Peace for the Holy Land-Indemnity for Palestinians A leading foreign affairs expert and diplomatic historian gives his analysis and solution of Middle East War

April 16, 2002
Once there was peace in Palestine between Christians, Jews, and Moslems. That was last in 1915, when Britain offered to support Arab independence if they would revolt against the Turks.

Two years later, Britain promised to support "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." With another pledge: " it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christians and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine." The US Congress also made these commitments.

When the inhabitants were informed of this Anglo-American dispossession of their country on September 11, 1922, there were demonstrations of opposition by the Palestinians that continue to this day. With millions of Jewish immigrants now in Palestine as a result of these pledges and the 'Holocaust,' can there be peace again?

"Since renewed Mideast violence erupted in September 2000, the United States has thwarted every effort by the Palestinians to get the Security Council to adopt a resolution that would condemn Israeli actions and create some kind of outside monitoring to help cool tensions." E. M. Lederer UN -- Associated Press, 12 March 2002.

On March 12 the United States endorsed a Palestinian state in the Security Council, introducing a resolution that also called for a cease-fire in the escalating Mideast conflict. Associated Press reported--"the resolution, the first offered by the United States since the latest round of fighting began in September 2000, was circulated hours after Syria introduced a Palestinian-backed measure."

This dmarche was considered a positive diplomatic gesture, although a check of U.N. resolutions will show the U.N. said the same back in 1948 and reaffirmed it many times since. It came at a time when Sharon's policy of attempting to crush Palestinian resistance by terrorizing the population, was clearly resulting in more deaths and damage on both sides.

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Yehuda Lancry said it was "not a new development," noting that Sharon has envisioned a Palestinian state and Israel entered a process in 1993 to end its occupation. But he stressed "we have to negotiate it."

Also on the diplomatic table was the peace overture by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. When Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo to prepare for a March 27-28 Arab summit meeting in Beirut, where the Abdullah initiative was to be considered, the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, was asked about the Abdullah proposal. He said that in return for Israel withdrawing to pre-1967 lines, and creating a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its shared capital, the Arab League would offer Israel "full peace."

In their interest, the Saudi rulers are under the pressure of anger of their people, and Moslems everywhere, to show some independence from the United States and its support for Israel. So Palestinians may realize that their interests are beyond those of Saudi rulers. And there is the context of Israel's occupation of Syria's Golan Heights to be considered, among other Middle issues that affect all countries there. But what could be an acceptable solution?

The Mitchell plan is not a solution. It calls for a period of calm, confidence-building measures and a return to negotiations whose collapse in 2001 was followed by a return to fighting.

A 'solution' cannot restore to Palestinian Arabs what they lost when the British offered a national home for Jews in Palestine, and the US congress passed a similar declaration, at Palestinian expense, in 1922. Palestinians revolted many times during the British occupation of their country, attempting to stop the alien immigration and colonization that Britain and the United States promoted. It was so oppressive before World War II that German chancellor Hitler declared, "Victory by the Axis Powers will liberate the lands of the Middle East from the British yoke and give them the right of self-determination."

Only a small minority in Arab countries recognized the opportunity offered by that struggle between great powers to free themselves. But in the tradition of Making Facts -- as they call it, Jewish organizations in Palestine used the war period for skirmishes against the British, to prepare to expel them. Now, as then, when the US needs their support or acquiescence, there is an opportunity for Arab states to demand a timetable for British and American withdrawal from their region, and commitment for reparations.

After the Second World War, members of the UN critical of a partition of Palestine and the admission of Israel as a member, were pressured by the American administration to change their vote to support it. Alfred Lillienthal, a German-American Jew who had worked in the State Department, documents this in his book What Price Israel? As a paperback, this could once be bought from bookstalls in New York for example, until pro-Israel pressures banned it.

Britain and the United States are responsible for the losses that the Palestinians have sustained, and for Zionist Jews gaining territory, homes and property of the Palestinians who became refugees. Both countries pledged in the Balfour Declaration, and the Mandate proclaimed on September 11, 1922, "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christians and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected."

Britain and the United States carried out their pledge to the Jews, but failed to perform or honor their pledge to "Christians and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine." They are liable and have resulting obligations as have the named beneficiaries, "the Jewish people."

How can damages be assessed for losses sustained in breaches of an international obligation, treaty, or contract? How can payment be assured?

While the loss of life, and the loss of Arab land in the area of Palestine allotted to Israel in the UN partition, cannot be restored, some financial compensation is appropriate and much needed by Palestinians. The World Jewish Congress has established precedents, with enforcement backed by the might of the United States that can be followed.

In 1952 the Luxembourg Agreement between Israel and the German Federal Republic bound the Republic to pay the Jewish people in money and kind as collective reparation. In legal terms, the treaty was res nova, a precedent in international law for a claim by one state (Israel) on behalf of individuals (European Jews dispossessed or dead) who had not necessarily been members of its own citizenry. Ultimately, West Germany's debt and Israel's claim could only be based on some idea of international morality. But it was a good German investment, allowing Volkswagens and Mercedes to drive the roads of America without a Jewish boycott. Since then, the World Jewish Congress, backed by supporters in United States Government, has exacted payments from other governments, and corporations.

To assess reasonable payments from Britain and the United States, and from Israel -- the beneficiary of Palestinian dispossession and destruction of thousands of Arab homes and hundreds of Arab villages for example, one might consider the $200 billion that Israel has received in different forms from the USA, since its founding. A good basis could be $200 billion each from Britain, America, and Israel, payable over ten years. This would go with Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, rather than those of the original U.N. partition plan. Enforcement could be assured by the possibility of boycotts by the international community of UK, US, and Israel, with the precedent of the Jewish boycott of Germany from March 1933.

This should be in a content of a return of the Golan Heights to Syria, and normalization of relations with Iraq, and recognition of its rights of sovereignty and possession of weapons for self-defense.

Details of Palestinian rights to be included in final peace agreements were set down by a committee of 20 countries. The UN Secretary-General presented the Report, "On the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People," to the Council. The Report was considered in the course of eight meetings of the Security Council in June 1976. It would have passed, but there was one veto -- the USA. The Secretary-General was Kurt Waldheim.

Israel's allies in the State Department got busy. Unsubstantiated charges were made against Waldheim (although former British servicemen testified that he had saved their lives), and he was put on the 'Watch List,' banned from entering the United States.

American presidents and most politicians represent special interests--not justice, in Middle East policy. President Bush frequently talks of "bringing terrorists to justice." With many vetoes in the Security Council, the United States has obstructed justice for the Palestinians.