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November 16, 2006

Carter on the 'Wall'

In his book that came out this week, called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter slams Israel's West Bank security barrier:

"Imprisonment wall" is more descriptive than "security fence." (p. 174)

So, what will Carter say about another Middle East barrier in the works, described yesterday by AFP?

Saudi Arabia will press ahead with plans to build a massive security fence along its borders with Iraq to prevent infiltration of “terrorists,�? the interior minister said in an interview published Tuesday.

Construction of the double-track barbed fence, which will be fitted with remote sensors and thermal cameras, will begin next year, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz told Al Anbaa Kuwaiti newspaper.

“Authorities in Saudi Arabia have begun the executive measures to build the largest security fence that extends along the 900-km (562-miles) border with Iraq,�? he said.

Posted by TS at November 16, 2006 03:31 AM


"The World According to Jimmy Carter"

Posted by: Rick Richman [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2006 05:59 PM

The Saudi barrier is being built "along its borders with Iraq", not inside Iraq to steal Iraqi land and separate Iraqi families from their schools and farms inside Iraq. Israel, on the other hand, is building its barrier inside the West Bank, not on its border with it. That is to say, the route of Israel's barrier is in violation of international law as sanctioned by the UN Security Council, UN General Assembly, and the International Court of Justice. Get it?

Posted by: Omar Baddar at December 3, 2006 10:15 PM

Actually, Omar, the reason Israel's barrier is not being built on its legal international border is that such a border does not exist. The Security Council has pointed out that Israel isn't expected to withdraw all the way to the Green Line. This is embodied in resolution 242, which, unlike general assembly and international court of justice resolutions, is legally binding in international law. (Makes sense, since the general assembly includes countries that don't recognize Israel's right to exist)

So where should the border be? Well, Israel and the Palestinians are supposed to negotiate that as part of a peace plan. Unfortunately, the Palestinian government also doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist. Get it?

Posted by: david at December 4, 2006 11:41 AM

Okay, David, for the sake of argument, I'll play along and accept all three absurd suggestions you made. I'll accept that you're more qualified to interpret international law than the International Court of Justice, I'll accept that the 150 to 6 vote in the UN General Assembly against the route of the barrier means nothing, and I'll pretend that when UN resolution 242 cites the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" when calling on Israel to withdraw from "territories occupied in the recent conflict," that the meaning of which territories somehow remains ambiguous.

If indeed as you suggest UN Security Council resolutions are binding (unlike UNGA or ICJ resolutions), to tell me then, how are we to interpret UNSC resolution 446 which explicitly identifies the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and says that Israeli settlements there are illegal?

The truth is, on one side of this issue is the entire international community which recognizes the green line as the official border, and on the other are Israel's apologists who dispute the most basic principles of fairness and international law to provide cover for Israel's illegal expansion.

Posted by: Omar Baddar at December 4, 2006 08:54 PM

I'll start with your hyperbolic comment about "the entire international community" vs. "Israel's apologists."

a) Apparently, your definition of the "entire international community" somehow does not include the United States, one of the biggest and most important parts of the international community.

The final borders, the capital and other aspects of this state's sovereignty will be negotiated between the parties as part of a final settlement. (President of United States in June 24, 2002 speech.)


As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. (President of United States in April 14, 2004 letter)

b) Your definition of the "entire international community" also apparently discounts the diplomats who drafted Resolution 242. Look up what Lord Caradon and Eugene Rostow, the drafters of 242, say about that resolution's meaning.

c) Your classification of anyone and everyone who disagrees with you as "Israel's apologists" isn't exactly a reasoned argument worth addressing.

Finally, regarding 446--the resolution says nothing about the green line being Israel's international and legal border. It says that the West Bank is occupied, which is true. Israel occupied it when it pushed out the Jordanian occupation. Jordan occupied it in 1948/49. Before that, it was part of the British Mandate. Are you suggesting that the Jordanian occupation created new legal borders (i.e. green line)? Okay, but if you are to be consistent in applying that principle, it would mean that Israel's occupation also created new legal borders (i.e. jordan river). You don't want that, do you?

Posted by: david at December 5, 2006 12:12 PM

To clarify, I do include the US government among the list of Israel's apologists. The only remaining debate regarding this issue is "why", with Mearsheimer and Walt claiming it's the "Israel lobby", and Chomsky among others citing other forces. Indeed, it is this US support for Israel's illegal expansion that has kept the conflict going.

As for the so-called "negotiated" border agreement, Israel's unilateral building of settlements deep into the West Bank (which continued even during the "peace process," and is going on as we speak) is by default a rejection of such negotiations. How can the negotiations be taken seriously when one side is actively creating facts on the ground to influence the final borders? Shouldn't the Palestinians be able to build settlements in Israel too while "negotiating"? They can't even get permits from Israel to build in the West Bank! Besides, in what sense exactly is the route of the barrier negotiated?

As for the 1949 borders issue you raised (which I don't think is relevant & thus won't give you a detailed answer), it seemed like Israel should've been confined to its 1947 mandate. But since the UN chose to recognize Israeli sovereignty to its violently established borders, I accept it & see no point in arguing about this now.

What's relevant today is that the UN Security Council (446), UN General Assembly, International Court of Justice, major Human Rights organizations (HRW & Amnesty) are all in agreement about the status of the settlements and the West Bank barrier. All say they're illegal. The ICJ ruling was near unanimous, with the dissenting voice acknowledging the illegality of the settlements. If you think it's hyperbolic to say the "entire international community", just look at the UNGA votes that come out each year in favor of a full Israeli withdrawal to the green line. The General assembly vote of 150 to 6 over the barrier is fairly representative I would say.

Posted by: Omar Baddar at December 5, 2006 05:23 PM

So you complain about Israel's so-called apologists -- a group which to you say includes U.S. administrations under Presidents Johnson (*see quote below), Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II -- but in the same breath you point in all seriousness to Chomsky and Walt and Mearsheimer??! It can certainly be said that these 3 are among the great apologists of the present era. (Not to mention that unlike the US presidents, the views of Chomsky, Walt and Mearsheimer are certainly without the imprimatur of the American people.)

It also rings ironic when you protest that negotiations can't take place while Israel is creating so-called facts on the ground, yet apparently feel negotiations should take place while Qassam rockets are arbitrarily being lobbed into the civilian town of Sderot. As we learned in Gaza, facts on the ground can disappear more quickly than they showed up. Missiles and suicide bombers can't be undone.

Or no... rereading your comments, it seems you feel that Israel shouldn't even negotiate, but should unilaterally -- and perhaps suicidally -- pull out to the unsecure '67 lines even while the Palestinian Hamas gov't defies the Quartet by refusing to end violence, recognize Israel, and recognize past agreements. (Don't forget that the Quartet represents the US, EU, UN and Russia--i.e. what you might call "the entire international community.")

As to your assertion that Palestinians should be able to build inside Israel while negotiating... about a million Israeli Arabs--self-described Palestinians--freely build in Israel. That's because the Israeli government does not insist that the country be free of Arabs. It is the Palestinians that insist their future state be Judenrein. And, mind you, Israeli governments go along with that demand.

But look, our discussion wasn't about the settlements. It was about Israel's right, in the absence of a real negotiating partner, to protect its citizens with the most passive of measures--a barrier built on occupied but disputed land. Indeed, a few prominent Palestinians acknowledge that the green line isn't holy. (e.g. Abed Rabo with the geneva initiative and Nusseibeh with the Ayalon Nusseibeh plan).

(* Johnson said: "We are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each the greatest security. It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of 4 June 1967 will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders. Some such lines must be agreed to by the neighbours involved")

Posted by: David at December 5, 2006 08:15 PM

School finals deserve more attention from me, so these will be my last comments, & you can have the last word:

(1) Given the huge disparity between public opinion and government policy in our country (environmental policy being a transparent example), it could hardly be said that presidents speak for the population, especially when it comes to such details that the general public doesn't know about and is simply not interested in. But, you have your views on Chomsky, and I have mine on CAMERA, and that's that.

(2) You mention Qassam rockets and suicide bombers as though the Israeli military has been passive towards the Palestinian people. There is hardly a human rights report by a major organization that doesn't speak of reckless and indiscriminate killing of Palestinians by the IDF (quotes below). The truth is, Israeli occupation, with the violence and settlement expansion it entails, triggered Palestinian violence which was virtually non-existent until the first intifada.

(3) With the cost of the barrier, and the significance of holy sites, water aquifers and fertile lands, I seriously doubt Israel would be willing to voluntarily withdraw from the WB as it did Gaza. It seems obvious that the barrier is Israel's intended permanent border, unless it's compelled to relocate it.

(4) There is no evidence to the assertion that the 67 borders are "suicidal", let alone a security threat of any sort. Prior to the election of Hamas, there was a Palestinian authority that recognized Israel that was negotiation with an Israeli government that, until today, doesn't recognize Palestine's right to exist, nor has renounced violence. Israel's continued expansion and violence despite the "peace process" is what elected Hamas. If Israel recognized a Palestinian state on the '67 borders, and signed a non-aggression pact tonight, Hamas would recognize Israel tomorrow morning, as evident by their acceptance of the Prisoner's proposal. Let's demand from Israel what we demand of Hamas.

(5) You're cleverly equivocating over the issue of Israeli-Arabs vs. settlers. First, it's easily disputable that Israeli-Arabs can "build freely" in Israel, but I'll grant you that for the sake of argument. It remains that, say, the expansion of an Israeli-Arab town doesn't become part of a Palestinian state. The issue was never whether Jews could live in the West Bank (countless of my Jewish peace-activist friends say they've never felt as welcomed as they do in Palestinian homes there), it's whether such settlements should become part of Israel. If settlers want to stay, by all means, do so. But accept that you're in Palestine and not Israel, just as Israeli-Arabs accept that they're in Israel and not Palestine.

Whatever becomes of this debate, I hope we see a just and lasting peace there in our life-times.


"“Certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes, including unlawful killings; [...] torture" Amnesty International 2005.

"Israeli forces have killed or seriously injured thousands of Palestinians who were not taking part in the hostilities […] The Israeli military has fostered a climate of impunity in its ranks" HRW 2005

"Many [Palestinians] were killed unlawfully [by the Israeli army], in deliberate and reckless shootings..." AI 2006

Posted by: Omar Baddar at December 5, 2006 10:41 PM

Good luck on your finals, Omar, and thanks for being (relatively) civil in this discussion. I'll only make 2 points about your last comment -- points I hope you will read before turning your attention back to school, because they are very important. (the first one especially)

1. You say that "occupation ... triggered Palestinian violence which was virtually non-existent until the first intifada." Perhaps if this were true, Israelis would feel more secure in giving up land in exchange only for hope that the violence will stop. But it isn't true. But one example of pre-occupation violence is the 1929 massacres of Jews in Hebron and across the country. Remember that the PLO formed and started its activities in 1964, also before the occupation.

2. Conrary to what you wrote, Israel does in fact recognize Palestine's right to exist. This has certainly been made clear by Sharon and Olmert, neither of whom, as you know, represent the Israeli left. By contrast, I wish your assertion that "Hamas would recognize Israel tomorrow morning" were the latter to pull out from the territories seem even remotely plausible. The record--including very recent statement's by Hamas leaders emphatically vowing just the opposite--strongly suggests otherwise.

Posted by: david at December 6, 2006 06:17 PM

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