The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective

John Quigley, Duke University Press 2005

By Karin Brothers (reviewer)

John Quigley, professor of law at Ohio State University and a leading US expert in humanitarian law, has written a 2005 update of his 1990 The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective. This impressive book was written to further peace through better understanding of the Israeli/Palestinian situation. The book is highly readable, despite numerous but unobtrusive academic footnotes; it will stun many of us who thought we understood much of this historical background.

Quigley starts at the beginning of the Zionist movement, when the first Zionists considered (and tried to obtain at least one of) various locations for a Jewish homeland. This initiative met with success not from a groundswell of support from any Jewish community, but from the persuasion of British officials that a client state near the Suez Canal and oil fields would be useful to British interests. Britain requested the British Mandate for Palestine in 1922 which protected the development of the embryonic Zionist state.

According to Quigley's information, Israel got its start not from the United Nations but from US President Harry Truman. The UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which laid out Jewish and Palestinian states based on the partition of Palestine, was merely a recommendation that was not even passed.

The US had decided that the proposed partition was unworkable; American UN delegates were about to help draw up a trusteeship for Palestine when President Truman stunned everyone by recognizing Israel after Israel declared itself a state in May of 1948.

Quigley points out that the neighboring Arab countries went to rescue Arabs in 1948 and did not even attempt to reclaim land on the Israeli side of the UN partition; the war Israel fought was thus a war of aggression, not one of "independence."

According to Quigley, Israel had neither title nor legal claim to any part of Palestine until Arafat's recognition at the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The rationale for Israel's existence as a Jewish refuge was enhanced by Zionist and Israeli actions, according to Quigley's documents. Jewish immigration after the Second World War was often as a result of either the lobbying of foreign governments to curtail the opportunities for refugees to move to countries other than Israel or of Israeli intelligence operations which created the belief that Jews were under attack in various Arab countries.

Quigley not only notes that Israel was the aggressor in the 1967 Six Day War which started the occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory, but also discounts the Israeli rationale for its aggression, putting this instead in the context of Israel's various attempts to expand its territory.

The current situation is placed in the legal context of an indigenous struggle for freedom; Quigley quotes international judgements that give more legitimacy to natives seeking their self-determination than to colonizers trying to maintain their power. Thus, Palestinian civilians under occupation have legal legitimacy for armed resistance to occupation forces, a resistance that is too often described as "terrorism" in our media.

Quigley closes with the assertion that "the international community bears a responsibility to ensure an outcome consistent with the legal rights of the parties. If the matter is left exclusively to the parties, there is a serious risk of an inappropriate outcome ... [that] would increase the likelihood that the international community ... will face many more years of turmoil in the region."

The Case for Palestine is an important contribution to public understanding and should give readers the confidence to speak knowledgeably about this "situation.

Peace Magazine Apr-Jun 2006

Peace Magazine Apr-Jun 2006, page 30. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by Karin Brothers here

Peace Magazine homepage