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 to the Jews. Part V shows that the occupations by other nations stemmed neither from the occupiers’ 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. It then contrasts it with the history of attacks against Israel by the residents of the West Bank over many years, and culminates with the conclusion that, based on all the arguments promoted in this article, the Israeli settlement in the West Bank is neither illegal nor an occupation.
Let me further elaborate on the last point: If the verb “occupy” is to be used at all in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it should be “re-occupy” or “re-settle,” since all that the Jews who live there have done is simply re-occupy a land that for over three millennia belonged to their people, and that, time and again, was forcibly confiscated from them by others.
I believe, however, that the most fitting term for the Jewish settlement in the West Bank is “re-patriate.” Indeed, what is so bewildering is that the term “re-patriation” is hardly ever used, including by Israelis, when describing the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland. Even Ari Shavit, in his acclaimed book My Promised Land, intentionally or unintentionally, refrains from ever using the verbs “re-occupy,” “re-settle,” or “re-patriate” when discussing the Jewish people’s monumental return to their own homeland.
Hence, it is simply ludicrous, even absurd, for anyone to advocate for the repatriation of surviving Palestinian refugees and their descendants to either the West Bank or west of the Green Line, and at the same time deny the repatriation of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland.
In truth, none of the historical facts presented here are a secret, and anyone with an honest curiosity can easily discover them. That is why I do not believe that Israel’s detractors (all of whom are, as argued above, occupiers or the descendants of occupiers themselves) should be considered as ignorant but rather as either intellectually inept, or as hypocritical and dishonest.
Once and for all, therefore, Jews should stop apologizing to the world for their right to their land, the Land of Israel, including the West Bank.
Indeed, it’s about time the world community acknowledge the unique story of the Jewish people: In the annals of history, except for the Jewish people, there hasn’t been another case – not one – of a nation formed in a particular land, exiled from its land, and then, after 1900 years, returned to its ancient and legitimate homeland.
Not long ago, University of Maryland’s History Professor Jeffrey Herf wrote:
“A bold, courageous and fresh American diplomacy would have told the world that the only reason that settlements stood in the way of an Israeli-Palestinian final agreement was that the Palestinians were insisting that their state would not be one that allowed Jews to be its citizens. It was Barack Obama’s signal failure, as a politician deeply attuned to the nature of racism in American history, to neglect to draw the world’s attention to the racism implicit in the Palestinian Authority’s position. The President, Vice-President and his Secretary of State all should have declared clearly, again and again, that it was now up to the Palestinian Authority to break with the racism of its own past and welcome the possibility of a Palestinian state that had Jewish citizens—just as the Jewish state has Arabs in its midst.” (The Times of Israel, The Daily Edition, March 30, 2015).
It is only with such historical background that one can clearly understand the true reasons for the Jewish settlement in the West Bank. As argued above repeatedly, Israel has had deep, long-lasting, and undeniable roots in the Land of Israel, including the West Bank. Although the Muslims invaded the Middle East, including Palestine, approximately 1400 years ago, history clearly shows that the Jews have always been willing to coexist with the Muslims in the Holy Land – whether by the land purchases, the Balfour Declaration, the Peel Commission’s report, the Partition Plan, the Peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, the Oslo Accords, and the peace proposals by Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.
Yet, in spite of this history of extending a hand for peace and co-existence by the Jews, it’s the Palestinians who have, time and again, refused to reciprocate in kind regarding the Jewish citizens of Israel.
To the Iranian Ayatollah, Hamas, and to all those who wish to see Israel’s demise, the message is: Israel is here to stay. When the State of Israel says ‘Never Again’ it means exactly that. It is one thing for Israel to have evacuated 8600 Israelis from Gush Katif (in the Gaza Strip) in 2005; it’s another thing altogether to hope that Israel would evacuate over 500,000 Jews from the West Bank. Any future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would have to take this fact into consideration. However, even if an agreement is finally reached, in the present situation, no one can predict what such an agreement will be – the one-state, two-state, or three-state solution (Israel, West Bank, and Gaza), or a confederation between Palestine and Jordan.
Still, whatever that solution might be, it is time for the world community, the Muslim countries, and the Palestinians to understand that the Jewish hold on the West Bank is neither illegal nor an occupation of other people’s land, and to accept that Jews have the unmitigated right to both settle the West Bank and remain there, even if that territory may eventually end up as part of a future Palestinian state.
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 V of this article can be found here.