Speculation about a possible anti-Israel maneuver at the United Nations by either the Palestinian Authority or the Obama White House has retreated to the back burner. Whether or not such an effort materializes before Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, we should get two things straight that the United Nations refuses to:
One, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is not illegal. Under the circumstances, it’s normal.
Two, Israel’s not prolonging its control of the territory. Palestinian leadership is.
Not that you’d know either from S. Michael Lynk. He’s the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. (What, no U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Chinese, Russian, Iranian or Cuban territories, among conspicuous others?)
Lynk, in his first report, claimed “Israel’s occupation is denying Palestine’s [sic.] right to development and severely hampering” its economic and societal growth.
The special rapporteur’s premature use of “Palestine” preempts U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Accords and the U.N.-backed diplomatic “roadmap” of 2003. All envision direct negotiations between the parties to resolve the conflict. It also contradicts the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of Nations since the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not qualify.
Lynk charged that the “occupation is dripping in human rights violations” inflicted by Israel. The special rapporteur discerned growing poverty and unemployment, “food insecurity” and steady “violence and lack of accountability by Israeli security forces, in reaction to either demonstrations or to attempted attacks by Palestinians.”
A law professor at Western University in Ontario, Lynk came tainted to his U.N. post. When his selection was announced last spring, Canada’s foreign ministry urged someone else, someone “professional, neutral and credible.”
But credibility and the United Nations rarely overlap, particularly regarding Israel. When Lynk was nominated, Canadian Jewish organizations decried his pre-U.N. activities, including urging the Jewish state be prosecuted for war crimes, accusing it of ethnic cleansing and comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. No doubt such works recommended him to the anti-Israel U.N. Human Rights Council.
Blaming Israel for “the occupation,” let alone insisting on its illegality, reveals either bad faith or ignorance. Israel gained the West Bank and Gaza Strip in self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War. It retained them similarly in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The West Bank had been occupied illegally by Jordan, the Gaza Strip by Egypt as a result of aggression during Israel’s 1948-’49 War of Independence. Israel’s post-1967 position as military occupational authority, pending a negotiated settlement, is normative under international law. Its obligations include seeing to minimum humanitarian requirements of the population.
Responsibility for economic and other development in the West Bank and Gaza falls, since the 1993 Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization’s Oslo Accords, primarily on the Palestinian Authority. The PA—split between PLO/Fatah and Hamas rivals in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively—has received billions of dollars in foreign assistance.
Palestinian abuse ‘all in the family’
However, little has gone to economic development. Much drained off as salaries, subsidies to families of imprisoned terrorists, funding for anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish incitement and corruption. A West Bank teachers’ strike early in 2016 reportedly panicked PA leadership over Western donors’ new interest in authority bookkeeping.
As for human rights abuses in “the Palestinian territories”—disputed territories pending a negotiated settlement according to Security Council resolutions 242 and 338—the special rapporteur’s mandate is uniquely biased. Unlike those covering U.N. inquiries elsewhere, these reviews can report only alleged Israeli abuses, not Palestinian-against-Palestinian or Palestinian-versus-Israeli, as UN Watch, another critic of Lynk, has pointed out.
Had Palestinian leaders wanted to end the occupation, they could have accepted Israeli-U.S. offers of a West Bank and Gaza Strip state in exchange for peace with Israel in 2000 and 2001, an Israeli-only proposal in 2008, or U.S efforts to mediate new talks in 2014 and earlier this year. They refused.
Revisionism by the U.N. special rapporteur, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—which via resolution seeks to convert Jerusalem’s Temple Mount from Judaism’s holiest site to an Islamic-only shrine—and by the U.N. Human Rights Council does not erase reality: Palestinian leadership leverages the United Nations to delegitimize Israeli actions in the territories, hoping to end the occupation of Israel by Jews.
The writer is communications consultant for the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center. Any opinions expressed above are solely his own.