Governor Mike Huckabee is running for president and has started campaigning, not in Iowa, but surprisingly in Israel. The Governor has made no less than 15 trips to Israel. He apparently thinks Israel or Israelis hold a key to his election chances. As a stalwart member of the Christian right, he may be on to something. If he can link support from the Christian right with support from the Israeli right and the US Israel lobby he could garner lots of Christian conservative votes as well as important monetary and organization support from US Zionist Jewish organizations, not to mention Jewish democratic votes.
The Governor apparently sees Jews as a chosen people and has chosen them as key allies in his campaign. He sees that Israel is all-important to most Jews as a religious symbol and as a symbolic refuge for Jews in the unlikely event of a re-emergence of anti-Semitism and pogrom or holocaust-like treatment of the Jews. To gain the all-important allegiance and support from Jews, the Governor has apparently decided that he must embrace the policies and dogma of Israel’s religious and Zionist extremes. In a speech in the Knesset and in comments to reporters he said, Jews should be allowed to settle anywhere throughout the biblical Land of Israel. Huckabee also suggested that a Palestinian state were to be established, it shouldn’t come at Israel’s expense.
“There are vast amounts of territory that are in the hands of Muslims, in the hands of Arabs. Maybe the international community can come together and accommodate.”
He also said any peace agreement has to recognize that “the Jewish people have indigenous rights to the land in which they occupy and live and it goes back not 60 years or 80 years but it goes back 3,500 years.”
Now there are some major problems with Governor Huckabee’s reasoning: First, recognizing the validity of Jewish settlement rights throughout “the biblical Land of Israel” would create a Old Testament argument that Jews can invade and settle all of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and a good portion of Iraq up to the Euphrates River. Many Arabs feel that this “Greater Israel” is the ultimate goal of the Israeli Zionists. The Palestinians and 22 Arab nations have agreed to give Israel 78 percent of Mandate Palestine which would leave only 22 percent for the proposed Arab State of Palestine in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Second, there are some 11 million Palestinians who might object to again being ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands in Palestine and sent to live in refugee camps as unwelcome immigrants in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt or elsewhere. Nor is there much likelihood that other Muslims and Arabs would willingly give land to the Palestinians.
Currently about 1.5 million Palestinians still reside in the squalor of refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, as unwelcome guests in those countries after being forced off their lands in what is now Israel in 1948 some 63 years ago. An additional 2 million Palestinians still live in refugee camps in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. There are currently about 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs living in Israel, plus another 4 million or so living in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Is Governor Huckabee really suggesting that these 5.4 million Palestinian Arab citizens be ethnically cleansed from a homeland they have inhabited for thousands of years?
Third, the Governor’s claim that the Jewish people have superior indigenous historic rights to currently occupy the biblical Land of Israel has no basis under international law. Israel claims that it has an historic right to Palestine, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, based on prior Jewish civilizations in Palestine going back some 3000 years, and various conflicts with the Egyptians, Romans and others that decimated Jewish societies and caused many to flee to other Mediterranean countries. While this narrative certainly has sentimental and emotional value for Jews, and while they certainly have a valid historic connection to Palestine, that argument has no legal standing under international law to create a present right for European Jews to inhabit and settle the West Bank and East Jerusalem portions of historic Palestine, let alone all of the “biblical Land of Israel”.
To draw an analogy, over a million of my Irish forebears, faced with imminent starvation, were forced to leave Ireland in the mid 1800s due to the great potato famine. However, the fact that a natural disaster caused or forced my forebears’ migration does not mean that I, several generations later, now have a legal claim to Irish land or property held by my forebears or to Irish citizenship or even to a right to immigrate to Ireland. Yet, my emotional, cultural and religious connection to Ireland which has a history going back some 9000 years certainly is as strong as any Jew’s connection to Israel.
Likewise, my English forebears were forced to leave England some time in the 1700s because of religious persecution. Here again, even though my English forebears were forced to leave England because of religious persecution, as some Jews were forced to leave Palestine by the Egyptians and Romans, this forced migration does not create a legal right for me, several generations later, to now claim property, citizenship or even immigration rights in England. Moreover, my claims based on forced migration go back only about 150 to 250 years. Israel is attempting to make ownership claims to the West Bank and East Jerusalem based on events that are 10 to 20 times more attenuated and remote in time, some 1700 to 2500 years earlier.
Fourth, Governor Huckabee and many Zionist Jews also seem to forget that three of the world’s great religions share a common connection to the Old Testament: Muslims, Christians and Jews; all “People of the Book”. The current day descendants of those religions were all originally Jews and from other religious sects prior to the advent of Judaism. For a variety of reasons, including coercion, some Jews became Christians; later many Christians and Jews became Muslims. Modern DNA testing shows that Palestinians and Jews share common genetic traits and are clearly all from the same genetic stock from ancient Palestine. In other words, Jews and Palestinian Arabs are genetic brothers, as are many Christians although their DNA heritage is more difficult to trace.
While, at the beginning of the immigration of European Jews to Palestine in the mid 1800s, over 95 percent of the inhabitants of Palestine were Palestinian Arabs, mainly Muslims, it is likely that many if not most had Christian and Jewish ancestors. So, it is a little difficult understanding Governor Huckabee’s desire to rid Palestine of Palestinian Arabs in favor of Palestinian/European Jews when both groups share an equal historic and even genetic connection to that land.
The true legal validity for Israel’s claim to its existence as a Jewish state in Palestine stems from the actions of two international bodies: First, from the creation of the British Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations which effectively ratified the Balfour Declaration and granted the British full authority to delineate and manage the Palestine Mandate as it saw best. Second, from the successor to the League of Nations, the United Nations, which assumed control over the Mandate when the British withdrew, and then created the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine which was adopted by a 2/3 majority of the UN General Assembly.
The partition plan created both a Jewish State and an Arab State in Palestine, a fact Israelis and many Jews seem to forget. However, Israel considered the 1947 UN Partition Plan (UNR 181)such a vital foundational document that it is cited in its own declaration of independence as providing compelling, irrevocable authority for the establishment of a “Jewish State” in Palestine:
“On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.”
Obviously, the UN Partition Plan also provided equally compelling, irrevocable authority for the establishment of the “Arab State” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem areas of Palestine allocated to it in the same resolution. Israel now prefers to ignore the creation and allocation of an Arab State in the resolution, and instead argues that the West Bank is “unallocated” and must be disposed of through negotiations between Palestinians and Israel. That argument finds no support under international law nor from any country, including the US.
While UNR 181 provides valid, binding legal authority for Israel’s existence as the Jewish State in Palestine, it also provides the same authority for an Arab State in the West Bank and East Jerusalem portions of Palestine. Despite Governor Huckabee’s desires to the contrary, it was never the intent of the British, the League of Nations, nor the United Nations to expel Palestinians from their homes and land in favor of creating an exclusive homeland for Jews in all of historic Palestine.
Governor Huckabee is a good Christian and no doubt holds Christian values very dear. We can only hope that somewhere in his heart he will find room to consider the plight of 11 million Palestinians who are the only group in the Middle East that still has not been given their freedom from colonial rule and a country of their own. Over 63 years after the UN Partition Plan for Palestine was passed, some 3.5 million Palestinians still live miserable, hopeless lives in refugee camps. Some 4.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli military rule and occupation where they are subject to land confiscations and the increasing encroachment of illegal Jewish settlements, and violent actions by aggressive Jewish settlers.
Over 500,000 or about 10 percent of Israeli Jews now live in illegal settlement colonies throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem portions of Palestine set aside by the UN for an Arab State in 1948. They are guarded by Israeli army posts and connected by access roads and highways that are limited to use by Jews only. This is the equivalent of the US moving over 30 million of its Christian citizens into exclusive, Christian-only gated compounds throughout Canada, guarded by US Army units and connected by a system of access and security roads and highways that are limited to use by Christians only. One suspects that even the normally civil and nice Canadians would be motivated to violent resistance if faced with the invasion of 30 million US Christians settling in exclusive colonies throughout their country.
Governor, you’ve been to Israel 15 times. Have you been to the West Bank town of Bil’in to see the daily peaceful demonstrations by hundreds of Palestinians accompanied by many Jews, Israelis and foreigners who are outraged by the occupation and settlement of Palestine by Israeli Jews? Have you been to the refugee camp at Jenin to see first hand the squalor and hopelessness of people deprived of the homes and ancestral lands some 63 years ago? Have you been to Gaza to see the plight of 1.5 million Palestinians intentionally kept at a borderline subsistence diet for the last two years? Have you talked to Gazans about the incredible brutality of the Israeli 2008 Gaza invasion, the huge loss of civilian life, the wholesale and needless destruction of civilian infrastructure and private businesses? Governor, if you haven’t done any of these things, you are hiding from the truth and avoiding confronting the humanity and plight of Palestinian Arabs who, I’ve been told, are also God’s children.
Try to do it this trip Governor, before you return home to your job at Fox News. If you do you will be truly fair and balanced when you return and discuss these issues on your program. You will be a better man and a better Christian because of it, and even a better president if that time should ever come.