Joe Biden
Joe BidenReuters

He rescued the rascals of Ramallah

What do we Google for locating a forum of imperious people, fickle and treacherous, inveterate feudists, liars and extortionists? UN / General Assembly/ Diplomats perpetually at daggers drawn

On a certain day in November 2012, the knaves and knives were busy in that august assembly as members deliberated and voted for a mongrel named, ‘Observer with non-member status.’ The vote gave Israel a new neighbor: a Palestinian Arab state-in-waiting. The neighbor was not real, but it was not imaginary either. Call it a Halfling. The international community had made a quasi-state, and Israel had to get used to it living next door.

“A victory for the values of truth,” Sudan’s honorable representative said. In UN language he meant a defeat for truth and victory for a lie of long standing. For Israel it meant skating on thin ice. For international law it meant relegation to a fun league. For dreamers of a Two-State Solution it meant a consolation prize. For nine-tenths of member countries it meant one step closer to cancelling Israel’s right to exist. For America and Europe it meant a new arm-twisting lever to get Israel to do their bidding. For all players it meant a whole new ballgame.

So the world body breathed life into, “The State of Palestine on the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967”. And no one blinked. No one in the great assembly batted an eye, even not the Ambassador for Israel.

Every cause must have a catchphrase, and the anti-Israel cause boasts the Coca-Cola of them all. “Occupied Palestinian Territory” (OPT) is more than a catchphrase: it’s a brand, a powerful and valuable brand. Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority grew rich and powerful on the back of OPT. Ex President Donald Trump knocked the brand for a double loop, declaring the territories not occupied, followed by cutting off aid to the PA. President Biden restored the brand to its former glory by declaring the territories occupied, and, because they were, by rescuing the rascals of Ramallah with handouts.

Nonsense is a powerful accumulator. Repeat nonsense enough times and it: (a) makes perfect sense; (b) disguises a plot as a policy; (c) turns falsehood into fact.

Israel’s defeat had been a long time coming. When it came her ambassador took it on the chin. That’s what a forty-year lie can do – slip into the skin of truth with barely a sigh.

What is it makes OPT pure nonsense? Different things, the main nonsense being there was no Palestinian territory for Israel to occupy.

Israel snapped up the territories fair and square from Egypt and Jordan. I mean, how can you occupy land which belongs to no one? Turn Middle East wars and laws upside down and inside out, the ‘West Bank’ can be neither occupied nor Palestinian land.

Expelled from their dugout, anti-Israelites scamper to another, firing their next volley from the landmark Security Council Resolution 242 of 1968. This required Israel to withdraw from some of the territory it snapped up in the 6-Day War. NO, says the Palestinian camp, No, no no. Resolution 242 told Israel to withdraw from all territory.

Some or all—quite how it connects to the narrative of OPT is not explained. It could be a bridge too far for those wanting Palestine to prevail. It cannot – Resolution 242 nowhere refers to Palestinians, which makes good sense.

(a) They were not one of the belligerents in the Six Day War. (b) The drafters of Resolution 242 looked to Israel the victor to give back territory – to the defeated Arab belligerents, not to Palestinian Arabs. (c) Not until a year after Resolution 242 do such people appear in the records. (d) No binding UN resolution, before or since, no treaty or agreement, gives the Palestinians a leg to stand on. In short, to speak of OPT is to speak UN lingo and to be caught engaging in wishful thinking.

So how come professors of law are wishful thinkers?

Take John Dugard, ex professor of law at the universities of Leiden and the Witwatersrand. While teaching, Dugard also worked in the capacity of a policeman-prosecutor for the UN Human Rights Commission. As Rapporteur his job was to investigate, rebuke and report on Israel’s bad conduct in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” The land of nod again. OPT in Dugard’s job title was bad enough. His rebukes were full of OPT. An example: “The Wall being built by Israel in the name of security penetrates deep into Palestinian territory.”

King Hussein: November 1987 Arab League summit in Amman: “The appearance of a distinct Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”
I once asked the professor to clarify this for me. Please could he quote law to the effect that Israel occupies Palestinian territory? He emailed me as follows:

“I think it would be helpful if you were to read the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of 9 July 2004 and the judgment of the High Court of Israel in the Beit Sourik case of 30 June 2004. They will provide you with answers to most of your questions and give you a better understanding of the legal norms that govern the situation.”

That was the sum total of Dugard’s answer. With all due respect to the lawyer of repute: an “advisory opinion” and one obscure case (I’ll return to them) seem nothing compared to the enormity of deciding the boundaries of Israel. Not to mention a problem of timing. Dugard started work for the UN Human Rights Commission back in 2001. So, before 2004 he did not have the precedent of the Beit Sourik case. It means that Dugard’s job title was fake. It means that, like a doting father, he took land from Israel and gifted the land to people under his protection.

The verdict: For three years Professor Dugard acted as a law unto himself.

Before allowing the witness to step down, one more thing: Professor, you wrote of “legal norms.” I consult the Oxford Dictionary, I find that “norm” or “normative” has one of two meanings: “Value judgments as contrasted with stating facts;” Or, “A standard of behavior that is required, desired or designated as normal.” Value judgments, opinions and standards of behavior….Our lawman had no authority to make believe that “Palestinian Territory” was a real bit of real estate.

Anyone who read Dugard’s UN reports would have had no suspicion he was making up law and history on the go, that he was not a law-abiding expert, that he was not using the sober professional judgment of a professor of international law. No doubt Dugard would love Gaza and the 'West Bank' to have “Palestine” stamped over them. Sadly for him, law and history are not the same as ideology.

What to say of an expert who climbs aboard a political bandwagon. Dugard is more than premature. He is presumptuous. He anticipates a land swap agreement between two parties. He goes over the head of the party in possession – of Israel with 9/10 of the law in its favor. What makes a legal expert, bogus title and all, parade like an avenging angel? “Israel will be held accountable for its violations of humanitarian law and human rights law.”

Better than a law professor, the King of Jordan handled the hoax well. King Hussein grasped why steps had to be taken to give OPT respectable clothes. He told the November 1987 Arab League summit in Amman: “The appearance of a distinct Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.” The monarch was explaining why a new and distinct people had to be concocted. After all, no Arab leader liked the idea of the 'West Bank' and Gaza belonging to Israel.

The task of dressing the coveted land in respectable clothes was given to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a clique led by a badly shaved Egyptian in keffiyeh and khaki drills named Yasser Arafat.

Smartly, it went to work on the PLO covenant. Articles 6 and 24 were the big ones. Erasing words here, inking in new words there, Arafat and his inner circle soon unpacked a new people with straw still clinging to beards…And gave them a holy mission. On July 17, 1968, the Palestinian people sprang from the PLO Charter, claiming the 'West Bank' and Gaza as their ancient birthright and heritage.

How it was all done.

The first step erased the old declaration that the 'West Bank' and Gaza were not occupied (by Jordan and Egypt.)

Next, a declaration was inserted that the territories were occupied (by Israel).

Finally, a declaration was inserted that the Palestinian people are sworn to liberate their occupied homeland.

Still there remained the shameful Article 7 in the Charter. It contained the offending words: “Jews of Palestinian origin are considered Palestinians.” Palestinian Jews were an impossible thing. After deleting them, the PLO wrote in a definition with a grudge. Palestinians were now “those who had resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion.” So at a stroke of the pen Palestinian Jews became invaders.

Immediately the world tuned into the new Palestinians dispossessed, and turned against the new culprit, the Jewish occupiers. Palestinian leaders in perpetuity lost no time decorating, enlarging and tidying up their tale of Jews who’d swept down from Europe to put the indigenous people under their colonial boot. From there it was a quickstep to the accepted wisdom of Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Yet OPT developed into more than a risible lie. It acquired the power to create facts on the ground.

  • For one thing, the international community adopted OPT.
  • For another, a vocal section of the Diaspora, even Israelis, nailed their colors to the mast.
  • Thirdly, an economic bubble developed around OPT. Monthly pay slips of untold thousands of UN staffers came to depend on this real estate. UNWRA alone developed into an employment agency on a grand scale. In the private sector, hundreds of human rights entities and their workers would be the poorer without OPT.

The world over OPT is the article of faith on which anti-Zionists peg their zeal. Their god commands them to hate Zionism and revere Palestinians. Hence the now entrenched policies and demands: label products from the OPT; boycott Israel and divest from OPT companies.

If not for the big hoax the world would be a different if quieter, place. And the Zionist enterprise would not find itself perennially in the dog box.

Steve Apfel is an economist and costing specialist, but most of all a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction. His blog, ‘Balaam’s curse’ is followed in Europe, America, Canada, Asia, S. Africa, Israel, Australia and New Zealand.