A Long View of Jimmy Carter and The Baker Report

James Adler

The League of Nations Betrays Itself in the Palestine Mandate

Before the League of Nations Mandates were the colonies and territories, and before them the Crusades.

The Mandates were established under the League of Nations, Article 22, which begins this way.

"To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of  [World War I] have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves [sic] [,]  ... [t]here should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization .... The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations [sic] ... as Mandatories on behalf of the League. "

So it was supposed to be the principle of "well-being and development of such peoples" of the "colonies and territories" as "inhabited them", which in Palestine was the 90% Palestinian people, and this was to be a "sacred trust" to be "entrusted to" the Mandatories. So how could the imperial ("his Majesty's government") enclosure of Balfour into the Mandatory Covenant for Palestine have not constituted a fundamental colonial betrayal of the "sacred trust" of the League of Nations and its principles toward Palestine and the Palestinians?

Furthermore, even then, before 1948 the United States was innocuous or popular in the Middle East, but in 1948 it continued to help the (old) League, under its principles and terms, to betray the Palestinians, by supporting partition, and after the 1967 War began major foreign aid increases to Israel, in effect subsidizing the additional occupation and settlements. Also, in 1979, only 12 years after the occupation (especially of Jerusalem) the fundamentalist Iranian revolution overthrow America's 1953-installed pro-Western and pro-Israel Shah and replaced it with an anti-West and anti-Israel state now led by Ahmadinejad. Also in 1979 the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, producing fundamentalists such as Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. And Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon produced Hizbollah, and occupation of Palestine produced Hamas.

Back to the origins: Balfour colonialism: Edward Mandell House, an aide to President Woodrow Wilson, wrote that "it is all bad and I told [Lord] Balfour so." "They are making [the Middle East] a breeding place for future war." Lord Sydenham told Lord Balfour that "the harm done by dumping down an alien population upon an Arab country ... may never be remedied. What we have done is start a running sore in the East, and no one can tell how far that sore will extend."

Israel now is and should be permanent; it is a fact. But it is precisely  because of this that the reason is obvious as to why, for American peace and  security, and for that of Middle Eastern Western and Muslim- Western  relations, that the Baker Commission and all far-sighted Westerners would want to resolve and heal this dangerous conflict.

Jimmy Carter and the Conflict: Apartheid in the Territories

This past Sept. 13, 2006, Ha'aretz, the leading newspaper of record in Israel, noted in its lead editorial: "The apartheid regime in the territories remains intact; millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement or a livelihood, under the yoke of ongoing Israeli occupation, and in the future they will turn the Jews into a minority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River."

Similarly, this past Nov. 22, 2006, staff columnist Larry Derfner of the Jerusalem Post wrote in his regular OP-ED, "Rattling the Cage:  "While there are important differences between the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the former apartheid regime of South Africa, after 39 years of occupation the similarities have come to outweigh the differences. The Palestinian majority in the West Bank lives under the harsh, frequently brutal rule of the Israeli army, while Jewish settlers are the lords of the land."

The term "Apartheid" has been used in both a recent Ha'aretz editorial and in the recent column of a Jerusalem Post journalist.  It only proves President Carter's contention of how sheltered Americans have been kept from both the debates in Israel and the reality in the West Bank.

In several fine investigative pieces, New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis explored the situation in the territories, and in his July 22 and April 26, 1984 columns, "Israel's Bitter West Bank Harvest" and "A Dual Society?"-- during the actual period of South African apartheid when it was observable in action -- Lewis lays out in detail the system of apartheid in the territories.  He also quotes and discusses former Israeli Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti, who noted that Israel was "sliding slowly toward apartheid." Anthony Lewis notes that Mr. Benvenisti, just as Jimmy Carter -- and the newspaper Ha'aretz and Larry Derfner of The Jerusalem Post -- today, "made clear that he did not mean the specifics of South African racial discrimination, or its extreme measures of police control, but rather the principle of extending rights to only one group in a territory."

And while not to be ignored is the commendable vibrancy of Israeli democracy that permits such discussion, it also cannot be ignored that South Africa's democracy also permitted vigorous public dissent and debate on South African Apartheid-- South Africa was also "the only democracy in the region" -- and that nonetheless none of this detracted from the ethical ugliness of South Africa's Apartheid.

The Baker Report and the Conflict

So no question is more important to Americans than that raised by the Baker-Hamilton Commission: It is connected to the 9/11 tragedies, security, and America's relations with the rest of the world. Many people try to refute a thesis which was never actually put forth by the commission - that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to solving all the problems of the Muslim world. It is clear that the Muslim world has many problems that are unrelated to the conflict. Yet an irrefutably true and vitally important fact is this: Resolving the conflict is the key to resolving the problems which the Muslim world has with the West, particularly the problems it has with America.

It is also clear that the Iranian and Arab Middle East perceives Israel  as a western "colonial intrusion", which, in typically overheated Middle  East rhetoric, was "planted like a dagger," and "in the heart of the Islamic  World"--in secular terms, in the heart of the "Arab Nation." This is an historical fact regarding perception, regardless of its truth. (There is both truth and falsehood in the accusation, when stripped to the plain facts about the colonially authorized immigration and the preconceived goal of political takeover.) Therefore the Middle East began to become anti-Western (and especially anti-American) after America supported the 1948 Partition, and especially after 1967 and the Occupation. This is true for both the secular perception-- Nasser and the Baathists -- and the Islamic Fundamentalist one, which always existed in the region but used to be inward and insular in its orientation.

Fundamentalism only began gradually to take an interest in foreign matters - and to explode in popularity and influence - after these crucial historic dates, as the most effective vehicle for the ventilation of the Middle East's anger towards the West.

This why the Baker-Hamilton Commission views the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as crucial to turning back the anti-Western tsunami which the conflict has generated and which has by now engulfed us all.

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Harvard Square Commentary, December 18, 2006