Justice delayed is justice denied: The case for a Palestinian state

Sep 4, 2023

Peter Wertheim (July 24, 2023) suggests that the Government should resist the call by Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr to recognise a Palestinian state. However, Wertheim’s remarks reflect widespread misapprehensions about relevant history, facts on the ground and international law.

British MP Sir Anthony Nutting described the “sordid” history of Zionism and its “Legacy of Deceit” which has been erased from public consciousness. Nutting describes documents published by Doreen Ingrams’ (1972) Palestine Papers as among “the most shattering and shaming indictments of British Foreign policy.” However, the shame belongs even more to subsequent governments including our own who are complicit in continuing the original injustice against the Palestinians.

In August 1897 Theodor Herzl established Zionism using the term “Heimstätte” or “homeland” which was deliberately ambiguous. His colleague Nordau explained “To us it signified ‘Judenstaat’” that is, a Jewish State (Ingrams, p. 5). Indeed, Herzl exulted “At Basel, I founded the Jewish State” which meant “We must expropriate gently … the removal of the poor [Arabs] must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly” (Rashid Khalidi (2020) The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, p. 4).

The same deceit was employed by Lord Rothschild and Chaim Weizmann in drafting the 1917 Balfour Declaration (Ingrams p. 9). Lord Curzon remarked that Weizmann admitted privately that he contemplates a Jewish State with “a subordinate population of Arabs … ruled by Jews,” but he “sings to a different tune in public” (Ingrams, p. 58). Balfour and his colleagues “knew exactly what the Zionists were up to and … they had every intention of helping them to fulfil their aims by deliberately deceiving the Arab majority in Palestine.” The British Government “committed themselves to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, with a total and deliberate disregard for the rights and interests of the Arabs who then numbered 92 per cent of the country’s population.” Ironically, the only Jew in the British cabinet, Edwin Montagu, also understood exactly what was intended. He denied that there is a Jewish nation, saying Zionism is a “mischievous political creed” and predicted that Muslims and Christians would become “regarded as foreigners.” Palestinians clearly understood the fate that was to befall them and foresaw “their eventual banishment from the land” (Ingrams, p. 81). Balfour was candid:

… in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country … And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. (11th August 1919)

Today, Wertheim asserts “recognition cannot create a state where none exists on the ground.” However, 138 of 193 UN members recognize Palestine as a State, and there is strong academic legal opinion that Palestine satisfies all necessary criteria of the relevant 1933 Montevideo Convention. Moreover, the recognition of states can be constitutive in the sense that the act of recognition itself can create a state. Indeed, Israel itself is precisely a case of recognition that created a state where none existed. In 1947, UN General Assembly Partition Resolution 181 (II) gave 55 per cent, most of the land, to the Jewish minority.

One day after the UN Partition vote, Menachem Begin who became Prime Minister from 1977 to 1983 declared that the partition “will never be recognized” and that it “will not bind the Jewish people.” He said the land “will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever” (Avi Shlaim 2014, The Iron Wall, p. 25). Ben Gurion, first Prime Minister of Israel, said “we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine” and “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war” (Simha Flapan The Birth of Israel, 1987, p. 22).

Indeed, after the war of 1948 Israel occupied the ruins of 78 percent of Palestine where over 500 villages were destroyed and 750,000 Palestinians forcibly expelled, the catastrophe Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba.” The war of June 1967 resulted in the occupation of all Palestine. UN Assembly resolutions 194 (III) of 1949 and 3236 (XXIX) of 1974 “reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty,” but the reality is captured in the image of “Disappearing Palestine” in the New York Times (May 25, 2021).

New York Times Photo /Via Getty

The UN map shows settlements, checkpoints, prohibited roads and other occupation controls. Thousands of new housing units are being approved by the Israeli government in immense new cities by expropriating private Palestinian land, all illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Former Special UN Rapporteur Michael Lynk points out that the Israeli settlements amount to a war crime. Moreover, the Likud Party platform states that there will be no Palestinian State between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Netanyahu is reported in the Israeli press saying that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign state should be eliminated and Israel “needs to crush [the Palestinian] ambition” for an independent state. It is in this light that we understand the cynicism of suggestions that Palestinians should return to “good faith negotiations” and “refrain from doing anything to pre-empt the outcome of those negotiations.” Indeed, Israel has consistently rejected a negotiated agreement. Robert Malley, member of the US peace team at Camp David and Edward Saïd revealed the fraudulence of the “peace process” in which US mediators have been Brokers of Deceit in the title of the 2013 book by Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi.

After 76 years there is a particular shamefulness in proposing to defer statehood when an Australian Jew is permitted automatic citizenship, while survivors of the Nakba and their descendants languish in squalid refugee camps denied self-determination and the right of return enshrined in international law.

Editors’ note:

Australia’s former Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, will deliver a speech on “The Palestine Catastrophe” at The Great Hall, Sydney University Quadrangle, Sydney on Tuesday 5 September 2023, 6:00 – 8:00pm AEST.

Readers are invited to register for the event here.

Bob Carr

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