Haven’t you noticed the absurdity during an NFL game where continuous penalties move the offense to “half the distance to the end zone”, and that half just gets smaller and smaller until it feels infinitesimal. Yet the referee keeps calling the penalty and cutting the distance by half. Even quantum mechanics gives a nod to this seeming anomaly. But it is simply true – any whole can always be divided in half, infinitely but absurdly.
Such is the land of Israel, and the larger area we call the Levant. There are only so many times it can be divided until that division becomes ludicrous. And harmful. And dare I say meaningless.
Today we mark the historic UN decision to divide this region. This vote represented the desire of the international community to create a homeland for the Jewish people, as well as one for the Arabs. But this simple sentence belies a history of the region and its divisions, from feuding kings to warring empires and their desire to control this tiny but critical area.
Today’s conference on the legalities of Jerusalem, sponsored by the Israeli Government’s Foreign Ministry and its Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely, delved into the legal realities of this unique city. One after the next, its erudite speakers highlighted historic context and political aspirations at the time of the UN decision and the founding of the State of Israel, to provide a legal framework for the discussion.
The UN’s General Assembly can only accept ‘recommendations’, except on issues of its own budget or internal workings. This hair-splitting is essential to debunking the theory that Resolution 181 is anything but an idea, one that had its day a few decades ago but is not binding nor actually relevant today.
‘Corpus separatum’ is simply, in fancy Latin, ‘a special area’, devoid of true meaning. Prof. Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University and the Kohelet Policy Forum pointed out that no one is suggesting Bethlehem be put under international supervision! Ambassador Alan Baker declared that in the Middle East, “It takes ten to tango”, bringing his personal experience from drafts of agreements between Israel and its surrounding neighbors.
Most interesting guests were the Egyptian and Jordanian political attaches, one of whom passionately addressed a speaker, asking him to refrain from what he saw as an unnecessary review of history – i.e. Jordan was created as the palestinian state. Also in attendance were a slew of diplomats, academics, tour guides (my personal favorite!), activists, legal minds and of course people who were deeply involved in the legal aspects of Israel as a fledgling state from Day 1. An impressive bunch who both knew their stuff and came to learn more.
Yes, the Jewish people gathered and danced with joy in front of the Jewish Agency buildings. But that UN vote back in 1947 wasn’t all rosy, colored with those who did vs. those who didn’t want the decision to be made – not within the international community but by the very people who lived in the land of Palestine. (See this link for the full text of Resolution 181, whose birthday is today.)
While the Jewish leadership accepted the admittedly limited offer for statehood, some Jews rejected the exclusion of major areas of the historic Jewish homeland from the map. The Arab states rejected the proposal outright, and continued to do so as they attacked the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, and again in 1967 and 1973. (See here for exact wording:
You may read of the so-called Nakba and how the ‘Zionists’ manipulated the world stage. Funny, those websites only go back a decade or less, as a blatant rewrite of their own history. You can change your mind, but you must own up to that.
Only recently have Arab voices been raised to revive that once-rejected plan, in a desperate move to rewrite history and wipe out Israel’s claim to any of the land. When it was proposed and much after, the Arab nations, including palestinian Arabs, flat out rejected the plan. This makes sense, as they would never approve any trace of a Jewish presence in the Middle East. As Ruth Lapidot so eloquently put it today: You cannot reject a legal proposal and return many decades later, expecting the proposition still to be on the table. You gambled, and lost, and now Israel is a thriving state with international recognition and more clout than any palestinian body has been able to garner since.
When it came to dividing it up, a lot more than half was offered the Arabs at that time. The Jews said yes to the morsels it was given, and the rest is history. Thank you, international community, for recognizing the rights of people who wished to live in peace in the land of Palestine.
UN vote on Partition Plan, 29 November 1947
It would behoove the UN to continue on this trajectory, as we heard today from experts who debunked theories that attempt to rewrite the UN intentions and remove recognition of a state of Israel in any form. We look now to the UNHRC to own up to that intention and to cease its onslaught of anti-Israel rhetoric and actions that threaten multinational corporations from doing business with us; and from UN Security Council politicized nonstarters that reject Israel’s right to self-determination – such as trying to tell us what is and what isn’t legal about Jerusalem as Israel’s historic, unified capital.