My name is Stephen Rosskamm Shalom and I am a professor of Political Science at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. I have been writing and teaching about United States policy in the Middle East for more than two decades. I thank the Council for inviting me to share my observations on the various resolutions before you.
In my view, any Council resolution on the tragic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians ought to aim for two goals. First, it should express itself in terms of universal moral principles, rather than in terms of the parochial interests of one group or another. And, second, it should help to move the long-suffering people of the Middle East closer to, rather than further from, peace and justice. In my judgment, only one of the resolutions before you today achieves these goals, Resolution No. 216.
What do I mean by universal principles? I mean that if it is right to say that one national group — Israeli Jews — is entitled to the right of self-determination, then so too must all national groups, including Palestinian Arabs, have the right of self-determination. If there is to be a state for one of these two peoples, then there must be a state for the other one as well. For more than half a century, one of the two claimants to the historic land of Palestine has had a state, while the other has been relegated to grim refugee camps and brutal military occupation. Universal principles require that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs both the same right to self-determination.
Universal principles also mean that if it is wrong to kill civilians – and surely it is – then it is wrong to do so whether the civilians are Israelis or Palestinians. I unequivocally condemn the suicide bombings that have brought such grief to Israeli civilians. But I join with organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and many others in condemning just as unequivocally Israeli policies that have brought grief to Palestinian civilians. Amnesty International recently stated with regard to the suicide bombings that have targeted civilians:
“These actions are shocking. Yet they can never justify the human rights violations and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions which, over the past 18 months, have been committed daily, hourly, even every minute, by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians. Israeli forces have consistently carried out killings when no lives were in danger.”<1>
Amnesty further reported that “Ambulances, including those of the International Committee of the Red Cross…, were not allowed to move or suffered lengthy and life-threatening delays. Medical personnel or those who tried to help the injured were fired on and the wounded bled to death on the street.”<2> Israeli military forces — again to quote Amnesty International — “killed and wounded armed Palestinians. But they also killed and targeted medical personnel and journalists, and fired randomly at houses and people in the streets.”<3> An Amnesty expert testified that “The military operations we have investigated appear to be carried out not for military purposes but instead to harass, humiliate, intimidate and harm the Palestinian population.”<4>
And it should be noted that the Israeli use of deadly force preceded armed attacks and terror bombings by Palestinians. In September 2000, Israeli security forces responded to Palestinian demonstrations with lethal force even though, in the words of a UN report, at these demonstrations the Israeli Defense Forces, “endured not a single serious casualty.”<5>
So, by all means, let us condemn the killing of more than 200 Israeli civilians in recent months. But let us condemn no less vigorously the killing of more than 200 Palestinian children in the same period, the majority of whom, according to Amnesty International, appear to have been killed when no lives were in imminent danger.<6> And these Israeli killings weren’t in self-defense in a larger sense: their goal is to maintain the military occupation over Palestinians.
The second goal that this Council should have for any resolution it passes on the Middle East is whether or not the resolution brings peace and justice closer or further away.
Historically, since 1967 the role of the United States government in the Israel-Palestine conflict has been to give Israel uncritical military, economic, and diplomatic support, providing no incentives for Israel to seek a just settlement with the Palestinians. Since 1976, Israel has been the largest annual recipient in the world of U.S. foreign aid and the largest cumulative recipient since World War II.<7> Much of the weaponry Israel has been using in its attacks on Palestinians either was made in the United States (F-16s, attack helicopters, rockets, grenade launchers, Caterpillar bulldozers, airburst shells, M-40 ground launchers) or made in Israel with U.S. Department of Defense research and development funding (the Merkava tank).<8>
Diplomatically, the United States has permitted Israel to violate international law and Palestinian rights with impunity. Three times in 1995 and 1997, the Security Council considered draft resolutions critical of Israeli expropriations and settlements in East Jerusalem; Washington vetoed all three. In March 2001, the Council debated a resolution to establish an international presence in the Occupied Territories as a way to prevent human rights violations. The United States vetoed that resolution too.<9>
And even today the United States government continues to do Israel’s bidding, blocking international action of which Israel disapproves and echoing Ariel Sharon’s demands. But such policies don’t in fact help the people of Israel: they just ensure that violence and insecurity will persist. Only a U.S. policy that attempts to even-handedly push both sides toward a genuine settlement has any prospect of providing justice or security for any of the people of that troubled region.
1. AI statement before Commission on Human Rights, March 26, 2002, MDE 15/027/2002.
2. Amnesty International, Israel and the Occupied Territories: The heavy price of Israeli incursions, April 2002, MDE 15/042/2002.
5. John Dugard, Kamal Hossain, and Richard Falk, “Question of The Violation of Human Rights in The Occupied Arab Territories, Including Palestine,” Report of the human rights inquiry commission established pursuant to Commission resolution S-5/1 of 19 October 2000, E/CN.4/2001/121, 16 March 2001, para. 22.
6. Amnesty International, Israel And The Occupied Territories: Mass detention in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions, May 2002, MDE 15/074/2002.
7. Clyde R. Mark, Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance, Updated March 15, 2002, CRS Issue Brief for Congress, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, IB85066.
8. The Al Aqsa Intifada and Israel’s Apartheid: The U.S. Military and Economic Role in the Violation of Palestinian Human Rights, Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel, January 2001.
9. See the list of vetoed Security Council resolutions on Palestine at http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/qpal/index.html.