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July 17, 2004

You can't block'em, and You can't rock'em
Arash Jalali  [info|posts]

Last week, upon a request from the U.N. General Assembly, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands, issued its advisory opinion that the 140km long barrier under construction by Israel is illegal, and that "all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction." The court also called on the U.N. General Assembly, and especially the security council, to take necessary actions to "end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated règime."

In this posting, I shall present my personal perspective on the question of whether or not Israel has the right to build the barrier.

Some Background

It has been customary for Israel to engage in cycles of incursion and withdrawal along with systematic destruction of Paletinian houses, every time it was attacked by suicide bombers. However, a little less than a year ago, Israel gradually started shifting its policy in dealing with Palestinians from launching grand-scale retaliatory responses to taking defensive preventive measures, and at times taking preemptive offensive strikes with surgical accuracy. The elimination of two of Hamas leaders was part of this shift in policy, and so was the decision to build a 140km long barrier that separated Palestenian residential areas from Israeli territories. The wall in certain parts even ran through Paletinian owned lands and deviated from the so-called "green line" established under the 1949 Armistice.

The construction of the barrier created a lot of controversy, and even Isreal's closest ally, i.e. the U.S., expressed concerns that the construction of the barrier would undermine "the road map" - the peace initiative backed by the so called Quartet comprising the U.N., U.S., E.U., and Russia. On October 20, 2003 the League of Arab States requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly to dicuss the wall. On October 21, the assembly passed a resolution, the draft of which was proposed by Italy on behalf of the European Union, demanding the cessation of the wall's construction. On December 8, 2003, the General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on "the legal consequences arising from the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

Israel, of course, questioned the legality and jurisdiction of this court before the court even started its deliberations, and refused to take part in the hearings. After the court issued its opnion, Israel called it "one-sided", and politically motivated. The U.S. and the U.K. also suggested that the court should abstain from making any ruling regarding the wall, which they claimed would complicate the road-map negotiations.

About ten days before the ICJ issued its opinion, on June 30, 2004 Israel's high court had ruled that the barrier infringes on the lives of some 35,000 Palestinians, and that the government should therfore reroute a 30km segment of the wall.

Israel's Point of View

The Israeli government claims that the wall is a defensive measure aimed at stopping suicide bombers to enter Israeli towns and killing innocent civilians. They have long been arguing that the Palestinian security forces are unable or unwilling to take measures to stop suicide operations against innocent civilians launched by millitants belonging to all sorts of factions many of which are out of the control of the Palestinian authority, and supported by States such as Syria and Iran.

That, in fact, has always been cited as the main reason why Israel had to make repeated incursions into Palestinian towns; to do the job Arafat's security forces failed to do, and to destroy houses that Israel claimed sheltered the suicidal terrorists. The wall, they say, is a non-violent alternative to such incursions, that would spare the lives of many innocent Israeli citizens, as well as the lives of those Palestinians who were part of the collateral damage caused by Israeli air and ground assaults against the terrorists.

The Counter-Israeli Point of View

From a legal standpoint, Israel and Palestine are still officially in a state of territorial dispute. An internationally recongnized border for the State of Israel has not yet officially been determined and agreed upon. Building a wall, no matter where it is built, is seen as a unilateral move that sets an unfair pretext for any further negotiations. Furthermore, the route of the wall even violates the "green-line" that signifies a de facto border between Israel and Palestine. The Palestinian politicians say, the construction of the wall is nothing but an outrageous land grab.

The construction of the barrier will also have devestating implications for the Palestinian people. Many people will be denied access to public places such as hospitals and schools. Many families will be separated on the two sides of the wall, much like what happened after the construction of the infamous wall in Berlin. Some farmers have been, or soon will be, out of business simply because the wall denies them access to their own gardens and farming lands.

To build or not to build

The issue is clearly controversial, and although the international community seems to be generally against the construction of the wall, even those who oppose it do not quite agree on practicalities. This even applies to the panel of fifteen judges that presided over the ICJ court. Two of the judges (including Pieter Kooijmans from the Netherlands) did not vote for the article that mandated all states to not recognize and support the construction of the barrier.

However, I personally think the issue isn't really about the existence of such a barrier. My personal opinion on this matter is based on three assumptions:

  1. Israel is an autonomous State which has every right to defend its own citizens.
  2. The United Nations is the sole authority to decide what is internationally legal or illegal, and it is the only legitimate body the consensus members of which could signify the collective will of the international community.
  3. Every country has the right to not comply with the collective will of the international community based on national interests, but it should be equally willing to accept the sanctions resulting from this noncompliance.

I believe Israel does in fact have the right to build the wall to protect its citizens. As the Dutch judge has also stated in his separate opinion, the court has indeed failed to address the security concerns of the Israeli government. However, I think Israel has chosen the wrong policy in defending its right to self defense. Instead of refusing to take part in the hearings, they could have made a strong case for the construction of the wall. They could have used the Israel's high court's ruling to demonstrate that they do not intend to grab land and that they are willing to make further compromises in the route of the wall or the passage regime.

Also, they have to realize that although the wall might ultimately lessen the suicide bombing rates, it will not stop the Palestinians - with the help of others - from comming up with alternative ways of inflicting harm on Israelis. If Israel really wants to make peace, then they first have to learn to put aside unilateralism; a habit they seem to have picked from their American friends. At the moment, Israel heavily relies on the adamant support from the United States. They have to understand that America's fanatic support for them aggrevates more hatred towards Israel as well as the United States itself. If you look at the results of individual votes of the fifteen ICJ judges, you will see that except for the question of jurisdiction, the American judge has consistently voted against all the rulings of the court. It is ironic that the ICJ has cited the reason for its unanimous vote on the jurisdiction matter as the U.N. security council's failure to deal with the issue due to America's vetoing of security council resolutions against Israel.

I believe Israel should adopt a more open and affirmative policy in dealing and interacting with the international community. As long as it ">clings to the U.S. to put itself beyond and above any international law, neither them nor the Americans can expect the international community to deal with issues like this wall reasonbaly, as well as issues such as Iran's nuclear capabilities, or its support for groups like Hizbollah in a decisive manner. The real war on terror, I believe, should begin with the cessation of political bigotry and unilateralism.

Ron at July 18, 2004 07:26 AM [permalink]:

Good piece Arash. I am sitting in my office in Jerusalem right now reading it. Let me tell you the feeling in Israel right now, especially in the north where the barrier is already up. The feeling is 100% better than last year. This wall helps people sleep at night, and go to work in the morning. It’s been 4 months since the last suicide bombing, which is an unprecedented time of quiet. To hear the decision of the ICJ that we should dismantle (!) it, you would expect Israelis to be shocked or angry. But we are not, because we didn’t expect anything else to come from the Hague. But you say that Israel should not act unilaterally? If the whole world tells you to take off your armor when your neighbors are shooting at you, please tell me, what would you do? I wish Israel didn’t have to act unilaterally either, but the issue is not oil or some abstract strategic interest, it’s basic human survival!

I believe Israel was right to boycott the ICJ, because to co-operate would only act to give the court legitimacy, and the decision would have been the same. Even the question given to the court was loaded! What are "the legal consequences arising from the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory." Just be using the term “Occupied Territory” it was already decided what the response would be.

Lastly, can we please drop these terms “Palestine” and “Occupied Territory” from our dialogue? They are faulty and loaded. There isn’t and never in history has been an independent state called Palestine, which in turn means that Judea, Samaria (West Bank), and Gaza are disputed, not occupied.

James at July 18, 2004 11:36 AM [permalink]:

I apologize for using this to solicit help, but I'm not sure what other way to use to get in touch with the largest number of Iranians who may have some clue as to what's the best way of going about solving this.

We're trying to send money to a person in Iran, so that would make it a person-to-person transfer. I'm having a hard time determining what the best way of doing this is. I'm hoping that someone on here will have experience with this can could point us in the right direction. I want to do this through my bank/credit union through an intermediary institution (as is the norm with international transfers), directly to the account of the person we're sending the money to.

If anyone has information that will make his process clearer and possible it would be greatly appreciated.

Again, I apologize for using this forum for a personal question and if the editors feel it's appropriate to delete this I surely do understand.

frank at July 18, 2004 04:11 PM [permalink]:

I think Arash's proposal to the state of Israel to bring its
"strong case" to the Hague is very unrealistic. Why should really Israel do so, when she doesn't need to?!!

It is clear that the barrier brings security for the Israeli
citizens, for the same reason that the Gaza barrier did.

But Ron, I have a question for you: Do you (and if you can answer this, the majority of Israeli citizens)
believe that the barrier which

1. does not comply with any of the previous
grounds for negotiations that Israel had accepted (i.e. the Oslos and whatever),


2.cuts deeply through Palestinian-Occupied(!)
territory (according to BBC:The impact of the plan
has been felt most acutely in Qalqilya itself, once
known as the West Bank's "fruit basket", which
lies within a tight loop in the wall. It is cut off on
three sides - from the farms which supply its
markets and the region's second-largest water
sources. Access to the 40,000-inhabitant town
will pass through a single Israeli checkpoint. )

will bring peace for Israel in the long run? Don't
say it is only "temporary"!! it is the most expensive
construction project "ever" launch in Israel.

Ron at July 18, 2004 06:56 PM [permalink]:

Expensive yes, but don't forget, it is being built by Jews. But seriously, no one in Israel and neither do, I suspect, the Palestinians believe in Oslo anymore. For Israel, it was nullified at the beginning of the current terror offensive. For the Palestinians, and this is evident from very recent events in Gaza, they have no faith in Arafat anymore. Basically, it is understood that whatever comes next will be based on current realities on the ground. These realities are in a constant state of flux. The Israeli public was enthusiastic about Oslo and the prospect for a negotiated settlement, excluding of course, our fanatics, (who fortunately are not very influential outside their circle).

Qalqilya was affected particularly strongly by the barrier, and its residents were subjected to great hardship, which caused debate within Israel, leading to this section of the barrier being removed. I think the Israeli leadership understands that subjecting Palestinians to economic hardship is not conducive to achieving its security goals, but in fact only aggravates the problem. I don’t believe that Israel’s strategy is to punish the Palestinian population, though it may appear so in the media. We have co-existed with them for 37 years and only the last few have seen this level of violence. Our economies are intertwined, we are dependant on them for labor, and they on us for jobs, utilities, etc. It has been that way for more than 100 years, in fact. Israel has hopefully learned, with this new strategy of separation, that this situation cannot continue anymore. We are like Siamese twins poisoning each other’s system and it must end.

I believe that the barrier can be a humane solution. Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to implement without causing hardship to innocent people, so compromises must be found. The ICJ, sadly, made no mention of compromise, only capitulation for Israel. By doing so, they ignored what would be obvious to anyone who is standing on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem surveying the landscape. Israel/Gaza/West Bank is an incredibly small area, the proportions are miniscule. If the wall was built along the Green Line, Israel would be exactly 10 Km wide from the sea to the wall at its narrowest point. Arab tanks would only have to drive 10 minutes to cut the country in half. As I write this, I am sitting in my room, in Israel, about 200 metres from the nearest Palestinian village. So to say the wall cuts “deeply” into Palestinian areas is a very relative term, which the media (especially the BBC!!!) does not express very well.

Ron at July 18, 2004 07:16 PM [permalink]:

I would just like to add how disappointed I am with the ICJ decision. Not because it ruled against Israel, that was expected, but because its extreme position of complete "Dismantling" ensured that its opinion would be dismissed, thus further driving a wedge between Israel and the world. If the opinion was for example, that Israel must move the barrier closer to, or even along the Green Line, it would have put enormous pressure on the Israeli government to respond, and would probably have been supported by the U.S. as well. Why the ICJ would want to put a nail in its own coffin of illegitimacy I cannot understand. There was no reason for it, and it confirms what most in Israel already believe: that the international community doesn't give a shit about peace for Israel or the Palestinians

Tatsuya at July 18, 2004 07:43 PM [permalink]:

It's not the world court's problem that it deals with an occupying nation. Most Israeilis should think that they are citizens of an occuping country 1st. Some of them the very occupiers themselves! For a human that feeling comes first. For an ****** ,of course, other things come first.

AmericanWoman at July 19, 2004 12:43 AM [permalink]:

Ron, what do you mean,
"We have co-existed with them for 37 years and only the last few have seen this level of violence."
I remember seeing Israeli soldiers holding guns on Arab schoolboys with slingshots on the 6:00pm news when I was in high school, which was the early 1970's. Turning people out of their homes for bogus "zoning" purposes, squatting on farmland, erecting permanent structures then proclaiming them colonies, and denying the existence of a Palestinian state is not the same as telling the truth. Building a wall may help the conquerors sleep at night for now, but surely anyone can see that there will have to be a reaction, and guess what kind of reaction that will be? No, the legal residents of the territory will not realize that they don't exist and disappear, no matter what the propaganda machine blasts out. Hey, here's an idea: How about democracy, you know, equal representation and all that? How about finding housing for immigrants in the usual way, by purchasing instead of stealing it? Think it over, it could work out the same way it does for the rest of the civilized world.
And if you start reciting all grievances of the last two milleniums, I'll come for you in the night myself.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at July 19, 2004 02:26 AM [permalink]:

I agree with Ron completely. This case was never under the jurisdiction of this court, so when it accepted the case it was already crystal clear what the verdict would be.
As for the wall not following the green line, Gosh how big is the whole place anyway? I can't possibly comprehend why Israel should deliberately worsen such a situation, with the intifada at loose, the Tourism industry in ruins, the economy badly shaken and her citizens in fear of their lives everyday, just to annex a tiny bit more land while at the same time it is pulling out of Gaza unilaterally?! C'mon people! What kind of sense does this make?
It is pretty clear that the issue is security,IMHO.

again as Ron said the territorial boundries are still disputed, and there never was a country named Palestine to be occupied, and frankly I don't see why Israel should follow the details of accords when the other side has from the very beginning completely ignored them. And that is from the VERY beginning of the formation of this state. Israel is surrounded by nations who want to destroy her utterly. Don't you think that she has the right to take measures to preserve herself and her citizens?
No?!... why not?

Ron at July 19, 2004 04:13 AM [permalink]:

Incidentally, I found the comments of Alan Baker, Israel’s legal advisor very interesting:
“The war crimes definitions fit the Geneva Conventions and international law up to World War II and immediately afterwards, when armies were fighting armies. Yet with the development of terrorism by groups that are not state entities, the whole concept of what a war crime is has changed. But the international community has not yet developed the legal texts in international law that fit these developments. A country -- whether it be Israel, or the United States in its fight with al-Qaeda -- whose army is involved in fighting a terrorist organization which has no state and no boundaries, has to be able to carry out those acts necessary to deal with terror”

I think this idea that international law is not equipped to deal with terrorism will be adopted by more countries in the future, as terrorism has become the new mode of warfare in the 21st century. I think it's impossible to fight terrorists without hurting civilians, as terrorism deliberately blurs the line between combatants and civilians. The best you can do in fighting terrorism is to minimize the suffering of civilians who are caught in it. This is not to say that the solution to terrorism is only military response, there are legitimate grievances that must be addressed as well, but the first priority must be security.

daanaa at July 19, 2004 08:43 AM [permalink]:

If you believe in the legitimate grievances of the last two millenniums, I could not imagine how any individual member of the poor Palestinian society who has experienced direct and absolute grief in last five decades may think and behave.

Borghan N. Narajabad at July 19, 2004 08:45 AM [permalink]:

Dear Arash,

Though I fundamentally disagree with the logic of your post, which is assuming inherited right of Israel being in the Palestinian Territory and considering West Bank as “disputed territory”, I should say it was a well-written post.

But my main problem is how does this post relate to Iran? (This website is Free Thoughts on “Iran”). I know Iran’s foreign policy has been, is and will be highly correlated with Palestine-Israeli affairs, but I couldn’t see how you connect this post to Iran.

This might seem to be a marginal point, but I guess in order to keep this website coherent, we should keep the posts related to Iran, or omit “Iran” from its title!

Babak S at July 19, 2004 02:59 PM [permalink]:


I think this post is related to Iran in that an Iranian, living in Iran, has written it :) I mean, you said it yourself, "Iran’s foreign policy has been, is and will be highly correlated with Palestine-Israeli affairs..." Then why can't you "see how you connect this post to Iran"?

JFTDMaster at July 20, 2004 02:54 AM [permalink]:

This is a very good article, the only beef I have is with the ending.

Israel's "unilateralism" is not only the fault of Israel, it is the fault of Israel being assaulted in the "international community" with things like UN "zionism = racism" resolutions, and this ruling itself. Israel is usually not given an opportunity to express itself (but it is true that when it is given an opportunity it fails to convey its point of view effectively, despite conspiracy accusations to the contrary.)

The court did not even pretend to follow its own legalities: the court from the beginning was meant to only resolve issues between states that ask for a ruling, and Israel obviously did not ask for a ruling.

As for Israel participating in the court to make its position clear, Israel submitted a written statement to the court regarding its positions, that was simply ignored by the court. There was no consideration in the court whatsoever of Israel's position on this i.e. that this is a security line and not a border.

And if the court will pretend that the armistice line (the green line) is a border, they should prove it legally. The 1949 armistice agreement between jordan and israel that defines the green line specifically mentions that its NOT a border, only an armistice line. Israel and its neighbours have never officially accepted the green line as a border. etc. But Israel's position is never even considered by the "court"..

Arash Jalali at July 21, 2004 10:36 AM [permalink]:

Dear Borghan,
Diversity of views is the essence of such forums and has been explicitly hailed in FToI's charter. I would hail your disagreement even more if you shared your perspective with me along with that disagreement.

As regards the issue of relevance, I realize it is not directly related to Iran, but to demonstrate how my article could be posted on this web site without the need for changing its name, I invite you to take a look at FToI's about page, which briefly explains the original idea behind its creation. Here's an excerpt:

"..We are also hopeful at the possible impact we might have on the Blogosphere, and international community, on how they understand and respond about Iran and Iranians in general."

As Babak nicely put it, my post is relevant to Iran, because it is posted by an Iranian living in Iran; and one of my reasons for posting this article is, among other things, to try to demonstrate to our non-Iranian audience that an Iranian living in Iran can be, and in fact many are, capable of analyzing world affairs beyond stereotypes which have dominated our perceptions of many things such as the West, Israel, and the Jewish community at large. It is too easy to fall into habits of chanting "Four legs good, two legs bad!", to use George Orwell's "Animal Farm" metaphore. Of course, this does not prove that my views are necessarily correct, nor does it mean that I find everything Israel has done regarding the conflict acceptable, but I hope by this I have been able to shed some light on why I think the post is relevant.

Ron at July 21, 2004 03:12 PM [permalink]:

The question of relevance also crossed my mind. I can see the importance of this issue to Iran, but I don’t understand why it is so. First of all, Iran is far away, so there is no territorial dispute, and I can’t imagine that Israel is viewed as any sort of threat to Iran, a country 100 times larger and 10 times more populous. I can’t see that it’s a religious issue, because Israel has good relations with other Muslim groups including Turks, Kurds, Bedouins, Central Asian peoples, or at worst neutral relations with non-Arab Muslim nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia. Before the revolution, Iran was Israel’s best friend in the Middle East, and today both our President and Defense Minister are Iranian-born. I guess my question is, does this hostility come from a genuine concern and sympathy for the welfare of Palestinians, religious pride, or is it just politics?

JFTDMaster at July 21, 2004 09:29 PM [permalink]:

Ron, IMHO Iran is Israel's biggest enemy today, with nukes and al-qaida leadership hiding in Chalus and Lavizan and all that.

Attacking Israel nowadays in the Muslim world is what attracts hearts and minds, so Iran is attempting to become a leader of the Muslim world by attacking Israel.

Also, Israel represents the evil corrupt West, or more precisely "the outsiders/non-muslims". Islam after a few centuries of its existance has become a very closed-in society, and "the other" is feared and hated. Islam is good, "the other" is evil, that makes the decisions simple.

Israel also represents the challenge some Muslims feel they have to overcome/defeat to prove something to themselves about their manliness, or about their faith really being true after all despite consistent Islamic failures and expectations of Islamic success and victory, as the Koran expects.

Another factor is in Islam, the further a way a people is from Israel, the more they hate Israel. The further away they are, the more radical is the media portrayal of Israel. Part of it might be the simple lack of experience with a "real" Israel, part of it is that the government does not have to carry a price due to being anti-Israeli.

Hmm well I can't think of anything else right now, if I do I'll post..

An Iranian Student (AIS) at July 22, 2004 05:26 AM [permalink]:


"Iran is Israel's biggest enemy today"
That gives another reason for Israel and the people of Iran to be allies, since this regime is most definitely the biggest enemy of the Iranian people and their entire culture.


As to what the mullahs problem with Israel is, it has many facets. The main thing to know is the the system here is an Islamic theocracy. Now many might not lik ethis, but Islam is in essence the very opposite of Judaism.As I said elsewhere, . Indeed the name itself is very revealing: Israel "struggles with God", Islam "Absolute submission". The fact that Islam is dependent on Judasim in the superficial shared set of characters and legends makes Judaism a constant thorn in the flesh for Islamists.
There are also vast politicla reasons which have however their root in this religious situation.
There are also extra levels of complexity. Shi'ite, as the mullahs in Iran are, have been traditionally seen by Sunni fundamentalists as proxies of Jews within Islam (See my comment here ), so they have to be sort of more chatolic than the Pope in the Israel/Palestine issue to gain the confidence and ultimately the leadership of the Islamic world, which they dream of. Also there is this despicable attitudes towards 'naje' and 'nejasat' (religiously unclean) in shi'itism (again they might be mutated and mutilated endresults of both Jewish and Zoroastrian holiness rituals) which included infidels and non-muslims (in particular Jews and Zoroastrians, ironically!!) short a lot of vile cumulative multi-dimensional corruption!

parsa at July 22, 2004 02:10 PM [permalink]:

“I guess my question is, does this hostility come from a genuine concern and sympathy for the welfare of Palestinians, religious pride, or is it just politics?”

Ron, I can tell you what I think. If you look at most of the present Islamic countries, they were colonized or subdued by either the west or the Turks at some point in their histories. Iran was the only country which was not colonized, there were numerous cases of interference in her affairs by the Russians and the British but there was no question of retaining her by force. Even when the country was in her weakest period of history, it was unimaginable and unacceptable for the people to be run by the “ajnabies” or foreigners. With Iran being located at such an important geopolitical position (two-thirds of the world resources are all around the Persian Gulf), any independent rulers of Iran (and I emphasize on the word independent, they can be secular, religious…you name it) would be very wary of the outside attempt to control the region. Israel is seen as the west Trojan horse in the region, an outpost for the west. Let’s not kid ourselves that they created Israel because they felt bad that they killed 6 million Jews! Our friend AIS can tell you how anti-Semitic they are ;) If, hypostatically Israel was turning her back to the west and specially the US, Iran would have allied herself with her (and this will not happen with the current state of affairs).
But this is only one factor, an important one though, to my opinion.

Ron at July 22, 2004 05:53 PM [permalink]:

Thank you to the previous few posts for your insight.

I have to take issue with your interpretation of certain historical details. First of all, as I understand it, Iran herself was aligned with the West until 25 years ago, and until then she was friendly with Israel. Maybe I don’t understand the nature of the Revolution, but I would imagine it to be an internal political matter. How could a change in leadership completely reverse the strategic interests of a country? Or, in other words, nothing changed in Israel in ’79, so how did she become enemy #1 overnight? Clearly the Shah wasn’t wary of Israel, or maybe you don’t consider him an “independent ruler” as you say?

Second of all, “they” did not create Israel (I assume by “they” you mean the Western nations). The modern state of Israel was created by the blood and sweat of Jews alone.

From “The History of Israel”:
“The Jews won their war of independence with minimal help from the West. In fact, they won despite efforts to undermine their military strength.
Although the United States vigorously supported the partition resolution, the State Department did not want to provide the Jews with the means to defend themselves. Consequently, on December 5, 1947, the U.S. imposed an arms embargo on the region.

The Arabs had no difficulty obtaining all the arms they needed. In fact, Jordan's Arab Legion was armed and trained by the British, and led by a British officer. At the end of 1948 and beginning of 1949, British RAF planes flew with Egyptian squadrons over the Israel-Egypt border. On January 7, 1949, Israeli planes shot down four of the British aircraft.”

The Jews, on the other hand, were forced to smuggle weapons, principally from Czechoslovakia. When Israel declared its independence in May 1948, the army did not have a single cannon or tank. Its air force consisted of nine obsolete planes.”

parsa at July 22, 2004 07:12 PM [permalink]:

I gotta leave now, but have this for now.
"The zealots of Israel and their supporters should remember that the earlier Zionists, back in Herzl’s time, made gigantic efforts to gain approval from the European powers. They lobbied the tsar, the sultan, the pope and the British Empire. And whatever the zealots say, Israel would not exist if it had not been for the Balfour declaration of 1917, a British political act, and the United Nations partition plan of 1947, a joint political act by the Soviet Union and the United States."

and here is the whole thing if you'd like to check it out.

Ron at July 22, 2004 09:27 PM [permalink]:

Interesting article. I actually find the author to be more optimistic than he himself probably realizes. The article sort of suggests what I sincerely hope is the case, which is a massive communication failure between the parties of this conflict.

For their part, the Arabs failed to grasp that, aside from the “mythical” claim that Jews have to the land, we were left with only two choices at that point in time A.) Create an autonomous Jewish state on an area where a relatively small part of the Arab nation resides, or B.) well, maybe you heard the joke about 6 million Jews living in an ashtray…

For our part, the Jews failed to realize that land, honor, pride, and religion take precedence in their culture over trivial details like preservation of life.

But let’s forget that, it should be left in the past. The author suggests that the real issue is not the Arabs’ uncompromising objection to Israel’s existence, but rather that their dignity suffered when we kicked their asses, and therefore should be compensated for looking so foolish in front of their wives and girlfriends. Fair enough. The problem with this solution is that there is no historical precedence for it actually working. It’s generally accepted that you don’t give a bully your money, because then he’ll demand it every day. Furthermore, he’ll feel justified by the fact that you paid him as “proof” that you owe him. Appeasement just doesn’t work, and Jews will never be convinced that they committed a sin by escaping genocide the only way they could, let alone living on our ancestral land, which we've lived on continuosly for 3000+ years.

But that’s all academic. In reality, I believe peace with the Palestinians will be achieved in the next few years. Once the barrier is complete, with Jews on one side, Arabs on the other, we will finally have what both Israel and the Palestinians lack; a border. Everyone needs boundaries and we're no different. Whether or not the route is fair, just the fact that a boundary exists, we can both have a place to call home, and that will have a profoundly positive effect.

Arash Jalali at July 23, 2004 04:16 AM [permalink]:

Ron, I believe most of what makes this conflict a relevant issue to Iran is politics, and by politics in general, I mean the relationship between two governments, which does not necessarily and always coincide with the two peoples' perception of one another.

In the case of Israel and Iran, the situation is rather complicated, because certain groups in the Iranian society have traditionally had hostile feelings towards Jews. This even predates the establishment of any Jewish state called Israel. I have heard many stories from my friends and relatives living in Isfahan on how Jews were perceived and treated by others; that includes not only Muslims but sometimes Christians too. A relative used to tell me how Jewish salesmen were perceived as sneaky, dishonest, and miserly and they were frequently abused and beaten up by others. A friend of mine in Isfahan, who had a Jewish neighbor in childhood, told me how afraid he was to go to his friend's house to play with him after he had heard from someone that Jews like to trap Muslim children and then hurt them by poking needles into their bodies.

Now, although these stereotypical perceptions and hostilities are very common in any pre-modern (and sometimes even modern) community of diverse ethnic/religious/racial backgrounds and I seriously doubt they could be the main reason for the enmity between Iran and Israel as two countries, I believe these perceptions can serve as a suitable platform for plantation and/or aggravation of hatred among peoples by governments. A couple of nights ago I was watching the Iranian Sahar Universal TV channel, and they were showing pictures of three Israeli soldiers trying to break the arm of a couple of Palestinian teenagers. It was a horrible scene, and I can tell you it is very easy for a typical Iranian citizen to see these scenes and then given that pretext, consciously or unconsciously infer that Jews are all evil beings deserving to be wiped out of the face of the Earth. This has little to do with religious sympathy with Palestinians.

One of the points that I was trying to make in my post was that certain policies that the U.S. and the Israeli government adopt, help this hatred to feel more justified to the layman. In numerous comments to this very post I witnessed the remark that "Israel doesn't need to cooperate with the International community." True! Why should she when it is backed by the world's only superpower? Why should she when it is her right to protect the lives of her citizens? The answer lies in the pictures shown immediately after 9/11 attacks: Palestinian people cheering and celebrating the attack on the twin towers. The TV displayed only the Palestinians, but I am sure there were many more around the world who had this secret strange feeling of content and joy when they heard someone has managed to hurt the big bully, forgetting all about the fact that there were more than 3,000 innocent lives lost in those attacks. Unilateralism, especially when you have the power to afford it, could easily help one reach their political means regardless of whether they are legitimate or not, but in the mean time, you will inadvertently help a lot of BinLadens to persuade the not so few misguided minds to blow themselves up along with as many innocent lives as they can no matter where they are; Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Madrid, or New York!

Ron at July 23, 2004 07:55 AM [permalink]:


I still don’t understand why you oppose in principle unilateral action. You seem to be saying that it causes people who hate to hate even more. But why should this matter? You admit that some people will hate Jews or Americans no matter what, so what difference does it make what Israel or the U.S. does?

Unilateral action is right, if the action itself is the right thing to do, and only one party is willing or able to do it.

Israel has, in the past, done things unilaterally that were condemned by the world at the time, but later applauded as being the right thing to do. When Israeli agents kidnapped the Nazi Adolph Eichmann from Argentina, and brought him to trial in Israel, the world condemned it as a unilateral action. Argentina declared the incident in violation of its international sovereignty, and complained to the U.N. Israel was forced by the world to apologize to Argentina for doing what Argentina was morally obligated to do herself, and what the world never asked of her: to bring a notorious war criminal to justice. We don’t hear too many complaints today.
In 1981, when Israel unilaterally destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, very possibly saving many Iranian lives in the coming war, the reaction was universal condemnation. The IDF Chief of Staff, briefed the pilots personally, telling them: “The alternative is our destruction.”
The UN Security Council unanimously condemned Israel. Would any Iranian, or for that matter Kuwaiti or Saudi who is honest with him or herself condemn this unilateral action? Today, even most leaders, American, European, and Arab would admit in private that this was the right thing to do, although never in public, so as not to legitimize unilateral Israeli action. Hypocrisy?

No responsible leader should avoid a moral unilateral action just because it would risk angering ignorant and intolerant people. People will be ignorant and intolerant no matter what. Unilateral action is often a consequence of others not joining in to do the right thing. The modern state of Israel’s very establishment was a unilateral Jewish action, because no world leader was willing to anger the Arab world. Again, Israel would not exist without unilateral action, so to condemn all of Israel’s unilateral actions are to condemn the existence of Israel herself, and by extension her people.

PM Sharon is right now fighting for his political life to implement a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This is what Palestinians have been demanding for years, and they still condemn it! International leaders are still confused as to whether or not to support it.

I believe the security barrier is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Today, it is universally condemned, but tomorrow it will be praised for bringing peace.

Ron at July 23, 2004 03:50 PM [permalink]:

More failure of unilateral Israeli military action?

from the new 9/11 commission report:

"The report speculates that Daniel Lewin, a former IDF officer who was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first to be hijacked and subsequently piloted into the World Trade Center, may have been the first to try to rebel against the hijackers.

As Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker, and Abdul Aziz al Omari moved toward the cockpit, "passenger Daniel Lewin, who was seated in the row just behind Atta and Omari, was stabbed by one of the hijackers – probably Satam al Suqami, who was seated directly behind Lewin," the report says.
"Lewin had served four years as an officer in the Israeli military. He may have made an attempt to stop the hijackers in front of him, not realizing that another was sitting behind him," it adds.
Lewin, 31, had served in the elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, and was a hi-tech entrepreneur."

Clearly, if this story is accurate, Mr. Lewin understood the most important lesson of modern Jewish history: "Never again will we go like sheep to the slaughter"

You see, for Jews, life is everything, without it there is nothing. It is utterly incomprehensible to a sound Jewish mind that anything else be valued more highly, whether it be land or God or even dignity; everything else is reversible or negotiable (for example a barrier) except life. We couldn't even imagine strapping a bomb to a child, even in our darkest hour of despair. Maybe this is strange to Christian and Muslim cultures that have a strong faith in an afterlife, I really don't know, but this is the essence of Jewish morality.

Arash Jalali at July 23, 2004 05:00 PM [permalink]:

Reading Ron's comments as well as others', I think I might have striken a nerve while expressing my ideas, and I hereby apologize if my personal analysis has provoked any feelings among you all.

I again reiterate that based on those three premises mentioned in my post, I believe Israel has the right, and indeed the duty, to protect the lives of its citizens, even if it means going against the wishes of all the countries in the world; and if we look at the issue of the barrier as an isolated case, Israel indeed did not "need" to participate in any dialog or active interaction and negotiation with the international community. True! When it comes to protecting lives, one should not concern herself with how popular their course of action would make them.

However, put in a broader context, many might, and in fact do, see Israel's dismissal of the UN and ICJ, as yet another instance in a persistant pattern of disregard and disrespect for the international community on the basis of U.S.'s constant backing of Israel. "So what ?," one might say. Let them all hate us for it. We know we are right, and if the international community cannot see it, then to hell with them. We will not even try to explain ourselves to them, because we don't owe anyone any explanations. Fair enough, but I don't think that line of thinking is any different from that of BinLaden, Hizbolla, Hammas, or even Saddam's (before he was removed). They all think they are right. In fact, if self-preservation is part of Jewish morality, they think, as adamently as you do if not more so, that blowing up Jews, Americans and pretty much anyone who doesn't agree with them is the wish of the Allmighty himself. Now, what happened to diplomacy, dialogue, and reason? I believe, sometimes especially when we are certain that we are right, it is even more important to try to explain to others why we think so, eventhough we might eventually fail to persuade them and decide to take unilateral action. If you don't agree with this, then I suppose we just have to agree to disagree :-)

Parsa at July 23, 2004 08:24 PM [permalink]:

“Maybe this is strange to Christian and Muslim cultures that have a strong faith in an afterlife, I really don't know, but this is the essence of Jewish morality.”

I’ve got a story to tell you. During the glorious time of Solomon, people were able to see angles, so once a frightened man came to the court of Solomon asking for an audience with the king. He told king Solomon that he had seen the death angle in the bazaar and that the angle had given him a very angry look. The man told Solomon that he was afraid that the angle would kill him. Solomon told him “But you know that the death angle just follows the Almighty’s orders not his own whim!” The man was so frightened that he wouldn’t listen to reason so eventually Solomon gave up and asked the man that what he wanted him to do. The man asked Solomon to send him to India with his flying carpet so that he would be so far away from the death angle.
Solomon agreed, after a while the death angle came to see Solomon and Solomon asked him about that incident. The death angle said that he had not looked at the man with anger. He was just very surprised to see him in the bazaar since he had the order to take his life next day in India! “I just thought that if this man departs today, it will take months for him to get to India!” Solomon replied: “So he came and asked for his own end with his own feet!”

JFTDMaster at July 23, 2004 10:06 PM [permalink]:
Arash, I would like to address some of what you said. If you look at what Ron said about the destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, the phrase you need to understand to understand the Israeli mentality is "The alternative is our destruction." You say Israel does not even try to discuss anything with the UN. Does this have anything to do with the fact that Israel's position is consistently ignored, or with a dozen resolutions being passed every year for decades, with none ever being passed to support Israel? From the "zionism = racism" UN resolution, to the durban conference days before Sep. 11, UN has shown itself to be woefully biased, and no matter what Israel does it continues to assault Israel's legitimacy. What is Israel supposed to do in response? Should Israel give a charade of support and morality to a Syrian-led Human Rights? If you're worried about Israel not making any diplomatic moves, consider boycotting the illegitimate and pre-determined ruling against Israel' a political statement. If you're worried about Israel not making any moves towards peace, what do you think about Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, despite Arafat's hard-core opposition? Despite the image the anti-Israeli media gives you, the fact is that Israel is more interested in ending the occupation than Arafat or Hamas: but Israel does not want to do that if it results in yet another terrorist dictatorship, right on its border. Arafat and Hamas, on the other hand, want not only Israel's destruction but Israel's occupation as a rallying call. They are much better at propoganda than Israel, though sometimes they get caught: who can forget the video-taping of a poor palestinian "martyr" being buried, getting up and walking away when dropped? or the murder of the palestinian boy al-dura by palestinians in front of a french-palestinian cameraman, with the father protecting the child with his hands, touted as the example of Israeli brutality in all the muslim world? From the Israeli point of view, Israel HAS been trying to negotiate with neighbouring nations, (through the UN or otherwise) for decades, and has only acted military when its survival was at stake. And Israel's survival is at stake all the time. Lets look at how certain people describe the 1948 war, "Israel fights neighbours and expells people", but from the Israeli point of view what happened was completely different: Israel declared itself a nation, according to UN's own resolution. Then the five surrounding Arab nations invaded the tiny 600-thought jewish nation, with arab league secretary-general and palestinian "leader" promising to massacre all the jews. Many arabs were fleeing to make way for the war against Israel, but Moshe Dayan, a famous Israeli persona, stood at the jordan river begging the arabs to stay and to live in peace. a) Even though Israel's enemies may be promising genocide during an invasion, but no "international community" steps in to protect Israel b) When Israel follows the "UN path", it gets into disasters like Oslo: the corrupt terrorist thug Arafat did not need to be appeased or brought into the territories from an exile in Tunisia, and with him, a peace deal does not seem likely to happen. But, at least an old nostalgic and naive socialist leader gets a Nobel Peace prize, sharing it with an old terrorist. c) Israeli lives are saved only when Israel acts to protect them, but this action will be denounced by the international community regardles ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Ron at July 23, 2004 10:46 PM [permalink]:

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is it. It’s been fun, but the game is over. This will be my last post in this discussion because we’ve gotten to the heart of the matter. It’s not the barrier, and it’s not the existence of Israel; it’s a choice between the morality of preserving innocent life (whether it be Jewish, Christian, Muslim or any other, I can assure you, Jihadists don't discriminate!) and the morality of taking it away.

Every day, 19 year old Israeli soldiers make ethical decisions that most people never have to make in their lifetimes. I say this is bullshit. Every human being on this planet has an equal responsibility and obligation to him or herself and to humanity to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. No more thinking. You have a rifle in your hand and someone is shooting at you from behind a group of children. What do you do? This is real life, as real as the air that each of you is breathing right now. You, (yes, you!) have to decide, because you can’t walk two paths at the same time. You can certainly talk this and then talk that, but when it comes time for action, you have to make a decision, whether it's on the battlefield, the hijacked plane, or the UN hall!


Diplomacy and dialogue are finished; there’s simply nothing left to say! The Jihadists have made their case, and Israel has made her case. UN leaders and ICJ justices aren't stupid, they've heard all there is to say and they know all the facts. so what's left? The only thing left is for the 99% of the world who aren't Jews or Jihadists to take a stand one way or the other.

It doesn’t matter that Jews think they’re right, or that Bin Laden thinks he’s right. It matters what YOU think is right.

It’s time for everyone to lay their cards down on the table. Arash, Parsa, AIS, JFTD and even King Solomon have spoken. You’re all humans, which means you’re capable of using reason to make decisions. So this is it, folks. What’s your decision, life or death? There are no other alternatives. I expect an answer from all of you!!! :)

An Iranian Student (AIS)a at July 23, 2004 11:00 PM [permalink]:


as you yourself gave examples of irrational hostilities against Jews, it must be clear to you that the kind of "international" reaction Israel gets is NOT really based on rational and legitimate concerns but a continuation of old prejudices. Antui-semitism is a very complex thing and very very resilient.

You say "... but I don't think that line of thinking is any different from that of BinLaden, Hizbolla, Hammas, or even Saddam's (before he was removed). They all think they are right. In fact, if self-preservation is part of Jewish morality, they think, as adamently as you do if not more so, that blowing up Jews, Americans and pretty much anyone who doesn't agree with them is the wish of the Allmighty himself. "

Are you serious?!! What about objective differences? Do you honestly believe that since neither Isael nor those thugs appreciate "world opinion", their actions are equivalent? That 'the line of thinking' is the same, for the same reasons? But this is absurd! How can teh justified concern of SELF-preservation be even comparable with murdering of infidels based on a deadly superstitious kind of fascism?
My friend, I think you are out of line here.

"...You see, for Jews, life is everything, without it there is nothing...Maybe this is strange to Christian and Muslim cultures that have a strong faith in an afterlife, I really don't know, but this is the essence of Jewish morality."

You put your finger on the most important factor. That is exactly the most important reason of all anti-semitism and such blatant hate against Jews. (And that's also why I have such admiration for Judaism, :)


You are right. UN was formed in a situation after the WWII and teh beginning of the Cold War. (ironically what the world went through during WWII and especially the holocaust were the most important reason for the UN's very existance)

As I said before it was perhaps the best they could come up with in that situation. Today UN is nothing but a bureaucratic leviathan and even worse. With the legitimacy of states like Iran or Suadn, with Libya and Syria in the human rights commities there, with corruption up to the highest positions there... it has become nothing but a dark silly joke and an obstacle in the way of acheieving all that it was formed for back then. You are absolutely right there.