In September 2009, Bernard Green wrote a letter to the Post-Crescent. Here is his letter, interspersed with Professor Noam Chomsky’s thoughts. (This was forwarded to me by Robert Nordlander.)
BG: Robert Nordlander … ignores the fact that the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and their ongoing attempts to annihilate Israel constitute the core problem preventing a peace agreement.
NC: Complete nonsense, except for the refusal to recognize Israel’s “right to exist” — that is, the legitimacy of their expulsion from their lands. No state demands this. Mexico recognizes the US, but not its abstract “right to exist” on half of Mexico, conquered in the 1840s. The concept of “right to exist” seems to have been concocted in the mid-1970s, after the Arab states called for a full peace settlement in the terms of UN 242 with a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. The US and Israel, which alone opposed it, had to find some new barrier to prevent a diplomatic settlement. The rest is of course totally false, uncontroversially. And also uncontroversially, Israel not only does not recognize Palestine’s “right to exist” but has been engaged intensively, with US support, to render impossible any meaningful form of Palestinian national existence. Furthermore, for what it’s worth, the official program of the governing Likud Party explicitly rejects any Palestinian self-determination from the Jordan river to the sea — and its traditional program, never formally abandoned, calls for Israel to take over what is now Jordan as well.
BG: All this, despite Israel’s repeated offers to give up land acquired in its defensive wars as part of a peace agreement, offers the Palestinians keep rebuffing.
NC: Perfect nonsense, quite apart from the fact that these were not defensive wars. Can’t go through the details here once again (I and others often have in print), but they are straightforward.
BG: International legal scholar Stephen Schwebel emphasizes that a country acting in self-defense may seize and occupy territory when required to protect itself. Moreover, it may require, as a condition for its withdrawal, security measures tailored to protect its citizens from being menaced again from that territory.
NC: Schwebel happens to be an extremely jingoistic legal figure. E.g., he was the one Justice on the World Court to forcefully reject its condemnation of the US terrorist war against Nicaragua. But the rest is just irrelevant. Security has never been the issue. Thus when Sadat offered Israel a full peace treaty in 1971, with nothing for the Palestinians, in return for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories (he cared only about the Sinai), Israel considered the proposal, which would have ended any security threat, but rejected it because it was planning massive development projects in the northeastern Sinai. Quite consistently, Israel (with US cooperation) has rejected security in favor of expansion. That continues to the present. All relevant parties — the Arab States, Hamas, Iran, of course all of Europe and the non-aligned countries — have called for a full peace treaty in return for withdrawal from the occupied territories — where even the highest Israeli legal authorities recognize all settlement to be illegal. The US and Israel alone refuse.
BG: Against this background, how can one justifiably expect the Israelis to overlook security concerns and withdraw from the West Bank? As for the legality of the occupation, international law permits the occupation. Professor Eyal Benvenisti, an expert on human rights and international law, points out in his book, “The International Law of Occupation,” that “the basic principles of traditional occupation law calls for the occupant to assume control over the affairs of the occupied territory for the duration of the occupation.
“Neither the Hague Regulations nor the Fourth Geneva Convention limits the duration of the occupation or requires the occupant to restore the territories to the sovereign before a peace treaty is signed.” According to Eugene Rostow, a former distinguished fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Resolution 242 gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution allows Israel to administer the territories it won in 1967, “until a just and lasting peace in the Middle East is achieved.” Clearly, Israeli settlements have both a legal basis under international law and a moral one.
NC: The rest quotes the handful of extremist scholars who reject the judgment of the International Court of Justice and other legal authorities, Israeli included. Take any issue you like, you can find a few authorities who oppose the international consensus, which in this case happens to be very broad, including the World Court. By this kind of argument you can “prove” that global warming is a myth, that the Russians had every right to invade Afghanistan and crush Eastern European independence, etc.