A group of prominent Palestinians issued a “list of principles and policies for the 2020 elections” which begins with the warning that their “support for candidates to federal offices shall be determined by their level of recognition and agreement with these tenets.”
The statement was signed by 120 Palestinian Americans, including activists, heads of organizations, professors, and writers.
The first principle describing the rights of Palestinians to self-determination is a bit perplexing as the biggest obstacle to this is clearly the Palestinians themselves. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is currently in the twelfth year of a four-year term. He replaced the first president of the PA, Yasser Arafat, who served ten years of a four-year term.
The second principle calls for the “immediate and unconditional” end of the “Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.” This principle is equally perplexing as Israel left Gaza in August 2005, ethnically cleansing the enclave of all Jews. Hamas was elected to govern Gaza in 2006 and, like the Palestinian Authority, is in the 14th year of a four year term in office. It should also be noted that Judea and Samaria are not currently “occupied.” As per UN Resolution 2334, the status of the regions of Judea and Samaria captured in the defensive 1967 war are to be determined by bilateral negotiations between representatives of the Palestinians and Israel. Prior to 1967, the area was illegally occupied by Jordan.
“Israel must treat all peoples under its control equally, regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin. ‘All peoples’ includes both Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem.”
Again, Israel has no governing, civilian, or military presence in Gaza. All citizens of Israel have equal rights under the law. Arabs living in Judea and Samaria are governed by and citizens of the Palestinian Authority.
In this principle, the petition calls for the right of return of “Palestinian refugees” based on UN Resolution 194. This resolution was never accepted by Israel and it was rejected by many Arab states as it applies only to those “wishing to… live at peace with their neighbors.”
A refugee, generally speaking, is defined as a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established in 1949 separate from the UN organization tasked with aiding refugees from every other nation. It is the only UN organization that is specific to a particular national group. As such, the UNRWA developed a unique definition of refugee, conferring that status on any descendant of a male Palestinian refugee. Based on the UNRWA’s unique definition of refugee status that only applies to the Palestinians, more than seven million people claim to be Palestinian refugees. Based on the conventional definition of refugee, there are currently fewer than 20,000 actual Palestinian refugees who would be included in Resolution 194.
Resolution 194 also calls for “protection and free access to the Holy Places” which is not found at holy sites under Palestinian custodianship.
This principle calls for the political parties to recognize the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment Sanctions as protected free speech, emphasizing that “Pro-BDS activity does not equate to anti-Semitism.” Both of these points are fiercely debated and most groups tasked with combatting anti-Semitism have concluded that BDS is anti-Semitic, or at least promotes anti-Semitism.
The principles go on to demand the “transfer reversal of the current administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy.” The principles require that the presidential candidates return the US embassy to Tel Aviv.
They also call for the dismantling of the Israeli West Bank barrier constructed in 2003. The barrier was built during the Second Intifada that began in September 2000, and was defended by the Israeli government as necessary to stop the wave of Palestinian violence.The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israel Security Agency report that in 2002, there were 452 fatalities from terrorist attacks. After the completion of the first continuous segment through the end of 2006, there were only 12 attacks based in the West Bank and the number of attacks continued to decline as more of the wall was completed.
The United Nations has declared the barrier to be illegal though it has not been determined to be so. There are over 70 such security barriers around the world though only the one inside Israel has been challenged.
The twelfth principle cites House Resolution 2407, “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act.”
NGO Monitor noted that the resolution, presented in 2019, includes several inaccurate factual claims and distortions of international law and misquotes a number of State Department reports. The bill applies standards to Israel that are not applied in the US in general. NGO Monitor emphasizes that the bill ignores the context of the involvement of Palestinian minors in terrorism and acts of violence against Israeli civilians. It similarly makes no mention of mitigating the threat of recruitment and use of Palestinian minors by terrorist organizations – itself a grave violation of international law.
The resolution was based largely on the lobbying efforts of the NGO Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P) which has ties to the terrorist group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). NGO Monitor identified at least 11 current and former DCI-P board members, officials, and employees linked to the PFLP –some of whom have been convicted of terror offenses such as planning and carrying out attacks targeting Israeli civilians. The bill demands an astounding $19 million US taxpayer funding to be allocated to DCI-P and its NGO allies.
The final principle demands that “United States military aid to Israel should be conditioned on ending Israeli practices that violate Palestinian rights and contravene international law.”
It should be noted that most, if not all of these principles run directly counter to the policies of the Republican presidential candidate, President Donal Trump, but they have also been rejected by Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate. In a briefing with the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), one of Biden’s top aides categorically ruled out imposing conditions on US military aid to Israel.
“He would not tie military assistance to Israel to any political decisions that it makes. Period. Full stop. He said it; he’s committed to it. And that would be the policy of the Biden administration,” Tony Blinken said, reaffirming what Biden himself said last year in response to a call by his opponent, Bernie Sanders to condition US aid to Israel.
Blinken also said that Biden will push back against the BDS movement as well as efforts to denounce Israel for its violations of international law at the United Nations.
Though the principles advocated by the Palestinians are clearly unacceptable to either of the candidates, many of the signatories were supporters of Sanders or served as surrogates on his campaign. Unlike most of his party’s candidates, Sanders did advocate these principles.