Part I of this article outlines the historical connection between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, beginning with the settlement of that land under Joshua in about 1200 BCE, while emphasizing that none of the ancient people that inhabited Canaan 3200 years ago are still around to claim that land as theirs. Part II deals with the forced exile of the Jews to Europe, their history of persecution there, and the 1900 years of illegal occupation of the Land of Israel by 16 different regimes which, eventually, brought about the establishment of the Zionist movement. Part III exposes the world’s great hypocrisy and silence on its own long history of occupation, including the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims in the 7th and 8th centuries. Part IV discusses the nature of truly unauthorized “occupation” and compares it with how the Jews decided to add an additional layer of legitimacy to their historical right by the legal transaction of purchasing vast tracts of land in Palestine from the then Ottoman, Syrian, and Palestinian landlords, highlighting the rich Palestinian landlords’ eagerness to sell thousand of acres in Palestine to the Jews.
An important point must be made from the start regarding Israel’s presence in the West Bank since June of 1967: In contrast to Israel, none of the occupying nations mentioned above were either threatened or attacked by the people they conquered and occupied: It was the Romans who attacked the Celtics, not the other way around; the Mongols who attacked the population in the Middle East, not the other way around, and the Spaniards who attacked the Inca, not the other way around, and so on. In other words, all the above conquests and occupations stemmed neither from the occupier’s’ right to the land nor from their right to self-defense, but rather from their quest for strategic and economical gain, and for political and cultural domination.
Indeed, if not by the exact methods, at least in respect to their motivation, they were no different than any of the past most notorious colonialists/occupiers, including Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin. Even when the occupation was triggered by a quest for religious freedom or economic opportunities, as was, for example, the invasion of North America by the Dutch, French, and English pilgrims, it disregarded the long habitation of the natives, and eventually resulted in a political domination and marginalization of the natives that is still going on.
In stark contrast, however, Israeli Jews are in the West Bank precisely because the State of Israel has been attacked by the Arab population in the West Bank time and again: First, from 1949 to 1967 in the frequent and fatal attacks by the fedayeens; later by Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, and then (following King Hussein’s disengagement from the West Bank), by two intifadas (1987-91 and 2000-05). In fact, murders and abductions of Israeli Jews in the West Bank by organizations such as Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas, have continued to this day.
However, what also needs to be mentioned is the fact that, in dealing with the Ottoman Empire, Britain, Jordan, and eventually with the Palestinians, both the pre-1948 Jewish leadership and the post-1948 Israeli government have never insisted on Jewish settlement in the West Bank as a pre-condition for a peace agreement between the two sides.
This statement is attested to by at least two facts: First, by the acting Jewish leadership’s acceptance of the Peel Commission’s report of 1937 and the November 29, 1947 ‘Partition Plan’ vote in the United Nations, both of which did not allocate the West Bank as territory under Jewish rule. (By the way, the Arab countries voted against the Partition Plan. Ironically, had they agreed to it in 1947, not only would Israel have a smaller territory today but also there would have been a Palestinian State since 1948 alongside with Israel).
Second, the Israeli government’s decision – from 1949 to 1967 – not to push eastward beyond the 1949 armistice lines with Jordan, a.k.a. the “Green Line,” in spite of continuous terrorist activities during those years by Arab residents of the West Bank, with Colonel Salah Mustafa, the Egyptian military attaché in Amman, as their behind-the-scenes’ coordinator.
Let me propose, then, that had Israel not been attacked in June 1967 by Arab forces from the West Bank, there would not have been an Israeli presence in the West Bank today; it’s that simple
Consequently, we can now reach additional important conclusions:
- First, if the Palestinians, the Arab countries, and the international community would vouchsafe Israel’s security, Israel’s borders could be based, roughly, on the former “Green Line” without compromising its integrity as a Jewish state. Having said that, however, based on all the arguments presented here, Israeli Jews should still have the unchallenged right to settle in the West Bank as part of their historic homeland, regardless of whether it would eventually be ruled by an Israeli or a Palestinian government.
- Second, as discussed above, precisely because the West Bank belongs to the Jewish people as part of their historic homeland, there is no reason or justification whatsoever for labeling this Jewish settlement in the West Bank as “illegal.”
Third, since Jewish settlement in the West Bank is entirely legal, that settlement shouldn’t be regarded as an “occupation” either, or to quote Yarden Frankl of HonestReporting, “You can’t really capture [from the Arabs] something that already belongs to you, can you?” (HonestReporting, Israel Daily News Stream, April 20, 2015).
Part I of this article can be found here.
Part II of this article can be found here.
Part III of this article can be found here.
Part IV of this article can be found here.
Part VI of this article can be found here.