Letter: Interpreting the capital of Israel

How Israel treats its residents should be of concern for all interested in human rights

The recent letter “Capital of Israel” (Patricia Renyard, Feb. 7) has some interesting historical interpretations and a clear obfuscation of Martin Vegt’s original letter.

The Renyard letter starts denying Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Two Israeli newspapers indicate that Trump’s signature confirms U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (Haaretz, Dec. 07, 2017, “recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”)

The argument continues stating that the San Remo Conference “establishes the territorial rights of the Jewish people under international law.” That conference did no such thing. It was a meeting of British, French, U.S., and Italian ministers dividing up the spoils of war after the collapse of the Ottoman (Turkish) empire. Its goal was to continue with the extension of their respective empires. It used the Balfour Letter, which was simply a policy statement within the British government concerning how to deal with the European Jewish “problem” (most states wanted the Jewish population to leave). It was not an article of international law.

Another mis-statement is that there were no independent Arab states before the San Remo conference. However, Faisal had declared an Arab state before this. It was “dismantled” in part through British-French secrecy (the Sykes-Picot agreement), and French and British military action. The Treaty of Sevres served to dismember the Ottoman empire and to put the remnants under French and British colonial control.

Essentially, Britain primarily wanted to control the region for geopolitical purposes: control of the newly discovered oil wealth in Iraq; protection of the Suez canal against either French or Egyptian interests; as a transportation corridor for commercial and military interests; and related to all the above, to retain control of India. The establishment of a Jewish national home (not a “state” per se) was part of this plan, with what would become a de facto new state representing an “outpost” of the colonial-settler British empire (that position now maintained mainly by the U.S.).

Regardless of all the arguments about the existence of Israel, whether biblical, philosophical, or purely historical, the letter writer ignores the main thrust of the original Vegt letter. Israel has no more right to exist than any other state, that right determined by military might and very weak international agreements. That it does exist is inarguable and will continue to exist as it has one of the largest militaries in the world with a large nuclear arsenal. What form it will continue to exist in is what concerns most observers today.

The thrust of Martin Vegt’s letter concerned the brutal treatment of the people and especially the children of Palestine from the Israeli government through its military occupation of the remnant Palestinian land. It included faith-based arguments from the Christian perspective. These issues were not addressed by Ms. Renyard. It is a common tactic of argument to avoid an issue by presenting a red-herring argument that diverts attention away from it.

Israel’s current government wants a future devoid of Palestinians through some manner of ethnic cleansing. Notwithstanding how or why, Israel does exist. How it treats its residents should be of concern for all interested in human rights and the rule of law.

Jim Miles


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