Sonja Karkar: The Right to Exist?
- The Right to Exist
By Sonja Karkar
10/03/07 "Counterpunch" -- -- It is a curious phrase this "right to
exist". Israel wants the world to accept its "right to exist" as a
state, but it denies the indigenous Palestinians their right to exist
as a people in their own land. International relations only
acknowledges the rights of people, not states.  States exist
because of the formal recognition afforded them by other states, and
now that Israel is recognised as a state, it in fact exists. It makes
no sense to demand that a political party recognise Israel's "right to
exist", much less punish 4 million Palestinians because a majority
voted the Hamas Party into government. Yet, these are the very words
that are holding the Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, to an
For the outside world, Israel's demand for the "right to exist" seems
a natural enough request and easy enough words to say. However, most
people have no idea of the real import of those words for the
Palestinians. For them to accept the "right to exist", effectively
means that they accept their own dispossession. That dispossession is
still going on after 60 years and there are now some 6 million
Palestinian refugees who are refused their right to return home or
even a modicum of compensation. And, that is not counting the 4
million Palestinians under Israel's occupation who daily see more of
their land taken from them while they are squeezed and contained in
what remains, or the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens in Israel whose
rights are being increasingly compromised and denied. As long as the
Palestinians exist, Israel will always see them as an obstacle to its
ultimate quest for an exclusively "Jewish state" in a greater Israel.
Israel's demand that its "right to exist" be recognised, is constantly
fluid. Israel refuses to accept any demarcated borders and certainly
not the internationally-recognised Green Line of 1967 and is the only
nation in the world without declared borders.  As far back as 1948,
Israel determined that its territory had to be more than the 55 per
cent given it by the UN partition and wasted no time in its ruthless
expropriation of Palestinian land--driving out the Palestinians or
simply forcing them to live under Israel's occupation. The 78 per cent
of Palestinian land that it amassed is now recognised as Israel, and
it is that area that was painfully acknowledged by Palestinian
Chairman Arafat in 1988 as "the right of the State of Israel to exist
in peace and security". His crucial mistake was to ask for nothing in
return. He should have demanded that Israel recognise the right of
Palestinians to exist as a free people in the remaining 22 per cent.
Israel, of course, accorded no such right to the Palestinians who
continued to live--and still do - without any peace or security under
Israel's occupation. The grave injustice of Palestinian dispossession
has never been redressed.
When Arafat held up the olive branch and said "do not let the olive
branch fall from my hand', that was the moment that Israel could have
freed the Palestinians from its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank
and allowed a Palestinian state to exist side by side with Israel.
Edward Said saw it clearly when he stated "only the Palestinians
explicitly recognised the notion of partition. Israel never has." 
Instead, Israel intensified its illegal settlement enterprise and
continued with its mass immigration program of Jews from around the
world to settle them inside occupied Palestinian territory. By the
time Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak made his fallacious "generous
offer" of land to the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000,  the
Palestinians had barely 12 per cent left of their historic homeland,
and seven years later, it has been whittled down to around 7 per cent.
So, it is perfectly legitimate for the Palestinians to ask--on how
much of the land does Israel want to exist?
Every policy and action undertaken by Israel is focused on creating an
exclusively Jewish state in all of Palestine. From the very beginning,
Zionist leaders made sure that all land taken would be held in trust
on behalf of "the Jewish people in perpetuity".  Through a process
of confiscation and transfer--known as "redeeming the land"--Jews
worldwide have available to them land for lease in Israel. This
discriminates outrageously against the 1.5 million Palestinian
citizens living inside Israel who are not given equal rights with the
immigrant Jews and who are allowed to live on only 3 per cent of the
land while the rest is available only to Israel's Jewish citizens.
They are finding themselves more and more isolated from the rest of
Israeli society with none of the privileges as Israel finds even more
fiendish ways to contain its demographic problem. It is a problem
because Israel wants a "Jewish" state, not a "state for all its
citizens"; a democracy for "Jews only", not a democracy for all its
citizens. This should give pause to everyone holding up Israel's
"beacon of democracy" as something to admire.
Furthermore, when Israel insists on the Palestinians accepting its
"right to exist", it has everything to do with the Palestinians
signing off on their own dispossession and nothing to do with Israel's
fear of an existential threat. Israel's survival is guaranteed because
of its overwhelming military might and not by the Palestinians
recognising its "right to exist". It is the fourth most powerful army
in the world  and there is not an Arab nation today that would
challenge Israel's war machine. If Israel allowed a Palestinian state
to exist, Israel knows very well that it would never have the military
capacity to threaten Israel's existence. However, it makes for
powerful propaganda as the world is still in thrall with the David and
A worrying development for the Palestinians in the past week has been
the report that Palestinian President Abbas has already given Israeli
Prime Minister Olmert a commitment to recognise Israel as "a state for
the Jews". If true, it would really give free rein to Israel's already
racist policies and practices. The Palestinians living inside Israel
would suddenly find themselves not only discriminated against, but
very likely in danger of being ethnically cleansed from the Jewish
state. It would also absolutely negate the inalienable right of
Palestinians to return home, and all the rights the Palestinians have
under international law would suddenly become irrelevant.
Needless to say, such reports (if indeed they are true) leave the
Palestinians wondering what is left to them after all the years of
sacrifice and struggle. Despite the 67 United Nations resolutions that
have been passed acknowledging their rights, despite Israel flagrantly
breaching international law and continuing to violate their very
person and property, despite the meticulously documented evidence of
Palestinians having been massacred and terrorised into fleeing so
Israel can appropriate their land, despite the voices of respected
world figures exposing Israel's apartheid practices, despite Jewish
voices increasingly raised in protest against Israel's racist
policies, despite internationals risking and losing their own lives to
help the Palestinians in non-violent acts of resistance, the
Palestinians are staring at a future that refuses to recognise the
gross injustices done to them, much less provide any protection for
their existence: that is, if Israel has its way.
No other nation in the world demands a "right to exist". It most
likely arose in international relations because former US Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger said in 1975 that the US "will not recognise or
negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as long
as the PLO does not recognise Israel's right to exist and does not
accept Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338".  The
international community took up the refrain and continues posing the
question "What about Israel's right to exist?" without giving a single
thought to Palestinian rights, especially their right to exist.
With each demand, we are seeing Israel edge closer to its ultimate
goal. Ehud Olmert let us know as much last year when he said to the US
Congress on 24 May that he believes the Jewish people have "an eternal
and historic right to this entire land".  It could not be clearer:
Israel demands the right to exist as an exclusively Jewish State in
all of Palestine. No wonder previous peace negotiations have failed:
there is nothing to suggest that the November peace conference will be
any different. As long as Israel refuses to recognise Palestinian
rights, and as long as international interlocutors insist on Israel's
"right to exist" over the rights of people, every attempt at
negotiating peace will be doomed to failure.
The situation for the Palestinians right now is very dangerous.
Israel's settlement enterprise has been largely achieved: 40 per cent
of the West Bank is off limits to the Palestinians and the rest has
been virtually cantonised with movement all but restricted between
them. Gaza is totally isolated. There is not a border or space in or
around Palestinian land that is not controlled by Israel. Also, Israel
is creating facts on the ground that have already made it impossible
for the Palestinians to have their state within the 1967 Green line.
What is left has been made deliberately confusing and has led to the
myth of the "generous" offer. The 92 per cent that Israel is again
offering the Palestinians, is 92 per cent of the 22 per cent of land
left within the Green line, not 92 per cent of the whole that the
Palestinians originally owned. Such an offer is frankly insulting and
so are the further border adjustments that Israel is making even as
the offer is on the table. It shows to what audacious lengths Israel
will go to exist as a Jewish state. That it is at the expense of the
Palestinian right to exist in their own land, is illegal and immoral.
It would be suicide for the Palestinian leadership to agree to
anything that is not reciprocated, particularly the unconditional
recognition of the Jewish state and the demand for its "right to exist".
Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine in
Melbourne, Australia. See www.womenforpalestine.com
 Burchill, Dr Scott--"Does Israel's "right to exist" actually
exist?" crikey.com, 10 October 2006 "According to some theorists from
the "realist" tradition of international relations, states have no
"right" to exist because such a right cannot be enforced by a higher
authority than the state. . . Acknowledging a state's right to exist,
or insisting on such a pledge from others, is therefore a meaningless
gesture -- or worse, a political tactic."
 Said, Edward--"What Israel has done", The Nation, 18 April 2002
(6 May, 2002 issue)
 Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) "'How Generous is
Generous?' in Crossroads of Conflict: Israeli-Palestinian Relations
Face an Uncertain Future", Special Report, Winter 2000
An analysis of the Israeli proposals by FMEP concluded that Israel:
1. only proposed to relinquish control over between 77.5-81
percent of the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem, which most likely
included Israel's retaining of the Jordan Valley.
2. wanted sovereignty over one-third of occupied East Jerusalem
and all of West Jerusalem.
3. wanted control of the third holiest site in Islam, al-Haram
al-Sharif (which Israel refers to as the 'Temple Mount'), where
"Israel, incredibly, also demanded Palestinian agreement to the
construction of a synagogue."
 Palestine Land Society, "Financing Racism and Apartheid--Jewish
National Fund's Violation of International and Domestic Law", August
 Hassan, Ghali--"Are Israel's Interests in America's Interests?"
Countercurrents.org, 29 March 2006;
Pilger, John--"Children of the Dust", New Statesman, 28 May 2007
 Israel-United States Memorandum of Understanding, 1 September 1975
"Accord on Geneva 2. The United States will continue to adhere to its
present policy with respect to the Palestine Liberation Organization,
whereby it will not recognize or negotiate with the Palestine
Liberation Organization so long as the Palestine Liberation
Organization does not recognize Israel's right to exist and does not
accept Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338."
 Address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Joint Meeting of US
Congress, 24 May 2006
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