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Clarence B. Jones

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The Israeli Palestinian Dispute Casts Ominous Shadow Over U.S. Domestic Politics

Posted: 09/18/11 02:04 PM ET

This week, Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) plans to come to New York and apply to the United Nations Security Council for the membership of Palestine as an independent nation State. The United States, as a Permanent Member of the Council, has the discretionary veto power to block such application; and indicated its intention to do so.

The PLO has distributed a 35-page booklet to every United Nations delegation.

Titled "Recognizing Palestine: An Investment in Peace," it lists four reasons the Palestinians have taken this course:" acts by Israel that undermine peace, international responsibility toward the Palestinians, the growth of Jewish settlements and intensifying Israeli designs on East Jerusalem. (New York Times, "Palestinians See U.N. Bid as Their Most Viable Option.")

This application for UN Security Council Membership comes after decades of armed conflict and unsuccessful negotiations with Israel over territorial borders, security and the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, establishment of an "Independent Palestinian State," political governance of Jerusalem, and several other matters.

It is occurring also during our Republican Party/"Tea Party" Presidential candidates debates, increasing polarization between President Obama and Congress, the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., the White House pre-presidential re-election campaign and escalating unrest in Egypt and several Arab States.

New York Times reporters Ethan Bonner and Isabel Kershner wrote that "The Palestinian decision to apply for full United Nations membership at the Security Council, announced Friday by President Mahmoud Abbas, was the most viable of the only options possible: surrender, return to violence or appeal to the international community..."

While many Americans may be in a state of denial, there is a substantial body of empirical evidence that suggest that the unresolved land dispute between Israel and the Palestinians continues to be the fuel that ignites much of the fire of animosity within the Arab world toward the United States and Israel.

In the United States there is significant opinion within the Jewish and Christian Evangelical communities that President Obama has not been even-handed, but has subordinated the interests of Israel to that of the Palestinians. There also appears to be a diminution of some support among non-Jewish members of the voting electorate for continued U.S. policy support of Israel; sometimes characterizing that support as being for "Israel, right or wrong."

The poet and philosopher George Santayana wrote that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Accordingly, it is important to remember that:

  1. Great Britain issued the "Balfour Declaration" in 1917 declaring "a Jewish national home in Palestine, respecting the rights of non-Jewish Palestinians.
  2. In 1922 the League of Nations "confirmed a British Mandate" over Iraq, Palestine and Jordan, and French Mandate over Lebanon and Syria.
  3. 1947 the UN partitioned Palestine Jews and Arabs, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem partitioned between Jews and Arabs.
  4. 1948 British Mandate over Palestine terminated, the State of Israel is created. The armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon attack Israel.
  5. 1949 Israel defeats Egypt, et al; an armistice is signed, the so-called "Green Line expanding Israeli territory based on Israel's military victory
  6. 1967 Israel launches pre-emptive attack against Egypt after Egypt expelled UN monitoring force from the Sinai and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. After six days Israel gained control of the Sinai, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the West Bank including Jerusalem
  7. November 22, 1967 the U. N. Security Council passes Resolution 242 calling for Israel "to withdraw from occupied territories" it had acquired during the "Six Day War."
  8. Since 1967 there have been wars, conflicts and "Intifadas" in 1973, 1982,1987,2000, 2006, 2008 and 2009.
  9. In 2005 Israel agreed to unilaterally withdraw from its 38 year presence in the Gaza Strip
  10. During the Presidency of Bill Clinton, Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert both agreed to give back more than 90 percent of the land demanded by the Palestinians.
Supporters of Israel in the United States ask "by what logic or level of decency does the world now demand that Israel forget the ensuing 44 years since the 1967 war?" I hear and perceive a major repetitive theme from my Jewish brothers and sisters about the Israel Palestine dispute. The core of their complaint is what they believe is a "moral double standard" being applied to Israel. This "immoral" double standard, they contend, translates today's "political realities" in the Middle East as being a direct consequence of "a world that hold Jews to impossibly high standards while holding the Palestinians to no standard at all!"

In response, the Palestinian mantra is "illegal occupation of Palestinian lands in violation of UN Resolution 242 of November 1967."

Members and supporters of the Congressional Black Caucus, who are meeting this week at their Annual Conference, have been invited to visit Israel over the past several months. Like other members of Congress they have been and are the object of frequent lobbying by AIPAC and J Street. Both organizations understand that African-American political leaders are often in the leadership of effecting political change in our country. Additionally, the African-American community comprises one of the most loyal and important parts of President Obama's political base of support.

No one can reasonably predict, to what extent, if any, what the winds of change from the Arab Spring will be. A re-examination by Egypt of its long-standing treaty with Israel, the new assertive support of Turkey and the Arab League for Palestine Security Council membership, along with the unrest in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria, may become stronger winds of Autumn in NY at the UN. These Autumn winds, like those from the Arab Spring, could bring about irreversible and historic changes in the outdated and unsuccessful political paradigm which previously defined decades of the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

In the '60s, a popular mantra was that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Those of us who were active in the Civil Rights Movement with Martin Luther King, Jr. also remember one of the important lessons of that experience: All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good people to do nothing.

This is the challenge confronting those who support Israel and want an end to its "settlements on Palestinian land" (contrary to UN Resolution 242) as a basis for finally achieving peace with the Palestinians. This challenge will remain irrespective of whether or not the PLO fails or succeeds with its latest appeal to the United Nations for membership on the Security Council.

Is the suggestion of this an application by the international community of a "moral double standard" to Israel?