A World of Doublespeak
By Janet Tassel
“We are in the world of doublethink and doublespeak, where words are emptied of their normal meanings and turned into their opposites…in a world where language depends on politics and on majorities of the General Assembly.”
So wrote the late and deeply lamented Jeane Kirkpatrick 22 years ago, July 1989, in her brilliant and prescient essay in Commentary, “How the PLO Was Legitimized.” For those who find themselves shocked by this week’s diseased antics at the UN, Kirkpatrick examines their insidious origins. There is nothing new in bedlam.
It was December 1988. A special session of the UN General Assembly was convened in Geneva for a single purpose: To hear Yasir Arafat plead the cause of the PLO. “Arafat exulted on that occasion,” Kirkpatrick writes.
And why not? One hundred fifty-four members of the UN had voted for this special session. Now his appearance was being treated as the diplomatic event of the year. The UN Secretary General, some twenty foreign ministers, and more than two hundred ambassadors were present. An extended and enthusiastic standing ovation was further evidence of international approval.
Three days later, she continues, the U.S. and Israel cast the sole votes against the resolutions that
“acknowledged” the PLO’s proclamation of a sovereign Palestinian state, authorized a commemorative postage stamp, and “affirmed” that Israel should “withdraw from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and from the other occupied Arab territories” and dismantle all Israeli settlements there. (Emphasis added in original.)
No wonder Arafat exulted. He proclaimed that the Arabs were “in the last fifteen minutes” of a long, phased struggle. Here was an entity with “no territory, no army, no independent resources… a government in search of a country.” And yet:
Witnessing the effort of this fictive country to win “membership” in UN agencies, one becomes ever more aware that the central tactic of the PLO is and has been to use the arenas and instrumentalities of diplomacy…and public relations to achieve legitimacy and then to use legitimacy to win territory.
And of course, the intifada was another instrument to win legitimacy, she writes, a staged “political melodrama,” one that the civilized world was “slow to understand.” Arafat cynically enrolled the “youthful martyrs of the West Bank…to prove the PLO’s point: that the Palestinians are David and Israel is a heartless Goliath.”
“The basis of Arafat’s assertion that the PLO has the right to use force rests on a long string of resolutions and redefinitions of the General Assembly….From these regulations have come new names for old acts—names as arbitrary as those conferred by Alice’s mad queen, as dangerous as the bombs and bullets they seek to justify.” Principal among these arbitrary terms are “colonialism, imperialism, and racism.” These are terms full of meaning to all former colonies, to all socialists, and to all the countries of the Third World teeming with anger against “white exploiters.”
And then there was the Soviet Union, which from the beginning had “been crucial to the campaign against Israel.” And the Soviets were adept at gaming the UN in the struggle against “colonialism.” “All peoples have the right to self-determination,” proclaimed Nikita Khrushchev as far back as 1960. Of course, Khrushchev’s, and Arafat’s, concept of self-determination had nothing to do with the Wilsonian tenets affirmed by the UN charter. As Kirkpatrick explains, “It means replacing a ‘colonialist’ or ‘imperialist’ government with a ‘progressive’ regime allied to the USSR. It refers not to how government is organized, but to who governs.”
By 1970 it became clear that new definitions were needed. Hence, Resolution 2708:
Where the Charter permitted force by member states only to defend themselves against attack, GA Resolution 2708 created a new category of “legitimate” force which could be used against member states…later confirmed in subsequent resolutions approving the struggle of “liberation” groups against “colonialism” by “all necessary means at their disposal.”
In short, “peoples” had rights superior to those of member states; moreover, “states resisting the rights of ‘peoples’ could themselves become a ‘threat to peace.’”
The US and other Western nations, she continues, “joined in these resolutions without much thought, dismissing them as without significance outside the halls of the United Nations. This fundamentally frivolous attitude ignored the cumulative impact of such resolutions in focusing attention, in expressing what is widely considered to be ‘world opinion,’ and, finally, in having an impact on international law.”
It should not have come as a surprise, then, three years later, when a General Assembly resolution “drew the logical inference of the emergent doctrine of national liberation and declared that henceforth not only would ‘peoples’ struggling against ‘imperialism’ and ‘colonialism’ be permitted to violate sovereignty and territorial integrity, but that resisting them would be considered ‘a criminal act.’”
Thus, after 1967, those Arabs previously referred to as “Arab refugees,” a problem for the UN, would define themselves as “the Palestinian people,” one of history’s “victimized peoples.” The PLO “immediately focused on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as its national constituency and on the United Nations as its natural arena, understanding the utility of the UN and the associated web of Third World organizations and the guarantees of the UN Charter as redefined. Finally, the goal of the PLO from its founding was the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state, as stated clearly in the Palestinian National Covenant adopted in July 1968 (emphasis added). As the Covenant proclaims, “the liberation of Palestine from an Arab viewpoint is the national duty,” and ultimately requires repelling the “Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.”
“In keeping with the double-talk of the international revolution,” she continues, “the Covenant defines armed struggle as self-defense.” This new definition naturally involves a few radical changes, like the status of Israel itself. “The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time,” says the Covenant; therefore, the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and “everything that has been based on them, are deemed null and void.”
But, continues Kirkpatrick, “if the Palestinians were victims of colonialism, Israel must be a colonial power.” This was manifestly absurd, but “by virtue of the fact that ‘colonialism’ had already been redefined so that it was no longer a historical condition, but a political designation,” the idea was seized on by the Arab bloc and enthusiastically endorsed by African and Asian countries. By 1973, the Organization of African Unity had made the connection with South Africa, claiming that the situation in Palestine was “completely identical with the situation in South Africa.”
In 1974, Arafat addressed the General Assembly, dressed to kill, if memory serves. Kirkpatrick writes:
Had the General Assembly had the power, it would surely have replaced Israel with a PLO state then and there. Lacking the power, it instead adopted Resolution 3236, which specified that the rights of the Palestinian people included national independence and sovereignty, the right to use all means to obtain these goals, and the right to support from other states….During the same session the PLO was granted status as a “permanent observer.”
On November 10, 1975, the 37th anniversary of Kristallnacht, as Kirkpatrick wryly observes, “the General Assembly declared Zionism to be a form of racism and of racial discrimination.” This designation “was tantamount to formal designation [of Israel] as a target. From the perspective of UN ideology, Israel had no rights. (Emphasis in original.)
It logically followed that any act against Israel was included in “the right to use all means.” This included hostage-taking, hijacking planes, and of course slaughter of innocents, such as “throwing grenades into a crowded Israeli supermarket—killing and maiming shoppers,” for these were acts of “political dissent” and “self-defense,” and not punishable, according to the UN.
Kirkpatrick includes numerous examples of the bloody progress of terrorism and the complicity of the UN, compounded by the naivete of much of Western civilization. Here, terrifyingly, is how she ends her magisterial essay:
The long march through the UN has produced many benefits for the PLO. It has created a people where there was none; an issue where there was none; a claim where there was none. Now the PLO is seeking to create a state where there already is one. That will take more than resolutions and more than an “international peace conference.” But having succeeded so well over the years in its campaign to legitimize itself and to delegitimize Israel, the PLO might yet also succeed in bringing that campaign to a triumphant conclusion, with consequences for the Jewish state that would be nothing short of catastrophic.