"All nations of the world must be united in their solidarity with the victims of terrorism, and in their determination to take action, both against the terrorists themselves and against all those who give them any kind of shelter, assistance, or encouragement," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in September.
"To the Israelis I say: You must end the illegal occupation. More urgently, you must stop the bombing of civilian areas, the assassinations, the unnecessary use of lethal force, the demolitions, and the daily humiliations of ordinary Palestinians," he said this week.
"We understand that... Israeli citizens have been the victims of this violence and terror, and that they therefore feel a need to defend themselves, and they have a right to do so. But, at the same time, [we] made quite clear that we don't think that these particular actions that are being taken by the Israeli government in many of these cases, whether it's targeted killings or the use of heavy military force in densely populated areas, actually contribute to better security," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said earlier this month.
If there is anything poisonous to the war on terrorism, it is the idea some terrorism is acceptable. There is no doubt as to President George W. Bush's deep commitment to the war against terrorism. But there is also no denying evenhandedness between terror and its victims is creeping back into US policy, and permeates the international approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has rightly pointed out that the provision in Tuesday's US-drafted UN Security Council Resolution demanding the "immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement, and destruction" was a victory of sorts for Israel. In addition, many have highlighted the fact that, for the first time, the Security Council has spoken of "a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized boundaries."
While endorsing the notion of a Palestinian state and giving that state equal billing with Israel, this formulation also subtly rejects the Palestinian interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed just after the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians, and the "Saudi plan," pretend that Resolution 242 requires Israel to return to the pre-1967 lines. The current resolution reaffirms the plain language of the Resolution 242, which clearly implies that the arbitrary cease-fire lines of 1948 were anything but secure.
In other words, the latest Security Council resolution contained important nods to Israel's positions that it is the victim of a terrorist onslaught and that territorial compromise, not total withdrawal, is the eventual basis for peace. But these "victories" are more accurately understood as minor reprieves from the colossal double standard routinely applied to Israel, a double standard that is becoming particularly glaring with respect to the proposed post-September 11 world order.
One of Kofi Annan's predecessors, Trygvie Lee, said the attempt by Arab armies to eliminate Israel in 1948 was "the first instance of armed aggression since the end of World War II." It is by this act of aggression the West Bank came to be occupied by Jordan and the Gaza Strip by Egypt. Jordan subsequently annexed the West Bank, but that act was only recognized by two nations (Pakistan and Britain).
The last internationally recognized sovereign of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip was Great Britain, which was granted a mandate by the League of Nations to temporarily govern this particular portion of the dismantled Ottoman Empire. But the mandate Britain was given was to create a Jewish national home for the people who at the time were called Palestinians - the Jews of Palestine.
Accordingly, there is simply no legal basis for Kofi Annan's claim Israel's presence in the territories is "illegal." For Annan to declare otherwise displays a stunning disregard for the UN decision the Security Council just reaffirmed, Resolution 242. If Israel's occupation were illegal, why doesn't that resolution simply demand total withdrawal?
The quest for peace is hampered, not advanced, by the stubborn refusal of the international community to treat aggression against Israel as aggression, and terrorism against Israel as terrorism. Condemning Palestinian terror is not enough; the real measure of the illegitimacy of terror is the legitimacy of Israel's efforts to fight back. So long as Israel stands condemned for defending itself, the Palestinians have no diplomatic reason to end terrorism, and the global war on terrorism is being dealt its first real setback.