Forty Years after 242: A “Canonical” Text in Disrepute?

This essay examines the consequences of the near-canonical status acquired over the years by UN Security Council Resolution 242. After tracing the evolution of the vision of peace seen to flow from 242, the essay explores the various ways in which the resolution has been read. In particular, the interpretation of Israel (backed by the United States) is examined, along with the balance of power factor. The essay concludes by suggesting that clinging to 242 as “canonical” inhibits clear-sighted thinking on new approaches that take cognizance of the greatly altered circumstances.

Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His most recent books include The Declining World Order: America’s Imperial Geopolitics (2004) and (with Howard Friel) Israel-Palestine on Record: How the New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East (2004). This paper was originally prepared for the IPS panel at the November 2007 Middle East Studies Association conference.

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