A true test of whether one’s position is based on sound principles or is simply the product of a bias is to switch the givens of a situation.
For example, if a person sides with Group A over Group B in a given situation based on a principle, then that same person should also side with Group B if the roles were reversed because the principle remains the same.
In an earlier post, I showed how a member of the Supreme Court of the United States switched principles depending on who was making the argument. Let me now expand on this idea to the world at large.
As a Jew, I take the situation regarding the existence of Israel rather personally.
In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to implement a partition plan that would have created two states: one Palestinian and one Jewish.
When the British Mandate over Palestine ended on May 14, 1948, David ben Gurion declared Israel to be an independent state. The following day, neighboring Arab states invaded the Jewish State in what is now known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Shockingly, and against all the odds, Israel won.
Almost two decades later, in 1967, war broke out again. As Egyptian forces crossed UN lines and massed on Israel’s southern borders, the Israeli Air Force launched a surprise attack against Egypt starting the Six-Day War. At the end of that conflict, Israel had taken over the Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt), the West Bank (Jordan), the Gaza Strip (Egypt), and the Golan Heights (Syria).
In 1979, as part of the Camp David Accords, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. In 1993, as part of the Oslo Accords, some portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip were placed under the control of the newly created Palestinian Authority. In 2005, Israeli forces left the Gaza Strip. However, to this day, the Jewish State has maintained control over portions of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
This Israeli control over these lands once held by Arabs has not sat well with the Arab world and with the international community. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), with its Resolution 497, calls on Israel to rescind its annexation of the Golan Heights. Reactions from the Arab street are negative when Israel builds settlements in the West Bank
So what would be the mood of the “Arab Street” (whatever that phrase means) if an Arab country annexed land belonging to a neighbor. If the Arab states were adhering to the principle that annexation, in any form, was bad, then it would be obvious that leaders from Libya to Egypt to Syria would demand that their Arab brothers return said land.
But why imagine when I can bring you a real-world case study.
Allow me to introduce you to the African area of land known as Western Sahara.
A colony of Spain in the late 19th century, the Western Sahara is bordered by Morocco to its north, Algeria on its extreme northeast, Mauritania to its east and south, and its western border is the Atlantic Ocean.
Morocco had claimed the land bound by the Western Sahara as its own since 1957. In 1975, Spain relinquished control of its colony to a joint administration run by Morocco and Mauritania. Mauritania withdrew from the joint administration in 1979 and Morocco took full control of the territory.
However, the people who originally lived in Western Sahara were not too pleased to be under anyone’s rule and the Sahrawi national liberation movement (also known as the Polisario Front) was created and it proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in the area known as Western Sahara.
So here you have a portion of land once run by a European party which walks away and a neighboring country takes de facto control of the land and its people. To make the comparison even more obvious, the annexing country builds a wall to contain the original inhabitants.
(For comparison, the Moroccan Wall in Western Sahara is 2,700 kilometers in length where as the Israeli West Bank wall is 700 km in length.)
So what has been the international response to this annexation by an Arab country? Has there been a UNSC resolution asking Morocco to immediately give up its claim?
Of course not.
Among the UNSC resolutions that have been adopted, there has been a resolution asking for a cease-fire to the conflict between Moroccan forces and the Polisario Front (UNSC Resolution 690) and there has been one asking for a referendum so that the people could decide (UNSC Resolution 995).
I’d like to link to any negative commentary from an Arabic news service about the annexation by Morocco of the Western Sahara, but I can’t seem to find any. If you come across any, please let me know.
So while the international news community files story after story after story after story about today being the Palestinian commemoration of Nakba (The Day of Catastrophe…otherwise known as the day Israel declared its independence in 1948), don’t expect a similar rush to criticize the conquering power when the anniversary of the annexation of the Western Sahara by Morocco comes around.
Because of الازدواجية …which is “double standard” in Arabic.