The Right Place At The Wrong Time

In 1947, the UN was the right place

Much has been said about the use of the refusal of the United States to allow the passage of a resolution that would put pressure on Israel to halt settlement construction on Palestinian land. Although the use of the veto runs counter to American interests, US officials reasoned that the UN Security Council was not “the right place to engage on these issues” despite the fact that the UN was created to deal with, you know, international disputes. Steven Walt notes that the UN is the perfect place for these decisions: “the expansion of settlements is clearly an appropriate issue for the security council to consider, given that it is authorized to address  obvious threats to international peace and security.” And, historically, the UN “is precisely where all decisions relating to Israel’s occupation have been taken, ever since resolution 242 in 1967.”

Yet, Israel has been benefiting from the UN for much longer. If the UN is not the appropriate place to deal with issues between Israel and Palestine, why did the organization offer to partition Palestine in 1947? Why did the United Nations offer to give the Jews of Palestine (representing only 33% of the population) 56% of the (most valuable) land? The Arabs rejected the plan because it was clearly unfair as it relegated the majority of Palestine’s population to 44% of Mandate Palestine when the Palestinians controlled most an overwhelming amount of the land (some 76% of Jews lived in urban centers, while 68% of Palestinians lived in rural farming communities). The Jewish leadership accepted the UN partition plan.* In 1947, when the resolution favored (soon-to-be) Israel, the UN was appropriate, yet in 2011 (and 09, 06, 05, 02…), when the resolution does not favor Israel, magically, the UN loses legitimacy.

So the question must be asked, is the UN the appropriate forum to discuss the conflict between Israel and Palestine only when the international organization can put forward resolutions and plans that can disproportionately favor Israel? If the resolution was an attempt to legalize the Israeli settlements, would the US offer the same opinion? If the UN in 1947 offered a similar resolution, what would the Truman Administration have done?

Walt calls the decision to veto the “latest sad chapter in the annals of American Middle East Policy.” The effects of the American vote can and will be debated ad nauseum, but the one thing that has been made clear (if it was not already) is the simple fact that in this American dominated world, the Palestinians have been relegated to simple collateral damage. The lame excuses given by the American administration simply proves that the millions of Palestinian people were in the right place at the wrong time.

*It is important to note also that the Jewish leadership at the time, including Ben Gurion, did not plan to respect the borders of the partition: “While the Yishuv’s leadership formally accepted the 1947 Partition Resolution, large sections of Israel’s society — including…Ben-Gurion — were opposed to or extremely unhappy with partition and from early on viewed the war as an ideal opportunity to expand the new state’s borders beyond the UN earmarked partition boundaries and at the expense of the Palestinians.” – From Benny Morris

Photo from MidEast Web

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