PRESENTATION: Focus on "Occupation"

This is a summary transcript of a short presentation intended to be delivered at The Israel Advocacy Conference held at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in New York City.

INTRODUCTION

 

The Arab-Israeli conflict – more accurately defined as the Arab War against Israel – has known many facets since it began roughly a hundred years ago. Besides its ominous Islamic dimension – which is beyond the scope of this paper – this conflict morphed almost exclusively into a diplomatic war in the past few decades, where successive Israeli governments underperformed.

 

In contrast, the Arab propaganda machine has been working tirelessly and most effectively in setting the agenda to gradually delegitimize Israel around the world. Israel, in its genuine search for a lasting peace, tried to accommodate the demands of the Palestinian Arabs but Israel’s protracted compliance damaged its image, threatened its security, and cast a doubt on the future of its essential character as a Jewish State.

 

To put an end to this downward spiral, Israel must counter the falsehoods of the Palestinian narrative by confronting its foundational notion: the myth of “Israeli occupation of Arab lands.”

In the wake of the Six Day War, the Government of Israel considered the acquired lands of the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria (J&S), the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula “occupied territory.” Granted, Israel had no legitimate claim to the whole of Sinai, which was returned to Egypt in its entirety in 1980.

 

Israel annexed the Golan in 1981 and abandoned Gaza in 2005. Therefore, it can be argued that UNSC Resolution 242 of November 1967 – which calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” – has fulfilled its purpose, since 90% of these territories are no longer under Israeli control. However, this UN Resolution continues to be the (inappropriate) basis of the ongoing “peace process” over J&S, in spite of the widely held belief that withdrawing from these areas would endanger Israel’s security and its “right to live in peace within secure borders.”

 

The main battleground in Public Diplomacy is now over J&S. The Eshkol Government adopted the misguided legal advice offered by the Military Advocate-General and, by the end of June 1967, Israel decided not to apply Israeli law to these territories – as it was bound to do pursuant to its Basic Law, given that those lands were clearly part of the Mandate for Palestine and are the heart of the Jewish patrimony – and, instead, applied the law of belligerent occupation, as per the Fourth Geneva Convention.

 

This fateful Israeli decision of 1967 is the source of the “myth of occupation,” which the Palestinian Arabs amplified and exploited masterfully ever since by building up their fallacious narrative. The continued use of UN Resolution 242 in “peace plans” perpetuates this myth.

Exploiting the false notion of “occupation” has had a most nefarious effect, as depicted graphically above.

 

“Occupation” triggered a growing slanderous cycle of false accusations against Israel. The characterization of Jews as “alien foreigners” in the Land of Israel was promptly followed by accusations of “stealing the land”; building “illegal settlements”; pursuing an “imperialist project”; launching aggressive actions against the Palestinians in “violation of international law”; and creating in Israel a “Nazi-Apartheid state.” On February 28, 2013, at a conference sponsored by the United Nations in Vienna, Turkish PM Erdogan went even further and called Zionism “a crime against humanity.”

 

Even reputable media organizations, like The New York Times, continue to promote with impunity one or more of the falsehoods listed above. We are witnessing an Orwellian pattern where language corrupts thought and creates an “alternate reality.” Regrettably, to this day no Israeli government has vigorously challenged these false accusations by forcefully asserting Israel’s Legal Rights under international law.

 

To fill this void, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a well known Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, forwarded to the 120 Knesset members the Hebrew version of CILR’s book – The Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel – a work endorsed by Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Attorney Howard Grief (z”l’), Historian Andrew Roberts and Mr. Tomas Sandell, Director of the European Coalition for Israel (ECI).

The whole Palestinian narrative was built on the “myth of occupation,” thus turning reality on its head. Such an implausible structure, built on a phony foundation cannot stand by itself. But it is held together and is strongly supported by powerful forces: the United Nations; massive donations from Western countries and the Arab world; the panoply of “human rights” NGOs; and the Humanities Departments of a growing number of academic institutions worldwide.

 

All these external supports are anchored on the false notion of “occupation.” Starting in 1969, the UN General Assembly – with the backing of the Soviet Bloc, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non Aligned Movement – issued resolution after resolution to wrap the “Palestinian cause” in Marxist ideology while denigrating Israel as a colonial, oppressive, imperialist and racist entity, thus culminating in the infamous UNGA Resolution 3236 which all but substituted Palestine to Israel by claiming the self-determination right of the former in the land of the latter.

 

We should understand that as long as the myth of “occupation” stands, Israel is doomed. There is no redeeming value in “occupation.” Not only Judea and Samaria are threatened, but the legality of the whole of Israel will be questioned, since there is no difference between territories “occupied” in 1967 and those “occupied” in 1948-49.

 

There is no point in reacting piecemeal to this or that Palestinian fallacy re “illegal settlements,” “apartheid,” the “Islamic Al-Quds,” etc. We must demolish the foundation and the whole Palestinian edifice will crumble.

To stem the destructive tide of Palestinian propaganda, we must first restore the truth by adhering to Israel’s Basic Law; by asserting the Jewish people’s rights to the Land of Israel under international law and educating university students on these historical and legal issues; and by adopting the still pending Levy Report. These efforts will eventually pave the way for the extension of sovereignty over the whole Land of Israel.

 

We must also stop reacting to each and every individual falsehood produced by the fevered imagination of Palestinian Arab leaders and launch instead a proactive, sustained offensive of real hasbara, backed by substantial funds and with clear and measurable objectives. Make it the new battleground, with the two issues listed below as possible examples:

 

  1. After 1,850 years of dispossession, exile, oppression and statelessness, the Jewish nation was reconstituted in its ancestral land on April 25, 1920 at the San Remo Conference, thus marking the end to the longest colonization in history. Why wouldn’t the Left celebrate this unique event?
     

  2. The persistent denial of Jewish history, the distortion of Zionist goals, and the eradication of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem by Palestinian officials lead to the conclusion that one can be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian (as the Palestinians are presently defined by their Charter). Everyone should take a stand and state it clearly. That is why UNGA Resolution 3236 must be rescinded, in the same way that Res. 3379 (“Zionism = racism”) was rescinded after 16 years.

 

Only then, a New Declaration of Principles – with real principles and not peripheral issues of no immediate concern – could open the door to a coherent plan for a lasting peace

 

Salomon Benzimra

Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights - CILR

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