Saturday, December 04, 2010

Statement by Ambassador Michael Oren in Response to the Fire in Northern Israel

Embassy of Israel

The State of Israel is facing a fire of unprecedented magnitude. We mourn the tragic loss of life and deeply regret the devastation to communities, wildlife, and forests.

The People of Israel have been profoundly moved by the outpouring of support from a number of foreign countries, including many in our region. We are especially grateful to President Barack Obama for his expression of support. "That's what friends do for each other," he said last night, and he personally assured me that the administration would do its utmost to aid Israel swiftly in its hour of need.

We are ready to begin the task of rebuilding-restoring the damaged communities, replenishing the wildlife, and planting new forests.

The State of Israel has surmounted many challenges in its short history. Together with our friends worldwide, we will overcome this too.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Israel's deadliest fire leaves 40 dead

Blaze breaks out in Carmel, forcing authorities to evacuate Damon Prison, Beit Oren near Haifa. Bus carrying some 50 passengers catches fire. Magen David Adom says 40 prison guards killed

Ahiya Raved
Israel News

Deadliest fire known in Israel: Firefighters battled a large blaze Thursday in the Carmel Forest near Haifa, which left dozens dead and brought life to a halt for many communities. The 40 people killed on the bus, making their way to Damon Prison, were cadets in the Prison Service officers' course. Prison guards who came to the rescue of the prisoners paid with their lives: 40 Prison Service cadets were making their way to Damon Prison were burned alive. MDA set up a first aid mobile unit but began its evacuation since no injured were left on scene.

Magen David Adom said a bus carrying some 50 jailers which left the Damon Prison caught fire. It was further reported that 40 prison guards were killed. MDA reported that three others were severely wounded, another lightly injured and two more people's condition is unknown. MDA confirmed the death of 22 out of the 40 people.

Some of the injured men and women were members of the rescue forces and firefighters who risked their lives fighting the flames. Four IDF helicopters and one Air Force helicopter arrived at the scene to assist with evacuation. The fire continues to burn in the Carmel area, including inside kibbutz Beit Oren.

A couple of hours after the burning prison bus fire was finally put out, tiny flames were still incinerating the sooty vehicle. More than ten scorched bodies surrounded the bus, and private cars of police officers who arrived at the scene and were caught in the flames were on the road nearby. ZAKA officials, police officers and friends of the deceased were walking around in utter shock

Three hospitals in Haifa, Rambam, Carmel and Bnei Zion are on high alert. Dozens of beds have been placed at emergency rooms in the city. Doctors, nurses and assistants have been called from their homes. Relatives of the injured have arrived at the hospitals and the police are on scene directing traffic, allowing only emergency crews to enter in the area.

Two severely injured people were admitted to Rambam, four more severely injured arrived at Carmel hospital, where other hospitalized patients were transferred to different departments in order to make room for injured people expected to arrive soon.

Carmel Hospital official said: "Four injured people arrived here. One of them, a female who was in the burning bus, is in critical condition. Three more lightly injured suffering from smoke inhalation arrived here as well."

Police forces, firefighter and ambulances are in the area, as well as Prison Service officials who arrived at a kibbutz in the Carmel. Fire Commissioner Shimon Romach said that a number of firefighters have been wounded in the fire: "The flames are going wild in certain locations, and we are trying to control them. There are wounded, a few of our people as well. We can't predict when this story will end, it could take many hours."

The IDF has given the police access to dozens of medical teams, including IDF paramedics and doctors, medical equipment, helicopters, water tanks and a couple of battalions. Hundreds of soldiers from a nearby command base are currently trying to help put out the fire and evacuate the injured.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the fire as a "catastrophe the likes of which we have never known. We will have to draw many lessons in order to deal with catastrophes of this kind but right now, everything must be about saving lives."

The prime minister praised the firefighters' work and said they were handling the fire with courage and dedication. He then travelled to the site of the fire.

It was also reported that the prime minister spoke to the leaders of Russia, Italy, Greece and Cyprus and appealed to them for assistance in extinguishing the fire by asking them to send fire extinguishing planes.

President Shimon Peres also commented and said: "Our hearts are with the firefighters who fight with amazing courage. Some of them were also injured." He further added: "We pray for a miracle, for their wellbeing, and for an end to the fire."

The fire spread quickly due to easterly winds and quickly overtook dozens of square kilometers of forest, cutting off power to much of the area and dousing Haifa with smoke.

Fire threatens nearby communities (Photo: Ahiya Raved)

One of the Prison Service officers who was present at the Carmel region when the fire broke out collapsed in the arms of his friends after visiting the site. "It's worse than a terrorist attack in Gaza," he said. "They just laid there on the floor, dozens of people, and there was nothing to do."

One of the firefighters at the scene related: "We saw the bus catch fire. Dozens of victims were burned, it was very very shocking and it all happened because there was no control of the fire."

A police source told Ynet that detectives were probing a lead saying an illegal dumping ground caused the large blaze in the Carmel forest.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav visited the site and said authorities had known of the illegal activity for some time. "It was just a matter of time until a calamity occurred," he said.

Firefighters ordered police to evacuate Damon Prison, located near the Druze town of Usfiya, as well as the town of Beit Oren. Other towns and hotels in the area are on alert.

Prisoners were to be taken to other prisons nearby, and residents will be evacuated to a community center, the regional council said.

Roads were also cut off, and authorities warned Haifa University to be prepared for evacuation if it became necessary.

The blaze broke out around 11 am, and 15 firefighting teams were said to battling it "The wind is confusing the firefighters and making it very difficult for them," Reshef Hezi Levy, their spokesman, told Ynet.

Dor Glick, Yoav Zitun, Hagai Einav, Adi Sardas and Meital Yasur-Beit Or contributed to the report.

Israeli-Arab Arrested for Seeking to Establish Hamas Terror Cell

Hillel Fendel

Released for publication: An Arab from the Israeli town of Furadis, between Haifa and Zikhron Yaakov, has admitted intending to establish Hamas terror cell and planning attacks.

Islam Amin Mahmad Mar’i, 26, was arrested a month ago in a joint Shabak-police operation. He was recruited by Ibrahim Kassab, 26, a known Hamas operative from a village near Jericho. News of the arrest comes just days after the Israel Democracy Institute released a report showing that 86% of the Jewish public believe that critical decisions for Israel should be taken by a Jewish majority, and that 53% maintain that Israel is entitled to encourage Arabs to emigrate.

Mission: Find a Suitable Place for a Terrorist Attack!
Mar’i and Kassab studied together in the Islamic University in Hevron, where they were both members of the school’s Hamas student organization, outlawed by the government. Mar’i told his interrogators that Kassab had asked him to locate crowded areas in Israel appropriate for terrorist bombings, bring a suicide bomber and explosives into Israel, bring raw materials for explosives to areas under PA control, and to recruit Israeli-Arabs for military activity.

Mar’i in fact began to recruit people for a Hamas terrorist gang before his arrest. He then tried to incriminate two others during his interrogation; the Shabak arrested and questioned them, but released them after finding that they were not involved in the plot.

The indictment handed down against Mar’i yesterday in the Haifa District Court attributes to him the crimes of maintaining contact with a foreign agent and aiding the enemy in time of war.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah!"

Arlene Kushner

Tonight we light the first candle in the eight day festival of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

The holiday is marked by two miracles:

The miracle of the oil burning in the menorah in the re-dedicated Temple -- enough for one day, it burned for eight.
And the miracle of the ability of traditionally observant Jews at that time -- roughly 164 BCE -- to cleanse and re-dedicate the Temple. It had been defiled by Antiochus IV (king of the Seleucid Empire), who had sacrificed pigs there in worship of Zeus. This is the victory of the Maccabees, Judah and his brothers, sons of the priest Mattathias, over the Greeks. We celebrate a revolt against Hellenization that marked our right to sustain the Jewish practices that had been banned by the Greeks.


It is appropriate to broadcast the miracle of this holiday, and thus we light our lights in a window, where they can be seen, or outside.

After we light the candles, we sing, al ha-nissim v'al ha-nifla'ot v'al ha-tshu'ot. For the miracles and the wonders and the salvation...for these we light our candles.

What better than that we Jews should recognize the miracles and the wonders and the salvation that are ours today: that we have been sustained to this day, have freedom fully to be Jews, and have been returned to our ancient homeland. What better than that we should honor that freedom by being fully Jews, and devoting ourselves with clarity to our right to the land.

In honor of Chanukah, I will pass on all news today, and instead celebrate by offering you a choice of Chanukah videos.

To all those readers who will be lighting their Chanukah lights tonight, I wish a Chanukah Sameach -- a joyous holiday filled with light and hope.


A sweet version of al ha-nissim:


A year old, but still fun. A Nefesh B'Nefesh Chanukah Flash Mob on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. (Nefesh B'Nefesh -- literally "soul by soul" -- is the amazing group that is promoting and facilitating aliyah.)


Something different, and very lovely -- in honor of Chanukah (Lich'vod Chanukah) from Bialik.


We have dreidels for Chanukah.

And potato latkes or sufganiot (donuts) --- the main thing is that they are cooked in oil. Me? I take latkes, hot and crispy, with salt.

Whatever your tradition: Enjoy!


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PA TV broadcasts song calling for Jihad against Israel: "Draw your sword, let it not return"

Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

Official Palestinian Authority television has broadcast a song calling for Jihad and violence against Israel. The PA TV program on culture included an interview with singer Amar Hasan, and the playing of his song: "The oppressors [Israelis] have gone too far. Therefore Jihad is our right... draw your sword." The words call for violence against Israel in the name of both Arab pride and Islam. he song was written in the 1940s, and became popular after Israel's independence in 1948. The words calling for violence were included in many violence and terror-promotion clips that were broadcast on PA TV during the terror war (2000 - 2005).

PA TV is controlled by the office of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Click her
e to view

Following are the lyrics of the song:

"My brother! The oppressors [Israelis] have gone too far.
Therefore Jihad is a right, and self-sacrifice is a right.
Shall we let them steal the Arab nature -
the patriarchal glory and rule?
And only through the sound of the sword
They respond, with voice or echo.
Draw from the sheath your sword;
And let it not return.
My brother, my brother, Oh proud Arab
Today is our moment, not tomorrow.
My brother, the time of our nation's sunrise has arrived,
[the time] for you to repel those who are misled
And bring renaissance to Islam."
[PA TV (Fatah), Nov. 23, 2010]

"Ah Ha!"

Arlene Kushner

Obama and company have been insisting, with enormous perversity, that "peace" between Israel and the PA was necessary in order to make the "moderate" Arab states happy, and that until these states were satisfied, they would not cooperate with the West. Thus, went the president's rationale, the onus was on us to make that "peace," as much depended upon it. If Israel got burned in the process, well, it would be for the greater good.

I have been maintaining that just the opposite was the case -- that, in point of fact, those Arab states were sorely irked by the US because of its weak stance. And I was hardly the only one to have been saying this: we heard it from analysts such as Jonathan Spyer and Barry Rubin, both of BESA. And now -- enter -- we see the reality beneath the US hype. WikiLeaks is a website self-identified as a "media organization" whose goal "is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth."

This "media organization" has the potential to do great damage in those instances in which diplomacy legitimately must be conducted outside the glare of public attention. I do not pretend to be altogether comfortable with its goals or its methods.

But in the instance at hand, WikiLeaks has released a huge cache of information that has the potential to be very enlightening and helpful indeed.

What has now been released by WikiLeaks are some 250,000 US State Department diplomatic cables -- the largest diplomatic leak in history -- that were made available first to five newspapers:The Guardian (London), The New York Times, Der Spiegel (Germany), Le Monde (France), and El Pais (Spain). They began releasing excerpts last night.


In the days leading up to the posting of the leaks, the US was busy informing allies that secret matters were about to become public, and that they [the allies] might be embarrassed. But it is the US itself that should be most embarrassed by what has been leaked.

In a nutshell, Saudi Arabia in particular, as well as other Arab states -- notably Gulf states such as Bahrain and the UAE, and Jordan and Egypt -- have been expressing alarm about Iran and secretly lobbying the US to get tough.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who is crown prince of the United Arab Emirates and deputy commander of its armed forces, is on record as having referred to Iran as an "existential threat" and suggesting that the US send in ground forces to "take out" Iranian nuclear targets, should air strikes alone proved inadequate. He is cited as saying that, "Iran [is] a huge problem that goes far beyond nuclear capabilities....Iranian support for terrorism is broader than just Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran has influence in Afghanistan, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and Africa."

Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, king of Saudi Arabia, is quoted as having told Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's foreign minister, "You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters." He then declared, when addressing someone else, "May God prevent us from falling victim to their [Iranian] evil. We have had correct relations over the years, but the bottom line is that they cannot be trusted."

While the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, in reporting on a meeting King Abdullah had with U.S. Gen. David Petraeus in back in April 2008, explained, "He told you [Americans] to cut off the head of the snake."

The picture is clear.


A number of things follow from this exposure. It certainly vindicates our stand on Iran. Too often Israeli leaders have been accused of being too "alarmist" with regard to Iran, and using this issue to deflect from lack of progress on the "peace process."

At a press conference in Tel Aviv today, Netanyahu said:

"The greatest threat to peace is the Iranian regime's arming race, and what is most important is that many leaders and governments in the Middle East realize this threat. There is a gap between what is said publicly and what is said behind closed doors.

"Leaders realize there is a new threat and a new understanding. I don't remember [that] there was such understanding in the Middle East [previously]. I hope leaders will have the courage to tell their people what they said about Iran [privately]."

Our prime minister said that if these leaks will have the effect of inhibiting honest diplomatic talk in private (out of fear of later exposure), then there will be a real problem. "But if the leaders make the statements publicly there will be a significant change. When leaders are willing to tell their people the truth it promotes peace."


Unfortunately, already Arab states -- with Jordan leading the way -- are beginning to deny they ever called for tough action against Iran. The motivating factor here, plain and simple, is fear. If Iran dominates in the area, it is unwise to be on the wrong side of the Iranian regime. How different it would be if the US were demonstrating deterrence power.


At least in theory (I am mindful of the difference between theory and what actually happens), these leaks should take some of the pressure off of us with regard to the "necessity" for us to strike a deal with the Palestinian Arabs to make Arabs states more cooperative or to bring peace to the whole region. At any rate, it will be harder for members of the Obama administration to continue to make the claims they have been making.


Obama's motivation, as he ignored Arab pleas to take on Iran, is somewhat of a puzzlement. So often his actions and policies are interpreted in terms of his tilting towards Muslim nations. But here he has been disregarding the urgent pleas of those very Muslim nations with which he should be the most closely allied. We might talk about his belief (expressed in various contexts) that the US is merely one nation in the world community of nations -- 245 in the world, 194 in the UN -- from which he draws the corollary that the US should not flex its muscles. Or it may simply be that Obama hasn't the fortitude, the inner strength or courage, to stand against an enemy. (Being tough with allies is something else.)

Will this public embarrassment motivate him to additional toughness with Iran before it's too late? The 64 million dollar question.


Ahmadinejad has admitted publicly for the first time that the exceedingly complex Stuxnet cyberworm has done damage to Iran's computers.

Iran's enemies, he declared to reporters, “succeeded in creating problems for a limited number of our centrifuges with the software they had installed in electronic parts. They did a bad thing. Fortunately our experts discovered that and today they are not able (to do that) anymore."

But Iran's problems are not over, with regard to this.

In addition, according to a businessman who travels to Iran frequently and was cited by WikiLeaks, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has terminal cancer. His departure would be expected to shift the dynamic of power inside of Iran.

As to WikiLeaks revelations, Ahmadinejad says they are"psychological warfare," part of a "satanic plot" to cause trouble between Iran and Arab states.

Yet another fascinating piece of information released by WikiLeaks: Before Operation Cast Lead -- Israel's military operation into Gaza at the end of 2008 and into January 2009 -- Defense Minister Barak had approached both the Palestinian Authority and Egypt about taking over Gaza if Israel should defeat Hamas there. Both declined. Egypt's reluctance to assume responsibility for Gaza does not surprise me. But the PA? Its leaders refer frequently to the illegal coup by means of which Hamas wrested control of Gaza, and to the need to re-establish PA control there. The US assessment was that the PA was weak (is everyone paying attention here?).

I will suggest something else: Perhaps the PA wishes to remain weak, and to utilize the tension with Hamas as a reason for not concluding a peace accord.


And the news on the "peace" front?

Yesterday I picked up my hard-copy of the JPost and read the headline -- "Fatah declares: No to Israel as Jewish state."

"Oh!" I thought to myself (I am not making this up), "I accidentally picked up an old edition of the paper." Then I checked the date and saw that it was the current edition.

This is news? Bold headline news? Perhaps it was fancied to be such because this time it was Fatah saying it, and not the PA or the PLO. As if there is truly a difference. Perhaps it's news because there is nothing else to say. For me it's rather ho hum.

What Fatah actually said was no to Israel as a Jewish state, no to interim borders, no to land swaps (i.e., Israel maintaining communities beyond the Green Line and giving the PLO land inside the Green Line).

Now, as we read a bit further, we find that the Fatah Revolutionary Council statement said that it "renews its refusal for the establishment of any racist state based on religion..." This is the same Fatah that looks to Mahmoud Abbas as its leader, Mahmoud Abbas who has declared he would have no Jews in his Palestinian state. It's a joke.

An Israeli government official responded with: "I would ask the Palestinians the following question: If the Jewish state is fundamentally illegitimate in your eyes, what sort of peace are you offering us?"

A rhetorical question.


And speaking of PA president Mahmoud Abbas... He has just officially designated the Alashekeen Band as a Palestinian national band.

This group performs on PA-TV. See here, courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch, a video of their September performance, in which they praise "the revolution" and jihad via dance and the song: "Bracelets replaced with weapons, pull the trigger":

Our "peace partners."


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Secret US Embassy Cables


Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.

The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.

The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice. he cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in "client states"; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments -- even the most corrupt -- around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.

The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of "The Iraq War Logs", the world's previously largest classified information release).

The cables cover from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010 and originate from 274 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.
How to explore the data

Search for events that you remember that happened for example in your country. You can browse by date or search for an origin near you.

Pick out interesting events and tell others about them. Use twitter, reddit, mail whatever suits your audience best.

For twitter or other social networking services please use the #cablegate or unique reference ID (e.g. #66BUENOSAIRES2481) as hash tags.
Key figures:

* 15, 652 secret
* 101,748 confidential
* 133,887 unclassified

* Iraq most discussed country – 15,365 (Cables coming from Iraq – 6,677)
* Ankara, Turkey had most cables coming from it – 7,918
* From Secretary of State office - 8,017

According to the US State Departments labeling system, the most frequent subjects discussed are:

* External political relations – 145,451
* Internal government affairs – 122,896
* Human rights – 55,211
* Economic Conditions – 49,044
* Terrorists and terrorism – 28,801
* UN security council – 6,532

Graphics of the cablegate dataset
# Cables by origin and classification
# Cables by Subject
# Cables by Country
# Cables by Organization
# Cables by Program
# Cables by Topic

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Elliott A. Green

International law is often cited as a pretext for the policies of Western governments and human rights agencies toward Judea, Samaria, and Gaza in general and Jerusalem in particular. A certain assumption or presumption about the international law status of these areas is the premise for claims that they are "occupied territory," that Israeli construction in formerly Jordanian-ruled parts of Jerusalem is "illegal," etc.

Given the centrality of allegations about international law in the diplomatic and political assaults on Israel made by such bodies as the European Union, the UN General Assembly, and others, there is a need to know, to understand and to expound the true international law concerning the Land of Israel as a matter of sheer political self-defense. What indeed has been the status of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza under the law of nations? International law has recognized Jewish rights to sovereignty over the Land of Israel and to settlement throughout the land. In April 1920, at the San Remo Conference (part of the post-World War I peace negotiations), the Principal Allied Powers, acting on behalf of the international community, recognized all the land between the Jordan River and the sea, including Jerusalem, as part of the Jewish National Home, based on the Jewish people's historic rights. On the same grounds, the Golan[1] and Transjordan too were within the National Home (albeit the eastern border of the National Home, though clearly east of the Jordan, was not yet fixed).

The San Remo decision meant also the juridical creation of "Palestine" as a political entity as well as the introduction of that name as the official geographic designation for the new entity. During the centuries of Ottoman rule, the country was divided among larger administrative entities with their capitals outside the country, the vilayets of Beirut and Damascus, although in the mid-nineteenth century, as a consequence of increasing influence by Christian powers on the Ottoman Empire and Jerusalem's political sensitivity due to the Christian powers' interest in the city, the Jerusalem area was made into an independent sanjaq (district). It was called "independent" because its governor reported directly to the Ottoman capital, Istanbul (then called Constantinople in the West), not to a provincial (vilayet) governor.

Furthermore, Arab-Muslims traditionally saw the land as an undifferentiated part of Bilad al-Sham, usually translated as Syria or Greater Syria, which comprised the Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan of today, roughly speaking. Before the Crusades, the Arab-Muslim conquerors had designated the southern part of Israel (roughly speaking) as the military district of Filastin, corresponding to the Roman-Byzantine district of Palaestina Prima (one of three parts of Palaestina). The Crusaders ordinarily called the country Holy Land (Terra Sancta). Use of the name Filastin was not resumed by Muslim rulers after the Crusades. Under the Mamluks and Ottomans, Bilad al-Sham underwent several administrative reorganizations, changes of internal borders, etc. But there was never a Muslim governmental unit of any name that corresponded geographically to the Jewish concept of Land of Israel or the Greco-Roman Judea (= IUDAEA, which included Samaria, Galilee, Golan, the coastal plain, the Jordan's eastern bank, etc., in addition to Judea in the narrow sense). Emperor Hadrian had renamed the Province of Judea (= Provincia Iudaea) "Palaestina" (ca. 135 CE) for imperialist reasons.

Hence, the Arab-Muslim geographic concept differed radically from that of Jews and Christians. Further, whereas both Jews and Christians saw the country as a distinct geographic concept, they tended to use different names for it. In Jewish tradition the land was long called the Land of Israel, while Christians, through the nineteenth century, were likely to call it Holy Land (according to their various languages, that is, Terre Sainte, etc.), with Palestine, Judea, Land of the Bible, etc., as alternate names.

The San Remo decision for the Jewish National Home was ratified by the the League of Nations in 1922 and endorsed by a joint resolution of the United States Congress that same year, with a more official US endorsement coming in the Anglo-American Convention on Palestine (proclaimed 1925).

This legal state of affairs was expounded in a legal memorandum drawn up in 1946 [2] by a group of distinguished American-Jewish jurists including Judge Simon Rifkind, Abraham Fortas (later appointed to the Supreme Court), and others.

To measure the extent of American commitment to the National Home at the beginning, we may quote from the terminology of the time: "RES. 52: Expressing satisfaction at the re-creation of Palestine as the national home of the Jewish race" (House Committee on Foreign Affairs). "Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people..." (1922).

Because the legal issue is once again very much alive, a brief survey of the matter is useful, with particular reference to Jerusalem.[3] By the time the League of Nations was replaced by the UN in 1945, Britain had illegally tried to revoke the Jewish National Home, violating the principles of the League's mandate. This attempt was embodied in the Palestine White Paper of 1939, on the eve of the Holocaust, and in various subsequent ordinances enacted by the British mandatory government, which made it very difficult for Jewish refugees to enter the country and forbidding any Jews to buy real estate in most of the country. Nevertheless, this British attempt to change the country's status was rejected as illegal by the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission in June 1939.

When the UN was founded in 1945, it reaffirmed through its Charter the existing territorial rights of peoples as they had been before the war (Article 80). This applied of course to the Jewish National Home. However, many or most people today are either not aware that the whole country constituted the Jewish National Home, or believe that the UN had somehow eliminated this status and, in any case, had fixed legal boundaries for Israel through the 1947 Partition Resolution. Yet the 1947 resolution was passed by the General Assembly. And all General Assembly resolutions on political issues are merely recommendations.

The UN Charter states, defining the powers of the various UN bodies: "The General Assembly may discuss any questions relating to the maintenance of international peace and security... and... may make recommendations with regard to any such question" (Article 11; also see Arts. 10, 12, 13, 14). Only the Security Council can make binding resolutions, according to the Charter.

Now the Partition Plan, in a not uncommon display of political irrealism, recommended two states in the former mandatory Palestine west of the Jordan, one Jewish and one Arab, plus a special status for Jerusalem (The British had separated Transjordan unilaterally from the Jewish National Home in 1922, although not de jure). The Holy City was to be an internationally governed corpus separatum. While the Jewish leadership accepted the Plan, the Arab governments and local Arab leadership universally rejected it. After the war had begun the UN made no effort to prevent the invasion of the country by Arab states, to prevent Arab attacks on Jews within the country or to eliminate the Arab siege of the Jews in Jerusalem, a city where Jews had been the majority at least since 1870. Thus Israel did not feel bound by the Partition recommendation. Professor Eugene Rostow, an authority on international law, has pointed out that the Arab war on Israel of 1947-49, "made the Partition Plan irrelevant."[4]

After the battles of the War of Independence had ended, Israel and four Arab states signed armistice agreements. The accord with Jordan (then called Transjordan) specifically stated that no political border with Israel was being recognized, merely an armistice line (the "green line"). And this at Arab insistence! Arab spokesmen repeated this on later occasions. For instance, the Jordanian delegate to the UN told the Security Council a few days before the Six Day War:

There is an Armistice Agreement. The Agreement did not fix boundaries; it fixed a demarcation line. The Agreement did not pass judgement on rights - political, military, or otherwise. Thus I know of no territory; I know of no boundary. (May 31, 1967)

Obviously, since no political border between Jordan and Israel was recognized, then the prior legal status prevailed - that is, the Jewish National Home recognized and constituted in 1920 at San Remo. Hence, the areas that Jordan called "West Bank," as well as east Jerusalem (which had thousands of Jewish residents before 1948), remained part of the National Home even during Jordanian occupation. The Assembly's repetitions of its Jerusalem recommendation (GA resolutions 194, 303, etc.) could not change this. Nor did the Security Council change the status of Jerusalem by its famous Resolution 242 after the Six Day War.

Although the Council's resolutions are said by the UN Charter to be binding, this resolution did not specify what territories were "occupied." Perhaps the Council was referring to the Sinai Peninsula, occupied by Israel in that just war of self-defense. Furthermore, the Council could not legislate ex post facto, after the fact, to take away the already existing rights of the Jewish people. According to Professor Rostow, "The withdrawal of Great Britain as administrator and trustee did not of course terminate the Mandate as a trust [for the Jewish people]."[5]

Jerusalem of course took a special place in the age-old yearning for a restored Jewish National Home. And in Jerusalem too this yearning ran into opposition not just from Arabs but from Western powers (and others following their lead). They have long refused to recognize any part of Jerusalem as part of Israel, nor do they recognize the Holy City as Israel's capital. Their pretext is the separate status provided for Jerusalem in the Partition Plan. Yet this Plan was merely an Assembly recommendation, whereas the San Remo decision of 1920 was law. Thus, the refusal of the powers to transfer their embassies to Jerusalem, which means refusal to accept the city as Israel's capital, has no foundation in law.

Obviously, the refusal has its reasons. It may stem from the same reasons that induced the British to allow Arab mobs in a series of pogroms (1920, 1929, 1936-38) to drive Jews away from the neighborhood of Jewish holy places, such as the Temple Mount and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. It may be related to Britain's reasons for appointing Arab mayors for Jerusalem throughout the whole mandatory period, despite the Jewish majority since at least 1870. Now the Ottoman Empire did the same up to 1917, but then the Ottoman Empire was an avowed Muslim state, whereas the British had accepted an international commitment (the Mandate) to foster development of the country as the Jewish National Home.

It is clear that according to the San Remo decision of 1920 and the League of Nations vote of 1922 for the Jewish National Home, Israel's extension of its jurisdiction over all Jerusalem since the Six Day War is legal and proper.

Nevertheless, self-serving interpretations of law are often made by interested parties. In the case of Israel, such interpretations provide pretexts for declarations by governments and groupings of governments - the Arab League, the European Union, the UN General Assembly - that are hostile to Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem (or indeed anywhere in the country). Such false and hostile interpretations remind us that we dare not place our trust in law or international accords. Yet, the outbursts in the form of declarations and resolutions based on these interpretations have more force and cause more damage than many friends of Israel seem to realize, although they may be less effective than their authors would like). And thus they need to be answered.


1. The Golan was an original part of the Jewish National Home as decided at San Remo and had been populated and ruled by Jews in Second Temple times and afterwards. In 1923, the British authorities transferred the Golan to the French mandate of Syria without approval of the Zionist Organization.

2. Simon Rifkind, Abraham Fortas, et al., Basic Equities of the Palestine Problem: A Memorandum (1946) [reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1977].

3. We shall use the Rifkind-Fortas memorandum, our own study of the UN Charter and subsequent UN acts, writings of Prof. Julius Stone and Prof. Eugene Rostow, and various historical information. We have also benefited from conversations with Attorney Howard Grief of Jerusalem, a former advisor on international law to the Israeli Ministry of Energy, who has done research into the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Decision, the League of Nations Mandate, etc., up to the series of agreements going by the name of the Oslo Accords. The conclusions are my own.

4. Eugene Rostow, "Resolution 242 at Twenty," Jerusalem: Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, 1988, p 5.

5. Ibid.

The author is a researcher, writer and translator, living in Jerusalem.

This is a revised version of an article published in Midstream (New York) in February/March, 1999.

'Resistance must be stirred'

Hamas politburo chief slams Palestinian Authority blaming it of selling off Palestinian people's rights. 'Peace talks became a process of daily humiliation,' he says. Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiator Erekat blames Israel of writing off agreements

Reuters and Ali Waked
Israel News

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said on Saturday that his group faced "huge challenges" in the West Bank as a force against Israel.
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Armed struggle has a powerful appeal among the inhabitants of the occupied territory, where the rival Fatah faction has been extending influence since a civil war with Hamas in 2007, Mashaal told a conference in the Syrian capital.

"The resistance is facing huge challenges, especially in the West Bank," Mashaal told a meeting of leading pro-Hamas politicians, writers and thinkers opposed to the US-supervised peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.

"Our inalienable rights are threatened with extinction if the scene in the West Bank does not change by launching the resistance against the Israeli occupation and the settlements," he added.

The Palestinian Authority, dominated by Fatah, intensified a campaign of arrests against Hamas after its fighters killed four Jewish settlers in the West Bank on August 31.

The attack was on the eve of the launch of direct Middle East peace talks, which subsequently broke down over Israel's refusal to meet demands by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to freeze Israeli settlement building.

Dayton's forces

Mashaal, who lives in exile in Syria, said only armed resistance would keep the Palestinian cause alive, despite Western aid to Abbas and his forces.

"The Palestinian people will not be bribed. They will not be cowed by Dayton's forces," he said, referring to Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories, who heads training of 8,000 members at the core of the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus.

Mashaal said Hamas opposes the US-supervised Middle East talks as they would result in a selloff of Palestinian rights, including the territory that Israel has occupied since the 1967 War and the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

"We are not talking about a business deal or making a profit. Our only capital is the land, identity and dignity," Mashaal said.

"When there is such an imbalance of power (between Israel and the Palestinians) negotiations become a process of daily humiliation," he added.

Renewed Egyptian efforts in the last several months to narrow difference between Hamas and Fatah have failed.

'Abbas has Arafat's resolve'

Recently, there were failed attempts to reconcile between the Palestinian factions. On Friday, the Fatah Revolutionary Council convened in an attempt to demonstrate resolve opposite Israel. Council member Khatem Abd el-Kader said: "President Abbas has conducted himself with the same resolve that characterized Arafat. He pledged he would not return to the negotiating table without a complete cessation of settlement construction."

Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met on Saturday with a line of foreign diplomats, including the UN secretary-general's envoy to the Middle East, the EU envoy and the British consul in Jerusalem. Erekat illustrated the dead end of the political process.

He demanded that the UN and the international community "intervene in order to stop Israel's attempt to create facts on the ground, particularly in Jerusalem and the attempt to define it as the Jewish people's capital."

Erekat claimed that the Israeli government's conduct shows it has written off the peace process and all signed agreements.

He described the Netanyahu administration as being based on "a policy of creating facts on the ground in an effort to solidify and deepen the occupation and settlements." He stressed that Abbas's stance opposes any temporary agreement or a state on temporary borders.