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Lynch and “Illegal” Settlements

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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#1 Comment By nate foster On April 27, 2004 @ 11:30 am

A quick Google for “illegal settlements” turned up a bunch of results. Here’s the most convincing one:

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

–Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949

I don’t know if Israel is a signee to the Geneva Convention or not? Of course Israel claims (or, has claimed in the past) that Palestine was not a legitimate sovereign state to begin with…

#2 Comment By (d)avid On April 27, 2004 @ 12:28 pm

I’m not sure a blog about Williams is the best place to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian situation. There are better forums for discussing the topic (innumerable political blogs and plenty on focusing precisely on the Middle East). I thought Ephblog focused on all things Eph (and Israel is at best tangential to Williams).

#3 Comment By nate foster On April 27, 2004 @ 12:44 pm

Agreed (d)avid. I was going to write a followup comment saying the same thing, but I couldn’t resist the bait :(

Do we have a notion of what’s on-topic for EphBlog? It seems to me that many of the past posts have been only tangentially Eph-related and it’d be nice to have some criterea or guidelines for what we want to discuss here and what we want to leave for other forums.

#4 Comment By David Kane On April 27, 2004 @ 12:54 pm

Like all collaborative endeavors, ephblog is whatever its writers and readers choose to make of it. My *personal* take — others may differ — is that “all things Eph” includes things written by Eph professors, students and alums.

My purpose in the post was not to start a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian question, but to a) Direct attention to recent Eph writing and b) Comment that a word used by a Williams professor was, perhaps, ill-chosen.

I would argue that discussion of that *specific* question — Is Professor Lynch correct (or fair or biased or whatever) to use the word “illegal” in describing Isaeli settlements on the West bank? — is a good use for ephblog. More broad-based discussion, unrelated to Professor Lynch’s artcle, would be less appropriate.

Others may very well disagree with those judgments.

Not to worry, though. I will soon have many more postings about Williams and MGRHS! ;-)

#5 Comment By Eric On April 27, 2004 @ 1:12 pm

I don’t see why we can’t talk about anything at all – the fact that it is Ephs in the discussion then makes it something “Eph” if you are going to hold that true.

That said, I would prefer that “anything at all” didn’t include linking to anything “pornographic” – not because I care at all, but b/c the company through which we are hosted that is one of their few content rules.

Just keep in mind that this is an open forum where anyone can post AND more importantly anyone can read.
So take that into account when you post – that you are talking the same way you would if you were in a room of people. Granted there is the anonymity of fake e-mail addresses when posting if you really can’t take the accountability.

#6 Comment By Jeff Zeeman On April 27, 2004 @ 3:05 pm

I agree that we should try to focus on Williams here. To me, what is most interesting, about the Lynch posting is where he chooses to publish: the left-wing equivalent of a radical evangelical right wing website, from what I can gather. I browsed some of the other Middle East articles on the site, and one author defended the Hamas tactic of suicide bombings of civilians as justifiable resistance and labelled Israel a Nazi state while invoking theories of a grand Jewish conspiracy to take over the Middle East, pretty outside the mainstream comments to say the least. Not terribly surprising given the political bias of the Williams faculty.

Hey, at least we aren’t Amherst, where Justice Scalia was recently boycotted by professors who refused even to listen to what a sitting Supreme Court justice had to say, but where lunatic fringe member Al Sharpton was welcomed with open arms. (Then again, when I was at Williams, Conrad Muhammad, the black equivalent of David Duke, and a racist Wellesley professor were both invited to campus in the same month, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to deride our rivals). Note: I am not a conservative or one who things Israel is above critique, rather a moderate who believes Israel faces a different, harsher standard than any non-Jewish nation in the same position has to respond to and who finds the political climate at Williams and its peers to be very one-sided.

#7 Comment By Max K. On April 28, 2004 @ 9:02 pm

“”The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
–Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949″

This article of the Geneva convention refers to the forcible transfer of large populations of civilians. Jewish settlement in the territories has been voluntary, and most settlers are not there out of religious zeal. Nor has there been a transfer of Arab populations out of the territories even though some on the right advocate it. Furthermore, the legal status of the territories is not “occupied,” but rather “disputed”.

Settlements are legal under international law and that has also been the view of American governments as well. Lynch’s use of the term, as well as the phrase “brutal re-occupation” (which is completely unsupported by any actual facts) simply reveals his strong anti-Israeli bias, completely in line with the ideology of the site where his article was published.

Some links regarding the legality of settlements:
http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief2-16.htm
http://israpundit.com/archives/001282.html

#8 Comment By mlynch On April 29, 2004 @ 8:18 am

Ephblog: a current student pointed me to this discussion. I am not going to get involved in a pointless debate about the legality of the settlements in the occupied territories. But your discussion repeats twice an untrue claim which might mislead casual readers. I did not publish my article on the website Axis of Logic, whatever that is. I published it on TomPaine.com, paired with a piece by Rabbi Michael Lerner. If another website chooses to republish the essay without asking permission, that is their business. It says nothing about my political preferences or about the Williams faculty. I published a similar argument today in a Foreign Affairs backgrounder, which pretty much defines “mainstream.” Go ahead and argue about Israel if you like – it’s your blog. But hopefully Williams taught you the importance of getting basic facts right before leaping to conclusions.