Israel National News (INN) has published an op-ed about my essay “The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel“, in which they asked Dr. Mordecai Nisan, a lecturer at Hebrew University, to respond. There are two observations to be made about this op-ed: First, it does not actually refute so much as a single point of fact or logic from my article, and, second, Dr. Nisan in fact acknowledges that my thesis is correct.
“Of course it is a myth to assert or believe that the U.N. created Israel,” Dr. Nisan admits in his reply. One might think that, since there is agreement on this point of fact, there would be not much else to debate. What he challenges, however, is not the thesis itself, but the corollary that the Zionist leadership lacked any legal foundation for their unilateral declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel.
“It is transparently true that Israel’s founding came through the sword,” Dr. Nisan acknowledges. But he argues that this use of force was “exercised on behalf of the transcending right of an ancient and integral people, the likes of whose special claim to the Land of Israel no other human collectivity can equal whatsoever.” In other words, the rights of the Jews to the land of Palestine “transcended” the rights of the Arabs, so the Zionist’s use of force to create their Jewish state (at which time more than 700,000 Arabs were ethnically cleansed from Palestine) was therefore legitimate. Dr. Nisan thus presents a racist argument for Israel’s legitimacy – indeed, an anti-Semitic one, as Arabs are also Semites.
I would observe that, in addition to being a racist argument, this in no way negates a single point of fact or logic from my essay. One may claim that Yahweh gave the land to the Jews (a claim not supported by the Bible), but the fact remains – as Dr. Nisan acknowledges – that the U.N. neither created the Jewish state nor conferred upon the Zionist leadership any legal authority to unilaterally declare the establishment of the state of Israel. The theological argument is a separate discussion entirely, with no bearing on my thesis.
Elsewhere, the INN op-ed simply relies upon strawman arguments to make its points. Just to set the record straight, I did not argue in my essay that the General Assembly “had no right to propose the partition plan”. The General Assembly did indeed have the authority, and the duty, to make recommendations towards peaceful resolutions to international conflicts. In this case, however, the point is that by accepting the U.N. Special Commission on Palestine’s (UNSCOP’s) majority recommendation to partition Palestine, it rather inflamed the situation. UNSCOP had explicitly rejected the right of the Arab Palestinians to self-determination. As I noted in the article, the plan called for taking land from the Arabs (the majority comprising 65% of the population, who owned 85% of the land, but who were offered only 45.5% of the territory under the plan) and giving it to the Jews (the minority comprising 33% of the population, who owned just 7 % of the land, but who were offered 55.5% of the territory), and was thus inherently inequitable and unworkable. The only way this plan could have any legal force would have been for both sides to accept it. The Arabs reasonably rejected it. It was thus moot. Neither the U.N. General Assembly nor the Security Council had any authority to implement partition by force, or to confer upon the Zionist leadership any such authority.
I also did not argue that “The Arab population was not given the right to self determination because the U.N. wanted to create the Jewish State”. Firstly, far be it from me to claim that self-determination is something “given”! Self-determination is not a granted privilege, but an inherent and inalienable right. INN’s mischaracterization of what I actually wrote, therefore, only serves to demonstrate its editors’ own ignorance of this elementary principle of morality and law. Secondly, to clarify further, what I stated in my article is that the partition plan was premised upon the explicit rejection of the Arab Palestinian’s right to self-determination. That is not a “claim”, as INN asserts, but a demonstrable fact, acknowledged plainly in UNSCOP’s report itself.
Dr. Nisan creates a similar strawman argument in suggesting that “Hammond … has pointed to force as the only alternative” to partition. Far be it from me to suggest such a thing! In fact, I argued the opposite in my essay, that there were alternative courses of action that could have prevented the tragic war that ensued. The U.N. Security Council, for example, had the authority to declare a threat to the peace and authorize the use of force to prevent the violence the occurred. It had the authority to establish a Trusteeship over Palestine until such time as its inhabitants were prepared to exercise independence without such recourse to violence. And, most importantly, the alternative proposal to partition could have been implemented, which was the Arab proposal to establish an independent state of Palestine in which the rights of the Jewish minority were recognized and protected under a constitution that would guarantee Jewish representation in its legislative body. Yet this democratic solution was rejected by the Zionists, who preferred “the sword”, as Dr. Nisan acknowledges — the ethnic cleansing of over 700,000 Arabs from the land.
“Hammond’s line of argument leads to the dissolution of the conflict-management or resolution-capacity of the U.N.”, writes Dr. Nisan. This is a non sequitur. As just noted, I in fact argued the opposite in my essay.
Dr. Nisan states that the Jewish minority also had a claim to self-determination. Certainly! Far be it from me to suggest otherwise. But the fact remains that the use of force to acquire territory was then, as it is now, illegitimate under international law. The principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force is emphasized, for example, in U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which calls upon Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied during the June 1967 war.
Dr. Nisan states the Arab rejection of the plan was “in breach of the international decision for partition”. Notice the word “breach”, implying a failure to comply with a law, to keep a trust or contractual obligation, etc. The Arabs “breached” nothing in rejecting the plan – a plan which itself, had it been implemented, would have been a breach of the U.N. Charter.
From the premise that the U.N. had no legal authority to implement the partition plan, Nisan draws the corollary that “there is no reason to accept the authority of U.N. [General Assembly] Resolution 194 that calls for Palestinian refugee return.” It would be correct to say that this General Assembly resolution, as all General Assembly resolutions, is legally non-binding. However, Israel is still bound by both formal and customary international law, and the right of return of refugees is a universally recognized right, codified in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the latter of which Israel is a signatory of.
Dr. Nisan states, “An emasculated U.N. cannot be manipulated to be only good for the Arabs and bad for the Jews when that is politically convenient.” Certainly! Far be it from me to disagree. But Dr. Nisan next states, “Hammond argues that the U.N. did not have a right to create Israel, so then it does not have a right to dissolve its existence under the guise of sanctifying resolution 194 from 62 years ago.” Dr. Nisan thusly attempts to change the subject, but in doing so, does nothing to actually refute anything I wrote. Without getting into the tangential issue of contemporary demographics, once again, that the U.N. did not have a right to create Israel by partitioning Palestine is not a claim, it is a point of fact under the U.N. Charter and international law.
In sum, neither INN nor Dr. Nisan have managed to point to even a single error in either fact or logic on my part in my essay. The facts are as I have stated them, and the logical conclusions drawn inescapable.