The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:


Its History, and Some Philosophical Questions it Raises


Tomis Kapitan


Nationalism and Prejudice

As social animals, we are heirs to a variety of cultural influences that shape our identities, aspirations, values, and tastes. It is not unusual to feel trust and affinity with persons of like background, to desire primary and even exclusive association with them. The result is that rich satisfaction that comes from participation in culturally specific activities, from artistic expression to sports, romance to worship. Yet the very attitudes and conventions that bind individuals also partition humanity into distinct cultural groups, even within a single locale. When the resulting contrast of "we" with "they" is added to our unenviable propensity to shift blame for our misfortunes and anxieties to others, inter-communal suspicion often results. In times of intense political competition and social upheaval this tendency can generate open hatred and persecution.

What is the proper response to culturally-driven prejudice? Through what mechanisms and ideals can a society mitigate its negative impact? How should cultural minorities themselves respond? Most educated people are aware of the benefits of variety, and cognizant that it thrives only with a significant degree of institutionalized tolerance. But when dominant majorities are prejudicial, the question of how minorities should react becomes especially poignant. Answers to it waver between calls for assimilation and demands for cultural autonomy. The former may involve anything from self-eradication of distinguishing traits to mere verbal acquiescence to prevailing norms. The latter may take the form of non-confrontational concealment, open advocacy of an autonomous cultural group within majority culture, emigration to more favorable locales and, finally, formation of a politically separate national unit through secession or relocation.

The history of the Jews in 19th and 20th Century Europe illustrates the problem. Enlightenment and economic development had brought about a gradual emancipation of Jewish populations from previous ghettoization. But liberation was concurrent with rising nationalism in countries that had commonly excluded their participation in the political arena. Because of their differences and their connections--real or imaginary--to Jewish communities in other countries, Jews were thought opposed to national interests.1 Antisemitism erupted in the Russian pogroms of 1881-84 and in the early 20th Century, resulting in massive emigration of Jews from Russia. Similar sentiments were widespread in other parts of Europe as well, and were vividly voiced in France during the 1894 Dreyfus Affair. In each case, government complicity heightened Jewish alarm.

Emancipation itself posed a threat. Promising integration into mainstream European culture, many Jews came to believe that assimilation was their future and that adherence to old ways would expose them to further discrimination. But others feared assimilation would dilute what was distinctive about Judaism and Jews. The Jewish community thereby faced a difficult choice: by assimilating, their distinctive culture may very well be lost, whereas opting for cultural autonomy would carry the risk of continued antisemitism. In both cases, survival of a separate Jewish people is threatened.


Zionism emerged in the late nineteenth century as an effort to resolve this dilemma. In its political form it called for establishment of a Jewish State, and, in both its nationalistic aspiration and identification of Palestine as the Jewish homeland its roots are ancient. Some of its leading spokesmen were convinced antisemitism could not be eradicated and that preservation of a distinct Jewish people required an independent Jewish homeland. Leo Pinsker argued that while emancipation may solve the problems of individual Jews, it will not solve the problem of the Jewish nation. If the Jewish people do not acquire the effective external attributes of a nation, they will remain "everywhere as guests" and "nowhere at home."2 Assimilation would be "national death," whereas a Jewish state would not only provide the benefits of emancipation under the guise of "normalization," but a place of refuge where Jews could manage affairs in their own way without the perpetual stigma of minority status. With this reasoning, Zionism was as much an instance of nineteenth century nationalism as it was a response to emancipation and antisemitism (Avineri 1981, 13; Reinharz and Shapira 1995, 7).

By the time Theodore Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in 1897, several thousand European Jews had already immigrated to Palestine. The Congress called for creation of a Jewish home "secured by public law" and established the World Zionist Organization to work towards this end. Herzl's strategy included strengthening Jewish national sentiment, stimulating Jewish investment in Palestine, promoting immigration to assure a Jewish majority, and obtaining the assistance of foreign powers. Failure to gain support from the Turkish Government led some to suggest that prospects might be better in places like Uganda or Argentina, but it was eventually agreed that the link of Jews to Palestine provided a more effective rallying point for gaining adherents.3 As the Ottoman grasp on much of the Near East weakened, it became apparent that European nations would soon determine the political fortunes of the region.

At the outset, many Jews opposed Zionism. Thinkers like Simon Dubnow acknowledged that Jews form a distinct nation, but he distinguished between nation and state, arguing that a nation can achieve social and cultural autonomy even if it lacks political independence. Opposed to both separation and assimilation, Dubnow argued that Jewish creativity was due to the fact that Jewish nationality is spiritual rather than territorial and thrives in autonomous Jewish communities (Selzer 1970, 131-156). Others disliked the nationalism and particularism of Zionism. In 1918, Hermann Cohen, a leader of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism, spoke of a parallel between Kant's call for a federation of nations under law and the universalism of Judaism, arguing that the latter would be compromised if Judaism took on nationalistic overtones. Not only does Zionism insult the patriotism of Jews who feel at home in their countries of birth, but to think that the teachings of Judaism are reserved for the Jewish people alone effectively denies the "One God of Messianic mankind." Israel's chosenness must be regarded as history's means to accomplish the divine chosenness of mankind (Cohen 1971, 169-171). A year later, the American philosopher Morris Cohen echoed Dubnow by contending that Jews contributed the most to civilization when they were mixed with other peoples. The key to resolving the Jewish problem lay not in nationalism but in the liberal tradition of tolerance and pluralism. The Zionist call for a state "founded on a peculiar race, a tribal religion, and a mystic belief in a peculiar soil" is "profoundly inimical to liberal or humanistic civilization" (Cohen 1946, 329). Liberal democracy gives Jews, with all other individuals, equal protection of rights and freedoms under the law; it alone holds the cure to the woes produced by the evil of tribalism.

Both philosophers met with opposition. While agreeing with Hermann Cohen that Judaism had a universal message, Martin Buber argued that the mission of Jews requires a separate state wherein they can set an example of "good living," where a "biblical humanism" might prevail in a nation abiding by demands of justice and mercy. Horace Kallen challenged Morris Cohen's caricature of Zionism, maintaining that Zionism is an extension of the assumptions of liberalism from the individual to the group. Nationalities themselves have the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and if liberal enlightenment means anything then it must support the rights of thought and association on the parts of cultural groups as well as on the part of individuals. Liberalism does not deny the legitimacy of nationhood and there is no reason why a Jewish state cannot be both secular and liberal (Hertzberg 1977, 528, and see Kallen 1921).4

Zionism eventually prevailed within the Jewish community. In the United States alone, the Zionist movement headed by Justice William Brandeis grew from 12,000 members in 1914 to 176,000 members by 1919. Its appeal increased dramatically as antisemitism took an ugly turn during the 1930s, and when the horrors of Nazi genocide were brought to light after WWII, Zionism triumphed in the minds of most Jews and a large segment of non-Jews. More than ever, Zionism seemed to offer "the only political answer the Jews have ever found to antisemitism" (Arendt 1968, 120).

Zionism and the "Arab Problem"

The lure of Zionism blinded many to the fact that Palestine was already inhabited. By 1897, that 10,000 square mile area had been under Turkish rule for nearly four centuries and contained 600,000 people, 95% Arab (predominantly Muslim) and 5% Jews.5 By 1918, after the first two waves of Jewish immigration, the percentage of Jews rose to approximately 10%. Ownership of about half the land was in private Arab hands, 2.6% was privately owned by Jews, and while the remainder was State property under the Ottoman law, much of it had been farmed by generations of Arab villagers.

The greatest moral challenge to Zionism was (and remains) that a seemingly noble, and to some, intensely spiritual, vision--the restoration of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland--could be fulfilled only at the expense of another people, the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. While a few Zionists accepted the fiction that Palestine was "a land without people" waiting for "a people without a land,"6 most were aware of an indigenous population, but argued that Jewish need and rights to a homeland Jews had been unjustly deprived of 1900 years earlier outweighed the claims of the Arabs. Others ignored the problem, their priority being to create a Jewish socioeconomic infrastructure in Palestine by encouraging immigration, acquiring land, building Jewish institutions, and developing the capacities of Jewish labor.

The issue could not be neglected for long, and by 1905 there was debate among Zionists over strategies to pursue in the face of incipient Arab nationalism. Mainstream political Zionism, under the leadership of Chaim Weizmann, sought to convince Arabs that there was room for both peoples in Palestine, that Zionism had no intention of dispossessing people of their property, and that Arabs stood to benefit by cooperation with the Jews. Others, like the writer Ahad Ha'am, were less sanguine, believing that relations with the local Arabs constituted the principal moral difficulty faced by Zionism. He complained of Zionists who,

. . . wax angry towards those who remind them that there is still another people in Eretz Israel that has been living there and does not intend all to leave its place. In the future, when this illusion will have been torn from their hearts and they will look with open eyes upon the reality as it is, they will certainly understand how important this question is and how great is our duty to work for its solution (Selzer 1970, 196-7).

Already in the 1890s, Ahad Ha'am warned against arrogant behavior towards the Arabs--regarded by some as "wild beasts of the desert"--and of the sentiment expressed by the slogan that "the only language that the Arabs understand is force" (Sachar 1979, 163; Avineri 1981, 123-124). The priority of Zionism should be to create a "spiritual center" which would foster an atmosphere of peace with the Arabs.

Inspired by Ahad Ha'am, Zionist movements like the Brit Shalom in the 1920s and its successor in the 1940s, the Ihud movement of Buber, Moshe Smilansky, and Judah Magnes, favored development of a common Jewish-Arab society under a binational state with sovereignty shared by the two peoples. For Buber, Zionism is justifiable if it leads to both a creative renewal of the Jewish spirit and an ethical Jewish community existing in "human solidarity" with the Arabs.

We have not settled Palestine together with the Arabs but alongside them. Settlement "alongside" [neben], when two nations inhabit the same country, which fails to become settlement "together with" [mit] must necessarily become a state of "against." (Mendes-Flohr 1983, 91)

Without agreement with the Arabs, Buber continued, the aims of Zionism will never be realized. Like Magnes, he urged that parity of distinct nationalities under a single political framework was a "noble goal" and a "challenge to the intelligence and moral qualities of peoples constituting multi-national lands" (Laqueur 1976, 107).7

Others were convinced that neither cooperation nor parity would solve the Arab problem. Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist branch of Zionism, argued that it was folly to expect the Arabs to peacefully acquiesce to the Zionist program; as is natural, they would prefer to remain in the majority and that Palestine be another Arab state. They would resign themselves to minority status only when they become aware of Jewish military strength. Since the end of Zionism is moral, so are the necessary means to carry it out, even if this requires establishment of an "iron wall" of separation between the two communities. "Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important to build, it is important to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot" (Brenner 1984, 78).

A more radical brand of Zionism advocated expulsion of the Arabs. Already in 1895 Herzl wrote of the need to "try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country" (Patai 1960, 88). Israel Zangwill, another prominent Zionist writer, proposed the "transfer" of Arabs to other Arab countries (Tessler 1994, 137), as did Joseph Weitz, a director of the Jewish National Land Fund in the 1930s: "it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples in this country" (Weitz 1965, 181-82). By 1940, Jabotinsky argued that a population exchange was a necessary evil, neither unprecedented nor a historical injustice (Gorny 1987, 270). While political leaders like David Ben-Gurion--Israel's first prime minister--occasionally spoke against removing the Arabs, during the 1948 war he declared that "I am for compulsory transfer: I don't see anything immoral in it" (Flapan 1987, 103).

Arab Reaction and British Intervention

The Arab response to the Zionist project was initially one of incredulity, but, as Zionism gained ground, this attitude gave way to outrage and hostility. The reaction was what one could predict from a resident population whose lands were claimed by an external community. In 1899 the mayor of Jerusalem, Yusuf al-Khalidi, wrote to the Chief Rabbi of France telling him that while Zionism could be understood in theory, its implementation would require brute force since Palestine is an inhabited country under Ottoman rule. It would be better for everyone that "Palestine be left in peace" (Smith 1996, 35). Herzl himself replied to this letter, reassuring al-Khalidi that Arabs had nothing to fear from the immigration of the Jews who would make "faithful and good subjects" of the Turkish Sultan and "excellent brothers" for the Arabs (Hirst 1984, 17).

Brotherhood remained distant. Already in the 1880s and 1890s, Palestinian peasants protested after being evicted from land sold to immigrant Jews (Hirst 1984, 21-32; Muslih 1988, 71; Khalidi 1988). The movement of European Jews into Palestine also coincided with a growing Arab national awareness. In 1905 a Palestinian author, Nagib Azouri, wrote that Arab nationalism and Jewish nationalism were destined to fight until one prevails, and voices were increasingly heard in the Palestinian press that Jews planned to expropriate property and drive Arabs from the country, generating calls to refuse to sell land to Jews. Palestinians like `Izzat Darwaza argued that Zionism posed a far greater danger than French or British imperialism because the Zionists take themselves to be "natives" of the land. "Palestine is purely Arab land . . surrounded on all sides by purely Arab lands. National (al-qawmi) feeling has begun to awaken and gain strength among the Arab population which has lived uninterruptedly in its own territory." Darwaza went on to say that the "introduction of a nationality of separate blood, tongue, aims, traditions, religion and policy would be dangerous indeed" (Porath 1974, 49).

Since the Ottomans fought with the Axis powers in WWI, Britain, with a foothold in Egypt, saw an opportunity to strike at Ottoman power from the south and strengthen its own presence in the Near East. It found a willing ally in Sheriff Hussein of Mecca who offered assistance in exchange for Arab independence throughout the region. A 1915-16 agreement, set forth through letters between Hussein and the British High Commissioner in Cairo, Sir Henry McMahon, was interpreted by Arabs as a treaty to which Britain was bound.8 The joint Arab-British campaign was successful; by December 1917 British troops entered Jerusalem and soon occupied the remainder of Palestine.

Zionists had already sensed an opportunity through collusion with a British Government whose Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was sympathetic to Zionist aims. The British entry into Jerusalem came on the heels of a momentous statement of policy by Lloyd George's government, set forth in a letter to the Zionist financier, Baron Edmund de Rothschild, from the British Foreign Minister, Arthur Balfour. Its critical paragraph stated:

His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existening non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

This carefully crafted document--the Balfour Declaration--was the product of extensive Zionist diplomacy. Overt reference to a Jewish state was avoided in favor of the euphemism "national home" for fear of inflaming Arab passions against the Jewish minority, though Lloyd George subsequently acknowledged that a Jewish state was intended. The Arabs, 90% of Palestine's population, were referred to as members of "non-Jewish communities", and while their "civil and religious rights" were recognized nothing was said about their political rights or their national aspirations. On the other hand, explicit reference was made to the "political status" of Jews in other countries. Boundaries had not been fixed (Vereté 1982, 77), though Zionists lobbied for a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan.

As the terms of the Balfour Declaration became known, Palestinian opposition to Zionism crystallized into organized political expression. The first Palestinian Congress in 1919 issued a manifesto which dismissed Zionist claims to the land and was sharply critical of the Balfour Declaration. The contention of some Zionists that the Balfour Declaration was tantamount to creation of a state of Israel created alarm among the Arabs which was heightened by Weizmann's pronounced goal in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 that "Palestine become Jewish as England is English." Palestinians like Darwaza thought that the best response was to favor a union within "greater Syria," but this option faded by 1920 as Syria and Lebanon fell under French dominance in accord with the British-French agreements of 1916. The result was to isolate the Palestinian national movement from similar independence movements elsewhere in the Arab world.

Rights to Territory

Disputes over land are among the most contentious in human affairs. Property is viewed as necessary to ensure survival and further a particular life-style, and a community's association with a particular territory is but an extension of this concern. The very passion with which it presses its claims suggests that difficult normative issues lurk nearby. It is one thing to ask who owns a particular parcel of land, another to inquire who has the right to reside within its boundaries, and yet another to determine who has political rights of sovereignty and self-determination in it. It must also be asked how these rights--if `rights' is the correct term--are acquired.

When attention turns to the territorial rights of communities, national groupings or states, sovereignty is the principal concern. Within international law, de facto power over a territory, say, of occupying forces or trustees, is insufficient to possess or acquire sovereignty (Brownlie 1990, 111). The modern conception is that governmental authority is derived from the consent of the governed, and sovereignty over a particular territory is vested in the resident population. It is simple enough to identify the latter with the current inhabitants, but demographic flux makes this a loose criterion. Does an immigrant non-citizen share in sovereignty? Suppose he or she has arrived in the country illegally? What about long-term expatriates or those who have been expelled from their homelands? Presumably sovereignty rests with those who are entitled to live in the territory, with its legitimate residents, and the most obvious candidates are inhabitants who were born and raised to adulthood therein and whose discernible ancestors were equally indigenous. Those on the outside without historical, cultural, or legal ties, provide the clearest cases of non-residents.

Which individuals or groups have the right to inhabit Palestine? Who owns its fields, cities, and seaports? Who has the right to determine which legal and political structures are to prevail? Most importantly, who possesses sovereignty? Answers to these questions depend upon the time frame; the considerations offered in 1917 or 1947 could draw upon factors absent in 1897, and the same holds for the interval between 1947 and 1997. Differences in population distributions, in prevailing institutions, and in political developments are all relevant in approaching these questions.

In the aftermath of the first world war, both Arabs and Jews claimed political legitimacy in Palestine. Zionists argued that the historical connection of Jews to Palestine extends over three millennia--maintained by a "thin but crucial line of continuity" (Eban 1972, 26). The cultural roots of Jews in Palestine are universally acknowledged, and having never established a state elsewhere, there is no other place to which they can claim an original organic link (Shimoni 1995, 352-359). Palestine is also the center of the Judaism, and owes "the luster of its history" to the Jewish connection (Jewish Agency 1947, 105). Despite having been unjustly exiled from Palestine since Roman times, Jews have a unique claim to the land that they have never abandoned, one which implies that their political reestablishment would not be a matter of conquest and domination by an external entity, but of restoration (Eban 1956) or return (Fackenheim 1988) of a people to what was originally theirs.

By contrast, Arabs have other centers of culture and religion, and the region including Jerusalem was never as monumental to them as were their great cities of Mecca, Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo. Nor did Arabs ever establish an independent state in Palestine and, hence, Palestine's Arabs did not constitute a political unit with an entitlement to sovereignty (Gorny 1987, 145, 213-214). They are part of a larger Arab entity, not themselves a distinct people with claim to Palestine as such. Jews, on the other hand, currently constitute a single identifiable nation in need of a territory to further its culture. Their right to self-determination in Palestine is not simply a matter of their preference; the government that rules Palestine had recognized the Jewish claim to establish a national home there. For these reasons, Zionists concluded, historic title to Palestine and sovereignty over its territory, belongs to the Jews.

The Arabs argued that their right to dwell in Palestine, to possess and establish dominion over its territory, derived from the fact that they constitute not only the majority of its current inhabitants but have maintained this majority during the thirteen centuries since the Islamic conquest--if not longer given their descent from ancient Canaanites, Hittites and Philistines. The predominant language and culture of the country have remained Arabic throughout this period, including under Turkish rule. Even if Jews have a "historical connection" to Palestine, the inference that they have an exclusive "historic title" which gives them the right to return, establish a state, and possess it forever "contains more of poetry in it than logic." By that reasoning, "Arabs should claim Spain since once upon a time they conquered it and there developed a high civilization."9 All systems of law include a statute of limitations by which a legal title expires after a considerable duration; without it, the world would face a cacophony of unresolvable claims and counter-claims. Jews native to Palestine are entitled to reside there and share in self-determination (Porath 1974, 61), but sovereignty belongs to the predominantly Arab indigenous population.

Arab spokesmen insisted that the Balfour Declaration was invalid. When the existing state power is removed, as happened in Palestine in 1917, sovereignty reverts back to the established population. In particular, the British military occupation neither transferred sovereignty to the occupying power nor removed it from the legitimate residents; Britain had no right to give Palestine as a "gift" to anyone and, therefore, its commitment has no binding force. But if any credence is to be given to promises of external powers then it must be remembered that Britain had pledged its support for Arab independence throughout the Middle East prior to issuing the Balfour Declaration, and reiterated it again in 1918 (Antonious 1965, 264). Since this pledge was made with an established monarch, it was superior to the Balfour Declaration which was given to "an amorphous body lacking political form and juridical definition" (Porath 1974, 52).

The Principle of Self-Determination

As the Balfour Declaration was penned, a conception was advanced that was to have a profound influence upon deliberations concerning sovereignty over territory. Termed a "principle of self-determination" by its chief advocate, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, it specified that the settlement of all economic and political questions depends upon the "free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned." Both Arabs and Jews appealed to it at once. The clash of their claims requires a closer look at what the principle actually is. The basic issues are these:

In general terms, self-determination is a community's autonomy, its right to manage its affairs as it sees fit independently of external interference. But in the strict sense usually intended, self-determination is a matter of sovereignty over territory. When existing self-governing countries are viewed as beneficiaries, the principle calls for recognition of state sovereignty and non-intervention in internal affairs. For a deserving community which is not yet self-governing, it provides that the community be allowed to determine the form of government that shall exercise authority over its territory and resources.10

Whether self-determination is best conceived as a legal right, a moral ideal, or a political maxim is a more difficult matter. After WWII, the principle was enshrined in agreements conditioning the development of international law, principally, Article 1 of the UN Charter which calls upon its members "to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples." That a right is recognized is indicated in the French version--"du principe de l'égalité de droits des peuples et de leur droit à disposer d'eux-mêmes,"--and by a number of General Assembly Resolutions. While these provisions do not settle the issue, the use of self-determination in justifying independence movements and prohibiting intervention has established its normative importance if not its jus cogens status in international law.11

The more difficult problems lie in determining beneficiaries among non-autonomous communities and fixing the territories in which they are entitled to (strict) self-determination. Obviously not just any group qualifies; families do not, nor do business organizations, professional associations, or social clubs. Minimally, a beneficiary must be capable of political independence and its members must share enough means of communication and moral ideals to constitute a politically coherent community (Ofuatey-Kodjoe 1977, 156-159). Ideally, the group resides in a territory that is geographically unified and politically integrable, so that any point in the region is accessible from any other point without having to pass through foreign territory, other than international byways (Berg 1991, 214). But typically, linkage to a territory is more complicated, and attempts to apply the principle must reckon with current inhabitants as well as exiled communities, minorities dominating historically-recognized subregions, and majorities occupying larger areas containing or surrounding those subregions.

Beyond this, there is an important divergence. On one interpretation, peoples are the best claimants of a right to self-determination, where a "people" is any potentially autonomous group whose members share cultural or national ties. Alternatively, self-determining units are populations defined solely by reference to all and only legitimate residents of a given territory. These distinct ways of delineating beneficiaries underlie a difference between two concepts of strict self-determination. Regional self-determination occurs when the inhabitants of established regions, territories, or states settle for themselves all questions of sovereignty over that territory. While historical facts might be paramount in individuating a territory, beneficiaries include all and only its legitimate residents. By contrast, national self-determination exists when a nation or people preserve itself and manage its affairs as it sees fit, including when it constitutes itself as an independent sovereign state. At its crux is the idea that a beneficiary must be a community whose members self-consciously share a culture vital to the self-identity of each.12

An Argument for Regional Self-Determination

How are beneficiaries best conceived? Many have construed Wilson's principle along nationalistic lines (for example, Cobban 1944, 19-22 and Feinberg 1970, 45), but Wilson's language is less clear. The democratic ideal of popular sovereignty seemed foremost in his thinking when he first employed the term `self-determination' publicly in a 1918 speech, and this has little to do with national ties:

People are not to be handed about from one sovereignty to another by an international conference or an understanding between rivals and antagonists. National aspirations must be respected; peoples may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. "Self-determination" is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action, which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril (Wilson 1927, 180).
A more complete statement of the relevant principle came on July 4, 1918:
The settlement of every question, whether of territory, of sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for sake of its own exterior influence or mastery (Wilson 1927, 233).

Who are "the people immediately concerned"? Two points are relevant in determining Wilson's intent. First, he spoke of self-determination more in terms of a political maxim to guide those "statesmen" entrusted with making decisions about the future status of given territories, and less of a "right" of peoples. Second, despite use of terms like 'peoples' and 'national,' Wilson spoke in regional terms when he said that the principle underlying the Paris Peace Conference was that "every land belonged to the native stock that lived in it" (Wilson 1927, 49). Apparently he envisioned the primary use of the principle would be to resolve questions concerning the status of territories unsettled by conflict or which are or previously had been under foreign domination.13

So conceived, the principle of self-determination is most relevant when applied to "unsettled territory," that is, to a region satisfying at least one of the following conditions: (i) was formerly dominated by another community but is currently free from that domination and not yet self-governing; (ii) is currently under some form of internationally sanctioned trusteeship; (iii) has been accorded the right of secession by a larger state of which it is presently a part; (iv) is under the domination of either a foreign community or an internal tyranny that threatens the human rights of its members; or (v) is under a real and present danger of such domination. The relevant form of the Wilsonian principle of (strict) self-determination can be phrased as follows:

The legitimate residents of an unsettled territory shall be permitted to constitute themselves as a self-governing unit upon qualifying as a politically coherent community. Agents with the moral prerogative--whether by circumstance or investiture--to affect what institutions prevail in that territory, must ensure that self-governance is achieved through popular consent.

There are limits upon the application of this principle; specifically, there must be institutional protection of individuals' human rights and of legitimate cultural interests of significant subgroups. It is not a carte blanche for majorities to establish objectional forms of discrimination and, therefore, not the sole or overriding normative principle relevant to decisions concerning the political status of disputed territories (see Emerson 1971, 466-7; Umozurike 1972, 192; Pomerance 1984, 332-7; and Etzioni 1992-93, 34).

An argument for viewing regional self-determination as a norm of international justice is straightforward. Any political settlement in a territory must be responsive to what its established inhabitants take to be in their legitimate interests. By voluntarily binding themselves to a social-political arrangement, people impose upon themselves a moral obligation to abide by its terms and, in this way, chances are heightened that the arrangement will conform to what they perceive as just, if not to what is just. Prospects for stable peace and orderly development are thereby enhanced. Imposing an arrangement upon the inhabitants against their will, by contrast, creates resentment that threatens future instability. Thus, observing self-determination--whether construed as a political principle for solving conflicts over sovereignty, a legal right of groups, or a human right of individuals--is the crucial mechanism for securing governmental authority and the rule of law within a given territory.

On National Self-Determination

The case for including within international morality a principle of national self-determination--each people is entitled to self-governance--can appeal to the rights of individuals to enjoy the benefits of participating in "the national life of their community," rights satisfiable through "the establishment of national institutions, the formation of autonomous communities, or the establishment of federal or confederal states" (Tamir 1993, 75). A similar argument by Margalit and Raz (1990) is that since there is value to membership in a "self-encompassing" (national) group, including participation in the political activities of that group, then there is an inherent value in that group's being self-governing, though they are also concerned that such self-governance does not damage the "fundamental interests of [all] its inhabitants" and "the just interests of other countries" (457, 461).

That there is an inherent value in national self-determination cannot be disputed, but whenever we consider a proposed practical principle, we distinguish what it might yield if people were perfectly impartial from what it is likely to produce in practice. By definition, a nation-state is constituted for the sake of a specific people, and inevitably, its institutions, laws, and policies will reflect the culture of that people and favor their interests. Here are where the dangers lie. Few areas of the world are culturally homogenous, and the "unsettled" regions typically are not. A state that institutionalizes the values of a particular culture and not those of others invokes the dual risk of intolerance and officially-sanctioned discrimination. Since human beings are unlikely to abandon the habit of identifying with groups to which other collectives are unfavorably compared, the de jure favoring of the majority's cultural values is bound to be resented by minorities while posing a permanent threat to their interests.

Also, ethnic and cultural divisions tend to multiply over time. Is each people entitled to self-determination? If so, not only would secession movements proliferate, so would the number of incompatible claims to one and the same region. Either the problem concerning the linkage of people to territory would become an insurmountable hurdle for implementing national self-determination, or there would be an ever-increasing panorama of competing sovereignties (Etzioni 1992-93). Thus, establishing nation-states in culturally diverse regions poses a risk not only to individual human rights but to domestic and international political stability.

To avoid these problems, a regional rather than a national construal of the principle of self-determination should be favored in deciding the fate of unsettled territories. Populations, not peoples, are the proper beneficiaries. It does not follow, of course, that peoples are not relevant agents in international law or ethics, nor that national self-determination in a broad sense is undesirable. The point is that peoples should not be conceived as the possessors of sovereignty.

The Palestine Mandate

In the summer of 1919 President Wilson sent a commission headed by the prominent Americans Henry King and Charles Crane to investigate the political situation in the Near East. The commissioners' report, submitted to the Paris Peace Conference in August, argued that the wishes of Palestine's population must be decisive if the principle of self-determination is to rule. Since the non-Jewish population of Palestine--nearly nine-tenths of the whole--were "emphatically against the entire Zionist program," then,

To subject a people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration, and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land, would be a gross violation of the principle just quoted and of the peoples' rights, though it kept within the forms of law (Antonius 1965, 449.)

The report noted that "no British officer believed that the Zionist programme could be carried out except by the force of arms," and it recommended that the project for making Palestine a distinctly Jewish commonwealth be abandoned. Their report reached Wilson a day before his collapse and it is doubtful he read it. Lord Balfour's own response to the commissioners' recommendations was blunt:

. . . in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are. The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land (Ingrams 1972, 73).14

International Recognition of Zionism

At the San Remo conference in 1920, the Supreme Allied Council of the victorious powers accorded Britain mandatory powers in Palestine. The terms of the Balfour Declaration were incorporated into its terms, the preamble noting the "historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" and calling for a reconstitution of their "national home in that country." In 1921, Britain removed Trans-Jordan from the promises of the mandate, contrary to the wishes of the Zionist organization, and in 1922 the League of Nations officially awarded the mandate to Britain. The American Administration had already supported the Balfour Declaration in August 1918, and in 1922 the U.S. Congress endorsed an essentially similar document in a joint resolution. The result was that not only had the Balfour Declaration received support from two of the victorious powers in the war, it was also given international sanction. In the relatively short span of a quarter century, Zionism had taken a giant step towards realizing the principal aim set forth in its 1897 platform. Preparations for a Jewish state could now proceed under British protection until such a time as a decisive Jewish majority was established.

Through all this, the Palestinian Arabs had no hand in the decision which was to have a monumental impact upon their future; they were not consulted, no plebiscite was ever held, and no approval from Palestinian representatives ever secured.15 Remarkably, the Mandate seemed at odds with Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations which dealt with newly liberated territories. Its fourth paragraph stated:

Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.16

Exceptions were specified in subsequent paragraphs of the Article, and since Palestine was not mentioned by name, the assumption is that it was covered in the fourth paragraph. Britain countered that Palestine was a special case, though in a 1922 White Paper was careful to qualify its position by stating that the Jewish national home is to be in Palestine and that there would be no disappearance or subordination of the Arab population or customs.

Immigration and Revolt

The Mandate added to Palestinian suspicions of British intentions and raised tensions between Jews and Arabs. Postwar attempts to bring the two sides together had come to failed and violence was not long in coming. By 1919, the Zionists were calling for an increase in armed Jewish force in Palestine, and in 1920 rioting in Jerusalem took the lives of five Jews and four Arabs, with scores injured, while in the Galilee, eight Jews were killed in battle. In May 1921 more serious disturbances took the lives of 47 Jews and 48 Arabs. The terms of the Mandate obliged Britain to open the doors of Palestine to Jewish immigration, which increased the Jewish presence to 17% of the population by the end of the decade. Tensions mounted, and in 1929 there were serious outbreaks of violence which included massacre of more than sixty members of Hebron's ancient Jewish community after local Arabs were told that Zionists had attacked the Jerusalem mosques.

In the 1930s, immigration jumped dramatically due to the ascension of the Nazi Party in Germany, reaching nearly 65,000 in 1935 and raising the percentage of Jews to 31% of the population by 1939. The Jewish Agency was founded in 1929 to settle the new immigrants with whom came funds and agricultural expertise that allowed Zionist settlements to flourish and expand. Land purchases were supervised by the Jewish National Fund (founded in 1901) whose charter specified that land once acquired becomes the inalienable property of the Jewish people. In 1923 nearly 75% of the land worked by Arab peasants was owned by absentee landlords who lived in cities (Smith 1996, 84). Of the land Zionists purchased by 1945, sales by Palestinian peasants accounted for 9.4%, sales by Palestinian large landowners were 24.6%, and sales by non-Palestinian Arabs (Lebanese and Syrians) were 52.6% (Stein 1984, 226-27 and Khalidi 1988). The policy of redeeming the land with Jewish labor resulted in large numbers of Arab farm workers turned out of lands they had previously worked and forced to seek employment in cities. In 1933 the Arab Executive Committee declared that Jewish immigration "has terrified the country" (Khalidi 1984, 90).

These events severely dampened hopes for Jewish-Arab reconciliation. Leaders on both sides continued to seek rapproachment though, like Jabotinsky, Palestinian politicians such as Awni Abd'l Hadi and George Antonious eventually concluded that agreement was impossible. The discovery that Zionists were smuggling arms into the country caused men like Sheikh `Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, a religious leader in Haifa, to advocate open revolt against British rule and Zionist Colonialism. He was killed in November 1935 during a battle between his guerilla group and British forces, but his "martyrdom" was a call to action inspiring the newly formed Arab Higher Committee to organize a general strike to press demands for halting Jewish immigration, prohibiting land sales to Jews, and forming a representative government. The strike evolved into the 1936-39 revolt with Arab fighters arrayed against Jewish communities and the British military. The superior armaments of the latter prevailed; by the time violence ceased, 101 British soldiers, 463 Jews, and over 5000 Arabs had lost their lives.

Yet the Revolt altered British policy. Realizing that Arabs would never peacefully acquiesce to the imposition of a Jewish state in Palestine, the Peel Commission of 1937 recommended a partition of the country into an Arab and a Jewish state, despite arguments by the former High Commissioner for Palestine, Herbert Samuel, that two states with interwoven territories would be bound in an endless struggle. The plan was rejected by both sides. In 1939, after exiling Palestinian leaders, Britain issued a White Paper calling for the establishment of a single state within ten years in which Arabs and Jews would share authority in government. Jewish immigration would be limited to 75,000 persons within the next five years, and thereafter no immigrant would be admitted without Arab approval. The High Commissioner was empowered to regulate, delimit, or prohibit transfer of Arab land to Jewish ownership, and Palestine was to be partitioned into Arab, Jewish and neutral zones under one Administration. Britain justified its action by a study of the McMahon-Hussein correspondence, concluding that it was not free to disregard wishes of the Palestinian Arabs (Cattan 1969, 260).

Neither Arabs nor Zionists found the White Paper to their liking. Arabs rejected its authorization of continued Jewish immigration while the Jewish Agency accused Britain of "a breach of faith and surrender to Arab terrorism" (Laqueur 1976, 76). Although the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations declared the 1939 White Paper to be incompatible with the terms of the Mandate, Britain did not rescind it. In response, Zionists intensified preparations for future armed conflict and redoubled political efforts in the United States. In 1942, they issued a statement calling for fulfillment of the promises of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, opening of the gates of Palestine to immigration, and establishment in Palestine of a Jewish Commonwealth which would right the "age-old wrong to the Jewish people" (Laqueur 1976, 79). This so-called `Biltmore program' was successful in generating additional support within both political parties and among Americans generally--though Buber criticized its design to "conquer" Palestine through international maneuvers (Arendt 1978, 211). Immediately after the war, Congress passed a resolution calling for Palestine to be "opened for free entry of Jews", and in August 1946 Truman pledged the Administration's support for Zionism despite opposition from the State Department. Truman's endorsement was equivalent to the Balfour Declaration in 1917 (Khalidi 1971, 64). The subsequent UN partition plan, like the Palestine Mandate, was a direct result of a superpower taking the Zionist movement under its wing.

The Debate at the United Nations

In 1947 Palestine contained approximately 1.35 million Arabs and 650,000 Jews, and only in the district around the city of Tel Aviv did Jewish numbers exceed that of the Arabs. Over half of the Jews had immigrated since 1919. Jews had acquired roughly six percent of mandated territory, though their percentage was higher in the agricultural areas along the coast and in the Galilee.

The situation had grown more intense. The Nazi genocide of Jews had stunned the world, generating greater sympathy for the establishment of a Jewish state and increased demands for Palestine to be opened to Jewish immigration. Britain's refusal prompted direct conflict with Jewish underground militias, the Irgun Z'vai Le'umi and LEHI groups. Assassination, hangings, and bombings--the most spectacular of which was the Irgun's demolition of British headquarters in 1946--marked the conflict. Britain responded by applying a stringent set of Defence Laws, initially devised to counter the Arab Revolt, and accusing the Jewish Agency of condoning terrorism. Opposition of Palestinian Arabs to Zionism remained as strong as ever, their hopes lifted by the 1945 formation of the Arab League which supported their aspirations. However, the Palestinian leadership was fragmented (Lesch 1979, Khalaf 1991), and a leading spokesman, the exiled Al-Hajj Amin Husseini, had discredited himself by backing Germany during the war--though Palestinians had generally favored Britain. The Palestinians were decidedly less successful than the Jewish Community in preparing for future conflict.

In May 1946, an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry recommended that until Arab-Jewish hostility diminishes, the government of Palestine should be continued under mandate pending execution of a UN-sponsored trusteeship agreement. Palestine should be neither a Jewish nor an Arab state, a recommendation that satisfied neither party. When the Truman Administration renewed calls for immediate immigration of 100,000 Jewish refugees into Palestine, Britain, exhausted by war and frustrated by opposition, announced it would end its administration of Palestine by May 1948. Foreign Secretary Ernst Bevin declared that there was no prospect for compromise between the two communities. In 1947 the problem of Palestine was taken up by the United Nations which created a special committee (UNSCOP) to make recommendations to the General Assembly. A number of arguments were heard that continue to be relevant to on-going normative debates.

The Case for Establishment of a Jewish State

A combination of considerations were advanced in favor of a Jewish state. The argument from "historical connection" has already been mentioned, but in 1947 Zionists could point to additional factors. Of central importance was their contention that the Palestine Mandate constituted legal recognition of Jewish national rights in Palestine: "The Balfour Declaration became a binding and unchallengeable international obligation from the moment when it was embodied in the Palestine Mandate" (Feinberg 1974, 242). This "right" to establish a "national home" in Palestine was preserved by the UN Charter whose Article 80 stipulates that nothing be done to alter the rights "of any states or any peoples" in territories currently under mandate. Hence, the world community is obligated to honor the commitments of the Mandate.

But an older argument resurfaced with greater weight than ever before. The Nazi genocide of the Jews strengthened the moral case for the Zionist insistence that as perpetual outsiders without sovereign power of their own, the survival of the Jews will continually be under threat. "Hitler is gone now," argued Moshe Shertok (Sharett), "but not anti-Semitism . . . Anti-Semitism in Germany and in many other parts of Europe is a rife as ever and potentially militant and fierce. . . . The very age of European Jewry serves only to accentuate the basic historic insecurity of Jewish life in the dispersion" (Robinson 1947, 212). Since it is a matter of "life or death" that Jews be allowed into Palestine (Jewish Agency 1947, 514), and since the Jewish community there has proved itself capable of political and economic independence, then Palestine is the natural place for a sovereign Jewish state. This state would be able to absorb an influx of some 400,000 Jewish refugees from Europe and soon become a "pillar of progress in the Near East" (Robinson 1947, 214).

A related argument was anchored on the Lockean premise that the land belongs to those who develop it. It was popularized by Labor Zionists like A.D. Gordon (Taylor 1974, 93) and Ben-Gurion (Gorny 1987, 210), but also impressed the more conciliatory. For instance, Buber wrote, "Ask the soil what the Arabs have done for her in 1300 years and what we have done for her in 50. Would her answer not be weighty testimony in a just discussion as to whom this land belongs?" (Shimoni 1995, 348), and Hannah Arendt felt this argument was "better and more convincing" than considerations of the Jews' "desperate situation in Europe" (Arendt 1978, 173).

Weizmann advanced a balance of justice argument. Both Arabs and Jews have a legitimate claim to Palestine. In depriving the Jews of a state, however, you deprive all the world's Jews of independence and nationhood, whereas in refusing to create another Arab state in Palestine you do not deprive all Arabs of political independence. According to Feinberg (1970) this reasoning "turned the scale in favour of the Zionist solution of the Palestine Problem," for the minute territorial allocation that a Jewish state entailed would not be a hardship placed upon Arabs in the context of the Arab Middle East (53). Shertok added that its Arab citizens would not only retain their association with the Arab world but would enjoy the rights of citizenship in a Jewish commonwealth as "there is nothing inherent in the nature of either the native Arab or the immigrant Jew which prevents friendly cooperation" (Robinson 1947, 213). When the Arab claim is weighed against the international promises to Jews, the achievements of 50 years of Jewish settlement, recurrent antisemitism, and the current plight of Jewish refugees, then the route of least injustice favors establishment of a Jewish state.17

The Arab Case

For their part, the Arabs repeated that no credibility be given to the argument for historical title on the basis on distant historical connection. Aside from the statue of limitations consideration, most modern-day Jews cannot claim descendence from the Jews of biblical times and, hence, have not inherited a claim from those who were previously dispossessed.18 Before the General Assembly, Arabs like Henry Cattan (Palestine), Faris al-Khouri (Syria), and Fadhil Jamali (Iraq) argued that appealing to historical connection in settling international issues,

. . . would mean redrawing the map of the whole world. It has been said you cannot set back the hands of the clock of history by twenty years. What should then be said when an effort is made to set the clock of history back by twenty centuries in a an attempt to give away a country on the grounds of a transitory historic association? (Robinson 1947, 227).
If historical connection is relevant at all, it is certainly the Arabs who have the stronger case since they have been the established majority in Palestine during the more recent centuries. No amount of propaganda, said Cattan, can alter the Arab character of Palestine's history and culture. Arabs have done the greater part in developing the land, establishing its citrus and olive groves, and building its terraces, its villages, its cities. The assumption that they had let its land lay fallow and the country undeveloped is as much a distortion as the earlier myth that the land was "empty." Even if Jews have done well with the sectors they own, the argument that development grants title could be used to justify any aggression of a technologically advanced society against a more "backward" people.

As for the lesser injustice, while it may be true that Jewish refugees need a home, this is not to be granted at the expense of those who were not responsible for Nazi actions. That the refugees be settled in Palestine against the wishes of Arab residents would be an injustice to the majority and a violation of a 1946 General Assembly resolution concerning resettlement of displaced persons. In measuring the injustice of alternative proposals, Arabs would stand to lose more by creation of a Jewish state since they outnumber Jews by two-to-one and hold the bulk of its property. The 1919 King-Crane commission had correctly predicted that the pressures of Jewish capital would result in the displacement of many poorer Arabs, while others would find economic and political opportunities blocked. "No room can be made in Palestine for a second nation," concluded Albert Hourani in 1946, "except by dislodging or exterminating the first" (Smith 1996, 130). Not only would Palestinian Arabs be affected; the Anglo-American Committee emphasized that a Jewish state in Palestine would give a non-Arab power control of the only land bridge between the western and eastern halves of the Arab world, disrupting the latter's communications and territorial unity.19

Finally, sovereignty is an inalienable possession of the inhabitants of a territory and a Trusteeship only temporarily suspends its exercise (Cattan 1969, 252-253). The "commitments" and "guarantees" of the Balfour Declaration and Palestine Mandate cannot override the rights of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants which derive from more fundamental principles. In 1946 Akram Zuaiter, a prominent Palestinian politician, appealed to self-determination as a moral principle, insisting that Palestinians have a "natural right" to self-governance that is not dependent upon the promises of the British, the Americans, or international bodies (Zuaiter 1994, 272). The philosopher W.T. Stace argued in the same vein: self-determination provides "the only "abstract" or "moral" principle which is needed for the adjudication of the Palestine controversy," and it "will not be outdated a year from now or in fifty years" (Stace 1947, 83). It is "aggression" for an external agent to neglect the wishes of the majority and their "natural right of self-determination" in favor of an alternative arrangement. The Arab Higher Committee added that Jews legitimately entitled to reside in Palestine have every right to share in its self-determination, but,

". . . foreign residents of diverse nationalities, mostly of the Jewish faith, can under no legal or moral justification, be entitled to a say in the formation of this government . . . This, in short, is our legal position in Palestine. As the overwhelming majority, we possess the unquestionable right of sovereignty over the country (1948, 11-12).
Since Palestine's legitimate residents opposed both the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate provisions from the very outset and have persisted in their opposition to the present day, then imposition of a Jewish state upon them would be an unmistakable denial of self-determination.

Rejoinder on Self-Determination

The appeal to self-determination is double-edged, as British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon noted in 1918; "both Arabs and Zionists are prepared to make every use of it they can" (Lloyd-George 1939, 739-40). At times, Ben-Gurion argued that the right of self-determination may be overridden (Jewish Agency 1947, 384), but other members of the Jewish Agency maintained that it is a misconception to view the Palestine Mandate as violating the principle of self-determination. Any beneficiary of self-determination must demonstrate itself to be a viable political unit, and unlike the Arabs of Palestine, the Jews have been recognized by the international community as having achieved this status. Echoing earlier arguments of Jabotinsky (Shimoni 1995, 367), the Agency contended that the right of self-determination should not be looked upon as applying to static populations alone, but as a mechanism for rectifying ancient wrongs and giving unpossessed peoples a share in the world's land and resources.

If there was justice in the general concept of self-determination, there was also justice in the particular expression of that concept in terms of the "historic reparation" to Jewry. No man of liberal spirit could deny that it was justice long-delayed. Nor could he gainsay the right of his people to find its way once more into the society of nations (Jewish Agency 1947, 110).

The Zionist argument for self-determination can be summarized as follows: (1) Jews, as a people capable of political independence, meet the necessary and sufficient conditions for being a beneficiary of self-determination. (2) Palestine is the only territory to which Jews as such have historical, cultural, legal, and moral ties. (3) Palestine is not the only area to which Arabs have such linkages (Gorny 1987, 213-14). (4) There is (in 1947) "no identifiable Palestinian Arab people" who have emerged as a viable political unit with international recognition whose own national aspirations for independence would suffer upon creation of a Jewish state (Jewish Agency 1947, 325, 384). Therefore, Jews are entitled to a sovereign state in Palestine.

Comment on the Rejoinder

The first premise of the argument is plausible only on a principle of national self-determination. On a regional interpretation the premise is false since self-determination is not to be conferred on peoples. Instead, it belongs to the entire community of legitimate residents and in 1947 the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine--only one-third of the population at best--were not the exclusive beneficiary. In fact, the claim for regional self-determination in Palestine by the majority of Palestine's inhabitants had been strengthened during the period of the Mandate. In 1919 it was by no means clear that the inhabitants of Palestine were entitled to self-determination qua inhabitants of Palestine rather than being part of a larger regional unit. The effect of the British Mandate was to isolate Palestine, keeping it under trusteeship while the rest of the Arab world gained independence. Since the vast majority of its population contested the Mandate's provisions, Palestine remained an "unsettled" area for the next quarter-century and, arguably, its inhabitants acquired "national aspirations" and were as capable of other Arabs of political independence. This discredits the fourth premise of the argument even if the logic of national self-determination is retained. But according to the regional principle, not only is the first premise false, the argument is invalid due to the presence of a majority of Arabs. At the very least, adherence to that principle would have called for a plebiscite on the partition proposal whose result would have been contrary to Zionist ambitions.

Partition, Independence, Catastrophe

Palestine has become the acid test of human conscience. The United Nations will find that upon their decision will depend the future of humanity, whether humanity is going to proceed by peaceful means or whether humanity is going to be torn to pieces. If a wrong decision flows from this august Assembly, you may take it from me that the world shall be cut in twain and there shall be no peace upon earth.20

In the autumn of 1947 UNSCOP issued both majority and minority recommendations. The minority proposal, claiming that the provisions of the Mandate were inconsistent with the League of Nations Covenant, called for a binational state. It was rejected by Arabs who denied a parity between Arab and Jewish political claims, and by the Jewish Agency which argued that a binational solution would result in constant political deadlock and reliance upon external parties (Jewish Agency 1947, 130-135, 345, 549). The majority proposal recommended partition of Palestine into two states, a Jewish state on approximately 56% of the mandated territory and an Arab state on 43%, with Jerusalem to be placed under international administration (see Map). Arabs would lose control of the rich costal plain which produced their most valuable export, citrus fruit, while the central highlands would be excluded from the Jewish state. The plan was adopted by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947 as Resolution 181 (II) with a vote of thirty-three in favor, thirteen against, and ten abstentions.

Although the plan fell short of their aims, the Jewish Agency acquiesced. The Arabs rejected it arguing that the United Nations had no right to grant any portion of Arab territory to Zionists, and that the Western world was making them pay for the suffering of Jews. It was, at the time, unreasonable to expect Arabs to accept what they regarded as a "grotesquely skewed misallocation" (Ball 1992, 21, and Khalaf 1991, 245-46). There were no negotiations between the two communities--neither Jew nor Arab would acknowledge the existence of the other (Cunningham 1948, 481)--and fighting immediately broke out. By April 1948 the better-equipped and more numerous Jewish forces established a clear superiority, securing their recommended allotment while capturing territory assigned to the proposed Arab state. Civilians on both sides were targeted, but massacres like that at the Arab village of Deir Yassin (over 250 people) by Jewish irregulars precipitated a wide-scale exodus of Arabs from their homes and villages.

On May 15, the day after Israel declared its independence, forces from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq entered the fighting. Despite population differences, Israelis placed more soldiers in the field, and had the advantage of working in familiar terrain under unified control. UN-sponsored truces in the summer provided belligerents the opportunity to re-arm, while the UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden, recommended immediate repatriation of the Arab refugees as a condition for any just and lasting peace. His assassination in September by members of the Jewish underground was followed by renewed fighting in October which lasted until early 1949. When the last armistice was signed in July, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had taken over 77% of mandated Palestine, including West Jerusalem and the Galilee. The remainder was occupied by Jordan (West Bank and East Jerusalem) and Egypt (Gaza Strip). Palestinian Arabs were not permitted to establish a state and at least 750,000 became refugees through flight or expulsion by Israeli forces.21 The long-debated "transfer" alternative had now become reality; for Palestinians, the massive dislocation was, simply, their Catastrophe (al-Nakba). Although a General Assembly Resolution of 1948 stated that refugees "should be permitted to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors," chances for peace in 1949 were lost when Israel refused Arab demands for withdrawal to the partition plan boundaries and return of refugees. Israel countered that Arab countries had waged war in defiance of the international community and that they could absorb Arab refugees just as the Israel was now accepting Jewish refugees not only from Europe, but also from the Middle East and north Africa (numbering 335,000 from 1949-1952).

The Existence and Legitimacy of States

Under what conditions can a state be said to exist? How does it gain legitimacy? When does a claim for statehood merit international recognition? Each of these questions has been relevant since declarations of independence by Israel in May 1948 and, subsequently, by the Palestine National Council in November 1988. From its inception Israel has satisfied the minimal conditions necessary for the existence of a state, specifically, a permanent population, a fixed geographical territory in which the population resides, and exercise of independent organized governmental control over the population within that territory. Although Arabs have at various times denied the legitimacy of Israel, statehood is more a matter of fact rather than of right.


The question of legitimacy concerns sovereign power and the implied entitlement to recognition. It can be raised at two levels; whether the state was legitimately established and whether the state is legitimately constituted, that is, whether its basic laws and institutions conform to minimal demands of justice, for example, observance of human rights and the sovereignty of other nations. Israel's legitimacy has been challenged at both levels.

Upon declaring its independence, Israel was soon recognized by many countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, and was admitted to the United Nations in 1949. Recognition is certainly a criterion of legitimacy, though in the first thirty years of its existence, Arab states refused recognition on the grounds that Israel had been imposed upon the Palestinian majority,22 and had seized territory in excess of the area specified in the partition plan. Whether the Partition Resolution itself yields an argument that Israel's establishment was legitimate is a matter of debate. Without the power to convey sovereignty the recommendations of the General Assembly were not binding (Brownlie 1990, 172-173). Although the International Court of Justice declared in 1950 that the Assembly was the legally qualified successor to the League of Nations with a right to carry out supervisory functions over the mandated territories, it emphasized that mandates were created in the interests of the inhabitants of the mandated territory (Brownlie 1990, 567). Further, the Partition Resolution violated the principle of self-determination (Cattan 1969, 1976; Bassouni 1974; Mallison & Mallison 1989)--one of the few mechanisms for establishing states by law rather than force (Crawford 1979, 84-85).

Feinberg (1970) and Stone (1981) have argued that the Palestine Mandate was itself an application of the principle of self-determination, and the Partition Resolution merely confirmed the "natural and historic right" of the Jewish people in Palestine. The fact that the Arabs of Palestine later distinguished themselves as a national group with a claim for self-determination--not until the 1960s--is "neither a juridical nor moral basis for undoing that initial application of President Wilson's self-determination principle after World War I" (Stone 1981, 58). Thus, regardless of the moral merits of the Partition Resolution or the Mandate, that these agreements have received international sanction creates an obligation to respect them. But apart from this, the mode of establishment becomes increasingly irrelevant to a state's legitimacy as it gains recognition, enters into agreements, develops its institutions, and extends its protection to newly born generations which had nothing to do with its emergence. After nearly fifty years, doubts about the justice of Israel's establishment may have been overridden by time.

However, a state's legitimacy also depends also on its character. Israel prides itself on being both a democracy and a Jewish homeland. While its Declaration of Independence asserts that it is "the natural right of the Jewish people to lead, as do all other nations, an independent existence in its sovereign State," it also proclaims that Israel "will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race, or sex." But Israel has fallen short of this latter ideal. Though one-sixth of its citizens are non-Jews, it remains a Jewish state. Its official symbols are Jewish religious symbols, and statutes governing land ownership and the Law of Return explicitly favor Jews over non-Jews.23 Successive Israeli governments have discriminated against Arabs in areas of education, municipal funding, and economic development (Jiryis 1976, Lustick 1980).

The irony which has accompanied Zionism throughout remains; to solve one case of prejudice against a cultural minority it has effectively generated another. If a state's legitimacy forbids its basic institutions from de jure discrimination against cultural minorities, then the Jewish state--like any state favoring one religious, ethnic, or national constituency over another--is illegitimate. To be sure, this antecedent takes us back to the debate on national self-determination. Whatever its outcome, Israel is a young country--it remains without a constitution--and perhaps it can find a way of fusing democratic ideals with those of a "Jewish" state in which the problems of discrimination will be overcome. In 1991, the General Assembly acknowledged this possibility by rescinding its 1975 resolution describing Zionism as a form of racism, partly because of pressure by the United States, but partly because of a growing recognition that a realistic compromise is possible. In the eyes of much of the world, Israel has gained legitimacy if it did not possess it at the outset. Yet unless it can find some creative way of harmonizing its national character with equitable relations to the Arabs, the character of its symbols, laws, and institutions will keep the question of Israel's legitimacy alive.


The defeat of Arab forces in the 1947-49 War fostered revolutionary movements in the Arab world, notably in Egypt, where Gamal Abd'l Nasser assumed power in 1952. His resolve in the face of the Anglo-Franco-Israeli invasion of 1956 and his insistence that Israel is an alien presence created and sustained by Western imperialism eliminable only through a unified Arab front, made him one of the more prominent figures in the Arab world for over fifteen years. Yet he miscalculated when he blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, replaced UN troops in the Sinai with two divisions of Egyptian soldiers, and concluded a defense treaty with Jordan in late May of 1967, unwittingly providing Israel with a casus belli. Israel's attack on June 5 destroyed Egypt's airforce and routed the exposed Egyptian forces in the Sinai, most of which it captured within three days. After fighting broke out in Jerusalem, Israel quickly overpowered the light Jordanian forces, occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank by June 8, and the Golan Heights by June 11. Nearly one-fifth of the West Bank population fled, finding borders sealed upon attempting to return.24

The real victory for Israel was not damage to Arab military capacity--this was quickly restored--but capture of territory later used for political and economic ends, a public relations bonanza bringing increased Western support and Jewish immigration, and defeat of a popular brand of Arab nationalism. Security Council Resolution 242 (November 1967) called for mutual recognition of all states in the region and Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories. But Arab countries were unwilling to negotiate after the humiliating defeat and Israel denied that the resolution requires withdrawal from all the territories. For thirty years, Israel has remained in the occupied territories, ruling what is by now over two million Palestinians. In the eyes of the world community, its presence there is subject to international law dealing with belligerent occupancy, specifically, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 (see, for example, Security Council Resolution 446 of March 1979). Allowing for measures of military necessity, the Convention forbids alterations of the legal system, forcible transfer or deportation of the resident populous, and resettlement by the occupying power of its own civilian population within the occupied territory. Israel has violated these provisions, but contested their application on the grounds that the West Bank (in particular) is "disputed" or "unallocated" rather than the occupied territory of a nation which is party to the Convention.

The most contentious aspects of the occupation are Israel's settlements and land expropriation. Though initially confined to sparsely populated areas and large neighborhoods around East Jerusalem, civilian settlements were soon established near heavily populated areas in the West Bank, a tendency accelerated by the Likud government of Menachem Begin. Some settlements were built on land formerly under Jordanian control, but wide tracts of private Arab land were also confiscated. In 1979 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that requisition of Arab-owned land for civilian settlements was lawful if it furthered the security of the occupying forces and occupied areas.25

In its plan for development of settlement in Judea and Samaria 1979-83, the World Zionist Organization said that "settlement throughout the entire Land of Israel is for security and by right" (Mallison & Mallison 1989, 446). In 1980, the Government of Israel defended its settlement policy by challenging Jordan's claim to sovereignty in the West Bank, and by citing the Mandate provisions which permitted Jewish settlement in Palestine.26 Israel has frequently cited security concerns to justify control over the West Bank, but as Shlomo Avineri observes, in "the era of missiles launched from distances of hundreds or thousands of kilometers, holding on to the West Bank or refugee camps in the Gaza Strip has no security significance" (Ha'aretz, 16 January, 1996). The more likely reasons are resources--Israel takes one-third of its water from the West Bank--and lebensraum. Apart from the eastern sectors of Jerusalem, Israel has not annexed the West Bank or the Gaza Strip but, instead, followed a policy of creating "facts" to make it increasingly difficult for any future Israeli government to envision a complete pullout. According to a UN report in summer 1995, Israel has taken possession of 73% of the West Bank alone, with over 17,500 acres confiscated since the Oslo Agreement in September 1993. There are over 140 settlements in the West Bank and 20 in the Gaza Strip. More than 300,000 Israeli Jews have been settled in the territory taken in 1967, approximately 160,000 in East Jerusalem, 140,000 in West Bank settlements, and 6000 in Gaza (The Jerusalem Times 18 August, 1995). The settlers themselves are differently motivated; some take advantage of government subsidized housing while the more ideologically committed act to hasten the incorporation of all "Eretz Israel" (the Land of Israel) into the Jewish state.

Resistance, Retaliation, Representations

In the first half century of conflict, much of the inter-communal violence was waged not on battlefields but in market places, villages, refugee camps, city streets and buses, with victims being not only those who have taken up arms but civilians. After Israel declared independence in 1948, one side gained the apparatus of state power and a modern military. As the Palestinians regrouped in the 1960s, the arena and methods of struggle broadened, but civilians on both sides continued to bear the brunt of bullets and bombs.

The Recourse to Violence

Israelis and Palestinians alike have cited self-defense in their recourse to arms. Some have also argued that violence has produced desired political results, whether in terms of weakening a political adversary, gaining concessions, attracting attention to one's cause, or unifying one's own community. As the Palestinians could cite the impact of their resistance on British policy in 1939, a similar argument was available to Jews in the 1940s. In articulating his "iron wall" strategy, for example, Jabotinsky justified "retaliation" against Arab attacks even when this involved civilians: "The choice is between . . . retaliating against the hostile population or not retaliating at all" (Schechtman 1961, 480). To Menachem Begin, who headed the Irgun after Jabotinsky's death, it was the armed revolt against the mandatory government that paved the way for creation of the state of Israel. Though Begin denied any massacre of Arab civilians had occurred at Deir Yasin, he acknowledged that the story "invented" about what happened there "helped carve the way to our decisive victories on the battlefield" (Begin 1977, 165). Yitzhak Shamir of LEHI also justified the use of terror: ". . . terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play . . . it proclaims our war against the occupier" (Talhami 1990, 236).27

In 1946, the Arab Higher Committee predicted that Jewish terrorist organizations will give rise to similar organizations by the Arabs. Frustrated by the lack of respect for UN resolutions calling for their repatriation, a few Palestinian refugees took up arms in the early 1950s in raids against Israeli settlements. Organized resistance materialized only in the late 1950s with the founding of Al-Fatah. In 1964 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established as an umbrella organization to unite a variety of Palestinian groups. Its charter called for an end to the state of Israel, a return of Palestinians to their homeland, and establishment of a single democratic state throughout Palestine. Initially led by politicians, but the ascendance of Al-Fatah's Yasir Arafat to the chairmanship in 1969 revealed that engine of the PLO lay in its military wing.

The 1967 war marked a sharp rise in Palestinians' self-consciousness, convincing many that if their homeland was to be liberated then it was they who must do it. Outgunned and outmanned by the Israeli military, their fighters resorted to guerilla tactics from staging grounds in Jordan and Lebanon. Some, like George Habash of the PFLP--the "Palestinian mirror image of Jabotinsky" (Al-Azm 1988, 98)--spoke of turning the occupied territories into an "inferno whose fires consume the usurpers" (Hirst 1984, 282). While this did not happen, by 1969 the activities of Habash and others were in the international spotlight as a consequence of cross-border raids and airplane hijackings. No incident was more spectacular than the hostage-taking by the Black September group which led to the deaths of eleven Israeli athletes and five Palestinian commandos during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Israel's response was not only to pursue PLO activists abroad, but to bomb targets in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The civilian casualties in these airraids far exceeded those of the incursions that prompted them; after Munich between 200-500 people, mainly civilians, were killed (Hirst 1984, 251, and see Khalidi 1989 for additional casualty figures).

Recourse to arms brought mixed results. On one hand, Palestinians were branded as "terrorists" in the Western press, and accorded little sympathy after Israeli reprisals. On the other, their resistance restored a measure of self-respect and confidence, publicized their grievances--after 20 long years of neglect by the world community--and gained them recognition. Those who argue against the legitimacy of terrorism must confront the fact that victims of oppression often have no other option than to confront a militarily superior enemy in order to gain the attention of an otherwise indifferent world. To some extent it worked for the Palestinians: the world awakened to the Palestinian situation after twenty years of neglect. Within the Arab world the impact was much greater; at the Rabat Conference in 1974, Arab leaders affirmed that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and later that year the General Assembly recognized the Palestinians' rights to self-determination, national independence, and sovereignty.

War and Massacre

Diplomatic gains in the 1970s reinforced Palestinian willingness to accept a two-state solution of the conflict, but the Israeli Government of Menachem Begin opposed any compromise with the PLO. With his Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, Begin planned to destroy the PLO infrastructure in Lebanon. The IDF invaded in June 1982, and after devastating Palestinian population centers in the south of Lebanon and forcing a large exodus of Lebanese northwards into Beirut, besieged West Beirut for two months. Entrenched PLO fighters foiled an Israeli attempt to enter West Beruit in early August, and on August 12 the IDF responded with a massive aerial bombardment which was halted only with the intervention of U.S. President Reagan. The Americans then arranged an evacuation of nearly 12,000 PLO fighters in late August.

On September 12, Lebanon's new president, Bashir Gemayel, agreed to Israel's request that Phalangist forces--a militia from one of Lebanon's Maronite faction--eliminate the 2000 "terrorists" which Israelis claimed were still in Beirut's refugee camps. On September 14, Gemayel was killed in a powerful explosion, and a day later the IDF moved into West Beruit in violation of the evacuation agreement, sealing off the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps with tanks. Sharon authorized entry of the Lebanese militia on September 16 and for the next 38 hours, aided by Israeli flares at night, the militiamen raped, mutilated and massacred civilians. The International Red Cross gave a figure of 2400 killed or unaccounted for (Ang 1989, 72), but some bodies had been buried before evacuating and sources among both Phalangists and Palestinians claimed that at least 3000 people had perished (Hirst 1984, 428). Among the dead, none could be identified as members of any PLO military unit.

The massacre was a wild suspension of law and morality, and the interesting normative questions concern the scope and degree of responsibility. The killers entered the camps at the behest of Israeli officials who were certainly aware of Phalangist hostility towards Palestinians. An Israeli commission of inquiry ridiculed the claim that a massacre was not foreseen by Israeli officials, especially after Gemayel's assassination, and concluded that "indirect responsibility" rested on the shoulders of Sharon, IDF commanders, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and Prime Minister Begin. Presumably, the qualifier "indirect" was based on the assumption that Israeli soldiers did not actually do the killing. Yet, allowing the revenge-seeking Lebanese Forces into the camps suggests "complicity in genocide"28 if not outright instigation. In other circumstances, those responsible--directly or indirectly--would have been convicted of war crimes.

Some have argued that Israel's invasion was an act of self-defense against Palestinian terrorism and the PLO's avowed aim to eliminate Israel, and that the amount of force "was proportionate to the goal of expelling the PLO" (O'Brien 1991, 209). But an armed attack on Israel from the PLO was not even imminent since for the PLO had honored a 1981 agreement to cease cross-border hostilities, and was receptive to political compromise. Although the presence of a hostile armed force near its border provided Israel with a rationale, Begin admitted that this was a war of choice (Jerusalem Post, Int'l Ed. 22-28 August, 1982). As for proportionality, it is estimated that at least 80% of the approximately 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians killed in the invasion were civilians, many by cluster and phosphorus bombs. On this account, Israel's aggression failed the test of jus in bello, and despite propaganda about combatting "terrorists," of all Israel's wars, this drew the most international and domestic criticism.


The 1982 war revealed the limitations to the logic of political violence, especially when the adversaries are not easily vanquished. As the pattern of strike and revenge persists, the line between oppressors and non-belligerents is blurred and innocent people become the victims of terrorism, whether committed by guerilla resistance or state military. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict turns from intrigue to tragedy when we consider the casualties and suffering of civilians from the early 1920s to the mid-1990s. Sabra and Shatilla did not mark the end of atrocity. Besides the civilian casualties of the Intifada (see below) in 1994 a Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, murdered 29 Palestinians worshipers in Hebron, and beginning in 1993, Palestinian extremists launched suicide bombings in Israeli streets killing scores of Israeli civilians. Rather than frightening the opposition into submission, each round of violence only intensified the hatred and hardened the will for yet another cycle of vengeance.

Violence and the Media

It has become a familiar observation that only by violence do the oppressed gain a hearing. Yet, as mentioned, the Western media was largely hostile to the Palestinian recourse to arms, especially when civilians were targeted (Picard 1993). To anyone familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the discriminatory manner in which the "terrorist" label has been applied concealed the actual facts, a point underscored in Ashmore's essay below. Because states are viewed as legitimate international actors in a way that liberation movements typically are not, placing a bomb in a car or at a bus stop seemed more sinister than dropping it from an airplane, even though civilians were the victims in both cases. Then too, those sympathetic to Israel had greater access to Western media (Lilienthal 1982, chaps. 8-10; Chomsky 1983, chap. 5; Said and Hitchens 1988).

The ethics of journalism are complex. Since news reports influence decision-makers and those who place them in power, the obligation of the news media is to produce accurate and relevant representations of what has happened. To even approximate these virtues, it must learn to avoid use of inflammatory language and to put events into historical context. Unfortunately, much of the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has sinned on both accounts. A term like 'terrorism,' for example, suggests an unlawful and immoral act in a way that 'retaliation', 'resistance' or 'self-defense' do not. To use the former in labeling the actions of one party and the latter in describing the same actions of another is a distortion which unduly affects the audience's judgments by dehumanizing an entire class of people. The negative connotations of terms like 'terrorism' and 'terrorist' obscure rather than illuminate. For purposes of understanding, we are better off using them clearly and consistently or avoiding them altogether.

The Intifada

The most noticeable weakness of any defense of Israel's continued occupation is its neglect of the interests of the resident Palestinian population. Since 1967, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been denied self-determination and the considerable civil rights enjoyed by Israeli citizens. Their economic development has been stifled, their resources placed under Israel's control and, perhaps worst of all, their land has been steadily confiscated. They are taxed without representation, and meager government expenditures have resulted in poor education and health services, far below the standards in Israel and neighboring Arab countries. There has been routine censorship and, in several cases, Palestinian villages and regions have been renamed. The pattern of land confiscation and road networks has unfolded a type of "Bantustans" arrangement with pockets of Arab population surrounded by Israeli-dominated territory. All of this is done under legal auspices; as Meron Benvenisti pointed out, Israeli rule in the territories is rule by law, not the rule of law (see Benvenisti 1984 and Shehadeh 1985).

Few Palestinians have opted for life elsewhere, preferring to express their attachment to the land in the virtue of sam'ud (steadfastness). As the pace of land confiscation and settlements increased under the Likud governments, their protests escalated. The Israeli military responded with force, continuing the pace of imprisonment and deportation while using lethal means against young demonstrating Palestinians. The unrest in 1981-82 in which over forty Palestinians were killed was a prelude to the more widespread protests of the Intifada (1987-1993) when opposition to Israeli occupation was expressed not only by daily demonstrations and stoning of Israeli soldiers, but also by commercial strikes, non-payment of taxes, and boycott of Israeli products. The demonstrations, the contexts in which they occurred, and the Israeli response are discussed at length in the essays by Robert Ashmore, James Graff and Daniel Statman.

The results of the Intifada were numerous. The spectacle of Palestinian civilians being beaten and shot at by heavily armed soldiers revealed that the Israeli occupation did not possess the "benign" character its supporters had formerly claimed. A split in the Israeli public widened. Citing security concerns, a sizeable number felt the IDF response was justifiable, but homegrown human rights groups such as B'tselem and the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights joined its Palestinian counterpart Al Haq and international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in documenting brutality. The Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz referred to the sponsors of repression as "Judeo-Nazis" and urged Israeli soldiers to refuse service in the occupied territories, subsequently comparing the Israeli undercover agents who killed Arab teenagers with the members of the Islamic movement Hamas (Chicago Tribune, 25 January, 1993). The Intifada also changed the perceptions of many Israelis about Palestinians: it "has forced us to acknowledge a nation in revolt rather than individuals" (Hartman 1990, 238). It was a step that moved the parties towards negotiation, perhaps even Palestinian independence. After the Oslo Accords of 1993, Leibowitz said that "Every rational person can now see that the Palestinian state has been founded" (New York Review of Books, 4 November, 1993).29

Religious Claims

The are few places upon which religious passion pours with such vigor as the terra sancta that includes Nazareth, Nablus, Hebron, Safad and, especially, Jerusalem. The territorial claims of the three Abrahamic religions have long been used to justify political activism and armed aggression. None has made a virtue of tolerance, though a demand for tolerance may be deducible from their fundamental moral canons. But within each tradition there are articulate people who emphasize certain doctrines at the expense of others, scorn rival interpretations, and regard alternative faiths with suspicion. They have used religion to justify political extremism and to cultivate zealots willing to take life on a massive scale--and die in the process. Their presence and numbers makes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a test case to determine whether meaningful compromise between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is possible.

It is not surprising to find a vibrant strain of religious nationalism within Zionism, especially given the popular justifications for Zionism in terms of divine promise and the religious mission of the Jews. The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi from 1921 to 1935 in Palestine, Avraham Kook, taught that redemption of the land is as important as redemption of the people, and he lauded the young Jews of Jabotinsky's Betar movement for being "willing to sacrifice their lives in the cause of their Holy Place" (Smith 1996, 89). "The arousal of desire in the whole nation to return to its Land, to the essence of its spirit and character, reflects the glow of repentance. It is an inner return, despite the many veils that obscure it" (Shimoni 1995, 148). His son, Zvi Yehuda Kook, inspired the messianic Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement which has been at the forefront of Israeli settlement in the West Bank since 1973. He declared that the Halakha forbids giving up any land that has been restored to Israel: "There is no Arab land here, only the inheritance of our God--and the more the world gets used to this thought, the better it will be for them and for all of us" (Friedman 1992, 19). Holding that Eretz Israel should be settled and defended at any cost, Kook's followers settled on the outskirts of Hebron in 1970 and in the center of the city in 1979. As settlers protested in the summer of 1995 against any withdrawal of Israeli troops from the territories, a group of rabbis (the Union of Rabbis for the Land of Israel) reiterated Kook's Halakha prohibition and urged soldiers to disobey evacuation orders, angering Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Chicago Tribune, 13 July, 1995). Yigal Amir, Rabin's assassin some months later, stated that he had been directed by God to prevent Rabin from endangering Israel by handing over land to Palestinian rule: "Everything I did was for the God of Israel, the Torah of Israel, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel" (New York Times, 28 March, 1996, A7).

No less intense is the Islamic revival among Palestinians, part of a much larger movement spawned, in part, by Western attempts to gain hegemony over the Middle East. It is an important Islamic doctrine to reserve the right of jihad for the protection of Dar-al-Islam (the Islamic community). One of the more established Islamic revivalist groups in the Arab world, the Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood), considers all of Palestine to be Islamic territory. The Brotherhood rejects a Palestinian state in the territories if that entails recognizing Israel, for such recognition would legitimize the conquest of Muslim land (Abu-Amr 1994, 23). Beginning in the mid-1920s, `Izz al-Din al-Qassam (see above) advocated a combination of spiritual renewal and militancy to combat British rule and Zionist colonization. Convinced that jihad was the only means of liberation, he demanded that funds from the Muslim religious endowment (the waqf) be spent on arms rather than mosque repairs (Mattar 1988, 67).

Al-Qassam's legacy lives on in the Islamic movement Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya (Hamas) which emerged from disillusionment with secular Palestinian politics in 1987. Its spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, currently imprisoned by Israelis, said, "Jihad is a duty on every Muslim if the Muslim's land is violated" (Abu-Amr 1994, 59). According to its 1988 charter, Palestine is "consecrated for future Muslim generations" and no Arab country has the right to give it up. The movement works to "raise the banner of God over every inch of Palestine," and insists that "jihad is the path, and death on God's path is our most sublime aspiration." Inspired by this policy, Hamas has sent suicide bombers into Israeli streets to sabotage the peace process. The Islamic Jihad organization, whose slogan is "God's book in one hand, and the rifle in the other, holds that Israel is integral to a Western plan to divide the Islamic community, "to subjugate it, to enslave it, to paralyze its will, and to cast an eternal yoke over its neck" (Abu-Amr 1994, 102). One of its leaders, Fathi al-Shaqaqi, assassinated in 1995, wrote that elimination of the "Zionist entity" is a religious duty.

Passions aside, religious claims bear little normative relevance to resolutions of intercommunal conflict. Philosophers have long realized that disputes can be adjudicated and settled peacefully only if there is common ground upon which the issues can be approached, and for this reason they have sought normative standards to which any rational being could acquiesce. But discourse within a single religious framework is essentially private and cannot provide that common ground for disputants rooted in different traditions (Fackenheim 1988, 13; Hartman 1990, 232). Each side can clamor all it wishes about the content of God's decrees, but if the opposition has a different vision of divine will then propositions about the rights of one and the obligations of another--however "true" they might be--will not generate reciprocal motivations..

The relevance of religion to the conflict is not so much the bearing of dogma upon normative debate as the capacity of faith to motivate. Since religious affiliation is frequently at the center of an individual's identity, an insult or injury to traditions, rituals, symbols, or beliefs evokes the same sort of emotions that a deeply personal affront might. Reaction varies, but for those already prone to selective emphasis and quick to seek vengeance and restitution, it can result in a willingness to liquidate and be sacrificed. In 1996, after Israelis assassinated Yahya Ayyash, noted for his ability to design bombs strapped to suicide bombers, a Hamas political leader in Gaza was quoted as saying: "Of course there will be revenge against Israel. The principles of the Hamas movement command us not to lose Palestinian blood without revenge." Over 100,000 people attended Ayyash's funeral in Gaza. In the streets they chanted "Death to Israel. We are all Yayha Ayyash. We are all `Izz al-Din al-Qassam" (New York Times, 15 March, 1996, A7). Israeli extremists were no less subtle. The gravesite of Baruch Goldstein (see above) in Kiryat Arba became a shrine and place of pilgrimage for his sympathizers. One is reminded of Voltaire's warning that those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities. Yet beliefs are part of the political landscape; to ignore them is folly, while giving them too much credence is to bolster intransigence. At best, those who look to religion for a peaceful solution can appeal to countervailing religious doctrines in working towards acceptable compromise.30

Tolerance, Compromise, Tragedy

In the adjustment of Jews and Arabs, one-sided bargains are to be dreaded. They spell disaster for the future.
- Alfred North Whitehead, 1939

Only after a century of conflict, have Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews begun to negotiate. At all previous crucial junctures, in the early 1920s, in the late 1930s, in 1945-47, they failed to do so because the two national movements did not recognize each other. In 1988 the PLO unilaterally declared a Palestinian state, an acceptance of the UN Partition Proposal, and a readiness to recognize Israel. In 1991 the two sides faced each other across the table. Their first tangible compact was the Declaration of Principles signed in Oslo in 1993, followed by subsidiary agreements in 1994-95. Among other things, these provide for the redeployment of Israeli troops away from Arab population centers in the territories, establishment of a democratically elected Palestinian Authority with limited powers of self-rule, Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation, and, most importantly, a five-year period of negotiations on the permanent status of the territories which would address Jerusalem, the settlements, refugees, and borders.

These agreements may seem promising, but there is no guarantee that they will lead to peace. Many Israelis think that they endanger Israeli security (Halkin 1994), and since they do not guarantee self-determination or an end to Israeli occupation they have been received with skepticism by numerous Palestinians--an "offense to the Palestinian spirit" (Said 1996a, 30). It is uncertain what sort of "permanent status" they will produce, if any. Assuming that the status quo is unstable, what sort of options are available as a final resolution of the conflict?


Short of pacifism or skepticism about military solutions, maximalist proposals cannot automatically be ruled out. Israeli maximalists can argue that Zionist aims of providing a haven for Jews and Jewish culture cannot be achieved with anything less than a Jewish state throughout the mandated territory, and they can add that this state will survive because of the Israel's superiority of arms. Arab maximalism need not be Islamic-inspired; it can be argued that the existence of a pro-Western Jewish state in the very center of the Arab world constitutes a threat not only to the Palestinian community but to Arab independence and security throughout the Near East. This danger will remain regardless of local treaties.

Rejectionist arguments are appealing in their simplicity and force. They affirm one's initial predilections, put an end to doubt, and provide a decisive response to all requests for sacrifice of ideals. With their long-range optimism they make it easier to endure contemporary discomfort, and with their promise of thousand-year regimes, eternal capitals, and the fulfillment of God's will they can inspire even the dullest minds to embrace ideals. Yet they are singularly insensitive to the interests of other parties and often devoid of imagination about possible consequences. If anything is clear about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is that ardent attachment to maximal ideals will guarantee further violence and bloodshed that might easily assume global proportions. How can Arab rejectionists eliminate Israel in the face of Israel's military superiority and abiding support from a powerful West? How can Israeli maximalists establish peaceful relations with the rest of the Middle East; is their solution not a recipe for either a perpetual state of war or massive genocide?

Towards a Negotiated Solution

"The real task of world statesmanship," said the Lebanese philosopher, Charles Malik, in 1948, is "to help the Jews and the Arabs not to be permanently alienated from one another" (Arendt 1978, 211). This task cannot be undertaken blindly; are there any normative principles that might guide movement towards a negotiated solution? Whitehead (1939) argued that any attempt to overcome the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine required observance of these guidelines:

These strictures may seem "commonplace" to use Whitehead's words, yet they are not easily implemented, especially the demand for compromise given the current imbalance in comparative strength. Long-range vision is required here too, and probably a less rigid stance on perceived justice than one might be first inclined to give. Compromise merits attention because it is less evil than the maximalist alternatives.

What else can be said? Graff argues below that both sides must be serious in respecting human rights, for nothing undermines the hopes of future coexistence more than insults to personal and national consciousness that come from persecution. Yet Graff is concerned that however "commonplace" this ideal might be, it is often subordinated to a realpolitik and nationalistic hubris that too easily overlooks rights abuses. On the other hand, rigidity about "rights" may be the very obstacle to overcome, especially when the rights of collectives are in question. Leibowitz thought it futile to argue over which "people" has rights to the land; no nation as such has rights to land since "rights" are only derived from human legal institutions (1992, 225-9). The link of a nation or people to any particular territory exists only in the consciousness of its members, and such a mental entity is incapable of sustaining any legal claim to that territory. "This conflict has no "just" resolution grounded in considerations of law or the "rights" of the sides" (242).

While something may be said for each of these proposals, neither resolves the pressing issue of sovereignty. For this, we must consider yet further options.

A Two State Solution

ne widely-touted compromise is the two-state solution, an alternative that returns to the principle of partition. To some, it is "the only possible solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict" and the only way for Israel to survive as a Jewish state (Harkabi 1992, 22, and see Leibowitz 1992, 226, 242).31 Partition is a direct application of parity that accords each community its separate sovereignty while insisting on mutual recognition, and in many ways is more reasonable now than in 1947. Demography and prevailing institutions have changed; Israeli Jews have established a thriving nation, while Palestinian Arabs have rebounded after their Catastrophe with surprising vigor and a growing sense of national identity.

Achieving this "peaceful divorce" (Oz 1994) between the two communities requires honesty about what has happened and sober-minded realizations of what could happen. It may well be the best solution. But there is a risk; by definition, the two state scenario would preserve the spirit of nationalism and reinforce the collective memory of past aspirations and grievances. Though it promises temporary breathing space, it can result in polarized "divorcees" competing for resources in a small region where cooperation is essential. It also raises the specter of future conflict driven by concerns to secure what one already has or ambitions to regain what one had formerly lost (Rice 1994, 184-6), especially when one side allies with outside parties to enhance its position vis-a-vis the other. Although a two-state compromise would be an enormous stride towards permanent peace in the Middle East, it would remain particularly vulnerable to political developments elsewhere in the region.


The binationalist alternative remains one way of satisfying the demand for (broad) national self-determination; it permits development of culturally-based institutions although it insists that sovereignty be shared.. There is little likelihood that binationalism will be taken seriously in the short run since it is opposed by both sides. But should continual conflict prove exhaustive, it may once again present itself as the only mechanism for overcoming nationalistic animosity, discrimination, and shortsightedness.

A liberal democratic state with a cosmopolitan bent would steer away from any settlement of the conflict in terms of national self-determination. Currently, it is even less popular than binationalism, but, with an eye on long-term stability, no major alternative should be left unexamined. As a proposal it awaits a reappraisal of the arguments for national self-determination.

Is Zionism the preferable course in the long run? Is it the best answer to the problems that Jews have confronted during the past century? For the vast majority of Jews today these questions are answered affirmatively: Zionism has been "one of the greater success stories among national movements in the twentieth century" (Reinharz and Shapira 1996, 27), and identity with Israel has become a unifying force for Jews around the world (Avineri 1981, 13). But it should be clear by now that these achievements alone are not enough to justify Zionism. What can? It is doubtful that Israel can provide adequate refuge in the event of renewed antisemitism. Less than one-third of the world's Jews currently live in Israel, and the prospects of mass emigration of the remainder is infeasible. Should antisemitism become so strident that Jews felt forced to gathered themselves into a single state, then, very likely, Israel would itself be targeted and its citizens would not be immune from the consequences of modern weaponry. It does not take great historical or philosophical acumen to realize that identification with Israel might be a new source of prejudice. Edwin Montagu, the only Jewish member of Lloyd-George's Cabinet, opposed the Balfour Declaration on precisely these grounds (Smith 1996, 54; Khalidi 1971, 145-147). In 1936 the Nazis exploited Zionist ideology and confirmed Montagu's fears when they conveniently appended to their calls for Juden Raus! that of nach Palestina (Brenner 1983, 81-86).

Yet, the counter-argument is not without weight. These same Nazis marched the eighty year old non-Zionist Simon Dubnow to his death, as they did to countless others. Has the modern technological world reached a stage where Jewish culture can only flourish when fully self-governing, where Jews cannot afford again to face annihilation as a minority? One must consider seriously the view of Fackenheim (and others) that the survival of Judaism and the Jewish people is dependent upon Israel's existence which, "for the profoundest religious reasons, is not negotiable" (Morgan 1987, 303).

Curiously, the experience of the Palestinians in their half-century diaspora lends some support to this separatist logic. Palestinians have been subjected to discrimination under Israeli rule as well in Arab countries where they have minority status. They have been embroiled in civil conflict in Jordan and Lebanon, and Palestinian civilians in Lebanon and Kuwait have been targeted because of PLO political and military activities. It is no accident that a type of "Palestinian Zionism" has emerged within their ranks (Steiner 1975, Al-Azm 1988), and that Palestinian arguments in favor of a "return" (Awdah) to their homeland and creation of a separate state should parallel those of Herzl and others. How else are they to end their status as stateless outsiders at the mercy of foreign rule? Ironically, the very success of Zionism has spread the ancient cry, Next year in Jerusalem! more widely than it ever intended. Yet the phenomenon is not a new one for Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims; the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 inspired a countercrusade that lasted for much of the next two centuries.

We are back where we began, with rival claims for national self-determination in one and the same territory. Precisely this tension is what the liberal cosmopolitan alternative aims to dissolve by breaking the link between sovereignty and nation while handling cultural prejudice and discrimination through the kind of pluralism and tolerance advocated in liberal democratic societies. It is sensitive to Tamir's reminder that humans exist only as members of particular cultures, never in the abstract, but it procedes as though the opposite were true in the allocation of fundamental rights and duties. Cultural prejudice may be impossible to eradicate, but its harmful effects can be muted by prohibiting official favoritism. A degree of mutual adjustment is inevitable for those who live among people of other cultures. Individuals "assimilate" in speaking a common language and tolerating different life-styles. Countries themselves adapt to the international community just as their citizens and corporations conform to global economic standards. To live in a multicultural world is to adjust, but by maximizing tolerance and restricting the role of special cultures in legislation a cosmopolitan state minimizes the demand of uniformity.

Most Jews are likely to continue to live outside Israel, and even if a Palestinian state were created, substantial numbers of Palestinians will remain on the outside. Adaptation is their common experience, and it should not be forgotten how deeply cosmopolitan the history of both peoples has been, not only because of dispersal but also the location of the territory to which both lay claim. Tolerance and intercultural exchange have established roots in the Middle East (Quandt 1996, 11-12), and this should be a source of optimism.

For these reasons, it is unfortunate to think that opponents of a nationalist creed necessarily bear animosity towards a particular cultural group (for example, Bauer 1990, 207, and Fackenheim 1987, 298). The judgment confuses criticism of a political movement with cultural prejudice, and is oblivious to alternatives that are equally motivated by concerns for the welfare of that group. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: antisemitism is not a problem of the Jews, it is our problem (Sartre 1946, 196-97), and so is any discrimination based upon the accidents of birth and heritage to which we are even remotely linked. The twentieth century has seen what happens when nationalistic forces circle their wagons or launch their blitzkriegs; the result has not been pretty. In contrast, what I am here calling the cosmopolitan alternative, a state that is for its citizens regardless of their cultural heritage, and, therefore, actively opposed to both everyday bigotry and official favoritism, seems irresistible. Perhaps it has not reached full flower either in reality or imagination.

Tragic Justice

For both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, the presence of the other is their most significant and inescapable challenge. Whether we agree that their dispute pits "right" against "right," it is no less dramatic by a clash of powerful convictions. Perhaps the quest for "absolute justice" in this conflict is futile and, consequently, that fixation upon the past must be transcended and a "tragic justice" accepted. The Israeli author Amos Oz reminds us that tragedies can be resolved in two ways:

. . . there is the Shakespearean resolution and there is the Chekhovian one. On the one hand, at the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, the stage is strewn with dead bodies and maybe there's some justice hovering high above. A Chekhov tragedy, on the other hand, ends with everybody disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, disappointed, absolutely shattered, but still alive. And I want a Chekhovian and not a Shakespearean one for the Israeli/Palestinian tragedy (Oz 1994, 16).

Yet this is not the last word. One generation's heartbreak and disillusionment is often fuel for another's cause. What is essential is not only that both Israelis and Palestinians remain alive, but how they remain alive. The safest normative conclusion is that each must retain enough dignity and a capacity for interacting in a manner that is conducive to long-term stability throughout the region. Whether this will be achieved remains an open question as the conflict enters its second century.



1. An early Zionist, Moshe Lilienblum, described nationalism as a progressive trend, but noted that "the drive for national self-determination, is the very soil in which anti-Semitism flourishes" (Avineri 1981, 69).

2. Quoted in Avineri 1981, 76. Pinsker insisted that antisemitism "as a psychic aberration is hereditary, and as a disease transmitted for two thousand years it is incurable" (77). Against this pathological hatred of Jews, "an inherited aberration of the human mind," polemics are useless (Vital 1975, 129).

3. Avi Erlich (1995) puts the point more strongly: "Had not Zionism been complete and intellectually satisfying in ancient times, and had the ancient Hebrews not bequeathed the idea, modern Israel would never have reemerged, no matter what later Zionists thought or did. In any case, Zionism is not a modern invention, nor is it an idea still trying to define itself, as some of Israel's friends and enemies imagine" (11-12).

4. The Cohen-Buber debate is excerpted in Mendes-Flohr & Reinharz 1980, 458-462). Responding to Buber, Hermann Cohen acknowledged that while Palestine is the Holy Land of Jewish heritage, the future and "true homeland" of Judaism was in the entire evolving historical world. Writing in 1945, Morris Cohen remained steadfast in his opposition to tribalism "whether it bears the label of Zionism, Aryanism, Anglo-Saxon America, or Pan-Islam" (1946, 333).

5. The term 'Arab' is primarily a linguistic, not an ethnic, designation. The Arab inhabitants of Palestine are partly descended from ancient Semitic peoples, and there was no displacement of population when conquered by the Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century.

6. See Garfinkle 1991, 543 on the origins of this slogan. One of the persistent problems in studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the abundance of myth and distortion. The infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion comes to mind, and more recently Peters 1984 which argues that a large segment of Palestinian Arabs immigrated to Palestine at the same time as European Jews. Peters' book was immediately debunked by critics such as Yehoshua Porath, Edward Said, and Albert Hourani, and more recently in McCarthy 1990 and Finkelstein 1995. Forty years earlier, arguments similar to Peters' were presented in Frankenstein 1944, 128-130.

7. A similar view was favored by Albert Einstein in 1938: "I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. . . . I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain--especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks (Einstein 1967, 237-8). Lilienthal (1982, 342-3) writes of Einstein's continued opposition to Jewish nationalism even after WWII.

8. There is debate about what was promised to Arabs in the Hussein-McMahon letters. Two days after the agreement, McMahon wrote that the only areas excluded from Arab independence were "portions on the Northern Coast of Syria" (Porath 1974, 322). However, in a 1937 letter by MacMahon to the Times, he claimed that Palestine "was not or was not intended to be included in the territories in which the independence of the Arabs was guaranteed in my pledge" and that this was understood by Sheriff Hussein (Stone 1981, 146-7). This interpretation did not agree with Lord Curzon's view, nor with the description of Hussein's views by Lloyd-George who wrote that MacMahon himself was then (in 1915) "very reluctant" to discuss boundaries despite the insistence of Hussein to include all the area along the eastern Mediterranean coast up to Mersina, an area which incorporates Palestine even though it was not mentioned by name (Lloyd-George 1939, 660-2). See also the discussions in Antonius 1965, chap. 9 and Smith 1996, 43-49, 56-59. On the interpretation of the agreement as a treaty see Porath 1974, 46.

9. This argument was made in a report by the Executive Committee of the Arab Palestine Congress presented to Winston Churchill on March 28, 1921.

10. Crawford reports that self-determination applies mainly to mandated and trust territories (1979, 92-6), while Bassiouni and Fisher speak more broadly of "non-self-governing territories" (1974, 647). In application to established states the principle is primarily a doctrine of non-intervention (thus, Brilmayer 1989, 105). Buchanan (1991a) describes the principle as inherently vague and suggests that its main value is as a "placeholder for a range of possible principles specifying various forms and degrees of independence" (50).

11. The precise status of self-determination in international law is debated (see Emerson 1971). Several authors are explicit that self-determination is a recognized right of certain collectives, e.g., Suzuki 1976, 828; Ofuatey-Kodjoe 1977, 160-7; Mallison 1986, 193; and Brilmayer 1989, 105. Paust 1980 observes that a case can be made for ranking self-determination as a human right, given Article 21 of the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948). Friedlander (1980, 309), concludes that self-determination is a "principle" of international law, language that is also used in Crawford 1979, 84-118 and Brownlie 1990, 597. On the other hand, Emerson (1964) argues that there is no legal right of self-determination and Pomerance (1984, 337), denies that there is any "single right to self-determination in all cases."

12. See the informative discussion of "self-encompassing" groups in Margalit and Raz 1990. A "people" is more a historical category than a biological one, wrote Buber, whose members are bound together by self-consciousness of their difference from other communities and, thus, by a "unity of fate" (Buber 1963, 217). Kedourie 1961, 31, describes nationalism as the doctrine of national self-determination.

13. It was with just this regional emphasis that the principle was utilized in the Peace Conference--though its application was contested precisely in the "unsettled" regions of Alsace-Lorraine, Upper Silesia, and Palestine due to nationalistic pressures. The regional interpretation of self-determination prevails in many discussions of international law (for instance, Crawford 1979, 84-106, and Ofuatey-Kodjoe 1977, chap. 7).

14. A fuller version of Lord Balfour's text appears in Khalidi 1971, 201-11. See also the discussion in Lloyd George 1939, 750.

15. Emir Feisal, son of Sheriff Hussein of Mecca and a leader of the Arab resistance in 1915-1918, represented the Arab kingdom of the Hejaz and appealed to self-determination in advocating Arab independence. In a 1919 agreement with Chaim Weizmann, Feisal consented to Jewish immigration into Palestine provided that the rights of Arab farmers be protected and "no religious test shall ever be required for the exercize of civil or political rights" (Antonius 1965, 438). Feisal added that the agreement shall be void unless the Arabs achieve independence as promised by the British, and subsequently argued that Arabs would accept only a possible Jewish province in a larger Arab state (Khoury 1976, 12). There was no popular representation of, nor support by, Palestinian Arabs in the making of this agreement (Khalidi 1971, 502); to the contrary, there was outright opposition (Muslih 1988, chp.5). In 1925, the lawyer, Quincey Wright, wrote that the terms of the Mandate constituted, "a gross violation of the principle of self-determination proclaimed by the Allies" (Quigley 1990, 18).

16. Porath (1974, 44) writes that Wadi al-Bustani was among the first Palestinian Arabs to publicize the apparent incompatibility of the Mandate with Article 22. In 1948 the Palestinians' Arab Higher Committee cited this article in justifying enterance of Arab states into Palestinian territory. For contrasting interpretations see Cattan 1972, 65-68 and Feinberg 1970, 41-44.

17. Ben-Gurion echoed this argument: "The conscience of humanity ought to weigh this: where is the balance of justice, where is the greater need, where is the greater peril, where is the lesser evil and where is the lesser injustice?" (Jewish Agency 1947, 325). In 1937 Jabotinsky made the same point in contrasting Arab preference with Jewish need: "it is like the claims of appetite versus the claims of starvation" (Hertzberg 1977, 562).

18. There is evidence that a large segment of the Eastern European Jews are descended from the Khazars, a central Asian people who adopted Judaism as their religion and fled westward to escape the Mongol invasions (see the sources cited in Quigley 1990, 70-71 and 259). Wexler (1996) argues that Sephardic Jews descend from converts to Judaism in Asia, north Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. Thus, any constancy of historical presence or of right to "return" belongs, at best, to a cultural unit, not to an ethnic community united by historical ancestry.

19. This point was made in the 1946 Anglo-American Committee's report (Esco Foundation 1947, 1225). The American philosopher William Ernest Hocking wrote that the Zionist territorial demands were "like asking for a microscopic section across one wrist" (Hocking 1945, 222).

20. This statement was made by Mr. Asaf Ali, Delegate to the United Nations from India in 1947 (Robinson 1947, 201).

21. The figure of 770,000 is given by Flapan (1987, 216), whereas Morris sets it from anywhere between 600,000 and 760,000 (1987, 298), and Khalidi at 727,700-758,300 (1992, 582). For many years, defenders of Israel propagated the notion that the Arab refugees left their homes at the behest of Arab authorities, for example Abba Eban in a 1958 speech (Laqueur 1976, 151-164). This myth has since been exposed (see Childers 1961, Flapan 1987, Morris 1988, and Finkelstein 1995). The refugees and their descendents currently number over 3.5 million.

22. A statement by Ben-Gurion in 1956 is revealing: "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country . . . Why should they accept that?" (Goldman 1978, 99).

23. Emil Fackenheim writes that the Law of Return is next in importance to the Jewish essence of Israel as the Return itself (1988, 14). Michael Rice, on the other hand, finds the law to be "a nakedly racialist concept" since it allows any Jew, from the Hungarian Banker to the Yemenite farmer, a right to immigrate to and become a citizen while denying the same to Palestinian indigenes to whom it stands as "a most cruel affront" (Rice 1994, 41-2). See the brief but interesting defense of the law in Margalit and Halbertal 194, 509-510.

24. There is a debate about whether this was a just war. According to Walzer (1977), Israel's existence was imperiled by Egypt's military build-up making its anticipatory strike a "clear case of legitimate anticipation" (85). However, there is little to support the charge that Nasser was preparing an invasion which justified Israel's strike. U.S. intelligence reports to Israelis in late May indicated that Egypt had no plans for attack and that Israel would prevail in any case, an assessment subsequently confirmed by Israeli Generals Yitzhak Rabin, Matetiyahu Peled, and Ezer Weizmann (Lilienthal 1982, 557-558).

25. The Israeli Defense Minister at the time, Moshe Dayan, was one of the sponsors of Israeli settlement in the territories. He argued that "there is nothing sacred about the previous map from 1948," and that settlements are important in contributing to the creation of "a new psychological reality" (Lustick 1993, 357-8).

26. See Moore 1991, 729-34. Stone (1981, 167-182) has defended Israel's position, and so has Rostow (1990) who speaks of settlers as "volunteers" not "transferees" and argues that the Jewish right of settlement in the territories is conferred by the British Mandate. Others have criticized Israel's refusal to accept applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, see, for example, Mallison and Mallison 1986, chapter 6; Quigly 1990, chapter 24; and Roberts 1990. See also the discussion in Benvenisti 1993, chapter 5.

27. Recourse to violence by Jews and Arabs produced comments from curious quarters, putting advocates of peace such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Buber at loggerheads. Writing in 1938, Gandhi emphasized that it is "wrong and inhumane to impose the Jews on the Arabs" and that "according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds" (Gandhi 1938, 367-69). Responding in a 1939 letter, Buber wrote: "in view of the accepted canons you cast a lenient eye on those who carry murder into our ranks every day without even noticing who is hit" (Mendes-Flohr 1983, 120). Gandhi did not reply, nor did he waver from his opposition to Zionism and to the activities of the Jewish underground in the 1940s (Jansen 1971, 179).

28. This was how the International Commision chaired by Sean MacBride described Israel's responsibility for what occurred at Sabra and Shatilla (Mallison & Mallison 1989, 400).

29. A similar view was expressed by Israel's Environmental Minister Yossi Sarid (Chicago Tribune, 23 January, 1996). However, it was not shared by then Prime Minister elect, Benjamin Netanyahu, who responded to Arafat's claim of a Palestinian state with "never" (Chicago Tribune 6 June, 1996).

30. Many Jewish religious thinkers have carried on the tradition of Ahad Ha'am and Martin Buber in their sensitivity to Palestinian aspirations. Though a committed Zionist, Yeshayahu Leibowitz found the worship of the land of Israel as a form of idolatry, and argued that religion forbids regard for state and nation as absolute or religious values (1992, 210, 227). Israel's physical survival depends upon its moral survival and continued settlement will add fuel to the flames and render dialogue with Palestinians impossible: "Honest dialogue is not possible between rulers and ruled: it is possible only between equals" (240). David Hartman has stressed that the Gush Emunim is not the only voice drawing upon Jewish theological tradition (Hartman 1990, 241). Warning the Jewish extremism is a threat to Israel, he cautions that permanent control over Palestinians will destroy the centrality of Israel for world Jewry: "We will not heal our own rage and frustration through military control over the Palestininans but only through dealing constructively with their will for self-determination (Hartman 1990, 227). Among Palestinians religious thinkers, Sheikh Akrimeh Sabri, a member of the Supreme Muslim Council, states that no one of the three religions has an exclusive claim to Palestine and that, consequently, peace requires "mutual respect, a recognition of rights on all sides" (Bergen et al 1991, 121). Reverend Naim Ateek (1989) reaches into the Christian tradition of compassion and forgiveness in calling for mutual recognition of Israelis and Palestinians and for a "dynamic, healthy federation" of states in the Near East (172).

31. The two-state solution comes in different forms, one calling for an independent Palestine in the territories, the other for a federation of the Palestinian state with Jordan, and yet another for a Palestinian state only in Jordan. The latter shares most of the drawbacks of one of the maximalist approaches.