Hamas, Khaled Mashaal and Prospects for a Sustainable Israel/Palestine Peace

12 Dec

 

 

            In the aftermath of Khaled Mashaal’s emotional visit to Gaza in celebration of Hamas’ 25th anniversary, commentary in Israel and the West has focused on his remarks at a rally as ‘defiant’ and disclosing ‘the true face’ of Hamas. Emphasis was particularly placed on his dramatic pledge to recover the whole of historic Palestine, from the Mediterranean to Jordan, “inch by inch,” no matter how long such a process might take. Mashaal also challenged the legitimacy of the Zionist project, and justified Palestinian resistance in whatever form it might assume, although disavowing the intention to attack civilians as such, and denying any complicity by Hamas in the November 21, 2012 incident in Israel when a bomb exploded in a Jerusalem bus.

 

            These remarks certainly raise concerns for moderate Israelis who continue to advocate a two-state solution in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242, but at the same time, it is important to listen to Hamas fully before reaching any firm conclusions. What Mashaal said in Gaza was at a rally dedicated to reaffirming its fundamental struggle in the immediate aftermath of the recent 8 day Israeli attack (code-named Pillar of Defense), and by a leader who for the first time in 45 years had openly dared to set foot in his occupied and oppressed homeland. Mashaal is a leader who has lived in exile in several countries of the region since he was 11 years old, having been born in the Selwad neighborhood of Ramallah, then under Jordanian control. He is someone who in 1997 Israel had tried to murder in a notorious incident in Jordan in which only the capture of the Mossad perpetrators induced Israel to supply a life-saving antidote for the poison that had been sprayed into Mashaal’s ear in exchange for their release from Jordanian captivity. In Mashaal’s imagery, this return to Gaza was his ‘third birth,’ the first being in 1956 when he was born, the second when he survived the Israeli assassination attempt, and the third when he was able to kiss the ground upon entering Gaza. These biographical details seem relevant for an assessment of his public remarks.

 

            The context was also given a heightened reality by the Hamas/Gaza success in enduring the latest Israeli military onslaught that produced a ceasefire that contained some conditions favoring Gaza, including an Israeli commitment to refrain from targeted assassinations in the future. It also was a context shaped by recent and more distant painful memories that was the main trigger of the upsurge of violence, especially the assassination of the Hamas military leader and diplomat, Ahmed al-Jabari, and the May 22, 2003 killing of the disabled spiritual founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. It was after Sheikh Yassin’s death that Mashaal was declared ‘world leader’ of Hamas.

 

            The most important element of context that needs to be taken into account is the seeming inconsistency between the fiery language used by Mashaal in Gaza and his far more moderate tone in the course of several interviews with Western journalists in recent weeks. In those interviews Mashaal had clearly indicated a readiness for a long-term hudna or truce, provided that Israel ended its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and agreed to uphold Palestinian rights under international law. He made clear that these rights included the right of return belonging to the 4-5 million Palestinians living in refugee camps or exile, and contended that such a right was more deserving of recognition than is the Israeli grant of such a right of return to every Jew even to those completely without a prior connection to historic Palestine. Of course, this claimed right is in its potentiality a threatening claim to Israel, and to Zionism, as it could, at least in theory, threaten the Jewish majority presence in Israel. Whether many Palestinians if given the choice would return to live in Israel so as to reinhabit their ancestral homes seems highly questionable, but the right to do so  unquestionably belongs to Palestinians, at least to those who had previously resided in present Israel.

 

            In these interviews, Mashaal was consistent about the readiness of Hamas to pursue these national goals nonviolently, without “weapons and blood” if Israel were to accept such a framework for peace. His words to CNN in a November 22nd interview are notable in this respect: “We are ready to resort to a peaceful way, purely peaceful way without blood and weapons, as long as we obtain our Palestinian demands.” The extent of “Palestinian  demands” was left unspecified, which does create an ambiguity as to whether this meant accommodation or some kind of rearticulation of a unified Palestinian entity. Also unclear as to whether the peaceful path could precede the end of occupation, or must be a sequel to the existence of a state. In the other direction, Mashaal indicated that once Palestinian statehood was fully realized, then the issue of the acceptance of Israeli legitimacy could be placed on the political agenda. His deputy, Mousa Abu Marzook, in a conversation in Cairo told me in a similar vein that the Hamas Charter pledge to destroy the Zionist state had become “a false issue.” This PhD from Louisiana Tech, an intelligent exponent of Hamas thinking, echoed Mashaal’s moderate approach, and indicated that as with the U.S. Constitution’s treatment of slavery, the Hamas Charter has evolved with changing circumstance, and its clauses subject to modification by interpretation.   

 

            Along similar lines, Mashaal has spoken about Hamas as ‘realistic’ with respect to an appreciation of the balance of forces relative to the conflict, and referred to Arafat’s response to those who insisted that Israel would be at mortal risk if a Palestinian state were to be established on the West Bank. The former PLO leader had pointed out that any Palestinian move to threaten Israel militarily in such circumstances was unthinkable. It would be sure to produce a devastating attack that would crush Palestinian hopes forever.

 

            There is posed a fundamental question: what is the true voice of Hamas? There seems to be a sharp contrast between the fiery language of Mashaal’s words spoken at the anniversary demonstration in Gaza and his far calmer and accommodating tone in interviews and other statements in recent years.  The more hopeful understanding would suggest a gap between the emotional occasion of the speech and the more rational views consistently expressed elsewhere. Such an explanation is the opposite of the Western insistence that only the rally speech gave expression to the authentic outlook of Hama. In contrast, I would accord greater weight given to the moderate formulations, at least for exploratory purposes. Put differently, in Gaza Mashaal was likely expressing a maximalist version of the Palestinian narrative relating to its sense of legitimacy while in more reflective arenas, ever since the entry of Hamas into electoral politics back in 2006, its dominant emphasis has been on pursuing a political track that envisioned long-term peaceful co-existence with Israel, a sidestepping of the legitimacy issues, at least once the occupation was definitively ended and the rights of Palestinian refugees was recognized in accordance with international law.

 

            It can be asked, ‘How can Hamas dare to put forward such a claim in view of the steady rain of rockets that has made life treacherous and miserable for the more than a million Israelis living in the southern part of Israel ever since Israel ‘disengaged’ in 2005?’ Such a rhetorical question repeated over and over again without reference to the siege or Israeli violence has distorted the Western image of the interaction, suggesting that when Israel massively attacks helpless Gaza it is only exercising its defensive rights, which is the most fundamental entitlement of every sovereign state. Again the more accurate interpretation depends on a fuller appreciation of the wider context, which would include the American plot to reverse the outcome of the 2006 electoral victory of Hamas by arming Fatah with heavy weapons, the Israeli punitive blockade since mid-2007, [Vanity Fair, 2008] and many instances of provocative Israeli violence, including a steady stream of targeted assassinations and lethal over-reactions at the Gaza border. Although not the whole story, the one-sided ratio of deaths as between Israel and Palestine is a good first approximation of comparative responsibility over the period of Hamas ascendancy in Gaza, and it is striking. For instance, between the ceasefire in 2009 and the Israeli attack in November 2012, 271 Palestinians were killed and not a single Israeli. [B’Teselm report] The respected Haaretz columnist, Gideon Levy, has pointed out that since the first rockets were launched against Israeli in 2001 59 Israeli have died as compared to 4,717 Palestinians.

 

            The Western media is stunningly oblivious to these complications of perception, almost never disclosing Israeli provocations in reporting on the timelines of the violence of the parties, and fails to acknowledge that it has been the Israelis, not the Palestinians, that have been mostly responsible for ending periods of prolonged truce. There are further confusing elements in the picture, including the presence of some extremist Palestinian militias that launch rockets in defiance of Hamas policy, which in recent years generally limits rockets to retaliatory roles. Among the ironies of the al-Jabari assassination was that it was evidently his role to restrain these militias on  behalf of Hamas, including disciplining those extremists who refused to abide by policies of restricting rocket attacks to retaliatory situations.

 

            There is no doubt that Hamas’ reliance on rockets fired in the direction of Israeli civilian population centers are violations of international humanitarian law, and should be condemned as such, but even this condemnation is not without its problematic aspects. The Goldstone Report did condemn the reliance of these rockets in a typically decontextualized manner, that is, without reference to the unlawfulness of the occupation, including its pronounced reliance on collective punishment in the form of the blockade as well as arbitrary violent incursions, frequent military overflights, and a terrifying regime of subjugation that imparts on Palestinians a sense of total vulnerability and helplessness. The Goldstone Report also was silent as to the nature and extent of a Palestinian right of resistance. Such unconditional condemnations of Hamas as ‘a terrorist organization’ are unreasonably one-sided to the extent that Palestinian moral, political, and legal rights of resistance are ignored and Israel’s unlawful policies are not considered. This issue also reveals a serious deficiency in international humanitarian law, especially, as here, in the context of a prolonged occupation that includes many violations of the most fundamental and inalienable rights of an occupied people. The prerogatives of states are upheld, while those of peoples are overlooked or treated as non-existent.

 

            It is also relevant to take note of the absence of alternative means available to the Palestinians to uphold their rights under international law and to challenge the abuses embedded in Israeli occupation policies. Israel with its drones, Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter aircraft, Iron Dome, and so forth enjoys the luxury of choosing its targets at will, but Palestinians have no such option. For them it is either using the primitive and indiscriminate weaponry at their disposal or essentially giving in to an intolerable status quo. To repeat, this does not make Hamas rockets lawful, but does it make such reliance wrong, given the overall context of violence that includes absolute impunity for Israeli violations of international criminal law? What are we to do with international law when it is invoked only to control the behavior of the weaker party?

 

            It gives perspective to imagine the situation being reversed as it was during the Nazi occupation of France or the Netherlands during World War II. Resistance fighters were uniformly perceived in the liberal West as unconditional heroes, and no critical attention was given as to whether the tactics used unduly imperiled innocent civilian lives. Those who lost their lives in such a resistance were honored as martyrs. Mashaal and other Hamas leaders have made similar arguments on several occasions, in effect asking what are Palestinians supposed to do in the exercise of resistance given their circumstances, which have persisted for so long, given the failures of traditional diplomacy and the UN to secure their rights under international law.

 

            In effect, a sensitive appreciation of context is crucial for a proper understanding, which makes self-satisfied condemnations of the views and tactics of Hamas and Khaled Mashaal misleading and, if heeded, condemns the parties to a destiny of perpetual conflict. The Western mainstream media doesn’t help by presenting the rocket attacks as if taking place in a vacuum, and without relevant Israeli provocations. Of course, Israeli supporters will retort that it is easy to make such assessments from a safe distance, but what is a safe distance? “The risks are ours alone,” they will say with a somewhat understandable hostility. But what about the horrible Palestinian circumstances, are they not also entitled to redress?

 

            Is there a way out of such tragic dilemmas? In my view, only when the stronger side militarily treats ‘the other’ as having grievances and rights, and recognizes that the security of ‘the self’ must be based on mutuality, will sustainable peace have a chance. In this conflict, the Israelis missed a huge opportunity to move in this direction when the weaker Palestinian side made a historic concession by limiting its political ambition to Occupied Palestine (22% of historic Palestine, less than half of what the UN partition plan proposed in 1947) in accord with the consensus image of a solution embodied in Security Council Resolution 242. Instead Israel has sought to encroach further and further on that Palestinian remnant by way of its settlements, separation wall, apartheid roads, and annexationist moves, offering the Palestinians no alternative to oppression than resistance.  It is no wonder that even the accommodationist Palestinian Authority supported the recent Hamas anniversary celebrations, and joined in proclaiming an intention to reconcile, reuniting Hamas and Fatah under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

 

            It is possible to react to the Gaza speech of Khaled Mashaal as the definitive expression of the Hamas creed, but it seems premature and unwise to do so. Instead, it is time to give a balanced diplomacy a chance if indeed there is any political space left for the implementation of the two-state consensus, and if there isn’t, then it is time to explore alternatives, including a return to a unified Palestine that is governed in accordance with human rights standards and international law. If this diplomatic dead end is the stark reality as of 2012, then it must be concluded that the overreaching by the Zionist leadership in Israel, especially its insistence on viewing the West Bank and East Jerusalem as integral to biblical Israel, referencing the former as ‘Judea and Samaria’ and the latter as the eternal Jewish capital, has itself undermined the political, moral, and legal viability of the Zionist Project. These alternative options should long ago have been clarified, and now, by taking to heart ‘the peaceful alternative’ depicted by Mashaal, especially in the aftermath of the General Assembly endorsement of Palestinian statehood and signs of an incipient Palestinian unity, there is one last opportunity to do so, should peace-oriented perspectives on the conflict be given a chance, however remote, to guide our thinking, feelings, and actions. 

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79 Responses to “Hamas, Khaled Mashaal and Prospects for a Sustainable Israel/Palestine Peace”

  1. Mark Selden December 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Richard,

    Thanks for this exceptionally insightful and powerful piece.

    mark

  2. J.Deutsch December 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    wise words. Hopefully there will be enough independent-minded people, especially in the U.S., Israel, Canada, to take them in. Regards, Judy Deutsch

    • Richard Falk December 13, 2012 at 6:36 am #

      Good to hear from you Judy. I am not hopeful about a sensible response
      to recent developments that would lead Israel/U.S. toward exploring what it might mean at this time to seek a balanced peace that deferred to Palestinian rights under international law. Greetings, Richard

    • pipistro December 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

      Thank you.
      100% the thought I had tried to express elsewhere in the blog.

  3. Fred Skolnik December 13, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    Dear Professor Falk

    You have outdone yourself this time. It is as if you were appearing on some kind of reality show and were given the task of convincing viewers, albeit with a broad array of rhetorical devices – a kind of debater’s kit – that something patently false was true, that, say, Germany was justified in invading Europe in World War II. The Germans, after all, had been “unfairly” and “oppressively” dealt with (Versailles), their land had been “stolen” (Alsace-Lorraine, Sudetenland), and therefore they had been forced into extreme measures by understandable circumstances. You can even tack on Walker Percy’s reading of how the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves and you will have a picture that is not appreciably different from the way you wish to represent the wars the Arabs have initiated and the barbaric atrocities they have committed. Furthermore, the logic you are applying would also have justified the organization of terrorist or “terrorist” groups in Occupied Germany and their attacks on innocent Allied civilians inside Germany and across its borders, because the “context” of such attacks would be the “suffering” of the German people, and if German civilians were killed in Allied operations against these terrorists, who used them as human shields, why then, Allied soldiers would be liable to prosecution for war crimes. That is pretty much what you are saying with reference to the Arab-Israel conflict.

    The specific “challenge” you were given in this case was to turn a “fiery” speech reaffirming Hamas’s will to destroy the State of Israel into something that shouldn’t be taken seriously. You understand how problematic this speech is and therefore must somehow get around it. Your approach is to argue that Mashal was led to make extreme statements by his personal circumstances and in any case said something more moderate to Western journalists, namely that he would think about recognizing Israel after 4-5 million Palestinian refugees returned there, though you assure us that not all of them would wish to return. As for the conflict itself, the chief rhetorical device you are using is to put a negative word in front of anything that pertains to Israel’s defense measures and a positive word in front of anything that pertains to terrorist attacks. Israeli measures are therefore always massive, lethal, violent, brutal, provocative, arbitrary, whereas terrorist attacks are desperate, defensive and even feeble – perhaps unlawful but not wrong, to use your words. It is essential for you to assert that Israel is always the one who “starts,” in the language of the street, though this is a fiction that you make no effort to substantiate, and in any case, when you describe the Israeli response, the recent “attack” on Gaza, you downplay or ignore in the course of your argument the fact that the terrorists were engaged at the same time in a massive rocket attack on Israel’s civilian population, which you initially concede is reprehensible but, having made that concession, then go to great lengths to “contextualize,” that is, justify. As a last measure, you even compare Hamas to the French and Dutch resistance against the German army in World War II and seem put out by the fact that the terrorists are not seen as engaged in a heroic enterprise, forgetting for a moment that their actions are directed massively and consistently against Israel’s civilian population.

    There is a world in which your arguments play very well and there is a world in which they are seen for what they are. You are right when you say that the gap between them in unbridgeable. But ultimately the Arab-Israel conflict will not be settled in a blog or a UN report but at the negotiating table. What the final settlement will look like is clear to everyone. It will not include the disappearance of the State of Israel.

    • walker percy December 14, 2012 at 9:17 am #

      fred,
      Thanks for the shout out! I’m glad that you were able to weave a quote from me in your entirely specious analogy about Palestinians being like Germans prior to WW2. I especially like your comment that Falk is trying to convince us that “something patently false was true”, when, from where I am standing, that is the favorite rhetorical method of Zionists, while Falk’s comments seem judicious and impartial (sometimes maddeningly so). The habit of painting black as white is so prevalent in the commentary one reads on sites like Jpost that we have to assume that a strong identification with Zionism somehow causes this kind of shameless, self-serving obfuscation. I suppose that a lifetime of jewish religious observance, with its strong emphasis on “interpreting” ancient text that can be made to mean anything, depending on what one is trying to prove, could be one explanation. I know that you will consider this a highly provocative statement, but I feel that we must begin to look into what is motivating Zionists behavior if we are ever to repair our broken world.
      walker

  4. rehmat1 December 13, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    I’m least surprised that Meshaal speech was mistranslated by Israeli Memri to sound like Iranian president Dr. Ahmadinejad’s misquoted statement six years ago: “Wipe Israel off map”, which he never said in Persian. What he said was: “A Middle East without Zionism”. Anyone who has studied the history of the region from an objective source would know that it were the European Zionist Jew terrorists who erased a 5,000 old Palestine from world map.

    Meshaal could not have said such fate for Israel – which has been predicted by several Jew intellectuals such as Henry Kissinger, Gilad Atzmon, Roger Tucker, Jeff Blankfort and others. Meshaal has already joined the joined the enemies of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ (Iran-Hizballah-Syria) and residing in a posh villa provided by US-Israeli puppet Qatari Emir.

    Last week, the Zionist regime allowed King Abullah II of Jordan and Khaled Meshaal to enter Gaza – but threatened to kill Ramadan Shalah, leader of Islamic Jihad if he accompanied Meshaal. Last month, Netanyahu canceled Israeli airstrikes for three hours during Egyptian prime minister’s visit to Gaza. That shows who’re the double agents!

    http://rehmat1.com/2012/12/11/israels-enemy-netanyahu-or-hamas/

    • Richard Falk December 13, 2012 at 6:40 am #

      Rehmat:

      I almost discarded your comment because of the anti-Semetic overtones of ‘Jew intellectuals.’ I refrained because the substance of your remarks were valuable, and I thought maybe it was an innocent mistake of usage, the appropriate form of which would be ‘Jewish intellectuals.’ I hope that you appreciate the distinction. Best, Richard

  5. Fred Skolnik December 13, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    I cannot help also noting your quickness to quote Gideon Levy: “The respected Haaretz columnist, Gideon Levy, has pointed out that since the first rockets were launched against Israeli in 2001 59 Israeli have died as compared to 4,717 Palestinians.” Calling him “respected,” which he is only insofar as Israel haters are concerned, does not make his figures honest, which they are not. He is saying that 59 Israelis have been killed in rocket attacks, finding it convenient to disregard the number of Israelis who have been killed otherwise. Hamas itself boasts of having killed 910 “Zionists” since 2001. Add to this the “Zionists” killed by the other terror groups and the documented number approaches 1,100. Hamas also admits to losing 1,697 of its own members. Add to this the members of the other terror groups that have ben killed since 2001 and then subtract the total from Levy’s unverifiable figure and you get a result that looks a little different from what you are trying to suggest.

  6. deepaktripathi December 13, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Many thanks, Richard, for this excellent piece. It is republished on my blog––Reflections.

    http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/hamas-khaled-mashaal-and-prospects-for-a-sustainable-israelpalestine-peace/.

  7. Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Prof. Falk,

    Khaled Misshaal is a big boy who requires no apologist. If he misspoke in a moment of passion, as you assert, let him clarify his position now that the moment has passed. If his Hamas colleagues don’t share his perspective, let them disassociate themselves from it. Events will play out as Mishaal and Hamas want them to play out. Until them, your elaborate defense of him is irrelevant.

    Instead of finding excuses for Mishaal’s jihadiism, and somehow managing to implicate Israel, perhaps you should have been disheartened, or outraged, that the first policy statement by this Palestinian leader following the UN’s resolution granting Palestinian statehood reiterated in the strongest possible terms Hamas’ oft-stated intention to dismantle a UN member state “stone by stone”. The UN’s decision was motivated in no small measure by the PA’s acceptance of the Quartet’s three-fold criteria, which Mishaal rejected with extreme prejudice. Your defense of his bellicosity is particularly odd when coming from an official of the UN’s Commission on Human Rights

    You urge that greater credence be given to Mishaal’s more gentle rhetoric prior to the UN vote. A more plausible case can be made for regarding his earlier words as tailored to gain a positive vote, while the latter ones express the real Mishaal/Hamas.

    Meanwhle, Mishaal’s greatest problems are not with Israel, Diaspora Jews, the United States or rehmat!’s “Jew intellectuals,” but with Fatah. While calling for Hamas-Fatah unity, Mishaal rejected in no uncertain terms Fatah’s stated commitment to seeking peace with Israel through a negotiated two-state solution.

    In short, Khaled Mishaal has mocked the UN by presenting Palestine in an image it didn’t endorse for statehood, and undermined prospects for internal Palestinian reconciliation. There isn’t enough whitewash in the world to cover up these inconvenient truths.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Richard Falk December 14, 2012 at 8:33 am #

      Rabbi Youdovin:

      What I have been arguing is that there are what you call ‘inconvenient truths’
      on both sides. Hamas was never enthusiastic about the UN statehood bid under present conditions, which include an Israeli occupation that with each passing day makes the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, as envisioned in Article 242, increasingly implausible, yet Israel’s leaders on the public stage continues to endorse such a goal. My point is to say let’s test the more moderate posture of both sides by exploring whether there is any way to live together in peace, and that this cannot happen unless Hamas is brought in from the cold. And it is true, as you allege, that I hold Israel far more responsible than the Palestinians for making it almost unimaginable at this point to find mutually acceptable ‘space’ (territory + rights) to make such
      an benevolent outcome possible.

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 15, 2012 at 4:52 am #

        Richard,

        How many times do I have to post on this blog my opposition to the Occupation before you stop accusing me of supporting it? And not only on this blog but also in an op ed published last week in the Jerusalem Post.

        You write: “My point is to say let’s test the more moderate posture of both sides by exploring whether there is any way to live together in peace, and that this cannot happen unless Hamas is brought in from the cold.” I concur. But Hamas cannot be brought in from the cold unless it renounces its intention to dismantle Israel “stone by stone.” In this regard, apologetics such your sanitizing Mashaal’s unambiguous bellicosity serve only to shield Hamas from facing the key question of whether it really wants to live in peaceful co-existence with Israel…just as Israel must face the key question of whether it’s willing to live within borders drawn “on the basis” of the Green Line, as the UN’s recent resolution states. A Hamas committed to Palestine “from the sea to the river” cannot endorse UNres 242 (or 181 and 338) unless it sees Israel’s withdrawing to the 1967 lines as a tactic for Hamas positioning its rocket launchers closer to Israel’s heartland.

        Moreover, bringing in Hamas before it makes the aforementioned change would constitute a betrayal of Fatah, which is demonstrating its desire for peaceful co-existence by cooperating with Israel to improve living conditions and security on the West Bank. This policy, which you unfairly denounce as “collaborationist,” has resulted in Zone A being entirely under Palestinian control and Zone B moving in that direction. The West Bank economy has improved dramatically, the number of checkpoints has been reduced and inspection requirements eased. Much has yet to be accomplished, specifically in Zone C, where the future of Israeli settlements and Israeli-only roads needs to be determined through negotiations.

        I’m not suggesting that the Likud government is doing everything possible to achieve peace (also stated in my Jerusalem Post op ed). Although Israel was justified in opposing the UN resolution on the grounds that the PÅ is violating its commitment (in Oslo and Madrid) not to pursue independent action, its imposing sanctions was wrongheaded in a variety of ways. However, Israel under any leadership would be caught in an internal Palestinian conflict between Fatah and Hamas that can be resolved only by the two parties. Your insistence that Israel negotiate with both is both unrealistic and unfair.

        Apropos, I must ask why you never mention Salaam Fayyad, with whom I recently met in his Ramallah office? If your “point is to say let’s test the more moderate posture of both sides by exploring whether there is any way to live together in peace…”, how can you ignore a Palestinian leader who is working full time to make this happen?

        There are other issues I’d like to raise, but this post is already too long. But I cannot close without acknowledging that your recent responses to me and other of your critics have been written in a way that promotes authentic dialogue on very difficult issues.

        Shalom,

        Ira

    • walker percy December 14, 2012 at 9:23 am #

      Is Ken Kelso a pseudonym for Barry Meridian, or is it the other way around?

  8. Fred Skolnik December 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Professor Falk

    I’m sorry to see that you have again deleted Ken Kelso’s remarks, for there is a good deal there that might serve to shatter the complacency of your readers and which you yourself would do well to consider, however crude they may seem to you.

    He writes:

    “The PR shots of Yassin in his wheelchair will be remembered by those that don’t see the crippled Jewish bodies of all those that he ordered to be bombed by Hamas…. Does Falk realize who Yassin was? There’s nothing spiritual about a mass murderer.”

    This is with reference to your characterization of Yassin as Hamas’s “disabled spiritual founder.” Is his disability really relevant when he ordered the murder of dozens if not hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians in suicide bombings? You are implying that he is, in plain English, a helpless cripple and that therefore Israel is doubly culpable in killing him and in this you are again manipulating your readers with what I have to call a very cheap rhetorical device.

    What troubles me even more is your reliance on the discredited Palestine DCI (fabricators of the Jenin massacre story) as a source for the allegations you make against Israel in your UN reports (including the sexual abuse of Palestinian children). I think it would be fair to say that any historian relying on the kind of sources you are uncritically using in these reports would simply be laughed off the stage.

    You write to Rabbi Youdovin that Israel’s settlement activity makes the establishment of a Palestinian state “almost unimaginable.” On the contrary, many people on both sides have found it very easy to imagine. As I’ve written more than once, it will involve a trade-off of territory and the dismantlement of Israeli settlements outside the large settlement blocs adjacent to the green line. It’s worth noting that Wadi Ara in the north has been proposed as a candidate for such a transfer of sovereignty to the Palestinian state, but then again the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs living there in “apartheid” Israel do not want their land and homes to come under Palestinian rule. I wonder why. Perhaps you can tell me.

    You also write that Hamas must be brought into the peace process. Hamas doesn’t have to be brought anywhere. Sooner or later, one way or another, it will simply take over the West Bank and this is a prospect that will make Israelis very reluctant to end the occupation and wake up one morning with rocket launchers staring them in the face 15 feet from Jewish Jerusalem. I think Netanyahu has stated very clearly what the peace process has to look like and where it must lead, namely to mutual recognition, an end to the conflict and a state of peace. Mutual recognition means that Israel will recognize Palestine as the Palestinian state and the Palestinians will recognize Israel as the Jewish state. The end of the conflict means that once an agreement is reached it will be final, with both sides relinquishing all future claims – Israel to West Bank territory, Palestine to a return of refugees beyond whatever has been agreed upon. Peace means an end to hostile actions, namely an end to Hamas, its terror and its apocalyptic visions. This is the only process that can result in a Palestinian state.

    • Richard Falk December 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      Mr Skolnik:

      I have indicated again and again that I am not prepared to have comments that are grounded in personal attacks, insulting language, and the like. If Ken Kelso has serious substantive comments, I would post them, and I do not deny that in the course of what he writes, there are issues that deserve discussion. If his intention is to slur my reputation and that of others, then he has to find other websites of which there are plenty.

      On the viability of two states, I read the evidence differently than you do, although part of me hopes that your assessment proves correct. On Hamas, I appreciate the concerns, but I see a consistent pattern in the last several years of moving in a more ‘realistic’ direction, although without renouncing their basic ideological stance. What you are asking strikes as the equivalent of a wrestler with a neck lock on his helpless opponent asking him to accept the validity of the outcome; the two sides are not equal. Mashaal has said that the issue of Israeli statehood can be discussed, but only after a Palestinian state exists, not in the eyes of the General Assembly, but as a reality on the ground.

  9. DaBkr December 15, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    not surprising that when a comment as unambiguous as was Meshaals pledge to never accept the legitimacy of ANY Israeli State from the north to south and river to sea he immediately needs to have said comments ‘explained’ by an ‘expert’ who will shed light on what the man ‘really’ means. Just as G.Levy continues to lose more and more of the credibility he may have once had (e.g. his half-hearted apology for citing the bogus ‘apartheid’ poll) it would seem that to the people he claims it matters to most-mainstream Israelis would be the least likely to consider an out and out apologist (yes-making excuses for a speech promising “no compromise, ever” as a tactic) as having any credibility as far as their legitimate interests are concerned. I can only imagine how Falk would excoriate Netanyahu if he dared make a comment as warmongering as Meshaal. An add to that if he then surrounded himself with the weapons of death like the fajr-5 mock-ups that surrounded these so-called ‘peace seeking’ Hamas leaders

  10. DaBkr December 15, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    apologizing for Jabari? Now I have heard everything. If ever there was a legitimate military target-the general responsible for coordinating the manufacture and delivery of Iranian missiles into Gaza with the sole intention of launching them indiscriminately at Israeli civilian targets was it.

    • pipistro December 15, 2012 at 9:07 am #

      “Since “Operation Cast Lead”, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, 271 Palestinians were killed by Israeli, bombs, rockets, drones and warplanes, and during the same period not a single Israeli was killed.”
      Yes, apologize, and not only for Jabari. The world has heard anything hasbrats keep on saying to defend the indefensible. Time to understand how much ludicrously the story goes on.

  11. David Singer December 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk

    Glad to see you now have some time to respond to those commenting on your blog.

    Could you please answer these two questions that I have asked of you before.

    1. What in your opinion are the actions done by Israel that could have justified the indiscriminate firing of over 12000 rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian population centres since 2001?

    2. Would such actions by Israel be a defence to the charge of committing war crimes against those who fired the rockets OR is the criminal liability for firing such rockets – when proved beyond all reasonable doubt- absolute?”

    • Richard Falk December 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

      Mr. Singer:

      I cannot answer such questions in this decontextualized form. This was the whole point of my blog that you are commenting upon. If you contextualize the questions in relation to Israel’s various actions and policies (e.g. violent incursions, overflights, excessive force, blockade, etc..) I will give it a try.

      • walker percy December 16, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

        Professor Falk,
        Mr. Singer was not asking you those questions because he wanted a response. This kind of questioning tone is common in exchanges I have had with extreme zionists. It comes off vaguely Talmudic, but also litigious, and peevish. They are daring you to say something mildly aggressive in response to their hectoring so they can apply the usual inverted logic to show how you (and not they) are violent racists.
        Walker Percy

      • david singer December 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

        Professor Falk

        Do violent incursions,overflights,excessive force or blockade justify the indiscriminate shooting of rockets into civilian population centers?

      • Richard Falk December 16, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

        No.

        This is the limit of my response to such rhetorical questions.

      • pipistro December 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

        You throw some children into a box and you pour some hot oil at them. At last – they are half burned – they reply with a sling and throws some pebbles at you. And you ask if their reaction is justified? Such a question would be a ludicrous phantasy if it wasn’t a fact.

      • david singer December 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

        Professor Falk has apparently far more commonsense than you.

        He asked for specific questions which i posed to him and which he has answered.

      • david singer December 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

        Professor Falk has apparently far more commonsense than you.

        He asked for specific questions which i posed to him and which he has answered.

        Have you any disagreement with his answer?

      • pipistro December 18, 2012 at 9:12 am #

        On one thing I agree, at last, Prof. Falk has probably more commonsense than I.
        Definitely I could appreciate his extreme courtesy in answering any question, even if baseless and/or unworthy – in my humble opinion – of consideration whatever.
        By the way, you did not answer to my question about the burned children who cast pebbles at their torturers. Or is it a useless rethoric question?

  12. david singer December 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk

    Thank you for your unequivocal one word answer. That is my view too. We are making headway.

    Perhaps you can now use your good offices and contacts with Hamas to get them to end all indiscriminate firing of rockets and other missiles.from Gaza into civilian population centers in Israel.

    While you are at it you might get Hamas to reconsider removing these provisions from its Charter:

    “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. No Arab country nor the aggregate of all Arab countries, and no Arab King or President nor all of them in the aggregate, have that right, nor has that right any organization or the aggregate of all organizations, be they Palestinian or Arab, because Palestine is an Islamic Waqf throughout all generations and to the Day of Resurrection.(Article 11)

    “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility. The Palestinian people are too noble to have their future, their right and their destiny submitted to a vain game (Article 13).

    ” When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad. This would require the propagation of Islamic consciousness among the masses on all local, Arab and Islamic levels. We must spread the spirit of Jihad among the [Islamic] Umma, clash with the enemies and join the ranks of the Jihad fighters. The ‘ulama as well as educators and teachers, publicity and media men as well as the masses of the educated, and especially the youth and the elders of the Islamic Movements, must participate in this raising of consciousness. (Article 15)

    “The Zionist invasion is a mischievous one. It does not hesitate to take any road, or to pursue all despicable and repulsive means to fulfill its desires. It relies to a great extent, for its meddling and spying activities, on the clandestine organizations which it has established, such as the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions, and other spying associations. All those secret organizations, some which are overt, act for the interests of Zionism and under its directions, strive to demolish societies, to destroy values, to wreck answerableness, to totter virtues and to wipe out Islam. It stands behind the diffusion of drugs and toxics of all kinds in order to facilitate its control and expansion. The Arab states surrounding Israel are required to open their borders to the Jihad fighters, the sons of the Arab and Islamic peoples, to enable them to play their role and to join their efforts to those of their brothers among the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The other Arab and Islamic states are required, at the very least, to facilitate the movement of the Jihad fighters from and to them. We cannot fail to remind every Muslim that when the Jews occupied Holy Jerusalem in 1967 and stood at the doorstep of the Blessed Aqsa Mosque, they shouted with joy: “Muhammad is dead, he left daughters behind.” Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. “Let the eyes of the cowards not fall asleep.” (Article 28)

    Statements such as these are in my opinion one of the principal obstacles to any peaceful resolution of the conflict.

    Do you agree?

    • Richard Falk December 17, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      Mr. Singer: I notice you do not pose any hard questions for Israel, or offer
      responses to them. Why settlements in an occupied territory? Why collective punishment of an entire political community (Gaza)? Why harrassment of fisherman off the Gaza coast? It is Israel that holds almost all the cards in
      the conflict and must take the lead in creating conditions for peaceful resolution.

    • Art-M December 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      David Singer makes excellent points. The Hamas charter is very clear! More broadly, we must pay close attention to what they say in their own language to their own people, and take with a huge grain of salt any “moderate” comments made in English. Between the charter and the fiery rhetoric, they are clearly communicating their true intentions. Comments in English are — very obviously — to draw sympathy and ameliorate the concerns of the English speaking world.

  13. david singer December 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk

    In reply to your “hard questions” let me respond as follows:

    1. Why settlements in occupied territory?

    Because Jews have the legal right to settle in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip pursuant to the rights conferred on them to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in Palestine under the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter and particularly to settle on state lands and waste lands not required for public purposes as set out in Article 6 of the Mandate.

    Jews had done so prior to being driven out in 1948 from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and prior to 2005 when they unilaterally disengaged from Gaza.

    Their legal right to again return and settle in these areas has never been ceded.

    Allocation of Jewish and Arab claims to sovereignty in these areas remains in dispute to be resolved by negotiations commenced under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap..

    It could be possibly argued that sovereignty is currently vested in the United Nations as the reversioner from Great Britain as the former Mandatory Authority for East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. If this view is correct then the United Nations would be bound to act in accordance with the terms of the Mandate and Article 80 of the UN Charter by encouraging close settlement by Jews on state lands and waste lands not required for public purposes (Article 6 Mandate for Palestine). .

    There has been no definitive legal ruling to my knowledge that has considered and dealt with any of the above legal arguments and ruled for or against them.

    The Report of the Levy Committee has endorsed the applicability of the Mandate and article 80 to these disputed territories.

    Whether these vested legal rights should be pursued or ceded by the Jewish people is a political matter that one can debate.

    Alleging the settlements are illegal in international law without any binding ruling to support that claim is simply wrong.

    2. Why collective punishment of an entire political community (Gaza)?

    Israel declared Gaza an “enemy entity” on 19 September 2007. Hamas responded by saying such declaration was an act of war.

    That is the reality in which everything has happened since.

    There are certainly restrictions on whom and what Israel will allow to move in and out of Gaza and for good reason. To call that “collective punishment” is surely gilding the lily.

    There are other avenues of access and egress from Gaza other than through Israel. If Gaza wants to get goods denied access through Israel it has the means to do so. If people want to leave Gaza they can do so.

    Given the Hamas Charter and the election of Hamas to power in Gaza by that political community and its continuing unwavering support for Hamas – Israel has good reason to act as it does.

    There is also the deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of Israeli population centers by rockets and missiles fired from Gaza.without any attempt by Hamas to prevent the commission of what you yourself have acknowledged are indefensible war crimes.

    Must Israel just cop this Jew-hating abuse endemic in the Charter and the collective punishment of its civilian population and take no steps to stop it?

    3. Why harrassment of fisherman off the Gaza coast?

    Your question is naive.

    Smuggling weaponry into Gaza presents a security threat to Israel and doing it by sea is constantly attempted. The Karine A incident is a prime example. Israel is entitled to take steps to prevent its repetition.

    Someone’s fisherman can be another’s arms smuggler.

    Whilst Hamas operates under the terms of its Charter – the threat to eradicate the State of Israel is real and is supported by the constant hostile statements emanating from its leaders.

    Attempts to further those hostile objectives need to be prevented as best as is possible.

    Hopefully I have answered your questions. If you have any more please do not hesitate to ask them – and I will try to answer them..

    In return could you now answer the question I posed to you:

    Do you agree that the statements I quoted to you from the Hamas Charter are one of the principal obstacles to any peaceful resolution of the conflict?

    A one word response -“Yes” or “No” – will again be sufficient.

    • walker percy December 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

      David, you are insufferable. Your partisan views are obviously driven by your ethnic identification as a Jew, and that disqualifies you as an impartial commentator. You and your zionist friends have done something abominable, and you must apologize on your knees or suffer the world’s enmity and, horrifying as it is to contemplate only 65 years since the last time, its retribution. I recommend you enjoy your life in Australia and stop contributing to this endless, stupid controversy in the Middle East. Your actions are damaging the reputation of Jews around the world.

      • david singer December 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

        walker percy

        You are at it again – hurling abusive personal insults at me in an attempt to shoot the messenger – whilst refusing to discuss the message.

        Professor Falk asked me three “hard questions” which I have answered. If you find anything that you wish to disagree with in those answers then please feel to raise your objections – not waste your time spewing out your vile comments about me personally and Jews generally.

        Aren’t Jews allowed to have opinions? Do you hate Jews so much that you can write in the manner you do? Why should 6.25 million Jews have to suffer the world’s enmity and its retribution for reconstituting the Jewish National Home in Palestine as determined by the League of Nations and the United Nations?

        Are there any other groups that you consider deserving of similar enmity and retribution at the hands of the world?

        Professor Falk and I have already agreed that the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli population centers in Israel constitute war crimes to which there is no defence.

        Common ground needs to be found on so many other issues in this conflict if there is to be any hope of its peaceful resolution.

        The three questions asked by Professor Falk deal with some of those issues.

        Hopefully Professor Falk will consider my responses and point out any objections he has with my answers to his questions so that civilized dialogue – not personal abuse and invective – can see whether there is common ground that can also be reached on my responses.

        I am happy to answer any questions that are put to me by Professor Falk (or anyone else) as best I can.

        Personal abuse hurled at me and Jews because you don’t like the answers and are incapable of responding to them in any constructive manner is shameful and disgraceful.

        I hope Professor Falk and I can agree on this issue as well..

      • walker percy December 18, 2012 at 8:54 am #

        David,

        Thanks for your response. Sorry if my remarks seem abusive to you, but frankly, there seems to be no other way to get the attention of extreme Zionists, to let them know that their actions are being observed and are considered beyond the pale, not just for me, but for most people in every country other than the US and Canada (but that is changing: see below).

        You plaintively ask, “Why should 6.25 million Jews have to suffer the world’s enmity and its retribution for reconstituting the Jewish National Home in Palestine?” But you have answered your own question. The problem is that there are 2 billion Muslims in the world, so their wishes take precedence over yours. Jews in the Middle East have humiliated and emasculated their Muslim neighbors and so created a large population of young men (and women!) who have dedicated their lives to the restoration of Muslim dignity, at any cost, including their own deaths. We reject or ignore their views at our peril, as we saw on 9-11.

        Pamela Geller proclaims her belief that Muslims are savages, and she is happy to trumpet her views in advertisements in the New York City subways. But many more of us are starting to question whether it is worth supporting Jewish behavior in the Middle East, because we now have access to the facts of this matter, and we are learning to tune out miscreants like Geller, who are pushing for Holy War in the 21st century!

        David, your reading of the legality of Israel’s action is irrelevant, and you should know that your statements make you look like you will always support the Zionist project regardless of the righteousness of any Palestinian claims. You endlessly repeat arguments that legal experts like Falk reject as being impossible to adjudicate. Rather than try to decipher the intention of the Balfour Declaration and UN actions at the time of Israel’s formation, it is time to admit that this dispute can be seen from a variety of perspectives, but now it must be resolved because the world has become dangerously imbalanced. This means that Israel must become a democracy, and all of the Palestinian refugees welcomed home, where they will be given a vote, as in every other “civilized” country. I know that this will make many Jews feel sad, because they believe that their traditions and lifestyle are very beautiful and must be preserved. But the rest of us disagree, and with the collapse of the American evangelical movement, the large group of easily-led US voters whom Zionists have tricked into supporting them appears to be withering. Obama can soon stop worrying about them, so he will be in a better position to thwart the Israel lobby and begin repairing the damage that has been done by one very, very tiny group that has exerted disproportionate influence.

        Walker

      • Richard Falk December 18, 2012 at 9:31 am #

        Walker:

        Thanks for your clarifying response, with which I essentially agree.

        Also, both tactically and ethically I think it is unacceptable to attack
        those with whom you disagree because of their ethnicity, in this case because
        of being Jewish. Agains I share
        your sense that extreme Zionist perspectives are not interested in genuine
        discussion, but seek to engage in arguments in which they already have assured
        answers.

        I also understand and share much of your frustration arising in the context
        of such exchanges of views. I have trying to do my best to see whether it is
        possible to maintain an atmosphere of civility in which to discuss such issues
        that are deeply felt. I have found that it is with the exception of this
        contested Israel/Palestine terrain.

        Richard

      • walker percy December 18, 2012 at 11:09 am #

        Richard, thanks for your response. While I admire your equanimity and insistence on decorum, I believe that excessive deference to Jewish sensitivities has, in part, encouraged their bad behavior. In America, there is a taboo about saying anything negative about Jews, because of the Holocaust. Now, they find themselves immune to criticism, so their behavior gets worse and worse. This is typically what happens if you give a child too many toys, or if you indulge his every whim and praise him even when he is naughty. That’s what turns children into brats. This is “not OK”, and once you become aware of what is happening, it is very difficult to continue making excuses either for the kid or the parents. Since we can’t actually spank them, sharp language is the next best option.
        Walker

      • Richard Falk December 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

        Walker: I agree with your assessment about the taboo, and its scandalous exploitation to deter criticisms
        of Israel, but I feel that it is inappropriate to fall back upon attacks on Jews as Jews,
        or for that matter, of any people, including Germans as Germans. It produces inevitably
        stereotyping that has been linked to the most virulent forms of anti-Semitism in the past.
        I do think there is room for scholarly inquiry into the Jewish mindset, etc., that is associated
        with biblical texts and cultural norms, which is why I have endorsed Gilad Atzmon’s book.

        Richard

      • Fred Skolnik December 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

        Dear Prof. Falk

        There is something a little unsavory in what you are saying here as you congratulate your admirer for his antisemitic nonsense while seeming to disavow his antisemitism. What on earth are you talking about with your Bible-based Jewish mindset and scholarly research? American Jews are as far removed from biblical mindsets as you are. To the extent that they support Israel or see the Holocaust as something that is connected to them, they are responding in a very human way to their own history and the struggles of their own people. As for Zionism itself, it responds to the totality of the Jewish experience, which extends over a period of at least 3,500 years. Its aim was to build a modern country which would serve as a haven for Jews and allow them to build a national life. You seem to regard perfectly normal impulses as something freakish or pathological that have to be scientifically dissected when they pertain to Jews. It is, I think, the disavowal of one’s own people that is pathological and deserving of dissection. It amazes me that after reading the comments of your Walker Percy week after week you can find something there to identify with. It does not enhance your stature.

      • Richard Falk December 18, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

        Mr. Skolnik:

        I am genuinely sorry that you feel that way. I do not question the genuineness of your
        presentation of the Zionist and Jewish experience, but part of that experience, which is
        of value to me is to treat the ‘other’ justly, and I find this to be a failure of political
        Zionist as it has been put into practice by the leadership of Israel.

        There is also a deep tension between creating a state that privileges a single people and
        the basic impulse of the human rights tradition to treat all people equally with respect
        to human dignity. In this sense I question the idea of an ethnic/religious state whether it
        be Israel or Iran or Saudi Arabia. In our era the inter-mingling of peoples on the planet
        has gone so far as to make it necessary for the survival of the species that we be ‘human’
        before we be ‘American’ or ‘Dutch’ or ‘Catholic,’ etc..

        I know these are difficult issues, and I speak at distance from your reality, but I must trust
        my own experience and perceptions, although ready to reconsider them when the evidence against
        them become persuasive.

        Sincerely,

        Richard Falk

      • Fred Skolnik December 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

        Professor Falk

        You are mistakenly projecting the way you think about Diaspora Jews onto the way you think about Israel. Israel is not an ethnic/religious state. It is a national state that is Jewish in the same way that France is French and Spain is Spanish. That was the whole Zionist idea – to create a normal Jewish state in the historic national homeland of the Jewish people. In this state, Arabs are a national minority, whose primary identity is with a greater Arab world that is hostile to the State of Israel, and that is the root of any discrimination they encounter in Israel, which is of course reprehensible but reflective of a very problematic situation. Nonetheless, the list of “privileges” that they enjoy together with other Israeli citizens is such, as I pointed out with reference to Wadi Ara, that they would refuse, as surveys show, to have their land and homes transferred to Palestinian sovereignty. And that, I think, should be a persuasive enough reason for you to reconsider your “experience and perceptions” in this regard.

    • David Singer December 21, 2012 at 3:43 am #

      Dear Professor Falk

      I am still awaiting your response to the answers I supplied to the three hard questions you posed and your agreement or otherwise as to whether the articles of the Hamas Charter I quoted are one of the principal obstacles to a resolution of the conflict.

      Sorry but I need to object to your following statement:

      “The whole purpose of my article on Mashaal was to convey my belief that Hamas’ real position is one of accepting a compromise based on the 1967 borders (which is only 22% of historic Palestine, and half of what the UN partition plan allocated to the Palestinians in 1947″

      My comments:

      1. There were no 1967 borders – only armistice lines

      2. The West Bank,Gaza and East Jerusalem are only 5% of historic Palestine, Israel is 17% of historic Palestine and Jordan comprises the remaining 78% of Palestine.

      3.The Palestinian Arabs rejected what was offered to them by the UN partition plan in 1947 and chose to unify the West Bank and East Jerusalem with Transjordan in 1950 when that country was renamed Jordan.

      4. At no time between 1950-1967 was there any attempt to create an independent Arab state between Israel and Jordan when not one Jew lived in these areas after all of them had been driven out in the 1948 War between the newly declared state of Israel and six invading Arab armies.

      Can we agree on these facts?

      • Richard Falk December 21, 2012 at 10:54 am #

        Mr. Singer:

        There is no point in this dialogue. You subscribe to a historical narrative that is rejected by virtually every government and international law expert in the world. I share the view that regardless of the Jordan dimension of the evolution of historic Palestine, the Palestinian people are entitled legally,
        morally, and politically to an independent sovereign state in that portion of Palestine that was occupied by Israel after the Six Day War in 1967. This consensus position underlies the unanimous UN Security Council Res. 242, and has been reaffirmed in numerous other settings, including the Roadmap.

        Don’t let’s waste each other’s time any further, given this discrepancy in our
        divergent understandings of the situation. Seasonal greetings.

        Richard Falk

      • David Singer December 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

        Dear Professor Falk

        I must say I am surprised at your response.

        You asked me three hard questions. I gave you my answers and now you refuse to discuss them and tell me where you disagree.

        I asked you a question about the provisions of the Hamas Charter. You refuse to answer.

        You have now asserted that the West Bank is 22% of historic Palestine and Israel comprises the remaining 78%. I have challenged your statement and you refuse to discuss it. Why?

        Article 2 of the PLO Charter expressly states:

        ” Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.”

        The Mandate contained present day Jordan until 1946 – which comprised 78% of the territory of the Mandate.

        Why should Jordan not be a part of the two-state solution in creating a new state between Jordan and Israel?? Why only Israel? Jordan has been part of the problem since the establishment of the Mandate in 1920. Why shouldn’t it also now be part of the solution?

        Surely we should be trying to bridge our divergent views of the situation and not run away from them by refusing to discuss them.

        Now you raise another matter on which I must take issue with you – Security Council Resolution 242 – which does not – as you assert – require Israel to withdraw from 100% of the territory occupied in the Six Day War.

        Are you going to refuse to discuss this matter as well?

      • Richard Falk December 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

        Mr. Singer:

        I tried to explain. I know in advance that I could never convince you because you accept as valid some historical materials and interpretations that I do not accept, and have no time to present my argument. I am not interested at this point in going behind the international consensus that is embodied in SC Resolution 242, and has been endless reaffirmed. There are certain disagreements that are too fundamental to make useful continued restatement of opposing positions.

        On Hamas Charter, I take it as one face in a larger context, and balance it against many signals of a willingness to abandon violence and adopt a coexistence approach for the indefinite future provided there occurs an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries. Hamas support for the PLO statehood resolution was also a tacit acceptance of a historic compromise. I favor exploring whether this more moderate interpretation can be put into practice.
        That is all.

      • David Singer December 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

        Professor Falk

        We both agree that SC Resolution 242 is the international consensus and has been endlessly reaffirmed.

        We however disagree as to what the Resolution means.

        We need to see if we can reach common ground on its meaning because common agreement is fundamental if the peace process is to be advanced.

        You apparently understand that the resolution means that Israel is obliged to withdraw from all the territory it occupied in the Six Day War.

        I believe the resolution does not demand israeli withdrawal from 100% of that territory.

        Why do you not have the time to tell us why your meaning of the resolution is correct when it is contrary to the meaning ascribed by those who drafted the resolution – which is the meaning I have accepted?

        You are perfectly entitled to explore what Hamas’s Intentions really are. I have not sought to criticise you for that even though I think you are being extremely naive – given the clear meaning of the provisions of the Hamas Charter that I quoted to you.

        Perhaps I can rephrase my question to you as follows:

        “Does the failure of Hamas to revoke the provisions of the Hamas Charter that I referred you to constitute a major obstacle to Hamas being prepared to accept compromise based on the 1967 borders?”

        Hopefully you can answer that question “Yes” or “No”

        Again we appear to have a difference as to the meaning of the term “Palestine”. Does it include Jordan or not? Can the PLO Charter which has included Jordan as part of Palestine be ignored? Why should Jordan not be part of any solution if it is part of former Palestine?

        Closing the door on any discussion of the meaning of words that we all use every day with obviously different meanings is sure ground for continuing disagreement and conflict until we all agree on the meaning of those words we are using.

        So lets try and find common agreement on the meaning of terms such as “Security Council Resolution 242″ and “Palestine” .

        If we can – the possibilities of solutions based on our common agreement can work miracles in bringing about solutions that can help end the conflict that has plagued the Middle East for the last 130 years.

        Any solutions can never present themselves whilst we continue to talk at cross purposes using terms which have different meanings to those using them.

        I urge you to reconsider.

      • Richard Falk December 23, 2012 at 7:11 am #

        Mr. Singer

        It is a reasonable proposal, but to respond, because I honestly do not know of
        any serious disagreement the core meaning of SC Res 242 (beyond border adjustments), what is the source and nature of your reading.

        On Hamas, I do not believe I am naive, but trying to understand as best I can
        what is their real position. You cite the Charter and perhaps the Mashaal speech, but I acknowledge these, but point to other signals that suggest two things, confirmed in conversation: a readiness to abandon violent forms of resistance and a long-term pact of coexistence. Why not take a risk that this more optimistic reading of Hamas intentions is correct? What would be lost?

      • Art M. December 23, 2012 at 9:26 am #

        Professor Falk. A decade ago Arafat denounced and condemned terrorist attacks IN ENGLISH. This was reported in Western media and it sounded reassuring. But in his own language, to his own people, he called them martyrs. They named roads after the mass murderers. They built museum exhibits. And the terrorism continued. The history is very clear. As much as we might prefer to accept comments made by Hamas geared to the Western audence, these are irrelevant when it comes to predicting Hamas actions. The charter and the fiery rhetoric presented to Arab audiences tell us very precisely what to expect.
        Art

      • Richard Falk December 23, 2012 at 10:24 am #

        Art:

        I understand these concerns. I am only asking that we look at both sides of the picture. These leaders need to deal with contradictory audiences, as does Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders who say one thing to settlers, another at the UN and in Washington. I see signals of moderation that should be tested, that is all. Nothing would be lost. In Arafat’s case, on the Palestinian side there were constant worries that he was selling out the Palestinian cause because he was so eager to preside over a state.

        Richard

      • david singer December 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

        Professor Falk

        My interpretation of SC 242 is based on these statements from the persons who played key roles in drafting the resolution – British Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Eugene Rostow.

        In an article in The New Republic, “Resolved: are the settlements legal? Israeli West Bank policies,” (Oct. 21, 1991) Rostow wrote

        “Five-and-a-half months of vehement public diplomacy in 1967 made it perfectly clear what the missing definite article in Resolution 242 means. Ingeniously drafted resolutions calling for withdrawals from “all” the territories were defeated in the Security Council and the General Assembly. Speaker after speaker made it explicit that Israel was not to be forced back to the “fragile” and “vulnerable” Armistice Demarcation Lines, but should retire once peace was made to what Resolution 242 called “secure and recognized” boundaries, agreed to by the parties. In negotiating such agreements, the parties should take into account, among other factors, security considerations, access to the international waterways of the region, and, of course, their respective legal claims”.

        Goldberg has clarified that although the French and Soviet texts differ from the English in this respect, the Security Council voted on the English text, which is thus determinative. He Caradon and Rostow have stated categorically that in drafting resolution 242, they deliberately omitted a demand for Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders.

        In an interview in the Beirut Daily Star on June 12, 1974, Caradon stated:
        “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967 because these positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers on each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That’s why we didn’t demand that the Israelis return to them, and I think we were right not to.”

        Can we now agree that SC 242 does not require Israel to withdraw from 100% of the territory it occupied in the Six Day War?

        As to your further query re Hamas – you have with respect now shifted the goalposts:

        Your original statement was:

        “The whole purpose of my article on Mashaal was to convey my belief that Hamas’ real position is one of accepting a compromise based on the 1967 borders (which is only 22% of historic Palestine, and half of what the UN partition plan allocated to the Palestinians in 1947″

        You now make the following statement that has no relevance whatsoever to Hamas accepting a compromise based on the “!967 borders”:

        “On Hamas, I do not believe I am naive, but trying to understand as best I can
        what is their real position. You cite the Charter and perhaps the Mashaal speech, but I acknowledge these, but point to other signals that suggest two things, confirmed in conversation: a readiness to abandon violent forms of resistance and a long-term pact of coexistence. Why not take a risk that this more optimistic reading of Hamas intentions is correct? What would be lost?”

        I intend to answer both your statements of the risks Israel would run and what would be lost:

        1. there is no evidence from Hamas produced by you so far to justify your “belief” that it will accept a compromise based on the “1967 borders” .

        2. Even if you were to produce such evidence it would have no value whilst Hamas remains committed to extending any such state beyond the “1967 borders” under the terms of its Charter.

        3. In agreeing to any proposal to grant sovereignty to the Palestinian Authority in 100% of the territory occupied in the Six Day War – based on whatever assurances Hamas gave and in the absence of revoking the Hamas Charter – major risks that Israel would run are:

        (a) The Palestinian Authority being replaced by Hamas with its Charter calling for Israel’s destruction unrevoked

        (b) Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and Israel’s Ben Gurion International airport being well within range of rockets and missiles being fired indiscriminately into Israeli civilian population centers comprising 4 million men women and children.

        (c) 600000 Jews being evicted from the West Bank and East Jerusalem

        (d) loss of control, access and possible destruction to synagogues and other holy places and Jewish assets as occurred between 1948-1967 and in Gaza after 2005

        4. No commitment by Hamas to abandon violent forms of resistance and enter into a long term pact of coexistence would have any meaning if the provisions of the Charter
        I quoted you are not revoked. The risk would be that any such commitment could be ended at any time and the original objectives in the Charter then pursued again with a better armed Hamas able to pursue its declared objective of wiping Israel off the face of the map.

        Treaties can and have been broken. But they are initially made with declarations of non-hostile intent. What you are asking Israel to accept is a Hamas commitment that has not removed that hostile intent as expressed in the Hamas Charter

        That is why I consider your view naive – believing in undisclosed “conversations” with unnamed persons who have led you to your belief – people who could be here today and gone tomorrow – as against the enduring and clear words of the Hamas Charter.

        Would you as a lawyer advise your client to make a decision based on any such assurances if you know your client’s safety and security could be even remotely affected by the decision you were asked to advise it on?

        I note you have not yet responded to my comment as to why Jordan should be included in the meaning of the term “Palestine” when that term is used by you, me or indeed anyone else.

        Looking forward to your early response

      • pipistro December 24, 2012 at 6:36 am #

        It’s a fact that any legal act or norm, if ambiguous, must be understood in its most useful meaning under the law. Moreover, it’s an imperative to confer a meaning to a norm, instead of assessing that it has no meaning. (As it would be under the above interpretation.)
        The try of depriving it of any meaning is unlawful and ineffective even if it’s endorsed by the very persons who, for opportunism, politics, or any other reason, purposedly gave it an ambiguous formulation.
        In this respect, any interpretations aimed at sinking that norm, all the more if coming from Lord Caradon and/or others who purposedly have tried to take off any meaning from it, is ineffective and illegitimate, as the norm, once it has taken life, is in any case subordinated to the International Law, no more to political pressures, nor to the fancy of those who may have drafted it in bad faith and/or with reservations.
        Moreover, insofar as the Resolution stated the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”, and the relevant territories were undoubtely the whole of West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, Golan and Sinai, any different understanding would be illogical, before being unlawful.
        I mean, we are dealing with International Law, not with Zionists’ cartoons.

  14. Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Richard,

    If you will permit a gentle joke at your expense, I find it amusing that you patiently urge Walker Percy to be more civil and he responds by ratcheting up his anti-Israel and (yes) anti-Semitic rhetoric. (Btw, how long would a comment that characterizes Palestinians as “spoiled brats” last on this blog?)

    This entire thread flows from Mr. Percy’s spurious observation that criticizing Israel is taboo in the United States, a conclusion in which you concur. The charge is solidly rooted in the shopworn canard that Jews control everything (or as Mr. Percy would have it, “devious Jews”). But don’t you gentlemen read newspapers, watch television or listen to the radio? Criticism of Israel is everywhere.

    In fact, some of the harshest criticism of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians comes from Jews and Jewish organizations. The Union for Reform Judaism—embracing more than 900 synagogues with an aggregate 1.5 million members—has long opposed settlements, and recently condemned Israel’s punishing Palestine for going to the UN. There’s J Street, Rabbis for Human Rights, Peace Now, New Israel Fund and others. Do other Jews and Jewish organizations object to the dissenters? Of course they do. In America (and Israel) there is freedom of speech. And while Sheldon Adelson, who is an extremist, contributed $150 million to defeat President Obama, more than 70% of American Jews voted to give the President a second term.

    Walker Percy laments that Zionists have tricked the “easily –led” Christian American evangelicals into supporting Israel. Putting aside the fact that Mr. Percy casually insults millions of people he has never met, this genre of thinking reveals a fascinating trait: he’s all for democracy, but not when its fruits leave a bad taste in his mouth. His charge of “trickery” extends to lobbying on Israel’s behalf. But that’s not trickery, Mr. Percy. It’s the American way through which citizens seek to influence elected and appointed officials. It’s called democratic process.

    Richard, you assure Mr. Percy, “I share your sense that extreme Zionist perspectives are not interested in genuine discussion.” That’s true. But extremists of every stripe are not interested in genuine discussion; that’s one of the things that make them extremists. Salaam Fayyad was eager to meet with our group of American Jewish leaders that recently visited him in Ramallah. But do you think that your man Khaled Mashaal would sit down with us for a little tete a tete? I think not.

    And there’s the question of how you and Walker Percy define a Zionist extremist. In my experience on this blog, it would be anyone who doesn’t share your extreme animus toward what Mr. Percy calls “the Zionist project”, which is what most people call the State of Israel. Apropos, I must say to you, Richard, that for the first time since I started reading this blog nearly two years ago, you are responding to legitimate questions, which had led to some interesting exchanges. Too often in the past, you dismissed questions on the grounds that our views were “unbridgeable.” Frankly, you didn’t appear to be interested in genuine discussion?

    You write to Mr. Percy: “I agree with your assessment about the taboo, and its scandalous exploitation to deter criticisms of Israel….” What in God’s name are you talking about? Please don’t simply mention the Mearshimer-Walt book, and walk away thinking that you’ve answered my question. “Scandalous exploitation” is a serious allegation which is slander if not supported by evidence.

    Richard, you have the conch.

    Ira

  15. Vincent Burke December 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Some very enlightening comments here. I find professor Falk’s arguments well deliniated and he is obviously passionate about the suffering of the Palestinian Arab-speaking people. However, I do not agree with his thesis as to how to proceed to peace.
    I will give my argument following this: Dear Mr Percy, I find your threats that the rest of the world will somehow repeat the punishment of the Jewish race again, as happened 65 years ago, extremely threatening and offensive and racist (and I have no ethnic or other connection with Israel or the Jewish religion/race otherwise). People who keep saying: “Oh we cannot keep referring to the Holocaust… that argument or excuse has run it’s course…etc…” are gravely mistaken. It is, without doubt, the most salient historical memory and grievience that exists in this whole story (or for any race/nation in the whole of human history). It cannot, and should not, be forgotten or glossed over, and the vast majority of the world’s population (outside the Islamic world) would hold to this view.
    To Professor Falk, and all those who hold that the suffering of the Palestinian refugees is somehow unique, more grevious, or a greater injustice than many similar post-conflict refugee sufferings, I would say: Please read the huge number of stories of refugees, in every corner of the globe, who fled, or were driven out, of their homelands in every single war that has ever happened in human history.
    Every country on this earth has refugees in it, who were driven out, or fled in fear, from their homelands in the course of war. Here are just some of these, since 1945:
    10 million people of German origin driven out/fled from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union (including one million women who suffered rape during this flight) (1945-50)
    Millions who fled from each coutry in South-East Asia during the various Indo-Chinese wars involving the French, the US, and millions of Vietnamese, Thai, Khmer, Burmese, Malays etc (1945-1975).
    Millions have fled many conflicts in Indonesia, Phillipines, Korea (North and South), Taiwan, and all across Asia (1950-1970).
    Millions who fled from both India and Pakistan following the partition of India in 1947. Countless millions, who could not flee, were murdered and raped in their homes, in their villages, and on the roads to their new homelands.
    More millions of innocent people who fled as refugees from various wars, civil wars , and political conflicts across every country in South America – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, all the way up through Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador etc … over to Cuba, Haiti, on up through Mexico… millions of refugees have fled.
    Countless millions across Africa have fled as refugees: following various wars in Nigeria (Biafra), Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Mozambique… in fact, every single country on the continent of Africa (incl all of North Africa…) is host to millions and millions of refugees who have been driven out from their original homelands.
    In Europe, millions have fled persecution in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Albania, Serbia, Croatia, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, all the Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, East and West Germany, Poland, Macedonia…. and on and on.
    So, here is my point: Why is it that in all these cases the host countries fed and housed the refugees and eventually allowed them to settle in their new countries, allowed them to receive education, get jobs, intermarry with the local populations and generally, assimilate and get citizenship in their new nation. The sad truth is that for the majority of refugees from conflict, they did not have the possibility of returning to their original homes and lands. This was always for a variety of reasons: Ethinc hatreds in their old homelands, fear of returning, or feeling that a new start, in a more welcoming land, was the best thing for them and their families. In fact, all around the globe, organisations and NGOs who advocate and struggle, on behalf of refugees, are constantly protesting if even a few refugees are forced to return to their original homeland! In international human rights law (as you must be aware, Prof Falk) it is considered a duty of the host nation NOT to try and repatriate the refugees but to make them welcome and let them settle in their new home. Human rights organisations advocate constantly for refugees NOT to have to return home (the vast majority don’t want to go back).
    So, why is there only one place on Earth where it is considered vitally important,and a matter of extreme importance to global justice, that the desendants of 800,000 refugees who fled during an all-out conventional war between six countries in 1948 (65 years ago) must be allowed to return to their original homes and those who now live there must be put out?
    Why is it that this conflict, above all others before and since, and above many other refugee expulsions and flights, and only this conflict, must be reversed 65 years later?
    We must admit to ourselves, and history shows, that there are only a few reasons for this:
    Firstly, that the host nations of the newly-fled Palestinians (Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria) put these refugees in camps and incarcerated them there by force, forever (no rights of mixing, moving, settling or citizenship) Therefore a political decision was made in all these countries that their kindred brothers and sisters (same religion and language and indistinguishable ethnicity and culture ) would be used as sacrificial pawns in the war against the Jews. They were not to be allowed to settle or assimilate or make new happy lives for their families and children (unlike all other refugees across the planet)
    Secondly, the International Community acquiesced, connived and co-operated in supporting these countries in virtually imprisoning these refugees for many, many years.
    Thirdly all the Arab, Moslem and most other states worldwide have kept up sixty five years of constant pressure (and many military attacks) for this particular group of refugees (and no other group worldwide) to be encouraged not to mix, assimilate or settle down, but to keep alive a hope (along with great grievance, anger and hatred) of returning to their former homeland and driving out the occupants of their former houses and lands.
    Evidence, facts and history show that the new occupants of these homes and lands (the Jews) are being singled out, alone among the nations of the world, for special treatment, criticism, hatred, and obloquy by the vast majority of the population of the Earth. Why is this being made a sole and special case among all the other vast refugee crises that the world has suffered since the Second World War?
    If we examine all those many sad conflicts to which I have already referred, in every corner and continent of the globe, we can see that the vast majority of refugees were allowed to settle down and make new, happier lives in their new countries, as the sad facts of war, hatreds, fear and conflict showed that reversing an injustice (refugees having to flee) with another expulsion (of the newly-settled population) has never been shown to be possible in any country or nation on earth, at any time in history. This reversal has never been tried in history (except for a very few modern attempts at repatriation, rarely very successful, and only in the immediate aftermath of a comprehensive peace agreement)
    I must make clear, that I do not condone the expulsion of one single human being from their home or village – that is a violation of their human rights. What happened in 1948 to a large proportion of the Arab population of Palestine was a terrible wrong, but exactly the same fleeing and expulsion of people has happened (and will continue to happen) in every single war that has ever been fought in the history of humankind. Both you and I, Professor Falk, would most probably collect up our families and the few posessions we could carry and immediately flee from any armed conflict which was coming our way which might endanger the lives of our families and especially, our children – that is simple and understandable human nature.
    The Jews, too, were refugees from an even more terrible conflict, and two thousand years of terrible persecution (not an excuse, but a completely understandable cause and reason for what happened)
    Finally, I do not support any building or expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands, and I think that the eventual State of Israel must be exactly that of the 1967 borders and no more.
    However, I am Irish, and I have seen that the eventual ending of our inter-religious conflict (for yes, that is what it is) came about when the most militant elements on both sides were persuaded that only an end to violent attacks and an acceptance of the inevitability of compromise would bring peace.
    We have to realise that threats and support for violence does not weaken our enemies but greatly strengthens them!
    The more you push your enemies into a corner the more you strengthen them. The hard-liners on both sides of this conflict feed off and strengthen each other… everyone acknowledges that, but no-one seems to ‘get’ it.
    The most courageous peace activists are not those, Professor Falk, who cheer on and encourage their own side, but those who actually confront their own side and hold up a ciritical mirror to their own hard-liners and the most uncompromising among their own side. There are countless millions worldwide criticizing the Israelis (not a difficult or unpopular path), but very few friends of the Palestinians are openly and courageously critical of the militant leaders and suggesting to them that the peaceful road may bring better results. In fairness to the Israeli population, there are a good number of home-grown critics and protesters against their hard-liners.
    Dear Professor Falk, I think Hamas would listen to you, a friend, if you were to be courageous enough to suggest some compromise and peaceful paths to your own comrades and supporters, rather than joining the great chorus worldwide screaming at the Israelis from across the barricades.
    Do you have it in you? If you do go down that path (like Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams, John Hume, Gandhi etc…) many will salute you. Your present path is the easy one.
    Peace to you
    Vincent Bourke
    Cork
    Ireland

    • Richard Falk December 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      Dear Mr. Burke:

      A appreciate very much thoughtfully phrased disagreements with my positions as
      you understand them.

      Let me clarify my position because as I read your comments I think of myself as favoring and doing precisely what you are advocating. I am trying to encourage the awareness, which I honestly believe exists on the Palestinian side, to find a compromise that is sensitive to the rights and security of both peoples based on some notion of equality. The whole purpose of my article on Mashaal was to convey my belief that Hamas’ real position is one of accepting a compromise based on the 1967 borders (which is only 22% of historic Palestine, and half of what the UN partition plan allocated to the Palestinians in 1947). Such a compromise is the most that can be expected by way of concession on the Palestinian side.

      You ignore the relevance of Israeli behavior, especially its defiance of international law, especially its continuing expansion of settlements that make it seem increasingly unrealistic to reach a solution based on the compromise mentioned in the prior paragraph.

      You raise important questions as to the political and moral responsibilities of Arab countries with respect to the treatment of Palestinian refugees. I need to think further about these issues, but I do believe that the Palestinians should not be victimized as a result of this play of regional politics.

      Thanks once more for your concerns. If you look me up in Google I think you
      might realize that whatever path I have chosen, it is not an easy one!

      Sincerely,

      Richard Falk

    • Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

      Dear Mr. Burke,

      Bless you for saying what needs to be said to both sides of the conflict, and to those who fan the flames from safe havens far from the theater…saying it with a spirituality and eloquence that makes me ashamed of my own limitations.

      Faithfully,

      Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • walker percy December 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

      Dear Vincent,
      I read your comments twice, and I am still puzzled. There seems to be a lot of different themes here, but no coherent thread, so its hard to know how to respond.

      I particularly dislike the argument you use about how those who criticize Israel are not applying even standards, since they don’t condemn each and every other about rouge regime that torments and kills members of weaker groups around them in ugly spasms of open malevolent violence, and who openly discuss their religious beliefs that such people may be legally murdered because they are the same as animals. These are the people who gloat that their lives are 1000 times more valuable then the lives of the savages around them, just the most recent of the poor people who were unlucky enough to get in the way of this rapacious, shameless bunch.

      The accusation of “singling out” is agressive, because it implies that the person doing the singling out must be anti-semitic, otherwise why focus on just one group of villains. This is a perfect example of how defenders of Zionism disingenuously use claims of irrational hatred of Jews to suppress legitimate criticism that must be heard.
      Walker

  16. David Singer December 21, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    Dear Professor Falk

    I am still awaiting your response to the answers I supplied to the three hard questions you posed and your agreement or otherwise as to whether the articles of the Hamas Charter I quoted are one of the principal obstacles to a resolution of the conflict.

    Sorry but I also need to object to your following statement:

    “The whole purpose of my article on Mashaal was to convey my belief that Hamas’ real position is one of accepting a compromise based on the 1967 borders (which is only 22% of historic Palestine, and half of what the UN partition plan allocated to the Palestinians in 1947″

    My comments:

    1. There were no 1967 borders – only armistice lines

    2. The West Bank,Gaza and East Jerusalem are only 5% of historic Palestine, Israel is 17% of historic Palestine and Jordan comprises the remaining 78% of Palestine.

    3.The Palestinian Arabs rejected what was offered to them by the UN partition plan in 1947 and chose to unify the West Bank and East Jerusalem with Transjordan in 1950 when that country was renamed Jordan.

    4. At no time between 1950-1967 was there any attempt to create an independent Arab state between Israel and Jordan when not one Jew lived in these areas after all of them had been driven out in the 1948 War between the newly declared state of Israel and six invading Arab armies.

    Can we agree on these facts?

  17. Francesco Pipistro December 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    A norm must be interpreted according to the ordinary meaning of the language, unless the result would be absurd. Moreover, a norm must have a practical meaning, otherwise it would be void and useless. In this respect, it is obvious and necessary, firstly, to confer a meaning to the norm, even if its litteral content is ambiguous, instead of assessing that the norm has no meaning at all. Or, worse, conferring to it a meaning at will.

    Insofar as UNSC Resolution 242 must have a meaning, otherwise being it absurd/useless, saying it requires an indeterminate withdrawal from (…) occupied territories would mean nothing, leaving undecided the rule dictated by the norm itself. And this is impossible.

    A simple application of this principle is that Security Council Resolution 242 has a sole possible and almost litteral meaning. It requires Israel to withdraw from 100% of the territories occupied in the Six Day War. The goal of different interpretations whatsoever (as the one which claims that its extent is set on the necessity of subsequent direct negotiations between the parties) is aimed at devoiding the norm of any actual meaning. And that’s absurd and unlawful as well.

    • Richard Falk December 23, 2012 at 10:27 am #

      Francesco:

      I agree with your understanding of 242, and indicate only the slight concession of acknowledging that minor
      border adjustments could be negotiated on the basis of mutual agreement.

      Richard

      • David Singer December 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

        Professor Falk

        Why – if you agree with Pipistro’s understanding of 242 – do you indicate “the slight concession of acknowledging that minor border adjustments could be negotiated on the basis of mutual agreement”

        Where does this language appear in 242?

        This is what 242 says:

        “1. Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

        (i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

        (ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;”

        Why only “minor adjustment” and not “any adjustments” – to enable Israel to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries – not the existing armistice lines?

        BTW there are a number of my posts specifically answering other claims made by you that remain unanswered.

        Do I take it by your silence – that you agree with their contents?

        That would indeed be a welcome development in helping to formulate the building blocks that are necessary to enable a reasoned proposal for the settlement of the Jewish-Arab conflict to occur.

      • Richard Falk December 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

        Mr. Singer:

        As politely as possible I have tried to convey my two positions to you:
        –that I do not have time to engage with you in a comment section on all the
        issues that you raise;
        –that are basic positions are too far apart with respect to the character and relevance of Palestinian rights to make it useful for us to exchange views.

        As for silence in response, it certainly does not signify agreement with your views, and I have not forgotten the highly personal attack upon my character and reputation that you wrote on another website.

      • david singer December 27, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

        Professor Falk

        Refusing to discuss the meaning of Resolution 242, seems very strange indeed.

        How do you think the conflict can ever be resolved if there is no discussion on the differences in meaning of material terms used by each side in order to try and reach agreement on what those terms mean?

        Agreement on the meaning of Resolution 242 is critical. You cannot simply refuse to answer when your meaning is being seriously questioned.

        I am sorry that you still consider I made a highly personal attack on your character and reputation. I did invite you to specify those parts of the article that you found offensive and indicated I would withdraw them if they were unjustified.

        As with the current impasse on Resolution 242 – you have chosen not to respond.

        I invite you to do so again.

      • Richard Falk December 28, 2012 at 8:24 am #

        Mr. Singer:

        I think you know quite well that our views of how to read 242 are hopelessly divergent.

        I adhere to the plain meaning of the text, which means Israeli withdrawal from the territory occupied in 1967, an application of the principle mentioned in the principle that territory can not be acquired by force. There is no reason to refer to the views of the drafters or other influential persons if the text is clear. This is also the consensus on an international level. The idea of minor border modifications is something that surfaced along the way, and it can be accommodated.

        Please do not ask me a further series of questions. This comments section is not an appropriate venue for discussing such issues in the detail they deserve.

      • David Singer December 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

        Professor Falk

        With the greatest of respect you are not adhering to the plain meaning of the text of SC Resolution 242 because you are incorrectly quoting the following two crucial elements of the text:

        1. The text states : “the inadmissibility of territory acquired by war” – not “the inadmissibility of territory acquired by force” as you allege.

        2. The text states “withdrawal from territory” not ” withdrawal from the territory” as you allege.

        If the text was stated as you claim – then you would be justified in interpreting 242 as you do.

        Problem is that this is not what the text of Resolution 242 states.

        Your further assertion that the idea of minor border modifications surfaced along the way is made without any evidence to support such claim.

        Minor border modifications could well be within the meaning of 242 – but only with the consent of the parties.

        Resolution 242 could also mean more than minor border modifications if Israel thought them necessary to guarantee Israel’s right to live in peace in secure and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force. Again this is a matter of negotiation.

        The text is indeed clear – if you take the time to read it and not misquote it and seek to then reinterpret it on the basis of your misquotes.

        At the moment we do not agree on the plain meaning of that text because you claim it says something that it doesn’t.

        I hope you will take the time to carefully re-read Resolution 242 and let us all know whether your meaning of that text has now been changed.

        If it has not then please state your reasons why and I will see whether your reasons persuade me to change my understanding of the meaning of Resolution 242.

        It is now very clear why we have a disagreement as to the meaning of 242.

      • Richard Falk December 29, 2012 at 10:55 am #

        Mr. Singer:

        This thread on 242 will lead nowhere. I rely on plain meaning, the strong global consensus confirming this essential meaning, and the guidelines provided by the Vienna Convention, Treaty on Treaties for interpreting an international law text. To consult the diplomatic conversations prior to its adoption adds confusion, and allows partisans to pick and choose.

        I am confident that you will not be persuaded by such considerations, but
        neither will I be responsive to your approach to 242. I respect the sincerity of your approach, but I do not share it.

      • David Singer December 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

        Professor Falk

        If you are so convinced of your argument and given your position as UN Special Rapporteur have you ever thought of getting the UN to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice to reinforce your view that Sec Res 242 requires Israel to withdraw to the positions it occupied at 5 June 1967?

        You certainly have the contacts at the UN to seek such an advisory opinion and given your claim that your view is supported by an international consensus – support would be forthcoming for such an approach.

        Your thoughts?

      • Richard Falk December 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

        Mr. Singer.

        It is an acceptable idea but I would recommend it as it would imply that there
        exists reasonable doubt about the meaning of 242. There may be doubt about the
        precise meaning of 242, but not its essential meaning. To obtain an AO is a long
        process, and not likely to resolve the dispute in any event.

        Furthermore, Israel demonstrated in its response to the separation wall AO that
        it would defy even a 14-1 vote in the ICJ, and it was clear there were no adverse
        consequences. And so what is the point?

      • David Singer December 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

        Professor Falk

        Surely the precise meaning of 242 needs to be determined – not its essential meaning (whatever that means).

        You yourself have now admitted that there is doubt about the precise meaning.

        You say that to obtain an advisory opinion is a long process. It surely could not be possibly longer than 12 months at the outside from the time the brief is submitted to the Court.

        That there are still differing interpretations of 242 forty five years after it was passed is a matter that needs to be resolved urgently.

        Israel as you know was not bound by the opinion of the International Court in relation to the security barrier because that is what the rules of the Court provide.

        You cannot write your own rules.

        So why use such pejorative language as “defy even a 14-1 vote and “without adverse consequences” – when you surely must know the decision was never going to be regarded as binding on Israel virtually from the date the brief was lodged with the Court.

        Amazingly the brief that Kofi Annan submitted to the Court in that instance did not include the Mandate for Palestine nor article 80 of the UN Charter as relevant matters of law that could bear on the Court’s decision

        It was ironic that the Egyptian judge – Justice El Araby (now Secretary of the Arab League) – noted in his judgement that a close examination of the Mandate should have been undertaken. It would have made a material difference to that judgement in my opinion.

        If you only supply half the information you will assuredly only get half a reply.

        Hopefully this time round the brief will contain all relevant information necessary to enable the Court to reach its decision.

        Why the point of going to the ICJ?

        It will certainly be a potent weapon in the hands of people like yourself who continually assert that 242 requires an Israeli withdrawal to the 5 June 1967 armistice lines.

        Do I sniff that you are apprehensive to make the approach to the UN to seek an opinion from the ICJ because you fear the Court might not adopt your view?

        As the Special Rapporteur I would respectfully suggest that it might be one of the most effective actions you could take to try and break a deadlock that has plagued any settlement of the conflict for the last 45 years – irrespective of what the Court decides.

        A circuit breaker is needed.

        The ICJ could be it.

        I am even prepared to donate my services free of charge to make sure the brief to the ICJ contains all relevant material to enable it to reach a just and proper decision this time round.

    • Francesco Pipistro December 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Lord Caradon’s (any case not due, nor necessary) explanation of the 242 was crystal clear on the issue, as well on the fact that the text of the Resolution was equally clear.
      “In our resolution we stated the principle of the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and in the preamble we emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”. In our view, the wording of those provisions is clear.” [Security Council - Official Records - Twenty-second year - 1381st Meeting: 20 November 1967 - New York.]

      “Territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” clearly, was an imperative goal, as much as the full withdrawal. Not at all a matter of negotiation.

      In claris non fit interpretatio.

      Period.

      (I beg pardon. Regrettably, I’m not able to use the polite manners in which Prof. Falk has the patience to answer to provocations.)

      • David Singer December 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

        Pipistro

        You misrepresent . Professor Falk misquotes.

        This is what Lord Caradon actually said:

        “31. In our resolution we stated the principle of the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and in the preamble we emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”. In our view, the wording of those provisions is clear. We believe that it would be a serious error to attempt at this stage to vary or add to them. Nor are we prepared to alter the wording of the remainder of the resolution, including that concerning the necessity of securing a lasting peace, which, I emphasize again, was prepared with the greatest care after listening long and patiently to the views put to us by those directly concerned.”

        The gratuitous comment by you in relation to other parts of the resolution including your comment that it called for a full withdrawal is misleading in the extreme.

        The meeting to which you refer was also presented with a draft resolution prepared by Russia which required:

        “(a) The parties to the conflict should immediately withdraw their forces to the positions they held before 5 June 1967 in accordance with the principle that the seizure of territories as a result of war is inadmissible;”

        The Russian draft was never accepted then or when considered subsequently prior to the passing of 242 on 22 November 1967.

        Had it been adopted then Professor Falk’s and your interpretation would have been correct.

        If 242 was so clear as you claim in requiring Israel to withdraw from 100% of the territory it had captured from Jordan – why then did Russia seek to introduce another resolution restating what you claim was obvious?

        Enough of the nonsense.

        You and Professor Falk and myself need to try and reach common agreement on the meaning of 242.

        Does it require that Israel withdraw its forces to the positions it held before 5 June 1967?

        I say “NO” and have given my reasons.

        You and Professor Falk say “YES” but the reasons you have given are based on misquotation of Resolution 242 and a throwaway line by you that the resolution means “full withdrawal” without any evidence to back your assertion.

        Please have another go and try to convince me that your meaning is the correct meaning of Resolution 242.

        I am still awaiting a response from Professor Falk.

      • pipistro December 29, 2012 at 5:08 am #

        The try to subtract any meaning from the 242, by leaving its content at Israel disposal is simply out of any possible discussion, if you choose to say that black is white, or viceversa. As already pointed out, any legal act, if ambiguous, must be understood in its most useful meaning, instead of assessing that it has no meaning at all, as it would be in your understanding of the provision. Maybe nobody can convince you that the drafter himself has stressed its sole, possible meaning, nor that black is black. But that’s not a problem.

      • Richard Falk December 29, 2012 at 10:49 am #

        Pipistro:

        I agree completely with your reading of 242, and it conforms to the international law best practices with respect to treaty interpretation.

        Thanks for your clarity..

  18. David Singer January 1, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    Professor Falk

    I am still awaiting your reply to my last post – which I set out below.

    An early reply would be appreciated.

    *******************************************************************************************************

    “Professor Falk

    Surely the precise meaning of 242 needs to be determined – not its essential meaning (whatever that means).

    You yourself have now admitted that there is doubt about the precise meaning.

    You say that to obtain an advisory opinion is a long process. It surely could not be possibly longer than 12 months at the outside from the time the brief is submitted to the Court.

    That there are still differing interpretations of 242 forty five years after it was passed is a matter that needs to be resolved urgently.

    Israel as you know was not bound by the opinion of the International Court in relation to the security barrier because that is what the rules of the Court provide.

    You cannot write your own rules.

    So why use such pejorative language as “defy even a 14-1 vote and “without adverse consequences” – when you surely must know the decision was never going to be regarded as binding on Israel virtually from the date the brief was lodged with the Court.

    Amazingly the brief that Kofi Annan submitted to the Court in that instance did not include the Mandate for Palestine nor article 80 of the UN Charter as relevant matters of law that could bear on the Court’s decision

    It was ironic that the Egyptian judge – Justice El Araby (now Secretary of the Arab League) – noted in his judgement that a close examination of the Mandate should have been undertaken. It would have made a material difference to that judgement in my opinion.

    If you only supply half the information you will assuredly only get half a reply.

    Hopefully this time round the brief will contain all relevant information necessary to enable the Court to reach its decision.

    Why the point of going to the ICJ?

    It will certainly be a potent weapon in the hands of people like yourself who continually assert that 242 requires an Israeli withdrawal to the 5 June 1967 armistice lines.

    Do I sniff that you are apprehensive to make the approach to the UN to seek an opinion from the ICJ because you fear the Court might not adopt your view?

    As the Special Rapporteur I would respectfully suggest that it might be one of the most effective actions you could take to try and break a deadlock that has plagued any settlement of the conflict for the last 45 years – irrespective of what the Court decides.

    A circuit breaker is needed.

    The ICJ could be it.

    I am even prepared to donate my services free of charge to make sure the brief to the ICJ contains all relevant material to enable it to reach a just and proper decision this time round.”

    • Richard Falk January 2, 2013 at 9:10 am #

      Mr. Singer:

      I am not opposed to seeking an AO from the ICJ, but I think it not likely to be helpful from my perspective: Israel has no intention of withdrawing, and has shown in the past its refusal to be guided by the outcome of an AO; the legal situation is in my view sufficiently clear without the benefit and immense bother of mobilizing support for such an AO; the delay implicit in such a process would be used by Israel to expand further its WB settlements.

      I would think a more focused request relating to the settlements would be more useful in relation to moving in the directions I favor. At this point, I do not believe that the two-state consensus can be implemented, nor is the one-state alternative politically feasible. We need new images of what would create a sustainable peace, and for me, that excludes the Jordanian option, which would only result in spreading the conflict.

      • david singer January 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

        Professor Falk

        Again before discussing your response – we need to both be clear and agree on what you and I mean by your use of the term “the Jordanian option”.

        I take that term to mean “the reunification of the West Bank and East Jerusalem with Jordan that existed at 5 June 1967 so far as can now be achieved in direct negotiations between Israel and Jordan ”

        Is this the meaning you attach to the term “the Jordanian option”?

        If it is – why would you believe that such a solution would only result in spreading the conflict?

        What “new images of what would create a sustainable peace ” do you have in mind?

      • Richard Falk January 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

        Mr Singer:

        I believe that a peaceful solution should be centered upon the Palestinians, and aim to realize the
        right of self-determination for the Palestinian people. This cannot be done by way of negotiations between
        Israel and Jordan. Neither the Palestinians nor Jordan seems inclined to consider such a ‘solution,’ and as
        result it would seem to me to spread the conflict if pushed seriously.

        Until something is done about the settlements and settlers in the WB and EJ there is no solution in sight. If
        that problem were tackled then maybe some kind of wider confederation of peoples might seem possible.

        Richard Falk

      • David Singer January 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

        Professor Falk

        Daoud Kuttab is reporting developments in the West Bank which contradict the view expressed by you.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/12/are-the-palestinians-ready-to-share-a-state-with-jordan/266634/

        There are very good grounds for reunification of the West Bank and Jordan as articulated in the following resolution passed at the 8th meeting of the Palestinian National Council in February- March 1971:

        “Jordan is linked to Palestine by a national relationship and a national unity forged by history and culture from the earliest times. The creation of one political entity in Transjordan and another in Palestine would have no basis either in legality or as to the elements universally accepted as fundamental to a political entity. .. In raising the slogan of the liberation of Palestine and presenting the problem of the Palestine revolution, it was not the intention of the Palestine revolution to separate the east of the River from the West, nor did it believe the struggle of the Palestinian people can be separated from the struggle of the masses in Jordan…”

        Why go seeking for solutions that have no chance of succeeding when the answer is before your very eyes?

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