Commentary Magazine


To the Editor:

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick’s article, “How the PLO Was Legitimized” [July], describes not only the PLO’s political successes but, by implication, Israel and America’s political defeats.

Israel must learn that not all battles involve a clash of arms, that it must take the political struggle as seriously as it does the military. So far, the PLO’s political successes against Israel may have even greater significance than did Israel’s 1967 military victory against the Arabs.

The U.S. must ask itself how its interests are furthered by the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel under the sponsorship of those who now sponsor the PLO and other terrorist groups. That is the only result its present policies can achieve. How does the U.S. define justice for both the Arab and Jewish populations of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza? In the pursuit of that elusive goal is it prepared to accept the elimination of Israel just as it suffered the loss of a pro-Western regime in Iran because of moral qualms? . . .

Donald Vogel
San Francisco, California



To the Editor:

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick has . . . clearly and brilliantly delineated Yasir Arafat’s long-range efforts to delegitimate Israel’s membership in the family of nations. Arafat’s propaganda victory in Stockholm was rendered all the more astounding by the number of American Jews who fell into line behind the other cows trudging to the barn. Thank you, Jeane Kirkpatrick, for your lucid and unsentimental gathering of the facts.

Julius Lohn
La Jolla, California



To the Editor:

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick’s article is a significant contribution to understanding the political uses of . . . the principle of self-determination as contained in the United Nations Charter. The article is important in evaluating the effects of this insidious process not only on the Palestine problem, but on all international disputes having their roots in decolonization. . . .

Ambassador Kirkpatrick shows how the General Assembly first arbitrarily defines a given situation as “colonial”—in this case the West Bank (though it has excluded other seemingly colonial situations like those of Eritrea, Kurdistan, Biafra, and the Republics of the Soviet Union)—and then extends recognition to a “people”—in this case the Palestinians—as qualified to exercise the right of self-determination. . . . It then goes a step farther . . . by recognizing only certain “liberation movements” as legitimate. In the case of Palestine, it is the PLO, elected by no one, which has been designated the “sole legitimate representative” of an undefined “people,” empowered to lead that people to independence in an undefined territory.

This formula has allowed unrepresentative tyrannies to grab power in the aftermath of decolonization throughout Africa and the Middle East. It has also led to the civil war in Angola and helped destroy competitive liberation movements in Namibia and Zimbabwe. . . . In general, former colonial elites have been replaced by native elites which have usually proved to be far more incompetent and far more cruel to the people they rule than were their former colonial masters. In every case the basic principles of freedom and democracy have been compromised.

There is yet one more step to this process. . . . The UN does not just recognize that certain peoples have the right of self-determination. It also decides that these same peoples, led by their “sole legitimate representatives,” have the right to wage war. The ensuing struggles—known as wars of “national liberation”—are not mere internal conflicts, . . . but rather international in scope.

Such conflicts, according to the terms of this quasi-religious system, . . . must be perceived as automatically just, . . . and other states have the duty of assisting the “liberation movement” in imposing its domination. Since the General Assembly has often repeated that a colonial state cannot use force against a colonized people, the only right remaining to a state so defined is to be defeated while resisting the inevitable flow of history. A state thus damned as “colonial” even forfeits its right to self-defense. . . .

Ambassador Kirkpatrick shows that the United States has paid little attention to the evolution of this strategy at the UN. For whatever reasons, the battle is already lost. The rules of the game have been fixed and are only waiting to be applied to specific cases. It would seem that in the future Israel has little to hope for from the UN. The West can only attempt to limit the damage.

Robert Gorelick
Brussels, Belgium



To the Editor:

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick’s definitive study of the legitimization of the PLO is a perfect example of how that collusive majority which dominates the UN has overwhelmed reason with rancor. There are other issues also, such as disarmament and international terrorism, about which the UN has an equally long history of equivocation and evasion. To cite one such example, in 1976, the then-Secretary General, Kurt Waldheim, condemned Israel’s daring rescue at Entebbe as “a serious violation of the national sovereignty of a UN member state.” Just as the UN has become a COMMENTARY on our times, so does the Waldheim affair comment upon the UN itself.

Waldheim first came to the UN in 1956 as a delegate. From 1964 to 1968 and again in 1970 he served as Austria’s permanent representative to the UN. Two years later, in 1972, he became Secretary General and served in that post for ten years. . . . All the while that Waldheim was ensconced in this position, there was a file in the archives of the UN with enough prima-facie evidence to indict the Secretary General for war crimes. It is absolutely incomprehensible how that file and that man could have coexisted at the same time and place without the two intersecting. . . . But there was never either aninquiry or a statement. All that was forthcoming was the kind of cynical, baneful indifference which Jeane J. Kirkpatrick describes so incisively.

Mitchell Finkel
Silver Spring, Maryland



To the Editor:

I have just read Jeane J. Kirkpatrick’s chilling account of how the PLO was legitimized. . . . I wish with deep yearning that Ambassador Kirkpatrick’s exposition might be read by influential people outside the COMMENTARY orbit. . . .

Winifred Scott
New York City



To the Editor:

. . . In the last few years, as Jeane J. Kirkpatrick notes in “How the PLO Was Legitimized,” the PLO obtained, through diplomatic charlatanry and with the unlimited assistance of the world media, a propaganda victory in its quest to delegitimize the state of Israel. In order to combat such propaganda, I humbly suggest that essays like Ambassador Kirkpatrick’s and Norman Podhoretz’s “Israel: A Lamentation From the Future” [March] be reprinted in all major newspapers—local, national, and international. . . . This will be, I believe, a worthwhile investment in the cause of justice and peace in the Middle East.

Baruch Cohen
Montreal, Canada



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