Associate Professor of Political Science Marc Lynch has a new article on “Humiliating Our Friends in the Arab World.” Lynch has made appearences in the blog before. He begins his mostly uninteresting article with:

Two years ago, George Bush stunned and outraged virtually the entire Arab world by warmly describing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a “man of peace” at the height of the brutal Israeli reoccupation of the West Bank. Last week, Bush did it again, endorsing Sharon’s demands to end the right of Palestinian return and legitimizing decades’ worth of illegal West Bank settlements.

Note the use of the word “illegal” here. Note that illegal is not in quotes. Lynch asserts as fact that the settlements in the West Bank are illegal.

Is that really true? Of course, I am no expert in the Middle East, but I thought that the basic story line was that, in 1967, there was a war that the Arabs started and lost. During the course of that war, Jordan lost a portion (or all) of the West Bank that it had previously controlled and claimed. Isreal now controls the West Bank and reserves the right to keep some of it.

Now, for an action to be, in fact, illegal, there must be some common body of law that the participants to the discussion agree is binding. I am unaware of any such body of law, agreed to by most Isrealis, that would apply here.

Moreover, the general rule of thumb is that, when you lose a war, you may very well lose some land and that is tough luck. I never hear anyone describe Santa Fe, New Mexico as constisting of “illegal” US settlements. The same applies to that portion of Germany given to Poland after World War II. So, why are Isreali settlements in the West Bank illegal while those of the US and Poland not, even though all were the result of war?

Oren Cass seems to have an interest in Middle East issues. Perhaps he can clarify things for me. Or perhaps Joe Cruz can explain why “illegal” is used fairly in this context.

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