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Occupation? Whose Occupation?

by Moshe Sharon

The word "occupation" has been used for many years now to describe the rule of Israel in Judea and Samaria (known as the "West Bank") and the Gaza district which Israel took from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and from Egypt respectively in the course of the Six Day War in 1967. In the distorted language of the media and of politicians, both in Israel and in most parts of the world, these two territories are described as "the occupied Palestinian territories" as if Israel occupied a country called "Palestine" in 1967 and took Palestinian lands. Sadly, very few of the media consumers in the West and the East are aware of the lie behind the usage of these terms.

First, let us review the simple facts about this "occupation." Israel took the "West Bank" from Jordan and not from a non-existent "Palestinian" entity; and occupied Gaza that was held by Egypt. Both countries had occupied these territories during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and had ruled them illegally. The Jordanians even annexed territory to the west of the Jordan and called it "The West Bank." Egypt established its administration in Gaza. Both these areas were, therefore, in Arab hands for 19 years, but nobody, during these years of Jordanian and Egyptian occupation, even thought about the establishment of a Palestinian State in them, although such a state could have been established easily and recognized, even by Israel.

Moreover, the Jordanian occupation of the "West Bank" and the Egyptian rule over Gaza were never recognized internationally for the simple reason that these two countries occupied territories that, according to international agreements, international decisions and international law, belonged to the Jewish National Home. In fact, the only title to these territories belonged and still belongs to the State Of Israel.

The legal position of the whole of Palestine was clearly defined in several international agreements.

The most important is the one adopted at the San Remo Conference (following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War), which decided, on April 24, 1920 to assign the Mandate for Palestine under the League of Nations to Britain. An agreed text was confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922 and came into operation in September 1923.

In the preamble to this document it is stated that "...the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." The declaration of November 2, 1917 is the famous Balfour Declaration and in this document, it was given international ratification.

Moreover, in Article 2 of the document, the League of Nations declares that "The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble.”

In the preamble it was clearly stated that "recognition has hereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."

It was on this basis that the British Mandate was established. Britain betrayed its duty and far from keeping to its undertakings did everything to jeopardize the establishment of the Jewish National Home and finally decided, in 1947, to end its mandate unilaterally, leaving Palestine on May 15, 1948.

Meanwhile the UN (which had inherited the League of Nations) decided on the partition of Western Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab, but this decision of November 29, 1947 was not only rejected out of hand by the Arabs, but seven Arab armies invaded Palestine to put an end to the young State of Israel which had been established on May 14, 1948.

The 1948 war ended with an armistice. A line was drawn on the map which delineated the position of the fighting armies on the two fronts in the east and the south at the time of the ceasefire. This is the "Green Line." It is not a border and neither Israel nor the Arabs regarded it as more than what it was: a line defining the positions of the respective armies at the end of one phase of the hostilities; it could be moved to either side if war was to be resumed, as actually happened in 1967. As an outcome of the 1948 war, parts of the Jewish National Home in Palestine were left occupied by Jordan and Egypt, since the only title to these territories belonged to the Jewish people, in other words to Israel, not to the Arabs and definitely not to the "Palestinians" who were not even mentioned at the time.

The 1967 war created a new situation in the field: the armistice line from 1948-49, which had been drawn in green on the maps, was moved as an outcome of this war further east to the River Jordan, and in 1994 was ratified as an international border by the peace agreement with Jordan. In the south, the Green Line was moved as a result of Israel's victory over the Egyptians and in 1979 was recognized as an international border in the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. There is no Green Line any more! It was abrogated by a new war and ultimately was turned into a "mauve line" by the peace agreements. Those who sanctify the Green Line worship an illusionary image. They have created a Palestinian People and a Palestinian State behind this sacred line but they are not interested in the welfare of the Palestinians as much as in creating the conditions for the elimination of the Jewish National Home.

Forty-five years after the League of Nations Declaration in San Remo, Israel retrieved its rightful possession of the territories assigned to the Jewish People as a National Home. How her possession of her own homeland can be called the "Occupation of Palestinian territories" is beyond explanation. What is tragic is that the Jews themselves have adopted this usage and made it a cornerstone of their own national policy.

All these facts are well known, but tend to be conveniently forgotten. It is therefore necessary to repeat them at least as frequently as the lies about the false “occupation” are endlessly repeated.

The same can be said about the demand to return to Syria the “occupied” Golan Heights as the “price for peace.” In this case too the facts are well known but must be ceaselessly repeated. Syria lost the Golan Heights as an outcome of two wars which it initiated and waged against Israel in 1967 and 1973, and after many years in which it used the Golan as a big military base for perpetrating endless acts of aggression against innocent Israeli villages in the Jordan Valley. Having lost this territory through aggression, Syria cannot have it back, just as Germany cannot have back the territory that it had lost in the War.

One last word about occupation. If there is any occupation which is historically relevant to the Middle East and North Africa it is the Islamic one. By the power of the sword, the armies of Islam broke out of Arabia in the seventh century, occupied vast territories, subjugated peoples, destroyed cultures and languages in the name of Allah and in the service of His Prophet, and they are now poised to occupy Europe.

 

Moshe Sharon is professor of Islamic History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.