Tag Archives: Palestinians

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.”

What Do You Know About the Palestinians?

Posted on March 25, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby

It was 40 years ago that I co-founded the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) and wrote "Palestinians, the Invisible Victims". I was concerned that in the American mind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been reduced to a simple equation: Israeli humanity versus the Palestinian problem.

When most Americans thought of the conflict they were able imagine Israelis as people just like us. They were parents who loved their families. They wanted what we wanted—peace, prosperity, and a chance to watch their children grow and realize their dreams. They had names and faces. They experienced pain and loss. They were real.

Palestinians, on the other hand, were, at best, presented as an abstraction.  They were objectified into a faceless mass, without names or personalities. When spoken of at all, they were refugees or terrorists or, after a conflict, mere numbers in a body count. We did not know them as individual people and what we did know was cast in negative stereotypes. The only emotions we ascribed to them were that they were angry and violent and not to be trusted. They were not people to be supported, but a problem to be solved.

It was through this lens that most Americans, both policy makers and the public, at large, viewed the conflict. When given the choice between a people or a problem, is was an easy call to support the Israeli people.

This framing of the issue was not by accident. Rather it was the result of a systematic campaign to dehumanize the one side while humanizing the other. It was best captured by the 1960's propaganda film "The Exodus" which transposed the then popular American narrative of pioneers confronting the Indians onto the story of "courageous Israelis" fighting the savage "Arab natives".

During the following decades, this framing of the conflict continued. In 1981, I reported on TV news coverage of a cross border confrontation between Israel and the PLO in Lebanon. On the first day, two Israelis were killed. TV cameras were there interviewing weeping family members, telling their story of fear and pain. The next day Israeli jets bombed the Fakhani neighborhood in West Beirut killing over 383 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. That night, the TV cameras were again in Northern Israel with more follow up interviews. There was no coverage from Lebanon, just reports of an Arab body count. When the TV coverage did occur a day later, the reporter stood at the end of a bombed out street showing massive destruction. No one was interviewed, no personal stories were told. In Israel the story was the people, in Lebanon it was the buildings and a body count.

In 1994 when Baruch Goldstein, a young American-Israeli terrorist massacred 29 Muslim worshipers in a Hebron mosque, the Washington Post did a major feature piece trying to understand what happened to turn the young man to violence. The faces, names, and ages of the Palestinian victims never made it into print. Goldstein was the story; his victims were invisible. A few years later a 3 month Israeli baby was murdered by a Palestinian sniper. The story was front page news for three days with pictures and interviews with the weeping parents. When, just days later, a 3-day old Palestinian baby was murdered by an Israeli sniper—no major paper picked up the story. It was only reported on the seventh line of a short AP story. No name was given and the parents were not interviewed. It was as if their child and their pain did not matter.

Palestinian invisibility and/or objectification continues to define the conflict today. Even the most progressive voices in Congress don't speak about Palestinians. Instead they advocate for a "two state solution" to preserve Israel a Jewish democratic state. A liberal pro-Israel group periodically puts full page ads in the New York Times and the Washington Post calling for two states making the obscene argument of the demographic threat to the Israel's Jewishness posed by the Palestinian birthrate.

Unfortunately, oftentimes progressives unconsciously contribute to this by failing to elevate Palestinian humanity. Their efforts focus on condemning Israeli policies (which, no doubt, deserve condemnation), calling for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against the State of Israel. While I support BDS, I fear that at times the case for BDS is made without telling the personal stories of Palestinian victims of occupation. Instead of elevating Palestinians, punishing Israel becomes the goal.

And so the problem remains—Americans still do not know Palestinians as real people and, as a result, do not care about them. Because this remains the challenge we face, I have decided that 100 years after Balfour, 70 years after the partition, and 50 years after the 1967 war, I will go back to my roots to tell the Palestinian story. To do so will inevitably confront the Zionist narrative that has denied not only Palestinian humanity but their very existence as a people with a history. I want to elevate Palestinian poets and artists. I want to spend my energy elevating the Palestinian narrative, putting flesh on the bones of the Palestinian experience, and challenging Americans to know Palestinians as real people who want and deserve justice, equality, peace, prosperity and as parents who love their families and want to see their children grow and realize their dreams.

Some may find this threatening because it challenges the fundamentally racist equation that has defined this conflict for a century. So be it.