The hidden documents that reveal the true borders of Israel and Palestine!

The hidden documents that reveal the true borders of Israel and Palestine ~ Mondoweiss, , October 23, 2014.

I once believed that Israel has never defined its borders. It was one of those things that “everyone knows”. I was corrected by the blogger talknic. Mondoweiss is privileged to have talknic as a frequent commenter, and many readers here will be familiar with the document to which he pointed me: the letter written by Eliahu Epstein, the representative of the Jewish Agency in Washington, to President Truman and to the State Department, on May 14, 1948.

Epstein’s letter to Truman

In the letter, the Provisional Government of Israel formally requested the United States to recognize the new State of Israel which was about to be declared in Tel Aviv, effective one minute after midnight (6 p.m Washington time) when the British Mandate over Palestine ended. It begins (my emphasis):

My dear Mr. President, I have the honor to notify you that the State of Israel has been proclaimed as an independent republic within the frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947.

(The full text is given in the link above, and also appears below.) The resolution referred to,UNGA Resolution 181, recommended the partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. The Zionist leadership had publicly accepted the Partition Plan, and this letter defines the borders of Israel to be those specified in the Plan (see map attached).

As soon as I read the words “proclaimed… within the frontiers…” I knew that I had been fooled by Zionist propaganda. Reflecting further, I realized that the idea of a state without defined borders is actually completely nonsensical. Suppose there were no defined border between Canada and the USA. People would not know in which country they were living; what was their citizenship; whose laws they needed to obey; what currency they could use. It would be chaos. The Montevideo Convention lists the following requirements for the existence of a state: a permanent population; a defined territory; government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. If Israel had really been declared as a state without borders, it would not have been a state at all.

To understand how the Zionist leadership came to make this border definition, and why later  they tried, very successfully, to convince the world that it never happened, we need to consider events in both Tel Aviv and Washington as the end of the Mandate approached.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence

Israel was reluctant to define its borders. According to an article on the Israel Government website, the Provisional Government of Israel met in Tel Aviv from May 12 to May 14 to consider the draft declaration of independence. It was led by David Ben-Gurion as Prime Minister and Defense Minister.

Partition plan, UN 1947, with '49 armistice delineated

There were heated discussions about the borders. Some said stick to the Partition Plan borders, while Ben-Gurion argued strongly that they should say nothing about the borders, because it was his intention to capture territory outside the Partition Plan borders and include it in the state. His view was accepted by a vote of five to four in favor, with the four other members being absent. This vote is the origin of the story that “Israel has never defined its borders”. Ben-Gurion went home on the evening of May 13 and completely rewrote the draft declaration of independence, removing all references to the Partition Plan.

His motive is clear. He wanted to create the sort of chaotic situation I outlined in my Canada-USA illustration. If there was no defined border between Israel and the rest of Palestine, then all of Palestine could be considered open territory, available for conquest.

On May 14, the Ben-Gurion’s rewritten draft was considered by the National Council, the embryonic parliament of the new state, and was approved unanimously on the second vote: so we know that changes were made. The article does not say what they were, suggesting they were minor in nature. But if we look at the text of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel we see that the references to the Partition Plan have been restored. Indeed, the Partition Plan is placed at the heart of the Declaration:


Being based on the Partition Plan, the Declaration implicitly defines the borders to be those specified in the Plan, but does not say so explicitly. Since the declaration of a new state is a once-only event, whereas borders can be changed later, the absence of a border definition in the Declaration itself is not significant. It was Epstein’s letter that formally defined Israel’s borders.

Epstein’s telegram to Shertok

Later that day, May 14, after Truman had responded to Epstein’s letter by recognizing Israel, Epstein sent a telegram to Moshe Shertok (later Sharett), Foreign Minister in the Provisional Government of Israel. It tells the dramatic story of how, pledged to secrecy and against a deadline, he came to write the letter to Truman:

  1. United States Government has just recognized State in following language:


  1. Informal conversations with White House representatives have made clear that recognition de facto rather than de jure because announced government provisional in nature.
  2. The surrounding circumstances are as follows. Clark Clifford, White House spokesman, phoned Washington friends advising that the State Department, at noon, May 14, will agree immediate recognition in event request therefor received. After careful consultation here with Ben Cohen and Ginsberg, following letter drafted and sent to the President and Secretary of State:

My dear Mr. President: I have the honor to notify you that the State of Israel has been proclaimed as an independent republic within the frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947, and that the Provisional Government has been charged to assume the rights and duties of government for preserving law and order within the boundaries of Israel, for defending the state against external aggression, and for discharging the obligations of Israel to the other nations of the world in accordance with international law.

The Act of Independence will become effective one minute after six o’clock on the evening of 14 May 1948 Washington time.

With full knowledge of the deep bond of sympathy which has existed and has strengthened over the past thirty years between the Government of the United States and the Jewish people of Palestine, I have been authorized by the Provisional Government of the new State to tender this message and to express the hope that your government will recognize and will welcome Israel into the community of nations.

Very respectfully yours,
/s/ Eliahu Epstein
Agent, Provisional Government of Israel.

  1. Wider consultation and prior notifications were precluded by pledge of secrecy demanded by Clifford.
  2. Earlier during the day Loy Henderson phoned to ascertain boundaries of new State. Advised that boundaries in accordance with U.N Resolution.
  3. Circumstances required that I take title for this act and assume responsibility for sending letter.

Clark Clifford was a strong supporter of the Zionist cause and encouraged Truman to recognize the State of Israel as soon as it was declared. In his memoirs he says that he helped Epstein compose the request for recognition, and that it was he who told Epstein “it was particularly important to claim nothing beyond the boundaries outlined in the UN Resolution”.

Loy Henderson was in the State Department, and had been opposing Truman’s recognition. Now that it was going ahead, he also wanted to make sure that Israel was defining its borders. Epstein gave a more detailed account of the phone call to Max Lowenthal, another Truman adviser. Henderson had asked whether the Jewish State wanted any territory other than was granted in the UN resolution. Epstein replied “No, and any territory taken until peace was achieved would be returned to the Arab state”.

It is clear that Israel would not have been recognized by the US if it had not declared on the Partition Plan borders.

The telegram suggests that Epstein was not able to communicate with the Zionist leadership in Tel Aviv before submitting his letter to Truman. Fortunately, both had made similar decisions: in Tel Aviv to base the Declaration on the Partition Plan; in Washington to define borders according to the Plan.

Israel and Palestine

There was no doubt in the 1948-49 period about the location of Israel’s borders. The text of Epstein’s letter, together with Truman’s response recognizing Israel, was released to the world press in Washington on May 15, 1948. Talknic’s website and my own list several occasions on which Israel publicly acknowledged the existence of these borders. All the states recognizing Israel knew the extent of the territory it was claiming.

The words of the Declaration are intended to suggest that the creation of Israel was authorized by the United Nations. This is not correct. The UN does not have authority under its Charter to create or divide states. The Partition Plan was a recommendation only. The Plan envisaged a process, starting at the end of the Mandate, which would lead to the establishment of two states in a series of parallel stages. Because the Plan was rejected by the Arab side, it could not be implemented.

Israel was created as a sovereign state by the decision of the Zionist leadership to preempt the process envisaged in the Plan, and to declare the State of Israel immediately on termination of the Mandate. The borders specified at that time are its sovereign borders: the borders within which Israel claimed and exercised sovereign authority and on which it was recognized by other states.

It is sometimes asked whether the creation of Israel was legal. The answer is that it was neither legal nor illegal, because there is no system of law governing the creation of states. Israel exists as a sovereign state because it satisfied the requirements of the Montevideo Convention, and was recognized as such by other states.

Israel’s Declaration partitioned the land into two territories: the State of Israel, and the remainder of Palestine outside the sovereign borders of Israel, corresponding to the area of the Arab state in the Partition Plan. Palestine was in a sorry state, with much of its population having become refugees, and it had no government because the Mandate had ended, and there was nothing to replace it. It became a non-self-governing territory.

The Jewish National Home policy of the British Mandate had made it impossible for the Palestinians to exercise their right of self-determination in Mandatory Palestine, as confirmed by the report of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (II.176). But, because Israel’s border definition limited the sovereign extent of the State of Israel to that specified for the Jewish state in the Partition Plan, it also defined the borders of the non-self-governing territory of Palestine, creating the possibility that the Palestinians could exercise that right, the right to their own state, in the territory allocated to the Arab state in the Partition Plan.

Borders can be changed, but a state can only acquire territory from a neighbor by legal annexation, that is, by agreement, and with a referendum of the population. Obtaining territory by war violates fundamental principles of the UN Charter. Nevertheless, this is what Israel did.

Israel expands: the 1948-49 war

Israel was founded in the midst of civil war between Jews and Arabs. At 00:01 on May 15, 1948, when the Declaration became effective, Jewish militias were already fighting outside Israel’s sovereign borders, in the territory of Palestine. That same night, forces of the Arab states entered Palestine, and the civil war became a war between Israel and the Arab States. Knowing the location of Israel’s borders gives a better understanding of the nature of this war. Israel was not invaded by five Arab states. Most of the fighting was in Palestine, outside the borders of Israel, and no Jordanian forces entered Israel. The Arab League told the UN that they were entering Palestine to protect Arabs from Zionist attack: Israel told the UN that its forces were operating in Palestine, outside its borders, in order to protect Jews from Arab attack. The UN did not identify either side as an aggressor.

Having achieved recognition by declaring the partition lines as its border, a few days later, on May 20, the Provisional Government decided that “Israel would not respect the partition lines”. On June 3 Ben-Gurion said, in a report to the Provisional Government, “the entire expanse of the State of Israel allocated to us under the terms of the UN resolution is in our hands, and we have conquered several important districts outside those boundaries… we will remain constantly on the offensive, which will not be confined to the borders of the Jewish State”, thus confirming both the existence of the borders, and his intention to capture territory outside them. As the war progressed Israel continued to gain territory, until the fighting stopped with the Armistices of 1949.

In the captured territory between the partition lines and the armistice lines (see map above), Israel applied Israeli law, rather than a military occupation under the laws of war, making the territory in effect (de facto) part of Israel. The armistice lines (collectively the Green Line) therefore became the de facto border of Israel. Needless to say, this was not a legal annexation, as the armistice agreements themselves make clear: “the Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary”. Since Israel has no intention of returning this territory, it is rightly called stolen land.

Israel’s sovereign territory amounts to some 55% of Mandatory Palestine, the stolen land another 23%, with the remaining 22% comprising the West Bank and Gaza. The stolen land includes the cities of  Acre, Ashkelon, Jaffa, Nazareth, Ramle, Beersheba, Lydda, and West Jerusalem, all except the last having being allocated to the Arab state in the Partition Plan as they were major Arab population centers.

Under Chapter XI of the UN Charter a “sacred trust” is automatically created when a state (in this case Israel) administers a non-self-governing territory (parts of Palestine). Under this trust the responsibility of Israel in the stolen land was to recognize that “the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount” and to help them “develop self-government and free political institutions”. In other words, to help the Palestinian people achieve their right of self-determination in their own land.

Israel seriously violated this sacred trust. Making the territory part of Israel prevents its people from developing free political institutions and self-government. The refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return, the destruction of their villages, and their replacement by immigrant Jews, puts the interests of the Palestinian people below those of Jewish immigrants into Palestinian territory.

Chapter XI of the Charter also applies in the West Bank and Gaza, occupied by Israel in 1967. As the administration there is military, it must also obey the Geneva Conventions. Israel has violated those as well.

Palestine’s right to territorial compensation

Nothing has changed the status of the border between Israel and Palestine since 1949, as there has been no peace treaty between the two sides. The partition line is still the declared and recognized sovereign border of Israel. The Green Line is still the de facto border of Israel. And please, everyone, stop calling it the pre-1967 border: it is not a recognized border, and it did not move an inch in 1967. Nor is the territory inside the de facto border ‘Israel proper’. The stolen land is improperly regarded as part of Israel since it was obtained by war in violation of the UN Charter.

Palestine has said that, in the interests of peace, Israel can keep the land stolen in 1948-49. This is a wise decision. The stolen land is fully integrated with the rest of Israel, and this situation is irreversible. It is also a very generous offer. In fact too generous, because Palestine has not even asked for territorial compensation for the loss of much of its heartlands. This is a mistake. Israel has a population of around 8 million. The Palestinian population, including the West Bank, Gaza, and stateless refugees with a right to return, is around 9 million. A peace agreement that left only 22% of Palestine under Palestinian Arab sovereignty could not possibly be considered a viable or just solution which would lead to a lasting peace.

The failure to ask for compensation arises because the Palestinian leadership believes that Israel has never defined its borders. They believe it because it is one of those things that “everyone knows”, and also because their legal adviser has told them that Israel does not have “determinate borders”. Consequently, they do not understand the legal distinction between Israel’s sovereign territory and the stolen land. The same adviser also told them that UN Security Council Resolution 242 “set forth” the boundaries of the Palestinian State. This is another nonsensical fiction. Resolution 242 says nothing about the position of any borders, nor could it, because the UN has no authority to tell a state where its borders are; that is for states to agree between themselves.

I believe that Palestine can make a strong case that, in terms of justice, international law, and viability, it deserves and needs a transfer of territory from Israeli sovereignty in the southern Negev (that is, south of Beersheba, the city itself being within the stolen land). This would achieve three things: provide territorial contiguity between the West Bank and Gaza; provide space for the returning refugees; and enable the Bedouin, if they so wish, to transfer from Israeli sovereignty to Palestinian sovereignty.

This is not a new idea. The Negev was allocated to the Jewish state in the Partition Plan as an area capable of absorbing large numbers of Jewish immigrants, having at the time only a small population of mostly Bedouin. The UN Mediator was the first to suggest, (see his September 1948 Progress Report [One.III.6]), that some of the Negev be transferred to the proposed Arab state, at that time as compensation for the loss of western Galilee. The Arabs, at the failed attempt at a peace conference in Lausanne in 1949 said that they would need the Negev to accommodate the returning refugees, since Israel was not willing to accept them. (See this report of the Conciliation Commission [IV.15]). During the conference President Truman wrote a secret Note to Ben-Gurion deploring Israel’s refusal to provide territorial compensation for areas it had acquired outside the Partition Plan borders.

The expulsion of 750,000 non-Jewish Palestinians and Israel’s de facto enlargement in the 1948-49 war meant that the original reason for allocating the Negev to Israel had become obsolete. Although Israel has been actively developing the Negev for Jewish occupation since 2005, population density is still low. It should be possible to produce a suitable division of territory. To keep contiguous both Israeli and Palestinian territory, there could be a neutral crossing point between the two states, similar to those in the Partition Plan (see them in the attached map, to the south-west of Nazareth and of Ramle).

Negotiation of new borders needs to be handled with respect to the wishes of residents. It would not be legal to transfer people from one sovereignty to another unless the majority of them agreed, and the border lines should be drawn so as to minimize the number of people who consider themselves adversely affected. For example, as far as possible Jewish settlements in the Negev should be kept within Israel. Everyone whose sovereignty is changed should be given dual citizenship

The one-state solution

All this discussion of borders and territories would immediately become irrelevant if there were a one-state solution. I expect this will happen eventually, my own view being that the solution with the greatest chance of success would be a union of the two nations to form a single state, along the lines of the England-Scotland model. But at the moment, the two states already exist, and the only way that they can successfully become one is by a voluntary merger, federation or union. It cannot be voluntary unless the two nations negotiate on an equal basis. So, a one-state solution can only proceed by way of an intermediate two-state solution. The territorial question must be sorted out.

Israel’s deceptions

Israel’s declaration of sovereign borders on May 14, 1948 was a deception practiced upon President Truman and the rest of the world, designed to elicit recognition of Israel. Israel never had an intention to stick to those borders. Since those days, Israel and its Zionist supporters have practiced another deception: that the border definition never happened.

How did such a nonsensical and easily disproved idea become something that “everyone knows”?  And “everyone” includes some surprising people: the historian Avi Shlaim, Professor at Oxford University, said in an interview that “the Armistice Lines are the only internationally recognized borders that Israel ever had”; Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois is the adviser to the PLO, already mentioned, who said that “Israel does not have determinate borders”; Uri Avnery, veteran Israeli journalist, politician and peace activist, has said that “from its first day, the State of Israel has refused to fix its borders”; Jeremy R. Hammond, editor of Foreign Policy Journal, in his book The Rejection of Palestinian Self Determination (Chapter IV) says, of the creation of Israel, “significantly, no borders for the newly proclaimed state were specified”; John B. Judis, political historian, in his recent book Genesis about Truman, Zionism, and the creation of Israel, discusses the events of May 14, 1948 in Washington (page 317), mentioning that Clifford worked with Epstein on the letter asking for recognition, but shows no knowledge of its content and gives no reference to the text.

Provision of misleading information, such as the article about Israel’s Declaration of Independence discussed above, is one Zionist propaganda technique, but the main one is simple silence and suppression of information.

I may be exaggerating somewhat by describing Epstein’s letter to Truman as “hidden”, since it has been in the public domain since May 15, 1948, but for a document of such historic significance it has a very low profile on the internet. As far as I can determine there is not a single Israel Government or Zionist website which mentions this letter when talking about the foundation of the State of Israel and Truman’s recognition. The full text appears on only three well-known websites: as an unsearchable facsimile of the original in the Truman library; the Avalon project at Yale Law School; and in the Jewish Virtual Library, where it is indexed only as a “Letter from Provisional Government to USA” and nowhere are its contents or significance discussed. Otherwise it appears mostly on blogs, news archives and discussions.

Active suppression also takes place. I have sometimes entered a polite and relevant comment, quoting the first sentence of the letter, into the website Times of Israel, to find that it has quickly been moderated out.

My second document, Epstein’s telegram to Shertok, is both a fascinating piece of history and of great importance since it confirms that the US would not have recognized Israel if it had not defined its borders according to the UN partition lines. This one has really been well hidden. A link to it, as an unsearchable facsimile, first appeared in 2012 in a story on the website of the Israel State Archivist (Document No. 3). Until now, the only other links to it on the internet have been from my own writings, and the only plain text copy of the document on the internet has been on my website.

Summary of conclusions

The Zionist leadership did not want to define the borders of Israel when they declared independence from the rest of Palestine on May 14, 1948, but were forced to specify borders according to the UN Partition Plan in order to achieve recognition by the USA. The territory captured by Israel outside these borders in the 1948-49 war and incorporated de facto into Israel was obtained by war in violation of the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. Since 1949 Israel has attempted, very successfully, to convince the world that this border definition never happened in order to hide the fact that the captured territory is outside Israel’s declared and recognized sovereign borders and is  therefore rightfully part of the territory of Palestine, within which the Palestinian people have the right of self-determination. Although the Palestinian leadership has accepted that Israel can keep this territory in a peace agreement, there is a very strong case for compensation for its loss in the form of a transfer of Israeli territory in the southern Negev to Palestinian sovereignty.

For more details on the topic of this essay please see my website article The Borders of Israel and Palestine.

Requests to readers

Did Ben-Gurion really turn up on the morning of May 14, 1948 with a new version of the Declaration that did not mention the Partition Plan? Or was it actually he who realized overnight that the idea of creating a state with undefined borders was not going to work? The various drafts of the Declaration are said to be on display in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. Is there an Israeli reader who could go along, take a look and let us know?

How did the Zionists manage to persuade “everyone” that “Israel has never defined its borders”? It would take a major project in social psychology to answer that question fully, but it would be interesting to hear the views and experiences of readers. I will respond to all comments.

About David Gerald Fincham

Dr. David Gerald Fincham is a retired academic scientist from the United Kingdom. He now writes about the relationships between religion, science, and peace. His website is

* Quintessential Question: Does Israel even have the legal Right to exist in International Law? No …

#Venezuela + #UNSC: Open Letter to Samantha Power!

Open Letter to Samantha Power ~ 24 October 2014, | Daniel Kovalik, teleSUR.

Dear Ambassador Power:

The U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. (Photo: Reuters)

I recently read your statement decrying the UN General Assembly’s election of Venezuela to the UN Security Council. This statement, so obviously laden with hypocrisy, necessitated this response.

You premise your opposition to Venezuela’s ascendancy to the Security Council on your claim that “From ISIL and Ebola to Mali and the Central African Republic, the Security Council must meet its responsibilities by uniting to meet common threats.” If these are the prerequisites for sitting on the Security Council, Venezuela has a much greater claim for this seat than the U.S., and this is so obvious that it hardly warrants pointing out. Let’s take the Ebola issue first. As even The New York Times agrees, it is little Cuba (another country you decry) which is leading the fight against Ebola in Africa. Indeed, The New York Times describes Cuba as the “boldest contributor” to this effort and criticizes the U.S. for its diplomatic estrangement from Cuba.

Venezuela is decidedly not estranged from Cuba, and indeed is providing it with critical support to aid Cuba in its medical internationalism, including in the fight against Ebola in Africa and cholera in Haiti. And, accordingly, the UN has commended both Cuba and Venezuela for their role in the fight against Ebola. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola recently stated:

I urge countries in the region and around the world to follow the lead of Cuba and Venezuela, who have set a commendable example with their rapid response in support of efforts to contain Ebola.

By this measure, then, Venezuela should be quite welcome on the Security Council.

In terms of ISIL, or ISIS as some call it, Venezuela has no blame for that problem. Of course, that cannot be said of the U.S. which has been aiding Islamic extremists in the region for decades, from the Mujahideen in Afghanistan (which gave rise to Bin Laden and Al Qaida) to the very radical elements in Syria who have morphed into ISIL. And, of course, the U.S.’s multiple military forays into Iraq — none of which you ever opposed, Ms. Power — have also helped bring ISIS to prominence there. So again, on that score, Venezuela has a much greater claim to a Security Council seat than the U.S.

And what about Mali? Again, it is the U.S. which has helped destabilize Mali through the aerial bombardment of Libya, which brought chaos to both countries in the process. Of course, you personally supported the U.S.-led destruction of Libya so you should be painfully aware of the U.S.’s role in unleashing the anarchy which now haunts Libya and Mali. Venezuela, on the other hand, opposed the U.S.’s lawless assault on Libya, thereby showing again its right to be on the Security Council.

Indeed, while you state quite correctly that “[t]he UN Charter makes clear that candidates for membership on the Security Council should be contributors to the maintenance of international peace and security and support the other purposes of the UN, including promoting universal respect for human rights,” the U.S. is unique in its undermining of all of these goals. It is the U.S. — through its ceaseless wars in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslovia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Vietnam, to name but a few — which has been the greatest force of unleashing chaos and undermining peace, security and human rights across the globe for the past six decades or so. As Noam Chomsky has recently opined — citing an international poll in which the U.S. was ranked by far “the biggest threat to world peace today” — the U.S. is indeed “a leading terrorist state.”

Meanwhile, Venezuela has played a key role in brokering peace in Colombia, and has been a leader in uniting the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean into new and innovative economic and political formations (such as ALBA) which allow these countries to settle their disputes peacefully, and to confront mutual challenges, such as Ebola. It is indeed because of such productive leadership that, as you note in your statement, Venezuela ran unopposed by any of its Latin American neighbors for the Security Council seat.

What’s more, as Chomsky again points out, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez led “the historic liberation of Latin America” from centuries-long subjugation by Spain and then the U.S. I would submit that it is Venezuela’s leadership in that regard which in fact motivates your opposition to Venezuela’s seat on the Security Council, and not any feigned concern about world peace or human rights.


Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as ‘fit to work in future’ – despite no possibility of improvement – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

Anti-Assad Warmongers Drag in the Holocaust

Originally posted on The Passionate Attachment:

By Maidhc Ó Cathail

The Passionate Attachment

October 25, 2014

“The irony is that the Nazi holocaust has now become the main ideological weapon for launching wars of aggression,” Norman Finkelstein tells Yoav Shamir in “Defamation,” the Israeli filmmaker’s award-winning 2009 documentary on how perceptions of anti-Semitism affect Israeli and U.S. politics. “Every time you want to launch a war of aggression, drag in the Nazi holocaust.” If you’re looking for evidence in support of Finkelstein’s thesis today, you need look no further than the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s exhibit of images of emaciated and mutilated bodies from contemporary Syria.

The small exhibit, entitled “Genocide: The Threat Continues,” features a dozen images said to be from an archive of 55,000 pictures allegedly smuggled out of the country by “Caesar,” a mysterious source who claims to have defected from his job as a Syrian military photographer after having been ordered to…

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Donor Complicity in Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights!

Donor Complicity in Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights ~ al-shabaka policy brief, 24 October 2014, Nora Lester Murad.


Donors at the recent conference on the reconstruction of Gaza pledged an unprecedented $5.4 billion. At the same time, it can be argued that violations of Palestinian rights in Gaza – and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) – would not be possible without international aid policies that, at least since the 1980s, have actively supported Israel and offered Palestinians development projects in exchange for rights.

In this policy brief, Al-Shabaka Policy Member Nora Lester Murad examines aid through the lens of “complicity” and exposes shortcomings in current legal frameworks. She argues that regardless of the limitations of applicable law, international aid actors are fundamentally responsible to those they seek to assist and must be held accountable for the harm they cause or enable. She identifies the areas in which questions need to be asked and concludes with some of the steps that Palestinian civil society and the international solidarity movement should take.

Eight Questions Regarding Aid to Palestinians

Palestinians have a right to request international aid, and donors have an obligation to provide it. The manner in which this aid has been provided, however, may actually facilitate violations of Palestinian rights under international humanitarian law (IHL). The failure of international actors to act in line with their obligations as third-state and non-state actors enables the status quo to continue, incriminating aid actors in ongoing violations.

In fact, several factors that are actually under the control of the international aid system coalesce into an aid regime that facilitates violations of Palestinian rights. These include: 1) Donor categorization of the situation of Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation as an “emergency” year after year as leads to short-term interventions that perpetuate need by focusing on symptoms rather than causes; 2) The policy of non-confrontation with Israel regardless of its actions conveys international acquiescence and contributes to Israeli impunity; and 3) The lack of accountability of the aid system itself has enabled it to marginalize Palestinians and become self-serving.

Whether this meets the legal threshold to deem international aid actors “complicit” is a question better left to legal experts. If it does, it is to be hoped that these experts will suggest remedies that may be available to Palestinians through legal avenues or in the political realm. Below are eight questions that need to be asked about international aid as it is currently structured.

1. Does aid to Palestinians help Israel evade its Fourth Geneva Convention obligations?

Given Palestinians’ prolonged dependence on international aid, it can be argued that aid to the OPT effectively relieves Israel, as the Occupying Power, of its obligations to protect Palestinian civilians and ensure that their basic needs are met, under Article 60 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Aid also subsidizes the occupation by freeing up funds that pay for Israel’s violations and directly helping Israel evade its obligations towards the protected population.

Moreover, when Israel damages donor-funded projects through demolition, bombing, or other attacks, international donors rarely respond with anything more than mild objections. They have never acted in a systematic way to claim reparations or compensation from Israel. On the contrary, they continue to come forward with funding to rebuild, thereby excusing Israel of responsibility for its actions.

2. Do aid actors “give effect” to Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza when they accommodate procedures that hinder humanitarian or development assistance?

The First International Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that accommodating Israel’s blockade on Gaza in order to provide humanitarian assistance – and/or to justify non-provision of development assistance – may, over a prolonged period of time, “give effect” to Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip in breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment (see Article 19.9 of the tribunal’s conclusions). This situation can be compared to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that the annexation Wall in the West Bank and its associated regime create a fait accompli on the ground that could become permanent and would be tantamount to annexation.

Indeed, a 2011 study in Gaza found that international organizations did not sufficiently challenge the political framework in which they delivered their support. Other studies have found that aid actors went to extraordinary lengths to comply with Israel’s requirements even though this added significantly to the cost of aid. As a result, they do not fully respond to the humanitarian imperative to intervene, as set out by the International Code of Conduct in Disaster Relief, even when the Gaza crisis is most severe. It should be noted that, under the Rome Statute, willfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions can be, in extreme cases, a war crime (Article 8(2)(b)(xxv)).

3. Is providing military aid to Israel, which it uses to violate Palestinian rights, a violation of Common Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention?

The United States and European countries provide military aid and weapons that aid Israeli aggression. This military aid is part and parcel of the same foreign policy that directs these governments’ “aid” mechanisms.

One blatant example is the August 1, 2014 decision by the US Congress to allocate an additional $225 million in aid for Israel’s Iron Dome system just two days after the sixth Israeli attack on United Nations facilities – the shelling of its shelter in the Jabalya Refugee Camp – which senior UN officials described as a “serious violation of international law.” Even assuming that the aid was intended for Israel’s defense, it shows disregard for both US domestic and international law precluding aid that facilitates violations. US President Barak Obama, an expert on constitutional law, may have had this in mind when he delayed delivery to Israel of promised missiles soon afterwards.

Another example is the export of weapons and weapons components by EU member states to Israel, some of which were used during the conflict in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 and may have been used to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. In fact, despite British objections to Israeli conduct in that aggression, UK weapons sales to Israel reportedly increased subsequently in violation of EU law and likely empowered Israel militarily in its 2014 aggression in Gaza.

In addition to their obligation to ensure respect for Palestinian rights, states have an obligation to ensure that the arms and ammunition they supply are not used to commit violations of IHL and human rights, in line with Common Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which obligates High Contracting Parties to respect and ensure respect for IHL as well as with the principles of the Arms Trade Treaty that was recently adopted by the UN General Assembly.

4. Does aid actors’ accommodation of discriminatory national anti-terrorism policies violate the humanitarian principle of impartiality?

Implementation of poorly conceived anti-terrorism policies that require discrimination against partners and beneficiaries solely on the basis of assumed political affiliation appears to be a violation of the humanitarian principle of impartiality. International donors and international NGOs that promote or comply with these policies could be considered to be in violation of their humanitarian mandate as a result; many provisions of anti-terrorism policy are also illogical, thus opening room for interpretation and abuse. As the Russell Tribunal suggested, it is not logical for the EU to suspend relations with Hamas while it maintains relations with Israel, a state that violates international law on a far greater scale (see Article 27).

Furthermore, research in Gaza found that, due in large part to anti-terrorism policies including the no-contact policy, international involvement in Gaza directly fed the factional split between Fatah and Hamas and led to reduced accountability, corruption, and militarization.

5. Does aid to the Palestinian Authority entrench denial of Palestinian rights?

Palestinian human rights experts consistently point to the Oslo Accords and Paris Protocol as historic landmarks in the deterioration of Palestinian rights, both because of the restrictions on Palestinians that became legalized as a result and because of the type of politically compromised aid that followed. International actors frequently claim that they cannot be expected to advocate for Palestinian rights more forcefully than the Palestinian Authority (PA) itself. This implies that the PA is independent of outside influence, when in fact it isn’t even a viable entity without international aid. This results in a nonsensical situation: The PA must concede to international demands but is then used by aid actors as an excuse to forsake their obligation to ensure respect for Palestinian rights.

In fact, Articles 7 and 8 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulate that no international agreements can undermine the protections guaranteed under IHL. Moreover, given that the PA frequently obstructs Palestinian rights as an agent of the Israeli occupying power, it may be that international aid to the PA, ostensibly in response to a request from the protected population, actually facilitates Israel’s violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

6. Do aid procurement policies that allow Israel to profit from its abuse of Palestinian rights actually incentivize further violations?

Israeli aggression is profitable for Israel. Administration of aid procurement policies that allow Israel and Israeli companies to profit, especially those associated with violations of IHL, effectively incentivize further aggression. For example, in May 2012, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reportedly invited a bid from an Israeli contractor with operations in Israeli settlements on a desalination plant in Gaza, prompting a boycott threat from the Palestinian Contractors’ Union. In addition, in January 2014, UNDP awarded a $5.1 million contract to Mifram, an Israeli company that supplies checkpoints to the Israeli army.

According to the findings of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, violations of IHL, including those committed by Israel during the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza as well as the establishment of illegal Israeli settlements and the construction of the illegal Wall, constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. Moreover, the Russell Tribunal has noted that these crimes were committed with weapons, materials, equipment, and services supplied by corporations such as Elbit Systems, Caterpillar, and Cement Roadstone Holdings and that these corporations may be “liable for complicity in these crimes and violations of international law.”

Instead of embracing their responsibility under international law, many aid actors have publicly distanced themselves from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). Some have implicitly or explicitly threatened to de-fund Palestinian NGOs that promote BDS.

7. Does treating Israel as a “special case” erode the fundamental notions and universality of international humanitarian law?

Failing to apply existing international rules and standards can be construed as support for Israeli violations of international law thus incurring responsibility in light of the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on State Responsibility (Article 16). This applies in particular to the use of the so-called peace process as a means to delay the realization of Palestinian rights. As long as the “peace process” is in motion, Israel is effectively exempted from accountability to international law. The fourth session of the Russell Tribunal underscored that the lack of “concrete UN action to hold Israel accountable for its violations constitutes an internationally wrongful act” (see Article 15).

Furthermore, in the OPT – and particularly in Gaza – little or no attempt is made to comply with declaratory agreements and policy guidance on development assistance, such as the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, the Accra Agenda for Action, and the Paris Declaration, which stress common principles that include local ownership, accountability, transparency, and civil society participation. For example, a Gaza-based sociologist told researchers in 2010:

  • Too many international NGOs come to Gaza with a 100 percent humanitarian agenda, while our NGOs are all developmental. They come here, have no idea about the local context, recruit our well-trained staff, and work directly with the end beneficiaries. This is no partnership. It weakens our local NGO structures and treats us as subcontractors.

The study also referred to the problems created by more generous salary levels for NGOs, duplication of work, and short-term interventions, among other ills.

Another example is the 2009 Gaza donor conference held in Sharm el-Sheikh, which, as aid critic and civil society activist Omar Shaban noted, had no participation from local Gazan institutions or the Hamas leadership. Palestinians are effectively precluded from exercising self-determination when international actors lead non-accountable processes that exclude genuine Palestinian participation because they are non-transparent, conducted in English, or because international governments select and appoint specific Palestinians, based on political criteria, who are then deemed “representative.” International organizations have exempted Israel from scrutiny for so long that they themselves must now be held accountable for the results, as the Russell Tribunal has urged. Indeed, the principle of the accountability of international organizations was specifically addressed in the 2012 Declaration of the High Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, which not only underscored that the promotion of the rule of law and justice should guide all their activities but also that “the rule of law applies to all states equally, and to international organizations, including the United Nations and its principal organs […]”

8. Does international disregard for humanitarian principles send a message that Palestinians have no rights and Israel has no obligations?

There are several conflict-specific examples of reparations programs such as claims commissions, freezing of assets, and garnishing of revenues that take a broad view of the types of harm for which claims can be made. However, none of these have been used in the case of Israeli violations against Palestinians.

The sources of international law that call on injuring parties to assist victims are listed in a recent publication by the Harvard University International Human Rights Clinic and include the following: Basic Principles and Guidelines for Victims, the Rome Statute, the Principles on Transboundary Harm, and the non-binding Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparations for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law adopted by the 2005 UN General Assembly.

The most recent international finding regarding reparations that are directly linked to Israel’s harm of Palestinians relates to Israel’s illegal Wall, with the ICJ calling for reparations for all natural and legal persons affected. While this was a non-binding advisory opinion, a subsequent UN General Assembly resolution (A/ES-10/294, January 13, 2005) demanded Israel’s compliance with the advisory opinion and established a register of damages related to the Wall, which could prove useful in a future claim. After the 2008-2009 Israeli aggression against Gaza, the UN Human Rights Council voted that Israel should pay reparations for damages suffered by Palestinians, but again there was no implementation.

The only time the international community has ever demanded the payment of reparations from Israel was for damage it caused in the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict. The claims were made not by or on behalf of the Palestinian victims, however, but by the UN for damages to its own facilities. It is noteworthy that Israel paid.

It cannot be argued that international aid is a form of reparation. First, because beneficiaries perceive development programs as distributing goods to which they have rights as citizens rather than as victims. Second, experts in transitional justice say that remedies are “central to any process of reconciliation and justice” and only have meaning if the party causing injury pays its own damages.1 In any case, Israel’s responsibility is not abrogated by Palestinians’ receipt of international aid.

Apart from Palestinians’ claims against Israel, which international aid actors should support, bad practice by international organizations may in itself be a basis for claims by Palestinians if the Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations take effect (A/66/10, para. 87).

A Push to Tackle Complicity

Humanitarian principles and codified standards of development practice mandate that assistance shall not expose beneficiaries to further harm. Whether or not the complicity of international aid actors reaches the liability threshold of aiding and abetting the aggressor, the evidence demonstrates that much current international aid practice in the OPT does cause harm. Sadly, the international aid community has neither been critically self-reflective nor have they sought out Palestinian critiques to improve humanitarian and development outcomes.

Palestinian civil society and the international solidarity movement should seek new and innovative accountability mechanisms to hold international actors to account under existing laws and commitments. These mechanisms must target the range of aid actors – governmental and non-governmental donors, multilateral agencies, international and Palestinian NGOs, private contractors, and political parties and movements.

It is also important to understand the opportunities and limitations of traditional mechanisms. For example, it is unlikely that the courts will provide remedies given the complex limitations of jurisdiction and the uneven development of national and international law. Other kinds of accountability mechanisms may offer faster and more direct impact: truth commissions, reparations movements, public inquiries, and civil society trials, such as the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The BDS movement has made progress in pushing for accountability of companies involved in Israeli violations of international law, e.g. Veolia’s role in Israel’s light rail project in Jerusalem. There could be scope to use some of the same public pressure against aid actors contributing to violations of Palestinian rights.

Palestinian and international civil society could also engage constructively with international organizations to better understand how existing codes, standards, and legislation apply in situations of prolonged military occupation. In particular, questions (and guidelines) should address the conundrums that face aid actors: How long should a “humanitarian response” be allowed to last before aid actors deem that “emergency” conditions are being manipulated in order to avoid dealing with root causes? Where is the dividing line between humanitarian aid that is legitimately controlled by an occupying power and humanitarian aid that is being obstructed in violation of international law? Are there limits to how much revenue international aid actors should be allowed to raise on behalf of Palestinians when local organizations are unable to compete to attract funds and long-term local sustainability is being undermined?

One thing is clear, the theory of change that drives the global aid reform movement has been proven false.2 Like Israel, international aid actors will not transform their policies based solely on morality or law. Pressure tactics will be needed to upset power differentials so that, ultimately, international aid actors “can’t not do” the right thing.


1. Mark A. Drumbl, “Accountability for Property Crimes and Environmental War Crimes: Prosecution, Litigation, and Development,” International Center for Transitional Justice (November 2009), 25.

2. Nora Lester Murad, “Putting Aid on Trial: An Emerging Theory of Change for How Palestinians Can Hold International Aid Actors Accountable to Human Rights Obligations,” in Saul Takahashi, ed., Human Rights, Human Security, and State Security: The Intersection (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2014), 163-184.


China launches new World Bank rival – $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

China launches new World Bank rival ~ RT.

China and India are backing a 21 country $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to challenge to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Memorandum of understanding were signed with 21 Asian countries in Beijing Friday. Australia, Indonesia and South Korea were absent following hidden pressure from Washington.

The development bank was proposed a year ago by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and is to offer financing for infrastructure projects in underdeveloped Asian countries.

Headquartered in Beijing, former chairman of the China International Capital Corp investment bank Jim Liqun, is expected to take a leading role.

The bank will initially be capitalized with $50 billion, most of it contributed by China. The country is planning to increase authorized capital to $100 billion. With that amount the AIIB would be two-thirds the size of the $175 billion Asian Development Bank.

India will be the second largest bank shareholder though Kuwait, Qatar, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Nepal, Oman, and all the countries of the Association of Southeast Asia, except Indonesia are involved.

Australia, Indonesia and South Korea did not participate following US claims of ‘concerns’ about a rival to Western-dominated multilateral lenders.

Japan, China’s main rival in Asia, which dominates the Asian Development Bank along with the United States, did not attend but had not been expected to do so.

Indonesia refused to participate claiming it needs time to discuss China’s proposal.

The Australian Financial Review said US Secretary of State John Kerry had personally asked Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to “steer clear” from joining AIIB.

“Australia has been under pressure from the US for some time to not become a founding member of the bank and it is understood Mr. Kerry put the case directly to the prime minister when the pair met in Jakarta on Monday following the inauguration of Indonesian President Joko Widodo,” the paper said.

South Korea, one of America’s closest allies in Asia, is alse prevaricating. Its finance ministry said it spoke with China to request more time to consider details such as the AIIB’s governance and operational principles.

US officials have said they do not want to support an initiative Washington thinks is unlikely to promote good environmental, procurement and human rights standards in the way the World Bank and ADB are required to do.

But Chinese officials are convinced the American opposition is an attempt to contain the global rise of China and its ambition to remain the dominant power in Asia.

“You could think of this as a basketball game in which the US wants to set the duration of the game, the size of the court, the height of the basket and everything else to suit itself,” Wei Jianguo, a former Chinese commerce minister, told the Financial Times.

Matthew Goodman, scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC believes the initiatives of a BRICS Bank and AIIB “represent the first serious institutional challenge to the global economic order.”

Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said the AIIB will set high standards, safeguard policies and improve on bureaucratic, unrealistic and irrelevant policies, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) shows the way to the guests of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 24, 2014 (AFP Photo / Takaki Yajima)

Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) shows the way to the guests of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 24, 2014 (AFP Photo / Takaki Yajima)

Kenyan President uses Tory human rights plans to defend war crimes charges

Originally posted on UK Human Rights Blog:

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

It is easy to forget that our domestic debate over the European Convention on Human Rights might be having an international impact. But the UK is only one of 47 states which is party to the Convention, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg protects over 800 million people.

This morning, we brought you exclusive interviews with survivors of the Beslan massacre who are rightly worried that if the UK leaves the Convention, or even threatens to leave as the Conservatives did recently, that will affect their fight for justice. In short, Vladimir Putin would have a ready excuse for ignoring any conclusions reached by the Court.

Well, here is another example of the effect which political trash-talking about the ECHR can have. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is facing war crimes charges in the Hague relating to ethnic violence which erupted after the 2007 elections leaving…

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5 Things About Slavery You Probably Didn’t Learn In Social Studies: A Short Guide To ‘The Half Has Never Been Told’

Originally posted on WebInvestigatorKK:

By Braden Goyette

Edward Baptist’s new book, “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism”, drew a lot of attention last month after the Economist said it was too hard on slave owners.

What you might not have taken away from the ensuing media storm is that “The Half Has Never Been Told” is quite a gripping read. Baptist weaves deftly between analysis of economic data and narrative prose to paint a picture of American slavery that is pretty different from what you may have learned in high school Social Studies class.

The whole thing is well worth reading in full. Baptist positions his book in opposition to textbooks that present slavery like a distant aberration of American history, cramming 250 years into a few chapters in a way “that cuts the beating heart out of the story.” To counter that image…

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Revolutionary Daily Thought

Originally posted on Moorbey'z Blog:

What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences…We have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator…. once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite on the basis of what we have in common.” 

El Hajj El Malik Shabazz / Malcolm X 
Message to the Grass Roots

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