Elan Journo's "What Justice Demands" is a shameless work of Zionist propaganda intended to defend Israel's unjustifiable crimes against the Palestinians.
On June 12, a new book was published titled What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Elan Journo, a fellow and director of policy research at the Ayn Rand Institute. The book purports to offer a fresh approach to the subject from the premise that the right to individual liberty is inviolable. Yet from that premise Journo manages to arrive at the conclusion that the Palestinians must not be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination. Rather, the US must provide Israel with the political backing required to enable it to violently repress any semblance of resistance to its occupation regime.
How can we explain this cognitive dissonance? Well, instructively, the means by which Journo arrives at his self-contradictory conclusion is by attempting to perpetrate a hoax against his reader. Lies and deceptions flow forth from the book on practically every page. While purporting to be unique in its approach, all Journo does is to mindlessly regurgitate the same tired Zionist propaganda that has always been used to try to justify Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
Journo dedicates a significant portion of the book to praising the wondrous civility of the state of Israel in comparison to the backward Arab regimes of the region. “Censorship is the norm in the Middle East”, he writes, for example, whereas Israel “protects intellectual freedom”. He maintains this despite acknowledging that there exists in Israel a Film Censorship Board that denies the right of Israelis to screen films and instead treats this as a privilege for which citizens require permission from the government. He relegates to a footnote his acknowledgment of the existence also of a Military Censor operating under Israel’s military intelligence to control what information gets out of the occupied Palestinian territories. He argues in the footnote that there’s “a case to be made” that this censorship is legitimate. So much for protecting intellectual freedom!
Similarly, he condemns neighboring Arab states for engaging in the practice of torture. Yet he defends Israel’s use of torture against Palestinian prisoners on the grounds that Israel doesn’t do it as routinely as some other countries. Whereas when other states torture, it is absolutely condemnable, when it comes to Israel, the use of torture becomes a “difficult question”. He points to a 1999 Israeli Supreme Court ruling prohibiting harsh interrogation methods as proof of Israel’s unique “commitment to the principles of the rule of law”—even though the practice continues to this day, with the Supreme Court regularly accepting the arguments used by the Israeli military to justify abuse of prisoners.
The separation wall Israel has built in the West Bank is yet one more of Journo’s proofs that Israel is a state that respects the “the rule of law”. How so? He cites another Supreme Court case where Palestinians from the village of Beit Sourik successfully petitioned the Israeli government to reroute its path. He leaves out the relevant details of the case. The acknowledged facts of the case were that the livelihood of hundreds of Palestinian families would be “critically injured” by the planned path of the wall due to the seizure of their farm land for its construction. The lives of tens of thousands of other residents would also be harmed, including by hindering the villages’ economic development, blocking road access to urban centers, making access to medical and other services in East Jerusalem impossible, and impairing students’ access to schools and universities. The Supreme Court only decided in the petitioners’ favor on the narrow grounds that the severe harm to the villagers would be gratuitous since the harm could be lessened simply by rerouting its path further away from the village.
Naturally, Journo also omits any mention of the fact that in 2004 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion at the request of the UN General Assembly determining that Israel’s construction of the wall in the occupied West Bank is a violation of international law and that there can be no military justification for the wall’s severe imposition on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. So much for the wall being proof of Israel’s commitment to the rule of law!
After spending two of the book’s six chapters singing in this manner the praises of Israel’s wondrous respect for individual rights and the rule of law, Journo spends his next two chapters arguing that the Palestinians have no legitimate grievances against the state of Israel and must not be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination.
To this end, he denies that Arabs were wrongly dispossessed of their land during the Mandate era on the grounds that Jews acquired land by purchasing it, and therefore the eviction of peasants from their lands was simply an exercise of the Jews’ property rights. As he tells it, the reader is led to believe that all of the land in what is today Israel was acquired through legal purchase. In fact, by the end of the Mandate, Jews still owned less than 7 percent of the land in Palestine. He also omits how the “legal” purchase of land was undertaken by exploiting feudalistic Ottoman land laws that wrongfully deprived the Arab peasants of their property rights, or how the whole purpose of evicting Arabs and denying them employment in Jewish colonies—which economically harmed Jewish landowners as well as Arab workers—was to further the Zionist project of establishing a demographically “Jewish state” in the place of Palestine.
Throughout the book, Journo attempts to associate the Palestinians’ cause with the cause of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. To this end, he argues that Arab violence against Jews during the Mandate was due to “a religious imperative”. He omits any reference to the numerous British commissions of inquiry into the causes of various outbreaks of violence, all of which determined that the root cause of the hostility was the rejection by the British and Zionists of their right to self-determination. The whole purpose of the Mandate was to forcibly prevent the majority Arab inhabitants from establishing institutions of government in order for the Zionist colonization project to proceed apace. The 1921 Haycraft Commission, for example, noted that “there is no inherent anti-Semitism in the country, racial or religious”, but that, rather, the Arabs were simply well aware of the fact that the Zionists envisaged their dispossession and political disenfranchisement.
Obligatorily, Journo also repeats the standard Zionist denial that Palestine was ethnically cleansed of most of its Arab population in 1948 in order for the “Jewish state” to come into being. The fact that 700,000 Arabs became refugees during the 1948 war, he maintains, was the fault of the neighboring Arab states for waging war against the nascent state of Israel. Never mind the fact that by the time the neighboring Arab states managed to muster a military response to the Zionists’ military conquest of Palestine after the unilateral declaration of Israel’s existence on May 14, a quarter of a million Arabs had already become refugees and 200 Arab villages had been destroyed.
Also never mind the fact that it is impossible for the Arab states to have invaded Israel in May 1948 for the simple reason that Israel did not exist. There was no such legally defined entity. The Zionist myth that the Arab states invaded Israel is dependent upon the false premise that Israel was established through some kind of legitimate political process. The only legal authority cited by the Zionists in their unilateral declaration of the existence of Israel on May 14 was UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the infamous “partition plan” resolution. However, the partition plan was never implemented, and Resolution 181 neither partitioned Palestine nor conferred any legal authority to the Zionists for their unilateral declaration.
Naturally, Journo in this context characterizes the plan as a reasonable “compromise” that was accepted by the civilized Jews, but rejected by the backward and barbaric Arabs, who rejected the right of the Jews to self-governance. Never mind that the partition plan was absurdly inequitable, proposing that the Jewish state be comprised of 55 percent of Palestine, even though the Jews owned less than 7 percent of the land whereas Arabs owned more land than Jews in every single district, including Jaffa, which included the main Jewish population center of Tel Aviv.
In fact, when the Bedouin population of the proposed Jewish state was included, the Arabs constituted a majority even within the proposed Jewish state, and the Arabs also owned more land than Jews within that territory.
The gross inequity of the plan was not unrecognized by the UN committee that came up with it. In its report to the General Assembly, the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) explicitly rejected the right of the Arab majority of Palestine to self-determination on the grounds that doing so was necessary in order for a Jewish state to come into existence. A subsequent subcommittee created to follow up on UNSCOP’s recommendation observed the inherent contradiction between its partition plan and the UN Charter, which recognizes the universal right to self-determination. The General Assembly approved of the racist, colonialist plan anyway, thus giving the Zionist leadership the political cover they needed in order to further their plans for “compulsory transfer”.
See, the UN partition plan was simply a resurrection of a partition plan proposed by the British Peel Commission in 1937. In denying the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Journo omits how the Peel Commission proposed that Palestine be split into separate Jewish and Arab states via ethnic cleansing. Zionist leader and later Israel’s first prime minster David Ben-Gurion expressed his support for this plan, advocating the “compulsory transfer” of Arabs out of the area of the proposed Jewish state. While the dispossession of the Arabs had always been a mainstay of Zionist thinking, after the British proposed it as a solution in 1937, the Zionist leadership began to much more openly advocate ethnic cleansing.
Apart from omitting this highly relevant context, Journo claims “there’s no evidence of a grand Israeli scheme to push them out, to effect some sort of ‘ethnic cleansing.’” Conspicuously absent from his narrative is the fact that on March 10, 1948, the Zionist leadership approved “Plan D”, which essentially formalized the ethnic cleansing operations that had already been underway by directing brigade commanders to expel all the inhabitants of any villages where they encountered any form of resistance. If they encountered no resistance to their territorial conquest, they were given discretion to allow the local villagers to stay—or to go ahead and expel the inhabitants and demolish their villages anyway.
By Journo’s account, in the city of Haifa, Israeli officials urged the Arab inhabitants to stay, but they were “bullied” by the Arab leadership into leaving. What actually happened was that the Arabs were subjected to Jewish terrorism and deliberate massacres before, on April 21, the Zionists’ military organization the Haganah began indiscriminately mortaring the city, precipitating a flight of residents toward the boats in the British-held port in which they trampled each other trying to escape the massacre. When the next day the Jewish forces proposed a surrender agreement in which the Arab residents could remain, the town’s Arab notables informed that they were in no position to accept the agreement since they had no control over Arab combatants in Haifa and because the population was intent on evacuating.
Journo also goes so far as to deny that a massacre of Arab civilians took place in the village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948, characterizing the “allegation” that a massacre occurred as though controversial. In fact, the only controversy is over the precise number of Arab civilians who were victims of the indiscriminate killing that by all accounts is known to have occurred.
Defending Israel’s refusal to allow Arabs who fled or were expelled from their homes to return, Journo naturally also rejects their right to return. Apart from being an astonishing denial from a person purporting to be writing from the premise of individual liberty, Journo omits entirely the fact that the right of refugees to return to their homes upon the cessation of hostilities is a universal right recognized under international law.
When it comes to the 1967 war, Journo summarizes the standard Zionist propaganda version of events, characterizing Israel as being under the imminent threat of an Egyptian invasion. The truth, of course, is that there was no such threat, so to support this characterization, Journo resorts to fabrication. He quotes from a speech by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, in which Nasser said “The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.” But Journo omits the context from which this statement was selectively pulled, which was a discussion about how Israel had already once waged a damaging war of aggression against Egypt, in 1956, but how Egypt was now better prepared for the possibility of an Israeli attack on Egypt or its ally Syria. Journo omits with ellipses the sentence spoken by Nasser just prior, in which he explicitly contextualized his remark by saying, “If Israel embarks on an aggression against Syria or Egypt….”!
Journo also treats as legitimate Israel’s territorial conquest during the 1967 war, even though the acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible under international law. In fact, despite feigning a pro-justice approach the subject, his whole argument rests on the rejection of the applicability of international law to the conflict. He does not mention even once UN Security Resolution 242, which was passed in the wake of the war and called on Israel to withdraw to the positions it held prior to the start of the war on June 5.
When it comes to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the 1967 war, Journo goes so far as to characterize the occupation regime as a gift to the Palestinians that they’ve ungratefully rejected. To this end, he argues that once they came under Israeli rule, their economic opportunities flourished and their economy grew impressively. Once again, it’s the context that Journo omits that gives us insight into the nature of Israel’s occupation regime. The fact is that Israel imposed severe restrictions on the Palestinians, and as the World Bank has pointed out, the growth during this period occurred not because of but despite Israel’s occupation regime.
Whereas Journo holds up the Palestinians’ economic dependence on Israel as proof of the benevolence of its occupation regime, the World Bank has pointed out that this dependence was a negative factor in the economic growth of the Palestinian territories. Israel imposed restrictions eliminating the free market and even siphoned Palestinians’ tax dollars toward the Israeli treasury, illegally developing Jewish colonies in the occupied territories at the expense of the Palestinians. Far from creating the conditions for sustainable economic growth to occur, Israel calculatedly hindered economic growth in such a way as to make the Palestinians dependent upon their occupier, thus suppressing resistance so that Israel’s illegal land-grabbing settlement regime could continue apace, while taking advantage of the cheap labor provided by Palestinian commuters whose alternative employment opportunities were denied to them as a consequence of the restrictions on their freedom imposed by the occupation regime.
The essence of the settlements issue, in Journo’s fictional telling, is that they are “located on contested land”. Never mind that it’s an uncontroversial point of fact under international law, reflected in numerous UN Security Council resolutions as well as the judgement of the International Court of Justice, that all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains “occupied Palestinian territory” under international law!
In attempting to characterize Israel’s occupation regime as benevolent, he also naturally glosses over Israel’s policy of collectively the entire civilian population of Gaza by imposing a harsh blockade intended “to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge”, in the words of the US State Department. One of the policy’s architects, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, described it by saying, “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.”
In Journo’s historical fiction, no Palestinian national movement even existed until the 1960s. Never mind how the Arabs joined with the British war effort against the Ottoman Empire during World War I with the understanding that by doing so, they would gain their independence. Never mind how the British themselves repeatedly acknowledged that the unrest of the Arabs in Palestine during the Mandate era was due to their frustration over the betrayal of British promises of independence and the British occupation regime’s inherent rejection of their right to self-determination. Never mind how both the British and the Zionist leaderships rejected the Arabs insistent proposals that the independence of Palestine be recognized under a constitution establishing representative government guaranteeing the equal rights of all its citizens.
The latter portions of the book are dedicated to making the argument that the Palestinians must not be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination because if they were to do so, the result would be either a dictatorship or an Islamic theocracy. As proof of this, Journo points to the rule of the Palestinian Authority (PA) since its creation in 1994 under the so-called Oslo “peace process” and the rule of Hamas in Gaza since 2006. The central fallacy of this whole line of reasoning is the absurdly unscientific premise that we can know what it would look like for Israel to respect the Palestinians’ right to self-determination by looking at various consequences of Israel’s persistent rejection of that right.
Naturally, Journo declines to explain to his readers how the whole purpose of the PA under the Oslo Accords is to essentially serve as Israel’s collaborator in enforcing its occupation regime—a task which it has accomplished under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas with no inconsiderable success.
This brings us directly to the rise of Hamas’s rule in Gaza. Journo acknowledges that Hamas overwhelmingly won legislative elections in 2006, but the following year, in his telling, Hamas “launched a military campaign to wrest control of the Gaza Strip” from Abbas’s party, Fatah; it was an “Islamist takeover of Gaza”; Hamas “seized control of Gaza” in order to pursue its jihad against Israel.”
What actually happened was that instead of encouraging Hamas’s move away from armed resistance toward diplomacy and political engagement, Israel teamed up with the US and Fatah to illegally overthrow the legitimately elected Hamas government. The plan was partially successfully, as Abbas illegally regained control over the West Bank (where he remains as president despite his legal term having expired nearly a decade ago). But it backfired in Gaza, where Hamas defeated Fatah, expelling it and retaining governing authority over the Strip.
It was in response to Hamas’s election victory and failure of the conspiracy to illegally overthrow the legitimate government that the Israeli government implemented its siege of Gaza to collectively punish the civilian population for having voted the wrong way. (It’s worth mentioning in this context that Hamas’s success was due primarily to the perception of the PA as a collaborator and disillusionment with the so-called “peace process” that has served since its inception as the means by which Israel and the US have blocked implementation of the two-state solution. It’s also worth mentioning that Hamas had repeatedly expressed its acceptance of a Palestinian state alongside Israel along the 1949 armistice lines, a.k.a. the 1967 lines or the “Green Line”.)
And, of course, Journo characterizes Israel’s murderous military assaults on Gaza as though representative of the legitimate exercise of the right to self-defense. To support this characterization, he claims that “Operation Cast Lead” (2008-2009), “Operation Pillar of Defense” (2012), and “Operation Protective Edge” (2014) were intended to stop incessant Hamas rocket fire into Israel. Never mind the fact that in each of these operations, it was Israel and not Hamas that violated existing ceasefire agreements.
Without mentioning the fact that these operations resulted in thousands of Palestinian deaths, mostly civilians, Journo argues that Israel did not bear responsibility for any civilian deaths that did occur since Hamas was using them at the time as “human shields”. Journo cites warnings that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued for civilians to flee as proof of Israel’s intent to protect civilians’ lives. He declines to relay to readers the fact that the IDF’s warnings (a) did not relieve Israel of its responsibility under international humanitarian law not to engage in indiscriminate attacks and (b) only served to increase the risk to the civilian population. In fact, numerous international human rights organizations and UN agencies criticized the IDF for these warnings because they caused panicked flight out into the streets, where people were at greater risk of being killed or injured by the Israeli bombardments. Furthermore, the IDF warned civilians to flee to schools to take shelter and then bombed the schools; it warned civilians to flee to city centers and then bombed the city centers.
Another type of “warning” that Journo praises the IDF for is a practice it calls “roof knocking”. This is where it will fire a “warning” rocket at the roof of a building to terrify its civilian inhabitants into flight before pounding it with bombs into destruction. To support this charge that civilians only died because Hamas was using them as “human shields”, he cites a single case, which happens also to have been a case of “roof knocking” in action. Turning to his footnote, we can learn that the case he’s referring to is one in which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), with absolutely no possible military justification, deliberately targeted a civilian residential building despite the gathering of a large group of civilians around and on the roof of the family home.
So how does that prove that Israel committed no war crimes, but that Hamas is responsible for the resulting deaths for using those civilians as “human shields”, according to Elan Journo? Simple. At the time the civilians were reported to be gathering around the Kawari family home in Khan Younis on July 8, 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, a Hamas official was elsewhere asked by a reporter in an interview what his thoughts were about it, and the Hamas official answered by praising the people for courageously defending their homes against Israeli attack in instances of “roof knocking”.
That is the best example Elan Journo could come up with to support his claim that civilians only died because they were being used by Hamas to shield legitimate military targets. He also declines to inform readers of the fact that Israel’s use of Palestinian civilians as human shields is well documented. In fact, to support his claim that Israel committed no war crimes, he encourages us to consider the testimonies of Israeli soldiers and then provides a few that were cited by an Israeli lawmaker for the same purpose. Conspicuously absent from his account are the testimonies of soldiers published by an Israeli veterans group known as Breaking the Silence, which described how the IDF implemented a policy of deliberately using disproportionate force to punish the civilian population. The testimonies included a description of how the IDF used “Johnnies”, the code word for “using Palestinian civilians as human shields during house searches”.
By such means, Journo arrives at his conclusion that the way forward is for the US to provide the political backing necessary for Israel to violently suppress any semblance of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s brutal and inhuman occupation regime. While purporting to be a serious examination of the causes of the conflict in order to make an informed judgment about how to resolve it, to the contrary, Elan Journo’s What Justice Demands is a cruel hoax intended to defend Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
For a detailed and fully referenced deconstruction of Journo’s shameless work of propaganda, see my book Exposing a Zionist Hoax: How Elan Journo’s “What Justice Demands” Deceives Readers about the Palestine Conflict.