Thursday, April 22, 2010

Israel and the Meaning of Independence

The Intermediate Zone
21 April '10

Many people are confused why the State of Israel seems to celebrate the anniversary of its establishment on a different date every year. After all, the State of Israel came into existence after a declaration by the Provisional Council of State in Palestine, led by David Ben Gurion, on May 14, 1948. But in the intervening 62 years, Israel Independence Day has been celebrated on May 14 only once.

The answer is that Israel marks its anniversaries by the Hebrew calendar, not the universal secular calendar, which means that from year to year, anniversaries, holy days and even birthdays, are often celebrated as much as a month apart from the dates to which they are attached in the Gregorian calendar.

But another fact that is often glossed over is that Israel did not actually achieve independence 62 years ago because there was nothing to claim independence from. British suzerainty of Palestine had been mandated, not by the international body, The League of Nations, but under a resolution of the San Remo Conference (1920) which was later ratified by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). Both effectively recognized British conquest of Palestine and ended Ottoman rule. In fact, the British Mandatory Authority, established thereafter, was not a sovereign body and was not universally recognized by all nations ( the United States being the most prominent among them). Its legal legitimacy was in fact in question for 30 years. So while the creation of the state in 1948 derived its standing in international law from U.N. Resolution 181, Israel’s declaration of “independence” was no more than a dramatic means of stating its formation as a contiguous and indivisible state. But on May 14, 1948 it became independent of nothing.

Those might seem like picayune legal arguments, with no particular relevance to today’s politics or diplomacy. Yet the importance of understanding the concept and meaning of independence is vital to appreciating how Israel sees itself today.

For the question of the country’s independence has been a determining factor in Israel’s survival until now and today is a deciding factor in how it proposes to deal with the menace arising to its existence from the Persian Gulf .

History has some important things to say about the matter.

(Read full article)

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