to destroy Israel. And I think unless you start with…and frankly, given their school system and the hatred they teach in their schools, often with money that comes from us through the United Nations, I mean I think there’s a lot to think about in terms of how fundamentally you want to change the terms of debate in the region.

Say what you will about Gingrich as a viable candidate, but you cannot say that he doesn’t understand the Middle East and particularly the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The quote about the “invented Palestinian people” has stirred up the expected hornet’s nest. For example, Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad called his remark “cheap and disgraceful”:

Responding to the statements of Gingrich, Dr. Fayyad stated that “the Palestinian people inhibited [sic] the land since the dawn of history, and intend to remain in it until the end times”, and added that “people like Gingrich must consult history as it seems that all what he knows about the region is the history of the Ottoman era”.  — IMEMC

Perhaps Gingrich’s tone was insulting, but historically he was not incorrect. Ridiculous Palestinian claims that they are descended from ancient Canaanites notwithstanding, most of the ancestors of the present-day ‘Palestinians’ arrived in the region along with or after the expedition of the Ottoman governor of Egypt Muhammad Ali into Syria in the early 1830’s. Rebellions and famines in Syria brought waves of Arabs into Palestine in the 19th and 20th centuries. And of course British and Zionist development brought even more Arab immigrants.

While Palestinian Arabs were mostly united in their opposition to Jewish immigration (although there were exceptions), specifically Palestinian nationalism probably did not exist before the first decades of the 20th century; interestingly, at first most nationalists were Christians rather than Muslims. Arab inhabitants of Palestine often insisted that the area was actually ‘southern Syria’, and identified as ‘Arabs’ and not Palestinians.

This changed with the founding of the PLO in 1964. Arab residents of the former Palestine Mandate became the ‘Palestinian people’. And in truth, the regional wars and terrorism, their indoctrination by every means possible into a culture based on one main principle, hatred of Jews and Israel,  their incarceration by the Arab nations and the UN in ‘refugee camps’ where they are bred like farm animals in order to incarnate a weapon of mass destruction for use against the Jewish people — all this has finally made them a people. What kind of people is another question.

Nevertheless, it is Fayyad who is ignorant of history, not Gingrich.

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Yet another vicious academic liar enabled by his university

Friday, December 9th, 2011

A Mathematics professor at California State University, Northridge, David Klein, maintains one of the ugliest hate-Israel pages I’ve seen in some time. For example:

Israel is the most racist state in the world at this time

Zionism calls for a Jewish state.  Israel defines Jewishness, in part, in genetic terms.  A person is legally Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish, regardless of place of birth or religious belief. Israel is an apartheid state that systematically discriminates against the indigenous population, enforcing, for example, Jewish-only buses and Jewish-only roads.  The result of Israeli state policies has been a 60 year program of ethnic cleansing, including expulsion of the Palestinian population, military occupation, and mass murder.

Everything in the above paragraph is false except “Zionism calls for a Jewish state,” and even then his understanding of ‘Jewish state’ is wrong. There are links (which I didn’t reproduce) to other anti-Zionist sites like, the “Campaign to end Israeli Apartheid,”  “Electronic Intifada,” etc. which are supposed to support his statements.

This page and several others (including one defending former academic and “Holocaust Industry” author Norman Finkelstein) are linked to Klein’s main Mathematics Department page.

The AMCHA initiative complained to the University, calling Klein’s page antisemitic and demanding its removal. The University President, Jolene Koester, responded that a review showed that there were no violations of University web use policies and that  “the conclusions are based on the important tenets of academic freedom and free speech, which are central to the values and traditions of academia and, indeed, a democratic society.”

They should be ashamed.

The question of whether extremism like Klein’s is the same as antisemitism is, shall we say, academic. Over-the-top hatred of the Jewish state is an evolutionary form of the Oldest Hatred. Klein and others would no doubt defend themselves by saying that they are only ‘criticizing Israel’s actions,’ but of course Nazis commonly blamed Jewish behavior for their anti-Jewish acts.

What is common to David Klein and the Nazis is that in both cases their beliefs are irrationally vicious and justified by a structure of lies and distortions. What is different about them is that Klein hates the concrete expression of the Jewish people, Israel, while the Nazis just hated the people themselves.

The University’s position, in practice cynically based on a estimation that Klein would be more likely to prevail in a lawsuit than AMCHA, supposedly rests on “academic freedom and free speech.” These are both irrelevant in this case.

Academic freedom, according to the AAUP, relates to a teacher’s field of inquiry. It is not a license to say anything about anything with no consequences. So if Klein, as a mathematician, wished to defend the proposition that 2 + 2 = 5 on his university website, academic freedom would demand that he be able to do so. But the principle does not protect his right to defame a nation by publishing lies and calumnies.

Freedom of speech implies that a government-funded institution may not deny someone the right to speak except in some narrowly-circumscribed cases. But it does not imply that the institution must be required to provide a megaphone, in the form of a university supported web server, to practice slander and defamation. They couldn’t fire Klein, for example, for posting antisemitic material elsewhere, but their own policies permit them to remove defamatory or offensive material from their sites.

The fact that they do not do this is an indication that they do not find this page offensive.

As a taxpaying resident of the state of California, I find that offensive!

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