Preface  

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The development of this reference book grew out of the demand by a very determined young lady, Ms. Rona Hart. The proposition she proffered was that the public debate concerning the Israel-Arab dispute demanded that someone with a legal background and expertise respond in a competent and professional manner to press allegations that Israel has been acting illegally and contrary to international law in occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip captured by Israel after the 1967 Six Days War.

My response at that time was that I was now retired and that in any case my legal expertise had been confined to international commercial law. This I told her did not extend to international public law about which I knew too little to be able to argue the case at a reasonable professional level. Her blithe response was simply – “Why can’t you study it? I’ll phone you in six months to see how you’re getting on.” With that she put down the phone. 

That was five years ago! Not only she, but others have jumped on the wagon- including Rev. Geoffrey Smith. All have expressed the need for a resource, in a concentrated and compact form, which would enable students of the Middle East conflict and pro-Israeli advocates to respond more effectively to Arab propaganda and to correct biased or factually unsubstantiated criticism directed at Israel . While its size and scope has gone well beyond what I originally intended, I hope that this collection of material goes some way to fulfilling the needs of those who pushed me into preparing it.


I have long been of the opinion, however, that international law is really an amalgam of international relations, political science and social anthropology with a bit of ‘hard’ law thrown in to bind it together. And so it proved to be.  It became clear to me that the legal aspects of this conflict had to be placed in a historical and political context and that under examination the boundaries between the disciplines were very blurred. As a commercial lawyer used to dealing with law within definable limits, I have tried to integrate them. Whether I have succeeded remains to be seen.

For the most part, the non-legal material contained in this handbook is of a secondary nature, being based neither on unpublished documents nor on interviews with those who participated in the events described herein .


In the process of preparing for this project I learned that an analysis of the legal aspects of Israel ’s occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza , did not make sense if I just started from 1967. I had to go back to 1948. But even that was insufficient. In the end I opted- quite arbitrarily for the late 1800’s with the advent of something quite prosaic - a railway- because out of such small events, bigger movements can be seen to develop.


The next issue in writing, or - to be more accurate - in “compiling” this collection since very little in it is original, was to determine a potential target readership in addition to those who had dragged me into this mire in the first place.  I concluded that my work could best be used by those who advise opinion and decision makers as well as editors, their sub-editors and reporters in the visual and written news media for whom context and balance are crucial. All of them work under tremendous time constraints and pressure such that they frequently have neither the time, nor sometimes the inclination or energy, to go below the surface of an issue to a depth greater than is absolutely necessary to satisfy their immediate demands.

I have tried to provide the reader with a relatively short description and analysis of the main legal issues arising out of the long conflict within its historical and political context so that the events are logically linked and their relative importance is expressed in the paragraphing of the text. For example- the massacre of Sabra and Shatilah gained international prominence and a public figure - Ariel Sharon - was designated by the media as the villain of the event. I have placed the subject as being one of relatively minor importance at the fourth level of indentation.  In reality, the massacre was just one of a number of such dreadful acts committed between warring militants in Lebanon . The real and actual commander of those who perpetrated the killing – was a Christian Philangist, controlled and manipulated by Syria . This personage has been either ignored or conveniently forgotten both by the media and those who are bent upon seeing Israel as the cause of, and an obstacle to, peace in the Middle East .


While this work was originally intended to view the conflict from an essentially Israeli perspective, during its composition I have naturally had to learn and understand the Palestinian position. This has caused me to view the situation somewhat differently from when I originally embarked on this project and to reconsider my opinion on a number of issues. I have therefore tried to bring into my analysis a fair balance of the claims made by both Israelis and Palestinians if my efforts are to be utilised by those for whom it is intended.

 

Gerald M. Adler,

Haifa and Hove , August 2008  

 

 

 

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