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One of the most bizarre, yet unnoticed, aspects of the Israel-Hezbollah war is that the UN, including the US and all other permanent members of the Security Council, have apparently reneged on its earlier decision, given in to Hezbollah blackmail and legitimized the Hezbollah demand for surrender of Sheba farms. For Israel, this small area has little territorial significance. It should be noted, however that Hezbollah also claims seven villages along the Israeli-Lebanese border, and that these will surely be next on the Hezbollah agenda of war excuses.

While the Shebaa farms area, a part of the occupied Golan heights, has no significance for Israel, it has great significance for rule of law. In 2000, the UN examined Lebanese claims that Sheba farms belong to Lebanon and dismissed them. This rectangular area cuts a village in two, and takes an artificial looking bite out of the contours of the Golan heights and the Syrian border, leaving al-Ghajar sticking out between Israel and Lebanon.

The border was first demarcated in the Anglo-French agreement of 1923, which put Shebaa farms in Syria. All maps prior to 1966 except one, apparently a forgery, show the area as part of Syria. Syria has backed the Lebanese claim, but refuses to demarcate its border.

The UN position on Shebaa farms until now is summed up as follows:

The United Nations stated: "On 15 May 2000, the United Nations received a map, dated 1966, from the Government of Lebanon which reflected the Government's position that these farmlands were located in Lebanon. However, the United Nations is in possession of 10 other maps issued after 1966 by various Lebanese government institutions, including the Ministry of Defense and the army, all of which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations has also examined six maps issued by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including three maps since 1966, which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic."[11]

In a June 18, 2000 statement, the Security Council noted that Israel and Lebanon had confirmed to the Secretary General, that identification of the withdrawal line was solely the responsibility of the United Nations and that both sides would respect the line as identified. Moreover, the Security Council took note, "with serious concern," of reports of violations - by Hizbullah[16] - that had occurred since June 16, 2000, and called upon the parties to respect the line drawn by the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in remarks to the press with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Foreign Minister of Spain Josep Pique, Foreign Minister of Russia Igor Ivanov, and European Union Senior Official Javier Solana in Madrid, Spain, on April 10, 2002, said: "With reference to the disturbances along the Blue Line emanating from Lebanese territory, I call on the Government of Lebanon and all relevant parties to condemn and prevent such violations. The Security Council itself confirmed in June 2000 that Israel had withdrawn from southern Lebanon in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426. Attacks at any point along the Blue Line, including in the Shebaa Farms area in the occupied Golan Heights, are violations of Security Council resolutions. Respect for decisions of the Security Council is the most basic requirement of international legitimacy.

But now Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Annan and the Security Council, faced with Hezbollah blackmail, may be about to hand Shebaa farms over to the Lebanese. Eugene Kontorovich, an expert on international law, notes:

The most surprising aspect of international proposals for a ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon conflict is their endorsement of Hezbollah's demand that Israel give it territory, known as the Sheba Farms, in exchange for a end to rocket attacks on Israeli cities... What is certain -- and yet entirely neglected in the discussion of the issue -- is that the proposal violates bedrock norms of international law.
Because Lebanon has no rightful claim to the territory, if Hezbollah's violence succeeds in re-opening the U.N.'s earlier decision, it would be clear to all Hezbollah's rocket campaign was the necessary cause of the new, presumably more favorable "delineation." Hezbollah's side of the "dispute" over the border consists of attacking Israel. If this kind of disputation can get borders changed, it is a defeat for international law.

Even if we ignore the legal aspects, we must be concerned for the effect that this concession would have on the standing of Hezbollah in Lebanon. If Hezbollah can claim that its terror attacks succeeded in wresting Shebaa farms from Israel, they will have a victory for "armed struggle" that will enhance their prestige and make it more difficult to eliminate them, and their Jihadist program from Lebanese politics and the Middle East it.

Ms Rice, what were you thinking?
Ami Isseroff

Naked Aggression

August 7, 2006

The most surprising aspect of international proposals for a ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon conflict is their endorsement of Hezbollah's demand that Israel give it territory, known as the Sheba Farms, in exchange for a end to rocket attacks on Israeli cities. The merits of the proposal as a diplomatic measure are far from clear. What is certain ó and yet entirely neglected in the discussion of the issue -- is that the proposal violates bedrock norms of international law.

Nations cannot enlarge their borders through the use of aggressive force. There are no exceptions to this non-acquisition principle. The U.N. Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and America itself have consistently affirmed it. In the words of the General Assembly, "no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal." Moreover, nations are forbidden from recognizing borders secured through illegal war.

The prohibition on acquiring territory through offensive war is a necessary corollary of the U.N. Charter's prohibition on the use of force except in cases of self-defense. Because self-defense is an "inherent right" under the U.N. Charter, many international law scholars maintain that territory taken in a defensive war can be kept ó this further serves the goal of deterring aggression. Still, the norm against acquisition of territory through force is so strong that many claim it even applies to land taken in a defensive war.

No one in the international community believes Lebanon has a legitimate claim to the Sheba Farms, known to Israelis as Har Dov. It has never been within Lebanon's internationally recognized borders. It was under Syrian control until 1967, when Israel took it in the Six Day War. Israel entered southern Lebanon in 1982; when it withdrew in 2000, the Security Council certified that Israel no longer occupied a single inch of Lebanon. However, the Lebanese government and Hezbollah were not satisfied, raising what Secretary General Kofi Annan described as an entirely "new claim": that Sheba Farms was also Lebanese territory. After looking into the matter, Annan and the Security Council unanimously concluded that the area was not Lebanese and never had been.

Enlarging Lebanon's boundaries to encompass the Sheba Farms is one of Hezbollah's stated reasons for its abduction of Israeli soldiers and bombardment of Israeli cities. Thus if the conflict ends with Lebanon gaining the land, it will have been as the result of aggressive force. It will have succeed in doing what Saddam Hussein failed to do in Kuwait.

Secretary of State Rice reportedly endorsed Lebanese demands for a cease-fire to include a handover of the territory. However, the French-U.S. proposal in the Security Council disguises the territorial surrender under the innocuous-sounding "delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Shebaa farms area." But the U.N. already certified Israel's withdraw from Lebanon in 2000, and dismissed Hezbollah's grounds for "disputing" the Sheba area. And while the "delineation"will be conducted by the U.N., the use of the the international body as a passthrough for Lebanon's territorial aggrandizement will fool know one. It is what the law calls a "straw-man transaction."

Because Lebanon has no rightful claim to the territory, if Hezbollah's violence succeeds in re-opening the U.N.'s earlier decision, it would be clear to all Hezbollah's rocket campaign was the necessary cause of the new, presumably more favorable "delineation." Hezbollah's side of the "dispute" over the border consists of attacking Israel. If this kind of disputation can get borders changed, it is a defeat for international law.

Some will argue that there should be no objection to Lebanon gaining the land through war because, if one does not think land can be acquired through legal defensive war, then Israel itself does not have valid title. But it is not clear anyone would want to stand by the far-reaching implications of this argument. For this position would also dictate that Israel can legally annex all of the West Bank, since it was taken from Jordan, which itself did not have legal title. Jordan seized the West Bank when it tried to destroy Israel in the 1948 War of Independence. The international community never recognized Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank. So if the supporter's of Lebanon's claim are right ó if the prior occupying power's lack of sovereign title is sufficient reason to permit the acquisition of territory through hostile war by another country ó then this cements Israel's claim to the West Bank.

Hezbollah's contempt for international law shocks no one. What is unsettling is the U.S. and the U.N. lending their credibility to this gross assault on international norms which, if it succeeds, would be the first time in decades that a nation has successfully enlarged its internationally recognized borders through naked aggression.

Mr. Kontorovich teaches international law as an assistant professor at George Mason University School of Law, and currently as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.

Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000205.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 6 Comments


DIANA, Monday, August 28th

First and above all we must remember that those Lebanese we attack are the Phoenician People who helped our ancestors when we where tired of walking in the dessert after 40 years. and that the land given to Israel by the UN, was arbitrary without asking for a referendum from the Arabs to accept Israel in Arab Land, Lets remeber that Our Ancestors where Russian and English Jews with no land, and that russia and England elaborated this plan to Dispose of Our Familes living there to put them in a zone in conflict with Our past, so acording to International Law, Israel is in illegal settlements in the region. And that can bring this to a new conflict, so it is better to be carefull for Our Own good, and graceciously give back the land that is not rightfully Ours. For The Sake of the Existance of Israel. Please note that theInternational comunity is no longer happy with Our actions and we must be prudent starting NOW.

Nicolas Blakof, Thursday, August 17th

In addition to my comment I will like to ask Mr Kontorovich, If force does not justify the enlargment of borders, can You please tell Me how we got from 8 Ks, of territory to 12? it was a defensive meassure? come on lets be honest, look persons like You who make exercise with laws and gramatics added to your arroogance, are the ones who will make of Israel the ones who will bring disgrace to Our People, it is stuborn to think that we are the mighty Army inte region, no army is invincible and thats it, we are not thieves and we must give back what does not belong to Us, and that Sir. is a metter of dignity, Moral, Principles and Honor.

Fiche Kahraba, Thursday, August 17th

We must be honest and put a row example in the Middle East, to stop any pretext of attack against Israel, Look, we all know that Sheba Farms is not Ours, nor Golan heights, nor Gaza, why not stop the arrogance of Our leaders and start practicing what we preach, And that is PEACE, SHALOM, enough is enough!!! if we want peace for our children and progress for Israel, why not starting showing good intentions to Our Neighbours? we been attacking to the Arabs since we got this land In 1948, and Is England the ones who has been using Israel to accomplish England's goals for territory and hate against the Arabs, I am sure We are better than them, No Jewish like to live under the dictatorship of any country and never the less England or USA, since they take credit for all Our achievements.

Fiche Kahraba, Thursday, August 17th

The Shebaa Farms area is clearly a matter of dispute between Lebanon and Syria outside of any consideration contained with 242 or any subsequent resolution regarding occupied territory. As I understand that neither Lebanon nor Syria have complied with Pt 2 of 242 then surely Israel is under no obligation to surrender the area to either country. Were Lebanon to establish "normal and open" relations with Israel then it may be appropriate to revisit the issue.
It seems the Lebanese government want to have its cake and eat it, in much the same manner as it has acquisced to the existance, expansion and maintenance of the forces under the command of Hezbollah.

Rod Davies, Monday, August 14th

A question: Who actually *lives* in Shebaa Farms? It seems to me to be an important point in examining whether "occupation" is about the "humiliation" of people, or just a fight over dirt. I'm sure you see the implications. So who lives there?

Solomon, Saturday, August 12th

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