Iraq & Israel: Double Standards


The Middle East roadmap is another example of how Israel is treated as a special case when it comes to obeying Security Council resolutions.  Iraq suffered invasion, allegedly because it failed to obey Security Council resolutions.  By contrast, the roadmap process, like the Oslo process before it, allows Israel to negotiate about the extent to which it obeys Security Council resolutions, if at all.


Jack Straw told the House of Commons on 25 November 2002:


“Today, Iraq stands in breach of nine separate chapter VII Security Council resolutions. It has completely ignored 23 distinct obligations out of a total of 27. That plainly cannot be allowed to continue. As President Bush said to the UN General Assembly on 12 September, the UN has either to enforce the writ of its own resolution or risk becoming irrelevant.  Happily, the Security Council responded to his challenge [by passing resolution 1441].”


President Bush had told the UN General Assembly:


“We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime.”


Today, states other than Iraq stand in breach of upwards of a hundred Security Council resolutions.  But, strangely, neither George nor Jack is in the least bit concerned that the UN is risking irrelevance by failing to enforce these.  Israel is the worst culprit: it’s in breach of more than 30 resolutions stretching back over more than 30 years, most stemming from its occupation and subsequent colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. 


It is widely assumed that these resolutions require action by parties other than Israel, and that is why it is appropriate to have a peace process in which all parties can take part.  Israel has done a good job of giving currency to this notion, even though a glance at Security Council resolutions concerning Israel (which are available on the UN website here) quickly shows that it is unfounded.


Even the Prime Minister believes it to be true, though perhaps it is merely a convenient pretence on his part.  Defending his government’s belligerent attitude to Iraq for non-compliance with Security Council resolutions, while condoning Israel’s non-compliance, he told the House of Commons on 24 September 2002:


“I think that one thing, however, must be stated clearly: the UN resolutions in respect of the Middle East impose obligations on both sides. They impose obligations in respect of support for terrorism and recognition of Israel as well as withdrawal from the occupied territories. That is why, in the end, the only way of making progress in the Middle East is for all the aspects of the UN's will to be implemented in relation to the Middle East.”


That is just wrong, as we shall see.


Arguably resolution 242 on Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories passed on 22 November 1967 does require action by other parties.  The key paragraph of it is:


“[The Security Council] Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:


“(i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;


“(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;”


Certainly, the inclusion of sub-paragraph (ii) has given Israel the excuse not to implement (i) and withdraw from the territories it occupied since 1967.


But this is not true of about 30 resolutions against Israel (see list compiled by Stephen Zunes here).  Each of these is an explicit demand for action from Israel, and Israel alone. 


Three examples:


252 (21 May 1968) on the annexation of parts of Jerusalem:

“2. [The Security Council] Considers that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status;


“3. [The Security Council]  Urgently calls upon Israel to rescind all such measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any further action which tends to change the status of Jerusalem;”


 446 (22 March 1979) on the establishment of Jewish settlements:

“[The Security Council] Calls once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to rescind its previous measures and to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and, in particular, not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories;”


497 (17 December 1981) on the annexation of the Golan Heights:

“1. [The Security Council] Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;


“2. [The Security Council] Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision;”


Those resolutions place obligations on Israel, and Israel alone, and it is obviously within Israel’s power of Israel to carry out those obligations.  None of them require negotiation with other states.  Israel doesn’t need to negotiate with anybody before undoing the annexation of the annexed parts of Jerusalem or of the Golan Heights.  Nor does it need to negotiate with anybody before dismantling the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.


The US/UK invaded Iraq and overthrew its regime, for failing to obey Security Council resolutions (allegedly).  If the same standard were applied to Israel, it would be required to obey those resolutions that demand action from it alone, prior to any peace process to bring about a wider settlement in Palestine.


Ethnic cleansing

Double standards are in operation about the implementation of Security Council resolutions.  They are also in operation about ethnic cleansing.  Palestinian refugees expelled from their lands in 1947/8 and 1967 will not be allowed to return by Israel, and it can be guaranteed that no Western government will say a word of support for their right of return, let alone do something to bring it about.


Compare that the paroxysms of righteous anger that were generated by ethnic cleansing (of non-Serbs, at least) in Yugoslavia; it was unthinkable that ethnic cleansing be allowed to stand there, and the West was even prepared to contemplate military action to reverse it. 



Labour & Trade Union Review

July 2003