Do You Know About Resolution 242?

By now you know that I authored COMMITTEE OF ONE, Making a Difference One Life at a Time, about my two years with Leila Wahbeh in Jordan's refugee camps.  It seems few people know what 242 set out for the Palestinians.   This portion of a recent article in The Nation magazine will tell you: In contrast to the days that passed before it acted in 1956, the United Nations took over five months to come up with a resolution to deal with the situation created by the 1967 war. When it did so, on November 22, 1967, Security Council Resolution 242 was inspired essentially by the desiderata of Israel, with the indispensable support of the United States. Resolution 242 was far from unconditional: Indeed, it made Israel’s withdrawals from the areas its forces had just conquered conditional on the achievement of “secure” boundaries, which has proven to be an infinitely flexible term in the Israeli lexicon. This flexibility has permitted 50 years of delay where occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories are concerned. Moreover, in its English version, 242 did not call from withdrawal from all the land taken in the June war, but only from “territories occupied” during the conflict. With ample American backing, Israel has driven a coach and horses through that seemingly minor gap. Other language in 242, such as the passage stressing the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” can be seen as balancing those major concessions to the Israeli position. However, which parts of 242 are really important is indicated by the planned joint session of Congress and the Knesset, on top of 50 years of American complaisance about an occupation that in practice is underwritten by American money, arms, and diplomatic support. This is an occupation, incidentally, that the Israeli government denies exists, and that President Trump did not see fit to mention once by name during his recent visit to Palestine and Israel. One additional crucial point about 242 is worth mentioning. The original conflict in Palestine was a colonial one between the indigenous Palestinian majority and the Zionist movement as the latter tried to achieve sovereignty over the country at the expense of, and ultimately in place of, that majority. The nature of this conflict had been recognized in part in the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 181 of 1947, which called for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. The former was to have been larger than the latter, although at that point Jewish land ownership was under 7 percent of the total, and Arabs constituted 65 percent of the country’s population, and in principle had the absolute right of self-determination in the entirety of what they reasonably still considered their country. Resolution 242 represented a regression even on this low-water mark for the Palestinians. The Palestinians are not mentioned in the text of the 1967 resolution, nor are their rights to statehood and to return to their homes and possessions, which had been confirmed by previous UN resolutions, all of them supported by the United States. Instead there is a bland reference to “a just settlement of the refugee problem.”