The Bureau of Counterpropaganda

Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Rocking the foundations

If you read this blog and are unfamiliar with the Green Bans, or if for some reason you've missed seeing Rocking the foundations, you're in for a treat.

I've been trying to track down a copy of this inspiring classic documentary for decades. It doesn't appear to have been available in any format. But just last month one sam wallman posted it on Youtube. Onya, Sam!

For background, here are a few paragraphs from Linda Kearns's review of Meredith and Verity Burgmann's book about the NSW Builders' Labourers' Federation (BLF)
The NSWBLF is particularly interesting since construction workers are so typically seen on the liberal left as the epitome of racism and sexism in the working class.  Yet this was a union which fought for the right of women to work in the construction industry, which vigorously supported abortion rights and other demands raised by the burgeoning women’s liberation movement and which backed up its support by turning out for marches on these issues.

Long before it became fashionable, the NSWBLF also supported gay rights, went on gay rights marches and used its industrial muscle, for example by placing a ‘pink ban’ on building work at a university where a gay student had been thrown out of a hostel.  And in a society in which anti-Aboriginal prejudice was rampant, the union was forthright in its anti-racist politics long before such views became fashionable.
The union also organised on a very democratic basis.  There was a high degree of rank and file control, including over all agreements.  Most of the officials had worked in the building industry.  All officials, even publications editors, had to come from the shop floor, and officials had to return there after six years in full-time positions in the union.  Officials’ pay was tied to award rates, an important measure in preventing them from becoming a self-serving elite connected more to the bosses than to the workers they represented.

...Perhaps what the NSWBLF was most known for, however, was ‘green bans’.  The construction workers risked their jobs to place bans on indiscriminate development which was tearing down much of inner-city Sydney and evicting working class people from their homes, as well as over-running parks and bush.  These campaigns were carried out in conjunction with local residents’ committees, forging an alliance between organised labour and the local community which made it especially hard for the bosses, the state and the media to isolate militants or push through the ‘re-development’ plans.
Watch it! I insist!

h/t Linda Kearns via Philip Ferguson via Marxmail

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A broken skateboard

Jeremy Ben-Ami must have missed my last post, because he's sent me another email, claiming 'Secretary of State John Kerry’s tireless efforts to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have created an historic opportunity which must not be missed.'   


congratulates Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on their decision to resume talks and urges them to come to the negotiating table with a serious and solemn intent to make the compromises necessary to achieve peace based on a two-state solution.

Of course he's not alone in his nonchalant reference to the unelected Capo of Area A as 'Palestinian President'. Nor in assuming that 'both sides' must make painful compromises, as if relinquishing 78% of their land wasn't compromise enough for the Palestinians. Nor in the cavalier conceit that a patently unjust and unsustainable partition can 'achieve peace'.

'Such an agreement', he goes on,

is also the only way to secure Israel’s future as both a democracy and a Jewish homeland and would provide Palestinians with a vehicle in which to fulfill their self-determination and national aspirations.

It never ceases to astonish me that otherwise seemingly lucid people can entertain the delusion without embarrassment that Israel can be both 'a democracy' and 'a Jewish homeland', at least the kind of Jewish homeland Israel insists upon. The very same people would be the first to screech with indignation if, say, the US were to declare itself 'a white homeland' and extend rights to white folks in Krakow and Dunedin that they denied to the members of ethnic minorities who actually live there, including, notably, the indigenous people.

The vehicle metaphor Jeremy deploys sparks the imagination. I can just see Bibi telling abu Mazen, 'We'll take this fleet of 747s and you can have this broken skateboard to fulfill your self-determination and national aspirations. And by the way, we don't have room for these 1.2 million extra Arabs, so they can ride with you.'

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A buzzsaw of negativity

Last week, I received another email from Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J-Street, 'the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans'. It seems he's peeved. So what's he got his knickers in a twist about?

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts aimed at jumpstarting diplomacy to reach a two-state solution are running into a buzzsaw of negativity.

It's not me he's pissed off at, though.

I’m not surprised when the negativity comes from opponents of a two-state solution. They don’t see ending the conflict as either an existential necessity for Israel or an American national interest.

But he's got me all wrong. I think it's quite possible that 'ending the conflict', by which he explicitly means partitioning Palestine to preserve a Jewish ethnocracy on 78% or more of the land, could very well be 'an existential necessity for Israel'. But that's not why I oppose a Two State Solution. Au contraire, I oppose it precisely because it preserves a Jewish ethnocracy. As for the 'American national interest', even if I considered such a thing possible, why would anyone outside the 1% care about that?  

It's 'when the intense negativity and cynicism comes from those who purport to share the Secretary’s end goal, it irks me'.

Maybe Jeremy's confused about the 'end goal'. Is it the 'diplomacy'? Or the 'two-state solution'? Certainly to all appearances Israel's objective is to prolong fruitless negotiations, hemmed about with 'preconditions' that even the quisling abu Mazen could never accept. If they ever agree to partition Palestine, it will be along the lines Jeff Halper suggests, which accords with the views Israelis reveal in opinion polls. 

I don’t know of anyone familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – across the board – who sees in the Kerry initiative anything other than an attempt to impose on the Palestinians a Pax Israeliana. In fact, neither Kerry nor his Israeli partners bother to deny it. For his part, Kerry’s main contribution to this latest incarnation of the long-moribund “peace process” is a vague $4 billion package of “incentives’ – part of what Amira Hass calls hush money – that bears a striking resemblance to the “economic peace” Netanyahu and Peres have been trying to peddle for years. Otherwise, Kerry is merely pressing the Palestinians to accept Israel’s preconditions for negotiations and its version of a two-state solution: no end to settlement construction, land expropriation, house demolitions (28,000 Palestinian homes demolished since 1967, and counting) or displacement; recognition of Israel as a “Jewish” state; the imposition of the Clinton Parameter’s on East Jerusalem (“what is Jewish is Israeli, what is Arab is Palestinian,” thus eliminating completely any kind of coherent urban entity that might serve as the Palestinians’ capital); Israel’s retention of at least six major settlement “blocs,” strategically placed to fragment the West Bank into disconnected and impoverished cantons while isolating what remains of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; long-term or permanent Israeli military control over the Jordan Valley and Palestine’s borders with Egypt and Jordan – well, the list goes on: Israeli control over Palestinian airspace, over their electromagnetic sphere (communications), etc. etc. etc.

This is apparently not the Two State Solution Jeremy has in mind. According to this post on the J-Street site, 

The outlines of an agreement are by now well-known and widely accepted: Borders based on the 1967 lines with agreed reciprocal land swaps allowing Israeli incorporation of a majority of settlers, as well as Palestinian viability and contiguity; a sharing of Jerusalem that is based on demographic realities establishing the capitals of the two states and allowing freedom of access and respect for all holy sites; robust security arrangements; and an agreed upon resolution of the refugee issue that resettles refugees outside of Israel.

It should, but apparently doesn't, go without saying that contiguity is literally impossible if the Palestinian state is to incorporate both the West Bank and Gaza without dividing Israel, as any map of the area will attest. Whether such a state could be economically viable is open to question. But in light of the vulnerability of any corridor connecting the two enclaves and Israel's history of preventing intercourse between them, not to mention the likely influx of refugees if Israel and their current host countries won't take them, I have my doubts. What J-Street might have in mind by 'robust security arrangements' is doubtless best known to them, but they probably mean that the Palestinian state would be 'demilitarised' – anathema to Palestinians in opinion polls – and possibly annexation of the Jordan Valley. If it weren't so banal, J-Street's cavalier approach to the plight of the millions of refugees – that after languishing in refugee camps for 65 years, someone they haven't even had a role in electing is empowered to negotiate away their right to return without so much as 'by your leave'. But then, Israel has consistently rejected any responsibility for the refugees since 1949. After all, their return would erode the Jewish majority that they were expelled to achieve in the first place.

There is a widely held misconception that Israel's creation of 'facts on the ground' since 1967 have rendered The Two State Solution™ impossible, as intended, or soon will. Four years ago, former US National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and other luminaries warned that there was only a "six to twelve month window" before all chances for peace evaporated. In May 2012, long after the Scowcroft window had slammed decisively shut, J-Street itself emphasised 'The Urgency of a Two-State Solution' without setting a deadline, but insisting that 'the window of opportunity for achieving a two-state solution is rapidly closing...We no longer have the luxury of waiting for a riper time to pursue peace; now is that time' and quoting with approval Obama's proclamation a year earlier, '[T]he current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination…'

In reality, whether there is a Two State 'Solution' depends entirely on the problem it is to solve. If the problem is that millions of Palestinians are stateless and subject to Israeli military occupation, some for 46 years and the rest for their entire lives; that millions more in the diaspora are stateless, some for 65 years and the rest for their entire lives; and that over a million more live as twelfth class citizens, principally in isolated enclaves always facing the threat of relocation or house demolition, then the TSS solves little for the first group and nothing for the others.

If, on the other hand, the problem is 'With the Jewish and Arab populations between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea at near-parity, demographic trends preclude Israel from maintaining control over all of Greater Israel while remaining a democratic state and a homeland for the Jewish people', then the TSS really is a solution and will remain a solution, unless, of course, in Ehud Olmert's immortal words, 'we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished'.

One of the things Jeremy, or whoever wrote 'The Urgency of a Two-State Solution', has missed is that Israel has in fact controlled all of Greater Israel™ since 1967 without allowing the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip the right to participate in electing the government of the state that controls every aspect of their lives. So there is no prospect whatsoever of Israel 'remaining a democratic state' – it has not been recognisably democratic for the last 46 years. Another is that if Israel Proper™ is 'a homeland for the Jewish people', then it is not a homeland for the indigenous Palestinian people, who have endured racial discrimination since 1948, hardly the mark of a democratic state.

While I'm digressing, another popular misconception among advocates of the TSS is that ongoing encroachment by Israeli settlements, bypass roads and the rest of the 'matrix of control' will reduce the eventual rump Palestinian state to a series of discontiguous bantustans. While not actually false, this view misses the point that a Palestinian state was never going to be anything other than a bantustan, or more likely two discontiguous bantustans, even if it comprised the full 22% of Mandatory Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Yet a third is that Israel will become an apartheid state when the non Jewish population between the Jordan and the Mediterranean exceeds 50%, which is likely to occur within the next few years. If they want to join the other hasbaristas in defining apartheid strictly as the system of racial segregation against indigenous Blacks applied in South Africa until 1994, the issue is moot. But The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court identifies apartheid as a 'crime against humanity' and defines it as: 

inhumane acts...committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.

Significantly, it is irrelevant which racial group is in the majority.

Returning to Jeremy's missive, he's 'had enough of the skeptics and critics – particularly those who claim – even as they criticize the Secretary for his efforts – to recognize the importance of reaching peace and a two-state solution.' They seem to him to be undermining Kerry's project just because they think it's too hard. He's concerned about the consequences of inaction:

if the Secretary were to simply walk away, and the Palestinians headed to the International Criminal Court and other international bodies, seeking recognition of their rights and international action against Israel.

Clearly, he imagines that it would be a disaster for Palestinians to seek recognition of their rights. And they would suffer, too.

Congress has threatened to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority (and maybe to the UN bodies who accept them), the Israelis could be expected to launch a new wave of settlement construction (E-1, anyone?), and Palestinian tax revenue could again be withheld.

In other words, if Kerry fails to get the Israelis to come to the party and make the fabled 'painful compromises', his own government will punish the Palestinians for it, as will the Israeli government, by violating existing agreements. He writes of these things as if they were a force of nature that Kerry and the Israelis have no control over.

With the Palestinian Authority already struggling to make ends meet, what happens when it can’t?...If the PA stopped collecting garbage, does Israel resume full responsibility for West Bank services?

Well, yes. Why wouldn't the Israeli government take responsibility for providing infrastructure and services in the area that they actually control? Indeed, why don't they now? And while they're about it, they might just extend suffrage to the still stateless Palestinians under their jurisdiction.

Furthermore, 'demonstrations might break out and we could be on the road to a third intifada'. And not a moment too soon.

But from those who seem to be saying it’s not even worth trying – much less trying hard – I want to know what they would have said to those who tackle the great challenges of human history? That it’s not worth trying to invent a way to fly? There’s no way to find a cure for cancer? We can’t possibly stop global warming so why try?

So prolonging the lifespan of The Jewish and Democratic State is now one of ' the great challenges of human history'! But unlike curing cancer, this would not alleviate human suffering, it would exacerbate it. In much the same vein, redefining chutzpah, he asks,

What would they have said to the Martin Luther Kings, to the Nelson Mandelas, to the Gandhis? Don’t bother; the forces you’re up against are too powerful? Don’t waste your time?

Writing on Mondoweiss, Estee Chandler of Jewish Voice for Peace, finds grounds for hope that Jeremy refers to her heroes. But if those Jeremy is addressing support partitioning the area of Mandatory Palestine into a state for Jews and a state for Arabs, as he does and Kerry purportedly does, the obvious thing to say to King, Mandela and Gandhi is, 'Stop it!' After all, they devoted themselves to the struggle against racism, colonialism and apartheid while Jeremy and his 'liberal Zionist' cronies are committed to perpetuating them.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Reporting the unreported

In this morning's Algemeiner, Zach Pontz reports on a new report compiling unreported reports of 'Violent Attacks Committed Against Jews in Israel'. The report, reportedly comprising 17 pages, is the work of one Yehudit Tayar, spokeswoman for Hatzalah Yehudah veShomron ('Judea and Samaria Relief'), 'a volunteer emergency medical response organization that works along with the IDF and Israeli security forces throughout Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley'. Accordingly, the 'Jews in Israel' are all located in 'Yehudah and Shomron', aka 'Judea and Samaria', or the occupied West Bank, as it is known here on Earth.

Unfortunately, the Hatzalah Yehuda veShomron page makes no mention of the report and the only report of the report apart from Pontz's is on this 'myrightword'blog, which doesn't link to the original 17 page report, but provides this 'simmary':

Of the 5635 'terror incidents', no fewer than 91% (5144) were stone throwing incidents. Presumably, the actual report, if it exists, would answer questions that might allow a reader to make sense of the 'statistics' it provides, like what is the source of the reports summarised in Tayar's report? What is the definition of a 'terror incident'? An 'attack'? A 'rock'? A look at an earlier 'Tayar Security Report', however, suggests that I may presume too much. I'm particularly curious whether lobbing a tear gas canister back where it came from constitutes a 'terror incident'.

In that report, for 13-26 May, she provides 'a partial summary of the hundreds of attempts to murder innocent Jews during the past week [sic]'. Curiously, among the innocent victims are soldiers and cops. It is also astonishing that 143 of the 611 Molotov cocktail attacks over six months (23%) occurred in that one week (or fortnight by the conventional calendar – who'd know?).

Apparently unaware that B'tselem does report on attacks on Israeli civilians, at least the ones that actually cause injury, Tayar 'told The Algemeiner that the reason behind her efforts was the fact that news of violence against residents in the area wasn’t reaching a wider audience'.

For some reason, Tayar omits to report the many house demolitions, home invasions and abductions innocent Jews in Judea and Samaria suffer at the hands of their terrorist neighbours every week. Nor the 5144 projectiles innocent Jews innocently fling at terrorist schoolchildren in Hebron every day.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Below average

The other day, this meme cropped up on Facebook.

I surmise that the intent is to ridicule the innumeracy of those who would consider such a revelation shocking when in reality it is a perfectly banal observation. What could be more obvious than that it's the nature of an 'average' (presumably the median – see here if you were absent the day they taught averages) that half will be above it and half below?

Or is it?

First of all, the assertion assumes that we know what 'intelligence' means. In reality, the only rigorous definition I've encountered is in terms of performance on intelligence tests. It may be circular, but that's what I'll assume the meme is talking about.

In a population with an odd number of observations, the median is the one exactly in the middle of the distribution when ranked from highest to lowest. So in a population of five with intelligence test scores ('IQ') of 120, 110, 105, 90, 85, the median is 105, and clearly 50% are not 'below average' – 40% are. In such populations, the proportion 'below average' is always going to be less than 50%, even if there are over 316 million observations and the difference is slight.

When the number of observations is even, however, the median is the arithmetic mean of the two observations in the middle. So in a population of four, with IQs of 110, 100, 90, 85, the two central observations – 100 and 90 – average to 95 and in this case, exactly 50% really are below average. But what if their scores were 110, 100, 100, 90? The two observations to average are both 100, so the median is 100 and only 25% are 'below average'. Since IQ scores are deliberately calculated to conform to a normal distribution, it is, if I'm not mistaken, inevitable that there will be a cluster exactly in the middle of the range and there will never be 50% below average because a proportion, probably a plurality, will always be 'average'.

Even if there were some possibility that not one of the 316,044,000 Americans had an IQ of exactly 100, it transpires that intelligence test scores are grouped into ranges and the range 90-109 (sometimes 85-115) is, uncoincidentally, denominated 'Average'. About 50% of the population fall into the 90-109 range and 68% into the 85-115 range, so only 25% in the first case and 16% in the second would be 'below average'.

If it were true that a study showed 50% of Americans 'have below-average intelligence', then, that really would be a shocker.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

What's 'metadata'?

[Note: a few additions, 2013 06 16]

When I first read about the NSA collecting 'metadata' about telephone calls, I thought it was an unconventional use of the term. But on reflection, if you regard the actual substance of a phone call as the data of interest, then the details pertaining to the call are, in fact, metadata.

But this is deceptive. The 'metadata' the NSA collect are crucial to understanding the data they pertain to – the actual content of phone calls and messages that they are purportedly not capturing. A message stating 'The bomb goes off in 48 hours' would be useless if you didn't know when it was sent, among other things. Under the circumstances, they are treating the 'metadata' as data and analysing it as such.

At another level of analysis, those metadata are themselves data and are only meaningful when viewed in light of their own set of metadata. That is what I think of as metadata.

The record of a telephone call is probably represented as a string of characters. The metadata would specify what they mean. First of all, it would tell you that the unit of enumeration – what each record describes – is a 'Phone call', which would be defined to include or exclude SMSs, MMSs, video calls, etc. If it included more than one type of call, there would be a 'Call type' field with a code indicating what kind of call it was. The first 20 characters of the record, then, might be a sequential call record identifier. The metadata would then specify that the field is named 'Call record id' and comprises 20 numerical characters. There might then be a code for the date of the call, which would tell you that it is an eight character numeric field and link it to a particular time zone. Similarly, the metadata for 'Time of call' would say that the field is four numeric characters and the applicable time zone, and define its content as the time the call is answered (or perhaps when dialling was completed). The next three characters might represent the country code of the originating phone, which would be called, for example, 'Originating country code', be 3 numeric characters long and associated with a table of valid country codes (a classification), linking each with the relevant country; etc. The 'classification' associated with the fields for actual phone numbers would effectively be a reverse telephone directory. Other fields could include codes for the phone towers, satellites and nodes the call passes through, with times, details of the receiving number, and so forth.

The metadata pertaining to survey data would include definitions of the concepts purportedly collected, the wording and sequence of the questions asked to elicit data supporting those concepts, how such data are classified, a definition of the units being measured, the time the data apply to, the sampling methodology, and so forth. So a record in a labour force survey would include data like 'Dwelling id', 'Household number', 'Person number', 'State' or other geographic indicators, 'Sex of person', 'Age of person in years', 'Marital status of person', 'Labour force status of person', 'Hours actually worked by person during reference period', 'Hours usually worked by person', 'Status in employment of person in main job', 'Occupation of person in main job', 'Industry of person in main job', additional comparable fields for second, third, fourth... jobs, 'Duration of unemployment of person', etc. The metadata for records like that would name and define each field, stipulate its length and the type of characters allowed, and associate it with any relevant classification. The classification could be quite simple. A classification of 'Sex of person' might look like this:
0    Undetermined
1    Female
2    Male
3    Other
while classifications of 'Occupation' and 'Industry' fill large tomes. Sometimes, of course, a number is just a number, 'Age in years', for example. But even these can be classified by grouping them into ranges. For the record, it's never a good idea to collect age in ranges, as that can make it impossible to compare the data with other data collected or output in different ranges. So if you are interested in the population aged 18-22 years, for example, and ask respondents whether they are in that range, you could never compare your data with data collected in standard age ranges: 15-19, 20-24... If you're developing a survey, I urge you to collect age last birthday in single years.

To digress, it's worth pointing out that there's more than one way to define a concept. For most purposes – when defining a word, for example - it's probably best to identify the core of the concept and acknowledge that speakers will vary in how far from that core something can be before they'll call it something else. When defining statistical concepts, however, it's crucial to demarkate the outline of the concept so that there is little or no possibility of ambiguity. Each unit either fits into a category or not. I hasten to add that statisticians are not always as careful as they need to be about defining terms and that standard definitions may not accurately reflect the concept as it is actually collected.

Similarly, not all classifications are the same. In a statistical classification, categories have to be defined to be mutually exclusive so that every unit in the population to be enumerated fits into one and only one category. And the classification must be exhaustive, so there's a category to accommodate every unit to be classified, even if the category is just 'Other'. Again, not all statistical classifications are entirely 'fit for purpose' or even internally coherent. And even when they are, they are often applied in contexts they were not designed for. So a classification of industries, for instance, that may (or may not) be perfectly serviceable in classifying the commodities each industry produces can obscure similarities and differences among industries when applied to workplace safety. 'Agriculture, forestry and fishing' captures the industries that produce food and timber, but the hazards encountered in abalone diving are quite different to those in the dairy cattle farming industry, which in turn might be similar to those in the beef cattle farming industry.

Finally, a generalisation like 'The mean number of completed calls originating from phones within the 50 states is 7.8 per day' is not really metadata. It's just another way of presenting the data. The applicable metadata would include definitions of 'Completed call' (including or excluding SMS, etc.) and 'Within the 50 states' (including or excluding diverted calls, global roaming, etc.).

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The promise

Anybody who's read this blog will know that I tend to be highly critical of anything I see about Palestine. While my principal concern seems to be deconstructing hasbara 'arguments', bogus 'definitions' of antisemitism and so forth, I have also criticised the Two State 'Solution, expressed scepticism of the one and no state solutions, and cast doubt on BDS. So it's a big deal when I find something that offers so little to criticise as Peter Kosminsky's 2011 four part Channel Four series, The promise. I gather from Cecilie Surasky's 22 February Muzzlewatch post (which ironically has the comments facility disabled) that many in North America have not seen this important series. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been broadcast either free to air or on cable in the US or Canada and the DVD only appears to be available coded for regions 2 and 4, but you know what to do about that, and there are torrents available, as well. I recommend that you make a point of securing a copy and a box of tissues and read no further, as there will be a few spoilers.

The story begins in 2005 when Erin, an English girl who has just finished school, and her mother, Chris, visit her grandfather, Len, in hospital. He is intubated and can't speak or move. In the next scene, Erin and Chris are clearing out Len's house and Erin discovers his diary hidden behind some other books. She asks Chris about it and is instructed to 'bin it', as 'it's private', which is sufficient to ensure that Erin recovers it from the trash and takes it. She then divulges that her closest mate, Eliza, an Israeli dual national who has done her schooling in England – her father is an English oleh, has to return to do her military service and has asked Erin to come with her. Furthermore, she is leaving in a few days' time. Eliza's motivation is not really clear. She will be in training five days of the week, leaving Erin to lounge by the pool at her parents' luxurious Caesaria house and hang with her at the weekend. On the flight, Eliza dozes in her first class seat while Erin starts reading the diary, depicted in flashbacks, in which she learns that Len had served in the force that liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The flashback includes a few minutes of gruesome holocaust footage.

The balance of the series follows Len's experiences in Palestine after the war interspersed with Erin's adventures as she attempts to find the family of Mohammed abu Hassan, the chaiwallah employed by Len's unit who Len had befriended. Erin is utterly clueless and quite aware of her cluelessness. Although Claire Foy, the actress who plays her, was in her mid 20s when the series was filmed, she appears even younger than her character's 18 years. She wanders into situations that she knows must be dangerous without a qualm and never hesitates to request extravagant favours from people she doesn't know that will on occasion place them in mortal peril. Indeed, the fate of Omar, an Israeli Palestinian, veteran of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and fellow member of Combatants for Peace with Eliza's elder brother, Paul, is left unresolved. Presumably to keep Len's and Erin's narratives in parallel, Erin does not finish reading the diary before she sets out on her adventures. Or perhaps that's just an indication of how unprepared she was.

My principal criticism of the series is that, consistent with the narrator's point of view, it is couched entirely within the trope of the beneficent British army's valiant attempt to keep the colonised Jews and Arabs from tearing each other apart – 'the meat in the sandwich', as the intelligence officer puts it in a briefing. Len, himself, a sergeant in command of some 40 other soldiers, is scrupulously fair to everybody, but then it is his diary. And as a matter of fact, it's not really a criticism. One of the charms of the series, the usual accusations of antisemitism notwithstanding, is that it airs a healthy range of perspectives. Len has an affair with Clara, a Holocaust survivor employed by the Haifa City club to entertain British troops (an institution, by the way, that I had been unaware of), who is also a member of the Irgun. Erin meets Eliza and Paul's maternal grandfather, another Irgun terrorist enjoying what appears to be a decidedly comfortable retirement, who is proud of his involvement in the July 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel where the mandate authorities were headquartered, which killed 91, including 17 Jews. Coincidentally, Len has a meeting there and arrives just in time to witness the attack, but is not badly injured. Len often hears radio broadcasts by the Jewish resistance. Paul and Eliza's father articulates traditional 'liberal Zionist' views, while Paul himself, who served for three years in Hebron, is antizionist and seldom enunciates anything I'd differ with. In the course of her travels, Omar takes Erin to Ein Hawd, where survivors of the Nakba get to tell their stories.

Through plot devices that sometimes seem a little contrived, Len's story takes the viewer through a number of historical incidents, including the King David Hotel bombing and the Deir Yassin massacre, while Erin survives a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv bar, witnesses the harassment of schoolchildren and others in Hebron and a house demolition in Gaza.

There are a few apparent inconsistencies and anachronisms. In the first episode, for instance, Eliza drives herself and Erin, alone in the family's Mercedes convertible, to her first day of training. It is not clear how she aims to return the car to her home when Erin, who we already know to be epileptic, can't drive. When Len is patrolling one night in 1945 or 1946, he uses a torch that looks suspiciously like a Maglite, which was only invented in 1979. Observant viewers familiar with military paraphernalia can probably spot other such anachronisms. Perhaps most disturbingly, in the final episode, Omar and Erin enter Gaza through a tunnel. As far as I know, the tunnels into the Gaza strip connect Rafah with the Egyptian side of the border. It seems inconceivable that a tunnel entrance within Israel could go undetected. But there's no indication that they flew or snuck into Egypt to access the tunnel.

Quibbling aside, I think The promise provides a dramatic and easily digested introduction to some of the historical events and current issues in Palestine and I make a point of showing it to whoever will sit still for six hours.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Buy Israel!

The Jewish National Fund, my 'voice in Israel', was kind enough to inform me that 'The week of February 25 - March 3 is Buy Israel Week!' Who knew? It goes without saying that Arabs need not apply. 
JEWISH NATIONAL FUND - Your Voice in Israel
But of course they're not really trying to sell Israel off. They want me to 'Combat the BDS movement by supporting our Israeli partners and buying their goods and services.'

Yeah, right!

Political synergy

Writing in yesterday's Algemeiner, Adam Levick excoriates 'professional Israel hater, anti-Semite whisperer', Ben White. His crime? 

Whilst it’s unclear if White consented to being cross-posted by Al Qassam Brigades or not, the decision by an official Hamas propagandist manning the site to promote his anti-Zionist, post-colonial agitprop represents a perfect example of the political synergy between the British anti-Zionist left and the Islamist reactionary right (what’s known as the Red-Green Alliance).

highlights an “infographic” purporting to demonstrate the number of attacks in Gaza since the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel in November – data which, per White, “lay bare the daily reality for Palestinians and the power imbalance between the occupier and an occupied, colonised people fighting for their basic rights.” 

It doesn't 'represent' any kind of 'political synergy' whatsoever. The 'official Hamas propagandist manning the site' thought the data presented in the infographic useful. And I agree. I linked to it on Facebook. As for 'what’s known as the Red-Green Alliance', it's a figment of his imagination. Principled antiracists like Ben may agree with 'the Islamist reactionary right' that Zionism is not a good idea, but there is no evidence of any alliance, even on the reasons for opposing Zionism.

There's no need for Levick to contest the content of the infographic, which shows that over the three months since 'Operation Pillar of Cloud', Israeli has launched 106 attacks on the Gaza Strip, killing 4 and wounding 91, while only two mortar shells and no rockets were launched from Gaza. Over the same period, Israel killed 6 and wounded 618 in the West Bank.

After all,

...such antisemitic, misogynistic, homophobic and anti-democratic Islamist movements like Hamas don’t give a damn about political “power imbalances” or “basic [human] rights”, but are often willing to cynically employ tropes which evoke such Western values when it suits their purposes.

In contrast, by implication, Israel, 'the only democracy in the Middle east', would never resort to such antisemitic actions as corralling millions of Jews into a tiny ghetto in the Levant, or purporting to represent all Jews; it would never tolerate women being relegated to the back of the bus; it couldn't imagine returning Palestinian gays seeking asylum to the families who want them dead; and it certainly wouldn't discriminate in housing or education or anything on the grounds of ethnicity. The argument, therefore, amounts to 'Don't criticise Israel. Somebody else did something worse.' You wouldn't accept such an excuse from a four year old child, but when it comes out of the mouth of the hasbara establishment, it's supposed to make sense.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Unparalleled access

This morning I received an email from Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee's Director of Government and International Affairs, demanding that I 'stand up to the threat of a nuclear Iran' by donating to the AJC.

A nuclear-armed Iran under radical Islamic rule would pose an unimaginably greater threat to the region and to world peace. AJC will continue to pursue every legislative and diplomatic avenue to thwart Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons capability.

It is not important, or credible, that as Aslı Bâli wrote a fortnight ago,

Iran’s nuclear program has been the subject of a stepped-up inspections regime, with the IAEA spending more inspection man-hours in Iran in the last nine years than in any other country in its history...The Agency has made 39 reports to its Board of Governors concerning the Iranian nuclear program, the most recent in November 2012. While the reports reflect concerns that the Agency has not fully verified Iran’s past and current activities, each report confirms that there is no evidence that Iran has diverted nuclear materials to military purposes.

Nor that Iran has never threatened Israel or any other country.

He is apparently unconcerned that Israel, which is not even party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), has an active, explicitly military, nuclear program and possesses up to 400 nuclear weapons. It is no secret that Israel has been planning an attack on Iran for years. 

Bâli also points out that although Iran has scrupulously complied with its obligations under the NPT, it is in violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions.

the succession of seven Security Council resolutions -- 1696 (July 2006), 1737 (December 2006), 1747 (March 2007), 1803 (March 2008), 1835 (September 2008), 1929 (June 2010) and 1984 (June 2011) -- now constitute the legal framework for the Iranian nuclear program, superceding Iran’s obligations under the NPT.

Which I think raises interesting questions about International Law beyond the fundamental principle that the US and those it considers friendly can flout treaty obligations, covenants, declarations, SC resolutions, ICJ findings and the UN Charter with impunity while the people of those deemed unfriendly must endure sanctions and attacks as punishment, notwithstanding their compliance.

Isaacson is pleased that

Current sanctions have cut Iran's petroleum exports in half and crippled its economy. Iran’s currency has plummeted.

Unfortunately, 'Iran's defiant leaders have failed to respond'. So

To stop their reckless quest, AJC is leveraging its unparalleled access to world leaders to press for still more punishing economic and political measures. Our impact has been widely acknowledged in the halls of power.

For literally two decades, AJC has pressed the U.S. and world governments to unite against the Iranian threat. In recent weeks – following our advocacy campaign for European Union sanctions – AJC mobilized advocates across the country to urge support for a new U.S. package of intensified Iran sanctions proposed in Congress. Our voice was heard: the Iran sanctions amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act was adopted and the full measure sent to President Obama for his signature...Our thoughtful, principled global advocacy has earned respect and attention at the highest levels in capitals around the world.

You might almost form the impression that Isaacson was boasting of the AJC's influence. But that couldn't possibly be, because the very same AJC unequivocally rejects 'the ugliest anti-Semitic stereotypes' conjured up by 'identification of a rich and powerful “Israel lobby”, as Zionist poodle Thomas Friedman rashly did last year. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Our children

Just weeks after humiliating himself with his notorious quip that 'no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens' while unleashing just such a deluge himself, President Obama is grieving the fatal shooting of some 20 children and 7 adults at Sandy Hook School in Newtown Connecticut, allegedly at the hands of one Adam Lanza, described by the Newtown Patch as 'developmentally disabled'. The president is heartbroken

...for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost. Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.

After all, 'As a country, we have been through this too many times...these children are our children.' [my emphasis]

Nor is it just 'our' American children he mourns, although only their deaths bring tears to his eyes. He also empathises with the parents of the children traumatised by the ceaseless torrent of Qassam rockets in

...the border town of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms, and I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids.

They too have 'their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.' Unlike Palestinian kids, Pakistani kids, Afghan kids... who don't have lives ahead of them; who unfortunately found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time; who he can shoot and not cry; whose parents don't grieve and above all, don't have the right 'to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this'. That would be terrorism.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Assurances to the contrary

On reading Joseph Massad's take on the UN General Assembly resolution conferring non member observer state status on the Palestinian Authority, it occurs to me that in my post 'Raining on the parade', I may have read too much into the wording of point 2, the operative decision, and not enough into points 1 and 5, which reaffirm the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and urge negotiations, respectively. 

Massad writes,

Yesterday, the general assembly voted to admit Palestine as a state with observer status. Despite assurances to the contrary, the new state is likely to undermine the status of the PLO at the UN.

On reflection, I was too hasty to accept the 'assurances to the contrary', specifically,
    without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people
The first article of the resolution, which I gather provides the frame for the balance of the resolution,

Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 [my emphasis]

The plain meaning of this, which I fear I missed at the time is that the Palestinian people as a whole are only entitled to exercise their rights within the occupied territory. Since the Palestinian people incorporates not just the denizens of the West Bank and Gaza, but also the refugees, it seems that what the General Assembly is saying here is that their right of return will not be 'to their homes' as provided in UNGA Resolution 194, but to the State of Palestine. This is in accord with abu Mazen's recent declaration, 'I want to see Safed. It's my right to see it, but not to live there', widely, and I believe correctly, interpreted as relinquishing the right of return, protestations that 'the remarks were his personal stance, rather than a change of policy' to the contrary notwithstanding. 

The Palestinian people of course also include some 1.5 million Israeli citizens, who will also enjoy the right to self determination in the State of Palestine, just as then Foreign Minsiter Tzipi Livni promised in December 2008, 

Once a Palestinian state is established, I can come to the Palestinian citizens, whom we call Israeli Arabs, and say to them 'you are citizens with equal rights, but the national solution for you is elsewhere'.

Beyond this, in clause 5, the GeneralAssembly enunciated adherence to 'the Quartet road map', along with 'the principle of land for peace', among the guidelines within which negotiations 'for the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides that resolves all outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security and water'.

The Roadmap demands that the 

Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security

Such a statement alone would suffice to cement the Palestinian State's acquiescence in the Palestinian people's permanent exile from at least the 78% of their homeland comprising 'Israel proper'. But it wasn't good enough for Israel, whose response to The Roadmap demanded the absolute end of all resistance and disarming of all Palestinians before they would even consider adherence to The Roadmap's modest provisions applying to Israel. They insisted that 'declared references must be made to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state'.

You wouldn't expect anything that actually makes sense to emerge from the George W Bush White House. But to suggest 'an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue' is just a sick joke. There can be a just and fair solution, or there can be an agreed and realistic 'solution', but certainly not both if the right of return means anything at all. And true to form, Israel insisted on 'the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel'.

So I'm convinced that the General Assembly has no intention of acknowledging the majority of the Palestinian people who are outside the PA's jurisdiction, even through the imperfect, compromised and moribund PLO. In future, I'll try not to be so gullible.

As for the parades, it seems that the report in the Independent I sourced that information from may have been exaggerating. Haggai Matar reports,

In spite of the headlines, the international media attention, and the flow of pictures showing celebrating Palestinians waving flags – the UN resolution sparked little excitement or joy in the streets of Ramallah, which is still surrounded by walls and settlements on all sides. If anything, it was an evening of sadness and despair.

By 22:00, when the live video from the General Assembly came up, there were few more than 300 people gathered near the screen. By 22:30 the event reached its peak, with about 1,000 people – leaving the small square about half empty. About half were police, journalists, foreigners, and young men who were said to be Fatah Youth, called up in a hurry when officials realized how grim things were looking

In the Telegraph, Robert Tait reports 

In the cramped, ramshackle streets of Al Am’ari refugee camp – home to around 6,000 Palestinians displaced in the 1948 war that ushered in the state of Israel – the mood was as grim as the setting, despite the historic vote at the United Nations.

Nor was I alone in noticing the dark cloud surrounding Abbas's silver lining, such as it is.

The Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah wrote on the al Jazeera site, 

The emptiness of the UN vote could not have been more clearly illustrated than by what has happened - or not happened - since.

On Thursday, the UN General Assembly voted to admit "Palestine" as a non-member state. On Friday, Israel announced its intention to build thousands more settler housing units on the territory of this supposed state. What now will be the international response in the wake of the UN vote?

Other than ritual condemnations, will there be real, specific action - including sanctions - by the 138 countries that voted for "Palestine" to force Israel to halt, and begin to reverse its illegal colonisation of the 1967 occupied territories? Sadly, that is unlikely, an indication that the UN vote was nothing more than a hollow gesture and a substitute for effective action to halt Israel's crimes.

Tait quotes a Ramallah waiter,

“I don’t expect anything from this. This is a state in theory, not in practice,” he said.

“Israel doesn’t pay any attention to international public opinion and the UN can pass all the resolutions it likes but Israel just says no.

Is Israel going to leave the [West Bank] settlements now? Am I going to be able to go to the Al-Aqsa mosque (in Jerusalem) to pray? I don’t think so.”

In Ha'aretz, Abeer Ayyoub wrote,

...I couldn't see anything but the darkness falling over my land...

It's no surprise that most of the people who are going with the step are pro-Fatah; it seems that most of them agree with anything Abu Mazen says by default. I always wonder how a Palestinian can be a refugee and adopt the 1967 borders state at the same time. How can you admit that you don’t have the right to live in your own home?

I was talking to my classmate on Skype when he told me that he’s praying that all the countries will vote against the bid; I was surprised it wasn’t just me who was praying. Abu Ramzi told me that he can’t think of Palestine as anything but the territory from the sea to the river and that having 22% of historical Palestine doesn’t mean anything but a loss to him.

...the Palestinians got their non-member status at the UN by securing the votes of the majority. Let Palestinians who want to enjoy the 22% of their lands enjoy it. No matter what, I’ll always have the 100% inside; where Christians, Jews and Muslims will co-exist in peace, like they always did. I’ll celebrate with the five million refugees when they go back to their homes one day.

And finally, in Massad's view,

By recognising a diminished Palestinian state, the vote effectively abandons the UN understanding of the "Jewish state" as one that has no right to discriminate against or ethnically cleanse non-Jews. The new arrangement confers the blessing of this international forum on the Israeli understanding of what a "Jewish state" entails– namely, the actually existing legal discrimination and ethnic cleansing practised by Israel –as acceptable. That this occurred on 29 November, the date of the partition plan, reiterates this date as one of continuing defeats for the Palestinians who continue to suffer from Israel's colonial laws, and repeats UN guilt in denying Palestinians their rights not to suffer dispossession and racism. The Palestinians, however, whose majority is not represented by the PA, will no more heed this new partition plan than they did the last one and will continue to resist Israeli colonialism until it comes to an end and until Israel becomes a state for all its citizens with equal rights to all regardless of national, religious, or ethnic background.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Then and now

Welcome to Betar Checkpoint
This checkpoint is for the passage of Israelis only.
It is forbidden to pass and/or drive a person through this checkpoint, who is not Israeli!!

"Israeli" - a resident of Israel, a person who lives in the area and is a citizen of Israel, or a person entitled to make aliyah to Israel according to the Law of return, 1950, as valid in Israel

(PHOTO CREDIT: Dudy Tzfati via Roy, TRANSLATION CREDIT: Dudy Tzfati)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Raining on the parade

With Palestinians in their thousands dancing in the streets of Ramallah and Gaza and even Beirut, what better time could there be to rain on the parade?

First, the silver lining. According to Professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law, Francis A. Boyle,

This can be the start of a 'Legal Intifadah' by Palestine against Israel:
  1. Palestine can join the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and file a Complaint with the ICC against the illegal settlements and settlers, who are committing war crimes;
  2. Palestine can join the Statute for the International Court of Justice, sue Israel at the World Court, and break the illegal siege of Gaza;
  3. Palestine can join the Law of the Sea Convention and get its fair share of the enormous gas fields lying off the coast of Gaza, thus becoming economically self-sufficient;
  4. Palestine can become a High Contracting Party to the Four Geneva Conventions [this deals with the laws of war];
  5. Palestine can join the International Civil Aviation Organization and gain sovereign, legal control over its own airspace;
  6. Palestine can join the International Telecommunications Union and gain sovereign legal control over its own airwaves, phone lines, bandwidths.
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, we've already seen Belgium rescind its universal jurisdiction legislation and the UK watering theirs down precisely to insulate Israeli war crimes suspects from arrest.  

World Court decisions only apply with the explicit consent of the parties, as we learned in 1984, when it found against the US for mining Nicaraguan harbours. Furthermore, the only avenue for enforcing ICJ findings is through the UN Security Council. And guess who wields a veto there. The Security Council has never authorised enforcement of a World Court decision under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. 

Under Article XIV of Annex I to the 'Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreementon the West Bank and the Gaza Strip' (Oslo 2), ' Zone L will be open for fishing, recreation and economic activities' and nothing in the text precludes gas extraction. As the map shows, most of the Gaza Marine Field lies within Zone L.  (In case you're interested – I was - here's a link to Map 8, referred to in the Annex.) Anyway, Israel is not a party to the UN Law of the Sea Convention and has repeatedly demonstrated its contempt for it with impunity.   

So if Israel has not complied with its own agreement and isn't even subject to the relevant treaty, why would anyone expect them to suddenly change their tune just because the notoriously antisemitic UN General Assembly recognises Palestine as a non member 'state'? After all, Israel is currently in dispute with Lebanon, a full UN member state, over access to Mediterranean petroleum deposits. In any case, I don't envisage The International Communitysending a fleet into the Mediterranean to enforce Palestinian mineral rights.

In much the same vein, will Palestine's membership of the ICAO preclude Israeli drones from buzzing over Gaza? Will the Palestinian Air Force be able to shoot them down without fear of Israeli reprisals?

All in all, should the State of Palestine enter into the conventions Boyle suggests, the principal beneficiaries are likely to be international lawyers who can spend the next several decades litigating in toothless international courts while Israel does as it pleases. What's with these professors of International Law, anyway? 

One of the curious things you find in reports of this achievement is words to the effect of, 'the U.N.’s highest policy-making body Thursday voted overwhelmingly to elevate Palestine from an “observer” to a “non-member state”', as Thalif Dean of IPS wrote yesterday.  Or 'The resolution lifts the Palestinian Authority's UN observer status from "entity" to "non-member state"', in the words of Michael Brissenden.

In reality, as I read it, there is another bright spot. 'The General Assembly...',
    Decides to accord to Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice;. [my emphasis]
In other words, they are treating 'Palestine'. the new non member state, as a separate entity from the PLO, which is still regarded 'as the representative of the Palestinian people'. So it may not be strictly accurate to write, like Bron Tau, 'The United Nations voted Thursday to upgrade the Palestinian status from "nonmember observer entity" to "nonmember observer state."'

Every report I've read systematically conflates 'Palestine' with 'the Palestinians', erasing the absolutely crucial distinction between the 4.3 million Palestinians resident in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the more than 7 million living elsewhere (3 million+ registered with UNRWA in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, over 1.5 million in 'Israel proper', and 2.5 million elsewhere). Even the prominent Middle East expert, Juan Cole, falls into, 'The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to accord Palestine the status of “Observer State” on Thursday...Continental Western Europe and Scandinavia were almost unanimous in supporting the Palestinians'. And so does the resolution itself. Not that the unelected quisling Palestinian National Authority (PA) has any claim to represent the interests of those in the occupied territories, but they can't even offer a pretence of representing the majority of Palestinians.

This lies at the heart of the problem. As Joseph Massad wrote in 2010,

...By transforming the PLO, which represented all Palestinians in the Diaspora and in Israel and the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, into the Palestinian Authority (PA) which could only hope to represent Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, constituting one third of the Palestinian people, the Oslo agreements engineered a major demographic reduction of the Palestinian people...

The insidious part of this process is how the PA, conscious of this transformation, continues to speak of the "Palestinian people," which had been reduced through the Oslo accords to those West Bank and Gaza Palestinians it now claims to represent.

The UN recognition of 'Palestine' further entrenches this dangerous conceit. That's why I was surprised to read of Palestinian refugees celebrating in Beirut, and unsurprised to find nothing about such celebration in Nazareth, Haifa or Beersheba.

At the same time, the resolution is absolutely explicit that what it's all about is the Two State Solution™, which solves nothing for the majority of Palestinians who don't live in 'Palestine', as now defined, and little for those who do. 

What the General Assembly actually resolved on the 'International Day of solidarity with the Palestinian People', after recalling this, stressing that, taking other things into consideration and reaffirming lots of stuff, was that it
  1. Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967;
  2. Decides to accord to Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice;
  3. Expresses the hope that the Security Council will consider favourably the application submitted on 23 September 2011 by the State of Palestine for admission to full membership in the United Nations;
  4. Affirms its determination to contribute to the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the attainment of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfils the vision of two States: an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel on the basis of the pre-1967 borders;
  5. Expresses the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map to a permanent two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides that resolves all outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security and water;
  6. Urges all States, the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination, independence and freedom;
  7. Requests the Secretary-General to take the necessary measures to implement the present resolution and to report to the Assembly within three months on progress made in this regard.
One of the problems with this formulation, beyond the fundamental problems with partition I described in 'How many states?', is the construal of 'self-determination' as simply ostensible political independence. Is it conceivable that the Palestinian people as a whole, or even just those living in the West Bank and Gaza, might 'freely determine theirpolitical status'  by deciding that they prefer to exercise the full rights of citizens in the country that has, after all, ruled them for the past 45 years? Or perhaps they have other ideas of their own?

Another is the 'urgent need' for a return to The Peace Process, which has brought the occupied Palestinians more and more Jewish 'settlements', house demolitions, roadblocks, extrajudicial executions..., while Israel remains utterly intransigent on their 'preconditions' regarding 'outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security and water'. I hasten to add that this intransigence is not just an artifact of the execrable Likud government, but reflects publicopinion pretty faithfully. 

It would also seem that the General Assembly's vision is somewhat impaired when they write of 'an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine'. A glance at a map, even with my compromised eyesight, reveals that 30 km of hostile territory separates the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. One hears talk of 'transportational contiguity', but even in the implausible scenario that a corridor between the enclaves could be secured from interruption at Israel's whim, about half of Israelis would not countenance a tunnel, more than half, a bridge, and only 8% think it's important at all. Notwithstanding their explicit undertakings in the Oslo Accords and the Agreement on Movement and Access, Israel has never been that keen on 'the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved'. 

We may gain some insight into the kind of thing the UN General Assembly has in mind when they speak of contiguity and viability by examining a map of their 1947 partition plan, discussed a little more below.

You often hear mention of Israel's 'pre-1967 borders', but it's alarming that the UN General Assembly believes these exist, as Israel has always made a point of refusing to define any borders. Ironically, in their article opposing the resolution, 'The Legal Fiction ofPalestinian Statehood', Brooke Goldstein and Benjamin Ryberg Breitbart opine, 

Further, as it exists today, the Palestinian entity fails to meet the qualifications specified in Article 1 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention, widely viewed as constituting the definition of a sovereign state in international law. Per Article 1 of the Convention, a state possesses a "permanent population," "defined territory," "government," and "capacity to enter into relations with the other states."

Obviously, the reason the State of Palestine has no defined territory is precisely because of Israel's insistence on keeping its options open, which actually raises doubts about whether Israel itself qualifies as a 'state' in terms of Montevideo. Another little irony in their analysis, if I can dignify it as such, is the assertion that 'the move constitutes a breach of the PA's obligations under the Oslo Accords', which technically expired in 1998 and Israel has violated in almost every particular.

The reference to 'the principle of land for peace' is particularly noisome, when

The only land that has ever been on offer, if it really was on offer at all, is land acquired by military conquest in June 1967. The principal import of the famous UNSC Resolution 242 is not creation of a Palestinian state, a matter that it never even mentions, but to emphasise ‘the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’. So the land that Israel would be relinquishing, if it were ever really going to relinquish land at all, is land that was never rightfully Israel’s in the first place. It was territory acquired by war. Not really very much of a sacrifice. And lest we forget, the entity euphemistically known as ‘Israel proper’ which resides within the 3 April 1949 armistice line with Jordan commonly referred to as Israel’s ‘border’, incorporates a considerable amount of territory also acquired by war in 1948-49. But that probably doesn’t matter, because after all, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 273 (III) decided on 11 May 1949 that Israel is a peace-loving State’. (I hasten to add that Jordan’s occupation of the West Bank for the next 18 years was also illegitimate and at the expense of the Palestinians who were supposed to get that land and more under the UN’s ill conceived December 1947 partition resolution (181). Ill conceived though it may have been, 181 did quite sensibly provide for international control of . Both Israel and Jordan grabbed bits of the proposed ‘corpus separatum’.)
Beyond one side of the equation of ‘land for peace’ being a bit bogus, as the land doesn’t really belong to Israel, is the other subtext. The suggestion is that since the Israelis are offering to give land, it’s the Palestinians who have to deliver the peace. That, in turn relies on the presumption that it’s the Palestinians who insist on violence and that Israel is the passive victim. Israel is willing to make painful sacrifices of its land if only those vicious Palestinians would leave them in peace. In reality, of course, it is the Palestinians who are the colonised people and on the receiving end of most of the violence. Palestinian violence, while demonstrably counterproductive, is wholly reactive. Amazing how they can pack all that into an innocuous little phrase, but then the Israeli hasbara ‘propaganda’ machine are no amateurs.

And the General Assembly has elevated this grotesque caricature to a matter of principle.

Interestingly, one of the things the General Assembly recalled was 'its resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947', which for all its legion faults offered the 'Arab state' some 45% of Mandatory Palestine, more than double the derisory 22% encompassed in 'the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967'.  

Among those who think it's a good idea for Israel to continue to exist with a Jewish majority, you'd think there was little to object to in the resolution. After all, as then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pointed out in 2007, 'If the two-state solution collapsed, he said, Israel would "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished. The Jewish organisations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents," he said.' 

But then, it is mildly critical of Israel, it refers to an occupation, makes no explicit allowance for retention of 'facts on the ground', does not endorse Israel's right to defend itself or deny Palestine's and doesn't demand that the State of Palestine 'recognise Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state'.

Ultimately, it's hard to disagree with US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, 'The Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed'.