Early on in their formal legal education, students of Anglo-American jurisprudence learn about the rules of equity. The rules of equity were developed by English judges in the Court of Chancery as an application of conscience to abate the sting, so to speak, of the strict application of the punctilious and exacting letter of the common law. Over time, the rules of equity increasingly infused the common law and the two “systems” melded. In theory at least, conscience would always “soften” the strict application of precedent.
Two of the most compellingly obvious rules are:
• “One who seeks equity must do equity.” An individual ought not demand a specific benefit from someone if he is unwilling to provide that same benefit in the same circumstances.
• “One who comes to the court of equity must come with clean hands.” In other words, one cannot profit from his own wrongdoing in the very matter in which he seeks redress.
The rules are statements of essential fairness and justice. They make eminent sense to us. They accord with the most basic, fundamental values that underpin our society. Without them, we would consider our society unjust. And indeed, it would be.
Thus, we shake our heads and perhaps even clench our fists – no longer in disbelief, but rather in combined rising disgust and overwhelming sadness – when we hear the specific pleadings of Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly.
No leadership more than the Palestinians’, so constantly, so ceaselessly, so cynically ignores the rules of equity, what we know and believe to be the fundamental pinions of honesty, truth and fairness in public life.
It would be an irony were it not a grotesque hypocrisy, that Abbas couched his remarks to the assembly in legal terminology using language of human rights and principles of justice.
To cite but one example from the many, on four occasions, Abbas explicitly referred to the original UN partition vote on Nov. 29, 1947, and to the “nakba” (catastrophe, referring to the declaration of the State of Israel), “the unprecedented historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people,” as he defined it.
At one point in his remarks, he insidiously appropriated the images of the Shoah. It long ago became an entrenched tactic used by Palestinian leaders to do this. They aggressively, insistently, but falsely paint a portrait of themselves to the world as victims of a perfidy by the Jewish People. The reference is as abhorrent as it is entirely untrue.
“The Palestinian people, who miraculously recovered from the ashes of al-nakba of 1948, which was intended to extinguish their being and to expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence… in one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history.”
Certain facts are incontrovertible. Truth is not merely a matter of different interpretations of different facts of history. Yet, Abbas hides the truth. He distorts it. He disdains it. He tries to kill it.
Abbas did not say that the nakba was brought upon the Palestinians by their own leaders, especially by men like Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and his confederates. It was they who refused to accept the partition decision of the UN General Assembly. They immediately declared war upon the Jewish Yishuv (pre-state settlement of Eretz Yisrael). They declared the slaughter of Jewish men, women and children a holy obligation. They called for the Jews to be thrown into the sea.
But the Jews were unwilling to be slaughtered.
They fought back. They pushed back. They defended. And in some places, too, they expelled, rather than be expelled. But foremost, the Jews declared: “We shall not die, but live.” And so the Jews prevailed – much to the mufti’s surprise, chagrin and rage.
The mufti’s legacy to his people, ever since, has been permanent rage and a self-image that has left them disabled, that does not allow any image other than that of victims. But if they are victims, they are the victims of their own leaders.
“We affirm that Palestine will always adhere to and respect… international humanitarian law, uphold equality, guarantee civil liberties, uphold the rule of law, promote democracy and pluralism and uphold and protect the rights of women,” Abbas said to the General Assembly.
But his lofty words were a lie even as he spoke them. As many scholars pointed out last week, member of Parliament Irwin Cotler among them, Abbas’ very petition to the General Assembly violated a solemn agreement Palestinian leaders had signed with Israel nearly 20 years ago. The rule of law?
Nor do we believe that pluralism really means that much to Abbas since he has already vowed that Israeli Jews will not be allowed to live in his Palestine. Palestine will be Judenrein.
Abbas came to court recalling Yasser Arafat. He was also echoing the messages of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and standing in the shoes of Haj Amin al-Husseini, seeking equity for his people but without the clean hands demanded by the rules of equity. Alas, the world seems not to care.
But today, as then, Jews fight back.