Vijay Rajiva: First Steps towards Implementing Res. 181

By Vijay Rajiva
Special to

Since the emergence of a genuine Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the ignominious prevarications of the Abbas faction the onus is on the international community, Palestinians and their supporters to fast forward the last of the liberation movements. Israel’s intransigence is an obvious obstacle to this project.

The vile siege of Gaza continues. There is the distinct possibility of an invasion of Gaza. Francis Boyle has suggested an international equivalent of a stay order by the leadership of Palestine to take Israel to the World Court for genocide. (‘Palestine Should Sue Israel for Genocide’ originally published in MSA News, March, 20, 1998).

This is a definite route to take should it become necessary. Here, we shall look at the present topic and the obstacles presented by our own lack of clear perspectives on the relevance of UN Resolution 181, the Partition Resolution of 1947 which gave Israel 56% land and Palestine 44% land. This Partition Line is  the only legally authorized border between Israel and Palestine (See jurist Anthony D’Amato’s ‘Israel’s Borders Under International Law.’ Northwestern University).

It is also a legally authorized 2 state solution. In my ‘Resolution 181: What’s in it for Palestinians?’(Palestine Chronicle, Dec. 2, 2007) I summarized the arguments of jurist Anthony D’Amato on why the 181 is the only legally authorized border between Israel and Palestine. To get past an important obstacle within our own espousal of the Palestinian question, it is important to reject the one state solution not because of any inherent defect or undesirability but because it has no clear modus operandi, no models to work with that are relevant to the Palestinian situation.

Historical comparisons may be useful. 

The South African struggle and the Indian freedom struggle come to mind. In the South African case, the presence of a resolute armed struggle by the ANC (and other factions) plus the Afrikaner state’s lack of will to resist, towards the end, the lack of international support for the regime, and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) facilitated the transition to a secular state of citizens. In the Indian case mass popular participation in Civil Disobedience, the unifying leadership of a charismatic leader (Mahatma Gandi), a well organized and seasoned Indian National Congress and a weakened British Raj (owing to World War II) combined to make the struggle a successful one.

In the Palestinian situation the national struggle is splintered into a collaborationist (Fatah) and a militant Resistance Movement (Hamas). Further, Israel continues to enjoy the support of the world’s super power and the West in general. Hence, the BDS, plus sporadic grass roots movements and the programs of the intellectuals of the Palestinian Diaspora (and their supporters) are not sufficient to shake Israel’s Illegal presence on the land allocated to Palestine by UN Resolution 181, the Partition Resolution of 1947. Incidentally, 181, is still in the books, as I explain in my previous article of Dec. 2, 2007.
(For further details consult Dr. D’Amato’s Israel’s Borders Under International Law).

The one state solution has a flawed premise. It mistakenly attributes the Green Line or the Armistice Line of 1949 (by which Israel grabbed another 22% land from Palestine, in addition to the 56% allocated by 181), to the 2 state solution. This would be true of the infamous Oslo Accord of 1993, or the informal agreement of the Geneva Initiative or any of the peace initiatives after Oslo

The one staters’ criticism of the 2 state solution clearly does not apply to the PLO Declaration of 1988, which based itself on Resolution 181, plus Jerusalem as capital plus Resolution 194 (the right of refugees to return). All the failures of the Oslo which the One State Declaration enumerates are valid of Oslo and its progeny (Palestine Chronicle, Dec. 2, 2007):

1. Oslo’s two state solution ignores the physical and political realities on the ground (the Bantustans and the settlements in the West Bank).

2. It presumes a false parity in power between colonizers and colonized.

3. It grants limited rights to Palestinians living in the areas occupied since 1967 by Israel and denies the rights of Palestinians inside the 1948 borders and the Diaspora.

4. It formalizes and entrenches a policy of unequal separation on a land that has become ever more integrated territorially and economically.

All true of the Oslo and progeny but not of the PLO Declaration. In particular, the status of Palestinians in an Israel demarcated according to Resolution 181 can be (and must be) debated and struggled for within those parameters and territorial base (allocated by the UN to Israel in 1947 and which Israel at the time gladly accepted!).

There is no inherent merit in denying the de facto existence of the Israeli state (according to UN resolution 181) and none whatsoever in rehashing the bitterness of past colonial policies and Zionist ambition and collaboration with that. One can and should, of course, study these and other questions. Historical investigation is an ongoing project and must be continuously engaged in. Some of it can be utilized in the establishment of new states.

However, a Palestinian state already exists under International Law requirements since the PLO Declaration of Independence of 1988. Dr. Francis Boyle, well known expert in International Law has pointed this out on numerous occasions and in his book Palestine, Palestinians and International Law (2003).There is no need to continually reinvent a Palestinian state.

In addition to all the resources of the solidarity movements, a newly invigorated pro Third World UN can be appealed to. Witness Qatar’s sponsorship of the humane resolution to lift the siege of Gaza, scuttled by the Fatah faction. And here, respect for International Law and the UN is an important factor. Resolution 181 is the mother of all the UN resolutions on the subject of the border between Israel and Palestine. The Security Council resolutions flow from this. Resolution 181, not 242, therefore, is the starting point. Israel’s admission to the UN was premised on its acceptance of 181 and 194.

Secondly, there is a resolute Resistance Movement which can no longer be ignored. Basic Palestinian Law (which Hamas has proclaimed in Gaza since the June takeover) is not inherently inferior to liberal Western norms. To assume that this might be so is a form of Euro centrism. Much of the writings of the distinguished panel of signatories to the One State Declaration were written prior to the Hamas electoral victory of 2006 and the Gaza takeover of June 2007. And many one staters who are not on the list of signatories such as Virginia Tilley and Tony Judt also wrote their works before 2006.A good example is Tilley’s tour de force The One State Solution (2005).

It is more than likely that a Hamas run state on the territorial base of the PLO Declaration of 1988 and Basic Palestinian Law will be a competent and humane one. The task of updating Basic Palestinian Law is not an impossible task if there is good will on both sides, the secularists and the Islamists. The notion that only a western style secularism is capable of establishing fundamental rights in a given society is outdated.

It is of course, not written in stone that Hamas will be the sole agent of the liberation of Palestine, but they certainly are a genuine Resistance Movement and they can be joined by Peace Groups, Solidarity Groups, the Israeli Left, Palestinians both inside Palestine and outside, the Israeli and Palestinian working class etc. Such a broad based movement supported by the international community and the UN has the chance of bringing  about the 2 state solution proposed by Resolution 181.

We cannot be naive and assume that Israel will not pull out all the stops and fight 181 with all the resources it can muster: powerful Lobbies, reactionary regimes and politicians around the world, the best lawyers that money can buy and possibly the continuing support of its erstwhile ally, the declining superpower in the world.

But to be forewarned is to be forearmed with respect for the Rule of Law, not only in its legalistic dimension but its moral and humanitarian one. The first step therefore, is to examine with attention all aspects of Resolution 181 and be prepared to engage with it and uphold it. As jurist Anthony D’Amato has put it eloquently:

“After all the wars, the bloodshed, aggressions and counteragressions, acts of terror, reprisals, and attendant UN resolutions, nothing has changed the legal situation as it existed after Resolution 181 in 1947.The legal boundaries of Israel and Palestine remain today exactly as they were delimited in Resolution 181.” — (Anthony D’Amato ‘The Legal Boundaries of Israel in International Law’ in The Jurist).

– Dr. Vijaya Rajiva taught Political Philosophy.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out