Theme:  "The inalienable rights of the Palestinian people"

15 – 19 March 1982

New York




Report of the Fifth United Nations Seminar on the Question of Palestine



Statement by Mr. William B. Buffum, Under-Secretary- General for Political and General Assembly Affairs of the United Nations on behalf of the Secretary- General of the United Nations



Statement by the Chairman of the Fifth United Nations Seminar on the Question of Palestine



Statement by H.E. Mr. N. Krishnan, Acting President of the United Nations Council for Namibia



Message of Ambassador Maitama-Sule, Chairman of the Special Committee against Apartheid



Statement by H.E. Mr. Frank Owen Abdullah, Chairman of the Special Committee of Twenty-four



Message of Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman, Executive Committee, Palestine Liberation Organization



Papers presented at the Seminar


Social and Educational Institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)

Abu Kudayb


Canadian Mass Media and the Middle East



"Asking the Palestine Question"



The Palestine Question in the Context of Military Occupation



The Two Galilees: Zionist Practice in the Context of Military Occupation in Palestine



Canadian Trade Unions and Palestine



Domestic and Strategic Influences upon the Formation of United States Policy in the Middle East



Strategic and Domestic Influences on United States Policy since World War II



The Camp David Accords and the Fundamental Rights of the Palestinian People



Palestinian Rights: Resonances in the Life and Themes of Pope John Paul II



The Fundamental Rights of the Palestinian People



The Palestinians in Israel, an Internally Colonized Minority



Canada and Palestine



Where Angels Fear to Tread



United States Responsibility under International Law for Israeli Violations of Palestinian Rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip



The Evolution of the United States Policy on the Question of Palestine under Presidents Carter and Reagan



The Role of the United Nations in the Question of Palestine



The Influence of the Media and the Role of the United Nations and the Question of Palestine




List of Participants



1. The Fifth United Nations Seminar on the Question of Palestine, with its central theme "The Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People", took place at United Nations Headquarters New York from 15-19 March 1982, in accordance with the terms of General Assembly resolution 36/120 B.  Nine meetings were held, at which twenty panelists presented papers on various aspects of the question of Palestine.

2. The United Nations Committee on th Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was represented by a delegation consisting of His Excellency, Mr. Massamba Sarré, Senegal, Chairman of the Committee; His Excellency, Mr. Raúl Roa-Kouri, Cuba, Vice-Chairman; His Excellency, Mr. Victor J. Gauci, Malta, Rappoteur; His Excellency, Mr. H. Ott, German Democratic Republic; His Excellency, Mr. Natarajan Krishnan, India; and Mr. Zehdi L. Tezi, Permanent Observer of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United Nations.  His Excellency, Mr. Victor J. Gauci acted as Rapporteur of the Seminar.

3. The opening session of the Seminar on 15 March 1982 was addressed by Mr. William B. Buffum, Under-Secretary-General for Political and General Assembly Affairs of the United Nations. In welcoming the participants on behalf of the Secretary-General, Mr. Buffum observed that efforts to find a just solution to the Question of Palestine remained one of the main preoccupations of the United Nations; these efforts should be maintained since as long as the problem persisted, it posed a threat to international peace and security. He expressed the hope that the Seminar would be a major contribution to future consideration of the question in the United Nations which was widely accepted as the framework within which a comprehensive solution had to be found.

4. At the same session, Mr. Massamba Sarré, Chairman of the Committee, gave a brief account of the Committee's work and stressed the importance of ensuring that all facts surrounding the question of Palestine reach the public so that a proper understanding of the issues would be achieved.

5. The opening session of the Seminar was also addressed by His Excellency, Mr. Natarajan Krishnan, Acting President of the United Nations Council for Namibia, Mr. Gervais Charles, Rapporteur of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and His Excellency, Mr. Frank Owen Abdullah, Chairman of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

6. A message from His Excellency, Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization was conveyed to the Seminar by Mr. Zehdi L. Terzi, Permanent Observer of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

7. The Seminar was attended by Mrs. Lucille Mair, Secretary-General designate of the International Conference on the Question of Palestine.

8. Seven panels were established to consider different aspects of the central theme "The inalienable rights of the Palestinian people". These panels and their panelists were as follows:

A. Panel I: The Nature of the Role of the Palestine Liberation Organization

Mr. Khaled Abu Kudayb

B. Panel II: The Palestine Issue and North American Public Opinion

Prof. Thomas Naylor
Rev. Donald Wagner
Dr. Philip Rivera

C. Panel III: The Palestine Question in the Context of Military Occupation

Prof. Harold McDougal
Dr. Khalil Nakhleh
Dr. Eqbal Ahmad

D. Panel IV: Domestic and Strategic Influences in the Formation of American and Canadian Policies

Dr. Mordecai Briemberg
Prof. Mark Solomon
Mr. Jack O'Dell
Miss Gail Pressberg

E. Panel V: The Fundamental Rights of the Palestinian People

Prof. Jamal Nassar
Rev. Joseph L. Ryan, S.J.
The Honourable Senator Heath Macquarrie
Mr. Elia Zureik

F. Panel VI: The Evolution of American and Canadian Policies on the Question of Palestine

Prof. Frank Epp
Prof. Paul Noble
Prof. John Quigley
Mr. Seth Tillman

G. Panel VII:  The Role of the United Nations in seeking Effective Measures to Enable the Palestinian People to attain and exercise its Rights

Prof. Charlotte Teuber
His Excellency, Mr. Victor J. Gauci

9. In view of the well-researched and in-depth analysis contained in the papers presented at the Seminar, and in accordance with established practice, the papers will be published in full by the United Nations, with the report of the Seminar, as a contribution to a wider understanding of the Question of Palestine.

10. The presentation of papers at each meeting was followed by a lively, spontaneous and stimulating exchange of views. Discussion covered all aspects of the question of Palestine, particularly the rights of the people which, it was agreed, were being systematically and continuously violated by Israel.

11. It was consistently maintained that failure to resolve the Palestinian issue in accordance with various United Nations resolutions would only exacerbate the crisis and present an ever-increasing threat to international peace and security. The stability of the region, the attainment of an environment in which all inhabitants can live as a community and the achievement of peace depended directly upon the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and its aspirations.

12. The Seminar was provided with a detailed account of the institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was noted that the Palestine Liberation Organization had wide-ranging and increasing responsibilities in the political, economic, social, educational and cultural fields.

13. It was observed that Israel was waging a total war to obliterate continuous Palestinian efforts to assert their rights, and among the most sinister aspects of its policy was the deliberate suppression of Palestinian institutions by Israel.

l4. The Palestinian struggle for survival was also total and not limited to military activities. This fact had been underplayed in the media.

15. In order to propagate a more comprehensive and fair understanding of the real nature of the Palestine Liberation Organization, new links should be established which would make up for the failure of the mass media to report all the facts surrounding the issue as well as its tendency to present them with a bias against the Palestine Liberation Organization. Renewed efforts should be made to counter negative and unbalanced attitudes in North America. Diverse and strengthened efforts should be made to dispel the erroneous impression propagated by the media that the Palestine Liberation Organization was only a military organization bent on terrorism. Its activities in the economic, social, education, cultural and welfare fields, if better known, would lead to a clearer understanding in North America and to the realisation that the Palestine Liberation Organization provides a political platform as well as infra-structure for socio-economic progress of its people which constitutes the very essence of a State.

16. In brief, as its objective, the Palestine Liberation Organization does not seek confrontation, but rather the co-operation of all peace-loving peoples.

17. In discussing the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, the Seminar noted with appreciation that these rights had not only been defined by the United Nations but also regularly reaffirmed. Attention was drawn particularly to:

(i) General Assembly resolution 3236 (XXIX) which elaborated these inalienable rights, and

(ii) 3210 (XXIX) which considered the Palestinian people to be a principal party to the question of Palestine and invited the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people, to participate in the deliberations of the General Assembly on the question of Palestine.

Both these resolutions were emphasized in resolution ES-7/2 adopted by the General Assembly at its Seventh Emergency Special Session.

18. The Seminar was of the opinion that no deviation should be permitted from the rights recognized by these General Assembly resolutions, the most important being:

(a) the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property in Palestine, from which they have been forcibly displaced and uprooted;

(b) the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination without external interference;

(c) the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent and sovereign state in Palestine;

(d) the right to territorial integrity and national unity;

(e) the right of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people, to participate on an equal footing in all efforts, deliberations and conferences on the Question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East within the framework of the United Nations.

19. It was agreed that the heart of the Middle East problem, the Question of Palestine inevitably will remain the central issue which must be resolved if peace was to be based on reason.

20. In this context, many elements in the Camp David Accords were pointed out, which, through the refusal to accept the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people, as an equal partner in the negotiations, by attempting to determine the destiny of the Palestinian people in their absence, and by denying them their fundamental rights, violated United Nations resolutions. This aspect is particularly evident in the interpretation and implementation of the Accords by Israel.

21. In discussing the Palestinian issue and North American public opinion, after a detailed analysis of the more important factors involved, it was concluded that while there was gradual awareness building in the United States as to the Palestinian cause and their fundamental human rights, there were still major barriers which stood in opposition to Americans accepting the Palestinian cause as just and human.

22. There were additional violations of international law by Israel which featured in the discussions, particularly its bombings of Lebanon, its attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, subject though it was to IAEA safeguards, and the annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights. During the very course of the Seminar, it was noted with extreme concern that once again Israel had resorted to repressive measures by forcibly dismantling the elected municipal council of Al-Bireh, a town in the occupied territory lying to the north of Jerusalem. This arbitrary action had led to widespread unrest leading to casualties inflicted by the Israeli occupying forces.

23. Since only an elementary stage of awareness on the Palestinian question has been reached in the North American continent, there was a need for striking a positive responsive chord in order to gain a hearing. It was suggested that an increased and better organized campaign should be made on behalf of the Palestinian aspect on a variety of levels from churches to Arab-American groups to grass-roots organizing efforts. The role of the non-governmental organizations was considered as particularly relevant in this regard. This level of activity should consider both political and non-political initiatives.

24. The Seminar had the benefit of hearing, from a resident of the occupied West Bank, a first hand account of the harsh living conditions imposed under military occupation by Israel. The Seminar also greatly appreciated the impressions and conclusions drawn by impartial observers who had visited the West Bank and Gaza in recent times and seen for themselves the oppressive measures applied in the context of military occupation.

25. Particular mention was made of the occupation authority's military order No. 854 which placed crippling restrictions on higher education in the occupied territories through extensive censorship of teaching materials and restrictions on extracurricular programmes and events and on the freedom of movement of individual students and faculty members.

26. The conclusion was drawn that military order No. 854 was part and parcel of Israel's so-called "iron-fist" policy adopted in the wake of the Camp David Accords and that it violated international law and The Hague Conventions. It was pointed out however that, far from submission, this military order had resulted in a renewal of Palestinian consciousness and resistance.

27. Nevertheless, an analysis of the statements made and plans announced by Israeli leaders made it clear that there was a very real danger that the West Bank and Gaza would be annexed by Israel and that the Arab inhabitants would either be exiled or reduced to living in reservations. It was contended that the world was presently starkly witnessing the final phases of Israeli attempts at the liquidation of Palestine.

28. Parallels were drawn between Israeli policies in Galilee occupied in 1948, and the West Bank which was occupied in 1967. It was shown that in both regions, good agricultural land – military occupation had been used to achieve the twin targets of land and people – on the one hand, the judaization through settlements, and on the other hand, depopulation by dispersal of the existing Arab inhabitants. The same considerations as applied to the West Bank, applied equally to the Gaza Strip.

29. In evaluating United States policy in the Middle East, in a detailed documented analysis, it was argued that, regionally and globally, the immediate consequences of the American-Israeli alliance was United States support for Israel's persistent assault upon Palestinian rights. A repeated tolerance for Israel's truculent activities in the region had been demonstrated over a period of time.

30. At the core of the policy was a military response to rising regional aspirations for self-determination and nationalisation of resources. As part of that core was a continuing hostility to the Palestine Liberation Organization which is perceived by United States policy makers as the cornerstone of regional and external radicalisation. In contrast, Western Europe showed growing signs of pressing for its own independent approach to the regional crisis, including a clear commitment to Palestinian self-determination.

31. It was maintained that there was a strong factual basis for attributing to the United States responsibility for violations by Israel of the rights of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since continued financial assistance to Israel had permitted persistence in those violations, of which the United States was fully aware and which the administration had frequently criticised.

32. Among the examples given were the United States reaction to the acquisition of the West Bank and Gaza and Israel's refusal to withdraw from those territories, as well as Israel's policy of illegal settlements in the occupied territories which, though condemned, could be continued because of the high level of funding by the United States that was indirectly used to finance the settlements. It was held that by pursuing this policy the United States was in breach of its international-legal obligations towards the Palestinian people.

33. There had been a long term tendency in United States policy to make Palestine an exception from the traditional commitment to the universal principle of self-determination. This inconsistency could be traced to Israel's standing in American thought and politics and the consequent essentially irreconcilable commitment of succeeding administrations to that country.

34. The evaluation of Canadian policy on the question of Palestine was also traced, Canada's independent role in foreign policy was stressed, backed by well documented analysis. It was stated that Canada's interests in the Middle East stemmed basically from various considerations but that it was only in times of crisis that the situation attracted concentrated Canadian attention. The view was expressed that there was a distinct pro-Israeli leaning in Canada's attitude and policies, mainly due to conceptions of legitimacy held by the political elite, the structure of interests of the Government and the views of allies, all of which basically pointed in the same direction and led Canadians to lose sight of the Palestinians as a people with an identity and national consciousness.

35. An important ingredient in the development of Canadian popular and government opinion was the strength and efficiency of a number of pro-Israel lobbies and pressure groups. It was noted, however, that there was in Canada a slow awakening sense of co-responsibility for the current situation in the area and a broadening recognition of its inequities and iniquities. There had been a growing perception of the aims of Israel. Much of this awareness was the result of the intransigence of Israel, no less than an increased sensitivity to the fate and state of the Palestinians. Slight though the improvement had been there were discernibly some prospects for even-handedness in Canada's approach to the problem of the Middle East. The West Bank and Gaza had been identified as clearly defined territory in which the Palestinians had a right to a homeland.

36. It was noted that a possible means of alerting the North American public to Israel's denial of Palestinian self-determination would be to draw parallels between the status of Namibia and the status of Palestine. Both Palestine and Namibia are former League of Nations Mandates, presently occupied by racist regimes. The alertness of the North American public to the problem of South Africa's illegal occupation of Namibia could facilitate their understanding of Israel's illegal occupation.

37. The Seminar traced and emphasised the important role of the United Nations as the framework within which a settlement of the question of Palestine could be found. The organisation had a responsibility to seek effective measures to put an end to Israel's illegal occupation and policies and practices, and to provide a solution which respected the resolutions of the United Nations. The longer an equitable solution was delayed, the more complex and intractable became the problem.

38. The question of Palestine fell squarely within the ambit of the United Nations, which inherited the problem at the very beginning of its existence. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People had been mandated to draw up a programme of implementation to enable the Palestinians to exercise their inalienable rights. This the Committee had done after thorough analysis of the problem, after soliciting opinions from all concerned, and after having reviewed opinions previously expressed on the question.

39. The Committee's recommendations have been repeatedly endorsed by the General Assembly but not yet implemented because of the negative vote of one of the permanent members in the Security Council.

40. The Committee's recommendations advocated a just and peaceful solution based on United Nations resolutions and international law, which would guarantee the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Progress was still awaited. The Committee has, therefore, been authorized to promote implementation of its recommendations through dissemination of information and energetic insistence on keeping the cause of the Palestinians at the forefront of attention of the international community within and outside the United Nations.

41. The task had proved to be a difficult one because the adverse campaign of media misinformation relentlessly continued. The Committee has striven to redress the distortions and misinterpretations on the issue of Palestine.

42. The international character of the Holy City of Jerusalem attracted frequent reference. It was stressed that Israel's decision to annex Jerusalem and to move its capital to that City had been condemned and declared null and void by the international community. It was emphasized that Israel's legislation and its actions on Jerusalem should never be accepted by the international community.

43. In view of the ongoing repression by Israel in the occupied territories, the Committee also has to monitor events and report violations as they occur.

44. The Committee had already gathered overwhelming support within the United Nations behind its recommendations. Action by the Security Council was still awaited. The Committee appreciated that there were still some obstacles to be overcome, but there was a noticeable shift even in the ranks of those influential countries which at the present time stood on the sidelines.

45. The Committee intended to solidify the support already gained and to encourage positive moves which would strengthen the momentum for an equitable solution. Many encouraging statements had been noted, and the principle of self-determination of peoples had received a boost in the Helsinki Final Act. The spirit of Helsinki was universal in its scope and application. Reference was made to the International Conference on the Question of Palestine which was expected to take place not later than 1984. It was hoped that that conference would bring concrete results by climaxing the search for effective measures which would enable the Palestinian people peacefully to attain and exercise its inalienable rights. The United Nations should continue to make every effort and engage all related agencies to help in that effort – the achievement of an equitable, lasting solution to the plight of the Palestinian people.

46. The Seminar concluded its work with an expression by the Chairman of appreciation to the participants, especially the panelists who had, by their dedication and care in preparing their papers, contributed greatly to the success of the Seminar.


It is my privilege to welcome you, on behalf of the Secretary-General, to the Fifth United Nations Seminar on the Question of Palestine and the first to be held on the North American continent in accordance with General Assembly resolution 36/120.

In the light of the United Nations' commitment to the search for a solution to the problem of Palestine, it is appropriate that this Seminar should be held at Headquarters. It highlights the fact that the effort to find a just solution to the Palestine question continues to be one of the main preoccupations of the United Nations. It also helps to emphasize a fundamental point that has been firmly established in several United Nations resolutions, namely that a durable peace in the Middle East can ultimately be achieved only through a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the problem including, in particular, the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

The eminence of the diplomats, scholars and experts gathered here to participate in the Seminar is impressive. It is vivid testimony to the seriousness of purpose and to the urgency attached to the need to seek an equitable solution to what has unfortunately proved so far to be an intractable problem. We are all aware that the subject under discussion has presented a challenge not only to the United Nations but to all mankind for the past 35 years. However, the inability to find solutions in the past should not discourage us in our efforts now and in the future. In the knowledge that as long as the problem remains unsolved it will constitute a threat to international peace and security, we cannot relax for one moment our efforts to find a just solution.

It is for this reason that the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was established by the thirtieth session of the General Assembly to draw up a programme for the implementation of the rights of the Palestinian people enumerated in General Assembly resolution 3236(XXIX). In spite of the complexity of its tasks, the Committee has worked untiringly to serve its mandate under the distinguished chairmanship first of Ambassadors Fall and Kane and now His Excellency Ambassador Massamba Sarré. I know from personal experience how fortunate the Committee, indeed the Palestinian cause is to have a leader of his wisdom and talent directing the work of this Committee.

The Committee's efforts have helped to focus attention on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and given the widest possible exposure to the facts relating to those rights. This has been a valuable contribution by the Committee which has also, in keeping with its mandate, drawn up a programme for the implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The repeated endorsement of those recommendations by the General Assembly and the renewal of the Committee's mandate each year attest to the importance attached by the General Assembly to the Committee's work. One aspect of that work is the organization of the Seminar which is just commencing.

In the past two years, four seminars have been held on this subject. Their success and their obvious valuable contribution to the search for solutions to the problem have encouraged the General Assembly to increase the number of seminars to three each year. The Seminar which commences today has amongst its panels one which deals with the role of the United Nations in the search for effective measures to enable the Palestinian people to attain and exercise their rights. No doubt the views that will be expressed and the suggestions that will be forthcoming in the discussions will be a major contribution to future consideration of the question in the United Nations, which is widely accepted as the framework within which a comprehensive solution has to be found.

As you begin your important deliberations, I should like on behalf of the Secretary-General and on my own behalf, to wish this Seminar every success.


On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, may I welcome you to the 5th United Nations Seminar on the Question of Palestine.

As you know, in convening this first North American seminar, we are fulfilling the mandate entrusted to us in resolution 36/120 B, adopted by the General Assembly at its 93rd plenary meeting on 10 December 1981. Previous regional seminars held during the 1980-1981 biennium at Arusha, Vienna, Colombo and Havana proved instructive and illuminating. The readiness of the overwhelming majority of United Nations membership to vote in favour of the continuation and augmentation of such activity stands as ready testament to their value.

It is salutary that we now have the opportunity to broaden our scope by including North America in our programme. I make this point since it is the bounden duty of our Committee to endeavour to enlighten and mobilize the entirety of world opinion on a matter that persistently confronts the international community. That matter is, of course, the Question of Palestine – one that is constantly at the crux of the Middle Eastern instability, and remains an ever-present threat to world peace.

The lack of a solution to the Question acceptable to all parties concerned, has taken up the attention of the United Nations since its very creation. Acceleration and intensification of conflict over the years has relentlessly plagued the well-being of people in the region and, what is more, has increasingly threatened the interest and peace of the entire community of nations. I believe you will concur with me when I say that it is impossible to foresee any durable peace in the Middle East, or any lessening of concomitant threat to international peace and security, without an equitable solution to the Palestinian Question.

It is our present obligation at this Seminar to inform world opinion about those events that have led to the present situation. It is also our solemn obligation, and I use that epithet advisedly, to help avert future explosive confrontation. I am sure, therefore, you will agree with me that it is useful if I briefly reiterate the catalogue of action taken on the part of the United Nations' membership to avoid still further perpetuation of what can only be described as man's inhumanity to man.

In an early attempt to resolve the Question, the General Assembly in 1947 adopted resolution 181(II) which recognized the right of Palestinian Arabs to establish an independent state side by side with that of the Jewish people. As we well know, only one part of that resolution was in fact applied. Only a Jewish state came into being. That eventuality, however, neither repudiates the validity of resolution 181(II), nor does it diminish the equal validity of resolution 194(III) adopted in 1948 which decided that those Palestinians who wish to return to their homes as soon as possible and live in peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so. The spirit and content of both these seminal resolutions remains unquestionable.

While this is so, obstacles prevented proper implementation of either resolution at the time of their adoption. Since then, still other obstacles have arisen that have only served to compound the severe difficulties in which Palestinians find themselves today. By way of example, I might cite the following: the unwilling dispersal of Palestinians to neighbouring states; Israel's occupation since 1967 of the entirety of that region which, under the terms of General Assembly resolution 181(II), is a rightful homeland for Palestinians; and still further, the continuing tension, if not actual state of war between the state of Israel and neighbouring Arab countries.

It goes without saying that none of these conditions have augured well for legitimate expression of Palestinian right to self-determination. Moreover, for many years the international community tended to confine consideration of the whole Palestinian question to humanitarian rather than to political aspects of the problem. However good-hearted and essential such an approach might have been, given the plight of the refugees, it was clearly inadequate if Palestinians were ever to assert their legitimate rights as a people – as many others so asserted their national right during a period of decolonization that has led to increased United Nations membership.

The turning point came in the 1970s. After some 27 years, the United Nations reverted to political consideration of the Palestinian question. In 1971-74, General Assembly resolution 3236(XXIX) reminded the world of the need to implement earlier resolutions – namely, 181(II) and 194(III). National rights and the right of return were thus reaffirmed by the international community. But since it was feared that these recommendations might not be implemented, still further action was taken by the General Assembly. In 1975, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was established. Under the terms of its mandate, the Committee adopted recommendations to facilitate exercise of those rights contained in resolution 3236(XXIX). These recommendations are designed:

(i) To facilitate in a graduated manner the exercise of the recognized rights of the Palestinian people, and to endorse the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization as their sole representative;

(ii) To bring about a peaceful solution satisfactory to all states and peoples in the Middle East;

(iii) To utilize all the latent possibilities of the United Nations for promoting peace and guaranteeing security in overseeing the recommended process of change;

(iv) To abide strictly by international law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.

These recommendations of the Committee have been endorsed by the General Assembly at each session since their first presentation in 1976. Despite their fundamental moral and legal authority, however, their implementation has been constantly blocked since the Security Council has been prevented from taking any decision on the matter as a result of exercise of veto on the part of one of its permanent members.

Discouraging though the formidable obstacle of a Security Council veto may be, the Committee has remained firm in its conviction that its recommendations continue to offer a sound basis for a just and lasting solution to the Middle Eastern problem. In consequence, at the request of the Committee, an emergency special session of the General Assembly was held in July 1980. By an overwhelming majority the Assembly endorsed the right of the Palestinian people to establish its own independent state and exercise its inalienable rights.

The voting pattern on this matter was of particular interest since it demonstrated a significant change in attitude of several Western European nations. It may well be argued that this reassessment of position was occasioned in no small way by improved reporting and dissemination of the facts surrounding the Palestinian question.

It was an effort to counter the lack of objective reporting that led in 1978 to the establishment within the Secretariat of a Special Unit on Palestinian Rights. Under the guidance of the Committee, and in consultation with it, the Unit has since prepared and distributed studies on the Question of Palestine in order to promote better understanding of the problem. The Seminars organized by the Unit have also proved effective in contributing to improved public knowledge of the subject. The importance which the Committee attaches to the whole question of information is continually evidenced by the inclusion of a panel on public opinion at each of our regional seminars.

Our present seminar, as you know, has been preceded by recent events in the occupied Syrian territory of the Golan Heights that has direct bearing on the Palestinian question. Such events have only served to exacerbate tension in the whole region. The decision of Israel to extend its laws, jurisdiction and administration in that occupied territory was considered to be tantamount to annexation and was unanimously declared "null and void and without international legal effect" by the Security Council in its resolution 497 of 17 December 1981. The resolution demanded therefore that Israel rescind its decision.

It might be recalled that such Israeli action is not without precedent. Israel has persistently violated the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 by establishing new settlements in illegally occupied territories and by expelling the Mayors of Hebron and Halhoul as well as the Judge of Hebron. Still other events have occurred such as the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem, the decision to remove its capital to that city and its attack on Iraq.

Given the course of events, and as a result of Israeli non-compliance with resolution 497 (1981), the Security Council attempted to take further action on 20 January of this year. At that time, because of the negative vote of one permanent member, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution by which – under the terms of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter – it would have decided that "all Member States should consider applying concrete and effective measures against Israel in order to nullify the Israeli annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights".

Later, however, on 20 January 1982, the Council adopted resolution 500 (1982) whereby an emergency special session of the General Assembly should be held regarding the Israeli decision and lack of will to rescind it. As a result, on February 5, by a vote of 86 to 21, the General Assembly adopted a sweeping resolution condemning the annexation of the Golan Heights, recommending sanctions and urged nations to isolate Israel for its act of aggression.

No matter what solution is found to the specific problem of Israel's annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, the substance of the problem – the question of Palestine will remain. The task before the Committee, and by extension the work of this Seminar is indeed awesome in that we have been entrusted by the General Assembly to help ensure that the rights of the Palestinians are implemented. This task is further incumbent upon us under the Charter of the United Nations.

It is the expectation of the Committee that this Seminar will contribute towards better understanding of events surrounding the Palestinian question. It is our equal expectation that our deliberations will lead to helpful comprehension of facts that will assure Palestinians that they will be able to enjoy political and civil rights on their own soil.

On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, may I express my thanks to all who have devoted time and consideration to the preparation of papers that will undoubtedly contribute to the success of this Seminar.


May I begin my statement by expressing the gratitude of the United Nations Council for Namibia for the invitation extended to it by the Committee to express its solidarity with the struggling people of Palestine.

The Council for Namibia has always admired the constructive approach the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People under the able and dedicated chairmanship of Ambassador Sarré, has shown in the discharge of its mandate with regard to the resolution of the question of Palestine. The Council for Namibia believes that the problems in the Middle East are inextricably bound to the just solution of the question of Palestine; the lack of a solution to this question will continue to aggravate tension and conflict in the Middle East as well as endanger international peace and security. There can be no lasting peace in the Middle East as long as the people of Palestine are denied their fundamental and inalienable rights to live in freedom, peace and dignity in their own country. The Council for Namibia believes that a just solution to the question of Palestine, which is a conditio sine qua non for everlasting peace in the Middle East, cannot be attained without the participation of the Palestinian people and their sole and authentic representative, the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Council for Namibia affirms the United Nations General Assembly resolutions on the right of the Palestinian people to return to their homes and property in Palestine from which they have been uprooted and discharged by Israel. The right to self-determination, without external interference, for the Palestinian people can and should no longer be a question of debate. The Council is convinced that the continued denial of the just and righteous cause of the Palestinian people to their own homeland and state by Israel deprives the United Nations of attaining its cardinal goal which is the attainment of nationhood by all peoples under foreign and colonial domination. The United Nations should continue to impress and insist, with all its authority, upon Israel the need to comply with the provisions of all its resolutions on the question of Palestine, and those of the General Assembly and Security Council since the adoption of resolution 181(II) in the General Assembly in 1977. The United Nations must also impress upon Israel the need to comply with the relevant resolutions which have designated the historic character of the holy city of Jerusalem, as embodied in Security Council resolution 476 (1980) of 30 June 1980 and 478(1980) of 20 August 1980 which rejected the declaration of Israel that Jerusalem is its capital. The Council for Namibia, in solidarity with the Committee on the Question of Palestine, condemns the policies and plans by Israel aimed at the resettlement of the Palestinian people outside their homeland. We are strongly convinced that all political initiatives and manoeuvres to arrive at a settlement of the Middle East question, in disregard of United Nations resolutions, are bound to fail.

The question of Palestine, like the question of Namibia, continues to torment the conscience of the international community. The Council for Namibia believes that time is long overdue for the initiation of vigorous and imaginative programmes aimed at resolving these problems without delay. Like the question of Namibia, the question of Palestine has been on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly since its inception, yet the solution thereof continues to elude us. Meanwhile, the sufferings of the people and the turmoil in those respective areas, alas, are growing day by day.

In Namibia, the racist South African regime continues to perpetrate its brutalities against the people, bent on subjugating them into submission and into acceptance of its illegal colonial occupation of the territory and imposition of its horrendous policies of apartheid. Efforts by the international community to reverse this trend continue to encounter the arrogant intransigence of the fascist regime of South Africa.

With regard to the implementation of Security Council resolution 435 (1978), the responsibility for the present deadlock rests clearly with South Africa which has consistently blocked all efforts aimed at finding a solution for the implementation of this resolution. This resolution constitutes the only acceptable basis for a peaceful transition to Namibia's independence.

The Council for Namibia strongly believes that the Western Five have an important role to play by virtue of their special relationship to exert pressure on South Africa.

In this connexion, we would caution the Western Five not to give South Africa the opportunity to reopen negotiations on issues on which full agreement has already been reached and not to engage in anything that can be interpreted by South Africa as being supportive of its intransigent position in the negotiating process.

South Africa, like Israel, must begin to realize that the path which they have elected to follow in their conduct of international relations is injurious to the maintenance of international peace and security. We demand that South Africa and Israel conform their behaviour to the norms universally accepted by the international community. They stand isolated and condemned for their continued defiance of world opinion. If they do not recognize their own higher interests and remain intransigent in refusing to comply with the call of the United Nations, effective means will have to be found to compel them to do so.

The writing is on the wall. Neither Israel – nor South Africa – can afford to ignore it any longer.


First and foremost, Mr. Chairman, I should like to convey to you the sincere gratitude of the Special Committee against Apartheid for the invitation to take part in this important seminar on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. On behalf of Ambassador Maitama-Sule, Chairman of the Special Committee, who is unfortunately prevented from attending by prior commitments, I have the pleasure to extend to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, through yourself, our deep appreciation and warmest congratulations. The excellent preparatory work done by that Committee will ensure from the outset that the seminar is a complete success.

It is easy for us, the members of the Special Committee against Apartheid to identify with the struggle of the Palestinian people. We are greatly predisposed to such an attitude by our experience of fighting against the ruthless policy and practices of repression and aggression of an inhuman régime. That is why we are anxious to reaffirm once again our unflagging commitment to the defence of the right of all peoples, whatever their race or religion, to self-determination and independence.

The despicable policy of apartheid inflicted by the racist régime of South Africa on the country's black majority is at present the major problem in southern Africa. Similarly, after more than three decades, the crux of the conflict in the Middle East remains Israel's persistent denial of the legitimate right of the Palestinian Arab people to self-determination and independence.

The two problems are not as different as they may appear at first sight. Their underlying causes are to be found in the flagrant and persistent violation of the principles and norms of international law and the United Nations Charter, taking the concrete form of depriving oppressed peoples of their inalienable rights. These abnormal situations pose grave threats to the peace and security not only of the regions directly involved but of the whole world.

The United Nations has affirmed time and again that the necessary conditions for a just and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict are that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, and that the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people be respected. That includes the right to self-determination and the right to establish a State under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

It is therefore deplorable that the continued efforts of the international community to achieve a peaceful solution of the Palestinian question have not so far yielded any positive results, owing to the defiant attitude taken by Israel.

That country's annexationist policy needs no lengthy comment. In 1967, it conquered the last remaining part of Palestine, placing a million and a half Palestinians under repressive military occupation and administration. More recently, apart from its annexation of eastern Jerusalem in July 1980, Israel last December promulgated the law extending its jurisdiction to the Syrian Golan Heights. That was a flagrant act of aggression under the terms of Article 39 of the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX). Furthermore, Israel is continuing in the occupied territories to apply measures which violate the fourth 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, in a spirit of defiance against United Nations resolutions and decisions.

There can be little doubt that these brazen acts only aggravate an already difficult situation, thus making the possibility of a peaceful negotiated solution to the Middle East turmoil more remote.

An important point which cannot be ignored is the Organization's slowness in finding the required solution to the Palestinian problem. This is a major challenge to the credibility and capacity of the United Nations in discharging its fundamental responsibilities, which is to say the maintenance of international peace and security. I would venture to say that this situation is due to evasion of their responsibilities on the part of the great Powers, Members of the United Nations. The most recent example of this was the failure of the Security Council on 20 January to adopt the Jordanian draft resolution, as a result of the exercise of a right of veto. That draft resolution called for the application by all Member States of concrete and effective measures against Israel with a view to achieving the repeal of the legislation, in any event null and void, relating to the annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights.

Similarly, the Security Council found itself last year unable to condemn the massive aggression committed by South African military forces against Angola and to institute symbolic action in response, as proposed on 31 August 1981 by the non-aligned countries, owing to the veto exercised by the same permanent member.

The tendency of the United Nations to be impotent in the face of our problems cannot fail to whet the appetite of these two countries and to entrench them in their attitude of defiance.

With that in mind, it is supremely important to monitor Israel's close collaboration with South Africa with the greatest possible vigilance. The Special Committee against Apartheid vehemently and consistently condemns Israel's collaboration with the racist régime of South Africa, in flagrant violation of the pertinent United Nations resolutions. That collaboration, involving economic, financial, commercial, cultural, sports, military and nuclear matters, encourages the South African régime in its criminal apartheid policy and represents an obstacle to the international community's endeavours to eradicate that odious practice.

The nuclear capability which the two countries have acquired and the growing strength of their alliance expose the international community to the gravest dangers, and the risk of a generalized conflagration is looming ever larger.

The Special Committee against Apartheid and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People have similar objectives: to promote the exercise by the peoples concerned of their right to self-determination. Accordingly, the Special Committee against Apartheid would like once more to express unreserved support to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in the fulfilment of its mandate.

We should, without further delay, take the initiatives which are necessary to restore the credibility and effectiveness of our Organization. Without more ado, therefore, our present approach must be rectified so as to enable the United Nations to respond to the hopes which the international community has placed in it from the time of its foundation.

In conclusion, I should like to wish the seminar and all those taking part in it the greatest possible success, in the confidence that it will achieve the desired results. It will, above all, help to give fresh impetus to the world-wide campaign in support of the just struggle to restore to the Palestinian people its inalienable rights.


On behalf of the Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization, I wish to thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for having organized this important seminar on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. We, in the Special Committee, attach great significance to the mobilization of international opinion towards the attainment of the objectives of the United Nations on the question of self-determination for all peoples under alien and colonial domination. We are profoundly aware that world public opinion is a powerful weapon in the struggle against injustice, oppression and alien and colonial domination. It therefore gives me great satisfaction to join in this effort to enlighten and mobilize international opinion on the question of Palestine before such an influential and broadly representative gathering assembled here today.

The decision of the General Assembly under which this Seminar is being held clearly confirms the intensified commitment of the international community to the just cause of the Palestinian people and to the attainment of their inalienable rights. Despite our Organization's continuing efforts over the past three decades in the search for a peaceful and just solution for all the nations and peoples of the region, progress made thus far falls far short of our objectives.

As we are well aware, the situation in the region continues to constitute a crisis which bears the explosive potential of a conflict that would seriously endanger international peace and security. It is particularly relevant in this context to recall that the General Assembly has repeatedly called for the full and speedy exercise by the Palestinian people for their right to self-determination without external interference and to national independence and sovereignty, as well as their right to return to their home and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted.

While the Palestinian question continues to be one of the most complex, difficult and dangerous issues facing this Organization, this should not discourage the international community in its search for a just solution to the problem. On the contrary, our commitment to the goal as set forth in a number of related resolutions of the United Nations must be reinforced with a grave sense of urgency.

It is in this sense that the international community is being called upon today to make a positive and significant contribution and in so doing, to ensure that no action be taken which would so exacerbate the situation, that a just settlement would be rendered more difficult to achieve.

Before concluding, I should like to acknowledge with appreciation the very important work carried out by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People under the outstanding and dedicated leadership of Ambassador Sarré of Senegal.

I wish also to express my thanks to you, Mr. Chairman, and to all the members of the Committee for the kind invitation extended to me to take part in this Seminar.

It is my confident hope that the holding of this Seminar would take us a step closer to the fulfilment by the Organization of its obligations to the Palestinian people. I therefore extend to you, Mr. Chairman, and to the organizing Committee my best wishes for a successful outcome of your deliberations.


On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and in the name of our Palestinian people, I wish to extend to you our greetings and a message of goodwill.

It gives me great pleasure to address this Fifth Seminar on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, convened this week in conformity with a decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations with only three negative votes. The General Assembly decided to call for the organization of a seminar in North America; and your Committee considered Chicago as the venue. It is lamentable that the Government of the United States of America decided not to accept the decision of the General Assembly and refused to grant permission to the United Nations Special Committee to convene the Seminar outside the United Nations Headquarters district as this "would be contrary to the policy of the United States concerning the Committee itself, the mandate of which the United States believes should be terminated".

The positive response by such a great number of prominent personalities in North America – both in Canada and in the United States – is very significant, reassuring and confirms our belief and knowledge that the peoples of the United States and Canada wish to understand better the just cause of the Palestinian people. I am confident that the deliberations of this Seminar will have a positive impact on the understanding of the Question of Palestine and the plight and struggle of the Palestinian people to attain and freely exercise its inalienable rights. At the same time, the Seminar will also expose the racist policies and practices of the Israeli forces occupying our Palestinian homeland.

Indeed, United Nations records demonstrate that Israel has no respect for resolutions, decisions and recommendations of the Security Council and the General Assembly and much less for the principles of the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international conventions and international law.

Israel persists in its policies and practices of oppression and violations of human rights – the faculty and students of the educational institutions, Bir Zeit, Bethlehem, the Fellaheen, the Palestinian peasants and farmers thirst more and more as a result of Israel "stealing" their water not only for irrigation but also drinking water. These are but some manifestations of acts of state-terrorism against our people under occupation. The only offence committed by our people is asserting their rights – rights recognized by the overwhelming vast majority of governments, political groups, parties, professional and popular organizations all over the world.

It is evident that conferences, resolutions and seminars have not made it more possible for our people to exercise their inalienable rights including their right to return to their homes and property from which they were uprooted, their right to self-determination and their right to establish their independent state on their own historic soil. Nevertheless, the Palestinian people greatly values the international resolutions and recommendations which support its just cause, condemn Israeli occupation, aggression and racial oppression. Resolutions which call for – nay demand – the termination of such occupation, aggression and racial oppression. Such resolutions constitute an important step towards the realization of the rights of Palestinians and their aspirations.

The achievements of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People under your able leadership, a son of liberated Africa and the representative of the friendly country and people of Senegal, and the joint efforts of the members of the Committee are more reason for our faith and confidence in the efficacy of the United Nations. The programme of implementation recommended by the Committee and endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the members of the United Nations is a positive and constructive step on the road to peace through the recognition and respect for the inalienable rights of our people. However, the Palestinian people confront Zionist occupation and policies by all means – legitimate means sanctioned by the international community.

While the position of the Government of the United States remains unchanged in its hostility and denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to choose and designate their representative – the Palestine Liberation Organization – which is internationally recognized and given a status in this Organization of the United Nations, while the Government of the United States pursues its policies of limitless and unconditional support to Israel to continue and escalate its aggression against our people in occupied Palestine and those in the refugee camps particularly in South Lebanon, while the administration in Washington maintains a constant, we note with satisfaction and esteem the growing concern and understanding and support our cause is receiving from prominent personalities as shown in your participation in this Seminar. The remarks of former presidents of the United States, the comments and analysis by ex-senior members of the administration, the coverage by the media are indicators of a better understanding and for a more constructive comprehensive approach to achieve peace through a just and comprehensive solution based on a just solution of the question of Palestine in all its aspects particularly the human aspect and the return of the Palestinians to their homes and an end to the miserable status as stateless refugees, and also the aspect of political rights primarily the right to self-determination in our own homeland, Palestine. We are also encouraged that responsible United States citizens consider all these remarks and comments are indicative of a growing view within the United States that peace could not be made without bringing the Palestinians into the game, and that this could not be done without the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The administration in Washington has tried a bilateral approach between Egypt and Israel and in an attempt to disregard the Palestinian people and the Palestinian dimension. The Camp David approach has not achieved peace or a solution. The failure was and remains inevitable since the heart of the issue or the conflict remains the question of Palestine and the fate and future of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian territory.

We are confident that the distinguished participants in this United Nations Seminar will contribute and help in a constructive way.

We wish you all the best and every success.

Revolution until victory.



Khaled Abu Kudayb

Ever since its establishment in 1964, and especially since the late 1960s, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has an increasing responsibility in the social, as well as other, fields of the Palestine revolution. The danger of the effacement of the Palestinian national identity, and the harsh living conditions of the Palestinians, following the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the consequent dispersal of the Palestinian people, made it, among other things, even more urgent for them to organize in trade unions. On the other hand, massive military attacks upon Palestinian forces and civil populations, together with mass arrests of militants and ordinary Palestinians 1/, necessitated the establishment and/or development of certain institutions to take care of martyrs and prisoners’ families. Providing employment for Palestinian workers, who usually suffer from restrictions imposed upon their mobility and work, is still another, though perhaps a less significant consideration behind the founding of some industrial and handicraft enterprises. Furthermore, education conditions of the Palestinian people and the awareness of the PLO of these conditions gave birth to a number of educational institutions.

To these three kinds of social institutions (trade unions, social care, and industrial and handiwork), the PLO has contributed greatly, in one way or another. Furthermore, individual resistance organizations of the PLO have participated, in varying degrees, to this important field of social activity. The following is an account of the major social institutions of the PLO.

Popular Organization (Unions)

These include the General Union of Palestinian Students (established in 1959), the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (1969), the General Union of Palestinian Artists (1969), the General Union of Palestinian Writers and Journalists (1966), the General Union of Palestinian Doctors and Pharmacists (1974), the General Union of Palestinian Lawyers (1971), the General Union of Palestinian Engineers (1973), the General Union of Palestinian Workers and the General Union of Palestinian Women (1965). 2/

These organizations play, under the umbrella of the PLO, a significant role in the mobilization of the different sectors of the Palestinian people and in the preservation of its national identity. They are represented in the Palestinian National Council and obtain the support of the PLO in different ways.

Furthermore, some of these unions perform strictly social functions. The General Union of Palestinian Women, for example, is responsible for the Home of Martyrs' Children and the Steadfastness House for Children. The Union also has twelve vocational centers for females/ six in Lebanon, three in Syria, two in Jordan and one in Kuwait.

The Steadfastness House for Children (Beit al-Sumūd)

It was founded in 1976 in Beirut. At the time the General Union of Palestinian Women responded to the pressing problem of hundreds of Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab children orphaned, following the fall of the refugee camp of Tal al-Za'tar to the Phalangist Party and its allies. These children became the responsibility of the Union. And specialists in the field of child welfare were commissioned to design a substitute caring family environment for these child victims.

When it was officially established in 1977, it had 80 children, but the number is now 216. They live in families of seven or eight from different age groups, guided and cared for by a substitute mother who lives with them and shares all their activities. Following the first stage of psychological treatment for the children to adapt themselves to the planned programme, a programme of education and activities is being carried on now by the House, with emphasis on vocational training. 3/

The Association of Workshops for the Sons of Palestinian Martyrs (Sāmed)

The idea of Sāmed was first born in 1970 in Jordan, when the Women's sector of the Palestine National Liberation Movement (Fateh) began, together with the Movement's Institution for Social Affairs, to supervise and develop the then existing rehabilitation centers of sewing and embroidery. Moved to Lebanon in the early 1970s and licensed by the Lebanese Interior Ministry on 15 November 1973, it now represents the Revolution's recognized and independent social and economic arm.

Sāmed has the following objectives: 4/

1. Rehabilitation of the Sons of Martyrs of the Revolution and securing employment opportunities for them.

2. Securing employment opportunities for Palestinians in general.

3. Creating material grounds for ensuring the continued existence of Palestinian grouping, inside and outside their homeland.

4. Providing Palestinian grouping with different products, at reasonable prices.

5. Preserving Palestinian folklore and making it as widely known as possible.

6. Building the nucleus of a Palestinian economy, entitled to achieve self-sufficiency for the Revolution, and to serve as a model for the future economy of an independent Palestine.

7. Sustaining economic relations with sisterly Arab and friendly countries as well as world democratic political parties.

The activities of Sāmed currently cover three major sectors: industrial, cinema and agricultural production, in addition to the commercial sector. The industrial sector includes 35 production units, distributed among 12 branches ranging from manual handicraft to fully mechanized industries. The cinema sector has so far produced the following documentary films: "The Key", "The Day of the Land", and an educational film on Preventive Medicine. The agricultural sector sponsors agricultural enterprises in Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. The commercial section deals with the importation/marketing of all needs/products of the different (production) branches, and the strengthening of ties of co-operation with the countries concerned. 5/

Sāmed employs 4,500 workers, 69 per cent of whom are female, and has so far trained about 20,000 of both sexes. 6/ Sāmed has achieved successive benefits for its workers, according to its belief that the workers are partners in the work and the responsibility. The workers are represented in the revolutionary union committees elected by the workers themselves, as well as in Sāmed's administrative board, the executive council and the industrial production council. Sāmed offers social and health welfare for its workers.

Institution for Social Affairs and Care of Martyrs' Families

The Institution was first founded in 1965 by Fateh to provide social protection for families of the Movement's militants. With time, however, its protection was extended to include families of the freedom fighters of all Resistance groups, and even of civilians killed in Israeli attacks against Palestinian and Arab population.

The activities of the Institution include: 7/

1. Provision of regular/occasional aid, in cash/kind;

2. Provision of medical services;

3. Provision of education for the children;

4. Provision of vocational training;

5. Care of the wounded and disabled;

6. Combating illiteracy.

The Institution has opened a number of vocational rehabilitation centers in each of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Kuwait. It has also sponsored training and rehabilitation courses in sewing and knitting, embroidery and typewriting, and the female graduates were provided either with employment in Sāmed or with the machines necessary for home industries. Centers for illiteracy elimination have been also founded by the Institution. 8/

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society 9/

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society was established in the beginning of the year 1969.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Lebanon owns 9 hospitals with a capacity of 600 beds.

It also runs a clinic in every Palestinian refugee camp, and a number of other specialized clinics and laboratories for the making of artificial limbs.

In order to close the gap in the number of expert hands trained in these fields, the Society established a training school to train male and female nurses and assistant pharmacists and laboratory technicians and X-Ray specialists.

The Society also established three schools for training young men and women in secretarial work and sewing arts. It also has programmes to employ girls at their homes through providing them with small capital in the form of cloth and threads, for the making of folklore dresses, which after completion are bought and resold through social exhibitions held for that purpose.

The Open University

Young Palestinians face a number of problems in as far as obtaining university education is concerned;

All Palestinian Universities are in Israeli-occupied territories. Hence, they could be closed or harassed by the occupant power under one or another pretext.

Around 60 per cent of the 42,000 Palestinian students at high school level cannot afford university expenses.

The quality of education a Palestinian student now obtains does not take into account the national identity, culture, or needs of the Palestinian people.

Aware of these problems, the PLO has adopted a plan for a Palestinian open university, scheduled to be implemented starting next April. It is estimated that the university's first academic year would begin in Spring 1984 and the number of students would reach in four years about 45,000. 10/

Youth and Club Scout Institution

The Institution aims at "the rearing of a new generation of Palestinian children from 6 to 16 years of age; and the social psychological and physical health of the child. One of the most important aims is to develop the capabilities of youth in order to fulfill the creation of a democratic, secular state in Palestine; to understand human rights and to establish international peace based on justice and equality". 11/

The educational programme of this institution consists of civic and national education, social education, physical education, civil defence and art and hobbies.

Other Institutions

These include institutions affiliated with individual Resistance organizations, e.g., the Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation and the Palestinian Youth Organization of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Youth Organization (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine), and Association Najdeh.

These institutions contribute to the overall social effort of the PLO, some of them (which have multifarious functions) by directing parts of their activities to the social sphere, and others (which work purely in the area of social welfare) by concentrating all their efforts on a specific group or sector of the Palestinian people.


1. According to one estimate, about 250,000 of the Palestinians in the 1967 occupied territories have been jailed for varying periods. A. Kapeliuk, Al-Hamishmār, 5/6/1981

2. For details, see Nabila Breir, "A Note on the Socio-Cultural Institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)", (an unpublished paper submitted to the Economic Commission for Western Asia (ECWA), 1979, pp 2-7.

3. Palestine (PLO Information Bulletin), Beirut, Vol. 8, No 1, January 1982, p.86.

4. Nabil Badran, "Al-Mu'assasāt Al-Intājiyyah Fī Al-Thawrah Al-Filastiniyyah" (Productive Institutions in the Palestinian Revolution), Sāmed AI-Iqtisādī, Beirut, Vol. 2, No.12, January 1980, p.34.

5. For details, see Muhammed Sharur, "Sāmed Al-Tajrubah wa al-Tumūh fī 'Āmihā al-Thanī 'Ashar" (Sāmed after Twelve Years: Experience and Ambitions), Sāmed al-Iqtisādī, Beirut, Vol. 5, No. 36., January 1982, pp.98-232.

6. Abū- al-'Alā, Director-General of Sāmed, in an interview held by Samir Ayyub, Sāmed al-Igtisādī, Beirut, Vol.5, No.36, January 1982, pp. 27, 42.

7. Fateh Year Book (1969), p.59, (in Arabic).

8. For details, see Intisar al-Wazir, "Rehabilitation Centers of the Institution for Social Affairs", in the papers of the Seminar on Illiteracy Elimination and Vocational Training, held by the Higher Council for Illiteracy Elimination and the General Union of Palestinian Women, December 21, 1981 (in Arabic).

9. Interview with S. Ayyub, Head of Section of Information at the Society, August 1978, as in N. Breir, op.cit., p.10.

10. For the last ten years or so, PLO runs a high school in Kuwait.

11. Article II of the Institution's Constitution.


R.T. Naylor

It has become a truism that, with the reactivation of the Cold War and the re-escalation of the nuclear arms race, the 1980s will be the most dangerous decade in human history. Political flashpoints abound in the contemporary world, and their number is likely to increase. But of the multitude of trouble spots, actual and potential, it will not be Namibia or El Salvador or even Poland that will cause the great Powers to push the nuclear button and incinerate the human race. The area that holds out the greatest danger for the next decade is precisely that which has held the greatest danger for the last three – the Middle East. Yet despite the evident danger to mankind's survival, and despite the massive outpouring of words ostensibly dealing with the situation in the Middle East, through every conceivable medium, the level of public ignorance in North America of the true origins and actual dimensions of the problem remains appalling. Myth-information controls the public consciousness, thus precluding rational discussion and political mobilization within North America around precisely the foreign policy issue that most demands rational discussion and political mobilization. The responsibility for perpetuating this sorry and dangerous state of affairs rests with the North American mass media whose portrayal of the region and its political problems has been nothing short of scandalous.

The Root of the Problem

The task of off-setting and, eventually, reversing the damage done to the public interest by the North American mass media is an enormous and an urgent one. It is rendered all the more difficult, but not for that reason less urgent, when account is taken of the broader social and cultural factors conditioning public understanding, or misunderstanding, of the Middle East. The central issue in the political upheavals that have torn apart Middle Eastern societies and brought the world to the brink of super-Power conflict time after time since the Second World War, is the question of Palestine. But the North American public rarely perceives the moral or political necessity of a resolution to the question of Palestine. Even more rarely does it see the outrages being committed daily against the people of Palestine, and the denial of their human and national rights, as worthy objects of their concern. It is not just a lack of factual information, though that is bad enough. Even if the flow of hard fact through the mass media could be greatly enhanced, public opinion in North America would remain largely oblivious. Incidents and developments that would produce mass moral outrage if perpetrated anywhere else in the world against any other people, bring a shrug of indifference in North America when directed against Palestinians. This bizarre situation exists because the question of Palestine has been caught up inextricably in the North American consciousness with three other powerful influences conditioning public opinion.

The first, and most general, is that the United States and Canada are "new" societies of European settlement, with a "cowboy and Indian" attitude deeply instilled in the public mind by films, folklore, fables and history books. The result is an intrinsic propensity to sympathize with parallel situations where white settler civilization is seen as pitted against the "natives" in its struggle to tame the wilderness or make the deserts bloom.

The second, and more particular, is the historical antipathy of the Occident to the Orient, a factor often overlooked in the past decade when the global conflict paradigm was perceived more in terms of North versus South. But the conflict of Occident and Orient is even more powerful, rooted as it is in several centuries of historical experience. To understand this deep and complex phenomenon, it is important not to lose sight of the remarkable degree to which western cultural and commercial advance since the Renaissance, was conceived of in jealous emulation of the Arab East, and actuated at its expense. Given the long history of political, economic and indeed military conflict, the West has always had its Islamic "bad guy" to colour its popular culture – be it Salah Ad-Din, throwing the Crusaders out of Palestine; or the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, banging on the gates of Vienna; or the barbary pirates, chasing English and French ships out of the Mediterranean; or, in more recent times, a Khomeini or a Qadhaffi, brandishing the so-called "oil weapon"; or, as the culmination and personification of the western world's current prejudices and fears, the image of the Palestinian guerrilla, wrapped in his kefiah, with Kalishnikov in hand, threatening to bring international civil aviation to a standstill. Thus the Palestinians are, on one level, simply the latest of a long series of victims of a process of racial and religious vilification in the West that has deep historical roots. (That 20 per cent of Palestinians are Christians is, of course, rarely if ever mentioned in the North American media).

The third major conditioning influence in North American perceptions of the Middle East is the resurgence of Cold War hysteria – which has recently taken an especially insane dimension with the enunciation of the doctrine of limited nuclear war. A Cold War consciousness is a particularly powerful component of the North American mass culture. Hence the perception of the importance of the strategic alliance of the United States with Israel as an instrument for containing the spread of Soviet influence. It suffices often to just assert that an independent Palestinian state would be a satellite of the Soviet Union and the principle of self-determination of nations, for which American leaders have always professed to stand, can be put on the political back-burner. Thus, Palestine is, or at least has become, in a sense, simply another tool in the game of nations in which morality is always shunted aside when it conflicts, as it usually does, with the demands of global realpolitik. The fact that it is precisely the United State's uncritical and blanket endorsement of an expansionist Zionist state that historically has given the Soviet Union scope to expand its influence in the Middle East goes conveniently ignored.

The result of these three conditioning influences – the latent, and often overt racism of North American popular culture; the legacy of centuries of fear of, and hostility towards Islam and the Arab world; and the politics of super-Power hegemonism – in conjunction with a flagrantly biased media coverage, is to convey to the average North American, an image of Arab terrorism and Islamic Fanaticism, usually depicted as marching arm in arm with the International Communist Conspiracy, on a Jihad intent on destroying the moral and economic foundations of some imaginary construct called Judeo-Christian Civilization. This is what the North American mass media would call "news"; and it is as typical of the Canadian mass media as it is of the American ones.

The Image of Islam

To understand the North American attitude towards Palestinians and their struggles, it is necessary to look far beyond the question of Palestine. For the antipathy of the North American to the Palestinian is simply a variant on the general theme of hostility towards the Arab World at large, and to Islam beyond and embracing it. Indeed, North American attitudes towards Palestine cannot even be dissociated from those towards Iran – partly because it would be a surprise to most North Americans, including the majority of Canadian journalists, to learn that Iranians are not Arabs; partly because their common "Islamic" character, albeit that in theological terms, Palestinians and Iranians in general are very far apart; but mainly because the mass media, under the influence of Cold War ideology and a Zionist propaganda campaign, have insisted on making a political link between the Palestinian national movement and the current Iranian regime. To take but one example, the CTV national news picked an auspicious day on which to perpetrate the fable that the Popular and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine was responsible for the takeover of the American embassy in Teheran. Citing an impeccably objective source, the CIA, it made the announcement on the very day the United Nations had declared a day of international solidarity with the Palestinian people. Needless to say that latter piece of information was not reported.

The upshot is that, for better or, more often for worse, the image of Islam, including that of the Iranian Revolution, as portrayed by the Canadian mass media and as perceived by the Canadian public, is vital to shaping its consciousness of the question of Palestine. And the image of Islam as portrayed by the Canadian mass media can be best illustrated with the following example:

On 14 February 1982, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) presented in its prime time Man Alive series, a programme entitled "Iran's Holy War". As the title aptly shows, the overall effect of the programme, was to convey to the audience the impression that Iranians and, by inference, Moslems in general, do not work, sleep, eat, think, make love or engage in any other normal human activity, so busy are they praying, fighting, and plotting the downfall of modern western civilization. The opening line of the show's commentary was nothing less than "the call from the minaret is the call for Jihad" which it explained as meaning "Holy War". Apart from the simple fact that the actual call heard from the minaret was nothing but the standard call to prayer, apart from the absurdity of supposing Jihad would actually be proclaimed from a minaret, apart from the distortion of the meaning of Jihad as a necessarily military event, and apart from the failure to point out that Jihad is regarded as a sacred duty by only a minority school among Islamic jurists, the programme went on to achieve even dizzier heights of fantasy by describing Iranians as possessed of a "fanatical determination to carry out God's will" and as being "bent on Jihad against the entire secular modern world". It also managed to misrepresent the Iranian policy as "the world's newest theocracy", completely misunderstanding the Iranian constitution and the role of Ayatollah Khomeini in it. The programme was, of course, liberally laced with images of blood-thirsty mobs and mass executions.

Three themes stand out from the programme: the image of the Moslem, particularly the Shia, as a religious fanatic; the association of Islam with violence; and the link between religious belief and an alleged desire for a return to medieval social and economic conditions. These three themes are reiterated frequently in the Canadian mass media, in lieu of actual political analysis and factual reporting.

As to the constant emphasis on the religious fanaticism of the Moslem, particularly the Shia, together with the latter's alleged propensity to seek martyrdom, one cannot but be struck by the double standard. No one describes the sincere conviction of the Pope, or even of the last President of the United States, that their policy actions are guided by religious belief, as evidence of "fanaticism". And in Canadian history books, there are an abundance of eulogies to the valour of Jesuit priests who penetrated the wilderness of North America deliberately seeking martyrdom in pursuit of their twin earthly goals – of winning converts to the One True Faith and of winning control of the North American fur trade for the French empire. Their behaviour is comprehensive and laudable; that of Iranians who sacrificed themselves for the overthrow of one of the most inhuman and repressive political regimes to blight this century is simply "fanatical". The double standard is particularly striking at a time when religious fundamentalism is also on the rise among Christians and Jews, but without the mass media pundits indulging in snide and phony urbanity at their expense.

Another favourite exercise of the Canadian mass media is the association of Islam with acts of violence, especially if they can be sensationalized with appropriately loaded language. Thus, CTV, Canada's largest private network, on its national news on 25 October 1981, following the Sadat assassination – which it, of course, imputed solely to religious fanaticism on the part of his opponents – actually described running gun battles in Cairo between police and some phenomenon it described as "underground Moslems"! As to just what bizarre species of creature this would be, CTV never enlightened the audience, leaving them with the impression that it was somewhat akin to a Satan-worshipping troglodyte – an impression suitably heightened when the very next item on the news featured a former Hungarian political prisoner describing his experiences in beating off rats in his cell. Another example of this same sensation hunting by the media occurred when Canada's largest circulation daily newspaper, the Toronto Star (10 October 1980), proudly displayed a picture of a military firing squad in Mauretania executing a convicted murderer, with the bold faced caption proclaiming this an example of "Islamic Justice". Now apart from the obvious question – where in Seventh Century A.D. texts like the Qu'ran or the Shari'a, can one find any reference to firing squads – one is inclined to ask whether the Star, or any other North American newspaper, reporting the execution of convicted murderer Gary Gilmour, by firing squad, in Utah a few years ago, would have portrayed it as an example of "Christian Justice"? To take another common theme, virtually all of the Canadian media were fond of typing the militants who seized the American embassy in Teheran as "Islamic students". What other kind did they expect to find in Iran? Seventh Day Adventists perhaps? And to put the matter in reverse, it is interesting to speculate on what the likely reaction would be in North America if a Damascus newspaper had carried a study about a bank hold-up in Toronto, the responsibility for which it imputed to a gang of "pistol packing Protestants". The answer is obvious.

Perhaps the worst example of this type of dissemination of racial and religious bigotry in the mass media came when Terry Mosher, probably Canada's top political cartoonist, disgraced a generally brilliant career with his portrait of Idi Amin. Amin was depicted, not brutalizing his countrymen in general, but physically devouring Christians – presenting the image of the black African cannibal, conveniently a Moslem by nominal conviction, engaged in his own grotesque Jihad against disciples of Christian (read western) enlightenment. Parenthetically, one is inclined to wonder what the reaction in North America would be if a newspaper in Tel Aviv ran a cartoon showing Adolph Hitler, operating the gas ovens with one hand and holding aloft a crucifix in the other.

In a similar vein one is entitled to ask why the CBC, with its fondness for the phrase "Islamic bomb" to describe a nonexistent nuclear arsenal, does not also employ the phrase "Jewish bomb" to describe the elements in a nuclear arsenal that very much does exist. Apart from simple and blatant hypocrisy, the depressing answer is probably that CBC is not aware of its existence, though virtually everyone in the journalistic world outside of Canada is.

A third theme much beloved and belaboured by the mass media is the alleged desire in Islamic societies to return to "medieval" social conditions as the intensity of religious belief grows. The term "medieval" has actually appeared, along with "fanatical", and a host of equally insulting words and phrases, in the broadcasts of the publicly owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Indeed, even Montreal's prestigious intellectual newspaper, Le Devoir, which should know better, once described the Moslem Brotherhood as "an ultraconservative organization which wishes to return to a strictly Islamic society" (1 December 1981). Yet if the authors of any of the caricatures had bothered to take the elementary precaution of examining the policy programme of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood, for example, they would have discovered, among other things, a call for: the nationalization of natural resources, the elimination of control by foreign capital, redistribution of land, comprehensive social insurance, encouragement of industrial growth based on local raw materials and craft traditions, and compulsory trade unionization. One can call such a policy programme a lot of things; but "medieval" is certainly not one of them.

Why then the characterization of the Islamic revival as a completely reactionary social movement? There are two principal reasons for the refusal of the mass media to understand its social and political complexities. One, the obvious one, is that religious stereotyping is a handy substitute for the much harder job of factual reporting and careful political analysis; for these require knowledge, a very scarce commodity among North American mass media pundits. Hence the reporters and producers look for quick explanations that are compatible with their own personal biases and the meager state of their own knowledge. The second is that because of the popular conviction that the "Orient" is in some fundamental way an alien and inexplicable phenomenon, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Expectations that it is incomprehensive except in terms of the quaint superstitious rites of the natives, becomes an excuse for failure to probe root causes. Hence they remain unexplained and therefore inexplicable.

In fact the phenomenon of the Islamic revival is readily comprehensible to the Occidental mind, if it is explained in terms of parallels to the West's own historical development. The notion of separation of Church and State, popularly regarded as unknown in the medieval East, is in fact a very recent and far from complete phenomenon in the modern West. If it is perfectly comprehensible that three priests should hold cabinet portfolios in Nicaragua's contemporary government, why is the presence of clergymen in the Iranian Parliament so much an object of political voyeurism on the part of western journalists? Time after time in their history, political dissent and demands for the redistribution of power and wealth in Christian societies has taken an overtly religious form. Christian clergymen have taken a leading part in all manner of movements for economic and political democracy – the Canadian social democratic party is an excellent example – and they continue to do so to this day. In so doing these clergymen derive their spiritual guidance from the bible. These men are treated as knowledgeable and progressive. Yet those who base their demands for political, economic and social change on religious texts written many hundreds of years after the Christian ones, are stereotyped as primitive and retrograde fanatics.

The Image of the Arab

Much the same process of racial and religious stereotyping underlies the mass media's treatment of the Arab. If anything the results are even more distorted. With respect to the Arab world, one finds again three major themes being reiterated time after time in the media; the backwardness of the area and the untrustworthiness of its peoples; oil as the new Holy Sepulchre to be wrested from the control of unscrupulous Orientals; and the innate propensity of the Arab, particularly the Palestinian, to commit acts of "terrorism". A few examples of each theme will suffice – with CBC winning the prize for either blundering incompetence or open dishonesty in its programming.

Thus on 18 October 1979, in its series of programmes on the world's great cities, the CBC ran a special show on Jerusalem. It was run on prime time during a period when Canada's own foreign policy on the Jerusalem question was being subjected to serious diplomatic and political scrutiny. It was made in Israel without consultation with a single Christian or Moslem organization. It harangued the viewer incessantly about the "Jewish" character of the city – making one condescending reference to Christianity and none at all to Islam and it punctuated the diatribe by showing Palestinians in only two guises – as street vendors or riding donkeys.

This process of minimizing the role of the Arab, and rewriting history to write him out of it, is actually a fairly common media trick. Another interesting example came in CTV's coverage of the death of Marshall Tito on its national news. Tito was described in the news commentary as the man who, along with India's Nehru, had founded the Non-Aligned Movement. A picture of the founding conference was shown in which all three of the founding fathers of the Non-Aligned Movement were shown seated around the table. Nasser was never identified by name, and few viewers would have recognized his picture.

A more sweeping example of the rewriting of history to conform to contemporary political objectives was provided in an article in Canada's most geographically widely read and most prestigious English language daily. In the Globe and Mail of 28 November 1981, one Robert Kaplan spun a tale of "a seventh century Arab invasion that left much of the Holy Land desolate" – undoubtedly just waiting for someone to come along and make the deserts thus created, bloom again.

A second theme harped on in the mass media is the western world's supposed vulnerability to the use of the so-called oil weapon. Ask the man on the street in Canada and he will likely inform you, on the basis of what he has learned from newspapers and television, that OPEC is an organization of Arab oil Sheikhs (necessarily mispronounced), headed by Yaser Arafat, the members of which divide their time between bombing synagogues and gambling away their ill gotten gains from western motorists in the casinos of Monte Carlo. To illustrate, it is worth noting the Globe and Mail's eulogistic review of Jane Fonda's latest attempt to appear to still be the bright young idea as she faces the trauma of middle age. There she was approvingly quoted as describing Saudi Arabia as "a country of fanatical undemocratic Islamic fundamentalists who are against everything we stand for" (such as nuclear power and the Viet Nam War perhaps); and she committed herself to making America aware of the great danger it faced, the gravest she assures us, in American history. Good stuff indeed, and strongly reminiscent of a game played until very recently by mothers in southern Austria who frightened their children into good behaviour by threatening that if they misbehaved, the Turks would come back.

If a Jane Fonda movie cannot be fobbed off as an authoritative statement of the problem, however influential it may be in molding the public mind, surely a feature article on the front page of the Weekly Review section of the Gazette, (23 June 1979) commissioned a special article called "The Great Oil Robbery" written by the well known petroleum expert, Jon Kimche! The gist of this article was that the world is awash with oil and that high prices were simply a tool for the diabolical foreign policy intentions of the wily orientals.

Parenthetically, one might point out that the CBC and the Montreal Gazette make frequent use of Kimche's peculiar talents as a political commentator, parroting and publishing his most ridiculous fantasies including his theory that at one point the presidents of Iraq, Libya and Algeria conspired with international terrorists to arrange the kidnapping of their own oil ministers (As it Happens, CBC Radio, 22 January, 1976). This and numerous other fables of Kimche's authorship are printed or broadcast without any attempt to identify him as the former editor of the Jewish Observer or the brother of an undersecretary in the Israeli government foreign affairs department, which identification might imply to the reader or listener that perhaps this "expert" has his own political axes to grind. The situation is bad enough when Kimche is presented as an authoritative political commentator – in spite of his reputation among knowledgeable circles as someone with an abominably bad track record just in terms of factual accuracy. But the situation becomes intolerable when a supposedly respectable newspaper gives Kimche front page space to comment on the complex and technical world of oil. To put it simply, Jon Kimche would not recognize a barrel of oil if it fell on his head.

Kimche's political objectives in his oil fantasies are clear enough. Out of fear that the West might become sufficiently concerned about its future oil supplies as to seek some sort of compromise solution to the Middle East crisis, one which would require granting a more balanced hearing of all parties to the dispute, Kimche and his fellow propagandists have, since 1979, waged a multilateral and multi-dimensional campaign to convince the world that there is an abundance of conventional oil for all current demands for an indefinite future and at a more or less constant cost of production. This has the additional advantage of making rising oil prices appear to be an exploitation of the West by the "Arabs", something which finds immediate favour in western, especially North American, societies with their glutinous appetites for oil and its products.

There are three obvious, technical rejoinders. One is that even experts are far from agreement about the state of the world's conventional oil reserves; hence Kimche is simply selecting one of several points of view that just happens to be politically expedient. The second is that the power of OPEC to control prices is ridiculously exaggerated. The third is that even if there is an abundance of conventional crude oil, morality dictates that it be shifted away from sustaining the mass consumption, energy waste based societies of the West, and put into the immediate and pressing task of feeding the world's population – petroleum and its products are the crucial input for agriculture.

But beyond the technical misrepresentation are three implicit political assumptions well worth examination. One is that oil is distinct from all other commodities in that its price is not supposed to rise. Not one of the multitude of Canadian mass media specials on the so-called "oil crisis" since the 1973 oil price hike, seem to have deemed it worthy of mention that the real price of oil, adjusted for the rate of inflation, is now just about where it was 25 years ago; and that the 1971, 1973 and 1979-80 oil price increases have done nothing beyond offsetting the effects of the inflation of the prices of imported goods that oil producing countries buy with their oil revenues.

A second implicit political assumption is that access to the oil of the Middle East is in some way a sacred right of the West, to plunder at will and at a fixed price. Hence any move by the oil producers to conserve what in some cases is their sole natural resource is morally and politically unacceptable.

The third is that oil is the unfortunate preserve of the "Arabs", who being backward, do not need it, and being unscrupulous, should not control it. The fact that the vast majority of the population of the OPEC countries is distinctly not Arab would be a surprise to the average North American.

To illustrate the last point, take the caricature presented by columnist Barbara Amiel in Canada's national magazine, McLean’s. She actually described oil as "the stuff under the sand where the Arabs park their camels". That kind of racial stereotyping would produce outrage in Canada, if not court proceedings, if it were applied to any other ethnic minority represented in the Canadian mosaic. Directed against Arabs it is normal and acceptable. It is also loaded with obvious political overtones.

Needless to say the Libyan régime has been an especially favoured object of this kind of treatment in the mass media, given the coincidence of large reserves of petroleum, a "radical" political image, and strong support to some elements of the Palestine national movement. It is routinely accused of using its oil revenues for all kinds of subversive and "terrorist" activities, thus simultaneously throwing into question both the legitimacy of Libyan foreign policy (which is a valid subject for debate) and its moral right to derive material benefit from its natural resources (which is not). Contained within the attacks on Libya, apart from the image of a handful of bedouin who have nothing better to do with their oil money than make trouble for the West, is the Cold War assumption that use of the American public revenues, including those from the taxation of oil and gas, for furthering United States foreign policy aims is legitimate; while similar behaviour by Libya is not.

To illustrate the process of demonification of the Qadhaffi régime, take the following item which appeared in the Globe and Mail (30 May 1981) in the guise of a review of a Libyan financed movie:

Lion of the Desert

Heaven's Gate in a burnoose. Anthony Quinn and Oliver Reed lead opposing camps in a Middle Eastern western whose purpose is to radicalize the audience on behalf of the Libyans by making the audience sick.

Note that nothing in the "review" really concerns the move per se – which whatever its (numerous) flaws of technique and taste, happens to be a historically accurate account of the insurrection in Libya against Italian rule in the 1920s. The criticism thus boils down to the contention that, because of the current ruling régime in Libya, the people of that country are not entitled to have their history told. For the effect of the recounting of their struggles against Italian occupation and settlement, not only gives the Libyans something very much in common with other post-colonial nations (whose right to reconstruct their past in their own image is never denied), but might also convey to the astute a rather awkward analogy to the Palestinian struggle.

One last illustration will suffice on the oil question to illustrate the use of energy fears as an instrument by which antagonism of the West to the Middle East is maintained and indeed strengthened while the legitimacy of Palestine national rights is undermined in western eyes. In 1981, a highly laudable organization in Toronto called Energy Probe, in its campaign for increased public awareness of the real facts behind the energy situation in North America, sponsored a study called Over A Barrel in which the opening line in Part One read: "October, 1973. On the eve of the Jewish religious festival of Yom Kippur, the Arab states attack Israel". The so-called "oil embargo" followed. And so, logically, given the statement's situation as the opening line of the study, did all the western world's energy woes. Note that not only were these Arabs so reprehensible as to cease to allow their natural resources to be siphoned off at will by an energy profligate west, but they were impolite enough to strike back to regain stolen territory on a Jewish religious holiday. The perfidy of the Arabs clearly knows no bounds.

Parenthetically one wonders why Energy Probe did not mention that the October War coincided as well with the Moslem religious holiday of Ramadan. Indeed, the very term "Yom Kippur war" that has entered the popular and journalistic lexicon in Canada instead of "Ramadan war", reveals the depth of bias and prejudgment of the issues.

However, the two themes noted above – the retrograde and alien nature of Arab society and the West's vulnerability to an oil embargo – receive much less media attention, and do much less harm, than the media's exploitation of the third major theme in its treatment of the Arab world – the supposed propensity of Arabs, especially Palestinians, for acts of "terrorism". Indeed, so often is the phrase "Arab terrorist" used on the air waves and in the printed media that the two words comprising it have become not only inextricably linked, but virtually interchangeable in the public mind. To illustrate this process, take the example of a generally excellent anti-nuclear film by Canada's publicly owned National Film Board. In the film "No Act of God" much stress is laid on the dangers of plutonium falling into the hands of terrorists. This is indeed a frightening possibility. Yet, instead of mentioning any terrorist organization by name, the film followed up its warning about the dangers of terrorist acts by immediately showing an Israeli soldier with gun in hand watching over a West Bank town in which the minarets were silhouetted against the background; and the very next scene showed armed militiamen running loose through the streets of Beirut.

Apart from the obvious rebuttal – that the objective of the Palestinians is to return to their homeland, not to turn it into a radioactive cinder heap – one is entitled to ask, what became of the notion of "balance" and accuracy in the presentation of problems? There was no mention in the film of the fact that the sixth largest nuclear arsenal in the world lies in the control of the only former active terrorist to be freely elected to represent his people as head of state; that the only documented case of state sponsored theft of fissionable materials was conducted by the secret service of that same state; that it is the only state in the Middle East with nuclear facilities to have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and that it is the only state, outside the two super-Powers, to have actually and openly threatened its neighbours with nuclear incineration in order to achieve its political objectives.

To take another example, one in which some members of CBC take great pride, the Canadian publicly owned network on 25 September 1979, on its supposedly elite programme of news and current affairs, Fifth Estate, presented an item entitled "The Russian Connection" which left informed observers of the Middle East having to choose between laughter and tears. In this programme, the PLO was presented as an organized network of "terrorists". There was no mention at all of the PLO's myriad of social, cultural, and educational functions, of the schools and hospitals and refugee relief facilities that it operates. Furthermore, there was a patently preposterous effort to portray the PLO as an agent of Moscow – Arab Terrorism and the International Communist Conspiracy in league once more. And lest the final element in the Holy Trinity of mass media myth-tification be neglected, the programme went on to portray the Lebanese Civil War (one of the most complex and multifaceted political phenomena of this century) as nothing more than a battle between "Palestinians" on the one hand, and "Christians" on the other. Islamic Fanaticism joined forces with Arab Terrorism to do Moscow's bidding in its war against Christian Civilization.

However, the programme did have a solution to the problem. "Exterminate them", helpfully suggested the Israeli military spokesman.

This, CBC afterwards protested, was merely balanced coverage.

Lest the CBC's main rival, CTV, feel discriminated against by omission, it should be noted that it too has proven itself more than equal to the task at hand, of myth-informing the Canadian public's consciousness of the real situation. Thus, during the Eight Day War in Southern Lebanon in 1978, CTV faithfully replayed an American network's coverage of Israeli mopping-up operations, culminating in an assault on a nest of "terrorists". The hiding place was surrounded by Israeli troops who called out to the "terrorists" to come out with their hands up, or some similar nonsense straight out of a rejected John Wayne script. This was done not in Arabic, or in Hebrew, or even in French – but in English, while the obliging camera crew busied itself capturing the high drama for posterity. Out of his hiding place came one frightened looking individual in civilian clothes – with no weapons of any sort, nor even holsters or ammunition belts – and he declared with evident fear "I'm Lebanese!" Back to the CTV studio where the news commentator baldly announced the upshot of this operation, "Two terrorists killed, one captured". The three "terrorists" in question turned out to be Beirut journalists, but no clarification or correction was ever forthcoming on CTV.

On one level these kinds of mistakes of fact, or deliberate lies as the case may be, are amusing to behold, and ample evidence of the abysmally low standards of either technical competence or professional integrity of Canadian journalists and their institutions. But on another level they are tragic and dangerous. For they contribute strongly to the general process of dehumanization of the image of the Palestinian in the eyes of the North American public. In that way they serve to cover up for Israeli state terrorism aimed at the liquidation of the national existence, and indeed even the physical existence, of the Palestinian people. Once the mass media have finished the process of vilification of the image of the Palestinian in his own right, any residual sympathies of the North American public are eliminated completely when the media cooperate with political Zionism in the use of the ultimate weapon in its war against the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.

The Ultimate Weapon

As noted above, it is one thing to see a historical antipathy of the West against the East bred of jealousy and fear. It is quite another to explain its intensification in the post World War Two period when the Arab world, and Islam in general, can scarcely be seen as a major threat to the economic and political interests of the West no matter how exaggerated the oil question becomes. The explanation for the intensification of racial and religious denigration indulged in by the mass media lies, in part at least, in its usefulness to propagandists for political Zionism. Political Zionism, in its struggle against Palestinian nationalism, and its consequent collision with the Arab world as a whole and the Islamic world beyond it, has frequent recourse to the ultimate propaganda weapon, stoking the fires of the Holocaust and then shifting the guilt of the West onto the peoples of the East. This process reached its anthropologically absurd culmination when Menachen Begin, a man of Polish descent, and the architect of an intensified programme to destroy the national life of the semitic Arab inhabitants of Palestine, is allowed to stand before representatives of the mass media, and, without check or challenge, label the PLO as an "antisemitic" organization! In this calumny, the mass media have been enthusiastically cooperative. While even Hollywood has yet to stoop to the level of painting a picture of Palestinian Arabs operating the gas ovens in Nazi concentration camps, nonetheless political Zionism employs indirect, but equally effective means of burning just such a message into the minds of the North American public, through film, TV, radio, newspapers, and even in cartoons.

In another blot on the usually distinguished record of cartoonist Terry Mosher, Ayatollah Khomeini is portrayed as reading the Qu'ran, behind which is secreted a copy of Mein Kampf. Given Khomeini's well known and well publicized sympathies with the Palestinian struggle, the triple association here is matched in cleverness only by its fundamental dishonesty.

Most of Terry Mosher's cartoons appear in the Montreal Gazette, itself more of a joke book than a newspaper in its foreign affairs reporting. But the Gazette is perfectly capable of playing the game of image association even without Mosher's evidently expert help. Thus on 30 October 1979, a heading for a news item proclaims "I never imagined prisoners going to death, says ex-Nazi", while right below it appears another heading stating "Israeli agent helped Germans question Palestinian suspect"

Naturally CBC would not allow itself to be outdone in this sort of game. Hence when its national TV news reported the bomb attacks that maimed the mayors of Nablus and Ramallah, along with seven innocent bystanders, CBC announced that speculation held that the attacks were "the work of Jewish ultranationalists". But it went on to note, with certainty this time, that the bomb attack took place "very near where six Jews were killed by Arab terrorists". Even better was CBC's performance on 20 October 1981, in which the entire scenario – Arab terrorism, the Holocaust, and the International Communist Conspiracy – was laid before the viewer. The television news began by showing PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat in Moscow, with the PLO being granted full diplomatic status. It immediately followed with a report of the bombing of the Antwerp synagogue in which it was stated that, although there were no immediate suspects, police had pointed out that two Palestinians had been arrested there the year before – what they were arrested for, whether traffic violations or bombing other synagogues was, of course, never mentioned. Then an item followed on the alleged rise of antisemitism in Poland which was imputed, without any evidence, to the increasing influence of the Soviet Union. Thus was the circle neatly closed. The Soviet Union and Palestinian terrorists were in league to exterminate world Jewry and suppress democratic freedom.

One last item is necessary to complete the depressing roster of myth-information parading as news. Right after the Israeli bombing of Iraq's research reactor, Menachen Begin's claim that "we will never be the first to introduce nuclear arms into the area" was faithfully parotted in Montreal English language newspaper, television and radio news – without a single reporter or editor or producer bothering to point out that Israel had possessed a substantial and useable nuclear arsenal for at least ten years, and that Iraq, unlike Israel, had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and hence had IAEA inspectors on site to supervise the use of fissionable material. What was really nothing more than an election stunt for Begin's coalition, was picked up by the Canadian mass media as a pretext for another round of Arab-bashing, as editorialists performed simply uncanny feats of logical contortion to justify the attack. The general chorus of disenchantment of world leaders with the Israeli action over the weekend of 13-14 June 1981, was succeeded by a counteroffensive in the Montreal media. Le Devoir launched a front page series of articles dealing with Israel's "security" concerns; the Gazette, apart from an editorial lauding the Israeli act, proved its adroitness once more by juxtaposing two front page story headings, one that said "Montrealer weeps at Holocaust reunion" and another that read, "Get missiles moved, Begin tells Habib".

Behind the Headlines

Within the United States, the reasons for the perpetuation and intensification of traditional racial and religious stereotypes and the resulting reinforcement of the public antipathy to Palestinians, and lack of sympathy with their struggle to maintain and exercise the national and natural rights taken for granted everywhere else in the world, are clear enough – they derive from the current conjuncture of interests between advocates of Cold War confrontation and apologists for political Zionism, working against a background of historical prejudice. Hence the happy consensus witnessed everyday, among Hollywood, the major newspapers, the television networks, and the "radical chic" New York literati.

However, the reasons for the same process of racial and religious stereotyping taking place with the same intensity in Canada are not as immediately evident. Nonetheless a little reflection reveals four principal reasons for the mass media in Canada essentially hewing the same line as the American mass media. The obvious one is the presence in Canada, equally with the United States, of a very competent Israeli public relations machine, backed up by a well organized and well placed Zionist lobby – this in contrast to the uncoordinated and weakly financed nature of Arab efforts to present their point of view. But Zionism did not invent the biases evident in the mass media. Hence reasons for the Canadian mass media presenting such a distorted image must be sought in much deeper factors than simply the presence of an active and powerful lobby group.

One of the root causes of the Canadian conformity to the American perspective is that Canadians, pious disclaimers to the contrary notwithstanding, basically share the American "cowboy and Indian" view of the world, into which an image of Israel, as the frontier of white civilization, under siege by barbarian hordes, neatly fits. Thus, with the West Bank in a state of open insurrection, and many Palestinian youths dead or wounded from the bullets of the occupying forces, CBC radio's popular news and current affairs programme As It Happens (25 March 1982) focused its concern on the consequences of the death of one Israeli soldier. Canada too shares the fundamental antipathy of the Occident to the Orient; for it was also a product of the European post-Renaissance efforts to break free of the cultural and economic subordination to the Islamic World. Canadians equally share America's Cold War consciousness. For political consciousness ultimately derives from material circumstances, and Canadians certainly know on which side of the Iron Curtain their bread gets buttered.

Another reason for Canada's acquiescence in the American view of the world is that English speaking Canada – accounting for about 70 per cent of the country's population – lacks a strong and coherent national culture of its own. Hence the country is extremely vulnerable to the influx of moral, political, and cultural values from New York, Hollywood and the Pentagon, particularly when these three dominant ideological power centres in the United States find themselves in fundamental agreement, as they currently do with respect to the Middle East.

Yet another reason, closely related to the last two, lies in the actual organizational structure of the Canadian mass media and public information sources.

In terms of films, Hollywood overwhelmingly controls the fare offered to the viewing public. Apart from the often (though, as noted above, not always) laudable efforts of the National Film Board, a federal government controlled and funded agency, whose films are rarely seen by general audiences, the Canadian film industry consists of little more than the use of Canadian taxpayers' money to finance the production in Canada of American films. The triumphant culmination of this process recently manifested itself in the Canadian state subsidizing Burt Lancaster's salary in the "Canadian" production of a Louis Malle film called "Atlantic City".

The situation with respect to newspapers on the surface looks quite different, for there are effective laws restricting the foreign ownership and control of newspapers and encouraging the local production of magazines and periodicals. But ownership per se is less important than control over the flow of information in the sphere of international news reporting. Hence although the Canadian newspaper chains are autonomous with respect to national news, and the individual components of those chains autonomous with respect to local news, for international affairs they are highly dependent on the American wire services.

Furthermore, they often supplement their American wire copy with reprints of special items from the New York Times and other major American papers; and they rely on the same outside "experts" like Jon Kimche for "objective" assessments of the foreign scene. The French language press in Canada is in a somewhat happier situation, not only because of intrinsic merit – which does tend to be greater – but because the accidental effect of the language barrier is to divert their wire copy dependence towards Agence France Presse and their reprints towards such sources as Le Monde which have a far better track record for fairness and accuracy than the American sources.

However, Canadian newspapers' dependence in American sources is not an absolute. There is a Canadian wire service and the larger dailies do maintain a roster of foreign news reporters and commentators of their own. But the results are scarcely encouraging. Reporters on foreign affairs assignments, reflecting the limited resources and limited importance attached to the job, are moved about quickly and forced to become instant experts, thus failing to build up the long term experience and contacts necessary for accurate and intelligent reporting of various areas and diverse events. In Canada it is hard enough to find a journalist for a major English daily who speaks French, let alone Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu; and the first response of many to events such as the Soviet move into Afghanistan was likely to rush to their atlases to try and find out where it was.

Given the lack of depth of knowledge that structural constraints impose, reporting on the Middle East, if not elsewhere in the foreign arena, in the Canadian newspapers, reflects two principal influences. One is the underlying prejudices of the society as a whole, which reporters will share and reflect. (This manifests itself prominently in two related moral hobby-horses that Canadian journalists love to ride. One is the constant harping on the theme of "Arab Terrorism". The second is the consequence of fears about their own potential "antisemitism" which causes them to be constantly seeking and/or inventing, and then denouncing it in others). The second major influence to which reporting is subject is commercial pressures on the newspapers. Newspapers are, after all is said and done, business enterprises, intent on maintaining or expanding their circulation in order to assure a flow of advertising revenue. That involves catering to the taste, or lack thereof, of the reading public. The result of all of these influences is the sensationalization and trivialization of the events and places being reported.

Last, but most important in terms of its impact on the North American public's perspective, is television. In Canada, television, like the newspaper business, is domestically owned. Also like the newspapers, it is organized into national chains, of which two – the privately owned CTV and the publicly owned CBC – dominate. But in spite of the actual ownership, American points of view are overwhelmingly present. Apart from the fact that it is trivially easy to tune into an American station directly, an enormous share of the broadcast time of the Canadian owned networks is given over to repeating American material. Television has its principal impact not in terms of hard news reporting, but in the gentle massaging of the public perspective through fictional material ranging from police who-dunnits to soap operas. One does not have to comment on the type of stereotyping of the Arab presented in American television, which is repeated, with a minor time lag, on the Canadian stations.

As to television news, in common with newspapers, there is a substantial dependence on American produced input for the international news coverage. And when the Canadian networks do undertake their own reportage on foreign affairs, at least with respect to their Middle East coverage, many of the difficulties evidenced by newspaper reports and reporters are also present. Partly these difficulties reflect the inadequacy of research staff who are notoriously ill-prepared simply by virtue of the requirement of generating instant information. This was illustrated in a pathetic way when, on the day of the assassination of Anouar El-Sadat, a CBC researcher, ostensibly seeking background information, could actually ask, "When Nasser came to power in 1948 (!) didn't he persecute the Jews in Egypt?" (The actual coverage of the assassination of CBC can only be described as "embarrassing".) Partly they reflect the choice of outside commentators. Thus on 23 March 1982, the CTV network's Canada AM programme, to give its audience an up-to-date account of the Palestinian insurrection on the West Bank, called into its studios to comment on the events, the Israeli ambassador to Canada, and him alone. It reveals itself too in the very choice of broadcast journalists some of whom, particularly on the CBC network, are notorious for letting their personal prejudices distort their public performance. In which direction they are freely permitted to distort, one does not have to specify.

Both of the major networks are prey to these problems. But there is one substantial difference between them, in that the publicly owned CBC presents considerably more news and news specials than the privately owned CTV. In the case of their Middle East reporting the only result of this difference historically is that the publicly owned network makes more mistakes and tells more lies than the privately owned one, and that it costs the Canadian taxpayers money to listen to the CBC's fantasies and distortions. Those of the private network are available free of charge. This situation is particularly scandalous. For by virtue of being a state corporation CBC has a moral and political responsibility to do the job as well as its resources allow; and by virtue of its public funding, it does have the financial resources to resist to some degree the immediate commercial pressures to which private sector media are subjected. Its failure to perform its public responsibilities seems to call seriously into question the very rationale for such an institution’s existence.

The situation with respect to the public consciousness of the Middle East in general, and the rights of the Palestinian people in particular, is clearly unacceptable on moral grounds alone. It is also extremely dangerous given the distinct possibility that the next round of fighting in the Middle East, when Israel makes its move into Southern Lebanon in an attempt to liquidate the Palestinian resistance and annex the territory, will degenerate into a direct super-Power confrontation at a time when Cold War tensions are very much on the rise. Unfortunately in Canada attempts to force an awareness on the mass media of the harm being done and the dangers posed by their slanted coverage have been generally quite useless. The Globe and Mail, which fancies itself as Canada's national newspaper, despite protests, still sees nothing wrong with regularly giving Op-Ed space for comment on Middle Eastern affairs to a Toronto rabbi. This follows a tradition of "objective" reporting established long ago by the Toronto Star. And the Star, when accused of sensationalizing the news to expand circulation through such items as the photograph of the Mauretanian execution with its lurid and misleading caption, piously rejected the charges. It was not true that it did things like that to expand its circulation, said the Star, for that particular item appeared on page 12 and hence someone would have already bought the newspaper before he saw it!

Similarly, complaints against the CBC bring virtual form letter responses from all the way up the organizational hierarchy, protesting the network's conviction that its programming is fair and balanced. Protest beyond CBC to the federal government regulatory agency (the CRTC) brings no response at all; while objections lodged directly with the cabinet ministers ultimately responsible for the mass media in Canada produce little beyond platitudes and a rubber stamping of whatever idiocy the CBC offers in justification for the calumnies it presents in lieu of news and current affairs. That does not however constitute a discharge from social responsibilities. Those who do know what is really happening must continue to speak out in every available forum, to develop new mechanisms to bring the frightening reality to the general public, and to demand that the mass media correct the record. They must do so not merely out of concern to assure the rights of the Palestinian people, though that is certainly reason enough, but also because everyone on earth has a stake in the outcome, that may well be no less than his or her own survival.


(Perspectives on Humanizing the Palestinian People in American Public Opinion)

Rev. Donald E. Wagner

The average American must overcome several imposing barriers if he or she is to experience the Palestinian as a human being. Public opinion makers from politicians, the media, religious leaders, the intelligence and policy communities, educators, and many others have created a one-dimensional image of Palestinians for over thirty years. To this date the American experience, with a few important exceptions, has been a positive emotional commitment to Israeli Jews and a negative picture of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular.

However, recent opinion polls indicate a gradual awareness building in Americans as to the Palestinian cause and their fundamental human rights. For example, surveys of the three major television networks indicate that attention given to the Palestinians has sharply increased since 1976. In a January, 1975 survey Yankelovitch found that only 52 percent of the Americans questioned had even heard of the PLO. By March, 1979, that figure was up to 77 percent. In addition, 41 percent of Americans who follow Middle East events supported an independent Palestinian state in a Gallup poll that same year. 1/

Other analysts of American public opinion toward Arabs such as Jack Shaheen, Edward Said, and Edmund Ghareeb conclude that Arabs are usually at the bottom of American society in terms of media stereotypes. Their studies point to extreme racist attitudes whether it is researched in the portrayals of Arabs in television programing, the film industry, cartoons, or other determinants of public opinion in American society. 2/

In this presentation I would contend that while we are beginning to observe a new openness to address the Palestine question in the United States, there are massive barriers which still stand in opposition to Americans experiencing the Palestinian cause as just and human. I will also contend that we have a two-fold task before us if American public opinion is to change toward a more open posture on the Palestine question. First, we must analyze the complexity of the barriers which operate against Palestinians in the United States; and second, we must seek a multitude of arenas and mediums through which the Palestine question can be asked as a legitimate human question. Our goal must be to strike a responsive human chord in the American people on this issue. This goal is explored as simply the next stage in the process of improving the public's awareness and understanding of the question of Palestine.

I do not approach this task from a particular discipline, be it political science, sociology, communications studies, etc. What I will attempt here is a multi-disciplined inquiry into the Palestine question, its opposition and its possibilities, in the American context. I pursue this question with the admitted bias that the Palestine question is indeed a legitimate and just cause which lies at the heart of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. Further, I believe that a pursuit of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people does not necessitate a denial of Jews or of other Arabs to enjoy their full human rights. 3/

Before I begin, a note of grim reality must be sounded. It would be senseless and naive for us to labour for even a moment under the illusion that by simply telling the Palestinians' story in human terms that U.S. foreign policy will change and/or justice will come to the Palestinians. For years many Palestinians trusted that the basic justice of their cause would gain international support and they would eventually return to their land. The era in which we live is far too complex and dominated by the most demonic expressions of "realpolitik." Unfortunately justice does not evolve naturally in our world.

As an American I can afford to be even more crass as this applies to the United States. We are a pragmatic lot and increasingly we view the world and peoples of other nationalities in terms of "what will it do for me and for our economic or military security?" My most skeptical side says that unless there are military and economic payoffs for Americans they will keep the door closed to the Palestine question.

Let us turn to some of the barriers we must understand if we are to consider humanizing the Palestinian question in American public opinion. My list is far from exhaustive but here are six important considerations. First, the question of Palestine encounters the barrier which combines American fears and feelings of superiority toward people of the third world. Americans in general, but with a growing number of exceptions, have little respect for traditional customs, economic struggles, or even the languages of developing peoples. These people are discussed in public or portrayed in the media as backward, primitive, and as inferior species. If revolutionary change is underway in such people, as in the case of the Palestinians, there is the additional fear of the poor natives being drawn into the orbit of Moscow, Havana, or Peking. For the Palestinians you can up the ante once more thanks to Mr. Reagan and Haig's policy which associates them with a world terrorist network, and categorizes them with the likes of Libya's Khadafi and the Red Brigade.

The traditional answer given by Americans in dealing with third world people has been to neutralize them, to gain influence over them, or to take an aggressive military stance, seen either as protection or control. Foremost among these approaches are the military and economic assistance, which has generally led to a state of dependency and U.S. support of dictatorial regimes. The case studies of U.S. created buffers to communism, such as Viet Nam, Iran, and now El Salvador need no further comment.

These attitudes of fear and superiority persist and are currently being amplified by the present U.S. government, their policy institutes, international and multinational business interests, and, of course, by the media. The Palestine question, when it encounters this complex and deeply entrenched barrier, faces enormous difficulties. The Palestinian's revolutionary image and rhetoric communicates the worst possible set of anxieties to the average American. Americans must be assisted by deeper analysis and more humane encounters with Palestinian people. The simplistic analysis of complex political and historical conflicts, which usually boils down to what is pro-American or anti-communist, must be seen as not only shallow but as belligerent.

A second barrier is the reductionist tendency of the U.S. media, including newspapers and the film industry which have traditionally portrayed Palestinians in less than human stereotypes and Israeli Jews in compassionate, pro-American, and power-oriented modes. Basic media analysis tells us that power, efficiency, and the image of "little David conquering Goliath" appeals to American sentiments. Since 1948 the opinion makers have communicated a persuasive and humane image of "little David" which has bound America to the Jewish experience. Refusing to place a value on that connection, I speak only to those who have been portrayed as ugly terrorists or faceless refugees, the Palestinians. Americans continue to receive an overwhelmingly sub-human image of Palestinians, one which is blatantly racist and inaccurate such as ABC-TV's "20/20" programme by Giraldo Rivera one year ago. Such misleading facts are fed to consumers who have little political or historical awareness of the situation, and the presentations are submitted under the guise of objective reporting.

Of course, there are many plausible reasons why journalists and television commentaries must reduce their reports to the time or space which is available. However, no one can excuse the anti-Arab form of anti-semitism which this slanted reporting communicates. There is no humanity created by such journalism as Rivera's, which corresponds neither to the world of the Palestinians nor to American realities. Very little of the passion, depth, beauty, or even the professional diversity of Palestinians as people was communicated.

What we need is depth analysis and diversity in media portrayal of the Palestinian people. Most people, when asked to name one Palestinian, will name Yasser Arafat. Their feelings about him nave been triggered by racist cartoons, slanted editorials, or reports on Arab terrorists. Why can't Americans name Palestinian authors, poets, mayors, or the host of other professionals who contribute effectively to societies around the world? Political analysts and media in general have fed Americans with misleading images on the Palestine question as if it were the whole story. The unfinished task is to reopen the question and elevate the humanity involved.

The third barrier is the failure of the Arab world to tell their story in a human fashion in comparison to the vast superiority and sophistication by which the zionists tell theirs. Let me be clear from the outset on this point. In no way do I subscribe to nor wish to lend credence to the notion of a zionist conspiracy controlling the media. Some of the best investigative reporting on the Palestine question is being done by Israeli, European, and American Jews such as Peretz Kidron and many others in Israel and Eric Rouleau of Le Monde. In addition, the U.S. media is far too complex an industry to be controlled by a single interest group however effective their lobby and presence within the media.

John Weisman, in his TV Guide article "Blind Spot in the Middle East" 4/ made several. important points; chief among them was the marked advantage a TV or print journalist has in Israel as opposed to the Arab world. Access to people, available technology, less censorship, technical relay back to U.S. television and radio feeds are among the practical barriers overcome by the Israelis (who depend greatly upon their story being told in the West). Of course, the zionist leaders saw the need for efficient communications very early and in moving their headquarters from London to New York in 1942 they made an important step toward capturing and controlling American minds on the Palestine question.

Another aspect of this point on Arab inefficiency and Israeli sophistication is how the media is being used more and more to calculate political initiatives in the Middle East. Both Arabs and Israelis increasingly consider the propaganda effects of their respective military and peace initiatives. The Camp David process caused the director of one television network to reflect:

"It certainly looks as through the media was the main arena of negotiations. There is no question we were the conduit. But where journalism ends and message carrying begins is hard to tell." 5/

Even more suspect was Menachem Begin's push to virtually annex the Golan Heights while the United States and Western Europe were preoccupied with Poland. It would appear that the media focus on that beleaguered situation provided Begin with the necessary diversion in the West to execute this long expected but illegal tactic at a time he would suffer the least. Leaks in the Israeli press and intelligence reports indicated a massive plan to invade South Lebanon on the heels of the Golan annexation, again, behind the media cover of Poland.

These latter developments indicate the demonic level that media manipulation has reached. Until voices of opposition evoke a resounding "NO" to these orchestrations, by any side, we will see new lows reached which defy human sensitivities.

A fourth barrier to humanizing the Palestine question is the numbing effect of the media upon our psyches when it comes to understanding human violence and oppression. Studies indicate that television and films have influenced our capacity to comprehend and cope with human suffering. For many of us this began with the daily body counts and graphic portrayal of human carnage during the Viet Nam war. In related manner, Israeli aggression against Lebanon and the Palestinians has had both a numbing effect and has reached a degree of acceptance.

A recent article in Middle East International expressed this clearly:

"So accustomed has the world become to Israeli aggression that political commentators and even politicians now discuss with detachment the question of where Israel will strike next. Another invasion of South Lebanon? An air strike on the Bekaa Valley? The annexation of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank – or both? Each of these considered (although all of them involve breaches of international law and of Israel's obligations as a member of the United Nations) as calmly as though Israel has every right to decide for itself whether and when to attack its neighbours, to seize and occupy and eventually annex their territory and drive out their inhabitants." 6/

Again, there is little public outcry in the United States and certainly no believable word from the leadership in Washington. The effect of Israel's aggression is not so much to alienate public opinion against them, but to cause people to either justify it or turn a deaf ear to the next level of violence. The victims go unseen, and the questions they raise are no longer heard.

A fifth barrier consists of political and economic opposition to the Palestinian issue within American party politics. The Zionist movement has had the support of both Republican and Democratic party platforms since President Truman's re-election in 1918. In addition, U.S. foreign aid and military assistance to Israel is running in excess of $3.5 billion to underwrite the monitoring of U.S. interests in the Middle East. In the light of these two factors alone, an independent Palestinian state is not in American political and economic interests in the near future.

Any politician who initiates dialogue with the PLO or calls for an independent Palestinian state is asking for problems. Consider the example of Illinois Congressman Paul Findley who has publicly supported dialogue with the PLO. Although his district has less than 5% of Jewish voters, Zionist organizations from across the country pumped money into the district to unseat him in 1980. He was re-elected, but now the 1982 campaign has begun with meetings in Chicago synagogues and a fundraising campaign under the theme "To Protect Our Heritage."

With the Zionist and the traditional American political parties so entrenched in their opposition to the question of Palestine, we can go one step further to say that these politics are reflected in the media. I would submit that the U.S. media generally reflects its government's policies, and while there is room for diversity of opinion, it still takes its basic images and fundamental message from what Edward Said identifies as "the policy making apparatus. Professor Said identifies the following components:

"… the intelligentsia, allied with a community of geopolitical strategists. All of this is then presided over by the great power establishments–the oil companies, the mammoth corporations and multinationals, the defense and intelligence communities, and the executive branch of the government." 7/

It seems to apply very directly to our concern over humanizing the Palestine question. It answers why Israel's state terrorism against Palestinians continues to be ignored by the U.S. representative in the United Nations as well as in the media. It helps us to understand why the United States State Department annual reports on human rights virtually ignore documentation by eight internationally recognized bodies to the effect that indeed, Israel does torture Palestinian prisoners. It shows why these reports have been ignored by the media and why Alexandra Johnson's famed cables were quietly swept aside.

The conclusion is that the media generally reflects U.S. Government policies and these images, gaps in knowledge, and particular emphasis filter down eventually to the grass roots with images of Palestinians which ignore their human dignity.

In order to underscore this point with an illustration from a different, although related field, a study was released on March 1, 1982, by the Media Institute which concludes that the television networks relied too heavily on government sources for information about the 1973 and 1978 oil crises. Media Institute president Leonard J. Theberge said the study examined network TV oil stories during the two periods when oil supplies in America shortened and prices skyrocketed. Computers digested 1,462 stories totaling 39 1/2 hours of programming in the two periods and among its conclusions were:

(1) the government was attributed with supplying 56 percent of the information, the oil industry 17 percent, and outside opinion (academics, economists from financial institutions, etc.) provided only 2 percent of the time.

(2) when solutions were solicited, politicians and government officials generated 77 percent of all responses. 8/

If a similar study were to be done on the Palestine question, I would suspect the statistics would run even higher in terms of government input.

The final barrier to humanizing the Palestine question is one which is rarely discussed openly and certainly needs broader exposure. One feels a sense of the bizarre and prepares for accusations of demented paranoia when speaking about it in public. I refer to the known climate of intimidation and outright muzzling of spokespersons for the Palestine question in the United States.

The British journalist Michael Adams of the Manchester Guardian, who knows of such activity from first hand experiences writes:

"the press treats the Middle East problem quite differently from the way in which it treats other topics of controversy. Widely divergent opinions on these (other) issues have been expressed and without apology. There has not been, so far as I know, any concerted attempt to suppress or muzzle the views of one side or the other in these highly controversial situations. Nor, I believe, has there been any concerted attempt to blacken the character or to damage the reputation of those who have sought to prevent the arguments for or against any of the parties involved. But the dispute between the Arabs and Israel presents a very different picture. In that situation there has been a concerted attempt to prevent the free expression of the views of one side… indeed, I would go further and say it is a conscious and deliberate part of zionist strategy to prevent, wherever possible, the publication of material sympathetic to the Arabs or critical of Israel. 9/

My own limited experience in working on the Palestinian question in the American context underscores this point. Perhaps the most vivid illustration I could relate is the case of Ziad Abu Ein, a young Palestinian extradited to Israel by the United States on December 12, 1981, after a long and complicated court battle. Those of us who worked on the case were frustrated at every turn by the State Department's interference in the legal process and its role in the media. For example, in November 1979 a State Department spokesman declared on National Public Radio, before the trial began, that Ziad was guilty of terrorism. Also, the State Department press office released the decision on Ziad's extradition to the media long before the defense lawyer, family, and supporters of Ziad were told, so that the first word to anyone was the government perspective, word for word, on the nation's radio stations.

Another aspect of this barrier was the refusal of the media to report Ziad's ordeal, especially in Chicago. Without a question, the primary reason for it was our lack of sophistication in dealing with the media and a failure to maintain co-ordination with a consistent campaign by various Arab-American groups. However, several press conferences, direct mail campaigns, and phone contacts were undertaken over one and one-half years with minimal results.

Finally, in June of 1981, several newspapers and radio stations showed an interest in Ziad's case. A television reporter from a national network affiliate station in Chicago did an excellent investigative report on Ziad, including an interview in the prison. Then, all of a sudden, the coverage came to a halt. The reporter told us that there was incredible pressure on the television station, as well as the reporter. Within a few weeks, the reporter made a quiet exit to another city.

Then information emerged on February 26, 1982 which adds yet another dimension to this barrier. There had been several reports that the FBI and Israel would send prisoner Jerome Radick to Israel in April to testify that he overheard Ziad confess to the crime in question. However, in an Affidavit sworn before a lawyer, Mr. Radick told why he would testify:

"I was approached by one Jerry Howe, from the FBI, who asked me to work for them in order to get Ziad Abu Ein. A Federal Grand Jury was called to investigate Ziad, his family and supporters. Before I testified before the Grand Jury I was told what to say by the FBI. They also told me to say Ziad had admitted the bombing in Tiberias to me. This is not true. At no time did Ziad ever admit the bombing to me." 10/

The pressure of the FBI and the U.S. State Department has not only impeded the pursuit of justice in Ziad's case, but it has also served to create data, to intimidate the media, to harass the supporters of Ziad Abu Ein, and generally to minimize public awareness in this delicate case. This final barrier is extremely complex and poorly documented, but one which must be considered when evaluating public opinion on the question of Palestine.

II.   Let us turn very briefly to only three or four of the many guidelines we might mention in bringing a human dimension to the Palestine question.

A television report from Beirut on the Israeli bombing of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians last July struck a sympathetic chord in most Americans. On the other hand, a political speech by Yasser Arafat at an Arab Summit meeting created a negative reaction. In each situation, the American viewer received little background information in order to understand what he or she had experienced. A responsive chord had been struck in both cases, the lack of historical background and the particular human environment guaranteeing limited understanding.

I would suggest that our goal in humanizing the Palestinian question could be defined as two-fold: first, to strike that responsive chord in a positive, humane manner, and second, to interpret the history and environment of the Palestinian movement to the American public, which has little back-ground on present-day Middle East politics.

Our perspective on the communication process will be reversed in most cases. Many of us are programmed to communicate our basic political, historical or religious message in the most articulate manner as possible. Media specialist Anthony Schwartz recommends that the basic message is not the starting point, but must be seen the final product. This would seem to apply directly to our concern of overcoming a negative stereotype of the Palestinians. Schwartz suggests that we must begin with the question: "how can we strike a positive responsive chord in our audience?" 11/ In other words, how can we raise the issue and image so that the people will truly hear it, rather than react against it?

Schwartz states that this process involves three areas of research, which I will not detail here, but simply put forth as challenges to those who might take up the concern:

1. What previous auditory and visual images are stored in people's brains and how might we move people from repulsion to trust? (Note how advertising is often based upon an initial message of trust through association of the product with a trusted celebrity or a positive environment);

2. What technology can we employ in the communications industry which will best express the message on a variety of levels, taking into consideration several American audiences (a question of who and how);

3. New content will be designed in the light of these realities, and at this level you deal with the basic message you wish to communicate. 12/

An excellent illustration of this process was a recent NBC-TV interview with Yasser Arafat and several P.L.O. leaders. Previous images of Arafat had been too "hot" for a medium like American television. Like most Arab politicians, Arafat's image is geared for his people, and he is accustomed to giving long speeches before thousands of people at open-air political rallies. The NBC interview began with several scenes Americans would be familiar with and then shifted to a dinner table. An informal discussion with Mr. Arafat and PLO spokesman Labadi around a very relaxed and homey setting made the American experience of Mr. Arafat more intimate and humane. Similar fireside chats by American Presidents and the close-ups of their faces are designed to reduce the psycho-social distance between subject and audience.

There are several issues related to the media which need to be challenged, from the use of language and stereotypes, to increased investigative journalism. However, because we are at an elementary stage of American awareness on the Palestine question, there is a need for striking a positive responsive chord in order to gain a hearing. There is nothing simple, immediate, or guaranteed in producing positive results in this approach. It will take years to overcome the barriers and the damage which has been done.

A second consideration which relates to the media and has many other ramifications so that we need to move beyond the "acceptable Arab Stage" we reached with Anwar Sadat. Mr. Sadat, for a variety of politically acceptable reasons, was able to overcome many of the negative associations Arabs carry in America. Among the reasons were the U.S. Government's need to join Zionist leaders to sell Camp David to U.S. consumers and most importantly, to create a substitute spokesman for the Palestinians. Sadat's image rose until, as a Harris poll taken in April of 1978 indicated, Americans would trust Sadat as much as they would trust Begin if a disagreement arose in the peace negotiations. By March of 1979, a Gallup poll indicated 36 percent of those asked felt Egypt was doing all it could for peace while only twenty-eight percent were willing to say the same of Israel. 13/

The next frontier in American politics and public opinion must be to so humanise the Palestinians that they will be accepted as trustworthy spokespersons for not only their own cause, but for peace in the entire Middle East. We do not need a sanitized media-event as in the case of Mr. Sadat. We do not need a "safe personality" who is manufactured in the State Department press room. We do need educated and human spokespersons, perhaps women, who can meet the public at their basic levels of fear and arrogance, and slowly communicate the depth of the Palestinian question. This process must take place at university symposia, church mission dinners, television talk-shows, in news broadcasts, and other forums.

The last of many suggestions I would like to make is that age-old need for an increased organized effort on behalf of the Palestine question on a variety of levels, from churches, to Arab-American groups, to grass roots organizing efforts. In our pluralistic society, with its competitive political structure and opinion-making processes, organized groups will influence public consciousness and effect decision-makers. The more efficient and broad-based the groups, the more likely they will be to succeed. Fortunate or unfortunate, as the case may be, public opinion and government policy go hand in hand. Both are affected by group pressure.

I would hope that as such groups emerge on the Palestine question, they will avoid the heavy-handed tactics of the Moral Majority and the Israeli lobby, AIPAC. Short-term gains under intense pressure and manipulation generally lead to long-range alienation of the public.

This level of activity must consider both political and non-political initiatives. Working through Christian denominations and educational or cultural networks, a number of cultural and religious programs can be sponsored. Existing institutions and the usual organizations to which Americans belong must all be explored. While the issues are different and approaches will necessarily command adjustment, immediate lessons are available from an analysis of the European peace movement and its emergence in the United States with a breadth of interest comparable to the anti-war movement of the 1960's. Leadership has emerged on every level over the past two years, from bills sponsored by members of the Senate and House, mass petition campaigns, concerts by professional musicians, and overwhelming endorsement by a variety of churches and synagogues. Not everything translates to an issue as complex as the Palestine question and a comparable movement is unlikely, but there is much to learn.


The above presentation has attempted to explore the human dimension of the Palestine question, reasons for its exclusion from American public opinion, and some suggestions for improvement. Present trends in American society and the Middle East may override the possibilities which still remain for human values to speak to American audiences. If this is the case, we will be left with such options as political negotiations, an Arab-initiated oil boycott, and war to arouse the "American conscience." Negotiation and an oil boycott have attracted possibilities as tools to change public opinion, with war and its nuclear overtones becoming the last resort.

Dr. Edward Said has challenged the Middle East academic community to move beyond its specialized disciplines and "Olympian analyses" to apply their skills to the day to day realities which cripple the people of that region. His words can be directed to other disciplines, including television and radio news reporters, editors, film producers, church executives, government officials, etc., etc.

"… all knowledge is interpretation, and that interpretation must be self-conscious in its methods and its aims if it is to be vigilant and humane. But underlying every interpretation of other cultures is the choice facing the individual scholar or intellectual: whether to put intellect at the service of power or at the service of criticism, community, and the moral sense. This choice must be the first act of interpretation today, and it must result in a decision, not simply a postponement." 14/

May the challenge to humanize the Palestine question engage the truly creative minds and organizations through every sector of American society, as a just and peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict diminishes with each passing day.


1. William C. Adams, Editor, Television Coverage of the Middle East, Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Publishing Company, 1981, p. 20.

2. Michael C. Hudson and Ronald White, The American Media and the Arabs, Washington: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, 1980, pp. 39-66.

3. The basis for the fundamental human rights is embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the two Covenants (On Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).

4. John Weisman, "The Blind Spot in the Middle East," TV Guide, October 24, 1981, p. 7ff.

5. Edmund Ghareeb, Splitvision, Washington: Institute of Middle Eastern and African Affairs, Inc., 1977, p. 13.

6. Middle East International, No. 169, February 26, 1982, p. 1.

7. From an unpublished paper, "The Formation of American Public Opinion on the Question of Palestine," Edward Said, from the Second United Nations Seminar on the Question of Palestine, August 25-29, 1980, p. 384.

8. Chicago Sun-Times, March 2, 1982, Clark W. Bell, "Marketing (Advertising)".

9. Michael Adams, "Reason for Pro-Israel Bias," in The Arab World: From Nationalism to Revolution, Editors Abdeen Jabara and Janice Terry, Wilmette, Illinois: Medina University Press, 1971, pp. 88-91. See also Publish It Not, Mayhew and Adams, London: Longman Publishers, 1975.

10. The full text of the Affidavit was released to the media on the evening of February 26, 1982 and carried in full as a UPI wire story. It was reported by several newspapers and radio stations. The full text is available through the Palestine Human Rights Campaign Office, 202 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois – 60604.

11. Anthony Schwartz, The Responsive Chord, Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press (Doubleday), 1972, pp. 26-27.

12. Ibid. p. 27.

13. Adams, Television Coverage of the Middle East, p. 19.

14. Edward Said.


Prof. Harold A. McDougal

I. Introduction

General Assembly resolution 36/120 B on the "Question of Palestine", adopted on 10 December 1981, paragraph 3(a), calls for the organization annually, of a seminar in North America to increase international understanding of the Palestinian question. I am honoured to be invited by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to participate in this year's seminar.

I was invited by the Association of Arab-American University Graduates to tour the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza in November, 1980, to investigate the impact of Israeli Military Order No. 854 on Palestinian universities on the West Bank. I was part of a group of eight American university professors similarly invited, among whom was my colleague Professor John Quigley, of Ohio State Law School, who is also a participant in this Seminar.

Order 854 was adopted by the Israeli Military Command for the West Bank, Area commander Benyamin Ben Eliezer on 6 July 1980, having specific impact on Bir Zeit University, Al Najah National University, Bethlehem University, and the Centre of Islamic Studies – Al Shahrayah College. Entitled an "Order Concerning the Education and Culture Law (of Jordan) No. 16, 1964 (Amendment)(Judea and Samaria)1980". Order No. 854 amends the Jordanian law regulating the organization and management of pre-academic "gymnasia" (colleges) – that is, elementary and secondary schools – by extending the law's reach to cover university-level institutions. In other words, regulations regarding curriculum, appropriate reading matter, lectures and personnel, originally drafted with elementary schools in mind, are now to be applied to degree-granting universities. In addition, a key feature of Order No. 854 is section (6), which provides that universities covered by the order are to be considered as operating on a temporary license, good for only one year. This section of the order requires universities to petition the military authorities annually merely to reopen their doors each new academic year. In American jurisprudence, we call that a "chilling effect" – the inevitable result is to make the subject of the law exceedingly cautious, as the burden of establishing that his conduct is acceptable falls on him rather than upon the authorities. The Military Command can and does refuse or revoke operating permits for these universities for any variety of reasons, formal and informal.

My eight colleagues and I concluded that Order No. 854 as we observed it on the West Bank placed "crippling restrictions" on higher education. Order No. 854 in action includes the extensive censorship of teaching materials (more than eleven hundred books of various types are specifically forbidden for use in classrooms as well as possession by individuals), and onerous restrictions on formal lectures and extracurricular programmes and events. Even more damaging than the systematic military control and censorship of the curriculum, we found, were the whole range of restrictions on the freedom of individual students and faculty members, from random detention to denial of work permits, the suspension or expulsion of students from school, restrictions on freedom of movement, and in some cases the outright expulsion of students or faculty from the West Bank itself. We concluded that Order No. 854 was part and parcel of Prime Minister Begin's so-called "Iron Fist" policy, adopted in the wake of the Camp David Accords.

Repression, however, breeds resistance, and this truth is present on the West Bank just as it is everywhere in the world. Far from order and submission, Order No. 854 has resulted in a renewal of Palestinian national consciousness and resistance, as subsequent mass demonstrations, continuing to this day, have shown. I was touched personally by the extent of Palestinian resistance when on 26 November 1980 I visited a student hospitalized for wounds received in a demonstration the previous day at Al Najah University in Nablus.

The student had been shot in the right knee and some bone from that knee had been surgically removed. The doctor told the student that it appeared there had been an explosion as the bullet entered his leg, and that is why the bone had to be removed. The student's ability to walk will be impaired. Earlier, my colleague Masao Miyoshi of the University of California at Berkeley and I had found a spent shell lodged in a box of papers in a kiosk in the front hallway of Al Najah University, not far from the front door. We had been entertained on radio by claims that soldiers responding to student demonstrations were using rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the students. These "rubber bullets" had pierced the metal doors of the university entrance and wounded two students hiding behind the closed doors. The soldiers refused to let an ambulance in for the bleeding students, according to testimony we received from Al Najah faculty members. There happened to be a doctor inside the building who stopped the bleeding. The particular shell we found had pierced the metal door, penetrated the metal and formica walls of the kiosk, and spent its force in a box of papers stored inside the kiosk. When we examined the shell we could see that its nose was flattened – it was apparently a hollow-point bullet or "exploding" shell, designed to make a hole about the size of an American quarter, or larger. The uses of such shells, outlawed by the laws of war 1/ when full-scale hostilities are in progress, certainly qualify as crimes against humanity 2/ when applied to a civilian population, regardless of the security requirements of a military occupation. 3/ My shock and revulsion at seeing such a weapon used against civilians was amplified when I interviewed the student in the hospital later in the day, and informed him and his doctor about what explosion had torn his knee apart – an exploding bullet, a hollow-point bullet, popularly referred to as a "dum-dum" shell, clearly contrary to the laws of war and of civilization.

But it is not my purpose here to establish the illegality of Israeli means of maintaining public order on the West Bank; I am sure others will address that question, in the context of the Geneva and Hague Conventions, much more ably than I. It is my contention that Order No. 854 violates international law; it is the immediate, repressive impact of 854 which has sparked the conflict I observed, and it is to that law which I consequently address myself.

II. Israeli Military Order No. 854 Contravenes the Hague Conventions Regarding the Conduct of Military Occupation

Article 43 of the Hague Convention of 1907 forbids the occupying power from changing the laws of an occupied territory except for grave necessity (that is, to insure the security of its military forces). 4/ The Hague Convention is recognized by Israel as binding, both formally, and also by means of its state practice.

Order No. 854 clearly alters Jordanian law, which regulates the curriculum, etc., of secondary schools only and has no provision for such regulation at the university level. Israeli authorities contend that Jordanian law did not mention private university education because it meant to discourage the formation of universities other than the public University of Amman, established in 1964 by "the Jordanian University Law No. 17, 1964". The Israeli position appears to adopt the fallacious reasoning of the "negative pregnant" – that is, that which is not permitted is prohibited. A final judgment on the validity of such contention must await the authoritative testimony of a representative of the Jordanian Government. It does not seem reasonable, however, that regulations promulgated to maintain discipline among children of elementary school age would be suitable for a university where academic freedom is considered essential by university faculty and administrators, as well as students, the world over.

Israeli concern over the illegality of amending pre-existing law in occupied territories is revealed by their course of action in adopting Order No. 854. Apparently, three options were considered: (i) apply to private universities like Bir Zeit, which were established informally during Israeli occupation, the provisions of the Jordanian law regarding the public university at Amman; (ii) extend the Jordanian Education and Culture Law (Law No. 16) by adapting it to include reference to institutions of higher education; and (iii) draft new legislation based upon Israeli law. The first option would require that Israel step into Jordan's shoes regarding the control of the universities – a move which would undoubtedly smack of annexation; the third option would be a clear violation of the Hague Convention. Option (ii), the one chosen, resulted in the adoption of Order No. 854, which is a more subtle contravention of the Hague Convention, but a violation nonetheless.

III. What Other Existing Law Might Israeli Military Order No. 854 Alter ?

As mentioned above, Article 43 of the Hague Convention of 1907 forbids an occupying power from changing the laws of the occupied territory. In Part II of this paper, I showed how Israeli Military Order No. 854 changes Jordanian law and hence violates the Hague Convention insofar as the West Bank is concerned. I believe the same point holds true for similar changes in Egyptian law in the Gaza Strip.

A question remains, however, as to whether the laws of Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza Strip) are the only legal systems relevant to our inquiry here. The Hague Convention forbids Israel from changing the law of whatever state or international legal entity was sovereign over the West Bank and Gaza when they were occupied by Israel in 1967. But what state or international legal personality was sovereign at that time? Jordan, for example, has taken the position that its administration of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967 was only provisional in nature, in an apparently fiduciary capacity with respect to the Palestinian people.

Israeli practice on the West Bank, for example, underscores this ambiguity. In an effort to avoid a formal violation of the Hague Convention, Israel administers the occupied territory by using not only Jordanian law, but also the law of the Ottoman Empire and laws promulgated by Great Britain during the Mandatory period (especially the British military control regulations). In other words, Israeli practice reveals a basic uncertainty and indecisiveness on their part. They are apparently unsure of where sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza lay at the time of the Israeli invasion in 1967 – the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain as Mandatory, or Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza).

There are at least six possible candidates for sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza at the time of the Israeli occupation in 1967: (1) the Ottoman Empire (Turkey); (2) The League of Nations; (3) Great Britain as Mandatory; (4) the United Nations; (5) Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza) and (6) the Palestinian people. Some of these possibilities are alluded to in the recent and excellent pamphlet prepared for, and under the guidance of, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, "The Legal Status of the West Bank and Gaza", (1982) at page 8. I plan to explore all of these possibilities in a forthcoming paper.

At the present time, however, I wish only to suggest some of the implications of the third possibility: that Great Britain retained sovereign responsibility (if not sovereign authority) over the territories in 1967, despite its attempt to transfer such authority to the United Nations in 1948. Support for such a proposition would be found in the first and third opinions of the International Court of Justice in the Southwest Africa/Namibia cases. The Court in these cases could not determine whether the United Nations automatically succeeded to the supervisory authority of the League of Nations with respect to unexpired Mandates, and the Court's final decision depended upon a General Assembly resolution formally vesting supervisory authority over Southwest Africa (Namibia) in the United Nations. In other words, what legal basis exists for the transfer of sovereign authority over Palestine from Great Britain to the United Nations ? In the case of Namibia, transfer from the League to the United Nations as supervisor only was accomplished by General Assembly resolution. However, the transfer from Great Britain to the United Nations of sovereign authority over Palestine as Mandatory arguably could not be accomplished merely by Great Britain's withdrawal.

It could be said, in an imperfect analogy between Palestine and Namibia, that General Assembly resolutions were sufficient legal basis for transfer of either sovereign or supervisory authority. In the case of Palestine, at least, sovereign authority transferred would be limited to the terms of the Mandate. Does the United Nations handling of the matter in 1947 and 1948 reveal observance of the Mandate's terms, particularly as modified by the peremptory norm favouring self-determination? These questions suggest that Great Britain may yet bear some responsibility for the present predicament of the Palestinian people.

Article 15 of the Palestinian Mandate, for example, requires, inter alia, "the right of each community to maintain its own schools for the education of its own members in its own language, while conforming to such educational requirements of a general nature as the administration may impose". 5/ In addition, Article 16 further limits the power of the administration in that, absent measures required for the "maintenance of public order and good government," 6/ "no measures shall be taken in Palestine to obstruct or interfere with the enterprise of eleemosynary bodies or to discriminate against any representative or member of them on the ground of his religion or nationality". This is most important for our investigation of the validity of Order No. 854. Finally, Article 26 of the Mandate obligates the Mandatory Power to submit to the Permanent Court of International Justice any dispute which might arise between the Mandatory and any other member of the League of Nations regarding the interpretation or the application of the provisions of the Mandate, provided such dispute cannot be settled by negotiation.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the British government can today be called to account for its present and past failure to protect Palestinian rights guaranteed by the original Palestinian Mandate, in the International Court of Justice, by any nation which was a member of the League – Ethiopia is an example which comes immediately to mind. Jurisdiction is provided by Article 37 of the Statute, identifying the International Court of Justice as the successor body to jurisdiction established in the Permanent Court of International Justice by ad hoc or ante hoc agreement. Disputes under League Mandates, I think, clearly fall within the latter category, as held by the Court in the Southwest Africa/Namibia cases.

Consideration of the possibility that Britain may have had some sovereign responsibility over the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 as a result of its unexpired and unfulfilled obligations under the League Mandate for Palestine raises an important ideological as well as legal point. There are parallels between the struggle of the Namibian people against South Africa and the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israel. Both Palestine and Namibia are former League of Nations mandates which have not yet achieved self-determination (possibly the only two left). Both are illegally occupied by racist régimes, one anti-Arab, the other anti-African. Authority over Namibia was formally granted to South Africa by the League of Nations, an indication of the level of respect the League held for the legitimate aspirations of the subject peoples it promised self-determination. Similarly, the Palestinian Mandate, all promise, incorporated by reference the Balfour Declaration, which also ignored the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people for self-determination. Today, the racist régimes of Israel and South Africa exercise control over these captive peoples in remarkably similar ways – town and house arrests, expulsion, collective punishment, torture.

These similarities are appropriately noted in a seminar taking place in North America. North American public opinion, particularly the opinion of Americans of African descent, has been alerted to the problem of South Africa's illegal occupation of Namibia and the consequent denial of the legitimate aspirations of the Namibian people for self-determination. The alertness of the North American people to the problem of South Africa's illegal occupation of Namibia could facilitate their understanding of Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The above-mentioned parallels between the status of Namibia and the status of Palestine should accordingly be more consciously and consistently drawn.

IV. Summary and Conclusion

I have argued that Israeli Military Order No. 854 violates the Hague Convention of 1907, Article 43, which prohibits an occupying authority from amending existing law. I have also explored the possibility that "existing law" may well include the rights of the Palestinian people under the original League Mandate for Palestine. It is, in this latter context, my contention that the rights of the Palestinian people under the original League Mandate for Palestine are still in effect, and amplified by the since-established peremptory norm of self-determination. These rights could be pressed at the International Court of Justice by any state which was a member of the League of Nations.


1. As defined by the 1912 Hague Conventions, as defined in the formulation of the Nuremberg Principles by the General Assembly and in the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Compare L. Friedman, ed. 1, The Law of War – A Documentary History 3-5 "The ancient Hebrews’ rules governing warfare. As for their immediate enemies, it was permissible to wipe out every man, woman and child … The rules are laid out in Deuteronomy 20 …".

2. As defined in the formulation of the Nuremberg Principles by the General Assembly and in the Genocide Convention.

3. Cf. footnote 4, infra.

4. "Under international law, as an occupant 'is not the sovereign of the territory he has no right to make changes in the laws, or in the administration, other than those which are temporarily necessitated by his interest in the maintenance and safety of his army and the realization of the purpose of the war. On the contrary, he has the duty of administering the country according to the existing laws and the existing rules of administration'." International Commission of Jurists and Law in the Service of Man, The West Bank and the Rule of Law, (from the preface by Nial MacDermot, Secretary – General of the International Commission of Jurists, quoting Oppenheim's International Law, ed. Lauterpacht, 7th ed., Vol. II, p. 437).

5. Argument can be made that Order No. 854 is such a "general requirement", but I do not choose to debate that in this paper. I only propose to show that law proceeding from the Palestinian Mandate would invalidate a requirement as harsh as I allege Order No. 854 to be.

6. I choose not to debate whether public order considerations might justify Order No. 854, but only seek to demonstrate that, without such justification, the Order would contravene the Palestinian Mandate.


Khalil Nakhleh

I. Introduction

In a recent study on "Israeli settlements in occupied Arab lands," prepared for the United Nations' Seminar on the Question of Palestine (Havana, 31 August – 4 September 1981), the sociologist Janet Abu-Lughod wrote: "the parallels between Galilee and the West Bank are of more than passing significance" (page 33). The purpose of this paper is to show that, in spite of the obvious differences in the timing and method of military occupation, the West Bank, in Zionist practice, is treated as another Galilee. The paper will show, further, that the parallels in the Zionist occupation of the two regions of Palestine are not accidental; but they emanate from the singularity in the Zionist purpose of spreading their hegemony over entire Palestine.

The parallels between Galilee and the West Bank (and Gaza) are not unexpected, since the military occupation of the West Bank commenced 19 years after the occupation of Galilee, which was characterized by fairly successful experimentation of military government and control. It is no wonder then that that reservoir of successful military occupation was put to use in a newly-occupied area, whose main ingredient–Palestinian population density in relation to the Jewish state–is similar to that of Galilee. But the parallels go beyond mere successful tactics in control; they expose a Zionist view towards the recently occupied parts of Palestine that duplicates their view towards those parts occupied in 1948, in so far as their relationship to the Jewish state. Hence, it becomes important to explore these parallels systematically, as well as to assess their implications.

Of course, there is no attempt here to claim that similarities exist on all levels between the Galilee and the West Bank. The physical area of the West Bank, for example, is about one and a half times that of the Galilee (5.5 million dunums vs. 3.5 million dunums). Moreover, the West Bank's Palestinian population is more than double that of the Galilee (704,000 vs. 296,100) (Statistical Abstract of Israel 1981: 32-33 and 714). However, two similarities of important implications have to be highlighted for the purposes of this discussion: first, the two regions contain the densest concentration of Palestinian population in Palestine, and second, the two regions constitute the two main limbs of the Arab state of Palestine as it was proposed in the 1947 Partition Plan. As we shall see below, these similarities stand very clearly in Zionist planning and explain to a large degree the parallels in Zionist practice in the two regions.

Although parallels in Zionist practice between the Galilee and the West Bank can be shown to exist on many levels, I plan to limit my present discussion to two major levels: (1) the process of control and spread of Zionist hegemony, and (2) the judaization process and Palestinian depopulation.

II. Control and Zionist Hegemony

The Zionist occupation of Galilee was completed by 31 October 1948, or about five and a half months after the formal establishment of Israel. But the plan to incorporate Galilee into the Jewish state by all means possible was put into effect soon after the 1947 Partition Plan, through the effective use of coordinated and sustained terrorism (Nazzal 1978). Thus, with that mission accomplished, and with the agreement to incorporate the West Bank into the Hashemite Kingdom, the idea for a Palestinian Arab state was aborted.

However, the Zionist strategy of gaining a Galilee devoid of Arabs failed, as it did for the entire country. Of the total population of the Northern District in 1948, about 63 percent were Arabs. They were distributed in 70 villages and towns. For Israeli strategists, therefore, the new situation had serious implications on two counts: control and judaization of the region. It is interesting to note that this situation confronted Zionist occupiers for the second time in 1967, upon the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and that both situations have emerged in the Zionist lexicon as equivalent to the "demographic problem" or the "demographic nightmare."

I shall examine below how such a "demographic problem" was "controlled," and what Zionist plans emerged to eradicate it altogether, in both Galilees.

Controlling Galilee in 1948 where about 58 percent of the Palestinians who remained behind Israeli lines lived, was done directly through a comprehensive military government. The first two years (1948-1950) Galilee was under an outright military occupation. However, officially the military government was established in January 1950, based on the British Defense-(Emergency) Regulations of 1945 (Jiryes 1976: 16). The Regulations gave the military governor the absolute discretion in appointing military commanders, and in entrusting the complete judicial power to military courts.

The control of the military government lasted for 18 long years, until the end of 1966. During that period, the military government relied heavily on selected articles of the Emergency Regulations. According to Jiryes (1976: 17-18), article 125 was the most notorious. Based on this article, the military governor was able to declare any area a "closed area," where entering or leaving it would require a written permit. Consequently

all the Arab villages and settlements in Galilee, the Triangle, and the Negev were divided into small pockets called "closed areas," usually consisting of one or more Arab villages, which no Arab could leave or enter for any reason without first obtaining a written permit from the military governor of the area.

The obvious intention of using this article was to fragment, encapsulate and circumscribe any cluster Arab population in the Jewish state. Since the new military government could not prevent the physical and geographical proximity of the Arab population, it aimed instead at restraining its mobility and its access to job places which were increasingly outside its area of residence. Permits, or access to them, became the symbols of reward and punishment during the first 18 years of military rule.

The other articles of the Emergency Regulations that were used at will by the military governor were Article 109 which allowed the banishment of individuals; Article 110 which allowed the military governor to place individuals under house and/or town arrest; Article 111 which allowed placing individuals in administrative detention; and Article 137 which required licenses for all fire arms.

The military government was so pervasive during those early years of occupation that it affected every aspect of Palestinian life under occupation. Arab villages became the uncontested field where the military governor, or the guntoting "quislings" who worked with him, could spread ruthless terror and total control. In the words of one military governor (as quoted in Jiryes 1976: 40):

[The military government] interferes in the life of the Arab citizens from the day of his birth to the day of his death. It has the final say in all matters concerning workers, peasants, professional men, merchants, and educated men, with schooling and social services. It interferes in the registration of births, deaths, and even marriages, in questions of land and in the appointment and dismissal of teachers and civil servants. Often, too, it arbitrarily interferes in the affairs of political parties, in political and social activities, and in local municipal councils.

The manipulation of the daily aspects of Palestinian village life in Galilee and other dense population concentrations was accompanied, of course, by a total process of land dispossession; by preventing the Arab villager from having access to his land. Facilitated by the military government system, the bulk of Arab land was expropriated during this period. This led Ben Gurion to declare that "the military government came into existence to protect the right of Jewish settlement in all parts of the state" (Jiryes 1976: 53). I shall come back to the discussion of Judaization later.

With the formal dissolution of the military government by the end of 1966, a few noticeable changes took place, such as freedom of movement and the removal of the required written permits to move in and out of Galilee. However, in the place of the military government, a "special duties department" of the police was formed to deal with the Arab population. In many ways, the situation since the beginning of 1967 has been more pernicious. The Emergency Regulations remained in effect, and they continue to be used as the basis for administrative detentions, restricting the freedom of assembly, and house and/or town arrests of individuals. Now, politically "undesirable" individuals and groups are punished under these Regulations (Jiryes 1976: 64-5). The latest in such actions was Begin's banning, in his role as Acting Defense Minister, of a scheduled meeting for the Arab population in Israel from being held in Nazareth to protest Israel's policy towards the Palestinians. (New York Times, 2 December 1980).

Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza came only about six months after the military government over Galilee had formally ended. Thus, after establishing its rule in Galilee for 18 years, the military government apparatus moved to start anew in the West Bank, following a swift and demoralizing military defeat similar to that experienced in Galilee, albeit of a different intensity, duration, and timing. The military's first act, of course, was to establish the preeminence of military rule on the newly-acquired Palestinian land which this time, again, was even less devoid of its Palestinian people. Section 2 of the Proclamation 2 of Israel's Military Command in the West Bank states:

all laws which were in force in the-area on June 7 1967, shall continue to be in force as far as they do not contradict this or any other proclamation or order made by me (the West Bank Area Commander) or conflict with the changes arising by virtue of the occupation of the Israel Defense Forces of the area. (Shehadeh and Kuttab 1980: 18)

Having failed for the second time since 1947 to achieve the Zionist dream of acquiring Palestine without the Palestinians, and having found themselves after their stunning military victory occupying all of Palestine, but with an additional million Palestinian Arabs, the military government issued a series of proclamation whose target was the acquisition of the land and the control of the people. Although they did not rely directly on the 1945 Emergency Regulations, the military proclamations suspended every basic freedom for the newly occupied population in a striking similarity to what was done in Galilee about two decades earlier. Freedoms of movement, assembly, speech and expression, and academic freedom were all affected. By Military Order No. 3, for example, the Military Commander assumed the power to declare certain areas "closed", whereby movement from and into such areas would require a permit. Thus, the whole West Bank is declared a "closed area", and permits to enter it or leave it are given "at the sole discretion of the military governor" (Shehadeh and Kuttab 1980: 71).

Other restrictions on the movement, imposed by a variety of military orders, are: the application of extended curfews, the erection of road blocks, the imposition of house and/or town arrests on individuals, and the prevention of West Bankers from sleeping 1948 areas and vice-versa. These restrictions were imposed and enforced, in tandem with a free and highly sanctioned movement for Zionist settlers, in an onslaught to judaize the West Bank, parallel to that experienced in Gallilee since 1948, but with an unmatched zeal and colonial fervor.

Like Galilee, the military governor assumed full powers that pervaded every aspect of people's lives. Proclamation No. 2, Section 3 states:

Every governmental, legislative, appointive and administrative power in respect of the region or its inhabitants shall henceforth be vested in me [the West Bank Commander] alone, and shall only be exercised by me or by persons appointed by me for that purpose or acting on my behalf (Shehadeh and Kuttab 1980: 101).

Such a proclamation, in effect, vested the Area Commander with full legislative power.

Controlling the two most densely-populated regions of Palestine — Galilee and the West Bank — was achieved in the first instance by the manipulation of existing legal and economic measures, or by legislating new measures for that purpose — in sum, by direct military force. In both regions, however, the military government depended on "quislings" for its eventual hegemony over the region. Kinship ties and the clan structure are used extensively to create agents for the regime in the heart of the occupied population. The creation of the "Village Leagues" in the last three years in the West Bank, whose heads are propped up by the uzi machine-guns of the Israeli army, the accessibility to the military governor, and the economic rewards to the villages that join in, bears a striking similarity to how Galilee was controlled, especially under the military government. Similar processes are at work today in slightly different forms (see: Lustick 1980).

Since the purpose of occupying the two regions under discussion was to complete the Zionist process of establishing a Jewish Zionist state in all of Palestine, and since both regions constituted good agricultural land that is densely-settled by Palestinians, the twin targets of land and people — judaization and depopulation — characterized the practice of Israeli military occupation in both situations. The measures used by the military government to control the Palestinian population in Galilee and the West Bank have the eventual goal of depopulating and judaizing these regions.

III. Judaization

Transforming Palestine into a Jewish entity was a goal long held by the Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency much earlier than the establishment of the state in 1948. Even with the existence of a substantial Arab minority within the borders of Israel, that goal persisted through the sustained expropriation of Arab lands and the simultaneous effacement and destruction of Arab villages and towns. This Zionist view was candidly reaffirmed in 1976 by then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In a meeting between the Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Authorities in Israel and the Prime Minister on 24 May 1976, Rabin reaffirmed that "Israel is a Jewish state whose goal is the realization of Zionist aspirations…" (Nakhleh and Zureik 1980: 214-5). As the chief spokesman of the government, Rabin reiterated the Zionist entrenched position that the Arab Palestinian population cannot constitute a "national minority" in Israel; it can only constitute disparate and fragmented religious or sectarian communities. Like their brothers and sisters in the West Bank and Gaza, therefore, they can be defined only as Arvei Eretz Yisrael (the Arabs of the Land of Israel). While their Jewishness is not sought after, their Palestinianness is denied.

Zionist designs to control and judaize Galilee were hinted at as early as 1937 during Ben Gurion's testimony to the Peel Commission. But since Galilee was Arab, both in terms of the 1947 Partition Plan, and in demographic terms, depopulating and judaizing it were top priority. The first massive attempt to achieve that goal was done during the Zionist military campaign in the second half of 1948, which resulted in the occupation of the entire Northern District, and in the abrupt reduction of the indigenous Palestinian Arab population by about 56 per cent. Simultaneously, of course, there was a 35 per cent increase in the Jewish population of the district, as it is clear from the table below.

Table 1 – Arab and Jewish Population in the Northern District, by selected time periods.







11/ 8/1948**



Difference (%)



* U.N., General Assembly, Ad Hoc Committee, Second Session, November 1, 1947,

Report of Sub-Committee 2 A/AC. 14/32, p.43.

** Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1981: 32, Table II/3

Galilee persisted as number one target for judaization because, until 1967, it was the only region that defied demographically the Jewish character of Israel. (The West Bank and Gaza replaced it in eminence on this score.) Zionist officials made their designs repeatedly explicit. Joseph Mahmani who headed Keren Kayemet Li-Yisrael (Jewish National Fund) from 1935-1965, and who is credited as the architect of the "Project for the Judaization of the Galilee," stated in a memorandum he sent in 1953 to the then Minister of Defense, Ben Gurion, the following:

Though Western Galilee has now been occupied, it still has not been freed of its Arab population, as happened in other parts of the country. There are still fifty-one villages and the city of Nazareth whose inhabitants have not left… The very existence of a unified Arab group in this part of the country is an invitation to the Arab States to press their claims to the area… (as quoted in Jiryes 1976: 105-6)

Zionist view of the required transformation of Galilee transcends the mere demographic distribution. The basis of their characterization of the "problem", for Galilee and the West Bank alike, is anchored in an inherently racist view of the indigenous Arab population of the area. In 1977, in brutal and arrogant candor, then Minister of Agriculture Sharon warned about the Arab "gentile" population, and called for "saving the Galilee" (Al-Ittihad, 12 Sept. 1977). This is the same official, it must be remembered, who is the current Israeli Defense Minister, and whose plan "envisages 2,000,000 settlers in the West Bank alone" (Tamari 1980: 88). Two years following Sharon's warning a high ranking IDF officer expressed the view that the Arabs in Galilee are "cancer" in the body of the state (Haaretz, 30 November – 7 December 1979).

Such pervasive racism is not limited to top government officials, nor to the Arabs in Galilee; it permeates the various levels of the settlement (hitnahlout) project, official and unofficial. The following encounter is an illustration of this view:

In another instance, a peasant asked an official [of the Israel Lands Administration], "What are you offering me? Is my land worth only two hundred pounds per dunnum?" The official replied, "This is not your land, it is ours, and we are paying you 'watchman's' wages, for that is all you are. You have watched our land for two thousand years and now we are paying your fee. But the land has always been ours! (Hanna Naqqara, Al-Ittihad, July 15, 1966, as quoted in Jiryes 1976: 73-74)

The settlers themselves share in this view of total judaization of Palestine, regardless of the region, but with a focused thrust into the two regions under discussion. The words of one settler from Ofra, near Ramallah, are expressive:

I believe that in the final analysis the land of Israel will be predominantly Jewish, and it is in accordance with this belief that I relate to the Arab minority therein… If I could, I would annex all the territory in our hands to the State of Israel today and let the Arabs choose whichever Arab citizenship they prefer… there's nothing wrong with making life difficult for them in the hope that they will emigrate. (Halabi 1981: 208)

Although it is easy for some to dismiss the views of the settlers on the West Bank on the ground that they are religious fanatics or national chauvinists, it is clear from this comparison, however, than not only the official practices are comparable between the two areas, but also are the views of the more "enlightened" settlers in Galilee. In a series of four articles on "Galilee of Arabs and Jews" in 1979 (Haaretz, 30 November – 7 December 1979), Amos Elon focused his journalistic prism on the settlement of Carmiel. As one of the most successful and attractive "development towns" in Galilee, Carmiel was created on expropriated Arab land in 1964. "The relations between Jews and Arabs in Galilee," he writes, "have never been as tense since the establishment of the state as they are today." Elon found that the people of Carmiel (the majority of whom are highly skilled immigrants from Western Europe and the U.S.) share in the expressed characterization that the Arabs in Galilee are "cancer" in the body of the state. He affirmed, further, what every Arab villager in the area knew, that Carmiel "has never become a 'center for services' for the surrounding Arab villages, as it was promised in the beginning, except for its police station!" Furthermore, it was obvious for Elon that Carmiel was created "for Jews only," and that for the villagers (Arabs), it is "the center of unofficial 'apartheid' in the region."

With the formal dissolution of the military government in Galilee at the end of 1966, and with the occupation of new and densely-populated Palestinian areas in 1967, the settlement thrust was redirected to the West Bank. Fearing laxity in the push to judaize the Galilee, a new and more vigorous strategy to expropriate additional Arab lands in Galilee was developed. The strategy for the "Judaization of Galilee" was explained in an October 1975 Ministry of Agriculture publication:

…the special problem of the Galilee region is that the Jewish population is out-numbered by the non-Jewish [sic] population…
It is necessary to change the existing situation regarding the demographic ratio between the Jewish population and the non-Jewish, by means of implementing a long-term development programme…
…Since the fundamental task of the proposal – making Galilee into a region with a Jewish majority – cannot apparently be implemented in the immediate future, the plan was devised to comprise of an early part extending to 1980 and a later stage from 1980 to 1990. (as quoted in MERIP No. 47, p.4)

What of the demographic ratios between Arabs and Jews in Galilee? As indicated earlier, the military occupation of the region in 1948 succeeded in effecting a major blow to the Arab concentration in the entire Northern District. Table 2 describes the demographic distribution in the district since 1948.

After constituting 84 per cent of the total population of the district by the end of 1946, the Arab ratio of the population in the Northern District dropped to 63 per cent in 1948. The military government, armed by a series of lethal legislations designed to expropriate Arab lands, succeeded in reducing the Arab concentration in the district, during the first 13 years, by 20 per cent, while simultaneously increasing the ratio of the Jewish concentration. By 1972, and with the immediate priorities shifting to the newly-occupied areas, the Arab percentage started to increase again.

Table 2 – Population in Northern District, by population group and year*


Population group






Total Jews in country (′000)






Total Jews in district (′000)






% of Jews in district






Total Arabs in country (′000)






Total Arabs in district (′000)






% of Arabs in district






Total population in district (′000)






% Jews






% of Arabs






*adapted from Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1981: 32-33, Tables II / 3, 4.

The figures in Table 2, however, obscure the direction of the judaization thrust in the district, and the success of the military government in the total decimation of the Arab population in same sub-districts. The following table (Table 3) illustrates clearly the targets of the renewed judaization thrust is the Northern District. Only two regions in Galilee still contain a predominant Arab majority: "Western Lower Galilee" — 87.6 per cent, and "Nazareth — Tir'an Mountains" — 74.3 per cent. The rest have been effectively "transformed", or judaized. Indeed, the immediate targets in the 1975-76 expropriations were in Western Galilee and the Nazareth region. Such expropriations were protested by the Arab population in a massive general strike on 30 March 1976, during which six Arabs were fatally shot by Israeli Border Police units.

Table 3 – Population in Northern District, by population group and Sub-District (31 December 1980)*



Northern District

Pop. ('000)

Bedouin Tribes


Pop. ('000)


Safad Sub-District





     – Hula Basin




     – Eastern Upper Galilee





     – Hazor Region





Kenneret Sub-District






     – Kinerot





     – Eastern Lower Galilee





Yizreel Sub-District






     – Beisan Basin




     – Harod Valley





     – Kokhav Plateau





     – Yizreel Basin





     – Menashe Plateau




     – Nazareth-Tir'an Mts.






Akka Sub-District






     – Western Lower Galilee






     – Yehiam Region





     – Elon Region





     – Nahariyya Region





     – Akka Region





* Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1981: 36, Table II/7.

Strongly affected by this course of events, the District Commissioner of the Northern District, the highest ranking official of the Ministry of the Interior whose headquarters is in Upper Nazareth (Jewish Nazareth), recommended in a secret memorandum to  the Prime Minister, inter alia, the following:

Expand and deepen Jewish settlements in areas where the contiguity of the Arab population is prominent, and where they number considerably more than the Jewish population; examine the possibility of diluting existing Arab population concentrations. (Koenig 1976: 193)

In the meantime, the military government in the West Bank was facilitating the judaization of the area with hysteric zeal. It would be intolerable to Zionist planners to allow for another Galilee — more populated, larger and more intact — within Israel's jurisdiction. Thus, Arab lands in the West Bank became the new and explicit target of expropriation in the hope of judaizing the entire region. As it was in Galilee so it is in the West Bank: the actual goal is not the mere creation of Jewish settlements, although this is important.

The intent behind implanting Jewish settlements in the West Bank (outside Jerusalem) is… to take the land, while crowding, isolating, and eventually forcing out its people, whom it never sought to add to the state. (Janet Abu-Lughod 1981: 38)

The latest in a series of "master plans" towards achieving this goal, and which has covertly tied the process of settlement between the West Bank and Galilee, is the plan proposed by Matityahu Drobles for "the development of Settlement in Judea and Samaria, 1979-1983", under the auspices of the World Zionist Organization. Among the principles that guided the plan are:

settlement throughout the entire land of Israel is for security and by right. A strip of settlements at strategic sites enhances both internal and external security alike, as well as making concrete and realizing our right to Eretz-Israel. (emphasis added)
The disposition of the settlements must be carried out not only around the settlements of the minorities, but also in between them, this in accordance with the settlement policy adopted in Galilee and in other parts of the country. (World Zionist Organization 1978: 1; emphasis in original)

It is clear therefore, that what might be called the checkered pattern of settlement — Nazareth vs. Natzeret Ilit, Tarshiha vs. Ma'alot, Western Galilee vs. Carmiel — that has been followed since the fifties in Israel, has been applied in the West Bank since 1967. Not to mention, of course, the parallels in the legal and economic measures that have been enforced to expropriate the lands in the first place.

The singularity in the Zionist design for both regions leads to a situation of "beneficial borrowing": what was tried successfully in Galilee is applied anew in the West Bank, and vice-versa. The plan of erecting "lookouts" (matzpim) which was tried first in the West Bank has been used in Galilee for the last three years. This allows the state, through its military apparatus, to declare an entire area, that has been already confiscated, and that over-looks an Arab concentration, as a desirable spot for a "lookout". This means that without the need for a large number of settlers (which is beneficial in a state of dwindling "pioneers":), a certain area can be claimed and held by the state. In 1979-1980, Galilee was targeted for 29 such "lookouts". The rationale for that was the same as the rationale for the "Judaization of Galilee". A recent Jewish Agency document was titled "The Establishment of Lookouts in the Mountainous Galilee: The Struggle to Protect the Nation's Land and Ensure the Character of the Area for the Future". The title provides ample explanation. The situation, as described in this memorandum, is so severe that it "poses a major threat to the character of the area as part of the Jewish state, to Jewish control thereof, and even to Israeli sovereignty over it". (Halabi 1981: 255)

What seems to be happening is this: a new dialectic relationship has been created between the two Galilees through military occupation. Ruthless military government leads to successful expropriation and judaization of one area (Galilee), which, through a new military occupation of another area (West Bank), leads to a new round of expropriations and judaization. But as we have seen the thrust of judaizing the West Bank has been blamed for the "neglect" and the laxity in the total judaization of Galilee. This, in turn, refocuses the intensity on Galilee. Thus, Amos Elon, in his series on Galilee, claims that Carmiel "was a victim of this neglect". To support his claim, he compared the population figures of the settlement between those projected in the development plan and the actual figures. Whereas the actual population of Carmiel in 1979 (when the series was written) was 13,000, the projected figure was to have been 20,000. Likewise, the difference in 1970 between the actual and the projected figure was about 9,000 (Haaretz, 30 November – 7 December 1979). Of course, it is highly unlikely that the thrust of West Bank settlement was the cause of this "deficit", since other factors were at work here. But what is clear, however, is the fact that these claims and pressures led to a new intensification of the judaization process in Galilee. Had they had the potential settlers, they would not have needed the new plan for "lookouts".

In the light of what preceded, the process of Jewish settlements in the "occupied areas" (the West Bank and Gaza) should not and cannot be viewed as a unique and different stage in the occupation of Palestine. Neither should it be viewed as a mere extension of what happened in Galilee. Controlling and judaizing the Galilee and the West Bank have been informed consistently by the same theory that continues to guide Zionist action: No portion of Palestine can have an Arab majority; Arab Palestinian concentrations have to be fragmented and sliced up; the ownership relationship between the Palestinian and the land ought to be broken; and finally, the land itself, regardless of the population, must become under direct Jewish control. For their goals, Zionist planners could never afford to make the distinction between Galilee and the West Bank; and for our goal towards a successful liberation, neither can we.


Mordecai Briemberg


Canadian trade union policy and actions on Palestine are much less known than they should be, particularly to the very Canadian workers who are members of these unions.

This paper is an initial sketch of the public record. It also is a preliminary effort to explain the more important sources of the stands and activities of the Canadian trade union movement concerning Palestine. And finally, it contains some suggestions, hopefully constructive, that could increase support, in this milieu, for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

This is a sketch in several respects. One of these is that research has been limited mainly to one trade union federation, albeit the largest, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Only minor attention has been given to the record of the Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU) and the largely Quebec-based Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU). Further, some unions have not yet been studied at all, like the Quebec Teachers' Federation. And perhaps it needs be said that this is not a sketch of the positions and actions of the workers' movement at-large. For even all the trade unions together are only one part of the Canadian workers' movement, and not the numerically largest at that, including neither the unorganized nor, generally speaking, the rapidly expanding ranks of the unemployed. 1/

A. Canadian Labour Congress

1. Symbols

The CLC founding convention was in 1956. One "fraternal" delegate and guest speaker at this first convention was Moshe Bar-Tal, a representative of the Israeli organization Histadrut. 2/ Except for two occasions, a Histadrut representative personally addressed every CLC convention. 3/ There is no question that the CLC and the Histadrut have a 'special' relation. Measured by head-table recognition, the Histadrut stands on a part with the American (AFL-CIO), the British (TUC), and the international (ICFTU) union federations. By this measure it stands above the trade union movement of every other country in the world.

The four presidents of the CLC since its founding have been, individually or collectively, recipients of Histadrut awards, guests of Israel of the Histadrut, prominent speakers at Canadian Histadrut events, hosts of Histadrut visitors to Canada. 4/

2. Pronouncements

"At every one of its annual conventions, the CLC has passed strong pro-Israel resolutions that reflected yearly developments in the Arab-Israel conflict". This is the analysis of a major Canadian Zionist group. 5/ An exaggeration, yes; but it captures the essential truth. There were no resolutions concerning Israel passed at the third (1960), the eleventh (1976) or the twelfth (1978) biennial conventions. The resolutions passed at the other ten conventions were most definitely "pro-Israel".

As with any organization, conventions are only one occasion for policy declarations. There are executive meetings, house-organ editorials, briefs to government. CLC officers have used these as well to express and update "strong pro-Israel" stands.

The most prominent and the persistent element of CLC pronouncements since 1956 are: calls for recognition of Israel's "territorial integrity", "direct negotiations" between Israel and the "Arab states", "lifting of the economic blockade" of Israel, "settlement of the refugee problem". These are presented as the essentials to realize peace in the Middle East. 6/

Except for a denunciation of a "murderous attack", the name 'Palestinian' remains unpronounceable in CLC public statements. 7/

1956 was the year of the Israeli-British-French invasion of Egypt. Only a few months before this, at the CLC founding convention, arms sales to Israel were vigorously encouraged and they were qualified as "defensive". Arab arms purchases were condemned as a "grave threat to peace". 8/ In March 1957, the CLC house-organ editorial commented: "However much one may regret the military intervention by Israel, France and Great Britain, in the Suez area last October, there was undoubtedly extreme provocation by Egypt". 9/

This pattern, an expression of 'concern' before the outbreak of large-scale military war and an 'acceptance' of Israeli territorial aggrandisement after the battle, is repeated in 1967. 10/ By 1968, the major Israeli military conquests of the previous June are simply characterized as a "brief Israel-Arab military struggle … (that) has settled down to an uneasy cease-fire with no direct negotiating contacts in sight among nations living in close proximity and who should be sharing a common destiny". 11/ Unlike earlier (1958) United States and United Kingdom invasions of the Lebanon, 12/ which brought forth CLC calls that these foreign troops withdraw; in the case of Israeli invasions, the CLC limits its proposals to the creation of a "buffer zone" under United Nations control. 13/

In 1972, 'concern' has given way to "alarm" about impending war. 14/ And for the first time at a convention there is direct, albeit muted, public criticism of Israeli policy.

Within a more comprehensive resolution, the CLC expresses "concern with the programme of development being undertaken by Israel within that area which it occupied after the "six-day war". Such an investment in these disputed territories will surely add to the difficulty of finding a permanent solution". 15/

With the 1973 war, for the first time, the CLC describes itself as "deeply shocked" and the President writes to the Canadian Minister of External Affairs urging an "immediate cease-fire". 16/

By 1975, but only in an internal document, the CLC makes an unprecedented modification of its public stands. "There are increasing signs that hostilities may resume unless a negotiated settlement which recognizes the right of both Israelis and the Palestinians to a sovereign existence in a peaceful state can be found soon".

The same document outlines other views which, however, did find consistent public expression. Criticism is voiced of "certain" unnamed governments who "have secured the support of a solid block of member states (at the United Nations and United Nations agencies) dedicated to a solution based on a partisan approach to the Middle East". 17/ Is one to infer the CLC author sees his organization promoting a "non-partisan" solution?

Consistent with this internal document criticizing "certain" governments, the CLC President in 1976 declared the will to "fight all moves to implement" the United Nations resolution identifying Zionism as racist. This resolution, President Morris argued, "'legitimized anti-semitism and pogroms against Jews". 18/

In 1977, the executive council of the CLC updated its longstanding opposition to economic sanctions against Israel by "condemning the Arab boycott of Canadians doing business with Israel"; lobbying governments, provincial and federal, to enact "legislation outlawing this type of boycott". Ironically, in the name of trade unionism, the CLC officers argued the boycott "interferes with legitimate business practices" ! 19/

In a 'mini-Camp David' ceremony at the 1980 convention, CLC officers brought the Secretary-General of the Israeli Histadrut Industrial Enterprises (Hevrat Ovdim) and the President of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation onto the same platform. In their resolution of that year, the CLC expressed "support" for the Camp David accords and "look(ed) forward to complete agreement on the status of the occupied territories on the West Bank". 20/

3. Precedents

The "strong pro-Israel" resolutions of the CLC from 1956-80 are not without precedent in the Canadian trade union movement. The two union federations that merged to form the CLC, the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL) and the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC), both frequently espoused Zionist views.

The TLC President (Bengough), the CCL President (Mosher) and the Secretary-General (Conroy) and the Regional Director (Robinson) all were active members of the Canada-Palestine Committee (CPC) formed in 1943 to promote Jewish settlement in Palestine and the creation of a state of Israel. 21/

Statements were made, resolutions were passed, and the federal government was lobbied (e.g. in July 1948 formally to recognize the State of Israel). 22/ One of the first North American trade union officers to travel to Israel at the invitation of the Histadrut was Pat Conroy, CCL Secretary-Treasurer. He visited in 1950 and spoke extensively to union, church and professional groups on his return. 23/

And the precedents go back further yet. In 1939, TLC President Bengough protested, as a violation of the Balfour Declaration, the United Kingdom "White Paper" restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine. 21/ The Balfour Declaration itself had been endorsed at the 1917 convention of the AFL, to which the TLC was affiliated, only a few days after Balfour made it public. 25/

4. Financial support

Has the CLC put money where its mouth is? The Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel speaks of "tangible assistance" and "sizeable purchases" of Israeli bonds by the AFL-CIO. 26/ Those union affiliates of the CLC who have their head-offices in the United States send part of their members' dues across the border. So "tangible assistance" decided upon in the United States comes, in part, from north of the 49th parallel.

On 20 December 1955, less than six months after returning from his first visit to Israel, President David Dubinsky announced that the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) pledged a gift to Israel of $1.1 million. According to his official biographer, Dubinsky estimated that "half of the total would come from the treasuries of the union's locals and joint boards in the United States and Canada. The rest would be sought through voluntary fund-raising drives among the union's members". 27/ In support of the Israeli aggression of 1967, ILGWU purchases of Israeli. bonds that year totalled $1 million. 28/

The mechanisms for fund-raising in the United States within the trade union movement also operate directly and in a parallel way in Canada: the Histadrut (or Gewerkschaften) Campaign, the Histadrut Trade Union Councils and the sale of Israeli bonds. We do know that the Gewerkschaften Campaign in the United States, from its beginning in 1923 until the end of 1967, collected some $73 million. 29/ Precise figures for Canada, however, are not readily available.

According to the Canada-Israel Committee, the "leaders of the CLC have also been actively involved in the establishment of educational projects sponsored by the Histadrut in Israel". 30/ No details are provided, but this most likely has a monetary component. 31/

5. Networks

One expects organizations like the CLC to be part of larger "networks", networks which are influenced by and, in turn, help shape CLC policies and actions.

On the question of Palestine there are at least three important skeins of connexions that merit unravelling: (a) CLC-international trade union federation networks; (b) CLC-Canadian Department of External Affairs networks; (c) CLC-Canadian intellectual networks. Information presently available is far too incomplete for me to satisfactorily accomplish this task. But there is material with which to begin.

(a) CLC-international trade union federation networks

The first director of the International Affairs Department (IAD) of the CLC, Kalmen Kaplansky, said as early as 1957 that the CLC was 'beginning to occupy important positions in the "Civil Service" of the international labour movement'. Kaplansky gave some names and many could be added since then, his own included. 32/ The "international labour movement" referred to was: International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), International Labour Organization (ILO), Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (ORIT). Even preliminary research shows many, particularly those more critical of the CLC, have under-estimated this network.

In a 1979 IAD document we can read: "Recently the ICFTU Group of Workers have not found it so easy to win the crucial elections to the ILO Governing Body, and in 1978, an agreement was concluded between the ICFTU and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity for joint electoral support. The International Affairs Department played a crucial role in the negotiations, following which the Histadrut representative secured election over Arab opposition". 33/

In a public report of an earlier ILO conference (1975), the CLC IAD director frankly recounts how Joe Morris, CLC President until that year, used his position as an ILO committee chairman to manoeuvre against a proposal to admit the PLO to the organization as observer. 34/

And one year earlier, the preceding IAD director Romeo Maione, expressed his dismay that "political problems" like the "policy of discrimination, racism and violation of trade union freedoms and practices by the Israeli authorities in Palestine and in other occupied Arab territories" were even being discussed at the ILO. 35/

(b) CLC-Canadian Department of External Affairs networks.

The first IAD director of the CLC concurrently served as part of Canadian Government delegations to UNESCO (1958) and the United Nations (1963). His successor went from the CLC to an executive position in a Canadian state international agency (CIDA). The current IAD director came to the CLC from a position as executive director of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers. It is under his directorship that a foreign service officer was seconded directly from the Department of External Affairs to a prominent position in IAD.

The foreign policy pronouncements and actions of the CLC are only now beginning to be the subject of study. 36/ The foreign policy-making process of the CLC, and its influence, have been scrutinized even less. 37/ When they are, they likely will become part of the important debates on "tripartism" within the CLC, if only because of the intimate linkages and inter-changes between IAD and External Affairs. 38/

(c) CLC-Canadian intellectual networks

There is a strata of intellectuals within and on the fringes of the trade union movement. Some research and write about the unions. Others command specialized legal and technical knowledge that brings them into close working contact with trade unions as mediators and arbitrators for example. And trade unions directly employ intellectuals to research and publicize 'their case', to represent them in settings where specialized knowledge is seen to be advantageous. This is a strata where ideas on Palestine, just like other concerns to the CLC, circulate and are shaped. And, of course, these intellectuals are part of a broader network of intellectuals at-large, in Canada and to some extent internationally.

It is not without consequence for the shape and the influence of CLC policy on Palestine that the first IAD director had an executive position in the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA), an academic-government 'think-tank' in the area of Canadian foreign policy. Nor that Andy Andras, another CLC-employed intellectual and member of the Zionist Jewish Labour Committee in the trade union movement, was on the Board of Governors of Carelton University in Ottawa, an important Canadian university particularly for government service.

A Canadian publication on the Middle East, initiated in May 1978, says its purpose is to "encourage study and analysis of the social, political and economic issues underlying the conflict areas of the Middle East, with a view to educating the general public …" 39/ Flowery purposes aside, Middle East Focus is a vehicle for pro-Zionist professors, many of them Israelis. It initially had and it still does have on its editorial board academics well-known for their close links with and political histories of the Canadian trade union movement. 40/ Have these editors endeavoured to circulate this journal to the 'general (trade union) public via their CLC networks'

The CLC published a very considerable number of pro-Zionist articles in its (now defunct) house-organs, Canadian Labour and Canadian Labour Comment, particularly from the late 1950s to mid-1960s. 4l/ This was for wide circulation to the membership.

The IAD prints pamphlets, staffs education seminars, prepared course outlines, and mails articles and publications to a considerable number of trade union officials among its affiliates. 42/ Therefore, it merits enquiring what use the CLC today makes of publications like Middle East Focus.

6. Members

Do the public pronouncements of the CLC reflect the views of the members? It would be presumptuous and certainly an error to think there is no correspondence between the consistent and persistent CLC stands and the thinking of sections of the membership. But it also would be presumptuous and in error to claim there is no significant diversity on this question.

Statements on the Middle East that have been passed to conventions are drafted by the CLC International Affairs Committee (IAC), one of the most prestigious convention committees, usually filled by high-ranking officers. Resolutions submitted by individual locals or unions are incorporated into, or modified, or omitted from this report, at the will of the IAC. Unless one has examined all the resolutions submitted by different locals and unions, in their original form, one cannot draw any conclusions about divergences from IAC statements.

Except for the first convention, there has not been very much debate on the section of the IAC report dealing with the Middle East. The recorded comment of delegates, with one modest exception, was overwhelmingly positive; but it also seems to have been dominated by senior officers. 43/

However, at the twelfth convention (1978) the proceedings record efforts by two separate delegates to introduce resolutions of an entirely opposite tenor to those the IAC submitted convention after convention. One delegate called for the CLC to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people and to invite them to address the next convention. 44/ The second delegate called on the convention to condemn the latest Israeli invasion of the Lebanon. 45/ No discussion of or vote on either proposal was permitted, despite protest of these delegates.

There is only one occasion known to me where an open debate occurred on the Palestinian question at a union convention in Canada. This was the 14th convention of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) in 1976. 46/ At the end of a free-ranging and serious debate, two things at least were noteworthy. One was that opinions on the nature of Zionism, the rights of the Palestinians and the character of the PLO were divided, and relatively evenly. 47/ Secondly, the final resolution passed was far more critical of Israel than any presented at a CLC convention. 48/

B. Confederation of Canadian Unions and Confederation of National Trade Unions

Whereas CCU involvement with the question of Palestine has been quite minimal to this point, that of the CNTU has been quite extensive. But the stands both have adopted are closer to one another and quite different from those of the CLC.

Where the CLC maintains almost exclusive relations with Israeli state and Zionist organizations, and never has recognized the PLO; both the CCU and the CNTU have called for recognition of the PLO and do hear representations from Palestinian spokesmen in Canada. 49/

Where CLC expressed support has been overwhelmingly for the Israeli state, CNTU support is expressed for the "just liberation of the Palestinian people". 50/ CLC officers travel to Israel and meet with the Histadrut; CNTU officers have travelled to the Middle East and met with the PLO. 51/ Where CLC officers speak at Histadrut events in Canada, CNTU officers have spoken at Palestinian events in Quebec. 52/ Where at its last convention the CLC was proud to host a mini-Camp David, the Montreal council of the CNTU sent a representative the previous year to an international union conference of solidarity with the workers and people of Palestine held in Syria. 53/

But a word of caution: I have not examined the full record of the CNTU and unfortunately have yet to read a 1978 resolution described as a "move in the direction of moderation in its Middle East policy". 54/ As summarized in a Canada-Israel Committee publication, this resolution may not be poles apart from the internal 1975 CLC document referring to "sovereignty" for "both" Israel and Palestinians.

C. Sources

Numerous books have been written on the connexions of the Canadian trade unions with political parties, particularly the social democratic Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and its successor New Democratic Party (NDP). But none seem to have examined the interplay on the question of Palestine or foreign policy in general. 55/

Still it must be said that the sources of CLC policy and action on Palestine will be poorly understood until due attention is given to social democratic ideology and organization, and their material bases.

To read some of the Histadrut speeches at CLC conventions, and some of the CLC speeches at Histadrut meetings is to discover elements of their shared social-democratic ideology. There is the claim to "democracy" (equated with parliamentarism); the pursuit of co-operative enterprise, workers participation in management and welfare measures; the sense of mission of the 'advanced' (Europeans) to enlighten the 'backward'. 56/

CLC activity within Canada in "pressure group" politics brings it into working relations with Zionist organizations. Again, this occurs in areas of particular social democratic concern: the legislative enactment of welfare and "human rights". 57/

Even the slightest perusal of CCF and NDP policies on Palestine reveals a vigorous Zionism. The CCF was the first Canadian political party to publicly support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. 58/ More than any other Canadian political party, the prominent leaders of the CCF (Douglas, Coldwell, Knowles, Joliffe) were members of the Canada-Palestine Committee to promote a "Jewish homeland". 59/ The CCF was the main political party to prod the MacKenzie King government to give de jure recognition to Israel in 1948. 60/

When the Labour Party of the United Kingdom temporarily lapsed from its stance of undiluted Zionism, after its electoral victory in 1945, Stanley Knowles of the CCF told the Canadian House of Commons his party had cabled Atlee to open Palestine to Jewish immigration. 61/ More Catholic than the Pope, if one might dare to say this of a Canadian social democratic movement quite influenced by Protestantism.

What of Jewish workers as a source of CLC policy? A significant Jewish working-class in Canada was a one-generation phenomenon. It existed mainly in the inter-war period. It had its Labour Zionist component. But this historical period is a relative low point, not a high one, for Zionism. 62/ In fact, when the unionized Jewish working class in Canada was at its largest, so was the active opposition to Zionism. The Canadian Jewish working-class was politically diverse: Zionists certainly, but also Bundists and Communists. 63/

Social democracy provides the main meeting ground for Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and atheist Zionists in the trade unions. This is evident from what we know of the record of the CCF and NDP, as well as the British Labour Party 64/ and the Socialist International. 65/

D. Suggestions

To be brief, educational work among Canadian trade unionists might stress the following three themes:

(a) The severely limited character of the Histadrut as a trade union that defends workers' rights and interests.

As the most concrete representative of Zionism within the CLC, its 'progressive' mystique needs to be exposed and its corporatist character more known and better understood.

(b) The contradiction between giving support to the Histadrut and the Israeli State, on the one hand, and the Azanian, Central and Latin American workers and peasants on the other.

Convention after convention, CLC delegates endorse boycott campaigns and support for liberation struggles in Azania, Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua. But this is done without awareness of Israeli support, including military, for these régimes. Nor is there awareness of how Histadrut 'trade union' activity acts as an arm of this reactionary policy. 66/

(c) The working class character of a significant portion of the Palestinian people, women and men. 67/

Some familiarity with the daily labour and life of working class Palestinians can be a bridge to trade union support and help workers in Canada break with the dominant stereotypes of Palestinians as "terrorists" and "refugees".


1. The Canadian trade union movement today is composed of a number of distinct and sometimes antagonistic organizations. The major trade union federations are: (a) Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), many of whose member unions are headquartered in the United States and affiliated to the AFL-CIO. Founded in 1956, as a merger of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada and the Canadian Congress of Labour, it has 2,369,351 members (1981); (b) Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU), whose member unions are entirely within Canada and exclusively controlled by Canadian members. Founded in 1968, it has approximately 30,000 members (1981); (c) Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU), an almost exclusively Quebec-based federation of independent unions. Founded in 1921 as the Federation of Catholic Workers of Canada, it adopted its present name in 1960. Membership is 20,430 (1981). A significant number of unionists are not part of any larger federation of unions. In all, they may number about 500,000. Finally, only 43 per cent of all male and 27 per cent of all female Canadian workers are members of any union.

2. The Histadrut consistently is presented to CLC delegates as part of the international trade union movement, indeed as the "sole democratic trade union organization in the Middle East" (First convention proceedings p. 92). Emergency resolutions of support for Histadrut have been passed (1962) and its actions praised in CLC publications. The mystique of this organization is such that the Secretary-General of the massive Histadrut Industrial Enterprises sector can speak as a brother trade unionist (1980).

3. At the CLC's 1958 convention, written greetings from the Histadrut were read to the assembled delegates by the Secretary-Treasurer. The other exception was the sixth convention (1966).

4. The CLC presidents have been: Claude Jodoin, Donald MacDonald, Joe Morris and Dennis McDermott (incumbent). Jodoin was the first Canadian to receive the "Histadrut Humanitarian Award" (1960). Joe Morris was honoured with the creation of the Amal Scholarship Fund to train Israeli students for professional and technical study, permanently financed by contributions from Canadian trade unionists (1978). MacDonald visited Israel in 1958, again in 1976 with Morris and McDermott visited in 1973. Regular tours to Israel are organized by the CLC "to promote international understanding and co-operation in the labour movement". The newspaper of the United Steelworkers of America printed a report of the 'sights and briefings' of a recent tour. (Steel Labour, June 1981). This tour comprised 18 people, including an NDP Member of Parliament and a Saskatchewan NDP MLA, a member of the United Automobile Workers of America, a full-time staff of the Steelworkers and others. Jodoin (4 November 1956) and MacDonald (21 February 1959) addressed major Histadrut gatherings in Canada. Hosting Histadrut visitors to Canada is a regular occurrence. The CLC January-June 1980 International Affairs Report, for example, lists the visit of Shimon Avizimer.

5. This statement was made by the Canada-Israel Committee in its publication Canada-Israel Friendship, the First Thirty Years, Bessin and Kaufman editors, Toronto 1979, p. 137 (hereafter referred to as "Friendship").

6. There are two major sources for CLC pronouncements. One is the Convention Proceedings of the CLC which contains transcripts of committee reports, resolutions and debates. The other main source is the official publication of the CLC, Canadian Labour and Canadian Labour Comment, published from 1956-79. See particularly Convention Proceedings 1956, p. 92; 1958, p. 61; 1966, p.71.

7. The first direct reference to the existence of Palestinians in any convention resolution is the CLC executive council emergency resolution at the tenth convention (1974). This was the condemnation of the "Palestinian Liberation Front" for Maalot. (Convention Proceedings, p. 115).

8. First Convention Proceedings, 1956, P. 92.

9. Canadian Labour, March 1957, p. 4.

10. See the ICFTU, 25 May 1967 statement, reprinted in Canadian Labour, Volume 12, No. 6, p. 31; also the report of CLC communications with Ottawa, ibid., Volume 13, No. 5, p. 72.

11. Seventh Convention Proceedings, 1968, pp. 43-44.

12. On 19 August 1958 the CLC executive council called for the withdrawal of United States and United Kingdom troops from the Lebanon and Jordan, and their replacement by United Nations forces. Canadian Labour, Volume 17, No. 3, p. 15.

14. Ibid.

15. Ninth Convention Proceedings, p. 31.

16. Canadian Labour Comment, 2 November 1973, p. 2.

17. "Memo", International Affairs Department of the CLC, 1975, P. 73 (emphasis added).

18. Canadian Labour Comment, 16 January 1976, p. 2.

19. CLC Executive Council resolution, adopted 27-28 September 1977; communicated to CLC affiliate officers, 6 October 1977.

20. Thirteenth Convention Proceedings, 1980, p. 61.

21. Canada and Palestine: The Politics of Non-Commitment, Zachariah Kay, Jerusalem 1978 (hereafter referred to as "Non-Commitment"). In a letter to parliamentarians, the CPC asked them to "give the weight of their names and influence to a policy of the Canadian Government in support of a National Home of the Jewish People". p. 115.

22. The Canadian Unionist, official publication of the CCL, reports on CCL calls for "opening Palestine to Jewish immigration" and a declaration of "sympathy with the effort to opening a Jewish homeland" (June 1944, p.8). The same publication reports that the CCL secretary-treasurer Conroy wrote the Canadian Minister of External Affairs in July 1948 urging official recognition of Israel (September 1948, p. 206).

23. Friendship, p. 136.

24. Non-Commitment, pp. 124-5.

25. Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, Raphael Patai editor, New York 1971, Volume 1, p. 29.

26. Ibid.

27. The World of David Dubinsky, Max Danish, New York 1957, p. 279 (emphasis added).

28. American Jews and the Zionist Idea, Naomi Cohen, USA 1975, p. 139. The ILGWU was noted in the earlier part of the century for its financial contributions. For example, during World War I, $250,000 was given to East European war relief. And in the great US steel strike of 1919, though only 1/25 the membership of AFL affiliates as a whole, garment unions contributed $200,000. This was 24 times the combined contributions of AFL affiliates. Clearly Zionism has not been the only cause substantially supported, though it has made use of this 'tradition'. See "Jewish Labour Movement in America", Moses Rischin, Labour History, Fall 1963, p. 245.

29. The Political World of American Zionism, Samuel Halperin, Detroit 1961, Appendix IV.

30. Friendship, p. 139.

31. Certainly there is the assistance of positive publicity, as for example accounts in 1963 of a Toronto "teacher-headmaster", H. James Elliott, going to Israel to train Israeli teachers (Canadian Labour, Volume 8, No. 2, p. 23). But the Canada-Israel Committee most assuredly is referring to more than this. As seen above (footnote 4), it is funds from Canadian trade unionists that sustains a scholarship fund to train Israelis, established by the Histadrut as an honour to CLC President Joe Morris. Likely, considerably more than this is involved.

32. Kaplansky listed Millard (Director of Organization for ICFTU) and Bury (Assistant Secretary of ORIT). (Canadian Labour, Volume 2, No. 8, p. 34). Since then at least one could add/ Jodoin, Morris, IAD directors of the CLC like Kaplansky and Maoine, and one-time CLC education director Swerdlow.

33. "The International Affairs Department: Into the 1980s", John Harker, IAD director, (internal), 14 September 1979, p. 3.

34. Unlike the AFL-CIO delegates who later left the meeting when the PLO was admitted (246 to 35 with 66 abstentions), CLC representatives remained, though their unabashed manoeuvres were a failure (Canadian Labour,September 1975, p. 10).

35. Ibid., September 1974, p. 21.

36. One notable and excellent exception is a pamphlet just published: Partners in Imperialism, the Canadian Labour Congress and Social Democracy in the Third World, Saskatoon Solidarity Committee, Saskatoon 1981.

37. There has been some study of the AFL-CIO foreign policy-making process, revealing interesting links with those particularly concerned with the Zionist project. Conversely it shows trade union involvement with Zionism is strongly linked to broader anti-communist objectives. See "The AFL Foreign Policy Making Process from the End of World War II to the Merger", Roy Godson, Labour History, Summer 1975. This is not without parallel to the anti-communist elements of the Balfour Declaration. On this see "Gentile Zionism and the Balfour Declaration" by R.H. Crossman, The Commentary Reader, Norman Podhoretz editor, New York, 1966, pp. 284-94.

38. Volume 1, No. 1, May 1978 (emphasis added).

40. Harry Crowe was the "founder" and editor, until his death, of "Middle East Focus, Canada's Magazine on the Contemporary Middle East". In the obituary for Crowe in this magazine, he is lauded as both a labour historian and "fighter" in the struggles of the Canadian trade union movement. He also is identified as the "driving force" behind the Canadian Professors for Peace in the Middle East (CPPME), for which the journal de facto is a vehicle of communication. CPPME was established in the wake of the 1973 war and "Middle East Focus" began publishing in the wake of Sadat's pilgrimage to Israel. One prominent member of the editorial board since Crowe's death is Irving Abella, another noted labour historian. A third Canadian labour historian closely associated with the publication is David Bercuson. Abella and Bercuson both recently have turned to researching aspects of Canadian diplomatic history concerning Palestine and Jewish immigration.

41. Early speeches by Histadrut representatives at CLC conventions were reprinted, as were CLC Presidents' speeches to Canadian Histadrut events. While I have not calculated and compared column inches, it is my impression from reading the CLC's journal that no single other state received such extensive and sympathetic coverage as Israel.

42. See the IAD report, section on education, Canadian Labour, Volume 7, No. 5.

43. That exception was in 1970. At this eighth convention a delegate declared himself in favour of upholding the United Nations resolution calling on Israel to return lands seized in 1967. (Convention Proceedings, p. 52). During a debate on Ireland at the ninth convention (1972), a delegate drew this parallel: "We were rapping the Americans for being in Vietnam; we rap the Israelis for being over in the Arab countries, and I believe it is about time we started rapping the British for being in Northern Ireland". (Convention Proceedings, p. 35).

44. Twelfth Convention Proceedings, pp. 138-9.

45. Ibid., p. 139.

46. Proceedings of the ILWU (Canadian Area), Vancouver 1976, pp. 193-205.

47. The vote on the motion was 31 to 22.

48. It included criticism of Israeli "terrorism", a call for "withdrawal" from territories occupied in 1967, and recognition of the PLO as representatives of the Palestinians. The resolution also criticized Palestinian "terrorism", called for recognition of Israel, and condemned the United Nations stand on Zionism.

49. This was explicitly the case of a resolution passed by the National Executive Board of the largest CCU affiliate (CAIMAW) in 1979. In September 1977, a meeting of the Ontario Council of the CCU passed a resolution calling for the Palestinian people to be represented by the PLO at a proposed "Geneva Peace Conference on the Middle East". This resolution was passed after a presentation by representatives of the Canadian Arab Federation and a "lengthy and informative question period." (CCU Ontario Council minutes, 17 September 1977, p. 2). The Conseil Confédéral of the CNTU in 1976 called for the Canadian government to recognize the PLO. In 1979, the Montreal council of the CNTU sent telegrams both to the Quebec Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Canada, calling for recognition of the PLO.

50. CNTU Executive minutes, 2 March 1970. This was adopted unanimously as a recommendation to the General Assembly.

51. Michel Chartrand and Colette Legendre in 1972. See the report on their trip which they made to the CNTU General Assembly, 5 September 1972, Minutes pp. 39-43.

52. For example, at the 1974 "Quebec-Palestine Week".

53. See the letter, 11 May 1979, from the Montreal council secretary-general to the conference organizers.

54. Friendship, p. 141.

55. Again, a notable exception is the pamphlet, Partners in Imperialism which examines the interplay of NDP and CLC policy in Latin America and Southern Africa.

56. For Histadrut speeches, see Convention Proceedings. For CLC speeches see Canadian Labour, December 1956, p. 22 and March 1959, p. 32 and the Canadian Unionist, February 1950, p. 30 has the text of a speech by CCL executive member, Pat Conroy.

57. Organized Labour and Pressure Politics, CLC 1956-1968, David Kwavnick, 1972, Appendix B "The Web of Inter-group Relations". Canadian Labour, Volume 24, No. 5, p. 5, has an announcement of an upcoming two day conference, including very prominent CLC officers, sponsored by the Ontario branch of the Histadrut. The conference combines these topics: the Middle East, Human Rights, Multi-national corporations and the Third World, the achievements and challenges of the Histadrut.

58. Non-Commitment, p. 93.

59. Non-Commitment, Appendix B.

60. Ibid., p. 65

61. Ibid., p. 101.

62. The Political World of American Zionism, op. cit., Appendix 1 and Appendix 4 respectively give figures for membership and funds raised by Zionist organizations in the United States during the inter-war and post-war period. It is unlikely the trends were different in Canada. Of course, there were Jewish workers earlier, some who laid track for the CPR railroad, and there are Jewish unionized workers today. But this does not deny that the class composition of Jews in Canada has changed drastically from the inter-war period. In 1973, the President of the Jewish Labour Committee was a Queen's Counsel lawyer (Canadian Labour, Volume 8, No. 12, p. 35). Also see The Jewish Community in Canada: A History, Volume 1, Stuart Rosenberg, Toronto 1970, p. 225.

63. There are some 'conversational accounts' of Jewish working class politics in Canada in: Jews: An Account of Their Experiences in Canada, Erna Paris, Toronto 1980, pp. 117-210 and "Portrait of a Jewish Professional Revolutionary: The Recollections of Joshua Gershman", edited with introduction by Irving Abella in Labour/Le Travailleur 1977, Volume 2, pp. 185-213. With Soviet entry into World War II in 1941, Moscow policy towards Zionism (and that of the sycophantic Communist Party of Canada) shifted. Even more recently, Communist Party members in the trade unions have not been noticeably active in support of Palestinian rights. No resolution on Palestine has been considered by the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (IFAWU) in annual conventions from 1968-1980 inclusive. Yet this is a union where Communist Party members are extremely influential. Resolutions have been passed on South Africa, Chile, "peace and disarmament", withdrawal of Canada from NATO/NORAD, support for Angela Davis and the Black Panthers against state repression and protest over British army occupation of Northern Ireland. See IFAWU annual convention reports.

64. An account of the policy of the Socialist International on Palestine can be found in: History of the International, World Socialism 1943-1968, Julius Braunthal, London 1980, pp. 349-365.

65. A documented account of British Labour Party stands on Zionism until the end of the World War II can be found in: The Jews and Palestine, A Study in Labour Zionism, S. Levenberg, London 1945.

66. For example, in Latin America Histadrut's closest relations are with ORIT unions (see: Israel-Latin American Relations, Kaufman, Shapira Barroni, New Jersey 1979, pp. 55-57). It is these same unions in Bolivia that the miner's wife Domitila Chungara denounces as defending the company and the bosses (Let Me Speak, Domitila Chungara, New York, 1978, p. 39). There is an increasing literature on Israeli-South Africa connexions. One early piece is "David and Goliath Collaborate in Africa", Africa Research Group, Cambridge 1969. And since 1973, more than half of Israeli arms exports are to Latin American states, including El Salvador and earlier Nicaragua under Somoza (Israel-Latin American Relations, op.cit. pp. 104-8).

67. Information can be found in: "The Proletarianization of Palestinian Women in Israel", Amal Samed, MERIP Reports, No. 50 and "Transformation of Class Structure Among the Arabs in Israel: From Peasantry to Proletariat", Elia Zurick, Journal of Palestine Studies, Autumn 1976, pp. 39-66.



Mark Solomon

The Middle East policy of the United States, specifically its position on Palestinian rights, reflects powerful domestic and strategic influences. These influences, in turn, have been shaped by dramatically changing political and economic circumstances, internally and internationally.

Since World War II, the United States has accumulated unprecedented economic power and political influence. This power has rested on three pillars – a modified domestic system of social payments which had first been projected as a response to the Great Depression of the 1930s, rapid expansion of economic activity throughout the world leading to the virtual internationalization of United States capital, and the development of a massive nuclear and conventional military establishment. 1/

However, during the early and middle 1960s signs of decline began to appear. The large expenditure required to sustain nearly twenty-five hundred military bases and outposts and to supply the forces of friendly régimes, led to a serious balance of payments crisis for the United States. An expenditure of nearly three-hundred billion dollars to prosecute an unexpectedly protracted war in Vietnam further aggravated the problem. By 1971, the instability of the dollar had contributed to a worldwide capital inflation. 2/

In the middle 1970s, an historic watershed was reached. The collapse of the Portuguese empire represented a major contraction of the frontier for high-profit investment and raw materials extraction which had been vital to western industrialized nations. At that time the United States, because of its reduced power on the Asian mainland, was turning its attention to the Persian Gulf-Indian Ocean region. But this shift was occurring at a time of accelerating social change in this part of the world. Further erosion of the international field of investment and the quest for extractive wealth took place as Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Kampuchea, Afghanistan and Iran underwent social transformations.

During the same period, the internal economic structure of the United States began to stagnate. The impact of intensive militarization of the economy was felt as the civilian sector was steadily deprived of the capital and technological skill needed to compete with modernizing trends in Western Europe and Japan. Gradually, European and Japanese competitors in important civilian industries such as automobiles and electronics began to successfully challenge United States dominance. A seriously complicating factor for the United States economy was the steady growth of the public and private debt. Throughout the postwar era, especially during the last two decades, the American economy had been fueled by massive corporate and government borrowing. Recently, the public debt surpassed one trillion dollars, with the private corporate debt reportedly well over three trillion dollars and climbing rapidly. With an almost unimaginable accumulation of paper claims against production held by major lending institutions, there has been a steady trend towards a "managed depression". This is characterized by a persistent reluctance to invest domestically in new plants and equipment, particularly capital goods, chronically high interest rates, a growing determination to service the debt through unprecedented changes in internal social policy, an increased flight of capital to overseas low wage areas that remain open to such investment, reaffirmation of "vital" economic and strategic interests in developing nations, and an escalation of military expenditures.

The present Administration in Washington represents a significant though now shaky regrouping of the political, corporate and military forces that shape United States policies. In order to counteract a perceived contraction of the international field for capital investment and to contend with the declining profitability of an atrophied internal infrastructure, significant changes are being pursued in tax policy, social policy, governmental structure, and military doctrine. These changes are designed to virtually end concessions granted to labour, to increase the transfer of wealth from the public sector to the private sector through massive military spending, and to rekindle maximally profitable relationships at home and abroad – with a growing inclination to consider the use of nuclear weapons and interventionary forces.

United States foreign policy increasingly rests upon two major objectives – to assure access on favourable terms to mineral resources and cheap labour of the developing sector, and to contain, reduce or roll back existing socialist forms and the trend towards nationalization of resources around the world. In this calculus, stress upon military forces and strategic relationships become so pronounced that they sometimes appear to have a life of their own. In essence, military method becomes political substance. This has often been the case with United States policy in the Middle East; it is also characteristic of the present situation.

On the plane of great power global relations, United States policy has recently passed through clear-cut stages. In the early 1970s, détente, to be pursued through strategic arms agreements with the Soviet Union, was linked to Soviet participation, or at least acquiescence in American efforts to maintain the status quo in developing nations. But political change in the developing sector was unrelated to the intentions of the great powers. With the disintegration of the Portuguese empire in the middle 1970s, the United States offered the Soviets a variation of "spheres of influence", whereby Eastern Europe would be recognized as a Soviet sphere, while Western Europe and major areas of the developing sector would be recognized as an American sphere. Again, such an approach was not relevant to the indigenous processes of social change in the Third World. By 1977, Zbigniew Brzezinski, advisor to Jimmy Carter, proposed that the United States simply exclude the Soviet Union from efforts to solve problems relating to the developing nations. That objective, it turned out, was an essential part of the Camp David accords which formed a cornerstone of United States Middle Eastern policy. 3/

The present Administration in Washington has deepened and magnified certain trends in foreign policy inherited from previous administrations. Nuclear war had already been projected by Jimmy Carter's Presidential Directive 59 as a means of discouraging Soviet and socialist bloc support for national movements by instructing strategic planners to prepare for "limited, prolonged nuclear conflict". 4/ The Reagan Administration has promoted this concept by seeking a new technological plateau of first strike weaponry.

With these global political and strategic considerations in mind, the general character of United States policy is perhaps more readily grasped. The economic and strategic roots of American involvement in the Middle East can be traced at least to the great redivision of the world that was pursued among the victorious powers in World War I. At that time, the United States, riding a new crest of power as the leading creditor nation in the world, pressed into the British and French oil spheres on the Arabian peninsula and other parts of the Middle East. 5/ That was the start of relatively uninterrupted American participation in the exploitation of the region's resources. Unprecedented profits were the result of growing involvement in the refining, transport, and distribution of oil by American corporations.

In light of the global contraction of unimpeded access to resources and internal pressures for profit maximization in the recent period, Middle East oil has played an increasingly important role in United States global policy. Oil has also become a critical element in assuring the economic viability of the United States' trilateral partners, Western Europe and Japan. Today, American policymakers continue to pay close attention to the flow of oil to its partners, particularly through the sensitive Persian Gulf. This is undertaken partly for economic reasons, but also out of strategic considerations. The United States is now attempting to consolidate its role as the guarantor of oil to its partners, and, at the same time to discourage the latter's quest for alternative energy sources, especially the natural gas pipeline linking the USSR with Central and Western Europe. This insistence upon a guarantor role is aimed at maintaining leverage against efforts by America's allies to adopt independent political and strategic approaches, either in the Middle East or on a global scale.

Oil is also presently a critical resource in literally fueling a huge United States-NATO military force, as well as the basis for arms purchases by conservative oil states from the United States of America, for purchase of multi-billion dollar American construction contracts and for far-flung, varied economic activity by internationalized United States firms in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region.

With such economic, political and strategic stakes in the Middle East, the United States has sought to exercise strong pressure against movements fighting neo-colonialism and advocating radical social transformation. For American policymakers, this has required a rollback of existing and potential Soviet influence in the developing sector as well as prevention of internal revolutions. In seeking these ends, there has been a persistent quest by the United States for military allies and military surrogates. In the 1950s, as Great Britain's role as regional policeman declined, the United States filled the void. In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, echoing the "Truman Doctrine" of 1947, declared the "Eisenhower Doctrine" against" communist revolution" in the Arab world. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sought to create anti-communist military alliances among conservative regional states to crush the object of grave concern – national independence movements. 6/ That policy has been pursued rather undeviatingly through a series of "doctrines", culminating in the "Carter Doctrine" of February 1980 which declared that the United States of America would use military force to protect unspecified vital interests in the Middle East against alleged outside aggressors. Five days later, Defense Secretary Harold Brown announced his less-publicized "Brown Doctrine" which questioned the implied assumption of President Carter that Soviet expansionism was the essential threat to stability in the region. He contended that internal "turbulence" was the greatest menace to America's vital interests. This foreshadowed the "Reagan Codicil" of October 1981. Under this declaration, United States military forces would be employed in the Middle East not only to combat external threats, but to counter internal challenges to America's interests.

In the process of cultivating strategic surrogates, the United States assisted the Shah of Iran in creating a vast military force against revolution in his own land and elsewhere, while arms sales throughout the region recycled petrodollars and linked United States and client military régimes in a series of strategic alliances.

But at the heart of the quest for strategic allies in the region is the United States-Israeli relationship. Since Israel abandoned the last vestiges of non-alignment in the late 1940s and early fifties, it has received nearly ten billion dollars in United States military equipment, and currently receives approximately one-third of all United States foreign aid. Nearly half the debt for Israel's purchase of military goods has been forgiven by the United States Congress. No other nation has been saturated with such arms on such favourable terms.

These arms deliveries are not narrowly conceived in terms of defense. In the words of sociologist James Petras: "Israel's relevance to military planners revolves around its role as a political contraceptive against revolutionary nationalist movements in the Middle East". 7/ Regionally and globally, an immediate consequence of American-Israeli strategic alliance has been United States support for Israel's persistent assault upon Palestinian rights. In essence, the American desire to undermine regional national movements and Israeli efforts to rupture and eliminate Palestinian aspirations have become fused. Middle East specialist Leila Meo has pointed out that "… the United States provided the financial and military muscle for Israeli policy-makers to absorb Arab lands, to trample upon the rights and aspirations of Palestinians … Israel with unlimited United States military and financial aid has consistently defied United Nations resolutions on the restoration of Palestinian rights, has encroached on other Arab lands, and has used its command of Arab skies and its over-supply of United States bombs and bombers to kill or maim hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in Beirut and elsewhere…". 8/

In August 1979, Ronald Reagan outlined his expectations for further development of the "special relationship" between the United States and Israel. Israel was perceived as a more internally coherent and stable society than the Arab states of the region and thus able to fulfil three inter-related functions: to gather and exchange intelligence; to allow the United States to utilize its technological expertise and services; and to participate in unspecified activities outside its frontiers in the event of a United States-Soviet crisis. 9/ Globally, the United States-Israeli relationship has been strengthened through Israel's role as direct arms supplier to embattled conservative American allies from Central America to Africa to Asia.

Against this background, a succession of administrations in Washington has demonstrated persistent tolerance for Israel's truculent activities in the region. The Israeli raid on Beirut on 17 July 1981 which killed and maimed hundreds of civilians brought a temporary delay in arms shipments but did not evoke official condemnation from Washington; Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights brought a suspension of an agreement on strategic co-operation, but the tepid and temporary character of that action is underscored by a United States veto of a Security Council resolution calling for sanctions against Israel. That veto was followed by a visit to the area by Secretary of State Alexander Haig who sought to mend relations with Israel. Periodic visits to the region by special envoy Philip Habib in the midst of recurring crises have been aimed not at altering Israel's opposition to Palestinian self-determination or changing its hostility towards its Arab neighbours, but at easing Israel out of provocative military actions that were considered ill-timed from a tactical standpoint. The Camp David accords were designed not to pressure Israel into a comprehensive settlement, embracing the solution of the Palestinian question. Rather, it was a military arrangement – a disengagement of two hitherto antagonistic American client states – replete with secret military provisions, including the introduction of United States-led "peacekeeping" forces in the Sinai, new sophisticated military equipment for Israel, and American technicians and advisors to upgrade the Egyptian armed forces. The accords denied a role to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Syria, and sought to eliminate the Soviet Union and, consequently, the Geneva Conference from influence in the peace process. 10/

But the Camp David accords do not represent a single track system of United States alliances in the Middle East. United States Middle East policy has been heading for some time in the direction of Alexander Haig's announcement on 19 March 1981 that the policy would concentrate upon the development of a "strategic consensus" to oppose an alleged Soviet threat in an area extending from Pakistan to Egypt, and including Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. This suggested a more complex, textured policy that upgraded military co-operation with Saudi Arabia and other nations to complement the relationship with Israel.

In order to understand this development it is necessary to briefly return to the middle and late seventies. In his recently released memoirs, Years of Upheaval, Henry Kissinger quotes a revealing conversation with Chinese premier Chou En-lai in which Kissinger admits that détente with the Soviet Union was being pursued to "ensure that the United States was not paralyzed by public or allied pressures denouncing it as the cause of tensions". A policy of negotiations with the Soviets was designed to play for time and to gain "the freedom of manoeuver we need to resist in those places which are the most likely points of attack or pressure". Kissinger indicated that he and President Richard Nixon "agreed on the importance of Turkey, Pakistan and Iran", but complained that there was little domestic support for embracing unpalatable allies "in terms of the world balance of power". 11/

But forces and conditions were emerging to redirect great power relations. In the midst of the presidential campaign of 1976 a blue-ribbon "Team B" of non-governmental cold warriors, appointed by then-CIA director George Bush, "discovered" an alleged growing differential between Soviet and American military spending. A new gap was proclaimed and a variety of anti-communist forces in government and private life was coalescing to pressure public opinion and to rekindle a new cold war. While the Clark Amendment prevented the introduction of United States forces in Angola, groundwork was nevertheless being laid to respond to alteration in the balance of power in the Horn of Africa as revolutions in South Yemen and Ethiopia progressed. The oil embargo of 1973 loomed larger as a reminder to America's European allies that the Persian Gulf and the fragile conservative states of the Peninsula were of paramount importance.

On 1 October 1977 there appeared an echo of a fading détente. A joint Soviet-United States statement called for an international peace conference to include Israel, the PLO, Syria, the United States and the Soviet Union. The principles of the proposed conference included Israeli withdrawal from all territories illegally seized in 1967, the right of the Palestinian people, represented by the PLO, to self-determination, and the right to secure borders for all countries in the region. But the United States quickly abandoned that approach and machinery was put in motion which led from Cairo to Jerusalem to Camp David. The Joint Statement was ultimately utilized not by American policymakers to foster a peaceful settlement, but to panic conservative regional allies into a tightening military alliance augmented by increased armaments for Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia. There was now an emerging strategic triad suspended by F-16, F-15 and F-5E fighter planes now saturating the Middle East. A linkage of arms sales among hitherto regional antagonists was established as a cornerstone of United States policy while congressional and administration leaders rallied to hold in check a hitherto powerful Zionist lobby. The rationalization for such a policy was the threat posed to American interests by revolutions in Ethiopia and South Yemen and unrest in other countries of the region.

Concern over the Persian Gulf area deepened to alarm in 1979 when the Islamic revolution swept the Shah from Iran. George Ball, a representative of the characteristic conjunction of big business and the State Department publicly complained that events in Iran invalidated the "Nixon Doctrine" which implied "stuffing a backward state with massive quantities of arms". 12/ A growing crisis required plans for direct interventions. Zbigniew Brzezinski undertook a military review which resulted in plans to expand American naval forces in the India Ocean and accelerate "contingency planning" for intervention in the Gulf area. While surrogates would continue to be sought, there was a return to the directly interventionist "fire brigade" approach that had been practiced by the Eisenhower Administration in Lebanon in 1958. Relatively large-scale United States military forces were introduced into the region with a two-phased "Operation Bright Star" in the shadows of the great pyramids of Egypt. A "Rapid Deployment Force" (RDF) was launched by the Pentagon, making available for attack in the Middle East thirty-three thousand paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, two marine divisions (twenty-thousand men each), six-hundred to one-thousand fighters, bombers and other aircraft, seven-hundred cargo planes, tankers and troop carriers, two to four aircraft carrier groups plus a command vessel with three destroyers. 13/

The Rapid Deployment Force was inaugurated to contend with what Zbigniew Brzezinski called an "arc of crisis" through the region, created by Soviet pressures. 14/ But the "arc" was increasingly defined by internal upheavals. The Mosque seizure at Mecca underscored instability in Saudi Arabia; disquiet over an attempted coup in Bahrain led to Pentagon speculation over "a master plan to create disturbances in a number of other Persian Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia". 15/ A tripartite pact of Libya, South Yemen and Ethiopia according to the Boston Globe has obliged Rapid Deployment Force planners to add to the alleged Soviet threat "the additional task of assessing ways to conduct subversion by lesser powers in the India Ocean theater – with Libya's activities among those under study…". 16/ Amidst talk of "Iranian-trained Moslem extremists" bent on plunging Saudi Arabia into chaos, Pentagon strategists began to place less emphasis on direct Soviet intervention in the area, which in the words of an unidentified Pentagon analysis "looks like the least likely threat", and instead stressed internal upheavals – all of which are generally defined as "communist inspired".

Thus, Alexander Haig's "strategic consensus" against communism is an effort to utilize a variety of military options including direct intervention and surrogates to eliminate unwanted social change, especially in the Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf theater.

The Pentagon recently called for a "two war strategy", which Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger characterized as the ability to conduct warfare on NATO's central European front while also "securing access to the oilfields in that context". A one hundred and twenty billion dollar building programme for the Navy reflects the Administration's determination to maintain maritime superiority, especially in the sea lanes to Europe and the Middle East. In the Middle East, greatest stress is placed upon "assured, continuous access to the Persian Gulf", and a land "presence". Secretary Weinberger, in a statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee on 4 March 1981 stated: "We cannot deter a Soviet effort from seven thousand miles away. We have to be there". 17/

Thus, the Pentagon has negotiated airfields and ports for use of RDF striking forces -.on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt at Ras Banas, at the Somali port of Berbera near the mouth of the Red Sea, at Masira off the coast of Oman, at Seeb near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, and at Mombasa, Kenya. In recent days, Weinberger, whose Bechtel corporation has a major stake in Saudi Arabia, obtained a Saudi commitment to form a joint American-Saudi committee to coordinate military efforts. Alexander Haig concluded a similar agreement with Morocco and made progress in gaining access to Moroccan air bases. At the same time Weinberger pressed the Sultan of Oman for a joint military committee and attempted to persuade King Hussein of Jordan to depend upon the United States for new armaments.

These significant tactical moves have obliged the United States to escalate its military relationship with Israel in order to allow the latter to maintain its military advantage and special relationship with its American partner. After the sale of sophisticated advanced warning (AWACS) aircraft to the Saudis, the United States concluded an agreement on strategic co-operation with Israel against various Soviet threats to the region. A policy role for Israel was formalized in an agreement to co-operate on military assistance, to "conduct joint military exercises, including naval and air exercises in the eastern Mediterranean", and to "provide each other military assistance to cope with threats to the security of the entire region". While the bulk of the document remains secret, a public memorandum alluded to "the establishment of joint readiness activities, including access to maintenance facilities". The Boston Globe added that "presumably this could mean that United States warplanes and warships might be serviced in Israel …". That newspaper concluded, "the United States has supplied arms to Israel, has supported it diplomatically and logistically in its wars with Arab countries, has informally exchanged intelligence with it and has received from it captured Soviet-made arms for analysis. But never before have the two countries agreed formally to act militarily". 18/ In addition, reports persist that the secret agreement provides for Israeli air cover for RDF units, a military hospital for RDF forces, and Israeli access to American intelligence photographs. Technically, this agreement is currently suspended in response to the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. But past practices strongly suggest that the agreement will be quickly reinstituted.

The "strategic consensus against communism" is based on the assumption that the countries of the region will subordinate their regional concerns about the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue to a global concern over an alleged Soviet threat. But while the regional question remains most pressing, the "community of (anti-communist) interest" promoted by the United States appears to be an unpromising crazy quilt of Camp David and the faltering Palestinian "autonomy" issue, the preservation of Israel's qualitative military superiority, a heightened emphasis on military support for friendly regimes in the Gulf, and accelerated plans for direct American interventions.

But this is a prescription for more bloodshed and for a continuing denial of Palestinian rights. At the core of the policy is a military response to growing regional aspirations for self-determination and nationalization of resources. Part of that core is a continuing hostility to the Palestine Liberation Organization which is perceived by United States policymakers as the cornerstone of regional and external radicalism. Yet the stability of the region, the achievement of peace, and the attainment of an environment in which all inhabitants can live as a community, depend upon the realization of the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

The dynamics of the "strategic consensus" work against that goal. Every military step against change in the Persian Gulf – Indian Ocean theatre, in the name of the "consensus" inevitably balanced by an American acceptance of growing Israeli combativeness, more arms to that favoured ally, and continuing dependence on the fading and sterile Camp David formula. Growing regional strategic co-operation between the United States and its partners has actually ushered in more instability – punctuated by the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, the July 17 raid on Beirut, the annexation of the Golan Heights and now, by ominous signs of an impending large-scale Israeli attack on southern Lebanon. 19/

The Palestinian question cannot and will not recede under the billowing smoke of "strategic consensus". The interest of the peoples of the region run counter to its escalating arms build-up and the hovering presence of the Rapid Deployment Force. Failure to resolve the Palestinian issue along lines embodied in various United Nations resolutions will only exacerbate the crisis and drive a deeper wedge between contending forces in the region. Ironically, "strategic consensus" may well be a major casualty of failure to realize the demands of the Palestinian people.

Despite the seemingly awesome display of military power that anchors current United States policy, a haunting shakiness is increasingly apparent. It is now reported that Secretary Haig is persuaded that post-Sadat Egypt may abandon Camp David and rejoin its Arab neighbours after the projected Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. American policy which sought to isolate the Soviets has resulted in a considerable isolation for the United States. Europe shows growing signs of pressing for its own independent approach to the regional crisis, including a clear commitment to Palestinian self-determination. The PLO has emerged from recent engagements significantly strengthened.

While the economic, military, and political forces that shape United States policy in the Middle East are extremely powerful, the historic record and the present situation does not suggest a fatal determinism. The very complexity of the situation and the constellation of interests working for a just solution to the Palestinian question and for peace are strong and may yet prevail. This prospect should be a guide for all who continue to work for peace and justice.


1. Cf. Lloyd C. Gardner, Walter F. LaFeber, Thomas J. McCormick, Creation of the American Empire (Chicago, 1973), pp. 443-515.

2. Paul M. Sweezy, "The Present Stage of the Global Crisis of Capitalism", Monthly Review, vol. 29, no. 11 (April 1978), pp. 4-9.

3. Cf. Henry Trofimenko, "The Third World and U.S.-Soviet Competition: A Soviet View, "Foreign Affairs" (Summer 1981) pp. 1021-1040.

4. For an extended discussion of Presidential Directive 59, cf. Michael Myerson and Mark Solomon, Stopping World War III (New York, 1981) pp. 9-31.

5. Gardner,, op.cit., pp. 364-366; Carl Parrini, Heir to Empire:United States Economic Diplomacy, 1916-1923 (Pittsburgh, 1969), passim.

6. Leila Meo, editor, U.S. Strategy in the Gulf: Intervention Against Liberation (Belmont, MA., 1981), p. 9.

7. James F. Petras and Roberto Korzeniewica, "U.S. Policy Towards the Middle East", Ibid., p. 70.

8. Meo, Ibid., p. 8.

9. Washington Post, August 15, 1979.

10. Cf. Fayez A. Sayegh, "The Camp David Framework for Peace: An Agreement on Procedures or a Declaration of Principles ?" in Faith Zeady, Editor, Camp David: A New Balfour Declaration (AAUG Publications, February 1979), pp. 13-33.

11. Serialization of Years of Upheaval, Boston Globe, March 8, 1982.

12. Boston Globe, April 2, 1979.

13. Meo, op.cit., pp. 1-11; Grand Strategy: Counter Currents, vol. 1, no. 5 Sept. 1, 1981), p. 2.

14. Cf. Georgi Arbatov, "US Foreign Policy at the Onset of the 1980s," in Peace and Disarmament Research Council, editors, Peace and Disarmament (Moscow, 1980), p. 67. In commenting on the "arc of crisis", Arbatov notes: "… has anyone noticed that a large part of the curve invented in Washington goes along the southern border of the Soviet Union, through the region that is extremely important for the security of the Soviet Union, for its vital interests?".

15. Boston Globe, February 12, 1982.

16. Ibid.

17. Quoted in Grand Strategy, op.cit., p.2.

18. Boston Globe, December 1, 1981.

19. Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arens warned of an Israeli attack on Lebanon. Boston Globe, February 26, 1982.


Gail Pressberg

"For Americans, the Middle East will be to the 1980s what Indochina was to the 1960s."

The former State Department officer who uttered this remark several months ago hastened to add that he did not mean to imply that American boys would be fighting a war in the Middle East during the coming decade. Rather, he believed that Americans' attention would be riveted to this far-away region to a degree not seen since the height of the Vietnam War. His reasoning was clear enough. During the 1980s, the Middle East, he declared, would continue to be the most volatile and important region in the world.

Its importance is eloquently illustrated by the map of the world's proven oil reserves. It shows that 64% of the West's crude oil is located in Middle Eastern countries belonging to OPEC; and, if broken down farther, it would show that one country alone, Saudi Arabia, holds 30% of the oil now available to the West. The United States meanwhile, which consumes about 1/3 of the oil bought be the West has less than 5% of the world's oil reserves.

A second map illustrates in a more vivid way how oil flowing from the Gulf has expanded in a decade. The widths of the arrows are proportional to the actual volumes of oil and petroleum products shipped in oil tankers and pipelines.

Thus the Middle East's obvious importance. The volatility of the region is well-known too. The conflict familiar to most Americans is the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian dispute, but while it is the most significant conflict, with repercussions far beyond Israel and its Arab neighbors, it is not the only one that threatens to erupt into war. According to U.S. officials, there is a so-called arc of crisis, extending from Morocco in the west to Pakistan in the east, and from the horn of Africa in the south to Turkey at the northern rim. Within this area, which includes countries that have never been considered part of the traditional Middle East, there are countries threatened with civil war, separatist movements, rebellions, countries with irredentist designs on neighboring territory and countries whose woes almost defy description.

An observer might initially assume that the United States — a country which avows a stake in keeping the area stable and peaceful — is at the forefront of attempts to resolve regional disputes equitably, with dispatch, and without the resort to force. But in point of fact, the United States for more than a decade has been the main supplier of arms to many of the countries in the region, and currently is the one outside power likely to boast about its power to intervene. These militaristic policies were not initiated by the current administration, but it has faithfully followed the footsteps of its predecessors

World Proved Crude Oil Reserves

Jan. 1, 1981 – Billion Barrels

Source: World Energy Outlook 1981-2000

Standard Oil Company of California, May 1981


Source: Middle East Oil, Exxon Background Series, September 1980

In recent weeks the Reagan Administration has (a) engaged U.S. forces in a military exercise in Egypt, code-named "Bright Star". The announced high-point of the exercises occurred when six B-52s flew 7,000 miles non-stop from their base in North Dakota to drop 500-pound bombs in the Egyptian desert, (b) asked Congress to pass a foreign aid bill that authorized more than $5 billion in arms aid for fiscal year 1982, the bulk of it targeted for the Middle East, and (c) declared that "it would not permit" Saudi Arabia to become "another Iran".

Three centuries ago the English poet, John Milton wrote that, "The beginning of all war may be discerned not only by the first act of hostility, but by counsels and preparations foregoing." If Milton is right, and history bears him out, then the United States may well become embroiled in a Middle East war sometime this decade because of the militaristic bent to its current policy.

To understand how the current state of affairs has come to pass, it is necessary to review the strategic history of U.S. policy toward the region.

Origins of U.S. Policy

The United States began to evince more than a passing interest in Middle Eastern affairs once it became clear, in the early 20th century, that vast oil deposits were to be found there. Oil, after all, had emerged as one of the world's most precious resources. It translated into economic health and political strength, a fact not lost on any industrializing country.

Yet initially the U.S. interest in Middle Eastern oil was primarily commercial and not strategic. Unlike European powers such as Britain or Germany, the United States had more than ample oil reserves within its own borders. When contemplating the oil reserves in the Middle East it did not see a resource that was crucial to the smooth functioning of the U.S. economy. Rather, the U.S. government simply saw an economic opportunity that should be open to participation by American companies.

Through accident and design, however, the British had managed to monopolize the oil-rich Middle East by 1919, holding all the worthwhile concessions. Spurred by U.S. companies, the U.S. government protested the actions of its erstwhile ally. The United States correctly pointed out that it had fueled the Allied victory in World War I with large quantities of oil from U.S. reserves, and insisted that it was now entitled to a share of the Middle East's oil. After years of stalling, the British eventually agreed, and in 1928 the famous "Red Line Agreement was reached. For more than two decades this document served to divide up Middle Eastern oil between U.S. companies and their European counterparts.

With the advent of World War II, the U.S. government's perception of the region and its importance began to shift, albeit slowly, under the prodding of the American companies with oil concessions. The companies told the Roosevelt Administration of fabulous oil reserves beyond what anyone had imagined. A study commissioned by the Department of Interior found that indeed, the center of the world's oil production was bound to shift to the Middle East within the decade. The U.S. government began to take the diplomatic and political steps necessary to protect what had become a wartime strategic interest. It opened embassies, established diplomatic relations, provided Lend-Lease Aid, and sought military bases in the region.

After the war, U.S. interests might have been expected to revert back to being strictly commercial. But they did not, and the reason was the need to rebuild the economies of war-devastated Europe and Japan. U.S. policy-makers perceived that unless rapid economic recovery took place in these countries, political sentiments seen as adverse to U.S. interests could become predominant. Two ingredients would be needed to rebuild these countries: large capital flows and inexpensive, easily obtainable energy. The United States could provide the former (and did, in the form of the Marshall Plan) but only the Middle East had the capacity to slake the thirst of oil-poor Europe and Japan. Middle Eastern oil became a strategic necessity for the United States since it was integral to the kind of economic and political system the United States was determined to build in the West. Consequently preserving control over the region's oil became a fundamental preoccupation of successive Presidential administrations.

At almost the same time the United States decided that Middle Eastern oil was a geo-political interest of the highest order, an event in another part of the region posed a vexing dilemma for U.S. policy. This event, of course, was the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.

By the traditional calculus of foreign policy it would seem as though there was really no dilemma. Oil was acknowledged as a vital strategic interest to the United States, and access to it necessitated smooth relations with the Arab oil producers. Israel, on the other hand, had no oil and demonstrable U.S. support for the nascent state carried the risk of alienating important Arab states.

Yet to the considerable chagrin of the State Department, President Truman moved quickly to recognize the Jewish state. His reasons were based on moral concerns and the domestic political situation. The Holocaust in Europe during World War II had engendered a deep sense of guilt in the West, and Truman, among many others, believed that self-determination for the Jewish community in Palestine, which included many holocaust survivors, was some recompense. Additionally, Truman faced a difficult re-election battle in 1948 and recognition of Israel promised to win him increased support from the American Jewish community, a politically active and perhaps crucial segment of the electorate.

Thus, as the 1940s drew to a close, the two fundamental — yet seemingly contradictory — aims of U.S. policy toward the Middle East were in place: access to oil, and support for Israel. It would fall to U.S. policymakers to juggle these interests and keep them from colliding.

Cold War Battleground: The 1950s

During the decade dominated by the Cold War, U.S. policy toward the Middle East (and elsewhere) was characterized by the tactics of "containment". The U.S. government, in effect, sought to cordon off the Soviet Union and prevent it from expanding beyond the areas it already influenced. To accomplish this aim the United States dispensed substantial military and economic aid to countries "threatened" by Soviet expansionism, and sought to conclude bilateral defense pacts or regional alliances with countries on the rim of the Soviets.

Indeed, it could be said that the containment policy of the 1950s had its origins in the Middle East. One of the very first postwar conflicts between the wartime allies was over the continued presence of Soviet troops in Iran after the shooting war had ended. The Soviet Union also tried to establish a favourable regime in Iran's northern Azerbaijan province, but this effort collapsed when Soviet forces were withdrawn in 1946 under pressure from the United States and United Nations. Soon afterwards, of course, there were political crises over Turkey and Greece. All these conflicts on the rim of the oil-rich Middle East, together with events in Europe, prompted President Truman to enunciate the Truman Doctrine in 1947, the first express statement about containment of the Soviet Union.

The most serious threat to Western access to oil, however, did not come from the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. Rather it came from nationalist forces that were ascendant throughout the Middle East, as well as most of the emerging Third World. Iran is a case in point.

In 1951 the Iranian Parliament voted unanimously to nationalize the main source of their country's wealth, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a British-controlled entity that retained the exclusive concession to all of Iran's oil. The vote began a 2 1/2-year crisis that would seize the attention of all the Middle East oil producers, and ultimately, serve as a lesson to remember lest they be tempted to follow the same path.

The British naturally resisted the attempt to relieve them of this lucrative concession and announced an embargo of all Iranian oil in retaliation. They were aided in this task by the American oil companies, who were worried about the Iranian nationalization of oil set an example in the Middle East and lead to the loss of the exclusive American concession in, say, Saudi Arabia. Since between them, the British and Americans literally controlled the international trade in oil, the oil boycott was effective and Iran's oil production virtually stopped.

Premier Mohammed Mossadegh, a leader of the forces bent on nationalization, appealed to the U.S. government to force American companies to lift the boycott. Washington did send a mediator to try and resolve the dispute but his efforts soon came to naught once it became clear that his sympathies were firmly with the British. Moreover, the U.S. government stopped all bilateral aid to the Iranian government in a further attempt to make the economy scream and the Iranians capitulate.

The crisis was finally resolved when the British and Americans resorted to covert means to accomplish what had eluded them for more than two years–the downfall of Mossadegh and the forces advocating nationalization. In concert with a group of Iranians drawn from the military, the CIA and its British counterpart fomented demonstrations that toppled Mossadegh and paved the way for the return to power of the young Shah, who had fled abroad. Oil production resumed, the United States pledged $45 million in economic aid, and the Shah repressed all dissidents. It was an object lesson for all Middle Eastern oil producers.

In a sense, however, the 1951-53 Iranian crisis was an anomaly for U.S. policymakers. It had been an internal, indigenous threat to Western dominance and relatively easy to manage because of Iran's dependence on the West. Instead, what continued to preoccupy U.S. policymakers for most of the decade was the specter of an outside threat to the region's oil supplies, a threat which could only come from the Soviet Union because, in theory at least, it alone possessed the force considered capable of thwarting the United States. Curiously, the Soviets had done very little to exploit the unrest in Iran during the crisis even though the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party was in the forefront of those advocating nationalization. Nevertheless, U.S. strategy remained fixed in its fear of Soviet penetration.

But arranging an alliance in the Middle East akin to NATO in Europe or SEATO in East Asia would prove problematical, although there was no want of trying. In 1955 the Bagdad Pact, the brainchild of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, was unveiled. It united Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Britain in a mutual defense and economic treaty, and although the United States was not a full member this fact made little substantive difference. Acting under, its status as "observer," the United States provided the largest part of the funds for major Baghdad Pact economic programmes that had military utility: microwave telecommunications, a railroad link between Turkey and Iran, and a highway link between Turkey and Iran. It also funded the military assistance programmes to Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Iraq, and an American general headed the Combined Military Planning Staff of the Baghdad Pact. Yet the Pact and its successor (CENTO, beginning in 1959) had a tumultuous and largely ineffective lifespan. The reason was traceable to the built-in contradiction in U.S. policy between control of oil and support for Israel.

This contradiction sometimes played itself out in an obvious manner. For example, throughout the 1950s the Eisenhower Administration refrained from becoming a major supplier of arms to Israel for fear of offending Arab states, and left this role to France and Britain, countries with far fewer oil concessions in Arab oil-producing states. (In fact, France and Britain found it advantageous to arm Israel during their dispute with Egypt over the Suez Canal during the 1950s). On the other hand, the United States also had to refrain from building up its relations with Arab states that were clear adversaries of Israel because of the domestic political furor substantial arms aid to Egypt, for example, would provoke.

But during the 1950s, the contradiction in U.S. policy also worked itself out in far more subtle manner. Typically it took this form. A monarchical or conservative regime fraught with corruption proved inept in the confrontation against Israel. Triggered by this failure, nationalist sentiments rose against Western countries perceived to be in league with Israel. If Western oil concessions have been let, or if Western military bases are present, or if any other extraordinary economic or political arrangements exist, the regime in power is accused, sometimes openly, of acting in the interests of imperialism. A revolution occurs, most often led by military officers imbued with nationalist sentiments. Now pegged as a "radical" state by the West, the new regime is unable to obtain customary military or economic aid. Subsequently, it orients itself toward the only other power capable of supplanting the West to some extent, namely the Soviet Union.

The genuine significance of the contradiction in U.S. policy was that support for Israel, however limited, served to catalyze Arab nationalism, inevitably at the expense of Western strategic interests. Each country that underwent this process obviously had its own unique history of ethnic or religious division, colonial occupation, and just or unjust complaints about Western domination. The key problem for U.S. policy, however, was that in each instance the existence of Israel served to open a Pandora's Box of political and social grievances against the pro-West regimes in power after World War II.

Egypt, of course, was the most important Arab state that underwent this process in the 1950s. A poor showing in the 1948-49 war with Israel, coupled with indigenous socio-economic and political grievances, prompted the "Free Officers" to topple King Farouk in 1952 and eventually install Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser as the new leader of Egypt. He came to power pledging greater social justice, redistribution of land, improved medical care, better educational opportunities, and a more vigilant opposition to Israel. But his first years were consumed largely in bitter struggles with France and Britain over the Suez Canal–particularly the British because of the military bases they maintained in Egypt.

In 1955, the Egyptian army was soundly beaten by Israeli forces during fighting near the Gaza Strip, a defeat Nasser attributed to the West's superior weapons aid to Israel and the desire to keep his country weak. Frustrated, Nasser became the first Arab leader to turn toward the Soviet Union which cautiously agreed to supply Egypt through its client state, Czechoslovakia. The United States and other Western powers considered Nasser's move so impudent that they subsequently refused to finance the cornerstone of Egypt's hope for economic development, the Aswan High Dam. In retaliation Nasser broke the previous agreement regarding the Suez Canal and moved to totally nationalize it, planning to use canal revenues to finance the dam instead of Western aid. This crisis in Egypt's relations with the West culminated in the war over Suez.

With the assistance of Israel, Britain and France invaded Egypt in 1956, hoping not only to retain their control over the canal but defeat–and provoke the overthrow–of their nemesis Nasser as well. Strong resistance developed from the United States, however, because it perceived that far greater interests than the Canal would be threatened by such a naked display of imperial politics. It could not countenance the attack of its Allies, especially in concert with Israel, although it made no secret of the fact that is sympathies did indeed lie with Britain and France. All three of the invaders were forced to withdraw and Nasser became the unchallenged leader of pan-Arab nationalism by virtue of his stunning victory.

To U.S. policymakers, the tide of Arab nationalism seemed poised to sweep over the entire Middle East, with the aid, if not incitement, of the Soviet Union. At the same time the Western powers had never been weaker and more divided in their approach. The result was a shift in U.S. policy, one designed to assume a more activist role now that British and French influence had waned. The fundamentals remained the same, namely access to oil and support for Israel. But to forestall Nasser, who was presumed to be a puppet or worse of Moscow's, more than military and economic aid called for under the Truman Doctrine was needed. In January, 1957, Eisenhower unveiled a new doctrine in his State of the Union address, and it was aimed precisely at the Middle East. The United States, declared Eisenhower, "is prepared to use armed forces to assist… any nation or group of nations requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism."

Notwithstanding this declaration, it did nothing to stem the next important nationalist revolution in the Middle East. The forces that led to the 1958 rebellion in Iraq caught Western intelligence and political analysts by surprise, but it was in truth a quite familiar pattern by then. The corrupt Hashemite monarch, installed by the British after his family was deposed from Mecca, had come to be regarded as an agent for Western interests, particularly since the Baghdad Pact had been signed in 1955 with Iraq as a key member.

Instead of Iraq, the first Middle Eastern country to be at the receiving end of the Eisenhower Doctrine was the weakest, Lebanon. At the same time Iraq underwent its revolution, Lebanon was experiencing a high degree of internal turmoil. The primary reason was an attempt by the outgoing President, Camille Chamoun, to abrogate the carefully crafted Lebanese constitution and extend his term of office. This amounted to an extraordinarily bold move in a country riven by familial, ethnic and religious differences, and was strongly opposed by Lebanese Moslems. With Iraq's radical shift fresh in mind, the Eisenhower Administration was loathe to contemplate another turnabout in a pro-American Middle Eastern country. When Chamoun cried that communists were about to overtake Lebanon–a gross misrepresentation–the United States seized upon this pretext to introduce 5,000 Marines. Britain did likewise in Jordan, where King Hussein felt similarly threatened

Although the West's direct military intervention was bitterly denounced by Egypt, Syria, other Arab states, and the Soviet Union in the United Nations, they were unable to force a withdrawal until the United States and Britain decided to go, leaving pro-West states in their wake. It was a telling reminder of the favourable balance-of-power for the West in the Middle East in the late 1950s despite several setbacks. For although the Soviet Union had gained influence, it still was in no position militarily to threaten its own intervention. The ring of American and British military bases throughout the region meant overwhelming superiority although Arab nationalism under Nasser had claimed many theretofore pro-Western states even this movement had pragmatic limits. Moreover the most-important producers of oil–Iran and Saudi Arabia–remained as dependent as ever on the West. And ostensibly "radical" states like Iraq were nevertheless easily susceptible to Western pressure. There still was only one outlet for the oil Iraq needed to sell to earn hard currency.

The balance would not remain so favourable during the next decade.

The 1960s: U.S. Policy Unravels

Troubling portents to U.S. policy began to occur as early as 1961. One of the United States' most important yet weakest allies, Saudi Arabia, announced that it would no longer allow U.S. forces to use the airbase at Dhahran, near the oil fields. A few weeks later, King Saud explained that the decision was partially due to "American aid to Israel." Thus the juggling act in U.S. policy began to falter, as even the most conservative, dependent regimes in the Middle East began to question the American claim that the Soviet Union, in the guise of Nasser, was a greater threat than Israel.

Another ominous development for U.S. policy as conceived in 1961 was the formation of an organization dedicated to improving the bargaining position of the oil producers. The founding of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, received scant attention in the U.S. government and press. In part, this resulted from the peculiar circumstances of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Most countries, when pursuing a strategic interest, ensure government participation in if not nationalization of any entity dedicated to securing that interest. Yet guided by an economic ideology that stressed private enterprise, U.S. policymakers were satisfied to let corporations conduct this important business with little or no oversight. This division of labour would eventually wreak havoc and confusion.

Third, incremental but critical shift occurred in 1962, when, after years of prodding, a President yielded to domestic pressure and agreed to sell Israel American arms. The first sale, comprised primarily of short-range defensive missiles for less than $2 million, was not that significant to the military balance between Israel and its neighbours but it was highly symbolic and the harbinger of a larger arms supply relationship in the near future. In 1966, the Johnson Administration announced the sale of several tactical jet bombers to Israel for more than $60 million.

The watershed event, however, of the 1960s was the June 1967 war between Israel and the front-line Arab States. The stunning Israeli victory on all fronts in less than six days did nothing to resolve the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict–indeed it exacerbated it. As one scholar of the problem, Isaac Deutscher, wrote soon after the war ended, "The war and the 'miracle' of Israel's victory have solved none of the problems that confront Israel and the Arab states. They have, on the contrary, aggravated all the old issues and created new, more dangerous ones." Now Israel held lands belonging to Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Most significantly it occupied territories that held almost one million Palestinians, turning Israel's traditionally small peacetime army into a standing army of occupation.

For the United States, which had laboured to keep apart the two strains of its policy, the war dealt a serious blow. The Skyhawk jet bombers sold to Israel in 1966 played a major role in smashing the Arab air forces on the ground in 1967, and underlined a military tie the United States had long sought to avoid. Before the war had even ended, seven Middle Eastern states–Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Algeria and Yemen–severed diplomatic relations with the United States. And two Arab oil producers, Kuwait and Iraq, dared to cut off oil supplies to the United States and Britain.

The 1967 war, however, was but one of four events in the late 1960s and early 1970s that taken together, would eventually unravel the policy followed by the United States in the region since the Eisenhower Doctrine. The other events were, in almost numbing succession, Britain's announcement in 1968 that it would withdraw the balance of its troops from east of the Suez by 1971; the revolution in oil pricing, sparked by Libya's Maummar Qaddafi in 1970-71, and the spread of the "Vietnam Syndrome" among the American body politic.

Of the three, perhaps the most profound was the "Vietnam Syndrome", an outgrowth of the war in Indochina that had consumed U.S. blood and treasure with increasing controversy since 1965. Because of that war, public consensus over U.S. foreign policy–intact since Truman had spelled out his doctrine of containment–broke down, as Americans began to question the premises that had led them into the longest and most bitter foreign involvement in U.S. history. To many it came to seem that it was fundamentally wrong both in terms of American values and genuine security, for the United States to have as its allies in a so-called "free world" some of the most repressive, unpopular and corrupt governments in existence. The press labeled this widespread determination to no longer intervene in Third World conflicts the "Vietnam Syndrome".

The Nixon Administration was quick to recognize this new restraint on U.S. foreign policy. But to Nixon the slogan "no more Vietnams" did not mean an absolute end to the strategic assumptions that had guided U.S. policy in the postwar era. Rather, the syndrome only dictated a change in tactics, i.e., a question of whose manpower would be used to fight undesirable wars. Since the use of American troops would no longer "play in Peoria," as John Erlichman put it, threatened allies would have to assume primary responsibility for manning their own defense. Except for extra-ordinary circumstances, the U.S. role would be limited to providing the necessary material and training. In other words, more and better arms than anything the United States had exported before.

This new tactic was first spelled out in 1969, six years before the Vietnam war ended, as the Guam or Nixon Doctrine. Initially it seemed to be a polite, diplomatic cover for Nixon's plan to withdraw U.S. troops and "Vietnamize" that war. But soon it became apparent that there was one other reason for its formulation: the final demise of Great Britain, America's partner in safeguarding Western interests in the Middle East. While the United States had been recognized as the ultimate arbiter since at least 1956, Britain had continued to fulfill an important role in protecting the oil that flowed through the Persian Gulf. It had been a task Britain was well-suited for because of its long-standing ties to countries in and near the Gulf which often dated back to the colonial era. But now Britain was unable to support costly forces abroad any longer.

For the United States, which was already stretched to the limit by a war and ongoing NATO commitment, supplanting the British in the Middle East was impossible. So the Nixon Doctrine was conveniently expanded beyond East Asia to another strategic arena, the Middle East. There a country or countries would be selected to receive large amounts of modern weaponry. and as a quid pro quo for these arms the country would be expected to defend not only its own, but U.S. interests as well. In effect it would function as a regional gendarme for the United States.

It should be noted that reasons for the shift to the Nixon Doctrine were not only related to domestic politics, but to economics as well. U.S. corporations and the Pentagon looked forward to greater arms exports because of the promise these held for solving some of their problems. For corporations, high procurement levels during the Vietnam war had created a boom in the arms and aerospace industries not seen since the heady days of World War II. But as U.S. involvement in Vietnam declined these industries faced the inevitable prospect of a shrunken market and reduced production. Since economic incentives to peacetime production were meager or non-existent, arms exports to new markets promised an easy solution.

Meanwhile, at the Pentagon cost overruns had become a way of life. Sloppy procurement practices were only part of the reason; increasingly the costs of advances in metallurgy, ballistics, aerodynamics, optics and electronics exceeded available funds. And as costs rose, the Pentagon faced forced reductions in the number of weapons it could order. Selling these same or similar products abroad, however, would alleviate this problem in several ways. Not only could research and development costs be distributed among foreign customers, but extended production lines would significantly lower the per-unit cost to the Pentagon. In addition, a high level of "peacetime" production would guarantee industrial preparedness in case the United States became involved in an armed conflict. In essence, the United States found itself burdened with a war economy that desperately needed new markets, and the Nixon Doctrine conveniently provided them.

Yet one more condition had to exist for successful implementation of the Nixon Doctrine. The preferred customers for U.S. arms would need the dollars to pay for them. Congress could not be depended on to appropriate the billions of dollars necessary to finance all these armaments in the form of outright aid. At best perhaps they could be persuaded to loan some of the funds necessary, but even then recipients would have to repay the U.S. government eventually. Fortunately for the authors of the Nixon Doctrine, beginning in 1971 oil producers in the Middle East, including important U.S. allies, began to reap unprecedented incomes, all because of the initial efforts of an obscure Libyan colonel named Qaddafi.

Qaddafi represented the latest nationalistic leader to replace a corrupt oil monarchy; he overthrew King Idris in September 1969. And within a year of assuming power he accomplished what no oil-producing country had dared try since the removal of Mossadegh in 1953. He forced the multinational companies to pay more for the Libyan oil they lifted. Quickly, all the other oil producers sought the emulate Libya's victory, and although the increase they won (less than $1 per barrel) seems relatively modest in retrospect, it was an economic boon to these countries, all heavily dependent on petroleum exports for their earnings.

Iran: The Nixon Doctrine's Paradigm

One country above all others epitomized the application of the Nixon Doctrine to the Middle East–Iran. It had all the prime ingredients to become a regional gendarme: clear ties to U.S. interests because of its resources and location; a large population from which to draw a sizeable army; an economy awash in petrodollars; and a ruler eager to assume the role because he had his own visions of another Persian Empire.

But for all its wealth, Iran was firmly rooted in the Third World. The government was a corrupt and notoriously repressive dictatorship, and the country faced explosive socio-economic pressures from rapid population growth, unemployment, dwindling food production and sprawling urbanization. Fulfilling the Nixon Doctrine would come at the expense of neglecting these basic problems.

U.S. policy toward Iran between 1945 and 1970 was restrained and circumspect, although few Iranians would agree who remembered the 1953 CIA-instigated coup. Yet whatever restraint existed ended in 1971 during a meeting at Tehran airport between President Nixon, his national security advisor Henry Kissinger, and the Shah. Nixon personally assured the Iranian leader he could purchase all the weapons he desired if, in return, Iranian armed forces would protect the transit of oil from the Gulf. Upon returning to Washington, Kissinger then ordered the State and Defense Departments to sell the Shah even the most advanced weaponry, explicitly stating that the Iranian government would be the final arbiter of its own needs and not U.S. analysts.

Pentagon figures testify to the results. From $135 million in fiscal year 1970, arms exports rose to $392 million, $515 million and $2.2 billion in successive years. Massive corruption, waste and unnecessary purchases went hand-in-hand with mounting exports. U.S. corporations, generals and admirals stumbled over each other trying to persuade Iranian government officials to buy one weapons system or another. They were easily convinced, especially when a "10 percent commission" or share in the profits accompanied the sale. The Shah's brother-in-law, then head of the Air Force, became widely known for the millions of dollars he netted in arms deals. Conservative estimates put all such payoffs at more than a billion dollars, not including commissions paid to U.S. advisors.

The 1973 war in the Middle East and the subsequent quadrupling of oil prices merely accelerated the Shah's profligacy. In fiscal 1974 alone Iran signed new agreements worth more than $4.3 billion–or more than 40 percent of all U.S. weapons sold that year to the entire world. From 1974-76 the Shah spent an average $7.4 million a day on U.S. weapons for his armed forces that had doubled in size since 1968 to 410,000 men. As former U.S. diplomat George Ball later observed, the Nixon Doctrine's blank check to the Shah was akin to "giving an alcoholic the keys to the world's largest liquor store."

Iran also illustrated U.S. corporations' mounting dependency on foreign countries for their profits and sometimes, sheer survival. The case that stands out occurred in 1974, when Grumman Aircraft faced bankruptcy because of massive cost overruns and losses incurred from its 4-14 contract with the U.S. Navy. Grumman's U.S. bankers refused to lend it more money. But the Shah, who had ordered 80 of the sophisticated F-14 interceptors, had a vested interest in Grumman's continued viability. An Iranian bank loaned the company $75 million, which persuaded U.S. counterparts to put up an additional $125 million. In effect the Shah rescued an American arms manufacturer from financial ruin.

While Iran represented the most conspicuous consumer of arms largesse under the Nixon Doctrine, by no means was it an isolated example. A staggering growth in exports to the Middle East occurred during the years 1970-76 when compared to 1962-69. Arms exports totaled $33 billion during this period, a 1,255% increase.

Besides the advent of the Nixon Doctrine, of course, the major reason for this explosive increase was the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the fourth in less than three decades. It primarily served to intensify an already overheated arms race. The Nixon Administration exercised almost no restraint, dispensing arms with even greater ease after the conflict than before, and such a laissez faire policy was quickly emulated by the other major arms suppliers, the Soviet Union, France, Britain and Italy. Up until the war Israel and Iran had garnered the lion's share of U.S. weapons to the region; with the rampant sense of insecurity that lingered afterwards, Saudi Arabia moved to the forefront of U.S. arms recipients, ordering $16 billion worth of arms and military infrastructure projects during the three years following the war.

The war's most profound event was the boycott of the United States by the Arab oil producers because of a massive shipment of arms to Israel. It was the confrontation between oil and Israel long feared by U.S. policy-makers. What they had not foreseen, astonishingly enough, was the degree to which the United States had itself become dependent on foreign oil. During much of the postwar period the U.S. government, at the behest of the oil companies, had enforced oil import quotas to prevent the domestic market from being flooded cheap oil. But by 1973-74 the United States had moved inexorably into a situation where it actually depended an foreign imports for as much as 40% of its needs, profligate that they were.

The response of the Nixon Administration to the oil boycott was twofold. On the one hand, not-so-veiled hints were dropped to suggest that if the West found itself the target of economic strangulation, then it would resort to force against the oil producers. The most famous of these hints was Henry Kissinger's widely-quoted interview in Business Week in early 1974. The Administration's other response, however, was far more significant. Kissinger decided to commit the United States, in a manner never really attempted before, to resolving the dispute between the Arab states and Israel.

It was a calculated risk, given the depth of the conflict. Yet peace-making seemed possible because of the perception that the Arab armies had won a "political" victory–although in fact both Syria and Egypt were on the verge of a military defeat even more serious than the one in 1967. Another factor arguing for an American attempt at settling the dispute was that only the United States appeared capable of "delivering" Israel in any negotiation. The other superpower, the Soviet Union, had broken off its ties to Israel and could not be considered an honest broker.

During the next several years the conflicting parties engaged in Kissinger's "shuttle diplomacy" and "step-by-step" approach to peace. Agreements that separated the Israeli and Syrian, and Israeli and Egyptian armies were negotiated, followed by further disengagement-of-forces agreements in the Sinai. It was a sensible, defensible approach so long as it meant progress toward the crux of the problem, namely the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. But after two years, it became increasingly clear that U.S. policymakers were more interested in advancing U.S. interests–that is, keeping the Soviet Union out of the region–than in addressing indigenous issues that kept the region in turmoil. Indeed, U.S. "peace-making" played a distinct role in plunging Lebanon into civil war from 1975-76.

The Risks of Arms Exports

While Kissinger's efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute generally received domestic support, in the years following the 1973 war the Nixon Doctrine came under increasing attack in the press and in Congress for its unrestrained arms exports. To many, the question became to what extent did arms exports threaten U.S. security?

The most profound danger was the tendency of arms to aggravate festering conflicts that could entangle the United States. While the avowed purpose of U.S. policy was to secure a peaceable world, wanton arms exports cultivated an incompatible climate where the resort to force was made possible, acceptable, even attractive. While this was hardly a novel problem, having existed since the Truman Administration, the Nixon Doctrine greatly enlarged it. The cause was not simply the large amounts or sophisticated kinds of weaponry being exported; a key reason was the subtle change in supplier-recipient relations that occurred because of the Nixon Doctrine's shift from grant military aid to sales.

In the era of grant aid, the United States unilaterally decided what recipients needed and why they needed it. Like grateful dependents, recipients generally took what they were given and seldom used the weapons for purposes that might incur their donor's wrath. But when recipients began to pay for weapons, they gradually grew more aggressive about what they needed and less inhibited about where and when the arms would be used. U.S. purpose in selling began to bear little resemblance to recipients' purposes in buying.

The immediate result was to promote an arms race in the Middle East. U.S. arms added fuel to smoldering and incipient rivalries even between two client states. Invariably U.S. exports would be justified to Congress as prudent steps to redress a military imbalance. But perfect balances only existed on paper because rivals never synchronized their buildups. Newly assertive U.S. recipients would request weaponry that could overcome, not only match, their rivals' arsenals. The State Department bureaucracy would go through the motions of weighing the risks, and when the weaponry arrived its net result was to incite the other side to further increase the ante. Since the "other side's" supplier often was the Soviet Union, there was the ever-present danger that actual hostilities could provoke a superpower confrontation.

In addition to potential wars, the Nixon Doctrine ensnared the United States in several real wars. In some instances the U.S. link to the violence was incontrovertible, such as when Morocco annexed the Spanish Sahara using U.S.-origin weapons. This invasion violated international law and the U.N. charter, not to mention the "self-defense" provisions under which the U.S. transferred the arms.

At other times the United States was linked to hostilities less directly. During 1977 in the Horn of Africa, for example, it found itself tied in some degree to every belligerent party although it professed neutrality. Five U.S. arms recipients–Iran, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Yugoslavia–were reportedly involved in retransferring U.S. weapons to third parties in the conflict or relied on American weapons to replace what they sent to the Horn. Yugoslavia sent tank parts and Israel delivered spare parts to Ethiopia, Egypt sent Soviet-made arms to Somalia after the Saudis promised to reimburse them with U.S. arms; and Iran reportedly sent old U.S. tanks to Somalia and German light arms to Eritrean rebels, secure in the knowledge that more modern U.S. arms were forthcoming. Such "third-country transfers" frequently were made clandestinely, further evidence of the minimal control the United States exercised over where and when American-supplied weaponry would actually be used.

U.S. involvement in conventional arms races, wars of aggression, clandestine transfers–these were but three of the risks the Nixon Doctrine posed to U.S. security. As the doctrine continued to unfold during the mid-1970s, hazards became manifest in several other ways:

Presence of U.S. technicians. Although the Nixon Doctrine supposedly obviated the need for large contingents of Americans abroad to defend Third World allies, practice differed greatly from theory. In Iran, for example, a 1976 Senate study found that nearly 25,000 U.S. technicians were needed to train Iranians to properly use and maintain their high technology weapons. But qualified recruits could not be found fast enough and Americans frequently ended up operating and maintaining the equipment they were ostensibly training Iranians to use. The study concluded: "… Iran could not go to war in the next five to ten years with its current and prospective inventory of sophisticated weapons… without U.S. support on a day-to-day basis."

The profusion of these so-called "white-collar mercenaries" implied a U.S. commitment to defend countries that had never been formally agreed to by Congress. The dangers were obvious. If war broke out, U.S. technicians would almost surely be regarded as combatants by all sides and the United States could easily be sucked into the conflict. And if U.S. technicians were somehow ordered to avoid participation, the host country would undoubtedly seek retribution. In either case U.S. interests would suffer in the Middle East.

Need for follow-on support. Sophisticated weapons not only required on-site American expertise, but increased long-term dependency on the United States for spare and repair parts or- "follow-on support," Countries invariably spent more to operate and maintain U.S. weapons than they spent on the original purchase price. Needless to say this fact increased potential U.S. involvement in conflicts not of its own choosing, with all the attendant risks of continuing or cutting off an arms pipeline.

Exposure of U.S. technology. Exporting the same weapons to the Middle East that America procured for its own arsenal posed perhaps the most immediate threat to U.S. security. It wasn't essential for a pilot to fly an F-14 loaded with advanced Phoenix missiles to the Soviet Union to compromise classified technological secrets; all that was necessary was a copy of the maintenance manual. But whenever concern over this possibility was raised in Congress, notably when exports to Iran were discussed, State and Defense Department officials sanguinely assured Congressmen that America's "special relationship with the Shah" made the chances of disclosure very remote. The remote occurred, and U.S. secrets were revealed in the wake of the revolution.

Spread of U.S. know-how. Numerous Middle Eastern countries began to insist on manufacturing or assembly rights to the weapons they purchased, partially to defray costs. Under the Nixon Doctrine, such technology transfers were made willingly and included everything from F-5E jet fighters down to M-16 rifles and ammunition.

Permitting other countries to manufacture weapons represented a quantum leap beyond the problems associated with being the sole supplier. As a Texas Instruments president once noted, "The release of know-how is an irreversible decision. Once released, it can neither be taken back nor controlled." Such transfers bolstered the independent war-making capacity of recipient countries, most notably Israel, and greatly increased the number of potential sources of U.S.-designed weapons.

Effect on U.S. readiness. The Pentagon's traditional policy was to satisfy Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers without degrading U.S. forces. Because of burgeoning exports under the Nixon Doctrine, however, sometimes popular items had to be diverted or withdrawn from active duty units. A 1977 GAO study found that it took the U.S. Army four years to rebuild its depleted inventory of M-113 armored personnel carriers after the 1973 war because recipients like Morocco were given higher priority. In another instance TOW missile deployment to 13 U.S. Army installations was delayed because of expedited sales abroad.

The GAO concluded that "diversion and withdrawal of end-items and spare and repair parts have been made to the point where minimum essential quantities have been denied to U.S. forces. And while better management could partially alleviate the problem, the GAO said future competition between U.S. forces and foreign customers for follow-on support could make it even worse.

The Promise of the Carter Administration

Although from 1974 onwards the Congress tried to stem some of the worse excesses of the Nixon Doctrine in the Middle East and elsewhere, it had neither the mandate, the resources nor the expertise to challenge a Presidential Administration bent on selling arms. Passing laws, such as the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, was an attempt at holding a line, but laws are generally a clumsy instrument for forcing a policy onto the Executive Branch, and all the more so when it is a foreign policy. Genuine change would have to await a different Administration in power.

Enter the Carter Administration. If campaign rhetoric was a measure of intent, the prospects for reducing arms exports to the Middle East were great when Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976. During his campaign Carter criticized arms exports both on the grounds of human rights and national security, particularly the latter. The United States cannot be "both the world's leading champion of peace and the world's leading supplier of the weapons of war," Carter had said, and he vowed "to increase the emphasis on peace and reduce the commerce in weapons."

Upon assuming office it seemed Carter would promptly carry out that pledge. One of his first acts was to order the National Security Council to undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. policy, including all the political, military and economic considerations. The result was PRM-12 (for Presidential Review Memorandum) which provided the factual basis for Carter's "policy of arms restraint" announced on May 19, after barely four months in office.

The turn away from the Nixon Doctrine seemed all the more possible because the Carter Administration seemed prepared to address the core of the conflict between Israel and the Arab states, the Palestinian issue. Carter indicated that the "step-by-step" approach to peace in the Middle East was over; from now on the United States would seek a comprehensive peace at a reconvened Geneva summit of all parties to the conflict, including the' Soviet Union.

A remark by President Carter during a Massachusetts town meeting seemed to indicate his understanding of the issues at stake and commitment to resolving them. He became the first American President to endorse the idea of a Palestinian "homeland". Three months later, Vice President Walter Mondale delivered a major speech on the Middle East, comprehensively outlining the Carter Administration's views and emphasizing a three-point peace plan: return to approximately the 1967 borders, creation of a Palestinian homeland probably linked to Jordan, and establishment of complete peace and normal relations between all states in the area.

Yet it soon became clear that indeed the Carter Administration was torn between this new policy and the more traditional role played by the United States in the region, one that sought unilateral advantages for U.S. strategic interests.

Scarcely four weeks after he announced his arms restraint policy, Carter invoked "extraordinary circumstances" as a justification to sell highly sophisticated AWACS radar surveillance planes to the Shah–a clear signal to the region and outside powers that despite the rhetoric it was business as usual with Iran. It was a sale that even Carter's own CIA Director, Stansfield Turner, had trouble accepting until the Administration agreed, under considerable pressure from Congress, to sell the Shah a stripped-down version of the plane. The U.S. Air Force all the while was quietly exerting pressure to sell the planes because of tremendous cost overruns on its own AWACS procurement.

Nine months later Carter again breached his own guidelines when he announced the single largest arms package ever to the Middle East United States would sell dozens of F-15s and F-16s to Israel and Saudi Arabia, and a score F-5E jet fighters to the newest U.S. arms customer, Egypt, for a total of $4.8 billion. This latter arms sale, of course, was proposed after Sadat's precedent-shattering visit to Jerusalem, and confirmed in the minds of Middle East observers that the United States was intent on forging a peace not between enemies, but among friends of the United States.

Despite the failure to achieve its self-declared goals, when the Camp David Treaty was signed in March, 1979 the Carter Administration trumpeted that something akin to peace in our time had been achieved in the Middle East.

The fact that Carter requested Congress to appropriate more than $1 billion in additional arms aid to Israel and Egypt before the ink on the Treaty could dry; in addition, the fact that the treaties came hard on the heels of what Henry Kissinger termed "the greatest single disaster for U.S. foreign policy since World War II" confirmed that the United States had accomplished little more than a shift in alliances.

The disaster Kissinger referred to was the fall of the Shah from power in Iran in early 1979. Here was a ruler thought to be impregnable by virtue of his well-stocked, U.S.-origin arsenal. Yet the United States watched helplessly–it had no other choice–while the pillar of its policy in the Middle East crumbled under the unrelenting pressure of unarmed citizens.

Having never truly dissociated itself from the concept of U.S. policy as enunciated in the Nixon Doctrine, the Carter Administration scrambled to find a new gendarmes to replace the Shah. Egypt was for the first time available, now that it had recognized Israel. Yet the rapid and surprising collapse of the Shah indicated that no country in the Middle East (excepting perhaps Israel, which had other drawbacks) was stable enough to ultimately be counted on to defend U.S. interests. The result was a quiet return to a policy that for the first time since the "Vietnam Syndrome" set in during the late 1960s, contemplated direct U.S. military intervention to protect ostensible vital interests. Quietly at first, the Carter Administration began to upgrade the Indian Ocean base at Diego Garcia and seek bases elsewhere in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. Plans for a Rapid Deployment Force, to consist of about 225,000 troops and appropriate military equipment and supplies, were drawn up and the Pentagon began to refer to the Persian Gulf as "Southwest Asia," a euphemism designed to prevent pro-U.S. regimes in the area from taking offense.

This effort languished, however, until dramatically aided in late 1979 by the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops. The Carter Administration was quick to seize upon this aggression as proof positive of a Soviet threat to the West's oil jugular. In a move quite reminiscent of Eisenhower more than twenty years earlier, Carter declared before a joint session of Congress in 1980 that, "Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America and such as assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."

Reagan's Strategic Consensus

On his first tour of the region upon taking office, Secretary of State Alexander Haig declared that the United States would seek to build a "strategic consensus" of like-minded states against the greatest "threat" to the region, the Soviet Union. At this early point it is hard to say whether the Administration still retains such a simplistic of the Middle East after the momentous events that have occurred since Haig's trip alone. The continuing internal crisis in Lebanon, the Israeli-Syrian dispute over the Golan and missiles in Lebanon, the Israeli air-strikes against Baghdad and Beirut, riots and demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza, war between Iraq and Iran, the possibility of separatist movements in Pakistan, instability in Sudan, and not least of all, the assassination of Anwar Sadat–an outside observer would like to believe that all these events have given pause to the Administration's conception of who or what is the greatest threat to peace in the region.

If the Administration has re-thought its position there is as yet no sign. Arms are being dispensed in greater amounts than ever to states like Israel which brazenly violate the terms under which the arms are transferred(not to mention the borders of neighbouring states), and to states like Saudi Arabia, which will likely receive $60 billion worth of arms and military infrastructure that it cannot conceivably use well or wisely.

Worse still, as U.S. arms fail to secure regional stability–indeed they are a major proof and cause of instability–the Administration seems intent on reaching back to the deployment of U.S. force as if such a demonstration can turn the mounting tide. But it is no longer 1958. An American intervention would provoke a strong Soviet reaction and make even isolated, heads of state in the Middle East into something of a martyr if he were attacked.

The Reagan Administration must shed its self-imposed ideological strait-jacket and recognize that the Soviet Union–which after all, borders the Middle East–has certain interests that must be respected, just as the Soviet Union must realize that Western interests, including access to oil, are crucial. Secondly, the Administration must move toward finding appropriate meaning political and economic solutions for the indigenous problems in the region, which are political and economic issues. Most significantly, this means the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Failing a change in course, what now appears to be merely a bankrupt policy could soon become catastrophic.



Jamal R. Nassar

Early Zionist leaders described Palestine as "A land without a people for a people without a land" 1/. But when Jews arrived in Palestine they found not a vacant land but a land inhabited by Palestinian Arabs since centuries before. The consequent establishment of Israel resulted in a Palestinian diaspora. Today, the Arabs of Palestine are "a people without a land". The "Jewish Problem" was solved by creating a "Palestinian Problem." While the United Nations partition plan envisioned both Jewish and Palestinian Arab states in Palestine, only a Jewish state was founded. Moreover, this newly founded state in 1948 occupied not half of the land of Palestine, as the U.N. plan called for, but more than three quarters of it. The Palestinian Arab state, on the other hand, is yet to be created.

Because Israel was founded in war and not in peace, the conflict lingered on. In the process, Israel has come to occupy all of Palestine and even territories of neighboring Arab countries. Until recently, the Palestinians had been a forgotten element in what came to be known as the Arab-Israeli conflict. Today, however, there is no dispute as to the centrality of the Palestinian dimension to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This study has three objectives. First, it will seek to develop an understanding of the contextual setting of some of the lingering fundamentals involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which, so far, have prevented the Palestinian people from achieving their fundamental right to self-determination . Second, it will investigate the evolution of the Camp David Accords. Third, it will discuss and evaluate Palestinian perceptions of the accords and their reasoning behind their almost immediate rejection of Camp David.

Contextual Setting of the Conflict

If we return now to the historical roots of our cause, we do so because present at this very moment in our midst are those who, while they occupy our homes, as their cattle graze in our pastures, and as their hands pluck the fruit of our trees, claim at the same time that we are disembodied spirits, fictions without presence, without traditions or future. 2/ Yasser Arafat

An objective observer could construct a "Palestinian case" and a "Jewish case" based on historical experiences. Ironically, both cases would have a high degree of persuasiveness. The Palestinian case is based on the premises that colonial powers in conjunction with Zionism imposed a European migration, a Jewish state, and a Palestinian diaspora, in total disregard of the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the population, innocent of any charge. The Zionist case relies on the aspiration of a people who suffered exile and savage persecution. The conflict between the two peoples has been recognized from the start.

The issues involved in this conflict are moral, legal, cultural, historical, and religious. Both sides regard their right as self-evident and firmly based on logic and law. Over the years, each side has committed acts that the other is neither willing to forget nor forgive. After decades of war, passions replaced reason and irrationality became common-place. Today, it is no longer a simple task for the two people to distinguish between passion and reason.

Further complicating the process of peace is the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been effectively subordinated to regional and international concerns. Often we discuss Palestinian-Israeli conflict as an Arab-Israeli one. Even more, analysts and diplomats sometimes subordinate Middle Eastern concerns to global ones. Thus, détente and the cold war intermingle with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

While these concerns are legitimate and must be taken into account, one must not blur his vision by looking only at them. The heart of the problem, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, must remain the central issue if peace is to be based on reason.

The roots of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict date back to the year 1895 when Theodore Herzl, a European Jewish thinker, wrote his book The Jewish State. In that book, Herzl advocated the creation of a Jewish state as a remedy to anti-Semitism in Europe. In addressing himself to the issue of territorial location of the advocated state, he wrote: "We shall take what is given us, and what is selected by Jewish public opinion." 3/

In response to Herzl's call, the First Zionist Congress met at Basel on August 29, 1897. In his opening address, Herzl stated the objective of the meeting in the following words: "We are here to lay the foundation stone of the house which is to shelter the Jewish nation." 4/ The Congress then enthusiastically proceeded to found the Zionist Organization. By the time they were ready to adjourn, three days later, the conferees agreed on Palestine for the location of the proposed state and issued a statement that came to be known as the Basel Program. The program stated that "the aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law." 5/

The Basel Program was well received in the European press. But one conclusion stands out as significant; this was reported by a Jewish critic of Zionism, Judah L. Magnes, who said: "We seem to have thought of everything except the Arabs." 6/ In fact, there are indications that many of the founders of Zionism, including Herzl himself, were not aware that Palestine was an inhabited country. It is reported that "When Herzl's colleague Max Nordau heard for the first time that there was an Arab population in Palestine, he ran to Herzl crying: 'I did not know that: but then, we are committing an injustice!' Herzl gave him the silent treatment." 7/

During the first half of the twentieth century, the history of Palestine was basically a history of triangular struggle for control and sovereignty. Officially, the country was placed under British control in the Mandate system. Naturally, the Palestinians rejected the Mandate and struggled for independence. On their part, the British denied the Palestinians the right to self-determination and implemented policies designed to promote the establishment of a "Jewish National Home" to honor their commitment to Zionism as expressed in the Balfour Declaration.

The Palestinian struggle was ultimately defeated and by 1947 the Zionists had managed to acquire sufficient strength and organization as to force the British into abandoning the Mandate. Thus, the United Nations took up the issue and recommended the partitioning of Palestine. The Palestinians, who made up more than 70% of the population, rejected the partition plan as a violation of their right to self-determination. Immediately thereafter, "Palestine experienced its worst bicommunal war." 8/ On May 15, 1948, the Zionist leadership declared the establishment of the state of Israel. It was at this juncture that the full Arabization of the conflict occurred. Military units from seven Arab countries entered Palestine in an effort to aid fellow Palestinian Arabs. However, "they lacked common leadership and a coherent plan of action." 9/ Thus, by the time Dr. Ralph Bunche, the U.N. mediator, was able to arrange for armistice agreements in 1949, Israel had gained more territory. Jordan took control of the remaining part of Palestine including the old city of Jerusalem but excluding the Gaza district which fell to Egyptian control.

The period preceding the establishment of Israel witnessed an Arab exodus from Palestine. By the end of 1948 most of the Palestinian Arabs were displaced. Until 1967, the Arab countries refused to recognize the new state of Israel. The 1967 war, however, introduced new factors that forced a change on most Arab policy makers. That war transformed Israel from a state occupying a large part of Palestine into a state occupying all of Palestine and territories of other sovereign Arab states. Since then, all parties to the conflict, with the exception of the Palestinians, have come to accept Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967. Perhaps, the provisions of this resolution are the best indicators of the fundamental political issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict today.

The resolution emphasized "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace…" 10/ Resolution 242 includes the following operative provisions:

1. Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories.

2. Termination of all claims of belligerency and respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.

3. Freedom of international navigation.

4. A just settlement of the refugee problem.

5.  Guarantees for the territorial inviolability and political independence of every state in the area, through measures including demilitarized zones.

The Security Council did not plan to provide for the details of a comprehensive settlement, but rather a framework for negotiations. Therefore, resolution 242 is perhaps intentionally vague when it comes to details. Consequently, there have been conflicting interpretations on the part of the disputing parties.

Israel, for example, insisted that it was not required to withdraw to the pre-1967 war boundaries because such a withdrawal would be inconsistent with other provisions of the resolution, mainly those dealing with "secure and recognized boundaries." Since the resolution did not specifically state that Israel must withdraw from all the occupied territories, Israel argued, such an elaboration must be left to be negotiated.

On the other hand, the Arab states interpreted the resolution in terms of what they called "the strict adherence to the rule of the Charter." 11/ As such, the principle of the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war meant total Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories.

The Palestinians, on their part, reject resolution 242 not because of its vagueness or disputed clauses, but because it did not recognize the "national rights" of the Palestinian people. The only reference to the Palestinians is a call for "a just settlement of the refugee problem." The Palestinians and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have come to look upon General Assembly resolution 3236, passed in 1974, as superceding Security Council resolution 242, passed in 1967. This is partly because resolution 3236 affirms Palestinian national rights.

Evolution of the Camp David Accords

The late U.S. Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, believed that the Palestine conflict would be solved only with time. His contention was that the new Palestinian generation would be totally unassociated with Palestine and lose memory of the land of their forefathers and of their past. One may argue that the new generation is here. But far from proving Dulles right, the new generation of Palestinians has produced a guerrilla movement dedicated to the principles of national liberation and armed struggle. 12/

Dulles' mistake was not the first nor the last U.S. miscalculation in regard to the Palestine conflict. Misperceptions and miscalculations have characterized American policy in the Middle East for sometime and across administrations.

Until 1967, the American approach to the Palestine-Israeli conflict was characterized by a two-pronged policy, one emphasizing a military balance of power for containing the conflict and the other identifying the Palestine question with the problem of the refugees. The containment of the conflict was to be guaranteed by a militarily strong Israel. Containment of the conflict was often viewed as part of the overall U.S. policy of containment directed against Soviet penetration.

U.S. efforts in regard to Palestinian refugees centered around the Jordan River Development Plan designed to improve the agricultural conditions for the purpose of absorbing the refugees. Needless to say, this attempt did not succeed because it did not take into account the intense political problems involved in the issue. It also miscalculated the potential for Israeli-Arab cooperation needed for the success of the project. Similarly, the theory that a militarily strong Israel would contain the conflict proved erroneous. Two major wars, one in 1956 and the other in 1967 occurred resulting in a greater Soviet role in the area.

Until 1967, therefore, the U.S. position favored the status quo, with the hope of settling the refugees. Underestimating the growth of the Palestinian revolution and Arab persistence in rejecting their defeat of 1967, the Johnson administration decided to take advantage of the Israeli victory. The feeling in the U.S. was that the war afforded the administration the first real opportunity at seeking a permanent peace settlement. The principle of negotiating occupied Arab territories in return for lasting peace became the cornerstone of U.S. policy.

This policy enunciated by President Johnson seemed to have converged with Israeli interests in the resolution of the conflict. More and more, the United States began to identify itself almost completely with Israeli positions. According to Nadav Safran, a Middle East Studies professor at Harvard University, "the continued occupation by Israel of the conquered territories and the blockage of the Suez Canal constituted the main leverage through which the United States sought to achieve its own objective. The administration did not deem it tactically wise to weaken that leverage by stressing publicly the difference between its official position and Israel's …" 13/ Once the administration decided on this tactic, it had no choice but to oppose any Soviet-Arab maneuvers "to eliminate or weaken the leverage held by Israel, which was also its own by offering diplomatic resistance as well as by taking measures such as the resumption of arms shipments to Israel." 14/ This policy also converged with the objectives of the domestic pro-Israel sentiments.

Ignoring lessons from history in regard to successful negotiations, U.S. policy makers hopelessly attempted to bring the parties to agreement. Historically, successful negotiations occur "when the relative military strengths of the opposing parties is nearly equal: where there is no military gap." 15/ Consequently, the Arabs refused to negotiate from a position of inferiority.

It was only after the October 1973 War, when the Arabs achieved what they perceived to be a military stalemate that negotiations became possible. It was within this context that Dr. Henry Kissinger began his "step by step" diplomacy to reduce the possibility of another confrontation in the area. With the president increasingly preoccupied with domestic scandals, Dr. Kissinger had extraordinary latitude in shaping the details of American policy in the conflict. His consequent "shuttle diplomacy" resulted in partial agreements and gave the misguided impression that peace was almost at hand. By 1976, it was clear that even Dr. Kissinger had failed in bringing about a lasting peace in the region.

Just as the limits of the Kissinger approach were becoming evident, Mr. Carter was assuming power in Washington. It was natural then for the new President to abandon the Kissinger approach in favour of attempting to achieve a comprehensive settlement. Mr. Carter became the first U.S. president to call for a "Palestinian homeland." 16/ He also recognized that the Palestinian question is a 'core' issue in the conflict, 17/ and even used the concept of the "legitimate rights" of the Palestinian people. 18/ As a result, Mr. Carter drew the wrath of the pro-Israeli forces in the country. Consequently he retreated to more traditional positions, taking one step forward and one step back as he persisted in being all things to all people.

Two phases in the evolution of the Carter Mid-East policy may be discerned: the first extends from the time Carter assumed office in January 1977, and the second commences with the Sadat journey to Jerusalem. During the first phase, emphasis was placed on a Geneva-style conference attended by all parties for the purpose of negotiating a comprehensive settlement. To carry out this objective, and in recognition of the fact that "lasting peace" would have to involve the Soviet Union, the United States issued a joint declaration with Moscow in October 1977, calling for a Geneva meeting. Procedural questions, however, impeded progress. Central to these questions, was the involvement of the Palestinians. Having recognized the centrality of the Palestinian question to the conflict, Mr. Carter was under Soviet and Arab pressure to invite the PLO to the conference. Israeli pressures as well as Congressional demands to fulfill the 1975 Kissinger promise to Israel not to recognize the PLO so long as it does not recognize Israel, placed Carter in a diplomatic paradox. While he and his advisors knew that "there is no room for agreements without an attempt to tackle the central problem of the Middle East conflict, the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, which almost certainly means, in practice, the PLO," 19/ they could not directly involve the PLO.

The impasse which ensued was interrupted by President Sadat's trip to Jerusalem on November 19, 1977. Sadat's trip to Israel solved Mr. Carter's dilemma by refocussing diplomatic maneuvers on bilateral negotiations between Egypt and Israel. Thus, the call for a Geneva conference was dropped and the second phase of Carter's policy began.

The Sadat trip exposed the erroneous prevailing assumptions about Arab desire for peace; in fact it showed that Sadat wanted peace at any price. Faced with surprise and uncertainty, American decision makers began to restructure their perceptions with extraordinary speed. Pieces of the Middle East puzzle were quickly rearranged and the Carter administration moved swiftly to capitalize on the opportunity.

As efforts to negotiate a comprehensive settlement between Egypt and Israel had reached an impasse by the fall of 1978, a U.S. intervention was seen as the only hope for success. It was at this point that Carter took a major gamble, inviting Sadat and Begin to meet at Camp David. After thirteen days of negotiations in total isolation, the three leaders emerged to announce agreement on two accords: "A framework for peace in the Middle East," and a "Framework for the conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel."

The Camp David Agreements were not a final settlement but merely one stage in a process of negotiations. In March 1979, and after Carter had engaged in "Shuttle Diplomacy," the two countries signed a bilateral peace treaty. The second stage calls for negotiations between Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestinian representatives to determine the future of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These negotiations began in April, 1979, with only Egypt and Israel participating.

Camp David and Palestinian Rights

"We have said that the end of military occupation and illegal settlements would ensure our acceptance of peace. And still, despite all this, paid for in the daily suffering of our people, in exile, under occupation, subject to Israeli state terrorism and racial discrimination, we are told in the terms of the Camp David accords that not only would there be no end to military occupation, but our very identity as Palestinians would be reduced to the status of mere 'Arab inhabitants.' Instead of sovereign state, we are offered something between a Bantustan and an Indian reservation." Member of the PLO Executive Committee 20/

Official Palestinian rejection of the Camp David accords was immediate. The accords were signed on September 17, 1978 and the PLO Executive Committee issued its first reaction on the following morning of September 18, 1978. In that statement, the PLO referred to the accords as constituting "total surrender by Sadat" and affirmed its "determination to confront and frustrate this conspiracy." 21/ The PLO's position can better be understood by looking at the basic features of the accords as they deal with the Palestinians. 22/

The agreement stipulates that a self-governing authority will be created in the West Bank and Gaza. The means for establishing that authority and the powers and responsibilities of the authority are to be negotiated by Israel, Egypt and Jordan. That authority, once established, is to exercise its powers for a transitional five-year period. During the period, negotiations between the three parties as well as representatives of the authority will take place in order to determine the future status of the West Bank and Gaza.

A closer look at the proposed arrangements reveals their defects from the standpoint of Palestinian rights. Major among those is the exclusion of Palestinian representatives from the initial negotiations aimed at prescribing the powers and responsibilities of the self-governing authority. Moreover, the arrangements seem to be based on the Begin Plan of December 1977. 23/

According to that plan, "the residents of Judea, Samaria (West Bank) and the Gaza district will elect an Administrative Council … to (direct) all the administrative affairs relating to the Arab residents" of those areas. "Security and public order," however, "will be the responsibility of the Israeli authorities." Article 24 of the plan proclaims that "Israel stands by its right and its claim of sovereignty of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district." 24/

While the Camp David agreement does not specifically mention Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, it does, however, delegate security responsibilities mainly to Israel. The end result in both plans is a separation between the fate of the population and the fate of the land. The population would have self-rule, but the land would be controlled by Israel. The question of sovereignty would simply be indefinitely postponed.

The agreement at Camp David also provides for the possibility of including Palestinians in the negotiations over their future. In this regard, one may recall the late President Sadat's keynote address to the thirteenth session of the Palestine National Congress in March, 1977:

"The Palestinian people is the sole decision-maker with respect to anything that concerns its destiny and its cause. No one, whoever he may be, may exercise a trusteeship over, or impose his will upon, the Palestinian people. For a decision which does not emanate from a free will is devoid of its very essence. We in Egypt insist that the Palestinian will shall remain independent, free from bondage or interference. We equally insist that all the decisions which have emanated from that will shall be fully respected-foremost among which is the decision to designate the Palestine Liberation Organization as its sole legitimate representative, the defender of its rights and interest." 25/

Sadat's successors can no longer make such assertions. More moderate statements are being made after Camp David. Even those, however, are subject to limitations. Former U.S. Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, for example, told the United Nations General Assembly:

"The Camp David framework also gives the Palestinians a vital role in shaping their destiny by recognizing them as participants in all aspects of the negotiations that determine their future. They will participate in the negotiations to set up their self-governing authority…" 26/

Of course, the negotiations are taking place without Palestinian participation. The Palestinians did not participate partly because Camp David goes against the basic elements of a just solution to their plight and partly because it has no room for their participation as equal and independent partners in the negotiations. The late Dr. Fayez Sayegh, a noted Palestinian scholar, listed six crucial limitations to Palestinian participation:

1. The agreement specifies that "the delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza or other Palestinians as mutually agreed." Therefore, Palestinian inclusion is not mandatory but rather, subject to the decision of the governments of Egypt and Jordan.

2. The selected Palestinians will also be official representatives not of their people but of the governments that appoint them.

3. Should either government choose to include Palestinians in its delegation – and Egypt did not or could not while Jordan is not participating – every Palestinian it selects is subject to a "mutual agreement." Israel therefore, can veto the participation of any individual Palestinian.

4. Proposals presented by Palestinian members of the Arab delegations must be approved by the delegations prior to its formal presentation.

5. Proposals unacceptable to Palestinian participants will not be rejected by the Arab delegation concerned unless its government also finds them unacceptable to it.

6. Any proposal submitted by a Palestinian participant, assuming that it is endorsed and officially presented by the Arab delegation in which he serves, must be approved by the delegation of Israel before it may be reflected in the final agreement. 27/

Under such limitations, the role of the Palestinians – assuming that any will choose, or will be permitted to participate – is indeed a far cry from the "vital role" about which Mr. Vance spoke.

According to the provisions of the Camp David agreement, during the five-year transitional period, Israeli forces will continue to be stationed in the Occupied Territories. Having been determined in advance, the subject of continued Israeli military presence in the West Bank and Gaza is not subject to further negotiations. Acceptance of that decision by the "self-governing" authority is mandatory. Therefore, Israeli military occupation will become legitimate for the transitional period, if not permanently. Thus, an Israeli occupation that has been condemned by the entire international community as illegal, is bestowed legitimacy.

Even more disturbing to the Palestinians in particular was the intentional omission of Jerusalem from the scope of the powers and responsibilities of the projected self-governing authority. One may recall that Israel formally annexed Jerusalem. The demographic composition of Jerusalem has been altered by the displacement and deportation of thousands of Palestinian residents and the addition of Jewish settlements there. By excluding Jerusalem from the Camp David agreement, the U.S. and Egypt may have bestowed on Israel an indirect form of recognition of that annexation. Similarly, by not mentioning the Syrian Golan Heights, the Camp David Accords gave Israel the opportunity to annex them without appearing to violate the Accords.

Another issue that received much attention in the Western press, has been the controversy over Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. From the beginning, there was much confusion on this vital issue, some of it stemming from a mix-up of two distinct documents. It is clear enough that Israeli settlements on Egyptian territory are to be disbanded. But in the agreement on the West Bank and Gaza there is no mention of settlements. The U.S. insisted that while negotiations were going on, there will be no new settlements. Israel, on the other hand, disagreed. In view of what happened since, it is inexcusable that the Camp David agreement did not contain provisions in this regard. Since the signing of the accords, Israel has not only legitimized existing illegal settlements, but also established new ones and expanded existing ones. It is clear by now that Mr. Begin has chosen to continue to colonize the West Bank and Gaza.

Similar to the Begin plan of 1977, the Camp David agreement provides for the return of some displaced Palestinians. However, this return is limited to Palestinians displaced from the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, amounting to ten percent of the total Palestinian diaspora. Further limitations on this return are provided by giving Israel an explicit veto power over the admission of any person. Therefore, the absolute right of return, recognized in international law, and demanded by the international community – General Assembly resolution 3419 C (XXX), for example – was transformed at Camp David into a selective privilege of admission.

Supporters of the Camp David agreement, mainly here in the U.S. tend to emphasize – when faced with criticism – that the agreement declares: "The solution from the negotiations must also recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements." This declaration, however, is as hollow as it is worthless. The words legitimate rights are surely confusing. If the objective of the negotiations are rights then they are legitimate. If, on the other hand, they are legitimate, then they are rights. "At best, then, the qualification legitimate is a redundance; at worst, it conceals more than it reveals." 28/ Such a concept has possibly been incorporated into the agreement as a calculated act to seduce the Palestinians and mislead their supporters, without committing Israel to anything specific.

It is evident from the above that neither the American nor the Israeli administrations are willing to accept the PLO as a partner in Arab-Israeli negotiations. The Palestine question was viewed as a byproduct of the Arab-Israeli conflict and thus, its solution falls in the context of Arab-Israeli peace. By dealing separately with the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, the Camp David agreement has, in effect, attempted to delegitimize the PLO as a representative of the Palestinians and to break Palestinian solidarity behind the PLO. At Camp David, an Israeli, an American and an Egyptian negotiated the future of the Palestinians in the absence of the Palestinians. As a result, the three leaders have attempted a practice that professional medical doctors deplore: sewing the wound with an infection still flaming inside.

Camp David and the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination

Today, the Palestinian right to self-determination is well recognized. At the United Nations, the General Assembly has adopted many resolutions recognizing this Palestinian right. General Assembly resolution 2535 of 10 December, 1969, for example, "reaffirms the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine." 29/ In 1970, two similar resolutions were adopted. One "condemns those Governments that deny the right to self-determination of peoples recognized as being entitled to it, especially of the peoples of Southern Africa and Palestine." 30/ The other resolution "recognizes that the people of Palestine are entitled to equal rights and self-determinations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations." 31/ Similar resolutions were adopted every year since. In fact, so many resolutions affirming the Palestinian right to self-determination have been adopted by the UN and other international bodies that no single article or book could have the luxury of even listing them all.

The Charter of the UN defines the concept of self-determination as the right of all peoples "to determine their political, economic, social and cultural status." 32/ This definition is generally accepted by most scholars. For example, Alfred Cobban explains self-determination as the right of each nation "to constitute an independent state and determine its own government." 33/ Rupert Emerson defines it as the right of nations "to determine their own destiny and maintain their identity." 34/

It goes without saying that the Camp David Accords make a mockery of the Palestinian fundamental right to self-determination. In fact, Palestinian destiny was determined in the absence of the Palestinians. One could further argue that the Camp David Accords violate United Nations law and thus are in conflict with international law. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO's Executive Committee, reflected Palestinian sentiments about Camp David and Palestinian self-determination when he said:

"It (Camp David Accords) is self-administration (and not self-determination), and I call it garbage. The Israeli's have control of everything, even the sources of water. Give me the example anywhere in the world where a village does not control its own drinking water. Israel wants more borders than any other state in the world: defensible borders, historic borders, biblical borders, and now they want hydraulic borders. I say of Camp David, of autonomy, of self-rule, that we have rejected them. And we will continue to resist until we are able to live freely in our own homeland." 35/


1.  This paper is based on an article by the same author that is forthcoming in Al-Ittihad: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Studies entitled "The Palestinians and Camp David."

2.  Yasser Arafat, "Address to the U.N. General Assembly," November 13, 1974.

3.  Theodore Herzl, The Jewish State (New York: Scopus, 1943), p.42.

4.  Quoted in Arthur Hertzberg, ed., The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader (New York: n.p., 1959), p. 50.

5.  John Norton Moore, ed., The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Documents (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), Vol. III, p. 4.

6.  Moshe Menuhim, Jewish Critics of Zionism (Detroit: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1976), p. 22.

7.  lbid., p. 11.

8.  Hassan S. Haddad and Basheer K. Mijim, eds., The Arab World: A Handbook (Willmette, IL: Medina Press, 1978), p. 135.

9.  W.F. Abboushi, Political Systems of the Middle East in the 20th Century (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1970), p. 224.

10.  U.S., Department of State Bulletin, Vol. 57 (1967), p. 218.

11.  Muhammad H. El-Farra, "The Role of the U.N. Vis-a-Vis the Palestine Question," Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 33 (1968), p. 77.

12.  Hisham Sharabi, Palestine Guerrillas: Their Credibility and Effectiveness (Beirut: The Institute for Palestine Studies, 1970), p. xi.

13.  Nadav Safran, From War to War: The Arab-Israeli Confrontation, 1948-1967 (New York: Pegasus, 1969), p. 414.

14.  Ibid., p. 415.

15  W.F. Abboushi, The Angry Arabs (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974), p. 202.

16.  New York Times, March 17, 1977.

17.  Ibid., June 28, 1977.

18.  Text in Ibid., October 2, 1977.

19.  Zbigniew Brzezinski, et. al., "Peace in an International Framework," Foreign Policy (Summer, 1975), p. 10.

20.  A statement by Dr. Ahmad Dajani issued in Beirut on October 10, 1978. Re-printed in Faith Zeady, ed., Camp David: A New Balfour Declaration (Detroit: A.A.U.G., 1979), pp. 60-70.

21.  PL0, Statement by the Executive Committee, September 18, 1978. Translated and reproduced in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. VIII, No. 2 (Winter, 1979), pp. 177-179.

22.  For the text of the accords and related documents see Ibid., pp. 205-214.

23.  For the full text of the Begin Plan see The Jerusalem Post, December 29, 1977

24.  lbid.

25.  Al-Ahram, March 13, 1977. Translated by Fayez A. Sayegh, "The Camp David Agreement and the Palestine Problem," Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. VIII, No. 2 (Winter, 1979), p. 39.

26.  U.N. Document A/33/PV.14.

27.  Sayegh, op.cit., pp. 7-8.

28.  F.A. Sayegh, "Prospects of the Palestinian Cause in the Diplomatic Arena," in B. Abu-Laban and F.T. Zeady, eds., Arabs in America: Myths and Realities (Wilmette, Illinois: Medina Press, 1975), p. 248.

29.  General Assembly Resolution 2535 (XXIV) of 10 December, 1969, Part B.

30.  General Assembly Resolution 2649 (XXV) of 30 November, 1970.

31  General Assembly Resolution 2672 (XXV) of 8 December, 1970, Part C.

32.  Louis B. Sohn, Cases on United Nations Law (Brooklyn: The Foundation Press, 1956), p. 808.

33.  Alfred Cobban, National Self-Determination (London: Oxford University Press, 1945), p. 4.

34.  Rupert Emerson, Self-Determination Revisited in the Era of Decolonization (New Haven: Houvert University Center for International Affairs, 1964), p. 31.

35.  From an interview with Yasser Arafat in Time magazine, April 14, 1980, p. 49.



Joseph L. Ryan, S.J.

In his address before the United Nations on 2 October 1979, Pope John Paul II spoke in a setting of unforgettable drama. This Slavic Pope, a Pope from the Second World, one might say, the ardent son of an ancient people with a rich culture and a long history of suffering, was addressing, in their own assembly, the representatives of the peoples of the world. In the course of his speech he recalled the famous opening words of the Charter of the United Nations, in which "the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" solemnly reaffirmed "faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small". 1/

As I asked myself what aspect of Palestinian rights to discuss today, in a private capacity only, it occurred to me to reflect on those rights in the light of certain factors in the contemporary Roman Catholic Church, especially the person of Pope John Paul II. Several reasons urge this as my topic.

1. The nature of human rights. Might is not right. Rights are grounded, not in physical power or military strength or political pressure or diplomatic adroitness, but in the moral order.

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundation of the rights proclaimed is the fact that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity". (Art.l) Further, these rights, to be implemented, require community. "Every one has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible". (Art. 19,1). Rights, then, are not simply claims against other persons, but claims on the community as a whole. 2/

Human beings, then, have a claim, a claim which is based on the most elementary principles of justice, to the respect of other peoples and of societies. Flowing from the very essence of personhood comes an entitlement to freedom – freedom from coercion, from aggression, from being threatened or manipulated by others. The conviction that human beings have rights is what empowers them to hope and to struggle against oppression in all its forms. To have rights means being able to make a claim on one's neighbours, one's country, or the society of nations, for the redress of wrongs, for the alleviation of injustice, and for an end to the violent conditions which radically undermine one's God -given dignity as a human being. A right is an entitlement to freedom and to justice.

Hence it is natural, in considering rights, especially on an issue as longstanding and as serious, in itself and in its impact on regional and world peace, as the rights of the Palestinians, to seek support from governments and peoples but particularly from those institutions expressly concerned with the moral order. Surely the United Nations is one of these, as its Charter, as its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as its Covenants on Social and Economic Rights, as this Seminar with its origin in the General Assembly, all suggest.

2. Surely the Roman Catholic Church is another institution concerned with the moral order. More than that, it is, for several reasons, some of them extrinsic, one of the most prominent of these. Consider the number of its members, their presence throughout the world. Consider, too, the leadership role of the Catholic Church through the Pope – no other large world religious group so acknowledges the leadership of one individual – through agencies of the Church in Rome, through diplomatic channels of the Vatican, etc. Being in many nations, this Church is broader than a single country or group of them, and it can thus more readily speak to conditions that transcend national boundaries.

3. Further in this matter, the Catholic Church, even in its own development, is in a significant position today because of its recent history of growth in articulate concern for social matters, as distinct from strictly religious concerns. In the more than 90 years since Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Holy See has shown a progressive advocacy in social matters, not only for those touching internal economic conditions but, increasingly, in wider international concerns. 3/

4. Against this background of the developing role of the Catholic Church stands the figure of Pope John Paul II, whose personal, intellectual, national and religious history makes him a particularly important and articulate spokesman for human dignity and human rights – a spokesman not only for today, but for tomorrow, too. Becoming Pope in 1978 at the relatively youthful age of 58, he is likely, barring any unforeseen accident, to lead the Church to the threshold of the next millennium.

Hence it occurs to me that my contribution to this Seminar might best be to discuss Palestinian rights, not in themselves, but in the light of the contemporary Roman Catholic articulate awareness of rights, as personified in Pope John Paul II.

First I shall cite statements made by the Pope on three occasions where he dealt explicitly with the Palestinian problem. Secondly, I will discuss certain aspects of his background, his personal involvement in the struggle for justice as a Polish national and as a priest, and the impact of that experience on his statements as Pope concerning human dignity, the right of self-determination and cultural identity. These statements, as well as the Pope's remarks on the painful phenomena that arise where these rights are denied – refugees, loss of sovereignty and possessions, violence – cannot but strike deep cords in the hearts of Palestinians in view of their own national experience.


1. In his United Nations address, John Paul II spoke about the Middle East. For the Palestinians, what did he say of significance to them? Apart from an implied criticism of the Israeli-Egyptian "peace" process, the Pope made no mention of the rest of the Arab world, nor specifically of the State of Israel, nor, for that matter, of any other conflict in the world, with the exception of the Argentinean-Chilean dispute. He touched expressly on three Middle East topics, Jerusalem, Lebanon and the Palestinians. He said:

"It is my fervent hope that a solution also to the Middle East crisis may draw nearer. While being prepared to recognize the value of any concrete step or attempt made to settle the conflict, I want to recall that it would have no value if it did not truly represent the 'first stone' of a general overall peace in the area, a peace that, being necessarily based on equitable recognition of the rights of all, cannot fail to include the consideration and just settlement of the Palestinian question".

Next he spoke about Lebanon:

"Connected with this question is that of the tranquility, independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon within the formula that has made it an example of peaceful and mutually fruitful coexistence between distinct communities, a formula that I hope will, in the common interest, be maintained, with the adjustments required by the developments of the situation".

On Jerusalem he said:

"I also hope for a special statute that, under international guarantees as my predecessor Paul VI indicated – would respect the particular nature of Jerusalem, a heritage sacred to the veneration of millions of believers of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam". 4/

The Pope's words were brief and restrained, yet, in view of the circumstances of the United Nations and in view of the traditional reticence of Popes in not appearing to take sides in disputes between peoples, they were dramatic and bold.

2. Let me cite a second statement of John Paul II. On Sunday, 5 October, 1980, at an open-air Mass in Otranto, about 350 miles from Rome, he said: "The Middle East region is pervaded by tensions and disputes, with ever-impending risks of the explosion of new wars". He explained that the main ingredients of the Middle East drama are well-known:

"The Jewish people, after tragic experiences linked to the extermination of so many sons and daughters, gave life to the State of Israel. At the same time the said condition of the Palestinian people, who were in large part excluded from their homeland, was created".

The Pope said that Jerusalem "today is the object of a dispute which seems without solution", but expressed the hope that "tomorrow it may be the crossroads of reconciliation and peace". He added: "We pray that Jerusalem, rather than being – as it is today – the object of contention and division, may become the meeting point toward which Christians, Jews and Muslims will continue to turn their gaze". 5/

I submit that, factual and brief as the Pope's statement was regarding the Palestinians having been excluded from their homelands, that statement is astonishing. Despite the obviousness of the exclusion of the Palestinians, how many other leaders have ever spoken about it in public so directly?

3. The third occasion on which the Pope spoke on the Palestine problem is more recent. On 7 January 1982, Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in Rome for meetings with Italian authorities, met the Pope for a discussion in which "the current situation in the Middle East and the negotiations in course to resolve the conflict were reviewed". The Vatican communiqué described the views the Pope expressed:

"His Holiness, after having made note of the implementation which is being given to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, expressed the urgency of intensifying the efforts to achieve a balanced and stable peace beneficial to all the populations of the region, who have suffered and suffer because of the conflict which has lasted for decades; and he emphasized the necessity that the process of negotiation reach all interested parties, confronting with a decisive will for peace the as yet unresolved questions, and paying attention in the meantime to international conventions, in order to favour dialogue and negotiation".
"Among such questions, the problem of the Palestinians, both those living in the Holy Land and those who are refugees in nearby countries, has particular importance. A firm commitment to a just and rightful solution, taking into account also the problem of the security of the State of Israel, would give the peace process a new and determinant impulse. It will be an effective contribution when Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza strip see that they may enjoy a serene situation in full respect for all rights."

After speaking of Lebanon, the Vatican communiqué went on:

"The Holy Father confirmed the well-known position of the Holy See on a just and agreed-upon solution to the question of Jerusalem, stressing the necessity that the Holy City remain a crossroads of peace and encounter for the faithful of the three religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – which look to it, whether they reside there or go there in pilgrimage or however they venerate it, as a sacred center of history and the life of their own religion". 6/

For our purposes, these three specific references by Pope John Paul II regarding the Palestinians are most express and specific. I propose now to explore the background of the person who made not only these statements but other statements as well on themes which resonate with the Palestinian experience.


Karol Wojtila was born on 18 May 1920 in the small (10,000 inhabitants) town of Wadowice, 30 kilometers from Cracow, where his father, a soldier, was stationed and where at the age of three, he lost his mother.

Moving to Cracow in 1938, Karol entered the Jagellonian University (whose library Lenin had frequented from 1912 to 1914) where he enrolled in the faculty of philosophy, specializing in Polish Philology. Polish culture flourished at the University and young Karol felt its influence. He wrote poetry and joined a group of actors called the Rhapsodic Theatre. Forty years later, in an address to Polish youth in Poland, he would say:

"In the works of Polish culture, the soul of the nation is reflected. In them lives the nation's history. For this reason, that same history can make demands and uphold ideals without which it is difficult to believe in his own dignity and educate himself.
You are hearing these words from a man who owes his own spiritual formation from the beginning to Polish culture, to its literature, its music, its plastic arts, its theatre – to Polish history, to the Polish Christian traditions, to the Polish schools, the Polish universities." 7/

The following year World War II began in Poland, with the Nazi invasion. In his 1979 speech before the United Nations, the Pope confessed: "I still have before my mind the image of the Second World War in Europe, which began forty years ago on 1 September 1939". The occasion was dramatic: he had been attending Mass in the Cathedral in Cracow that morning when the air raids over the city announced the beginning of hostilities. 8/ Poland was invaded from the east as well as from the west. On September 17 of the same year, the Russian army swept into Poland; as a result, Poland would lose extensive territory, including the cities of Vilna and Lwow, on its border with the Soviet Union.

Two months after the start of the War and after Cracow had come under Nazi occupation, on 6 November 1939, 183 professors of his University, convoked by the Germans to hear a lecture on the role of education under the new German regime, were arrested and sent to concentration camps. 9/

The Nazis annexed part of Poland and set up what was called the General-Government for the remainder of it. In July, 1940 Hitler declared the whole General Government to be an integral part of the Greater Reich.

All high schools were closed during the entire occupation. Most of the Cracow faculties went underground. Karol, whose father had died in 1941, worked first in a stone quarry and then in the Solvay chemical factory, continuing to take part, clandestinely, in the Rhapsodic Theatre, which had now become a kind of cultural resistance movement attempting to keep alive Polish culture.

In 1942 Karol became a seminarian, working by day, but living and studying in the secret seminary, the residence of Cardinal Adam Saphieha, Archbishop of Cracow, a symbol of the resistance (Cardinal Hlond, the Primate, had fled to France) in a struggle in which 2,600 priests had been executed or died in concentration camps. 10/

The Cardinal, who was linked with the national Polish conspiracy against the Nazis and the underground resistance, was convinced that it was of even greater valour than direct assault upon the enemy to raise up a new militia of priests for the Poland that would surely rise from the blood and ashes. 11/

In Cracow the occupation changed from Nazi to Soviet. By August 1944, Soviet troops began to move into those areas which would constitute the eastern parts of the People's Republic of Poland. In January 1945, the Soviet military forces were in charge in Cracow.

After the fighting was over, prewar Poland had been divided roughly in half between Germany and the Soviet Union. Some 73,000 square miles of prewar Poland, with a population of 22 million, came under Nazi control, and about 77,000 square miles, with the population of about 13 million, came under Soviet control. 12/

On 1 November 1946, Karol Wojtyla was ordained a priest; after his ordination he left Poland to continue his studies for the doctorate at the Angelicum University in Rome from 1946-1948. On his return he worked in parishes, and then went on for further studies, this time at the Catholic University in Lublin where he did his thesis on Max Scheler, a Catholic philosopher, follower of Husserl, the founder of Phenomenology. His research on Scheler had a significant impact on his thinking on the dignity of the human person, as abundant evidence would show in his later papal talks. On completing his studies, he began to teach at the University. He continued to write poetry.

After World War II, especially during the Stalinist period of 1951-1956, relations between the Church and the State in Poland were, at times, severely strained. In 1953 political conditions in Poland worsened. Cardinal Wyszinski was placed under house arrest, as were eight other bishops and 900 priests. By 1955 there were over 2,000 bishops, priests and Catholic laymen in prison. However, with the death of Stalin and with the coming to power of Gomulka in 1956, conditions improved and those arrested were released. 13/

To complete the pertinent dates in the life of Father Wojtyla, he became auxiliary bishop of Cracow in 1958, archbishop in 1964, cardinal in 1967, and Pope in 1978.

Coming to Rome as Pope, Karol Wojtyla brought with him this enormous experience of his people, 1000 years old, but having suffered under the political and military harassment of its more powerful neighbours. He brought with him also his own personal experience from Cracow, in its suffering under two occupation armies. Poland lost more people than any other state in Europe by military action: one citizen in five, not counting those millions shipped into the camps from elsewhere in Europe for hideous torture and cremation. There is no special term in Polish for the specifically Jewish Holocaust. 14/ Poles, Jews and non-Jews suffered and died together, and in about equal numbers.

I have dwelt somewhat on Polish suffering because it is very pertinent to our purpose. Some affinities between Poland and Palestine are remarkable. A Pole like John Paul II can readily look at the Palestinian struggle with a deep sympathy, while a Palestinian, reflecting on the Polish suffering, cannot fail to be struck by numerous comparisons. An extensive treatment of the comparison between the two peoples is beyond the limits of this paper.

Karol Wojtyla brought with him to Rome as Pope his intellectual formation, a development important and pertinent to our topic, but impossible to present here. Professor George Williams of Harvard in his book "The Mind of John Paul II" studies the origins of his thought and action in elaborate detail. In giving a summary of his thought, Professor Williams stresses first Karol Wojtyla'a conception of the dignity of man. 15/ It is a theme which the Pope will emphasize again and again with great explicitness.


Having given an outline of Karol Wojtyla's life, I would like now to present a few of the themes he has touched on, themes which resonate with the Palestinian condition.

1. Man, his dignity and human rights

Perhaps the most central denial felt by Palestinians, large numbers of them stateless, is a denial of their identity, of their dignity, of their inherent value, a denial epitomized in the statement: "There are no Palestinians".

In addressing the United Nations, John Paul II spoke of the centrality of man and human dignity:

"Now, availing myself of the solemn occasion of my meeting with the representatives of the nations of the earth, I wish above all to send my greetings to all the men and women living on this planet. To every man and every woman, without any exception whatever. Every human being living on earth is a member of a civil society, of a nation, many of them represented here. Each one of you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, represents a particular State, system and political structure, but what you represent above all are individual human beings; you are all representatives of men and women, of practically all the people of the world, individual men and women, communities and peoples who are living the present phase of their own history and who are also part of the history of humanity as a whole, each of them a subject endowed with dignity as a human person, with his or her own culture, experiences and aspiration, tensions and sufferings, and legitimate expectations. This relationship is what provides the reason for all political activity, whether national or international for in the final analysis this activity comes from man, is exercised by man and is for man". 16/

Recalling his papal visit to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp located within the confines of his own former archdiocese of Cracow, he spoke of it as "overflowing with contempt for man and his fundamental rights". He went on:

"You will forgive me, ladies and gentlemen, for evoking this memory. But I would be untrue to the history of this century, I would be dishonest with regard to the great cause of man, which we all wish to serve, if I should keep silent, I who come from the country on whose living body Oswiecim was at one time constructed. But my purpose in evoking this memory is above all to show what painful experiences and sufferings by millions of people gave rise to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been placed as the basic inspiration and cornerstone of the United Nations Organization. This Declaration was paid for by millions of our brothers and sisters at the cost of their suffering and sacrifice, brought about by the brutalization that darkened and made insensitive the human consciences of their oppressors and of those who carried out a real genocide. This price cannot have been paid in vain!" 17/

2. Self-determination

A second basic denial which Palestinians feel keenly is that of their right to self-determination, a denial expressed today in the scornful word "autonomy".

In his 16 January 1982 address to the diplomats accredited to the Holy See, the Pope spoke of martial law in Poland and its consequences, "the imprisonment of thousands of citizens, especially intellectuals and leaders of workers' free organizations, and the moral constraint imposed on citizens."

Recalling the remarkable contribution of sacrifice and of blood that Poles have made, particularly since the end of the 18th century and the Holocaust of six million citizens during the last war," he went on:

"Belonging to this proud and hard-working people, I have felt particularly deeply in my heart the repercussions of the recent vicissitudes. But those of other countries make me suffer equally. For it is not only the son of Poland who is suffering, but also the visible head of the Catholic Church, the leader of the Holy See, to whom all peoples … are equally dear and close. It is impossible to be silent when the inviolable rights of man and the no less sacred ones of the different nations are endangered". 18/

Then the Pope went on to draw a more general conclusion, regarding self-determination:

"The conviction is gaining ground daily in public opinion that the peoples must be able to choose freely the social organization to which they aspire for their own country and that this organization should be in conformity with justice, in respect of freedom, religious faith and human rights in general. It is a commonly shared conviction that no people should be treated by other peoples as subordinate or as an instrument, in defiance of equality which is inscribed in human conscience and recognized by the norms of international law.
Just as in interpersonal relations one party cannot do as he likes with another as if he were an object, in the same way in international life everything that attacks the free expression of the will of nations should be denounced. The fact of divisions into spheres of hegemony, which may have had their origin in particular and contingent situations, should not justify their continuance, all the more so if they tend to limit the sovereignty of others. Every people must be able to act freely in what regards the free determination of its own destiny. The church cannot fail to give her support to such a conviction". 19/

In talking to Polish civil authorities on 2 June 1979, the Pope had spoken of the importance of self-determination:

"We Poles feel in a particularly deep way the fact that the raison d'être of the State is the sovereignty of society, of the nation, of the motherland. We have learned this during the whole course of our history, and especially through the hard trials of recent centuries. We can never forget that terrible historical lesson – the loss of the independence of Poland from the end of the eighteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth. This painful and essentially negative experience has become, as it were, a new forge of Polish patriotism. For us, the word 'motherland' has a meaning, both for the mind and for the heart, such as other nations of Europe and the world appear not to know…" 20/

3. Culture

As their rights have been violated, Palestinians in their powerlessness have drawn strength and sustenance to a remarkable degree from their culture.

Addressing UNESCO at its headquarters in Paris on 2 June 1980, John Paul II spoke at length of culture and the nation. He said:

"The nation is, in fact, the great community of men who are united by various ties, but above all, precisely by culture… It is this community which possesses a history that goes beyond the history of the individual and the family …
In all that I am now proclaiming … my words express a particular experience, a particular testimony in its kind. I am the son of a nation which has lived the greatest experiences of history, which its neighbours have condemned to death several times, but which has survived and remained itself. It has kept its identity, and it has kept, in spite of partitions and foreign occupations, its national sovereignty, not by relying on the resources of physical power, but solely by relying on its culture. This culture turned out in the circumstances to be more powerful than all other forces …
There exists a fundamental sovereignty of society which is manifested in the culture of the nation. It is a question of the sovereignty through which, at the same time, man is supremely sovereign". 21/

4. Freedom versus security

The Palestinian people have been cruelly despoiled of their rights by institutional, governmental violence under the claim of "security", a claim which has often, shamefully but effectively, silenced protest from abroad.

Speaking to the United Nations, Pope John Paul II recalled his visit to Auschwitz and said that everything that recalls such experiences should disappear forever,

"everything that is a continuation of those experiences under different forms, namely the various kinds of torture and oppression, either physical or moral, carried out under any system in any land; this phenomenon is all the more distressing if it occurs under the pretext of internal 'security' or the need to preserve an apparent peace". 22/

In his talk to the members of the Organization of American States in Washington on 6 October 1979, the Pope spoke of Poland and said:

"The painful experience of the history of my own country, Poland, has shown me how important national sovereignty is when it is served by a State worthy of the name and free in its decisions; how important it is for the protection not only of a people's legitimate interests but also of its culture and its soul". 23/

Referring to "particular traditions, difficulties and historical experiences" of members of the OAS, he went on:

"However, while such difficulties and experiences can at times call for exceptional measures and a certain period of maturation in preparation for new advances in shared responsibility, they never, never justify any attack on the inviolable dignity of the human person and on the authentic rights that protect this dignity. If certain ideologies and certain ways of interpreting legitimate concern for national security were to result in subjugating to the State man and his rights and dignity, they would to that extent cease to be human and would be unable to claim without gross deception any Christian reference. In the Church's thinking it is a fundamental principle that social organization is at the service of man, not vice versa. That holds good also for the highest levels of society, where the power of coercion is wielded and where abuses, when they occur, are particularly serious. Besides, a security in which the peoples no longer feel involved, because it no longer protects them in their very humanity, is only a sham; as it grows more and more rigid, it will show symptoms of increasing weakness and rapidly approaching ruin." 24/

5. Refugees The word "Palestinian" has been almost synonymous for "refugee".

In his 16 January 1982 talk to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, the Pope spoke vigourously and movingly of those "exiled" outside the frontiers of their country for political reasons. He said:

"This measure, a fundamentally violent one, is an attempt to get rid of citizens who are disliked, or who disturb, by uprooting them from their native country and condemning them to a precarious and difficult life in which they will often be victims of discouragement and hard-ships as a result of the difficulties inherent in the search for a new job and in acclimatization to a new environment, even on the part of their respective families.
It cannot escape the attention of any one that exile is a serious violation of the norms of life in society clearly contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to international law itself, and the consequences of such a punishment prove to be dramatic on the individual, social and moral plane. Man must not be deprived of the fundamental right of living and breathing in the country in which he was born, where there are the dearest memories of his family, the tombs of his ancestors, the culture which confers on him his spiritual identity and which nourishes it, the traditions which give him vitality and happiness and all the human relationships which sustain and defend him.
In the encyclical Laborem Exercens, speaking of the phenomenon of emigration due to lack of work, I maintained that man, if he has the right to leave his country of origin, has also the right to return to it (cf. 23). I stressed the impoverishment that results for the country abandoned. … But for the exiled it is not a question of an emergency situation, a provisional matter, but of a real enforced exclusion, which strikes them in their deepest affections and may quite often correspond to what is called 'civil death'." 25/

6. Violence

To this observer, violence is one of the great Palestinian dilemmas. For years, when Palestinian non-violence was remarkably deep, extensive, and generally unmarred, the world paid it little heed, as it continues to do in as much as that tradition perdures. The Palestinian people are, and have been, victims of violence.

For a Pope whose previous personal life has been lived under occupation and whose "flock" is exposed in many countries to oppression and deprivation, the issue of violence is one that has frequently to be faced. On his arrival in Ireland on 29 September 1979, the Pope spoke at Drogheda, a city near the border of Northern Ireland, where he commented on the bitter conflict across the frontier:

"Christianity does not command us to close our eyes to difficult human problems. It does not permit us to neglect and refuse to see unjust social or international situations. What Christianity does forbid is to seek solutions to these situations by the ways of hatred, by the murdering of defenseless people, by the methods of terrorism. Let me say more: Christianity understands and recognizes the noble and just struggle for justice; but Christianity is decisively opposed to fomenting hatred and to promoting or provoking violence or struggle for the sake of 'struggle'. The command, 'Thou shalt not kill', must be binding on the conscience of humanity, if the terrible tragedy and destiny of Cain is not to be repeated.
We must, above all, clearly realize where the causes of this dramatic struggle are found. We must call by name those systems and ideologies that are responsible for this struggle. We must also reflect whether the ideology of subversion is for the true good of your people, for the true good of man. Is it possible to construct the good of individuals and peoples on hatred, on war? Is it not necessary to seek solutions to our problems by a different way? Does not the fratricidal struggle make it even more urgent for us to seek peaceful solutions with all our energies?…" 26/



The Palestinian people for the past 85 years since Herzl made his call to the Jews of Europe to set up a Jewish state, with a majority of Jewish citizens, in the land of Palestine, a Palestine whose Arab inhabitants, then the overwhelming majority, unanimously opposed Herzl's call – the Palestinian people, I say, has had to fall back for its bedrock support on the rightness of its cause, on an insistence on its human rights that were violated in that call and in its implementation.

The same is true today. Hence the importance, for the Palestinians and for every one concerned with their rights, of stressing their moral claims.

Hence the continuing value of persons, institutions and leaders concerned with moral claims.

Hence the contribution of a moral leader who, in addition to having an intellectual and religious conviction regarding human rights, possesses an experience in his own memory and in the memory of his people of a continued, violent and widespread violation of human rights.

Such a leader is Pope John Paul II. His few, brief, explicit statements on the Palestine problem and his numerous declarations on themes with affinities to the experience of the Palestinian people give a certain personal, dynamic moral support of special significance.


1. Pilgrim of Peace, No. 16, pp. 25.

2. Hollenbach, p. 28.

3. Hollenbach, especially Chapter 2; O'Brien and Shannon, pp. 11-43. Pope John Paul II to Diplomats, 16 Jan. 1982, Origins 11, 35 (11 February 1982) No. 10, p. 563.

4. Pilgrim of Peace, No. 10, pp. 21-22.

5. NC News, Catholic Free Press, Worcester, 10 October 1980, p. 2. For Israeli reaction to the talk, see Robin Wright.

6. Origins, 11, 33 (28 January 1982), p. 531.

7. 3 June 1979. The Person, the Nation and the State, No. 14, p. 23.

8. Williams, p. 62.

9. Ibid.

10. Wytwycky, p. 51.

11. Williams, p. 81.

12. Wytwycky, p. 39.

13. Hebblethwaite, p. 165.

14. Williams, p. 400. For details on Poles who died, see Wytwycky, pp. 39-52. Six million Poles died, half of them Jews, half Christians; of that six million, 600,000 died as a result of direct hostilities, i.e. fighting in the Polish armed forced or in the armed resistance during occupation. The rest were victims of the Holocaust. p. 51.

15. Williams, pp. 264-279.

16. Pilgrim of Peace, No. 6, p. 18.

17. Ibid., No. 9, p. 20.

18. Origins, 11, 33 (28 January 1982), p. 561.

19. Ibid., p. 562.

20. The Person, the Nation and the State, No. 18, p. 27.

21. Catholic Mind, LXXXIX, 1351 (March 1981), No. 14, p. 58.

22. Pilgrim of Peace, No. 8, p. 20.

23. Ibid., No. 3, p. 143.

24. Ibid., No. 4, pp. 143-4.

25. Origins, 11, 33 (28 January 1982), p. 562.

26. Catholic Mind, LXXVIII, 1340 (February 1980), p. 59.


Hebblethwaite, Peter, The Year of the Three Popes. Cleveland, New York: Collins, 1979.

Hollenbach, S.J., David, Claims in Conflict: Retrieving and Renewing the Catholic Human Rights Tradition. New York: Paulist Press, 1979.

John Paul II, "Address at Drogheda", Catholic Mind Vol. LXXVIII, No. 1340 (February 1980), pp. 56-64.

Pilgrim of Peace: Homilies and Addresses of Pope John Paul II in the United States,October 1979. Washington, D.C.: Publications Office, U.S. Catholic Conference. n.d.
"Address to UNESCO", Catholic Mind Vol. LXXIX, No. 1351 (March 1981), pp. 50-64.

Malinski, Mieczyslaw, Pope John Paul II : The Life of Karol Wojtyla. New York: Seabury Press, 1979.

Murphy, William (ed.), The Person, the Nation and the State: Texts of John Paul II (October 1978 – January 1980). Vatican City: Pontifical Commission "Iustitia et Pax", 1980.

O'Brien, David J. and Thomas A. Shannon, Renewing the Earth: Catholic Documents on Peace, Justice and Liberation. Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books, Doubleday, 1977.

Ryan, S.J., Joseph L., "Jerusalem in Roman Catholic Perspectives", in Jerusalem Key to Peace in the Middle East, O. Kelly Ingram (ed.). Durham, N.C., Triangle Friends of the Middle East, 1978. pp. 25-38.

"The Catholic Faith and the Problem of Israel and Jerusalem", in Jerusalem:  The Key to World Peace. London: Islamic Council of Europe, 1980, pp. 40-75.

Stevens, Richard P., "The Vatican, the Catholic Church and Jerusalem", Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. X, No. 3 (Spring 1981), pp. 100-10.

Williams, George H., The Mind of John Paul II: Origins of his thought and action. New York: Seabury Press, 1981.

Wright, Robin, "Strange Bedfellows: The Pope and the PLO", Washington Post, 24 January 1982.

Wytwycky, Bohan, The Other Holocaust, Washington: Novak Report, 1980.


Mr. Heath Macquarrie

That the Palestinian people have inalienable rights is axiomatic. That they are currently being denied them is, alas, a cruel and tragic contemporary truth. That the redress of this wrong is a responsibility of those who, in the main, caused it should also be apparent.

While others shared the culpability from time to time, the western nations and peoples through their diplomacy, their decisions and sometimes their deceit created the Palestinian problem. While not having a major part of the action or the ignominy, Canada did have some part. There is a slowly awakening sense of co-responsibility for the current situation and a broadening recognition of its inequities and iniquities.

As one views the present state of the Palestinian people and the configuration of power and leadership in the world of 1982, it seems clear that the capacity to bring about retribution and justice lies with the major nations of the west, principally the United States of America. Some might say exclusively with that country.

While it is most encouraging to note the splendid support given to the Palestinian cause by a vast majority of United Nations Members – and the leadership of the non-aligned States in this regard is much to be applauded – the winning of votes in this building or at United Nations meetings elsewhere has not and will not suffice to right wrongs or restore rights. If we allow realism to prevail over rhetoric, we will admit that a call to arms is a shibboleth rather than a solution. In a world massively overarmed with fearsome weapons of mass destruction, I am a man of peace on moral grounds. But to draw upon no ingredient but common sense, can one seriously postulate the physical military destruction of Israel with its highly efficient armed forces and its enormously powerful super friend and super-Power?

While it may seem gratuitous to advise patience and moderation upon people who have suffered so long, so cruelly and so unjustly as the Palestinian people, it is for me the only course I would or could recommend. It would be very easy to orate on the possibility of quick triumphs tomorrow and total vindication the day after; such declamations would lack the essential element of realism.

But the inability to conjure up immediate, easy solutions does not make one a pessimist. Those who believe in the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people can point to significant advances in recent years. There has been a growing acuteness in the perception of the aims of the Israelis. In the western world, we have come a long way from that attitude which always espoused sympathy and support for any actions of that entity often dubbed "brave little Israel". Much of this new awareness is the result of the haughty intransigence of the Israelis but present too has been an increased sensitivity to the fate and state of the Palestinians.

In the United Nations, great strides have been taken. The welcome extended to Chairman Arafat, the designation of Observer Status to the PLO, the valuable dissemination of information in seminars such as this are major contributions to the cause of truth and justice.

One rejoices in the growth in the number of countries granting recognition to the PLO. There is much significance in the evolving West-European attitude as expressed at the Venice meeting. How much this has been vitiated by President Mitterand's recent visit to Israel is not yet clear.

If we believe, as I think we must, that the Palestinian case and cause must be sustained in the west, the role of Canada is one of great importance. It would be easy to pass the superficial judgment that Canada's international posture is replicative of the United States. We have a long record of pro-Israeli votes abroad and preachments at home. There is an enormously powerful and effective Zionist lobby, a media preference (though much less biased than the American) and a generally passive attitude on the part of Canadians of Arab origin.

But, while Canada and the United States are often on the same side of United Nations votes on Middle East questions as on other questions, we are not carbon copies. Nor have we hesitated to take a different course from our strongest ally and closest friend. I think it is not chauvinism to point to two examples and cite them as instances where the Canadian position was much more realistic than the American. In 1962, we refused to break off diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba. Later, we gave diplomatic recognition to and supported United Nations membership for the Peoples Republic of China.

It may seem far-fetched and visionary but it is quite possible that in reference to the Middle East, Canada might also show the way. It should, therefore, be instructive to survey the main points of Canadian foreign policy in reference to the Middle East.

Generally speaking, it has been the product of reluctance, inadvertence, over-reliance on the lead of a major power, a slight regard for economic realities and an almost unvarying pro-Israel stance.

It is not surprising that Canadians felt no heavy responsibility for events in Palestine before the mid-forties. If Neville Chamberlain could describe Czechoslovakia as a remote and little known country in 1938, Canadian political leaders could hardly be expected to regard the Middle East as an area for their concern. Some Canadians were strong Zionists, among Christian leaders could be found people with a sentimental interest in the Holy Land but most citizens, like their leaders, were content to leave the matter with the British. Mackenzie King, when events forced his attention upon the area, represented what we might exalt as the national consensus when he tried to keep Canada out of things as much as possible and advocated generally strong support for British positions and strategy. Although Britain, which gave birth and implementation to the Balfour Declaration and betrayed the Arabs on other occasions, must share much of the blame for the Middle East crises it was generally sensitive to the potential value of Arab goodwill and Arab resources. The Americans, their heirs as suzerains in the region, were to learn this lesson slowly and imperfectly.

Mackenzie King in the early and mid-forties again showed his skill as a diviner of Canadian public opinion. In the clash of Jews and Arabs in Palestine, Canadians were divided. There had been immense sympathy for the suffering of Jews in Europe and a high regard for their military contributions to the allied cause. But even far-off Canadians were shocked at the terrorist excesses of the Irgun and Stern groups. A public opinion poll published on 9 February 1918 revealed a citizenry lacking strong identification or commitment. Fifty-eight per cent had no opinion, nineteen were sympathetic to the Jews, twenty-three to the Arabs. In such a situation, political leaders and diplomats had considerable room for manoeuvre and action.

Canadians played a significant role in the important period which saw the phase-out of British responsibility for the long-troubled Palestine area and the exertions of the United Nations in the creation of the State of Israel. But despite the prominent part played by Canadians it is clear that the major motivation was the amelioration of tensions among larger powers, the United States and Britain and later the United States and the Soviet Union. Mr. Pearson was conscious of Canada's role and played it with skill and finesse.

A Canadian, Mr. Justice Ivan Rand, was a member of UNSCOP and according to pro-Zionist scholars, a most important one.

At the end of UNSCOP's deliberations when the idea of partition was being discussed and maps were drawn up, it was Rand who convinced other committee members to grant the Jews autonomy in a territory containing an adequate amount of land. Rand's influence on the Committee's deliberations was all-important.

Rand was not given instructions by his Government but certainly Pearson was. Both the instructed and non-instructed won the accolades of the Jewish agency.

David Horowitz in State in the Making wrote:

In due course the (Canadian) delegates began playing a part in our affairs which reminded me of their fellow countryman Ivan Rand's role in UNSCOP. The dynamic force and pathfinder Lester Pearson …
His adherence to the pro-partition fold was an important turning point. His influence, as one of the foremost figures at the United Nations was tremendous. It may be said that Canada more than any other country played a decisive part in all stages of the UNO discussions on Palestine. The activities at Lake Success of Lester Pearson and his fellow delegates were a fitting climax to Justice Rand's beneficient work on UNSCOP".

While there was a lingering regard for British sensibilities (Mackenzie King was around until 1948) shown in part by our delay in granting recognition in the new State of Israel the alignment with Washington was pretty well in place.

Canada's performance in the early days of the United Nations demonstrated that we were a much more valuable member of that body than of its ill-fated precursor the League of Nations. There was considerable public support for the United Nations and a feeling that to be a worthy member of it was a serious and important goal for Canada. So popular was the United Nations in those days that few commented on the fact that the world body had not achieved a very satisfactory settlement of the Palestine crisis, had not done even scant justice to the claims and rights of the Palestinians, and had certainly not brought a peaceful climate to the region.

The next occasion for Canadian prominence in Middle East matters was in 1956. From it came a major emphasis in the role of peacekeeping forces, a further decline in the international prestige of Britain and France and a Nobel Prize for Lester Pearson. It is no diminution of respect and regard for Mr. Pearson to suggest, however, that he was motivated more by a concern for the viability of the United Nations, the harmony of the Western Alliance and the continuity of the Commonwealth than an absorbing anxiety about the Middle East.

A perceptive Canadian scholar, Professor Tareq Ismael has written of the Suez crisis and the Israeli, British and French invasions:

"The aim of the Canadian Government remained fairly constant after news of the invasions was received, but a greater sense of urgency and concern was felt about the critical nature of the rifts within the Western Alliance and the Commonwealth. Mr. Pearson's aim was to bring NATO and the Commonwealth members together again inside the Western Alliance and restore peace in the area on terms which everybody could accept. From the beginning, Canada's preference for multilateral action and a practical solution which would provide for the means of its achievement was evident".

Ismael refers to Mr. Pearson's comment to John Foster Dulles (31 October 1956):

"We are interested in helping Britain and France. I would like to make it possible for them to withdraw with as little loss of face as possible, and bring them back into realignment with the United States".

It should be recorded that in those far-off days some Canadian politicians and journalists criticized Pearson and the Government of the day for not "standing behind" Britain and France!

In the House of Commons, Howard Green denounced the Government for making Canada a chore boy of the United States of America and for deserting our two "mother countries". Deploring a situation whereunder Canada seemed a better friend to Nasser than to Britain and France, he called the period the most disgraceful in Canadian history and declared it was high time Canada had a Government which would not knife Canada's best friends in the back.

The political furor was, in part, touched off by a remark of the usually sedate and courteous Prime Minister St. Laurent who publicly opined that the "supermen of Europe" had had their day in running the world. Twenty-five years is a long time!

On the whole, the Canadian role in 1956 was helpful to the preservation of peace. We were major contributors to the United Nations Emergency Force, both in terms of its conception and composition. A distinguished Canadian soldier, General E.L.M. Burns, headed the United Nations Truce Supervisory Group and later became the Commander of the UNEF. We have always contributed substantially to UNRWA and a Canadian General Kennedy, was its first Director General.

On most aspects of the Middle East situation from 1918-1967 the Canadians' attitude was tepid. The overwhelming view of those who voiced opinions was supportive of Israel. With the Arabs we generally had few and never close contacts. We did open an embassy in Beirut and later in Cairo in 1955, but the vast Arab Middle East was generally even in an age of instant communication and rapid transit, virtually a terra incognita.

The 1967 war brought the Canadian position under considerable stress. In both official and unofficial circles there was some surprise that we were perceived as being a good deal less than impartial in the confrontation of Arabs and Israelis.

Indeed, so strained were Canadian/Egyptian relations that our contingent in UNEF were asked to be the first to leave. One of Canada's senior journalists, Charles Lynch of Southam Press, had an interesting comment about what he described as Canada's "War Pains":

"Prime Minister Pearson has admitted to a feeling of desperation in the face of the Mid-East war. And one of the things he is trying desperately to do is check Canada's drift toward an anti-Arab position.
For weeks, the Arabs have been scoffing that Canada has long since deserted middle ground in the Mid-East dispute, and has aligned itself on the Israeli side….
The trouble with trying to get back to middle ground is that in the ten years since the Suez crisis, little understanding has developed in Canada for the Arab position, whereas the Israeli position has been vigorously promoted by an efficient propaganda apparatus strongly established in both Canada and the United States….
The difficulty our policy-makers are facing is that of keeping the merits of the Arab position in mind when the Arabs have already written Canada off as committed to the Israeli side."

In Ottawa there was a good deal of frenetic denunciation of Nasser. United Nations Secretary-General Thant and the United Nations itself were criticized for bowing to an Egyptian decision that the United Nations group withdraw. Interestingly enough in the midst of the angry utterances about Egypt few recalled that while in 1956 Egypt had accepted a United Nations presence, Israel had refused to allow any such contingent on its territory.

Whereas in 1956 Canada had been regarded as adopting an attitude hostile to such pillars of Western international respectability as Britain and France, we were cast in a quite different role in 1967. Nasser, not known for his taciturnity on the international stage, referred to Canada as joining Britain and the United States in seeking to use UNEF as an instrument for implementing imperialist plans. To Al Ahram Canada was "a stooge of the Western Powers who seek to colonize the Arab world with Israel's help".

The Egyptian appraisal of the Canadian role and goals was more rhetorical than precise. The Canadian commitment to a functioning United Nations is one of our strongest international motivations. The Canadian performance in the Suez crisis and in reference to the UNEF was for us a moment of proud achievement on the world's stage. In 1967 we were distressed at the collapse of the fragile peace or ceasefire which had been arranged under a United Nations umbrella. Canadians were disheartened that our role in the UNEF seemed to be abruptly discarded. If I dared wander into the misty corridors of psychology I might suggest that a sense of unrewarded virtue can be a deeply-felt sentiment. Perhaps we had that feeling in 1967.

There is often a peculiar dichotomy in Canadians' perception of their nation's role in the international arena. The even-handed, unbiased and sometimes neutral approach is, by some, conceived as the proper posture. On the other hand, we are charter members of NATO and otherwise strongly committed to one of the great alliances which mark cold war differentiations. The 1967 crisis was upsetting for many Canadians who had thought the whole world loved us.

On Middle East issues we as usual hoped to be seen as neither pro-Israel nor pro-Arab. We continued to add to our list of abstentions on United Nations votes. But astute observers of our domestic scene were likely to regard us as anything but even-handed or unbiased. In our press and parliament, such references as were made to the question were clearly and often blatantly pro-Israel, "brave little Israel", "democracy's champion in the Middle East" and "this progressive state". Such expressions found favour with Canadians. Many citizens aided the economic development of Israel with large contributions and highly organized groups exerted pressure in the right places. Israel's unique citizenship laws did not disturb our Government. Certain Canadians could follow the very easy process of acquiring and accepting Israeli citizenship without any way impinging upon, or diminishing, their Canadian citizenship. Many groups of Canadians visited Israel, sponsored by church organizations or by associations of Canadians with definite and strong commitments to the Israeli cause.

In the 1967 crisis Canada was a member of the Security Council and at crucial times its representative served a term as Chairman. But in the influence of our utterances and actions we were far less effective or significant than we were in 1956. On 23 June 1967 the Secretary of State for External Affairs, Honourable Paul Martin, addressed the Special Assembly of the General Assembly and recalled some of Canada's contributions towards what he described as efforts towards mediation in Palestine. After reciting our service on UNSCOP the Security Council in 1948-49, UNRWA, UNTSO and Mr. Pearson's leadership in 1956, and UNEF, Mr. Martin went on to give what some call the typical Canadian modest disclaimer,

"I do not claim that these facts give my country any special insight into the Palestine problem or any special qualifications for solving it. They do help to explain, however, why the Canadian people and the Canadian Government have followed recent events with anxiety. We have no substantial interests to further. We have no claims to make other than those which arise from a deep and legitimate concern for peace and justice in the Middle East, indeed in the world, and for the good name and reputation of the United Nations, our membership in which has been largely instrumental in involving us in these problems".

Doubtless in an effort to demonstrate Canadian impartiality, Mr. Martin went on to say:

"In 1948-49 and in 1956-57, the Canadian delegation in the Assembly emphasized that the peace and security of the Middle East depended primarily on the recognition of two facts. The first was that the new State of Israel had been born and that, in part at least, it owed its existence as a member of the international community to a recommendation of this Assembly, a recommendation which was approved by two-thirds of its Members; the second was the obligation of the State of Israel – to quote the Canadian representative speaking on 22 November 1948, to "place self-imposed limits on its demands". Mr. Pearson, then Secretary of State for External Affairs and now the Canadian Prime Minister, stated at this podium ten years ago:

"We cannot but agree that, if Israel has a right to live and prosper, free from the fear of strangulation from its neighbours, the Arab States also have a right to feel confident that Israel will not attempt to expand its territory at their expense". (66oth meeting, paragraph 36)

Mr. Martin in concluding what was a useful if not laconic statement made some suggestions for solution of the Middle East crisis,

"First, there must be respect for the territorial integrity of the nations of the area, including provision for the security and international supervision of frontiers. Second, the rights of all nations to innocent passage through international waterways must be assured. Third, there must be an early and just solution of the refugee problem. Fourth, international concern for the preservation of the special spiritual and religious interests in Jerusalem-Christian, Jewish and Muslim, must be recognized, perhaps by giving the United Nations an international supervisory responsibility for the protection of these interests; nor should there be any precipitated action which might prejudice them".

He made what in 1967 was a substantial, if not very productive, move towards recognizing the rights of the Palestinian people.

"A vital step forward in the achievement of durable peace and stability in the Middle East is to ensure that justice be done to the Palestinian refugees. Those people for too long have been losers in the tragic conflict of interests in the area. The problem is, however, of such magnitude that only a combination of methods can produce a solution. It would be an illusion, I think, to go on believing that the problem of the refugees will be solved simply on the basis of their return to Israel. Similarly, the Arab States could not be expected to shoulder alone the burden of resettling and integrating in Arab countries those refugees who might make this choice. An international effort in a United Nations context directed at regional economic development in the Middle East and related to resettlement is a prime requirement which Members of the United Nations have an obligation to consider. My country is prepared to play its part in such an international effort, as the Prime Minister of Canada has already indicated in the House of Commons at home".

The 1973 war brought to Canada as to the whole industrialized world an agonizing awareness of another element in the Middle East situation, namely the high priority and intense politics of oil. Having been recently and rudely awakened from our somnolent overconfidence in our own resources, we found ourselves painfully uncertain as to our status in the oil embargo. It would be a brave man who would declare that we were ever sure into which category we fitted. But that the oil crisis broadened our horizons of interest in the Arab world is beyond question. Canadian businessmen, like Ministers of the Government, took a new look at the immense economic opportunities of closer contact with the millions of people in the farflung Arab world. Trade missions were dispatched, agreements re loans and developmental aid were initialled.

But the oil embargo of 1973 was by no means the last Middle East crisis to disturb Canadian diplomacy. The Canadian Government had requested that the United Nations Conference on Crime Prevention be held in the City of Toronto but before the designated date, September 1975, the PLO had been granted observer status in the United Nations. In the interval between the two events the air was filled with strident protests against the holding of such a gathering which would include such a "terrorist" group as the PLO. Provincial and municipal politicians were first and loudest in their protests. (A provincial element was imminent). The press fulminated against such an "outrage". Toronto must be saved, in the face of such concentrated protests the Canadian Government capitulated. It suggested not a withdrawal of its invitation, but postponement of the conference was rescheduled for Geneva. That city was reported unscathed from the presence of a few Palestinians at the gathering.

Although there were some initial protests against the holding of the United Nations Habitat Conference in Vancouver in May 1976, the Government held firm and the Conference went forward. The measure of its success is not a theme of this paper. Suffice to say that the Government of Canada discharged its hostly duties and its role as a good United Nations member. The great city of Vancouver seemed to suffer no ill effects from having a few Palestinian lawyers in residence for a few days.

On the political and diplomatic front, Canada speaks with increased credibility. In Cairo on 12 January 1976, the then Secretary of State for External Affairs, Honourable Allan MacEachen, said, "Canada's policy on this extremely complex and tragic dispute aims balance and objectivity. It also rests on principle. The implementation of this policy has occasionally been questioned by both sides, a symmetry which we find reassuring".

He also included a statement not found so loud and clear in the utterances of some of his predecessors.

"Any settlement, if it is going to be equitable and permanent, will have to take full account of the legitimate interests and aspirations of all the peoples of the area including the Palestinian Arabs".

In March 1977, addressing the B'Nai Brith in Toronto, his successor, Honourable Don Jamieson, said, "No Middle East peace settlement will work for long unless the Palestinians have accepted it".

About the same time, Joe Clark, recently chosen Leader of the Opposition, told the congregation of Beth Emeth-Baid Yehuda Synagogue in Toronto that the Palestinians must be recognized and their representatives accepted as an element in the Geneva negotiations.

Mr. Clark became Prime Minister in May 1979 and under his brief régime an aspect of Middle East policy became the focus of national attention.

Nothing concerning the Middle East raised such domestic furor as the proposed embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Promised during the 1979 election campaign, it stirred only modest interest outside Toronto, the city from whence the unfortunate idea doubtless emanated. But on the day of his assumption of office in a nationally televised press conference, the new Prime Minister declared the policy to be firmly in place and only its execution remained.

The fusion of forces against the move and to a degree against the Clark government was impressive if not unexpected. The Arab Governments acted with more unity and strength than they sometimes display. The Canadian business community was quick to view with alarm the horrendous commercial losses which would follow from an alienation of the Arab world. While their campaign was puny compared to that mounted by their American counterparts in the AWACS issue in the United States in 1981, it demonstrated the growing importance of the business world in mid-East orientation. The Liberal party, not heretofore especially sensitive to the aspiration of the Arab States, denounced the move in trenchant terms. The Jerusalem caper was cited as a symbolic demonstration of the utter ineptitude of Mr. Clark in the international arena.

After enduring the story for some weeks, the Prime Minister made a move for recovery which was as wise and shrewd as the original notion was foolish and inept. He appointed the best possible person in the country, Honourable Robert Stanfield, to investigate the matter fully, to go to the Middle East to talk to the leaders there. He was also authorized to hold discussions with political figures in other states and with the provincial governments.

In late October 1979, Ambassador Stanfield in an interim report advised that the embassy not be moved at this time. Prime Minister Clark wisely decided to give immediate acceptance to the recommendation. Mr. Stanfield continued his study and interviews and presented a valuable and useful report on the broader question of Canada – Middle East relations. Regrettably the Trudeau Government has not yet taken any action on the helpful suggestions contained in the document.

While the embassy episode gave rise to a good deal of froth and furor, it has at least one useful purpose. More Canadians than ever before began to give thought to the troubled Middle East area and Canada's role in relation to it.

Such national reflection may lead to a more even-handed approach and a further diminution of our automatic pro-Israel attitudes.

A Canadian journalist travelling in the Middle East at the time had no difficulty reading the Arab view of Canada's attitude. Michael Valpy of the Vancouver Sun wrote from Kuwait,

"But a Canadian who comes into the Arab world and spends a few days here, even in this rather zany (to my eyes at least) light-hearted corner of the Arab world tucked away at the top of the Arabian Gulf, cannot avoid being made aware of certain facts.
First, there is awareness of the absurdity of the Canadian Government's foreign policy posturing on the Middle East. Ottawa postures that it is neutral, steering a middle course between Arab and Israeli worlds. Codswallop.
What Joe Clark has done with his move-the-embassy fumble is point out to Canadians what every Middle East inhabitant, Israeli and Arab, who has ever given Canada some thought, has known for years.
Namely, that Canada has a pro-Israel bias.
Quite simply, the Canadian Government chose sides, official rhetoric to the contrary.
And if the fallout from Joe Clark's embassy contretemps will result in a re-evaluation of foreign policy that will bring rhetoric into line with position, regardless of what the position is, then well and good.
At the moment, the only people we are fooling is ourselves. The Arabs know where we stand, and so do the Israelis.
Second, there is an awareness that there are two sides, or more correctly there is no side, to the struggle for Palestine, the land of Canaan".

Although recent years have brought about a greater degree of objectivity in Canada due in part to the haughty and hostile posture of the Begin Government towards international opinion and United Nations ordinances there is still much truth in Mr. Valpy's judgment.

Canadians are conditioned by a generally pro-Israel media. All Palestinians are 'terrorists', all increases in fuel costs are the fault of the nasty Arabs. Although not a Bible reading population, Canadians still identify with the children of Israel, as Mr. Pearson said,

"I must admit that I became emotionally involved in a very special way because we are dealing with the Holy Land, the land of my Sunday School lessons".

The Holy Land of many Canadians offers very little for the descendants of Ishmael.

In the selective compassion by which many Canadians prioritize their human rights concern of the victimization of Palestinians still gets a very low rating. With few exceptions even our churches have given little attention to the plight of the hopeless people who dwell in the wretched UNRWA camps across the Middle East.

Far too many Arabs and Canadians of Arab descent suffer harassment from emanations of the Canadian Government. One hears too many stories of delayed or blocked advancements in the public service, frustration at immigration offices, alleged security risks and the like.

An important ingredient in the development of Canadian popular and governmental opinion is the strength and efficiency of a number of pro-Israel lobbies and pressure groups. Against those, anyone seeking to advance the Arab cause wages a difficult and invariably losing battle. As the Canada Israeli Committee put it,

"For many Canadians, especially those with traditional Christian concerns, Israel is a subject of deep interest because it is the Holy Land. At the same time, Canadians have been drawn to Israel because it is a modern state, committed to democratic government, which has, like their own society, an intense preoccupation with issues of political and cultural independence. The relationship between the two countries has also benefitted from the influence exerted by prominent figures in Canadian public life. Israel has been able to number among its staunch supporters many Canadian political and social leaders including all prime ministers since 1948… it is important to remember that Canada's will to act in the Middle East and the positive influence the country has exerted on the affairs of the region, are a result of this mixture of social and leadership factors with political calculations."

The foregoing account may not seem a substantial base for optimism. Yet, one can point to a gradual improvement on many fronts. More and closer contacts between Canada and the Arab States have fostered knowledge and this has led to a better regard for the Arabs and their point of view. The Palestinian Information Centre under Abdullah Abdullah has helped to quicken an interest in the tragedy. Visits from prominent Palestinians like El Hout have helped. Palestinian students have been good ambassadors.

Many Canadians could not help but be critical of Israeli aggression. The attack on Iraq, the brutal bombings of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, the incorporation of the Golan Heights against a background of arrogance before the world all combined to diminish pro-Israeli sentiments among average objective Canadians.

Although it may not appear as a satisfactory solution to many, the statement of the present Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mark MacGuigan, is the fullest recognition of Palestinian rights so far made by a Canadian Minister,

"In the Middle East, there is also conflict, and at its centre the Arab-Israeli dispute, as old as the United Nations itself. We cannot afford further delay in moving towards a negotiated settlement to this generations-old conflict, in which all the interested parties must participate. Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate rights and concerns which must be taken into account. Israel's quest for security and recognized boundaries, and the right to be fully accepted by its neighbours, can be met only in a political, not a military, framework. The same holds true for the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including their right to a homeland within a clearly-defined territory, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

Canadians and their Government are currently preoccupied with grave economic problems. It may not be a propitious time for daring foreign policy initiatives. But slight though the improvement has been, the prospects for real even-handedness in our approach to the Middle East are discernible.


Elia Zureik

An objective analysis of the situation of the Palestinians in Israel is usually compromised on two ideological facts. First, for a long time the position of the Palestinians in the context of the Middle East geo-politics has been submerged under the general rubric of the Arab Israeli conflict. For some reason, which is not accidental, the Palestinians have been over-shadowed by an ideological definition as to their true place in the Middle East conflict. It has been taken for granted that the Middle East conflict is essentially a conflict between states. This emphasis on the state dimension of the conflict, endorsed in no small measure by, on the one hand, an efficient Western Zionist propaganda machine, and on the other, inefficient Arab governments, rendered the Palestinian case misunderstood and ambiguous in the eyes of many. Golda Meir, one of the architects of the policy of Zionist mystification of the Palestinian issue, was thus able to negate by a stroke of her pen the existence of an entire people – and get away with it, but not for too long as she and other Zionist spokesmen who followed in her footsteps came to realize later.

A second factor, which has made the task of objective analysis of the Palestinians all the more difficult, is another taken-for-granted myth, i.e. Israel remains in the eyes of her mentors the only bastion of democratic values in the Middle East. Part of the price which Europe and the West had to pay, and continue to pay, for their historical anti-semitism is to adopt a permissive, non-critical attitude toward Israel and its Zionist principles. The outcome of this attitude was a callous disregard for the Palestinian position, particularly those Palestinians who live under Israeli jurisdiction. This equating of Israeli institutions with democratic institutions was thus transferred from the level of myth to the level of reality at a great peril to all concerned.

It would be inaccurate to say that the once fashionable analysis of the Zionist regime based on the above-mentioned erroneous assumptions is still being accepted without a serious challenge. Critical analysis, whose purpose is to expose the fallacy of Zionist ideology, is making perceptible headway in serious forums; this United Nations forum is but one such testimony to the increasing de-mystification of Zionist dogma regarding the Question of Palestine.

The purpose of this paper is to deal with one segment of the Palestinians living in historical Palestine, those 600,000 Palestinians who continue to live as citizens of the Zionist regime and constitute one of every six residents of the Zionist state. I am therefore excluding those 1.1 million Palestinians who reside in the rest of historical Palestine known as the occupied territories (the West Bank and Gaza), and those 2.3 million Palestinian refugees who live outside historical Palestine, mainly in the neighbouring Arab countries.

In concentrating on those Palestinians living within the 1967 border, I hope to demonstrate that their position could best be described as that of an internally colonized minority. I shall try to deal synoptically from a sociological angle with the following themes: Education, Politics, Land and Economics.


Palestinian education in Israel has been governed all along, and continues to be, by a set of irrelevant criteria which the Palestinians had no say in formulating; controlled by a separate unit within the Ministry of Education, Palestinian education policies have continuously been the product of the Ministry's Zionist bureaucrats and party functionaries rather than that of trained educators who are sensitive to the needs of a disadvantaged, subordinate minority. It is difficult to see how the universal values of education could be attained in a society such as Israel when the majority group enunciates a pseudo-pluralist philosophy premised on an exclusivist Zionist culture manifested in the denial of the cultural and national identity of the Palestinians. This is demonstrated by the detailed available evidence regarding the nature of government-sponsored curricula at the primary, secondary or even the university level. Arab students are submerged in Zionist teachings as evident from the extent and content of curricula devoted to Zionist culture and history. In the words of one researcher, "the denial and deprivation of relevant curricula for Arab students (in Israel) seems to be escalating" in schools.

It is apparent that for Palestinian youth living in Israel, the educational system across all levels functions as an agency of social and political control and not an institution whose purpose is to develop in the young a democratic personality enriched by creativity and critical thought.

Quantitatively, the most optimistic figures put the size of the Palestinian university students in Israeli universities around 3 per cent of the total university student population. This is in spite of the fact that, as I said earlier, Palestinians constitute close to 16 per cent of the total population. In terms of university graduates, the cumulative proportion of university graduates within the Palestinian sector is less than 0.1 per cent, whereas it is around 1.32 per cent for the Jewish population, i.e. 13 fold greater!

In terms of per capita figures it is worth noting that university graduates among the Jewish population constitute 1,300 per 100,000 while they are a meagre 130 per 100,000 among the Palestinians in Israel, no doubt the lowest in the entire region of the Middle East, if not in most of the world.

Whether it is in vocational education, passage of the high school matriculation tests, or the university system, the Palestinian seems to be disadvantaged.

Many factors contribute to this low enrollment of university students among the 600,000 Palestinians in Israel. They are: (1) the lack of adequate training facilities and properly equipped classrooms at the primary and secondary level, as evident from government statistics regarding the availability (or the lack thereof) of science laboratories, congested classrooms and antiquated buildings, things which could never be tolerated in Jewish schools; (2) the lack of properly trained and qualified teachers in the Arab sector, where official figures show that at least one-half of the Arab teachers should not be there due to their unqualified status as teachers; (3) blockage of channels of social mobility for Palestinian university graduates in Israel, which forces many qualified high school graduates to turn away from a university education altogether; (4) continuing discrimination in admission policies to key science facilities (electronics, nuclear physics, aeronautics, etc.) for so-called "security reasons", which forces an increased number of prospective Palestinian students who want to specialize in science to turn to the humanities and social sciences – areas of specialization in which job prospects are limited. The upshot of this is that many of them end up emigrating to Europe and North America.

It is not enough that the institutional framework of Israeli society discriminates against Palestinians in the area of education, where one would expect the universalistic criteria par excellence do apply, but also in the kind of treatment they receive from fellow Jewish students. Harassment, beatings and sheer thuggery have typified the attitudes of the majority of Jewish students toward their fellow Palestinian students. Israel must be an outstanding example of anomaly in the international system where right-wing and outright fascist attitudes among the student population exceed those present in the general public by the magnitude of 3:1. Even South Africa cannot boast of such a correlation between higher education and right-wing extremism.

The predicament of Palestinian education has surfaced in a bizarre manner in the now infamous document prepared by Israel Koenig, the Galilee Commissioner of the Ministry of Interior for 14 years. In addition to suggesting tougher entry procedures to the universities, which would presumably diminish further the miniscule number of Palestinian university students, Koenig went on to advocate "making trips abroad for studies easier, while making the return and employment more difficult – this policy is apt to encourage their emigration".

Palestinian reaction to this state of cultural and educational domination has manifested itself in two inter-related ways. First, there has been a noticeable increase in the levels of hostility and alienation shown toward the state, particularly among intellectuals. Second, as demonstrated recently by researchers at Haifa University, the last decade has witnessed a further assertion of Palestinianism among, what the Zionist regime prefers to label, "Israeli Arabs". Another study of Palestinian intelligentsia conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University reached a similar conclusion:

The resulting picture is indeed chilling. Some of (the Palestinians) asserted that as professional men, their political activities were subject to restrictions and pressures, the freedom of expression which they enjoyed was limited …

The study concluded by predicting that "in the future … (there) will be an increase in the pro-Palestinian position among the intelligentsia". Such a tautological reasoning whereby Palestinians under Israeli occupation are portrayed to exhibit strange "pro-Palestinian" syndrome is a clear symptom of the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of Zionist thinking. These findings are particularly significant since they show the falsity and even banality of Zionist claims that those Palestinians who were born and raised in historical Palestine under Zionist hegemony will come to appreciate the superior Zionist culture and reconcile themselves to a perpetual inferior position in Israeli society.

What would one expect from a society in which between two-thirds to more than three-quarters of its Jewish citizens say in public opinion polls that Arabs are lazier than Jews, that they are less intelligent, that Arabs are inferior and dishonest, and that Arabs are crueller and do not exhibit the same bravery as Jews. Are not these findings reminiscent of those which typified Nazi Germany and continue to typify South Africa, with a minor substitution of "Black" for "Arab" and "German" for "Jew"?

It was in this context that the noted American sociologist, Seymour Martin Lipset, an ardent supporter of Israel and of Zionism, disclosed after researching Israeli society:

Opinion polls taken before the Yom Kippur War indicated that the majority of the Jews regarded the Arabs as an inferior people. As in other multi-ethnic societies, the long continuation within one nation of different peoples living with strongly different levels of culture, education and skill produces or sustains the phenomenon described as institutionalized racism in the United States.

He went on to sound a rather ominous note, which for all intents and purposes is, and has been, a reality of Israeli society. He said that "if Israel ignores its Arab population and relies on a large 'external proletariat' it could become a racist state."

Economic Conditions

The "external proletariat" to which Lipset refers are Israel's equivalent to South Africa's black proletariat, those workers that shuttle between the reserve and South Africa's metropolis. It is this phenomenon which gives the Palestinians under Israeli rule a status similar to the internally colonized blacks of South Africa.

The most noticeable feature of negative change in Palestinian social structure among the close to 600,000 Palestinians living in Israel has been their transformation from land-owning peasantry to proletarianized workers. This process of social class transformation in an exclusively Zionist dominated labour market reflects the following discernible features: (1) a gradual uprooting of Palestinian peasants from their traditional surroundings to become migratory workers in the Jewish metropolis; (2) the complete susceptibility of the Arab worker to the whims of the Jewish market as evident by the high unemployment rates among the Palestinians during times of economic crisis when Arab unemployment is usually twice, if not more, that shown in the Jewish sector; (3) because of heavy concentrations of Palestinian workers in unskilled professions, together with large family size, the per capita income of Palestinians in the urban sector approximates one-half that attained by Jews – it is much less in the impoverished Palestinian agricultural sector where still a reasonable number is employed; (4) the induction of Palestinian peasants into the Jewish sector was accompanied by further stagnation of Arab villages and their continual dependency upon the Jewish sector – a phenomenon which compelled a North American economist no less sympathetic to Zionism than Lipset, to whom we referred to earlier, to refer to the Arab sector as "Israel's Appalachia"; (5) the economic backwardness of the Palestinian sector resulted in substantially lower standards of living as measured on various economic and consumption indicators; (6) the harsh living conditions in the Arab sector have taken their toll on marriage rates – due to the acute housing shortage and low income, the marriage rates among the Palestinians have dropped significantly in the last decade. Whereas 25 per cent of the Arab population live four or more persons in one room, the corresponding figure for the Jewish population is 1.5 per cent. Similarly, while close to 50 per cent of the Jewish population are distributed, on the average, at one person or less per room, it is only 15 per cent among the Arab population; finally, (7) one cannot describe the plight of the Palestinians in Israel without mentioning the land issue, which in many ways encapsulates the Palestinian-Zionist conflict: the dispossession of Palestinian peasants of their land through a series of land expropriations and confiscation rendered the majority of the Palestinians landless and propertyless in their own country.

Land and Politics

The early twentieth century Zionist slogan from "land without a people" to "people without a land" remains more or less the corner-stone of Zionist ideology, even in the post-1978 Camp David era. Expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland, their imprisonment (Israel, by the way, can boast that its Nafha prison in the Negev which houses Palestinian political prisoners is a showpiece of human technological accomplishment in which the latest methods of torture and incarceration are marketed freely to other dubious democracies of the South African, Chilean, Argentinian and other varieties) and above all, the confiscation of their land and property have become standard practices in the annals of Zionism. The continued expansion of Zionist settlements in the West Bank and Gaza is a natural extension of the same practices that have been utilized rather successfully in dispossessing Palestinians of their land in Israel proper. The process of "Judaization" of Palestine has resulted in a remarkable obliteration of the Arab landscape of Palestine.

Through a series of laws designed to justify the confiscation of Palestinian land in order to accommodate Jewish settlers, the Zionist régime has succeeded in laying claim to more than 90 per cent of the land in 1967 Israel. This is in stark contrast to the situation which existed in 1948, immediately prior to Palestinian dispossession. Zionist records then showed that not more than six to seven percent of the land of Palestine was legally owned by Zionist institutions and individuals.

Water rights, communication networks and industrial infrastructure have all been designed to strengthen the Zionist colonization of Palestine and suffocate the indigenous Arab population.

These racist practices have produced remarkable anomalies in the landscape of Israel's social life. Palestinian workers found themselves building with their sweat and blood Zionist new towns in which they were not allowed to live. The towns of Carmaliet and Upper-Nazareth are cases in point. Regarding the latter, the Palestinians are left with a situation whereby their high population density in Nazareth is matched by one of the lowest population densities in the country, namely in adjacent Upper-Nazareth. There is an apparent aversion among Jewish colonizers to live in Galilee where there are large Arab concentrations. Thus, while one town suffers from overcrowding conditions, another complains of lack of residents in its empty apartments!! Apartheid at its very best.

There is no need to dwell upon the convoluted legal and citizenship laws of Israel, which testify to its theocratic and exclusivist nature. Israel is the state of the Jewish people everywhere. It is hardly the state of its citizens, let alone its original refugee Arab inhabitants. What is one to make out of a legal system which grants the right of citizenship to anyone regardless of where he/she lives or was born (as long as they are Jewish), while those Palestinians who were born there are denied the same right? When coupled with the Jewish definition of land ownership (for once the land is Jewish it shall remain Jewish in perpetuity), the laws of return and citizenship produce a political-legal system which is predicated on racist criteria.

A common fallacy which belies the analysis of political life in Israel is the assumption of its democratic nature. Participation of the Palestinians in elections is usually heralded as the ultimate proof of the genuineness of the system. One hardly encounters questions regarding the significance of this ritualistic participation in Zionist political life for the Palestinians.

To appreciate the hollowness of Zionist claims concerning government representativeness, all one has to do is chronicle the number of times the Zionist régime has silenced those Palestinians who dared to criticize and question the legitimacy of the régime through expulsion, imprisonment, house arrest, demolition of houses, or sheer psychological terrorism.

The best way to characterize the political system in Israel is that it works through threats and co-option; those who deviate from acknowledging the supremacy of the Zionist ethos are threatened with the loss of job and livelihood. Those who are willing to be co-opted reap some benefits from a régime that was established on naked violence and the denial of human rights of its indigenous citizens.

Various attempts made in the last three decades to establish genuine opposition parties by the Palestinians were diffused by terroristic acts of the régime. Other than the Communist Party, not a single attempt on the part of the Palestinians to establish an indigenous, nationalistic party representing the aspirations of the Palestinians was tolerated by the régime.

The struggle of the Palestinians in Israel is part of the total struggle of the Palestinian people. An open investigation of the conditions of the Palestinians under Israeli jurisdiction is called for. In the meantime, one can hardly imagine the Palestinians' despair. It is appropriate to end this presentation by recalling the words of the Palestinian poet Samih al-Kassem when he described his experiences at the hand of the Zionist régime in these words:

I may lose my salary if you wish;
I may lose my clothes and bedding;
I may work in a quarry;
As a porter or a street cleaner!
I may collapse of hunger;
But no, enemy of the sun, I shall never bargain;
I shall resist until the last pulse of my veins.
You may rob me of my land;
You may waste my youth in chains;
You may burn my poems and books;
You may make my village a nightmare of terror;
But no, enemy of the sun, I shall never bargain;
I shall resist until the last pulse of my veins.


Frank H. Epp

Canada has had many involvements in the ongoing Middle East crisis centered on Palestine in the last 35 years, but concern for the national and political rights of Palestinians and for a territorial expression of these rights has been relatively recent. Indeed, not till 1981 were the West Bank and Gaza referred to specifically as a possible national homeland for the Palestinians 1/, unless, of course, the partition plan of 1947 can be viewed in that way.

Although Canada was still a novice in international affairs at the close of World War II, the country and her leaders (Table 1) were drawn into Middle East issues. Canada was a founder of the United Nations and a close ally of both the United States and Great Britain. As one of four leading Western nations, Canada became a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), which prepared the 1947 report recommending partition. After the first Arab-Israeli war, Canada became a member of the UNTSO, the United Nations agency charged until this very day, in the absence of a permanent peace, with the supervision of the 1949 armistice agreements 2/. This was the first of a number of United Nations 'peace-keeping' forces in which Canada became involved (Table 2).

Canadians Lester B. Pearson and Ivan C. Rand played a role so prominent in bringing UNSCOP to a decision viewed as favourable by Zionist leaders that they gave special recognition to that contribution. Pearson, then the Under-Secretary of State, was called the "Balfour of Canada" 3/, and a chair of law was named in honour of Justice Rand at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem 4/. Pearson, however, did not feel that Canada was acting out an independent role but rather responding to the wishes of the British, on the one hand, and the Americans, on the other hand 5/.

Since the formation of UNSCOP, the pro-Zionist lobby had been hard at work in Canada through Jewish, as well as non-Jewish organizations, including the Canadian Zionist Organization, the Canadian Palestine Committee, and the United Zionist Council 6/. The latter hired a former city editor of the Ottawa Citizen to operate with politicians and civil servants on a full-time basis out of Ottawa. The Zionist Organization of Canada communicated with newspaper editors throughout Canada on a weekly basis. By comparison the related efforts of the Canadian Arab Friendship League were weak and ineffective, partly because of the general post-war fear of stirring up any feelings against the Jews anywhere and for whatever reason. Canadian organizations, like the United Nations Association of Canada and various labour groups, the Canadian Congress of Labour in particular, were sympathetic towards a Jewish homeland.

Canada did not offer immediate acceptance to the State of Israel and in this approach followed Great Britain more than the United States, which gave de facto recognition the day (14 May 1948) Israel unilaterally declared its independence and sovereignty. Canada abstained on the United Nations vote, which six months later failed to admit Israel to the United Nations. A month later (24 December 1948), however, Canada recognized Israel and nearly a year after its founding (11 May 1949) helped her to gain acceptance in the United Nations and thereby in the world community. Meanwhile Canada had also worked to get the conflicting parties, Israel and five Arab countries, to accept an armistice (16 November 1948).

Following the Armistice and the placement of UNTSO, appointed to observe and supervise armistice agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbours and to investigate complaints of border violations, and following the establishment of UNRWA, Canada's attention to the Middle East was reduced somewhat, partly due to other international crises and Canada's need to assess her various global interests and involvement in post-war alliances.

However, the Middle East could not be forgotten. The pro-Israel lobby was very active in Canada and on a very wide front, but by 1955 the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict also intensified. In 1956 the Egyptian nationalization of the Suez Canal led to a series of international events which culminated in the Israeli invasion of Sinai. Canada suspended the sale to Israel of war materials including jets, which had exceeded one million dollars a year in the two previous years. This disassociation from a war in which Britain was also involved, plus the role that Canada played in the United Nations in getting a peace force approved for the Sinai, indicated more than ever before an independent role in Canadian foreign policy, while at the same time emphasizing the role of the United Nations rather than any of the big powers.

Thus, Canada became more than ever concerned with strengthening her own economic ties and diplomatic presence in the Middle East (Tables 3-5), while faithfully discharging responsibilities accepted in UNRWA and the various peace-keeping forces.

Except for contributions to UNRWA – Canada prided herself as the third highest donor 7/ – the Palestinians as a people with a distinct identity and national rights were forgotten. In part this was due to their being eclipsed by the conflicts between Israel and the Arab states and partly by the Palestinian fragmentation and subordination to those other jurisdictions.

The June War of 1967 began the slow process of reorientation for Canadian Middle East policy. While Canada's generosity towards UNRWA and the Palestinians increased, Paul Martin began to think in terms of solving "the underlying problem" 8/. It is essential, he told the General Assembly in 1967, "that justice be done to the rights and claims of the refugees in the framework of a general settlement". He was hoping that serious study could be given "to the establishment of a coordinated plan of international action aimed at regional development on an ambitious scale" 9/.

Speaking for the Trudeau Government in 1968, Mitchell Sharp too spoke of "a just settlement which would offer the refugees the opportunity of living in peace and dignity" 10/. An agreed settlement between Arab States and Israel was seen as the context for such an opportunity. In Canada's House of Commons he spoke about "an objective approach to the current problems of the area" while reiterating that the "recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist" remained "an essential feature of our Middle Eastern policy" 11/.

Resolution 242 was cited as "the best available framework for progress toward peace in the area" 12/. Subsequently, Canada voted against, or abstained in the voting on, any United Nations resolutions which, in its opinion derogated "from the balance and integrity" of resolution 242 13/. A resolution stemming from the report of a special committee set up to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the population under occupation was also opposed by Canada on the grounds that the committee was denied access and because of the unsatisfactory nature of the committee's mandate.

The avoidance of facing the Palestinian rights issues on the basis of technicalities or due to lack of "balance" was somewhat the norm for Canadian voting. On resolutions in any way favouring the Palestinians politically Canada either abstained from voting or voted against. Canada even abstained when an UNRWA-related resolution affirmed the right of the Palestinians to self-determination 14/. The support for UNRWA itself increased by half a million dollars annually to over two million dollars 15/.

Following the October 1973 War Canada was again drawn into peace-keeping forces and in that context was forced to review many aspects of the Middle East problem. In explaining Canada's position to the House of Commons, Mitchell Sharp envisioned Israeli withdrawal and "the establishment of secure and recognized boundaries" the drawing of which would "prove to be a long task" 16/.

An Arab summit meeting in Morocco led to a campaign seeking international recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the "sole legitimate representative" of the Palestinian people. At the same time the Palestine National Council moderated its position by offering to limit an independent Palestinian authority to West Bank and Gaza. Subsequently, Chairman Arafat of the PLO was given a hearing in the General Assembly of the United Nations 17/.

Within weeks Canada acknowledged that an overall settlement had to take into account the "legitimate concerns of the Palestinians". Hence, their right "to be heard and to participate in any Middle East negotiations affecting their future" was supported 18/. Yet, Canada also opposed the granting of permanent observer status to the Palestine Liberation Organization and abstained from the resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination on the grounds that the rights of Israel were not affirmed at the same time. In a General Assembly speech, Allan MacEachen suggested that Israel was "an essential party in deciding the question" as to whether or not the Palestine Liberation Organization could represent the Palestinians 19/ and that …

"if the emergence of any Palestinian entity were to be envisaged at some state, it would be essential that this should be the result of agreement among the parties directly involved, which, of course, include Israel. In this respect, the establishment, evolution and existence of any such entity should in no way prejudice the continued existence of the State of Israel. 20/

Canada experienced the 1975 General Assembly as an unbalanced "thrust to seek further recognition of the rights of the Palestinians" and supported only four of 14 resolutions adopted toward that end 21/. The resolutions linking Zionism with the racial doctrine of apartheid was rejected as "inappropriate, imprecise and unnecessary" 22/.

At the same time, Canada knew that a "lasting settlement of the conflict" could not be achieved without meeting "fully the legitimate concern of the Palestinian people" 23/. In 1976, Canada stated for the first time that "a suitable territorial framework" was essential to the "political self-expression" of the Palestinian people, whose right to participate "in the process of developing an appropriate structure" was affirmed 24/. Also for the first time, Israeli policy of establishing settlements on Palestinian territory was deplored 25/.

The emerging Canadian Middle East policy, taking into account also the Palestinians, was further elaborated before the tenth convention of the Canadian Arab Federation by Allan MacEachen following an extensive Middle East tour in which new agreements of economic co-operation were signed with Arab countries 26/. It was now the consensus of the world community, Canada included, he said, that "a just and lasting settlement could not be achieved" while "the legitimate interests of the Palestinians" were not met. Canada could still not express a view as to whether the PLO "should or should not be the sole representative of the Palestinian people"; yet MacEachen recognized that "the PLO has emerged as the most prominent spokesman of the Palestinian people at this time" as could be concluded also from "the recent municipal elections on the West Bank".

MacEachen confirmed Canada's hosting of the Habitat Conference and the admission of PLO members. This stood in contrast to Canada's behaviour a year earlier, when a United Nations conference, scheduled to be held in Toronto, was postponed – and then lost – in the face of intense domestic political pressure to have PLO representatives barred from attending.

In a similar wide-ranging review of Canada's Middle East policy before the Canada-Israeli Committee, MacEachen, however, made no mention at all of the Palestinian rights issue, though a good part of this presentation was devoted to a condemnation of "the blatantly gratuitous and provocative issue of linking Zionism with racism" 27/. Israel was assured of unequivocal Canadian support. Said MacEachen:

"I realize that in this world, in international fora and elsewhere, Israel has been under attack and Israel has been pushed around, but I wanted to tell you that one country is not pushing Israel around, either at international fora, or leaning upon it to accept positions alien to its own interests – that country is Canada. 28/

The Palestinian issue was once again almost eclipsed when Don Jamieson appeared before the United Nations General Assembly for the first time in the fall of 1976, but a year later he insisted in the same forum that the resolution of all territorial issues "had to provide a just, humanitarian, and political solution for the Palestinian people" 29/. Meanwhile, a national public affairs seminar of Hadassah-WIZO in Montreal had been told by a Member of Parliament that "the Palestinian people have legitimate aspirations, which require a political solution". The seminar was also reminded that Canada had supported a resolution calling for an early convening of the Geneva Peace Conference even though it implicitly authorized the United Nations Secretary-General to include the PLO in future consultations on the Middle East 30/.

The accent had been, however, on the Conference and not on the PLO. Canada did "not recognize the PLO and we do not see any constructive role for that organization in the negotiating process unless its spokesmen accept the right of Israel to exist and all the principles of Security Council resolution 242".

"We do believe that the Palestinian people should be represented in any discussions affecting their future, such as a Geneva Conference. In present circumstances, the PLO does speak for a significant element among the Palestinian people. The chief obstacle to the inclusion of the PLO in the peace process is that they remain dedicated in their formal position to the elimination of Israel… This hardly means that they should not be spoken to … How else can we hope to get the PLO or some successor organization to change their policy but by involving them, at least in some part of a consultative process ? They will not disappear if we simply try to pretend they do not exist 31/.

Canada continued to abstain from voting on, or to oppose, most resolutions on the Middle East because, according to Jamieson, "many of those resolutions simply expressed moral judgments and were devoid of practical proposals for action" 32/. Thus, in 1978 only four of 13 resolutions on the Middle East could be supported by Canada 33/.

Both years, 1977 and 1978, saw Canadian use of the words "territorial foundation" to describe the "territorial framework" for the realization of Palestinian political aspirations previously referred to 34/. Also in 1978, Canada hailed the Camp David accords and "the remarkable progress achieved over the past year towards a just solution of the Middle East conflict" 35/. Canada also attached "great importance to the success of the autonomy talks" 36/.

A new initiative with respect to the Middle East arose from the announcement of the new Clark Government in June of 1979 that Canada would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus giving de facto recognition of the Israeli claims to Jerusalem. Offsetting this declared intention was the suggestion later in the year by a Conservative Senator that the Canadian Government should "look with favour on opening an office of the PLO in Ottawa" 37/, a suggestion soundly renounced by Flora MacDonald, the new Secretary of State for External Affairs:

We do not recognize the PLO as a state or a group speaking on behalf of a state and the Prime Minister has made it very clear that there would be no recognition of the PLO at least until such time as it fulfills two qualifications which he spelled out very clearly: one, that it would renounce violence as a means of accomplishing its goals, and two, that it would recognize without any question the right of the State of Israel to exist…" 38/

The announced Jerusalem policy resulted in a great political outcry in Canada. As a consequence, the Government appointed a Special Representative, an Ambassador-at-Large "to study the whole spectrum of Canada's relationship with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa" 39/. When eight months later, Ambassador R.L. Stanfield delivered his final recommendations, he confirmed that Canada's commitment to Israel's well-being "should remain a fundamental cornerstone of Canadian Middle East policy" but that this should not prevent the maintenance and further development of "good relations with the Arab people, who themselves have made such major contributions to our civilization" 40/.

There was, he said, "an increasing awareness in Canada of the Palestinian predicament" the alleviation of which he saw in the implementation of resolution 242. Without specifying the essential extent of Israeli withdrawal, he nonetheless implied that security concerns could not "justify territorial claims that effectively negated a Palestinian homeland". It was also not enough, he inferred, to treat the Palestinians "only as refugees". In his words:

"The increasing emergence of a Palestinian national consciousness since 1967 has made it clear that the political future of the Palestinian people is an issue which must be directly addressed in negotiations. Indeed, a solution of this issue is basic to the solution of the Middle East dispute as a whole and thus to Israel's own well-being and security… 41/

Canada, said Stanfield, should support the Palestinians' right to a homeland. He did not say what "form this homeland should take, its precise boundaries and whether it would constitute an independent state or a federated or other part of an existing rate…". That was for the Palestinians and their neighbours to decide. He was sharply critical of all actions "which appear to prejudge the nature of an eventual settlement of the status of the West Bank and Gaza". Among such actions he named the establishment of Israeli settlement, Israeli exploitation of the natural resources of the territories, and "the increasing integration of basic infrastructure with Israel" 42/.

Stanfield noted that the PLO had shifted in its views away from the earlier total rejection of Israel – "an encouraging development" – but that a "much more definitive change in attitude" was still needed. He encouraged Canada to broaden its contacts with the PLO "as the only spokesman for the Palestinian people which enjoys the support of a large and significant body of Palestinian opinion, "while taking a firm stand against "any terrorist activities perpetrated by armed sub-groups of that organization" 43/.

As far as Jerusalem was concerned, the Ambassador-at-Large recommended "that pending a comprehensive solution to the dispute Canada should continue its traditional policy of non-recognition of Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and its suburbs, in accordance with United Nations resolution 242 44/.

The Conservative Clark Government was succeeded in 1980 by the Liberal team. The foreign minister in the Trudeau Government, Mark MacGuigan assumed that "an accord on interim autonomy arrangements for the occupied West Bank" were an all-important next step in implementing the Camp David accords. He spoke about this matter in the House of Commons in unequivocal terms:

"But the world must also recognize the rights of the Palestinians and these include their right to a homeland, within a clearly defined territory, and by that I mean the West Bank and the Gaza Strip" 45/

And to the General Assembly at the United Nations, he spoke in a similar vein:

"Israel's quest for security and recognized boundaries, and the right to be fully accepted by its neighbours, can be met only in a political, not a military framework. The same holds true for the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including their right to a homeland within a clearly-defined territory, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip" 46/.

In some ways it appeared that Canada's acceptance of a Palestinian homeland on a specific territory had come much too late. The formal annexation by Israel of the occupied territories appeared to be just around the corner, as the Palestinian area was being thoroughly fragmented and the Palestinian lands rapidly reduced to enclaves surrounded by Israeli settlements. Just when Canada was ready to resurrect Palestine its liquidation was proceeding rapidly in accordance with the long-standing Israeli policy of creating irreversible facts, the de facto recognition of which could then not be ignored by the world community.

So it appeared. It must be remembered that much official recognition has been withheld, and that it became politically impossible for Canada to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Similarly, while nothing has been done about the annexation of the Golan Heights, that annexation has not been accepted. Perhaps some day, maybe sooner than later, the international community will insist on the implementation of resolution 242.

Canada's delay in recognizing the validity of Palestinian national rights is somewhat of a mystery in view of its role in preparing the partition plan which assumed a Palestinian Arab state alongside the Jewish state. One cannot escape the conclusion that those who prepared the partition plan were creating a Jewish state more than anything else. Given the present situation, one could wish that the Palestinians would then have accepted the plan, but it is also clear why they did not. The Jewish state was something that was being created. The Palestinian 'state' was something which then already was being dismantled.

A further sorrowful conclusion arises from the historical evolution of the present international and Canadian awareness of the need for a Palestinian state. One would think that the western liberal and democratic traditions would have focused on the violation of fundamental human rights with respect to the Palestinians without the promptings of external pressures. The Western countries were deaf to the issue of human and national rights until violence and economic realities forced them to listen and to hear that the Palestinians were more than refugees. The message now having been heard and right conclusions now having been reached, one could hope for rapid movement toward a comprehensive settlement, which would include a Palestinian state in close economic and political relation with its neighbours. Without wise and bold statesmanship both Israel and Palestine will continue to be in danger of extinction.

Table 1


(From 1947-82)


Prime Minister


Secretary of State for External Affairs


McKenzie King


St. Laurent


St. Laurent


























*L – Liberal, PC – Progressive Conservative

Table 2


(In which Canada participated)

Year Established





Israel-Arab borders















Golan Heights




Table 3


(1948 and 1980 compared)










Table 4


(1948 and 1980 compared)










Table 5


(1948 and 1978 Imports [I] and Exports [E] in Millions of US Dollars Compared)




Other ME




























1. Mark MacGuigan, "The United Nations' Place in World Affairs", Thirty-Sixth Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 21 September 1981.

2. For an analysis of the Canadian role in the partition of Palestine, see Anne Trowell Hillmer, "Canadian Policy on the Partition of Palestine, 1947" M.A. Thesis, Carleton University, 1981.

3. Robert A. Spencer, Canada in World Affairs: From the UN to NATO, 1946-1949. (Toronto, 1949), p. 147.

4. Stewart Rosenberg, The Jewish Community in Canada. II: In the Midst of Freedom. (Toronto, 1971), p. 31.

5. L.B. Pearson, "Some Principles of Canadian Policy" in Words and Occasions (January 1948), p. 71.

6. Based on research by David B. Dewitt and John J. Kirton and reported in a draft paper on Canadian foreign policy towards the Middle East.

7. See, for example, Department of External Affairs Annual Report, 1969, pp. 18-19.

8. Paul Martin, "Canada and the Universal Forum for Peace", United Nations General Assembly, 27 September 1967.

9. Ibid.

10. Mitchell Sharp, "Canada and the United Nations, 1968", United Nations General Assembly, 9 October 1968.

11. Mitchell Sharp, "Visit to the Middle East", House of Commons, 19 November 1969.

12. Ibid.

13. See, for example, Department of External Affairs Annual Report, 1975, p. 37.

14. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1974.

15. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1973, p. 9.

16. Mitchell Sharp, "Canadian Participation in the United Nations Emergency Force for the Middle East", House of Commons, 14 November 1973.

17. Based on draft manuscript by Paul Noble on "Canada and the Status of the Palestinians, 1967-80".

18. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1974, p. 9.

19. Allan J. MacEachen, "The Middle East: The will to peace and the form it takes must be evolved by the parties concerned", United Nations General Assembly, New York, 20 November 1974.

20. Ibid.

21. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1975, p. 37.

22. Ibid., p. 38.

23. Ibid., p. 36.

24. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1976, p. 8; Canada at the 31st General Assembly, Department of External Affairs, p. 13.

25. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1976, p. 8.

26. Allan J. MacEachen, Tenth Annual Convention of the Canadian Arab Federation, 16 May 1976.

27. Allan J. MacEachen, Canada Israeli Committee, 29 April 1976.

28. Ibid.

29. Don Jamieson, United Nations General Assembly, New York, 26 September 1977.

30. Fernand Leblanc, "Canada and UN Resolutions Concerning Israel and the Middle East", Eighth National Public Affairs Seminar on Hadassah-WIZO, Montreal, 15 June 1977.

31. Ibid.

32. Don Jamieson, United Nations General Assembly, 26 September 1977.

33. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1978, p. 17.

34. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1977, p. 14; Annual Report, 1978, p. 87.

35. Don Jamieson, "The UN Attests the Common Accountability of its Members", United Nations General Assembly, 26 September 1978.

36. Department of External Affairs, Annual Report, 1979, p. 60.

37. House of Commons, Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence, 29 November 1979, pp. 7:4-5.

38. Ibid.

39. R.L. Stanfield, "Final Report of the Special Representative of the Government of Canada Respecting the Middle East and North Africa", 20 February 1980.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Mark MacGuigan, "Foreign Policy Begins in National Interest and Ends in International Action", House of Commons, 15 June 1981.

46. Mark MacGuigan, "The United Nations' Place in World Affairs", United Nations General Assembly, New York, 21 September 1981.


Canada and the Status of the Palestinians 1967-1980

Paul Noble

Prior to 1948, the "Palestine question" was the focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The future of the former mandate territory was the central issue and the local Palestinian population, along with the Jewish settlers, were the main participants in the conflict. In the wake of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent assumption of control by neighbouring Arab States over the Arab remnant of the territory, the Palestine question faded into the background. The issues involved in the conflict were now redefined, particularly in the Western world. The partition of the territory was regarded as having resolved the Palestine question definitively. The legitimacy of the new State of Israel was universally accepted by Western governments and peoples. The basic issue was now deemed to be the acceptance by the Arabs of Israel's right to existence. Furthermore, what had begun as a Palestinian-Zionist conflict now came to be viewed as basically an Arab-Israeli conflict', with the Palestinians playing only a very minor role. In their weak and fragmented condition, the Palestinians ceased to be viewed as a major force or even as a distinct entity.

At the time of the 1967 war, the same basic perceptions of the situation prevailed in the Western world. By the late 1960s, however, the nature of the conflict began to change. A heightened national consciousness and an emphasis on self-reliance led to a new assertiveness on the part of the Palestinians, which was reflected in the emergence of various commando organizations. Their activities forcefully drew the attention of the world to the fact that the Palestinian problem was not merely a refugee problem but a national problem as well. This was reinforced by the efforts of Arab governments in the early 1970s to secure international recognition of the "legitimate rights" of the Palestinian people. Still, it was not until after the 1973 war that the Palestinian issue really began to assume prominence on the international scene.

This new prominence occurred as a result of the conjunction of several factors. In the first place, the outbreak and dynamics of the 1973 war clearly demonstrated the instability of the Middle East situation and the dangers that it posed to the world. In particular, the newly demonstrated military and economic strength of the Arab world obliged Western countries to pay serious attention to the Middle East and especially to Arab views concerning the conflict with Israel. At the same time, a new climate within the Arab world led some governments to display a willingness to reach a settlement with Israel, thereby opening up for the first time the prospect of significant progress toward a diplomatic solution of the conflict. The newfound willingness to reach a settlement, however, was accompanied by an insistence on the recognition of certain basic "rights" of the Palestinian people. This linkage was emphasized not only because Palestinian demands were regarded as legitimate in themselves but, more importantly, because the Palestinians had become a significant political force in the Arab world. Consequently, the Arab governments which were willing to come to terms with Israel felt the need to minimize opposition to a settlement from Palestinian circles by assuring them that their legitimate interests would be satisfied in any peace settlement. Israel, for its part, strongly resisted any meaningful concessions to the Palestinians, since it seriously questioned Palestinian, and more particularly PLO intentions in their regard. Consequently, the Palestinian issue now emerged as a major, if not the major, stumbling bloc to an overall settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

After 1973, then, the Palestinian question ceased to be simply a marginal issue and became instead a central problem in the Arab-Israeli conflict. As a result, Western countries, like Canada, could not longer avoid the issue but were forced to come to grips with it directly. In the late 1970s, it increasingly became the focal point of attention and negotiations, especially after the conclusion of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty (1979) and the initiation of talks concerning the future of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian issue now clearly occupied center stage in the conflict and a solution to this problem was widely viewed as a prerequisite to the achievement of a lasting settlement between the Arab world and Israel.

Given the prominence of this issue and the potentially serious consequences for the region, for the Western countries and, indeed, for the entire world, of a failure to resolve it, it would be instructive at this juncture to analyze the evolution of Canadian policy regarding the Palestinian question since 1967. How did the Canadian Government look upon the Palestinian question initially? What changes have taken place in Canadian perceptions and policy in this area since 1967? Where does Canada stand on the Palestinian question now? In this paper, the focus will be on national policy, that is, the official position of successive Canadian Governments. This will be supplemented periodically, however, by references to the views expressed by opposition spokesmen, and members of parliament of all parties, on various aspects of the problem.

It should be noted at the outset that the Palestinian question involves not a single issue but rather a multiplicity of issues. Some of these are long-term while others are of an interim nature, arising out of the situation of conflict which has existed in the absence of a settlement.

With respect to the long-term, there are two basic issues. One is the territorial question. Will Israel be required to withdraw completely from the Palestinian-inhabited territories occupied in 1967 (e.g. the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza) or will it be permitted to annex or otherwise retain control over some portion of these territories? The other and undoubtedly more fundamental issue concerns the ultimate status of the Palestinian people. Are the Palestinians to remain permanently under the political jurisdiction of others (e.g. Israel and/or neighbouring Arab states)? Is the Palestinian problem to be treated simply as a refugee problem for which a humanitarian solution is to be found? Or is it to be treated as a national problem with the Palestinians accepted as a people entitled to a homeland of some sort? If so, what form should such a political solution take (independent state, loose federation, etc.)? What conditions should be attached to such a solution?

With respect to the interim period pending a definitive settlement, three main sets of issues arise. The first concerns the representation of the Palestinian population, particularly in negotiations relating to a settlement of the conflict. Will the Palestinians be allowed to participate in such deliberations? If so, under what conditions? What form will the representation take (part of a larger delegation or constituting their own delegation) and, above all, who will represent the Palestinians? A second set of interim issues concerns conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories. These pertain primarily to Israeli policies and behaviour in these territories both toward current and recent inhabitants as well as toward the physical and demographic makeup of the area itself. The remaining interim issue centers on the methods used by Palestinians and Israelis in their continuing struggle over the future of the territory (e.g., the issues of terrorism and violence).

While all of these issues are deserving of exploration, this paper will limit itself to a consideration of Canadian policy on the fundamental long-term issue of the status of the Palestinian people. The development of policy in this area can be divided into two distinct stages, one encompassing the period from the June War (1967) to the October War (1973), the other the period since the October War.

I. From the June War (1967) to the October War (1973) 

Factors Shaping Policy

To understand Canadian policy on the Palestinian question at the time of the June War and afterwards, it is useful to begin by examining the underlying factors shaping Canada's approach to the Middle East in general and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular at this time.

In the first place, the Middle East was not a major area of foreign policy concern for Canada. This was due primarily to the fact that specific Canadian interests were not directly at stake in the region. As a medium power, Canada's capabilities and geographic range of activity were limited and consequently its area of direct strategic and political concern was limited too. Also, Canada had no historic ties or presence that provided a basis for any significant involvement in the area. Finally, Canada's economic interests in the region were minor, given its limited dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

Canada's interest in the Middle East, then, stemmed basically from considerations other than direct national interests. One such set of considerations was subnational in character, namely the presence within the country of an influential community – the Jewish community – with strong ties to one of the states of the area. More will be seen about this below.

The other important set of considerations was supranational in character. 1/ Here there were two basic factors which had contributed to Canadian involvement in the Middle East prior to 1967. One was its membership in the United Nations and the value it placed on this organization. Canada regarded the United Nations as a body in which small and medium powers like itself could develop contacts and play a significant role internationally. It also believed that the United Nations was a valuable instrument for the management of force, if not the actual settlement of conflicts. Since the United Nations was frequently called upon to deal with Middle Eastern conflicts, in particular with the Arab-Israeli conflict, it was not surprising that Canada soon found itself involved in the area, specifically in a truce supervisory and peacekeeping role. The second supranational factor was Canada's membership in the Western alliance. As a member of NATO, Canada felt affected by the extension of Soviet influence and the possibilities of East-West confrontation anywhere in the world. It was also concerned about possible damage to Western interests arising from regional developments or the activities of alliance members anywhere. Over the years, the Middle East had become a significant source of problems for the alliance in both respects (e.g., Suez). This encouraged Canadian interest in the area.

Given the absence of any direct Canadian national interest in the Middle East and given the particular character of her supranational "interests", it is not surprising that it was only in times of crisis that Canada paid any serious attention to developments in the area. One of those occasions of crisis was the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Once the war was over, however, the sense of crisis disappeared and Canadian concern about the Middle East diminished. Admittedly, at the regional level the Arab-Israeli conflict remained a source of continuing tension and periodically erupted into violence on a limited scale. But there seemed to be little sense of urgency about the situation. Given the military imbalance, it was felt that the Arabs were in no position to engage in large-scale hostilities against Israel in the foreseeable future. For the same reason, the danger of a super-Power confrontation in the area seemed limited at this point. Moreover, there appeared to be no imminent threat of Arab action against Western interests, particularly oil supplies, with a view to compelling the Western powers to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the occupied territories. In short, from 1967 to 1973 there appeared to be a certain "stable" instability about the Middle East situation.

In so far as conflict-management activity was concerned, Canada's only form of direct involvement in the area, namely peacekeeping, had disappeared with the withdrawal of UNEF in 1967, although it still played a limited role in the Truce Supervision Organization. Moreover, given the greater intensity of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the post-1967 as compared to the pre-1967 period, the emphasis at the international level now shifted from peacekeeping activities alone to an active search for a substantive settlement. As a result, responsibility for regulatory activity increasingly devolved upon the super-Powers, who were the only states with sufficient leverage over the parties to bring about a settlement. For this reason, the potential role of lesser Powers, like Canada, declined. Furthermore, the fact that the United States, the leader of the Western alliance and Canada's closest ally, had assumed a prominent role in conflict-management activity with regard to the Arab-Israel conflict made Canada wary of engaging in any diplomatic activity that might complicate matters for the United States and harm United States-Canada relations.

Because she had no direct national interests at stake in the area, and because her limited capabilities and involvement afforded her little opportunity to influence developments, Canada was not disposed to assume an active role in Middle East diplomacy. This disposition was reinforced by the above-mentioned configuration of regional and international conditions which existed between 1967 and 1973. Admittedly, in 1967 the Canadian Government did participate in the formulation of certain general principles, embodied in United Nations Security Council resolution 242, which were intended to serve as guidelines for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, this willingness stemmed largely from Canada's membership in the Security Council at that time. Afterwards, she assumed a relatively passive role, preferring to leave the responsibility for bringing about a settlement to others who were more directly involved in the area and had more leverage over the parties. Moreover, not only was Canada unwilling to play any active diplomatic role but she also saw no need to develop a detailed policy of her own on the various issues involved in the conflict. She was content simply to declare her support for the principles contained in resolution 242, general and ambiguous though they might be, and let matters rest at that, There were several reasons for this reluctance to formulate precise positions on the issues. For one thing, the Government felt that it would be presumptuous on its part, in view of Canada's limited experience, involvement and influence in the area, to attempt to do this. Furthermore, such a move would run the risk of antagonizing one or other of the parties to the conflict, an influential domestic interest group (the Canadian Jewish community), and/or Canada's leading ally (the United States), which placed great importance on developments in the Middle East. Thus, any Canadian pronouncement about possible terms of settlement for the Arab-Israeli conflict which went beyond the generalities of resolution 242 was unlikely to produce any movement toward a settlement or political gains for Canada but could have real political costs.

In short, inaction and ambiguity were the basic features of Canada's approach to the Middle East. As a result, Canadian policy toward the area tended to be basically reactive in character. Policy pronouncements generally did not reflect a conscious initiative on the part of the Government but rather a response to the moves of others, whether in the form of developments in the area, resolutions at the United Nations or even domestic pressures. Moreover, policy evolved very slowly, not only because it was reactive in nature but also because Canadian governments were unwilling to go beyond the minimal consensus expressed in resolution 242 unless some of Canada's major allies had already moved in this direction. This was a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the evolution of Canadian policy.

In any case, the Middle East did not loom large on Canada's foreign policy horizon. If, as a consequence, Canadian policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict tended to be largely passive, vague and slow to evolve, Canadian policy on the Palestinian question was even more so. This was not surprising in view of the fact that this issue took some time to emerge, even within the Arab world and, when it did emerge, became very contentious.

The second basic characteristic of Canada's approach to the Middle East which shaped her position on the Palestinian question was the pro-Israeli leaning in her attitudes and policy. This was the product of several factors.

The first and most important factor was the conceptions of legitimacy which existed among Canadians regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Given their familiarity with certain aspects of Jewish history and experience, in particular the biblical promise and the desperate plight of the Jews in Hitler's Europe, the Canadian public and political elite alike were convinced of the legitimacy of the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. This acceptance of the intrinsic legitimacy of Israel was reinforced by perceptions of circumstantial legitimacy stemming from some twenty years of existence as well as recognition by much of the international community. Moreover, in so far as intentions and behaviour were concerned, there was a general disposition to view Israel as the innocent, aggrieved party which was merely trying to protect what was hers and which acted only in response to Arab moves. The Palestinians and Arabs, for their part, were perceived not only as seeking to destroy Israel but also as constantly being the initiators or aggressors in the clashes which occurred in the region. The extremist tone of many Arab statements simply reinforced this view.

A second factor contributing to the pro-Israeli orientation of Canadian policy was the basic structure of interests within which Canadian governments operated. The most important element in this was the presence within Canada of a modest-sized but nevertheless influential Jewish community. By virtue of its numbers and strategic concentration in Canada's major cities, its affluence, its political organization and its access to community leaders and the media, this community was a political force to be reckoned with. By its untiring activity in defining issues and supplying information, the Jewish community was able to influence the perceptions and judgments of Canada's political elite, opinion makers and public alike. Although Canadian politicians and decision-makers were favourably disposed to Israel anyway, the views of the Jewish community on current issues in the conflict were nevertheless constantly brought to their attention. This served not only to reinforce, and possibly even shape, their conceptions of legitimacy but also to make them aware of the possible political costs involved in adopting positions contrary to those of the Jewish community. These costs included everything from criticism in the media and criticism by other politicians, including people within one's own party, to loss of campaign contributions and loss of electoral support in certain ridings. Naturally, this would cause any politician, and especially a political leader, to think seriously before taking such a step.

Between 1967 and 1973, there was little in the way of countervailing pressure on the Canadian Government regarding Middle Eastern issues. The Canadian Arab community was relatively small and dispersed and many of its members were relative newcomers to the country. As a result, it enjoyed little influence. Moreover, there were very few individuals available to present the Arab case directly to Canadians. Of those who were, some did it in terms that simply served to strengthen the pro-Israeli orientation of Canadian opinion. Most important of all, as noted above, at this point Canada had virtually no tangible interests and little involvement in the Middle East. Consequently, there was little sense of vulnerability to possible pressures from the Arab world as a consequence of the adoption of a pro-Israeli stance. For the same reason, there were no domestic interests with an important stake in the Arab world which could serve as a pressure group to warm the Government of the potentially harmful consequences of such policies.

The final factor contributing to Canada's pro-Israeli leaning was an external one, namely the views of other Western countries. Given the significance of the Middle East in the larger context of East-West politics as well as the importance of its energy resources for the economies of many Western countries and given Canada's own limited involvement and responsibilities in the area, the Canadian Government was attentive to the views of its allies on Middle Eastern questions. She was interested in maintaining a policy as similar as possible to that of her key allies not only for the sake of being in "good company" but also in the interests of the alliance itself. In any case, the conceptions of legitimacy and the perceptions of intentions and behaviour held by Canada were widely shared within the Western world during this period. In particular, the policy of the United States, the leader of the Western alliance and Canada's closest ally, was strongly pro-Israel. The attitudes of Canadian decision-makers were not all that different from their American counterparts but, even if they had been, the Canadian Government would have been reluctant to adopt positions on Middle Eastern issues which were divergent from those of the United States. For it realized the importance which the United States Government placed on the region and the prominent role which it had assumed there. As a result, it was unwilling to complicate the task of, or antagonize, the United States in such a sensitive area. The other Western governments were also favourably disposed toward Israel in the late 1960s with the exception of France, which adopted a more critical posture. However, by the early 1970s, other Western European governments were also displaying some skepticism about Israeli intentions and behaviour and moving toward a more even-handed stance. This difference in approach was in evidence mainly in votes on Middle East resolution at the United Nations rather than in actual policy declarations. This divergence among its allies, although limited, did generate some concern on Canada's part. Where this occurred, however, Canada generally continued to use the United States as its point of reference and thus maintained a pro-Israeli orientation to its policy. 2/

During this period then, the conceptions of legitimacy held by the political elite, the structure of interests of the Government and the views of allies all basically pointed in the same direction. The resulting pro-Israeli orientation was manifested in a much greater responsiveness of Canadian decision-makers to Israeli concerns, interests and sensitiveness than to those of the Arabs. This was reflected, as we shall see below, not only in Canada's voting behaviour and general position on Middle East resolution at the United Nations but also to some extent in its stance on the territorial issue. This orientation constituted an important constraint on the development of Canadian policy with respect to the Palestinian problem.

The third and most direct factor shaping Canada's policy on the Palestinian question was the Canadian perception of the Palestinian issue itself and of the intentions and behaviour of the Palestinians. In Canada's view, the United Nations approval of the partition of Palestine and the subsequent establishment of the State of Israel had definitively resolved the problem of Palestine. Since Canadian decision-makers believed firmly in Israel's right to existence, they rejected Palestinian demands for her elimination as illegitimate. They also developed a very negative impression of the Palestinians, and Arabs generally, for their refusal to accept Israel and their persistent hostility toward her. This was intensified in the late 1960s when the newly emergent commando organizations engaged in acts of violence against Israel and Israelis as a means of asserting their national Claims.

Since Palestinian national aspirations were expressed only in terms of the disappearance of Israel and its replacement by a "secular, democratic" Palestinian state, Canadian decision-makers were understandably unresponsive at this stage to demands for the recognition of Palestinian "national rights". There was no awareness on their part of possible Palestinian national aspirations short of the elimination of Israel. 3/ In other words, they did not conceive of possible Palestinian national aspirations vis-à-vis other Arabs in the form of demands for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Palestinian-inhabited territories over which neighbouring Arab states had assumed control after 1948. This is not surprising, since in the late 1960s even in the Arab world there were no indications of support for this idea. In short, then, since Palestinian national aspirations were regarded either as illegitimate or non-existence, Canadian decision-makers felt there was no genuine Palestine issue as such in the national or political sense. There was only the issue of the Palestinians which was viewed as simply a refugee question, for which a humanitarian solution would have to be found.

By the early 1970s, however, changes began to emerge in the Arab approach to the problem. The Palestinians came to be recognized not only as a significant and autonomous political force but also as a people with a distinct national consciousness of their own. Moreover, some Arab governments began, at least implicitly, to interpret "Palestinian national rights" and "self-determination" in a more limited fashion (i.e., as involving simply the establishment of a Palestinian state comprising the West Bank and Gaza). Nevertheless, Canada still remained unresponsive on this issue. It doubted the genuineness of an Arab change of heart, especially in the absence of a clear statement from the Palestinians to this effect. Consequently, it remained opposed to any Palestinian national rights formula without an explicit qualification regarding Israel's right to existence.

Even with an explicit qualification, Canadian decision-makers were unwilling to support the principle of Palestinian national rights. This was due basically to the government's sensitivity to Israeli security concerns and fears about instability in the area combined with strong suspicions about Palestinian intentions. In addition, though, certain domestic factors other than those already mentioned, tended to limit Canada's responsiveness to such proposals. One indirect factor was the fact that throughout the years Canada itself had accepted large numbers of immigrants, many of whom were refugees from their own countries. This may have made it harder for Canadians to understand the Arab refusal to accept resettlement of the refugees as the solution to the Palestinian problem and their persistence in pressing for the realization of Palestinian national "rights" (whether in their full or more limited form). This was at most a subconscious factor, however, and too much importance should not be placed on it. The other, more important factor, involved the Quebec situation. Here the late 1960s witnessed a growth in strength of Quebec nationalism and the emergence of a strong "separatist" party favouring self-determination and independence for Quebec. Canadian political leaders were undoubtedly aware of the possible domestic ramifications of their stance on the issue of Palestinian "national rights" and "self-determination". In this connexion, the resort to terrorist methods by some elements of the Quebec nationalist movement, which culminated in the October Crisis of 1970, and the strong reaction within Canada to this, may very well have influenced elite and public perceptions of the Palestinian national movement. It certainly did not create a favourable climate for responsiveness to Palestinian national aspirations, on behalf of which similar methods had been periodically employed.

The fourth and final factor shaping Canada's Palestinian policy was the Government's basic approach to the settlement process in the Arab-Israeli conflict. To begin with, Canada was very much opposed to the notion of an imposed settlement. The only durable settlement, it was .felt, was one which was freely agreed to by the parties themselves. Hence the terms would ultimately have to be worked out by them directly. However, the Government also believed that the conflict was too serious to be left simply to the parties themselves. The international community had a role to play, through the United Nations Security Council, in helping to find a solution to this recurrent and dangerous conflict. This role could take two forms. One was the appointment of a United Nations mediator who would utilize his good offices to attempt to initiate negotiations between the parties. The other was the formulation of certain general principles which could serve as guidelines for a settlement. These guidelines were eventually set forth in Security Council resolution 242 (29 November 1967) a resolution which Canada, as a member of the Security Council at the time, had a significant role in drafting. The basic provisions of this resolution were Arab recognition of Israel's existence and acceptance of satisfactory arrangements to ensure her security in return for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied during the 1967 war. The resolution also made reference to the need for a just solution to the refugee problem.

Since there existed only a minimal consensus among the major powers regarding possible terms of settlement and since resolution 242 was intended simply as a framework for negotiations and not a detailed peace plan, the guidelines contained in the resolution were expressed in fairly general terms. As a result, they were rather ambiguous and allowed for a considerable range of possible solutions and concrete arrangements. (The provisions concerning Israeli territorial withdrawal are the best example of this). It would be up to the parties themselves to work out the actual terms of settlement within the limits established by these guidelines. Hence, in Canada's view, once the guidelines were established, the role of the United Nations was relatively limited. Canada was opposed to repeated intervention by United Nations bodies in the conflict in a "legislative" or "arbitrator"-type role.

Specifically, Canada was opposed to three types of United Nations intervention. The first was any attempt to interpret or render more precise the principles contained in resolution 242. 4/ Resolution 242, in the Government's view, represented the maximum consensus possible at that time. It had been agreed to by the major Powers, including the principal supporters of the parties in conflict and had been tacitly acquiesced in by most of the parties to the conflict themselves. Any attempt by the United Nations to go beyond its terms and interpret the guidelines in a specific way would undermine the fragile consensus. In particular, it was likely to antagonize one or other of the parties and thereby hamper the possibilities for negotiations. The second and third types of United Nations intervention to which Canada objected involved any attempt to modify resolution 242 either by way of emphasizing one element in the package over others or else by adding new elements to the package. 5/ In Canada's view, the resolution represented a carefully worked out compromise covering all the major elements that ought to be included in a settlement. It therefore constituted a balanced and interrelated package of obligations whose components ought not to be changed.

Canada's conception of the settlement process, with its opposition to an interventionist United Nations role in the conflict, had two main consequences. The first was to place Canada in opposition to the Arab states and to convey an impression of lack of evenhandedness. Thus, whether or not intended as such, Canada's support for a modest United Nations role implicitly favoured Israel since it was not only the stronger party but also was in possession of the disputed territories. The more passive the role of the international community, the stronger Israel's bargaining power was likely to be. Conversely, the more interventionist the role of the international community, the more Israel's superiority was likely to be offset by external diplomatic pressure to conclude a reasonable settlement.

This issue arose particularly in connexion with Canada's opposition to the passage of United Nations resolutions emphasizing the need for the fulfillment of certain provisions of resolution 242 and calling upon Israel to implement these. The justifications usually offered for this opposition were that the resolutions in question either went beyond the provisions of resolution 242 or else were unbalanced because they emphasized only certain elements in the package without mentioning others or criticized only one side. These arguments had merit, particularly as long as there was no evidence of expansionist objectives on the part of Israel or of Arab willingness to fulfill their obligations under resolution 242 (e.g., recognition of Israel and acceptance of appropriate security arrangements). However, by the early 1970s, not only were there indications of a willingness of certain key Arab states (Egypt as well as Jordan) to accept all the elements of resolution 242 6/ but also Israeli behaviour in the occupied territories began to generate serious questions about her intentions. At this point, a number of the arguments against United Nations resolutions emphasizing the need for the fulfillment of particular provisions of resolution 242 and calling on Israel to do so seemed to lose their validity. In such circumstances, continued opposition to these resolutions, or perhaps even abstention, conveyed the impression of tacit acceptance of Israeli actions or inaction. In the same vein, Canadian governments seemed quite attentive to Israeli sensitivities and expressed concern that resolutions directed at Israel would antagonize her and thereby undermine the possibilities for negotiations. They manifested little or no concern, however, that Western unwillingness to criticize questionable Israeli behaviour might antagonize the Arabs and undermine their willingness to participate in negotiations. Nor, by the same token, was there any indication of an awareness that United Nations or Western willingness to act in regard to the conflict might encourage Arab confidence in the possibilities of an honourable settlement.

The other main consequence of Canada's conception of the settlement process was related directly to her Palestinian policy. The unwillingness to accept any modification of resolution 242 made Canada's approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict somewhat static. It intended to impede diplomatic creativity by leading it to oppose the addition of any new elements to the basic guidelines contained in resolution 242 even where these dealt with issues that had not even arisen when resolution 242 was formulated. Also, no distinction was made between modifications which might contradict the basic guidelines and those which might supplement them. While this approach was not the basic cause of Canada's lack of responsiveness to the Palestinians, it certainly tended to reinforce it. As a result, Canada found itself squarely in opposition to the Palestinians and to the efforts to gain recognition of their legitimate concerns and "rights", particularly within the United Nations.

Perceptions and Policy in 1967: The Pearson-Martin Period

Now that we have examined the main factors shaping Canadian policy on the Palestinian question in the 1967-1973 period, let us analyze the development of the policy itself.

In 1967, the principal focus of the conflict remained, as always, the rival claims of Israel on the one hand and the Palestinians, along with the Arab states on the other, to the former territory of Palestine. For reasons already mentioned, Canadian opinion was firmly convinced of the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Consequently, Canadian political leaders repeatedly stressed that Israel's right to existence was the basic issue in the conflict and that recognition of this right should constitute the principal element in any settlement. Prime Minister Pearson gave clear expression to this view on the eve of the 1967 war. "The basic issue in this situation is the recognition of Israel's right to live in peace and security. The rejection and repudiation of that basic right has been over the years and is now a source of our danger". 7/ This view was shared by virtually all speakers who participated in the parliamentary debates during the 1967 war or who subsequently addressed themselves to the issue. 8/

While the support for Israel's existence was readily understandable, there was a surprising lack of awareness among Canadian politicians that the issue was much more complex than had generally been portrayed and that the Palestinian people did have legitimate grievances concerning the establishment of Israel. Apart from a few Social Credit M.P.'s from Quebec and one New Democratic Party backbencher, little or no understanding of the Palestinian case was voiced during the 1967 debates. 9/ The issue was felt to have been settled by the partition of the territory in 1947-1948. Consequently, Palestinian national aspirations vis-à-vis Israel were dismissed as illegitimate and unreasonable.

While strongly supporting Israel's right to existence, the Pearson Government and its successors attempted to establish some degree of even-handedness in Canada's policy by supporting the principle of Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories occupied during the 1967 war. 10/ However, they also adopted a policy of deliberate ambiguity regarding the ultimate scope of any such withdrawal. Thus a return to the pre-1967 territorial status quo was never formally ruled out but neither was the possibility of some territorial change in Israel's favour. In fact, there were indications that the Canadian Government was receptive to some extent to Israeli arguments about the need for territorial change either for security reasons or even, as in the case of Jerusalem, for religious and symbolic reasons. 11/

In short, Canada seemed prepared to accept the prospect that the modest remnant of Palestinian territory which was under Arab sovereignty prior to 1967 might be reduced even further in an eventual settlement. This would only be acceptable in the framework of a final settlement, however; it could not be brought about by unilateral action. 12/

Although the fate of the former territory of Palestine remained, in one form or another, the center of attention and the core of the conflict, some attention was also paid to the fate of the Palestinians themselves. Virtually every speaker in the 1967 parliamentary debates referred to the problem of the Palestinian refugees. While little attention was paid to the reasons for the original flight, 13/ the issue of responsibility for their continuing plight was raised by several speakers. The dominant theme in these interventions was that the continued existence of the refugee camps represented an attempt by the Arab governments to keep the conflict alive and to use the Palestinians as pawns in their struggle with Israel. Prime Minister Pearson himself gave expression to this view.

"They have tragically been used as pawns in the game of Middle East politics … In so far as the refugees are concerned, I think the feeling … among many of the Arab governments was that they wanted to keep these refugees and send them back to form a Palestinian Arab state if Israel were to disappear. They felt that if these refugees were scattered all over the world, they might be happier individually but they would not be available for the day when Israel disappears and they move in. This has frustrated, in part at least, the efforts to deal with the refugee problem". 14/

In short, it was assumed that the Arab governments could have resolved the refugee problem without much difficulty by disbanding the camps and integrating the Palestinians into their own societies. 15/

Regardless of where responsibility lay for the creation and continuation of the refugee problem, there was general agreement about the need for a serious effort to find a solution. This concern was motivated above all by humanitarian considerations. Many M.P.'s were genuinely moved by the unfortunate plight of the refugees and in particular by the deplorable conditions under which they lived. 16/ Over and above the humanitarian concern, however, there was also a strong awareness of the political consequences of the refugee problem. Numerous speakers pointed out that the desperate plight of the refugees constantly reminded Palestinians and Arabs generally of their grievances against Israel and thus served to fuel the fires of conflict. Supporters of Israel, in particular, believed that the disbanding of the camps and the dispersal of the refugees would eliminate the main hotbeds of anti-Israeli feeling and make it more difficult for the Palestinians to organize and act against Israel. In the interests of peace and stability in the area, therefore, a solution would have to be found to the refugee problem. Speaking on behalf of the Government, External Affairs Minister Martin stated:

"… we have got to meet the terrible problem of the dislocated families and peoples in the Gaza and wherever the refugees are and to see to it that they are given the opportunity for a full life, thereby removing one of the temptations of the excessive nationalism". 17/

This view was stated even more forcefully by former Conservative Defence Minister, Douglas Harkness:

"As long as you have the Palestinian refugee problem with these people living in miserable surroundings in camps along the perimeter of Israel, you are going to have the threat of war … I believe that until these people are dispersed … the extremely strong feelings of hatred which exist throughout these areas will continue and will be reinforced by the existence of these refugee camps". 18/

As far as solutions to the problem were concerned, a distinction was made between short-term and long-term approaches. In the short run, Canadian decision-makers and M.P.s believed that the international community should provide more aid to alleviate the sufferings of the original refugees as well as the substantial number of new refugees created by the June war. In this connexion, there was general agreement that Canada, which was already one of the leading contributors of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine), 19/ should increase its aid in view of the substantial new demands on this agency. This consensus was quickly translated into action, as Prime Minister Pearson announced on 26 June that Canada was prepared to provide additional funds for the refugees. 20/

Such financial aid, while regarded as necessary, was viewed as merely a palliative, however. Emphasis continued to be placed, as it had been prior to 1967, on the need for a permanent solution to the problem. 21/ Such a solution, it was felt, would require the disbanding of the camps and the resettlement of the refugees. Some of these, it was acknowledged, ought to be allowed to return to their homes in Israel (repatriation) but government spokesmen made it clear that the number involved would be very limited. Thus, Prime Minister Pearson noted in the House "… perhaps a sufficient effort has never been made to get at least some of them back to their homes in Israel". 22/

The only realistic solution in Canada's view lay in the resettlement of the vast majority of the refugees, with compensation, in the Arab world and, in some cases even outside the region. External Affairs Minister Martin made this clear when he stated in an address to the United Nations General Assembly that "It would be an illusion … to go on believing that the problem of the refugees will be solved simply on the basis of their return to Israel". 23/ Prime Minister Pearson elaborated on this saying:

"A real opportunity has never been given to these refugees to decide whether they could or would be willing to locate in other countries". 24/

To facilitate the absorption of the refugees into the economies and societies of the Arab states, the Canadian Government proposed that a large-scale regional development programme be undertaken with substantial financial assistance from the international community:

"… the Arab states could not be expected to shoulder alone the burden of resettling and integrating in Arab countries those refugees who might make this choice. An international effort in a United Nations context directed at regional economic development in the Middle East and related to resettlement is a prime requirement which members of the United Nations have an obligation to consider". 25/

While resettlement of the refugees within the Arab world was clearly the preferred solution, Canadian parliamentarians and the Canadian Government were also prepared to accept some immigration of Palestinians to Canada. This suggestion was made both by NAP foreign affairs spokesman Andrew Brewin 26/ and Conservative leader John Diefenbaker. 27/ However, while reports in the Toronto Globe and Mail suggested that the Government was prepared to accept up to 40,000 refugees, 28/ Prime Minister Pearson remained very cautious in his public statements:

"It is impossible at the moment to say how many refugees would be taken, because that would depend on the international arrangements by which the problem could be liquidated. Indeed, it would depend primarily, or very importantly, on the attitude of the Arab governments toward the urgency of the problem. When this matter was mentioned the other day, there were reports in Arab newspapers criticizing Canada because we were trying to take away from those countries Arab refugees whose only desire was to go back to their families in Palestine". 29/

Mr. Pearson's latter remarks point to an important underlying difficulty in the Canadian approach to the problem. The resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the Arab states or elsewhere in the world might have brought about an improvement in their standard of living. However, it would also have been very helpful to Israel both symbolically and practically and was undoubtedly perceived in this way by Israel's supporters in the Canadian Parliament and Government. At the symbolic level, the existence of the refugee camps represented both the continued Palestinian claim to their homeland and an affirmation of their collective existence as a people. Consequently, the elimination of the camps would have signalled an end to their claims to Palestine and an acceptance of the permanence of their new situation. It would also have symbolized in many ways their dissolution as a "people". Also, from a practical viewpoint, the elimination of the camps would have eliminated the main hotbeds of anti-Israeli feeling and made it more difficult for the Palestinians to organize and act against Israel. For these reasons, Canada's policy on the Palestinian refugees was viewed in the Arab world as representing a political stance as much, if not more, than a humanitarian approach to the problem.

While very conscious of their unfortunate situation, the Canadian political elite displayed no awareness of the Palestinians as anything other than refugees and consequently no disposition to seek anything other than a humanitarian solution. This had not always been the case. In 1947, the Canadian Government, through its support for the partition of Palestine, had to some extent acknowledged the distinctiveness and national aspirations of the Palestinians. Since then, the establishment of the State of Israel and the assumption of control by neighbouring Arab governments over the Arab remnant of the territory had resulted in the disappearance of Palestine as a political entity. Moreover, the fragmentation of the Palestinians among various states, their subordination everywhere to the jurisdiction of others, as well as the absence of any authoritative body to act on their behalf, contributed to the impression that they had disintegrated as a national community. These developments, combined with the linguistic, cultural and religious similarities between Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, caused Canada's political leadership, as well as most of the international community, to lose sight of the Palestinians as a people with an identity and national consciousness distinct from that of their fellow Arabs. In Canadian eyes, Palestinian identity had become submerged either in a larger Arab identity or in the particular national identities of their country of residence.

This limited awareness among the Canadian political elite of a distinct Palestinian identity and national consciousness was manifested in several ways. One indication was the terms in which the Palestinians were described. During the 1967 parliamentary debates, there were no references to the Palestinians as a people or collectivity of any kind (e.g., "the Palestinians" or "the Palestinian people"). Rather, they were referred to simply as refugees and even in this context, mention was rarely made of their national identity. Thus, they were invariably described as "Arab refugees" or else simply as "refugees". 30/ Prime Minister Pearson and External Affairs Minister Martin generally used the same terminology 31/ although periodically they did make reference to the refugees' Palestinian identity. 32/ Their lengthy experience in dealing with the conflict, particularly at the United Nations had undoubtedly sensitized them to its Palestinian dimension to some extent. 33/

In addition to the limited awareness of a Palestinian national identity, there was also a tendency to underestimate the strength and durability of Palestinian national consciousness. As noted earlier, it was generally assumed that the continued existence of the refugee camps was due primarily to the desire of the Arab governments to use the Palestinians as pawns in their struggle against Israel. It was further assumed in discussions of solutions to the refugee problem that the refugees, if assured of satisfactory living conditions, would have agreed to integration within other Arab societies. No mention was made of the possibility that the Palestinians themselves might regard the camps as an expression of their continued claim to their … once more come under the jurisdiction of these neighbouring Arab states. In other words, the fragmentation and lack of autonomy of the Palestinians was regarded as a permanent condition. The Palestinian issue was treated for all intents and purposes simply as a refugee problem for which a humanitarian rather than a political solution would have to be found.

If the Palestinian component of the eventual solution was extremely limited, the possible Palestinian role in the settlement process was regarded as virtually non-existent. Prior to 1948, the Palestinians, along with the Jewish settlers, had been the major participants in the conflict. What had begun as a Palestinian-Zionist conflict, however, soon came to be viewed as an Arab-Israeli conflict with the Palestinians playing only a very limited role. Palestinian grievances certainly continued to fuel the conflict with Israel. However, as a result of their weakness, fragmentation, loss of autonomy and lack of any effective organization, the Palestinians ceased to be viewed as a major force or even as a distinct action in the conflict. The Arab states, for their part, not only adopted the Palestinian cause as their own and transformed it into an overall Arab cause but also assumed the leadership of the struggle against Israel. While Palestinian activities might help trigger violence, the Arab states, with their vastly greater demographic, economic and military resources, were the only ones who posed any real threat to Israel.

Since the Palestinians were not regarded either as a major force or even as a distinct action in the conflict, there was not perceived to be any need for them to be represented in negotiations leading to a settlement. It was felt that their interests and views would be adequately represented by the governments of the frontline Arab states, in which the vast majority of them resided. Moreover, since these frontline states were the principal actors on the Arab side, working out a settlement between them and Israel was the main task. In such negotiations, the central issues would be those of recognition and security for Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territories. The Palestinian issue would clearly be secondary. If a basic settlement would be worked out between the frontline Arab states and Israel, the Palestinian dimension of the problem could be resolved as a byproduct. The Palestinians would be obliged to go along with this, since they were neither strong enough nor autonomous enough to block a settlement.

The Initial Trudeau-Sharp Period (1968-1973)

The sweeping Israeli victory in the June war has a number of important consequences for the Palestinian question. To begin with, it left the neighbouring Arab states in a much weaker position politically as well as militarily since their poor performance in the war and the scope of their defeat had tarnished their prestige considerably. The defeat led to a loss of confidence on the part of the Palestinians in the ability of the Arab states to promote, or even defend, Palestinian interests. This gave rise among many Palestinians to an emphasis on self-reliance and on the need to develop their own forces and instruments of pressure against Israel. As a result, a number of Palestinian commando organizations emerged and became increasingly active in the struggle against Israel. Through this activity, the commando organizations attracted growing support from Palestinians everywhere and contributed generally to a strengthening of Palestinian national consciousness. Faced with the growing strength of, and support for, the Palestinian national movement both among Palestinians and in the Arab world generally, Arab governments were now obliged to give greater prominence to the Palestinian issue in their diplomatic activity relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Somewhat hesitantly in 1969, but more forcefully from 1970 on, many of these governments began a campaign within the United Nations to secure international recognition of the "inalienable rights" of the Palestinian people including the right of self-determination.

The heightened national consciousness and new assertiveness of the Palestinians, together with the diplomatic support which they received from the Arab states, forcefully drew the attention of the world to the fact that the Palestinian problem was not simply a refugee, problem but rather a national problem as well. These developments had some effect in making Western governments more aware of the importance of the Palestinian issue and may have modified their perceptions of the nature of the issue. However, they produced little change in Western views regarding the solution to the problem.

The renewed assertiveness of the Palestinians in the late 1960s coincided with the advent of a new government in Canada (1968). Under Prime Minister Trudeau and External Affairs Minister Sharp, a change of emphasis occurred in Canadian foreign policy. The concern about developing an international role for Canada received less attention while more importance was placed on the promotion of Canadian national interests. This tended to limit the new government's involvement in the Middle East given the extremely limited character of Canada's interests in the region. 34/ At another level, however, domestic electoral concerns increased the government's interests in the area since, unlike Mr. Pearson and Mr. Martin, Prime Minister Trudeau and External Affairs Minister Sharp both represented constituencies that contained substantial Jewish populations. This factor was particularly important in the case of Mr. Sharp, as we shall see below.

As far as their basic outlook on the Arab-Israeli conflict was concerned, there were differences between Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Sharp. While Mr. Trudeau clearly supported Israel's right to existence and had little patience with those who sought to question this, 35/ he also had some sympathy for Arab concerns and grievances. This was reflected in the critical comments he made concerning Israeli policies and behaviour in private conversations from time to time. 36/ Furthermore, he resented pressure from the Jewish community on Middle Eastern issues and consequently restricted his encounters with community representatives on such questions. 37/ This relatively balanced outlook on the Arab-Israeli conflict earned him respect in Arab circles although this was coupled with disappointment that it was not translated directly into policy. 38/

With respect to the Palestinian issue proper, there were several factors which limited Prime Minister Trudeau's responsiveness. One was the Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of Israel. Even if this had not been the case, however, Mr. Trudeau's views on nationalism and self-determination stemming from his analysis of the Quebec problem within Canada, posed intellectual obstacles to the acceptance of Palestinian claims. Thus, while he certainly regarded ethnic-linguistic communities as sociological entities or "peoples", he did not feel that every "people" had to become a "nation" in the political sense. 39/ Hence, he was skeptical of the notion that every people should have the right to political self-determination and the establishment of an independent state. His lukewarm attitude toward this view was, of course, clearly reinforced by the domestic political situation within Canada, specifically the growing strength of Quebec nationalism and the accompanying demands for a separate state. A further contributing factor to Prime Minister Trudeau's caution on the Palestinian issue was undoubtedly his own personal electoral situation, representing, as he did, a constituency with a substantial Jewish population. He was presumably also concerned about possible opposition from the Canadian Jewish community in general, which had traditionally been a strong supporter of his Liberal party. Finally, Mr. Trudeau was disposed to limit his public involvement in foreign policy matters to one or two key issues, in particular the issue of NATO and the European link and, to a lesser extent, the China question and the Commonwealth connexion. 40/ The remaining issues, including the sensitive Middle Eastern problem, were left almost entirely to his Minister of External Affairs. One of the main reasons for the Prime Minister not becoming involved publicly or, to a large extent, even privately, in Middle Eastern issues was undoubtedly their sensitive character domestically.

External Affairs Minister Sharp, for his part, had a somewhat different perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict than Prime Minister Trudeau. His approach was characterized by a definite pro-Israeli leaning that stemmed in large measure from traditional Western perceptions of the issues and the behaviour of the parties. This was strongly reinforced by concern about his own personal political situation, since the constituency he represented (Toronto-Eglinton) had a substantial Jewish population. 41/ He also found himself in a much more competitive electoral situation in this constituency than the Prime Minister did in his. Mr. Sharp was very much aware of this and was determined not to do or say anything with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict that would antagonize this segment of his electorate. 42/

For both these reasons, under Mr. Sharp's direction, Canada's Middle Eastern policy, although generally expressed in ambiguous terms and carefully measured language, had an underlying pro-Israeli leaning that appeared stronger than that under Mr. Pearson and Mr. Martin. 43/ This leaning certainly played a role in shaping Canada's policy on the Palestinian question during this period.


Under Mr. Sharp's direction, Canada's Palestinian policy remained relatively static between 1968 and 1973 in spite of developments at the regional level and within the United Nations. The two main elements of the policy were carried over from the previous government. The first of these was that the main task was to settle the issues directly at stake between the Arab states and Israel. The Palestinian problem was secondary and would be resolved once the basic terms of settlement had been agreed to by the principal parties to the conflict. The second element was that the Palestinian question was simply a refugee problem which would require no more than a humanitarian solution. These two assumptions were set forth clearly by Mr. Sharp in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly:

"A solution to the refugee problem will be feasible in the context of an agreed settlement between the Arab states and Israel". 44/

In one respect, there was initially some regression in Canada's approach to the Palestinian problem. As we have already seen, Prime Minister Pearson and External Affairs Minister Martin had periodically identified the Palestinians as such, even if only in the context of their status as refugees. Under Mitchell Sharp, however, even this limited acknowledgement of Palestinian identity was called into question. During his first five years in office (Spring 1968 – Spring 1973), Mr. Sharp never once identified the Palestinians, as such, not even in discussing the refugee problem. Rather, he referred to them as the "Arab refugees" or simply as "the refugees". 45/ This omission was deliberate. 46/ Mr. Sharp apparently concluded, based on discussions with his officials, that since resolution 242 referred simply to "the refugee problem", it would be wise to stick to this formulation. Specific references to "the Palestinians" or even to "the Palestinian refugees", it was felt, might be regarded as implicit acceptance of a change in the guidelines for a settlement contained in resolution 242. 47/

The initial Canadian statements at the United Nations during Mr. Sharp's tenure reflected this extremely timid approach. Thus, whereas at the 1967 General Assembly session, the Canadian spokesman in the UNRWA debate had spoken of the "Palestinian refugees", 48/ at the 1968 session Canada's spokesman referred only to "the refugees" and "the refugee problem". 49/ By the 1969 session, however, the situation had evolved considerably. In the UNRWA debate in the Special Political Committee, Canada was now faced with a resolution, which received overwhelming support, demanding the recognition of the "inalienable rights" of the Palestinian people. External Affairs officials, and even the Minister himself, were by now becoming increasingly aware of the extent of Palestinian national consciousness and consequently of the importance of finding a solution to the Palestinian dimension of the conflict. Reflecting this new awareness, Canadian spokesmen at the United Nations now employed a different terminology in discussing the Palestinian problem. Thus, the Canadian delegate to the Special Political Committee spoke of "the Palestinians" and referred to them as a "people" possessing "rights" rather than simply as refugees without a national identity. 50/ During the 1970 session of the General Assembly, the Canadian representative in the Special Political Committee spoke in a similar vein, acknowledging even more clearly the existence of a distinct Palestinian identity.

"… the task of mitigating the suffering of the Palestinian people … That did not mean that his delegation doubted the principle of the equal rights of peoples applied to the Palestinians". 51/

No further statements were made on this subject, however, by Canadian delegates to the 1971 and 1972 General Assembly sessions. This was due in part to an unwillingness to restate Canada's position on the same resolutions year after year.

In addition to this increased awareness of a Palestinian identity, the renewed assertiveness of the Palestinians also made the Canadian Government more conscious of the importance of the Palestinian dimension of the conflict. Thus, during his trip to the Middle East in November 1969, Mr. Sharp was questioned on several occasions about Canada's attitude toward the Palestinian commando movements. At one point, he acknowledged that the emergence and increasing strength of these movements was "one of the many complicating factors in the situation now as compared to November 1967". 52/ A few days later, after a visit to Egypt and conversations with President Nasser as well as the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mr. Sharp apparently concluded that the Palestinian issue was more central to the settlement of the conflict than he had originally believed:

"Mr. Sharp … pointed out that he continued to believe that there could be no lasting peace without settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem. 'This is the central issue', he said." 53/

In spite of this increased awareness of the importance of the Palestinian issue, there was no change in-Canadian policy concerning the status of the Palestinians during this period. The issue continued to be defined as simply a refugee problem for which a humanitarian solution (resettlement with compensation) would have to be found. The manifestations of increased Palestinian national consciousness, as reflected in the emergence of a vigorous and autonomous Palestinian national movement, were not sufficient to convince Mr. Sharp that the Palestinian issue should be treated as a national problem for which a political solution would have to be found. Thus, during his Middle Eastern trip in November 1969, while he acknowledged that the emergence of the Palestinian commando movements was a new and complicating factor in the Middle East situation, he refused to modify Canada's approach to the Palestinian issue. "We do not take any position on this (the Palestinian commando movements) except to seek some way to settle the refugee problem." 54/ The question of a Palestinian entity or even Palestinian representation in any peace negotiations did not arise therefore. Moreover, as far as the commando groups themselves were concerned, he did not accept them as the representatives of the Palestinians and hence saw no need to meet with their officials.

"In a sense, they seemed to be a group without a country and a group without a government, said Mr. Sharp of the guerillas". 55/

The question of a political solution and the possible forms it might take were apparently discussed to some extent within the Department of External Affairs in the early 1970s. 56/ However, in the absence of the political will to move forward on the Palestinian question, no steps were taken to change Canadian policy.

At the parliamentary level, perceptions evolved more slowly. The limited number of M.P.s who raised questions about Middle Eastern issues almost invariably still referred to the Palestinians as "the refugees". 57/ A few, however, did receive direct exposure to the Palestinian dimension of the conflict as a result of visits to the Arab world and returned with a greater awareness of Palestinian national consciousness. One or two of their number, notably Heath Macquarrie of the Conservatives, now began to draw attention to the Palestinian issue both inside and outside the House. Thus, in the autumn of 1970, during the debate in the House of Commons on the Speech from the Throne, he remarked:

"A few months ago I was in the Middle East to attend a meeting of parliamentarians to discuss the Middle East situation. (The Palestinian spokesman) began his remarks by saying 'There is no Middle East problem; there is only a Palestinian problem'. This is one of the things we are realizing slowly and in some cases painfully – that at center stage there must be the Palestinian people". 58/

In particular, he emphasized the necessity for a political solution in the form of an independent Palestinian state:

"This problem is not merely about some spots on a map but about a people with a deep sense of grievance, people with intense longings – people who have reason to believe that the world community has not regarded them very highly or with much compassion and concern.
In the world outside the Middle East, there is some forward movement in popular opinion toward the belief that a free Palestine must be set up". 59/


This unwillingness to consider the Palestinian issue as anything more than a refugee problem can be seen clearly in Canada's stance on the various proposals to recognize Palestinian "rights" which were put forward in the United Nations General Assembly at this time. This issue was raised for the first time in 1969 during the Special Political Committee debate on UNRWA and the Palestinian refugee situation. From this point on, a resolution was presented annually dealing specifically with the question of Palestinian rights. Between 1969 and 1972, these resolutions were virtually identical. In 1969, the key operative paragraph read as follows:

"The General Assembly
1. Reaffirms the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine". 60/

Between 1970 and 1972, this was expanded to include a reference to the right of self-determination:

"The General Assembly
1. Recognizes that the people of Palestine are entitled to equal rights and self-determination, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations." 61/

At each General Assembly session, Canada was faced with a divergence of views within the Western Alliance regarding these resolutions. Thus, the United States voted against the resolution on all four occasions. Britain and the members of the EEC, for their part, abstained on the 1969 resolution. From 1970 to 1972, when the resolution made reference to the right of self-determination, the Europeans themselves were divided. Britain and France continued to abstain. However, Italy and the Benelux countries joined the United States in voting against the resolutions. Japan, for its part, abstained from 1969 to 1971 but, significantly, voted for the resolution in 1972. Since, in addition to considering the content and general tenor of resolutions, Mr. Sharp tended to use the United States as Canada's main point of reference on Middle Eastern issues, the Canadian delegation voted against all four of these resolutions recognizing Palestinian "rights". 62/

Several explanations were offered by Canadian spokesmen for their opposition. To begin with, they argued that the affirmation of Palestinian rights, and in particular the right of self-determination, was ambiguous since it did not spell out the precise scope of such rights. This was troubling in view of the fact that Palestinian organizations had refused to acknowledge Israel's right to existence and continued to maintain that their right to self-determination should apply within the whole of the former territory of Palestine. Hence the ambiguity of the resolution placed into question the existence of the State of Israel:

"Palestinians should enjoy the same rights as all the other people: however, the rights of the Palestinians should not threaten the rights of the Israelis and in that connexion he regretted that paragraph 1 of Draft Resolution B (1969) was ambiguous and cast doubt on Israel's right of existence." 63/

The implication of this argument was that Canada might be prepared to accept a resolution affirming Palestinian rights if a provision were added which recognized Israel's right to existence. However, even this possibility was ruled out by a Canadian spokesman at the 1970 General Assembly session. He argued that resolution 242 provided the basic framework for the settlement of the Middle East conflict. It contained a balanced and interrelated set of proposals which dealt with all major aspects of the conflict. Any attempt either to deal with one aspect in isolation or to modify the provisions of resolution 242 would be unwise since it would be bound to antagonize one or other of the parties and thus make it more difficult to achieve a settlement.

… the various aspects of the Middle East question, including an equitable solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees, formed a single whole whose elements could not be separated. Any attempt to settle some without the others was doomed to failure and could only aggravate the situation. That was implicit in Security Council resolution 242. Any course of action other than that called for by resolution 242 would make it more difficult to settle the Middle East crisis. Consequently, his delegation would vote against the draft resolution". 64/

In other words, Canada opposed any attempt to single out the Palestinian problem for separate treatment as well as any solution which went beyond that envisaged in resolution 242. The effect of this would be to leave the Palestinian problem frozen in its 1967 state.

In spite of the negative vote on these resolutions, Canadian spokesmen in the Special Political Committee emphasized that their Government believed that Palestinians did have rights.

"Palestinians should enjoy the same rights as all other peoples". 65/ "That did not mean that his delegation doubted that the principle of the equal rights of peoples applied to the Palestinians. It upheld that principle with regard to all peoples". 66/

It is hard to escape the conclusion, however, that what the Canadian Government had in mind was the individual rights of Palestinians. For Canada was not prepared at this stage to recognize any collective rights for the Palestinians and in particular not the "right" of self-determination.

In addition to the annual UNRWA resolutions which dealt exclusively with the issue of Palestinian rights, Canada was faced with other General Assembly resolutions in the early 1970s in which reference was made to Palestinian rights but this time as part of a larger package. He we find some variation in Canadian voting behaviour compared to that manifested on the UNRWA resolutions but no difference in policy.

At the 1970, 1971 and 1972 sessions of the General Assembly, a debate was held on the overall Middle East situation. During each of these debates, an omnibus resolution was presented which reiterated the essential ingredient of resolution 242 and deplored the lack of progress toward a settlement, in particular the lack of co-operation by Israel. The 1970 and 1972 resolutions also contained a provision affirming the need for a recognition of the rights of the Palestinians.

"The General. Assembly
3. Recognizes that respect for the rights of the Palestinians is an indispensable element in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East". 67/

Once again, the members of the Western alliance adopted different stands. The United States voted against the 1970 resolution but switched to an abstention in 1971 and 1972. France and Japan voted in favour of the resolution on all three occasions. Britain, Italy and the Benelux countries abstained in 1970 but then voted in favour of the 1971 and 1972 resolutions. Canada once again adopted a stand similar to that of the United States. The only divergence occurred with respect to the 1970 resolution, on which Canada abstained, in contrast to the American negative vote. In 1971 and 1972 Canada abstained along with the United States.

The different in Canadian voting behaviour on the Middle East situation and UNRWA resolution (abstention vs. opposition) did not reflect any change in Canadian policy regarding the status of the Palestinian people. It seems, rather, to have been due to the extremely moderate character of the new resolutions. To begin with, these resolutions referred merely in vague terms to the "rights of the Palestinians" and made no mention of the right of self-determination. Moreover, unlike the UNRWA resolutions, they reaffirmed all the essential ingredients of resolution 242 and, in particular, the principle of "respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state of the area and its right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force". 68/ It was impossible to argue, therefore, that these resolutions failed to place reasonable limits on the scope of "the rights of the Palestinians" or in any way placed Israel's right to existence in question.

Indeed, considering that Canadian spokesmen in the UNRWA debate had acknowledged that Palestinians did have rights and that these resolutions clearly recognized Israel's right to existence, what is surprising is not Canada's abstention but rather its inability to vote in favour of these resolutions. The principal explanation given was that the Canadian Government believed that resolution 242 provided a satisfactory framework for negotiations and that the passage of additional resolutions would not contribute in any way to the achievement of a settlement.

"The Canadian delegation … had serious reservations with regard to the advisability of a debate in the General Assembly at this time and with regard to the possibility of agreement which might be the result of the approach of the sponsors …
(Resolution 242) is a document that seems to us complete and well balanced. We would not like to weaken it or truncate it." 69/

In addition, these resolutions were