One of my favorite courses and professors at Pitt Law School was “International Law” taught by Jules Lobel, a lawyer whom I greatly admire. However, I must take exception to his apparently unqualified endorsement of the recent presentation by Israeli human rights attorney, Michael Sfard.
I am perplexed about how my alma mater could invite such a heavily slanted speaker and not allow for an authority to espouse a contrasting viewpoint.
If I remember correctly from my class of 26 years ago, then-international law as well as Article 80 of the U.N. Charter implicitly recognized the Mandate of the League of Nations. This Mandate
granted Jews the irrevocable right to settle in the area of Palestine, i.e., anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Professor Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. undersecretary of state in 1967, agreed that the Jewish right to settle in the West Bank and Gaza Strip still remained intact when he wrote: “This right is protected by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter, which provides that unless a trusteeship agreement is agreed upon (which was not done for the Palestine Mandate), nothing in the chapter shall be construed in and of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.”
In addition, the San Remo Treaty of 1920, in which the victorious World War I allies dealt with the remnants of the defeated Ottoman Turkish Empire, created an entity called Palestine along both sides of the Jordan River. The powers intended it as the land on which Great Britain would turn its 1917 Balfour Declaration from aspiration to reality, assisting the Zionist movement in re-establishing the Jewish national home.
Further, the Franco-British Boundary Convention of 1920 demarcated the French mandate for what would become Syria and Lebanon from that of the British in Palestine. This was done, in part, to prepare for the finalization of fair parameters for a Jewish state.
Moreover, Article 6 of the League of Nations’ 1922 Palestine Mandate encouraged “close Jewish settlement” on the land west of the Jordan River. The mandate encouraged settlement only west of the river because Great Britain in the same year had unilaterally severed Transjordan (today’s Jordan) from Palestine, creating a new Arab country (i.e., another aggressive entity to surround/dwarf a relatively minuscule Jewish nation).
Furthermore, the Anglo-American Convention of 1924 saw the United States endorse British administration of the remaining Palestine Mandate lands, so long as London would help bring a Jewish state into being.
Finally, the 1945 U.N. Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80, served to continue Jewish rights that were recognized under the Mandate. It protects “the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments”; and it is sometimes known as “the Palestine article.”
I am personally concerned that law students should not be force-fed twisted semantics by savvy litigators or be manipulated by double-talking politicians or be misled by charismatic human rights activists about loaded terms such as “occupation.” Young minds are susceptible to convoluted arguments that may seem to their unsophisticated nature to defensibly indict Israel’s “control” of the West Bank. This is even more likely if a speaker does not allow for the fact that educated people can justifiably believe that the West Bank may also fairly be viewed as “unallocated territory.”
Even well-respected historians and lawyers and teachers can read the paragraphs above and credibly feel that the West Bank and other areas (e.g., Sinai, Golan Heights, East Jerusalem) were only taken out of self-defense for the preservation of innocent lives as a result of multiple hostile Arab neighbors having ganged up on Israel in 1967 and 1973.
I submit that the best litmus test for choosing speakers at scholastic institutions is to make sure that the student body is not intentionally subjected to any “agenda” other than to fairly give them all the information that their impressionable brains need to reach their own well-reasoned opinions.
(Jeff Pollock, a Pittsburgh attorney, lives in Squirrel Hill.)