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Altered Consciousness: Israeli ‘Occupation’ Awareness Week

Published: November 5, 2010
Section: Opinions


GRAPHIC BY Leah Lefkowitz/The Hoot

Next week, Brandeis will be hosting the Israeli “occupation” awareness week. What the organizers of this event do not know is that they are only legitimizing a baseless accusation at the expense of the Jewish state.

The “occupation” refers to Israel’s hold over mainly the West Bank, since it withdrew from Gaza unilaterally in 2005. However, “occupation” is the wrong word to use in this context because Israel has very legitimate claims to this land, in addition to the Palestinians. Therefore, the proper phraseology in this case is “disputed,” as opposed to “occupied” territories.

The first of the Jewish claims is that, in 1922, the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine recognized legal rights for the Jews to establish a homeland in all of what was then Palestine, including the territory now known as the West Bank. These rights were preserved under Article 80 of the United Nations Charter in 1946, and were unaffected by UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which proposed partitioning then-Palestine into an Arab and Jewish state but was not binding on any of the parties involved.

The second Jewish claim is that Jews have lived in the territory known as the West Bank for thousands of years, with the exception of when the Jordanians illegally occupied it as a result of an offensive war from 1948-1967. This fact applies even after the Jews were expelled from their homeland by the Romans and before Zionists started making aliyah in the late 19th century.

The third Jewish claim is on religious grounds. Numerous Jewish holy sites, including the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, exist in cities like East Jerusalem and Hebron. Moreover, the Old Testament is filled with references to Israel, including Judea and Samaria, as the Jewish homeland.

“Occupation” is also the wrong word to use in this context because there never has been a state for Palestinian Arabs. The now-West Bank, as well as Gaza, has been held, historically speaking, by the Jews in ancient times, the Romans, Byzantine Empire, Umayyads, Abbasids, Crusaders, the Mamluk Sultanate, the Ottomans, the British, the Jordanians and then finally the Jews again.

In fact, the Palestinian identity itself, in its modern sense, was only formed in reaction to Jewish nationalism and Zionism. Zuhair Muhsin, the former head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Military Operations Department, explained in a 1977 interview:

“Only for political reasons do we carefully underline our Palestinian identity. For it is of national interest for the Arabs to encourage the existence of the Palestinians against Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestine identity is there only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a Palestinian State is a new expedient to continue the fight against Zionism and for Arab unity.”

Additionally, the Jews have a right to hold onto the West Bank on security grounds. During the 1967 war, Jordan shot rockets and artillery fire into Israel from this territory. The Jews responded in self-defense by driving the Jordanians out and holding onto the conquered land.

UN Security Council Resolution 242, which followed the conflict, calls for an Israeli withdrawal from the captured territory, but only in the presence of peace and security guarantees, as well as an end of hostilities toward the Jewish state. However, when Israel, in compliance with 242, refused to cede this land unilaterally without these conditions being met, the Arabs passed the Khartoum Resolution, which stated their desire for no peace, negotiations or recognition of Israel.

Since this time, Israel has, despite the violence, terror and virulent hatred directed toward it, desperately been trying to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians. However, at Camp David in 2000, Yasser Arafat, the head of the PLO, refused Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer of nearly all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem primarily due to the absence of the right of return and the fact that he would have to declare the conflict ended.

In fact, Arafat started the second intifada to extract even more concessions from Israel. More recently, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has turned down a very similar offer by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and has declared that he will not make a single concession to Israel. In truth, he, along with Hamas, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, only wants to destroy the Jewish state and nothing less.

The myth of “occupation” is based off of the propaganda that is repeated on a daily basis by the media, academia and other institutions. We should be raising awareness not about it, but about the truth.