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Israel and Iraq: a double standard in the application of international law.

On August 25, 1990, the New York Times ran as its lead editorial a comprehensive indictment of Iraq entitled "The World v. Saddam Hussein." It argued that the Iraqi leader was becoming a war criminal in the "classic Nuremberg sense." Indeed, the editors suggested that Hussein was in a class of war criminals virtually all his own, having violated "most of the Nuremberg Principles" with his "crimes against peace," "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity."

I do not contest the Times's indictment of Saddam Hussein. Rather, I apply here the same Nuremberg standard to Israel and consider the results. Such a comparison shows that Israel is guilty of the same kind of abuses of international law for which the Timesjustly condemns Iraq, a fact which is almost never recognized--and indeed is often actively denied--by Washington and the U.S. media. It is not that Israel is worse than Iraq, but that it is the beneficiary of a double standard. (1)

Crimes Against Peace

The first count of the Times's indictment against Hussein is his "crimes against peace"--for example, the invasion of Kuwait.

One would think the obvious comparison is with Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Yet, the Times elsewhere informs us that there is a "crucial difference" between the two cases: "Kuwait had not attacked Iraq, while southern Lebanon was home to Palestinian bases that had repeatedly shelled Israeli territory" (August 16, 1990). The same "crucial difference" is suggested in a Newsweek chronology which points to "PLO shelling of northern Israel from southern Lebanon" as the impetus behind Israel's "full-scale invasion" (August 27, 1990).

Yet this is not the way many prominent Israelis recall the events leading up to the Lebanon war. Former Foreign Minister Abba Eban observed in the Jerusalem Post that during the year of "ceasefire and deterrence" preceding Israel's invasion, "no Israelis lost their lives in Galilee or anywhere else in northern Israel" (November 4,1983). The same point is made by the distinguished Israeli political scientist Avner Yaniv in his book Dilemmas of Security, where he reports that the Israeli invasion "had been preceded by more than a year of effective ceasefire with the PLO." (2) Finally, Yehoshafat Harkabi, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, observes in Israel's Fateful Hour that the Israeli government "lied to the public by grossly exaggerating the terrorist acts conducted from Lebanon," and cites former Defense Minister Yitzak Rabin's admission before the Knesset that, for the duration of the ceasefire that preceded the Lebanon invasion, Israel's northern settlements were attacked only twice, and both these attacks were preceded by Israeli air assaults against Lebanon. (Only the second of the two PLO attacks resulted in an Israeli casualty and that attack was preceded by an Israeli "retaliatory" strike which left as many as two hundred civilians dead, including sixty occupants of a Palestinian children's hospital near Sabra camp.) (3)

There is, to be sure, a "crucial difference" or two between the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The attack on Kuwait was prompted by, among other things, Kuwait's unwillingness to negotiate what even the Times concedes were legitimate claims by Iraq--for example, Kuwait's theft of oil from the Rumaila field (September 16, 1990). Yet the attack on Lebanon was launched despite--indeed, precisely because of--the PLO's willingness to negotiate all of Israel's legitimate claims. According to Avner Yaniv, on the eve of the Lebanon war the PLO was "visibly engaged in a process of reorientation leading to a far more compromising approach toward the Zionist state than previously," and the U.S. administration was pressing Israel "to deal with the PLO directly" since its mainstream was no longer wedded to extremist demands but was "basically moderate." As Yaniv succinctly poses the dilemma for Israel in the summer of 1982, "Israel had essentially two options: a political move leading to a historical compromise with the PLO, or preemptive military action against it." To fend off the PLO's "peace offensive" (Yaniv's phrase), Israel chose military action. In effect, "the raison d'etre" of Israel's invasion was to preclude a two-state settlement of the conflict. Similarly, Harkabi concludes that " [c] ailing the Lebanon War 'The War for the Peace of Galilee' is more than a misnomer. It would have been more honest to call it 'The War to Safeguard the Occupation of the West Bank.'" (4)

In By Way of Deception, ex-Israeli intelligence officer Victor Ostrovsky reports that, on the eve of the Lebanon war, the Mossad was "very anxious" about the prospect of "peace breaking out." According to Ostrovsky, the Mossad would only accept the "unconditional surrender" of the Palestinians and eagerly anticipated "wip [ing them] out" in Lebanon. But PLO chairman Yasser Arafat was making "frantic efforts to avoid a war," including the dispatch of a personal envoy to "meet with Israeli diplomats on his behalf to begin negotiations." So desperate was the Mossad to head off this peace offensive that it "even push[ed] to have Arafat killed," hoping his replacement would be "someone more militant... and therefore there would be no peaceful solution to the problem." Though this, of course, did not happen, the Mossad did succeed in "concoct[ing] a scenario" to convince the U.S. administration "that the PLO was planning war, not peace," thereby aborting an American-sponsored peace initiative and justifying Israel's invasion of Lebanon. The Mossad also assassinated Arafat's envoy in Brussels. His crime? "Exploring the possibility of getting peace talks started" with Israel. (According to Ostrovsky, the hit was set up so that the terrorist Abu Nidal would be blamed and "[s]ure enough, not long after [the] assassination, stories naming Nidal as the world's most dangerous, and wanted, terrorist appeared in the media.") (5)

The second "crucial difference" between the Iraqi and Israeli aggressions can be quantified with almost mathematical precision. Some two hundred souls reportedly perished in the course of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Some twenty thousand reportedly perished in the course of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. (6) And as we wax indignant over Iraq's use of horrific chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds, we should as well remember Israel's use--probably illegal--of horrific cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the Lebanon War. In his epic memoir, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, veteran British correspondent Robert Fisk describes two infant victims of the phosphorus shells:

Dr. Shamaa's story was a dreadful one and her voice broke as she told it. "I had to take the babies and put them in buckets of water to put out the flames," she said. "When I took them out half an hour later, they were still burning. Even in the mortuary, they smouldered for hours." Next morning, Amal Shamaa took the tiny corpses out of the mortuary for burial. To her horror, they again burst into flames. (7)

I want to emphasize here that I do not consider Iraq's territorial claim against Kuwait legitimate. The colonial borders demarcated by Great Britain may have done Iraq an injustice but they are sanctioned by international law and cannot be undone by armed force. (8) Perhaps it is true, as the Times argues, that "the question of boundaries is one example" of how Saddam Hussein and "the rest of the world have misunderstood each other," since he views the present borders as "artificial lines drawn in the sand" (August 26, 1990). Yet, what are we to make of Israeli Likud leaders who claim the Bible establishes that the Jewish people's right to the Land of Israel--including the occupied territories and Jordan--is "permanent" and "not subject to any higher authority"? Or of Israeli Labor Party leader Shimon Peres who claims that "since the Bible made no distinction between Judea and Samaria, we have the right to settle in both" and that "there is no argument in Israel about our historic rights in the Land of Israel. The past is immutable and the Bible is the decisive document in determining the fate of our Land"? Or of Israeli founding statesman David Ben-Gurion who claimed that the Land of Israel incorporated the whole of Palestine, including the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, the Golan Heights and Lebanon, and sanctioned the use of armed force to achieve these borders? Consider, finally, the following passage:

The boundaries of Near East countries were fixed largely by the Great Powers after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. None of the current borders are sanctified by more than 70 years of history; lines were drawn arbitrarily and with little regard for economic or strategic necessity.... Many boundary lines ... [were] fixed by Great Powers in the service of their own interests.

I have just quoted not an official Iraqi publication justifying the occupation of Kuwait, but an official Zionist publication justifying the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and Sinai. (9)

War Crimes

The second count of the Times's indictment against Saddam Hussein is for war crimes which include, for example, the taking of hostages.

Yet Israel, too, takes hostages. The only difference is one of (Western) perceptions. As Robert Fisk observes:

[W]hy was it that Western hostages were called "hostages"--which they were--while Lebanese Shia Muslim prisoners held in an Israeli-controlled jail in southern Lebanon were referred to by journalists as "prisoners"? These Lebanese were also held illegally, without charge and--according to one of the militia leaders who controls their lives--as hostages for the good conduct of their fellow villagers in southern Lebanon. Both the International Red Cross and Amnesty International have expressed grave concern at the use of torture in this jail at the village of Khiam, torture against both men and women. I interviewed some of the released prisoners who spoke of the use of torture with electricity applied to their genitals. The freedom of these men and women in Khiam was said to be part of the price of the freedom of Western hostages in Beirut. Yet still we persisted in our reports in calling the Lebanese "prisoners," the Westerners "hostages." (10)

No image served better to reveal Saddam Hussein's iniquity than his televised interrogation of the five-year-old British hostage, Stuart Lockwood. But Iraq is not the only country that takes children hostage. Consider the story entitled "Hostages" in the Israeli periodical Koteret Rashit (August 3, 1988). It reports that the Israeli army is introducing a new method of punishment dubbed "aggressive evacuation" to quell the intifada. Children as young as eight years old are randomly snatched from insurgent villages, beaten and detained until their parents pay "ransom money in cash." The good news is that, according to the article, it is all perfectly legal and that "in the future the father will be arrested together with the child."

Iraq, of course, doesn't just take children hostage; it tortures and kills them as well. (11) As does Israel. A recent thousand-page Save the Children study, The Status of Palestinian Children During the Uprising, exhaustively documents what it describes as the "indiscriminate beating, teargassing, and shooting of children." (12) More than 150 Palestinian children have been killed since the beginning of the intifada, including at least 37 below the age of six. The average age was ten. A majority, according to the Save the Children report, were not even participating in a stone-throwing demonstration when shot dead and four-fifths of the gunshot victims were "obstructed or delayed by the army" as they sought emergency medical treatment. Typically, funerals were "violently disrupted or interfered with" by the army. Between 50,000 and 60,000 Palestinian children required medical attention for tear-gas inhalation, multiple fractures, etc. during the first two years of the intifada-, nearly half were ten years old or younger. The study also found that "the vast majority of soldiers responsible for the child casualties have been neither censured nor punished." Indeed, only the few child injury cases that received press coverage were even being investigated.

A recent study by B'Tselem (the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), entitled Violence Against Minors in Police Detention, found that "illegal violence against minors... many [of whom] are innocent of any crime... occurs on a large scale." (13) Severe beatings, including "slapping, punching, kicking, hair pulling, beatings with clubs or with iron rods, pushing into walls and onto floors," are reportedly "very common." The study also highlights more novel methods for interrogating minors:

Beating the detainee as he is suspended in a closed sack covering the head and tied around the knees; tying the detainee in a twisted position to an outdoor pipe with hands behind the back for hours and sometimes in the rain, at night, and during the hot daytime hours; confining the detainee, sometimes for a few days, in the "lock-up"--a dark, smelly and suffocating cell one and a half by one and a half meters [five by five feet]; placing the detainee, sometimes for many hours, in the "closet"--a narrow cell the height of a person in which one can stand but not move; and depositing the tied-up detainee for many hours in the "grave"--a kind of box, closed by a door from the top, with only enough room to crouch and no toilet.

Let me, finally, flesh out these abstractions with a few recent examples culled from the Israeli press and human rights reports. The April 1, 1988 issue of Hotam reports the case of a ten-year-old beaten so black and blue during an army interrogation that he was left "looking like a steak." The soldiers "weren't bothered" even when they later learned the boy was deaf, dumb, and mentally retarded. The July 13,1988 issue of Koteret Rashit reports the "disappearance of 25 children," and of jail threats to their parents for "bothering" the army about the children's whereabouts. The August 19, 1988 issue of Hadashot features three photos of a six-year-old blindfolded in an army jeep. The caption reports that many children his age will be held in detention until "ransoms" of several hundred dollars are paid, and that the children often urinate in their pants "from fear" as they are carted away. The August 1989 bulletin of the Israeli League For Human and Civil Rights reports under the heading "Deliberate Murder" that the number of cases in which Palestinian children in leadership roles are being targeted by Israeli soldiers (apparently sharpshooters from special units) "is increasing." The victim, who is "carefully chosen," is usually shot in the head or heart and dies almost instantaneously. Dr. Hayim Gordon of the Israeli Association for Human Rights reports the case of an eight-year-old boy who was tortured by soldiers after refusing to reveal which of his friends had thrown stones. The boy was stripped naked, hung by his legs, brutally beaten, and then pushed to the edge of a rooftop before being released. (Cited in the January 1990 bulletin of the Israeli League.) The January 15, 1990 issue of Hadashot reports the case of a thirteen-year-old boy whose fingers were deliberately broken, and who was then thrown into detention without any medical treatment or food because his father was unable to pay the ransom of $750. The January 26, 1990 issue of Davar reports the case of a sixteen-year-old girl who was beaten between the legs with a club by a policeman who "even tried to push the club between [my] legs" and then savagely beaten in prison for refusing to sign a confession. The June 29, 1990 issue of Hotam reports the case of a detained thirteen-year-old who was "smashed" in the face, had "bruise marks on his entire body," was not allowed to drink or eat "for hours," and was forced to "urinate and defecate in his pants" because he refused to supply incriminating evidence against his brother.

Crimes Against Humanity

The third count of the Times's indictment against Saddam Hussein is for "crimes against humanity"--for example, murder, deportation, and inhuman acts or persecutions. (14)

It is indisputable that Iraq is guilty of massive human rights abuses. Consider, for example, the summary for Iraq in Amnesty International's 1990 Report:

Thousands of political prisoners, among them prisoners of conscience, continued to be detained without charge or trial or imprisoned after trials which reportedly did not satisfy international fair trial standards. Torture of political prisoners remained widespread. "Disappearances" were reported and the government did not clarify the fate and whereabouts of thousands who "disappeared" in previous years. Many of the "disappeared" were believed to have been killed. Executions were also reported. Some of those executed apparently had sought from the authorities benefits announced under official amnesties. In most cases it was unclear whether they had received any form of trial.

Yet, compare the summary for Israel and the Occupied Territories in the same report:

About 25,000 Palestinians, including prisoners of conscience, were arrested in connection with the intifada (uprising) in the Occupied Territories. Over 4,000 served periods in administrative detention without charge or trial. Several thousand others were tried by military courts. By the end of the year over 13,000 people were still in prisons or detention centres. At least 45 Israeli prisoners of conscience were held, most of whom were conscientious objectors to military service. Thousands of Palestinians were beaten while in the hands of Israeli forces or were tortured or ill-treated in detention centres. At least eight were reported to have died as a result. Over 260 unarmed Palestinian civilians, including children, were shot dead by Israeli forces, often in circumstances suggesting excessive use of force or deliberate killings. Others died in incidents where tear-gas was possibly deliberately misused. Official investigations into abuses appeared inadequate. One person remained under sentence of death. (15)

It would seem reasonable to conclude that there is no substantive difference between the two entries. (16) Yet we are often told that comparisons of this sort elide a crucial distinction: Iraq is an arbitrary police state whereas Israel is a democracy governed by the rule of law. I want now to examine this claim.

A first and basic point to make (17) is that the Israeli government does not even recognize the applicability to the occupied territories of the relevant international law such as the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention (of which Israel is a signatory) and the 1979 United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. (18)

Furthermore, Israel's High Court has proven itself to be a willing accomplice of the conquest regime in the West Bank and Gaza. The Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits the destruction of private property except "where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations," and also explicitly forbids collective punishment. Yet the High Court has ruled that house demolitions in the occupied territories are permissible, even claiming that "there is no basis to the claim that house demolition is a collective punishment." (19) The Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits "individualo? mass forcible transfers as well as deportations" (my emphasis). Yet the High Court has ruled that this convention is not relevant to the occupied territories and, in any case, applies only to mass deportations. (20) The Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits an occupying power from resettling its "own civilian population in the territory it occupies." Yet, the High Court has either ruled that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are legal or refused to hear challenges to their legality. (21) International law stipulates that an occupier may not institute new taxes in the territory under its control. Yet the High Court has ruled that the arbitrary value-added tax introduced in the occupied territories in 1976 is permissible. (22) Indeed, the High Court has upheld only one challenge to the more than twelve hundred arbitrary "military orders" that are legally binding in the occupied territories, typically deferring to the "security" rationale of the military authorities. (23)

Israeli military courts have jurisdiction over all "security-related" (and most significant civil) cases involving Palestinians in the occupied territories. Suspects may be detained without trial for a period of eighteen days. The decision to renew detention is usually based on information supplied by the military prosecutor. Applications for release on bail are "almost never accepted." Suspects "have absolutely no right of legal representation." When representation is allowed, the lawyer is not permitted to visit his client until the interrogation has been completed. Trial proceedings rise to high farce. The "overwhelming majority" of convictions are decided on the basis of confessions "usually obtained under duress," confessions "almost invariably written in Hebrew--a language few Palestinians can speak or read." Verdicts are not subject to appeal. Administrative detention allows for imprisonment without charge, evidence, or trial for a full year. (24)

Let me now turn to the specific case of "killings by Israeli forces" (to quote the title of an Amnesty International report in January 1990). Official Israeli orders allow for the extrajudicial execution of Palestinians simply for wearing masks, hoisting a flag, erecting barricades (which often consist of no more than a few rocks and overturned garbage bins), or ignoring orders to halt. They also allow for the virtually unrestricted use of lethal plastic bullets and the summary execution of "wanted" Palestinians. All these orders are in contravention of international law which sanctions lethal force only in life-threatening situations and then only if there is no other recourse. (25) As the Middle East Watch Report concludes, official Israeli policies and practices "effectively condone ... the unjustified killing of Palestinians." (26)

These, I want to stress, are still only the official guidelines on the use of lethal force. The unofficial guidelines are even more lax, as is evident from the record of investigations and convictions of Israelis accused of the killings. More than seven hundred Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli security forces since the beginning of the intifada. Yet not one Israeli soldier has been indicted on a murder charge and only two have been indicted on a manslaughter charge. A tiny handful have been indicted on lesser charges such as illegal use of weapons. The fewer than ten soldiers thus far convicted in connection with killings of Palestinians received punishments ranging from an official reprimand to eighteen months' imprisonment." (27) By way of contrast, Amnesty International reports that Palestinians have received sentences of up to five years' imprisonment for simply throwing a stone." (28)

The Al-Aqsa Mosque massacre--which left at least seventeen Palestinians dead and more than one hundred fifty wounded, including "many [who] were fleeing" and "properly marked and easily identifiable" medical personnel ministering to the wounded (B'Tselem)--conformed precisely to the above pattern. There is still some dispute about the events that precipitated the initial violence but little, if any, about the circumstances immediately preceding the main shooting: (1) a careful review of three videotapes of the incident reveals that, contrary to all published reports at the time, "the Palestinians did not rain stones into the Wailing Wall plaza until after Border Police had fatally shot several Palestinians and wounded scores of others." By then, the plaza had been nearly or entirely cleared of worshipers; (2) the use of lethal force was unjustifiable. B'Tselem concluded that the shooting was "indiscriminate and cannot be considered justified even in a situation of mortal danger." And, in any event, it found that no Israeli was in mortal danger when the police began "shooting in bursts from the hip" with automatic weapons. The human rights organization Al Haq concluded that "[t] he Border Guards and police were not, at any time, in a life-endangering situation requiring a lethal response. They were thus wholly unjustified in resorting to the use of excessive and lethal force. Furthermore, it is inconceivable that the use of such force for at least two hours could have been justified." Yet, the official Israeli "Report of the Commission of Investigation" concluded that the use of live ammunition against the "frenzied masses" was 'justified" and that "blame and responsibility" for the massacre "lies with the thousands of rioters who took advantage of the site in order to carry out disturbances." To date, not a single Israeli has been indicted or punished for the shootings. Indeed, the police officer in charge was given a promotion. (29)

Reviewing the notorious case of a Gazan brutally beaten to death by Israeli soldiers (none of the accused was indicted on a major criminal charge or served more than five months in prison), the distinguished Israeli advocate Avigdor Feldman concluded that

the illegality in the Territories is total. Everyone--regardless of echelon, regardless of disagreement on every other conceivable topic--is of a mind on one matter: the value of an Arab's life is equal to zero. (Ha'Aretz, June 2, 1989) (30)

Human rights monitors have reserved for special condemnation Iraq's systematic expulsion and resettlement of its population during the past two decades. As many as 200,000, mostly Shia Moslems, have been expelled and several tens of thousands of Kurds have been driven into exile. As many as 800,000 Kurds have been forcibly resettled within Iraq, and the majority of Kurdish villages razed to the ground. Moreover, recent reports tell of the expulsion of Kuwaitis from and the relocation of Iraqi civilians in Kuwait, and of widespread looting and destruction (especially house demolitions) by the Iraqi occupation regime. (31) Yet in all these respects, Iraq has simply been stealing a leaf from the book of its Israeli neighbor.

Between 1947 and 1949, some seven hundred fifty thousand Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes as Israel declared its independence, and in 1967 some three hundred thousand more Palestinians fled or were driven into exile as Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza. Hundreds of villages were systematically razed to the ground and erased from the map. (32) This is not simply a matter of dredging up ancient history or pointing to skeletons buried in Israel's closet. Let us recall that the United Nations--with which the U.S. is currently having a love affair--still regards the fate of the Palestinian refugees as very much a contemporary issue. In recent years, the General Assembly has repeatedly condemned Israel for preventing the return of the Palestinians displaced in 1967 (a December 1988 resolution was supported by 129 countries with only the U.S. and Israel casting negative votes). It has also upheld as a "principle" for settling the Israel-Palestine conflict U.N. Resolution 194 (III) which asserts the "right" of the 1948 refugees "to return to their homes" (a December 1989 resolution was supported by 151 countries with only the U.S., Israel, and Dominica casting negative votes). (33)

In the two decades of Israeli occupation, well over a thousand Palestinians--including 200 women and children last year alone--have been deported without charges or trial and well over two thousand Palestinian homes have been demolished or sealed without charges or trial. Fully fifty percent of the land and eighty percent of the precious water reserves have been confiscated by the Israeli government. Some ninety thousand Jews have already been settled in the West Bank and Gaza and the figure is expected to reach one hundred twenty thousand in the next couple of years. (34) All these measures--and many more routinely taken by Israel in the occupied territories--are, as one Israeli periodical euphemistically put it, "very far from the norms of international law" (Hotam, August 4, 1989).

Israel grosses some one billion dollars annually from its controlled market and tourism in the occupied territories. One hundred twenty thousand West Bank and Gaza Palestinians--including children--are compelled to seek menial employment in Israel, where many are illegally kept in rooms locked from the outside at night and illegally paid a sub-minimum wage. In violation of international law, Palestinians are forced to pay the Israeli government in taxes far more than they receive from the Israeli government in services and investments. Meron Benvenisti conservatively estimates the illegal "occupation tax" (his phrase) at more than seven hundred million dollars or two-and-a-half times Israel's total investment in the Palestinian economic infrastructure during the entire occupation period. Since the intifada, the Israeli government has employed absurdly arbitrary tax assessments both as a means to loot the Palestinians and--in the words of B'Tselem--as an "instrument of bureaucratic violence" to reimpose the conquest regime. When the village of Beit Sahour nonviolently protested the taxation system, it was sealed off from the outside world. The siege was finally lifted after six weeks, but not before the Israelis carted off and later put up for public auction one-and-a-half million dollars in property--including children's toys, blankets, pencils, softdrink containers, and many rolls of toilet paper. A November 6, 1989, Security Council resolution "strongly deploring... the ransacking of the homes of inhabitants... and the illegal and arbitrary confiscation of... property and valuables" in Beit Sahour was vetoed by a lone U.S. vote. (35)

Iraq is evidently not the only country guilty of "crimes against humanity." Israel, in the words of Amnesty International, is "apparently not willing to enforce international human rights standards." (36)

The "Newly-United" United Nations

I want now to return to the title of the New York Times editorial, "The World v. Saddam Hussein." This theme has become a staple of commentary on the gulf crisis. Scarcely a day passes without the media or Administration officials invoking the moral authority of international opinion against Iraq. The now standard refrain is, in Mr. Bush's words, that "this is not a matter between Iraq and the United States of America. It is between Iraq and the entire world community." (37)

The evidence of a global consensus is, of course, the succession of Security Council resolutions condemning Iraq. Indeed, this--we are told--is the silver-lining in the cloud hanging over the Gulf. With the end of the cold war and the Soviet veto, and in the face of Iraq's egregious violations of international norms and law, the "newly-united" United Nations is finally functioning as it was designed to. "The level of world cooperation and condemnation of Iraq is unprecedented," Mr. Bush informed a joint session of Congress. "We're now in sight of a United Nations that performs as envisioned by its founders." (38)

Yet, the historical record reveals this is not the first time the United Nations has reached a consensus on a regional conflict. It is the first time in recent memory, however, that the United States has shown such respect for international opinion. The UN has agreed for years that Israel has been guilty of the same transgressions against international law for which it now condemns Iraq. The difference now is that the U.S. gladly joins the criticisms of Iraq, whereas it previously sought to downplay or even defy the international consensus in criticisms of Israel. Consider the UN resolutions on the two conflicts. (39)

Aggression. On August 2, 1990, the Security Council condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and on September 16,1990, it condemned Iraq's "aggressive acts" against diplomatic missions in Kuwait. During the past fifteen years, the Security Council has adopted eleven resolutions condemning Israeli aggression against Lebanon and other Arab countries. Four more such resolutions were vetoed by a lone U.S. vote. The General Assembly has also overwhelmingly condemned Israeli aggression; for example, 143 countries supported a December 1982 resolution deploring Israel's invasion of Lebanon, with only the U.S. and Israel voting no.

Annexation. On August 9, 1990, the Security Council declared Iraq's annexation of Kuwait "null and void" under international law. In August 1980, the Security Council likewise declared Israel's annexation of Jerusalem "null and void" and, in December 1981, declared its annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights "null and void." On a related issue, the Security Council condemned Israeli settlements in the occupied territories in March 1979 to be "a serious obstruction to achieving... peace in the Middle East." The General Assembly has also repeatedly condemned the Israeli annexation ofjerusalem (a December 1980 resolution was supported by 143 countries with only Israel casting a negative vote), the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights (a December 1988 resolution was supported by 149 countries with only Israel casting a negative vote), and the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories (a December 1988 resolution was supported by 149 countries with only Israel casting a negative vote).

Occupation. The August 2, 1990 Security Council resolution condemning Iraq's occupation of Kuwait demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Baghdad's forces. In the same manner, three Security Council resolutions have demanded Israel's immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon. Moreover, only the U.S. vetoed Security Council resolutions in January 1976 and April 1980 calling for Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders as part of a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palesdnian conflict that would guarantee the "sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all States in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized borders." The General Assembly has repeatedly deplored the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza (a December 1985 resolution was supported by 153 countries with only the U.S. and Israel casting negative votes), and urged a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the auspices of an international peace conference (a December 1989 resolution was supported by 151 countries with only the U.S., Israel, and Dominica casting negative votes). (40)

Human rights violations. On August 18, 1990, the Security Council condemned Iraq's detention of foreigners and on October 29, 1990, condemned Iraq's hostage-taking and mistreatment of Kuwaitis. The Security Council has repeatedly condemned Israeli human rights practices as well, including seven resolutions deploring its deportation of Palestinians living in the occupied territories and two resolutions deploring its "opening of fire ... resulting in the killing and wounding of defenceless Palestinian civilians." A lone U.S. veto has blocked the adoption of fourteen more such Security Council resolutions in the past decade alone. The General Assembly has similarly condemned Israeli human rights practices, including Israel's refusal to recognize the applicability of the Geneva Conventions in the occupied territories (a December 1988 resolution was supported by 148 countries with only Israel casting a negative vote), its forcible removal and resettlement of Palestinian refugees living in the occupied territories (a December 1988 resolution was supported by 152 countries with only the U.S. and Israel casting negative votes), its "arbitrary detention and imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians" (a December 1988 resolution was supported by 150 countries with only the U.S. and Israel casting negative votes), and its "continued massacre" of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories (an October 1989 resolution was supported by 141 countries with only the U.S. and Israel casting negative votes).

Sanctions. On August 6, 1990, the Security Council authorized an arms and economic embargo against Iraq. It added an air embargo on September 25, and on November 29 authorized the "use of all necessary means" (after January 15, 1991). The Security Council has tried several times to authorize sanctions against Israel, but the United States, using its veto power and standing alone in opposition, has blocked the way. In January 1982, the U.S. alone opposed a Security Council resolution calling for an arms and economic embargo against Israel for its annexation of the Golan Heights. In June 1982, the U.S. alone opposed a Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against Israel for its failure to withdraw from Lebanon. In August 1982, the U.S. alone opposed a Security Council resolution urging an arms embargo "as a first step" against Israel for its failure to withdraw from Lebanon. And in August 1983, the U.S. alone opposed a Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against Israel for its settlements policy.

Each time the Security Council adopted a resolution condemning Iraq it was the lead front-page story and subject of much commentary. Compare how our two national newspapers covered the resolutions against Israel.

In 1989, the Security Council deliberated on five resolutions condemning Israel. Two were adopted and three vetoed by a lone U.S. vote. The Washington Post index for 1989 does not list any of these deliberations in its extensive entry for "United Nations Resolutions" and only three of the resolutions received even fleeting mention in the Post's daily "Around the World" column.

Consider now the Times. In December 1986, the Security Council adopted a resolution "strongly deplor[ing]" Israel's killing and wounding of "defenceless [Palestinian] students". The Newspaper of Record did not report the story. (41) Coincidentally, it did carry a major front-page article on the United Nations just as the Security Council was deliberating this resolution. Entitled "A Tempest in a Carafe: UN Debates Ice Water Question," it reported that the United Nations Advisory Committee on Administration and Budgetary Questions was debating the "implications of restoring drinking water jugs to UN committee rooms" (December 8, 1986). In January 1988, a Security Council resolution "call[ing] again upon Israel to desist forthwith from its policies and practices which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people" was vetoed by a lone U.S. vote. The Newspaper of Record did not report the story. Ironically, it did feature an article entitled "Israeli General Describes Charges of Brutal Beatings as 'Just Stories'" (January 29, 1988) as the Security Council was deliberating this resolution. In May 1988, a Security Council resolution "condemn[ing] the recent invasion by Israeli forces of southern Lebanon" was vetoed by a lone U.S. vote. The Newspaper of Record did not report the story. However, just as the Security Council adopted this resolution, it featured an article entitled "Lebanon Again--And the Israelis are Quiet" (May 8, 1988) reporting that many Israelis were reluctant to talk about the Army's "latest victory" because the "Lebanon experience in 1982" so wounded Israel. In November 1989, a Security Council resolution "strongly deplor[ing]" Israel's "siege of towns, the ransacking of the homes of inhabitants... and the illegal and arbitrary confiscation of their property and valuables" was vetoed by a lone U.S. vote. The Newspaper of Record did report this story--on the inside pages in three paragraphs. It also chose to run an editorial that same day entitled "A Welcome Inch in the Mideast" (November 8, 1988) that urged "praise" for Prime Minister Shamir for advancing the peace process. In December 1989, 151 countries supported a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a two-state settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict under the auspices of an international peace conference, with only the United States, Israel, and Dominica casting negative votes. The Newspaper of Record did not report the story. Instead, it featured an article on these same General Assembly proceedings entitled "U.N. Puts Off Its Vote on P.L.O." which reported that, under "broad international" pressure, the Arab states deferred an Assembly vote on recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as representative of a Palestinian state. The "broad international" support for a two-state settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict and an international peace conference was not deemed newsworthy. (42)

Moral authority is indivisible; it cannot be selectively invoked. The consensus of the United Nations cannot be acclaimed in the Iraq-Kuwait conflict and--as is typically the case--contemptuously dismissed or simply ignored in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. (43)


(1.) Cf. W. Thomas Mallison and Sally V. Mallison, The Palestine Problem in International Law and World Order (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1986), chapter 7, for the application of the Nuremberg Principles to Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

(2.) Avner Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security: Politics, Strategy, and the Israeli Experience in Lebanon (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 21.

(3.) Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle (Boston: South End Press, 1983), p. 197. Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation (New York: Atheneum, 1990), pp. 197, 232.

(4.) Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security, pp. 20-23,50-54,67-70,87-9,101,105,113,143; Harkabi, Israel's Fateful Hour (New York: Harper and Row, 1989), p. 101.

(5.) Victor Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, By Way of Deception (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), pp. 247-56. Ostrovsky contends that neither the Israeli Foreign office nor Prime Minister Begin were aware of the Mossad's machinations and would not have sanctioned them.

(6.) Guardian Weekly, (London) 12 August 1990; Fateful Triangle, p. 221. Cf. Pity the Nation, pp. 257 and 418-19, for a discussion of casualty figures, in which Fisk notes that "not one serious statistic ever came from the PLO"; Fisk puts the number of victims of Israeli action at 17,825 betweenjune 4 and the end of September, 1982.

(7.) Pity the Nation, pp. 277-8, 282-4; cf. Fateful Triangle, 214-5, 224-6, 229. Mallison and Mallison discuss the international conventions on weaponry, concluding that Israel's indiscriminate use of cluster bombs and phosphorus shells in populated areas was "contrary to international law." (pp. 376-387)

(8.) I would want to make three stipulations, however. In the first place, the World Court has never ruled on Iraq's long-standing territorial claims against Kuwait. Iraq's use offeree may yet prove to have been not altogether illegal. R.Y. Jennings makes the general point in his classic study, The Acquisition of Territory in International Law (1963), that "where the State that has seized territory from another by the use of apparently illegal force is found to have the better title ... the use of force would be found to bejustified, because international law in no wise prohibits the use of force by a State within its own territory." (p. 66) (An unpublished paper by Samira Haj "Roots of the Gulf Crisis," describes Iraq's claims against Kuwait.) Secondly, even if Iraq does not have a valid territorial claim to, say, the deserted islands that give it access to the Gulf, there are ample precedents for a political settlement that awards territory to a party without legal title to it. Consider the Israel-Palestine conflict. The 1947 Palestine Partition Resolution allotted Israel 56 percent of Palestine. By the end of the first Arab-Israeli war, Israel had conquered 77 percent of Palestine. Yet, the two-state settlement proposed by the General Assembly and the Palestine Liberation Organization in recent years calls on Israel to withdraw only from the West Bank and Gaza, thus ceding Israel the territory occupied in violation of the Partition Resolution to which it has no valid title. Jennings notes that a state does not acquire legal rights to territory conquered even in a war of self-defense, (p. 55)

Finally, if, as the U.S. administration insists, Iraq's aggression must not be rewarded by concessions, why was Israel's aggression against Lebanon rewarded (with U.S. support) by the PLO's forced evacuation from Beirut and a coercive "peace treaty" with Lebanon that included the de facto cession of southern Lebanon to Israel? (On the latter point, cf. Pity the Nation, pp. 480-482.)

(9.) Norman G. Finkelstein, "Israel and the 'Scourge' of Palestinian Moderation," New Politics, no. 7, pp. 80-81, and references cited; MordecaiS. Chertoff (ed.), Zionism: A Basic Reader (New York, 1975), p. 83.

(10.) Pity the Nation, p. 435. Cf. Noam Chomsky, Pirates and Emperors (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1987), pp. 97-98. Cf. chapter 15 of Pity the Nation for Israel's "brutal police state" in south Lebanon, replete with death squads, torture chambers, and alliances with such "psychopathic" personalities as Etienne Saqr, whose militiamen displayed on their belts the ears of Muslim prisoners. (Saqr's official motto reads "It is the duty of each Lebanese to kill one Palestinian")

(11.) Cf. Amnesty International's grisly document, Iraq: Children--Innocent Victims of Political Repression (New York: n.d.).

(12.) Anne Elizabeth Nixon, The Status of Palestinian Children During the Uprising (New York: The Ford Foundation, 1990). A "child" is defined as someone under sixteen years of age.

(13.) B'Tselem, Violence Against Minors in Police Detention (Jerusalem: 1990). A "minor" is defined as a child between the ages of twelve and eighteen. The peculiar moral sensibility of this human rights organization is revealed in B'Tselem and Knesset member Amnon Rubinstein's report preface which puts "responsibility for this state of affairs... first and foremost with those who send the children out into violent confrontations with IDF soldiers," and the profound insight of B'Tselem and Hebrew University faculty member Charlie Greenbaum that "[t]he most damaging and dangerous effect of police violence falls not on the minors, nor on the police, but on us, those who prefer not to know."

(14.) To simplify the exposition, I discuss here certain topics--e.g., plunder of private property--which technically belong in the section on war crimes.

(15.) For the comparable record of Iraqi human rights abuses in Kuwait, see Amnesty International, Iraq/Occupied Kuwait: Human Rights Violations Since August 2, 1990 (New York, December 1990) and News From Middle East Watch (New York: September 1990; November 16,1990). Amnesty puts the number of extra-judicial executions in the hundreds and Middle East Watch puts the number of arbitrary arrests at about five thousand since Iraq occupied Kuwait.

Despite what Amnesty itself describes as "worldwide media coverage" of Iraqi human rights violations in Kuwait, it rushed into print with an exhaustive, eighty-page document within five months of the occupation. Yet, twenty-three years have elapsed since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Amnesty has yet to produce as comprehensive a single document. Furthermore, Amnesty's report on Kuwait especially highlights and condemns the widespread use of torture, a topic it has treated much more gingerly in the case of the West Bank and Gaza. The one major document to date touching on this topic, "Report and Recommendations of an Amnesty International Mission to the Government of the State of Israel" (3-7 June 1979), concluded only that "there is sufficient prima facie evidence of ill-treatment of security suspects ... to warrant the establishment of a public inquiry into this matter." This document was released after the devastating and conclusive London Sunday Times investigative report on Israeli torture of Palestinians. Notice also that Amnesty employed the locution "ill-treatment," not "torture." As B'Tselem puts it in the report cited below, "to deliberately avoid using the term torture is also to make a statement." (Amnesty exercised similar circumspection in its influential 1984 report, Torture in the Eighties, which--in B'Tselem's words--"refrains from using the word 'torture'" in its entry for Israel.) The Middle East Watch publications on Iraqi human rights abuses in Kuwait focus on "arbitrary arrest and detention," "ill-treatment and torture," "collective punishment," "looting," etc.--topics not at all addressed in its publications on the Israeli occupation. For the one Israeli human rights abuse Middle East Watch has substantively discussed--killings of Palestinians--see note 18 below.

In March 1991, B'Tselem published a comprehensive report entitled The Interrogation of Palestinians During the Intifada: Ill-treatment, 'Moderate Physical Pressure ' or Torture? (Jerusalem). The 150-page document concludes that "torture"--including "hooding for prolonged periods; enforced standing for long periods, sometimes in an enclosed space, hands bound behind the backs and legs tied ('al-Shabah'); being bound in other painful ways (such as the 'banana' position); prolonged periods of painful confinement in small, specially constructed cells (the 'closet' or 'refrigerator') and severe and prolonged beating on all parts of the body"--is "carried out in a widespread and routine way by agents of the Shin Bet (General Security Services)" to extract confessions. The report also points to military judges and medical personnel as "secret accessories" to these "criminal offenses" and "grave violations" of professional ethics. Such torture, incidentally, is used against "only suspects whose guilt cannot be presumed." Indeed, "nearly 50 percent of interrogations end up with no charges being pressed, or any other steps taken against the detainee." The report further notes that, although the "prohibition against torture is absolute" under international law, the 1987 Landau Commission Report, which sanctioned the use of "moderate physical force," "ended up legitimating the use of torture"--"the use of torture and ill-treatment follows logically from its recommendations." (Landau was a former Supreme Court President and the commission he chaired was charged with investigating allegations that the Shin Bet had used physical force to extract confessions.)

(16.) Cf. leftist Knesset member Yossi Sarid in his now (in) famous denunciation of the PLO for its alleged embrace of Iraq: "Compared with the crimes of Saddam Hussein, the sins of the Israeli government might appear as white as snow. When you read the black pages on Iraq in the white pages of Amnesty International, you arrive at the conclusion that Sharon and Rabin are almost the righteous of the nations of the world" ("Let Them Look For Me," Ha'Aretz 17 August 1990). The charitable interpretation, I suppose, is that Sarid never read the Amnesty report.

(17.) I leave to one side the even more basic point which Noam Chomsky suggested to me: "Suppose a perfect democracy and the world's most horrible police state carry out a particular crime. It is idiotic to argue that it is unfair to compare the two crimes for this reason, except in one respect: it is more odious in the case of the perfect democracy, because those who actually perpetrated the crime were under much less danger if they simply refused, so their moral culpability is far greater. Apart from that, a crime does not cease to be a crime if it is carried out by a democracy. The argument scarcely reaches the level of the ridiculous. The fact that one hears it so commonly is just another tribute to the bottomless wells of human irrationality" (personal correspondence).

(18.) Raja Shehadeh, Occupier's Law: Israel and the West Bank (Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1988), pp. xi-xiii; The Palestine Problem, Chapter 6. Israel did recognize the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention during the first months of the occupation but in October 1967 quietly deleted any reference to it. Israel's formal position now is that, while not accepting the Convention de jure, it carries out the humanitarian provisions de facto. This is evidently false since deportations, collective punishments, house demolitions, and the establishment of setdements all violate the humanitarian provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Cf. the assessment of Israeli civil liberties lawyer Avigdor Feldman that "no legal source has suffered so much erosion and become so empty of content" as the Geneva Convention, pointing in particular to the verdicts of the High Court ("The Bone-Breaking Codex," Ha 'Aretz, 10 October 1990. On the 1979 U.N. Code of Conduct, cf. esp. Middle East Watch, The Israeli Army and the Intifada (New York: 1990), pp. 7-8. The partisan research of this report deserves comment.

It relies heavily on the (self-censored) reporting in the Jerusalem Post, the (execrable) dispatches in the New York Times, Israeli human rights reports, and interviews with Israeli officials. Although the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq/Law in the Service of Man is cited in the acknowledgments, it receives only a few passing references in the body of the report. The bias is equally evident in the report's structure and content. Sixty of its one hundred-ten pages are given over to the machinery for investigating killings of Palestinians. The space devoted to this topic, together with the deference paid to official explanations, lengthy discussion of procedural minutiae, and protracted debate on the pros and cons of the methods used by the military authorities, all help sustain the utterly false pretense that the rule of law--fragile as it may be--still obtains in the occupied territories. Indeed, the chapter explicitly concludes that a "system for accountability for abuses potentially exists inside the Israeli army," albeit "seriously undermine[d]" by "inadequacies, pressures, and ... a lack of will." (p. 92)

(19.) B'Tselem--the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Annual Report 1989 (Jerusalem: 1989), pp. 41-43. The report also notes that " [t] he Court has rejected each and every petition it received concerning house demolition, and has accepted all claims of security concerns which underlie a demolition or a sealing." This puts in a rather different light the much celebrated (at least in the U.S. media) ruling of the High Court in July 1989 that in limited cases the recipient of a demolition order will have a right of appeal to the High Court. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is the guardian of the Geneva Convention, has explicitly prohibited the "destruction of property ... as a punishment or deterrent," yet the Israeli High Court ruled in March 1986 that demolitions arejustified as a deterrent. Cf. Al-Haq/Law in the Service of Man, Punishing A Nation: Israeli Human Rights Violations During the Palestinian Uprising, December 1987-December 1988 (Boston: South End Press, 1990), pp. 137-138.

(20.) Annual Report 1989, pp. 53-54. This report also notes that deportees have the right to petition the High Court but "[s]o far, the High Court has rejected all the petitions submitted to it on this subject and has approved all of the deportations." Cf. Punishing A Nation, p. 126.

(21.) Occupier's Law, pp. 12, 18-22, 28, 32. A single exception--the Elon Moreh case--proved in practice to be no exception at all (ibid.). The High Court has also ruled that the Jewish settlers constitute part of the local population of the occupied territories. Since international law allows for actions by the occupier that benefit the local population, Palestinian resources can now be seized for the settlers' benefit. The Court's decision, in the words of Shehadeh, "stands international law on its head, since it makes them part of the 'protected population,' whose interests, as distinct from those of the occupier, international law sets out to protect" (p. 219; cf. pp. 110-111).

(22.) Punishing a Nation, 242, and B'Tselem--the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, The System of Taxation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Jerusalem: 1990), p. 9.

(23.) A not atypical military order requires a permit for "a march of ten or more people together; or the assembling for the purpose of marching together from one place to another for a political purpose; or for a matter which can be interpreted as a political matter whether or not they were in fact walking and whether or not they had congregated." Violation is punishable by a ten year imprisonment. The one challenge upheld by the High Court was to an order empowering the military governor to appoint the executive board of a lawyers' union on the West Bank. The Court ruled that the union did have the right to elect its own board--but this right too had to be balanced against security requirements. See John Quigley, Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990), pp. 201-202 and Occupier's Law, pp. 95-100, 224, 226. A Tel Aviv University study concluded that the High Court has come to view the occupied territories through the distorted lens of "security," regarding "all the Arab inhabitants as the enemy." (KolHa'ir, 19 August 1988)

(24.) Occupier's Law, pp. 222-224. (The quoted phrases appear on pp. 86, 87, 222.) For the mockery of justice in military trials, see Avigdor Feldman, "Quick, Slow and Dead," Hadashot, 1 January 1988; Danny Rubinstein, 'The Difference Between a Military Band and a Symphony Orchestra in the Supreme Court of Nablus," Davar, 1 January 1988; and Lazar, "A Parrot in a Robe," Hotam5 August 1988.

(25.) B'Tselem--the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, The Use of Firearms (Jerusalem: 1990), pp. 22-28; Michael Sela, "The War of Flags," in Davar, 24 October 1990. On the specific issue of plastic bullets, see The Use of Firearms, pp. 14-21. The report describes these bullets as "lethal in every respect" (p. 18). Cf. The Israeli Army and the Intifada, Chapter One. On the deployment of death squads, cf. especially. Punishing a Nation, pp. 30-34. On a related issue, Use of Firearms reports that, of the nineteen Israeli soldiers and civilians killed in the occupied territories during the intifada, only one was killed confronting a demonstration and "[i]n every case the death resulted from an attack by an individual or by a small group." It concludes that "[t]hese figures show that no direct correlation exists between the intensity of the danger to life and the circumstances in which soldiers may open fire." (p. 54)

(26.) The Israeli Army and the Intifada, p. 13. Cf. Amnesty International, "Killings by Israeli Forces," (January 1990): "[T]he Israeli authorities are effectively condoning, perhaps even encouraging extrajudicial executions as a means of controlling the unrest" (1). Israel's High Court has approved an even more liberal standard than the military courts for the use of lethal force; see Avigdor Feldman, "Man at the Crossroads," in Ha'Aretz, 20 April 1990.

(27.) Amnesty International's 1989 and 1990 yearbooks; The Israeli Army and the Intifada, Chapter Two; The Use of Firearms, pp. 42-51. The B'Tselem report effectively disposes of the "explanation" that there were so few indictments because soldiers acted within official guidelines.

(28.) Amnesty International, 1990 Report (New York: Amnesty International, 1990).

(29.) Michael Emery, "New Videotapes Reveal Israeli Coverup," in the Village Voice, 13 November 1990; B'Tselem--The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Loss of Control: The Temple Mount Events--Preliminary Investigation (Jerusalem: 1990); Al-Haq/Law in the Service of Man, Reconstruction of Events (Revised)--Al-Haram Al-Sharif Jerusalem, Monday, 8 October 1990 (Ramallah: 1990); "Summary of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Events of the Temple Mount--October 8, 1990"; Neio York Times, 13 November 1990. For the background to the Al-Aqsa massacre, Israel Shahak's "A Mass Murder Under Apartheid Conditions" (Jerusalem: 1990) is indispensable. This carefully researched study corroborates the central findings of Emery's videotape analysis: "Not only were many worshippers already absent when the shooting began, but the Israeli security forces ordered the remaining worshippers to disperse as soon as the Palestinians seized control of the Temple Mount (and still hadn't thrown any stones).... [T] he stones which actually fell onto the Wailing Wall compound were targeted at the attacking Israeli force." Cf. Moshe Amirav, 'Jerusalem: A New Policy," in Davar, 29 October 1990. The moral caliber of the Israeli commission is suggested by its ordering of the casualties: There were many injuries in this severe incident. 19 policemen were injured as well as 9 Western Wall worshippers. According to Israel Police statistics, 20 people were killed and 53 injured on the Temple Mount." For highly critical Israeli press comment on the official commission of inquiry, cf. Gaby Nitzan, "Objectivity," in October 16, 1990 Hadashot, 16 October 1990; Zvi Gilat, "Shamir is Perfectly in Order," Hadashot, 29 October 1990; Tzali Reshef, "Balancing Act," in Ha'Aretz, 29 October 1990; B. Michael, "Reporting About the Report," in Ha'Aretz, 2 November 1990; and Ze'ev Schiff, "What is Absent From the Report," in Ha 'Aretz, 30 October 1990. For a prefiguration of the Al-Aqsa massacre and subsequent cover-up, cf. Yosef Cohen's account of the Nahlin massacre, "Preface to a Whitewash," Kol Ha'ir, 19 October 1990.

In a recent interview, Professor Ze'ev Sternhal, an authority on the history of fascism, pointed to Israel's double standard in the use of force against demonstrators and the threats it posed to democratic rule: "On the Temple Mount, not a single policeman or Jewish worshipper was hurt [seriously?] and yet they opened fire and killed twenty people. When 'Peace Now' demonstrated in Jerusalem, they fired plastic bullets and tear gas although there was no provocation or justification. At [Meir] Kahane's funeral, when journalists, Arabs, and even policemen were attacked--none of these means were employed. This is the root of the problem. In all the countries in which democracy collapsed, such leniency was the first step on the road to ruin" (Kol Ha'ir, 9 November 1990.)

(30.) Cf. Feldman's commentary on a more recent beatings trial: "The emerging picture shows that around the beatings and bone-breakings a perfect world of social institutions, law, language, folklore, and history has been created. I have no doubt that the accused soldiers are right when they claim that using force for purposes of punishment was an open policy and method, discussed and adopted by everybody, from privates to generals and the Defense Minister himself. The intentional breaking of bones of Palestinians has all the earmarks of a developed culture, with a center and a periphery, texts, canons, and individual variations.... We see a group effort of a whole society, subduing its creative and moral forces to absorb a policy of corporal punishments" ("Bone-Breaking Codex."

(31.) Middle East Watch, Human Rights in Iraq (New York: 1990), pp. 95-142; Amnesty International, Iraq/Turkey (New York: 1990); New York Times, 17 and 19 September 1990 and references cited in note 15 above. Amnesty puts the number of Kuwaiti refugees since the Iraqi invasion at three hundred thousand, as well as several hundred thousand foreign nationals working in Kuwait.

(32.) Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Michael Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe: the 1948 expulsion of a people from their homeland (London: Faber and Faber, 1987); Norman G. Finkelstein, "Myths Old and New: A critique of Benny Morris's The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem" (forthcoming); Yosef Cohen, "When The Occupation Was Young," Kol Ha'ir, 9 December 1988. The 1948 expulsions were accompanied--in the words of UN mediator, Folke Bernadotte--by "large-scale looting, pillaging, and plundering" of Arab-owned property. The Israeli government eventually confiscated all the land of the Palestinian refugees living beyond the 1949 armistice lines and 65 percent of the land of Palestinians living inside them. The historian Arnold Toynbee estimated that close to 700,000 Palestinians lost homes and property as a result of the war. The total value of these possessions expressed in contemporaty dollars has been variously reckoned in the billions. On these points, see Quigley, pp. 84-85, 109-111, 212, and references cited.

(33.) See note 39 below for references. Cf. Mallison & Mallison, chapter 4, for the background in international law and United Nations resolutions to the Palestinians' "right of return."

(34.) Punishing a Nation, pp. 123-128, 133-139; Goga Kogan, "The Invisible Transfer," Hotam, 15 September 15, 1989; Gaby Nitzan, "The Transfer Has Begun and Proceeds Without a Hitch," 'The Transfer Continues in Total Silence," and "What's New With Rabin'sTransfer" Hadashot, 20 September 1989, 27 September 1989, and 18 October 1989; Ronit Matalon, To The Bridge In aTaxi," Ha'Aretz', 10 October 1989; Senabel Press Service, Transfer Policy in Action (Jerusalem: 1990); Occupier's, part one (The Alienation of the Land in the West Bank") and pp. 213-218; Reuben Pedhazur, "Water From the Boulder of Contention" and "The Common Faucet," Ha'Aretz, 25 April 1989 and 3 May 1989; NadavShragai, They Call It Expansionism," Ha'Aretz, 22June 1990.

(35.) Fateful Triangle, p. 46; Aryeh Egozi, "Slaves At Night--Workers During the Day," Yediot Ahronot, 16 March 1986. Meron Benvenisti, 1986 Report--Demographic, Economic, Ilegal, Social and Political Developments in the West Bank (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987), p. 19; B'Tselem--the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, The System of Taxation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Jerusalem, 1990) (the quoted phrase appears on p. 40); Craig Forman, "Spirit of Palestinian Uprising Remains Alive in Town that Defied Israeli With a Tax Boycott," Wall Street Journal, 20 September 1990; Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights (Jerusalem), Report, November 1989, p. 2. The B'Tselem study is especially informative on Israel's use of the taxation system as, in the words of the subtide, "an instrument for the enforcement of authority during the uprising." However, it disingenuously suggests that many residents of Beit Sahour were coerced into honoring the tax boycott (pp. 34-35). Cf. Hebrew University Professor Emmanuel Sivan's description of the occupation as a "classic colonial situation," given, inter alia, the "total military superiority of the ruling society over the ruled society," "near total physical and social segregation of the two societies," "near total economic dependency of the ruled society on the ruling one," and "total political disenfranchisement of the ruled society" ("Upon the Dawning of the Intifada's Third Year," Ha'Aretz), 8 December 1989.

(36.) "Oral Statement by Amnesty International on the Israeli Occupied Territories" (before United Nations Commission on Human Rights), in Amnesty International, Israel and the Occupied Territories: Amnesty International's Concerns in 1988 (New York: 1989), p. 1.

(37.) Transcript of Bush's news conference, New York Times, 23 August 1990. Cf. transcript of Bush-Gorbachev news conference, New York Times, 10 September 1990. "But I would just simply say that the best answer to Saddam Hussein... [is] the United Nations when there was worldwide condemnation of the aggression. ... Saddam Hussein is trying to make this a contest between the Arab world and the United States. And it is no such thing ifyou will look at how the United Nations has overwhelmingly condemned him.... So it is not Saddam Hussein and the Arab world against the United States. It is Saddam Hussein against the United Nations and against a majority of the Arab League;" transcript of Bush address to Congress, New York Times, 12 September 1990: This is not, as Saddam Hussein would have it, the United States against Iraq. It is Iraq against the world;" and transcript of Bush television address to Iraqi people, New York Times, 17 September 1990: "Saddam Hussein tells you that this crisis is a struggle between Iraq and America. In fact, it is Iraq against the world.... Never before has world opinion been so solidly united against aggression." The same note was struck by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ("I cannot remember a time when we had the world so strongly together against an action as now") and President Gorbachev (There is now a solidarity which has never been expressed before in the history of the world"); cited in respectively, Time, August 20, 1990, and New York Times, September 10, 1990. Cf. also New York Times editorial of August 17, 1990, "His Enemy is the World": "This is not, however, a contest between Saddam Hussein and George Bush. It is between Saddam Hussein and the world," and New York Times editorial 2 September 1990: "Saddam Hussein seeks desperately to present himself as an Arab underdog pitted against an imperial America and Israel. But his quarrel is with the world, the central truth that Mr. Bush rightly keeps putting in the foreground." Cf. also Time, 20 August 1990: "Standing together against Hussein, every major world power [has] worked in unprecedented concert to tame his renegade ambitions."

(38.) Transcript of Bush address to Congress, New York Times, 12 September 1990. Cf. New York Times, 3 August 1990, "Iraq stands condemned by a unanimous U.N. Security Council" (editorial); 5 August 1990, "The more cooperative atmosphere within the Security Council is rubbing off on the General Assembly, encouraging the third-world majority there to drop its anti-Western polemics in favor of consensus"; 7 August 1990, "The [Security Council] vote was welcomed by many participants as a sign that the Security Council was emerging from a long period of cold war paralysis and starting to exercise its responsibility under the Charter for enforcing peace and security around the globe"; 20 August 1990, "Keeping the Nations United': "And it is essential to realize a more profound possibility. How well the world cooperates now can set a bold pattern of peacekeeping for the post-cold war world. Such concerted action starts with the newly united United Nations. Once empty mechanisms and procedures daily take on life. Cooperation can best be discussed and coordinated through the U.N., which for virtually the first time in its history is functioning as it was designed to" (editorial); 21 August 1990, "The Bush Administration already seems to be leaning harder in its policy-making on the United Nations, now more functional because of the passing of the cold war"; 21 August 1990, "The policy intended to force Saddam Hussein to disgorge Kuwait is not an American but an international effort, and that policy has already won the support of an impressively united United Nations" (editorial); 28 August 1990, "Peacekeeping in a New Era: The Superpowers Act in Harmony": "The new spirit of unanimity at the United Nations reflects an emerging partnership between the two superpowers at the end of the cold war.... [S]ome Administration officials and Western diplomats have suggested that the response of the Security Council to the crisis in the Persian Gulf may be a matter of degree as much as principle. The annexation of Kuwait is seen not just as a regional conflict, but as a threat to global order and the world supply of oil and these officials acknowledge that the international response would never have been so strong if Iraq had moved only to seize the oil fields just over the Kuwaiti border"; 2 September 1990, "Until Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait, few imagined that the United Nations could truly unite" (editorial); 8 September 1990, 'The United Nations was founded in an attempt to apply the lessons Europe and its allies learned in the hardest possible way. But it was soon paralyzed by the cold war, which left little more than a forum for hypocritical blather. The end of East-West confrontation has removed that block. So the world organization has a new chance ... to impose a reasonable order..." (columnist Flora Lewis); 24 September 1990, "With the Soviet Union no longer automatically siding with the enemies of the United States, the Security Council already finds itself at the center of world attention as it starts to function as it was supposed to, compelling countries to settle differences peacefully," 'The transition to a more cooperative world order is not proving stress-free for the third-world majority at the United Nations, which once dominated the General Assembly while the Security Council was paralyzed, turning it into a forum for anti-Western propaganda." Cf. Time, 20 August 1990, "The post-cold war U.N., ripe for realizing its lofty aims--the maintenance of peace and respect for international law--has passed an important test, and could become the useful forum for conflict resolution it was intended to be"; 27 August 1990, "With five dissenting free votes condemning Iraq in three weeks, the Security Council has taken on surprising new life as an international policeman; 17 September 1990, "The United Nations, long derided as tangential at best, was quietly making a comeback.... In the gulf crisis it has functioned at long last as its creators hoped it would 45 years ago

(39.) The adopted Security Council resolutions can be found in the annual Resolutions and Decisions of the Security Council, United Nations. The vetoed resolutions are only available in the United Nations archives. The General Assembly resolutions can be found in the annual Resolutions and Decisions Adopted by the General Assembly, United Nations.

(40.) A December 19, 1990 New York Times editorial ("Israel and Iraq, Unlinked") avers that there is "no parallel" between the Iraqi and Israeli occupations because Iraq occupied Kuwait through aggression while Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in a war of self-defense. Yet, the most basic parallel is that both are occupations. Even if one credits Israel's highly dubious claim that the West Bank and Gaza were occupied in the course of a defensive war, it still has no legal title to them. As R.Y. Jennings observes in his classic study cited above, "it would be a curious law of self-defense that permitted the defender in the course of his defense to seize and keep the resources and territory of the attacker" (55). Indeed, Israel itself has conceded this point. In the wake of the June 1967 war and Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the Security Council adopted Resolution 242 and, in May 1968, the Israeli government officially endorsed it. The resolution calls inter alia for the "[w] ithdrawal of Israel armed forces" in accordance with the principle--listed first in the preambular paragraphs--of "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war". Recall further that President Bush invoked precisely this principle in his condemnation of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait: "The acquisition of territory by force is unacceptable" (New York Times, August 9, 1990).

(41.) The Times made a passing reference to this resolution a year later; 23 December 1987.

(42.) Predictably, the Times's coverage of the U.N. Secretary-General's "Report to the Security Council" following the Al-Aqsa Mosque killings did not mention the report's repeated reference to resolutions on the Israel-Palestine conflict that "could not be adopted owing to the negative vote by a permanent member of the Council." (The report was officially issued on October 31, 1990, and the Times's story appears on the same day.)

(43.) In this respect, Israel is as vulnerable to the claim of hypocrisy as the U.S. Israel has repeatedly invoked the authority of the November 1947 General Assembly resolution (181) recommending its statehood. (It passed with 33 in favor, 13 opposed and 10 abstaining--and not without considerable U.S arm-twisting.) The Israeli declaration of independence referred to the legitimacy conferred on the state by 181 as did Zionist leader Chaim Weizman who deemed it a "grant of independence." In an address before the General Assembly, Abba Eban called Israel "the first state to be given birth by the United Nations." Yet, recent General Assembly resolutions which seem to command as much authority--for example, the December 1989 resolution calling for a two-state settlement and an international peace conference, passed with 151 in support, three opposed and one abstaining--are typically ridiculed by Israel. Indeed, the numerous General Assembly resolutions on the Middle East conflict ignored by Israel apparently command as much authority as Security Council resolution 242, the most widely cited of the relevant U.N. resolutions. The Security Council adopted 242 under Chapter 6 of the U.N. Charter, which gives it the power to recommend solutions for disputes. The council did not act under Chapter 7, which gives it the power to make decisions binding on member states to resolve breaches of the peace. Thus 242, like the General Assembly resolutions, has the status of a recommendation. See Sydney D. Bailey, The Making of Resolution 242 (Dordrecht: 1985), p. 151, Quigley, pp. 62-64, 171, and Mallison & Mallison, pp. 171-173. (On the quasi-authoritative status of General Assembly resolutions, see Mallison & Mallison, pp. 145-50, 219-20; on Israel's selective invocation of international undertakings--e.g., the Balfour Declaration and the Partition Resolution, disregarding the safeguard provisions for the Palestinians, see ibid., chapters 1 and 3.) To be sure, the last point is moot since--as Abba Eban observed in the Jerusalem Post--current Israeli prime minister Shamir "has never allowed any mention of 242 to pass his lips except in tones of rejection.... While some governments have not explicitly endorsed 242, Mr. Shamir is the only prime minister in the world who has actually turned it down" (international edition, 3 December 1988). The opinion Eban expresses in the same article about the purported bias of the U.N. against Israel is also worth reporting: 'The UN has spoken much virulent nonsense on Israel as on many other issues, but the overwhelming balance of its influence on Israel's destiny and status is dramatically positive. No nation involved in a struggle for legitimacy has received such potent support from the overall jurisprudence of an international organization."

Norman G. Finkelstein teaches international relations at Brooklyn College and writes frequently on the Middle East. He is indebted to Dr. Israel Shahak for many of the translations from the Hebrew press and to Maha Khoury for assistance in the United Nations library, and he is grateful to Noam Chomsky, Joanne Koslofsky, and Allan Nairn for critical comments on an earlier draft. Abridged versions of this article have appeared in the Journal of Palestine Studies and New Politics
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Author:Finkelstein, Norman G.
Publication:Monthly Review
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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