Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Moshe Sharon: Occupation? Who is Occupying Whom?
by Moshe Sharon
The word "occupation" has been used for many years to describe Israel's rule over Judea and Samaria (the area which is known as "the West Bank") and Gaza Strip which Israel conquered in 1967 during the Six Day War when it vanquished the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Egypt, respectively. In the distorted language of the media and politicians, whether in Israel or in most other parts of the world, these two territories are described as the "occupied Palestinian territories", as if, in 1967, Israel conquered a land called "Palestine" and appropriated Palestinian lands for itself. Unfortunately, very few media consumers in the West or the East are aware of the falsehood behind the use of these terms.
Let us first take a quick look at the simple facts regarding this "occupation". Israel conquered the "West Bank" from Jordan and not from any nonexistent "Palestinian" entity; and Israel conquered Gaza from Egypt. But these two countries, Jordan and Egypt, conquered these territories themselves during the War of Independence of 1948 and subsequently ruled there illegally. The Jordanians even annexed the area West of the Jordan River and called it the "West Bank". Egypt established its own administration in Gaza. These two territories were, therefore, in Arab hands for nineteen years, but during this time of Jordanian and Egyptian occupation, no one ever thought of establishing a Palestinian state in them, despite the fact that it would have been possible to establish such a state easily and this state would have won recognition, even from Israel.
Moreover, neither the Jordanian occupation of the "West Bank" nor the Egyptian rule in Gaza were recognized , for the simple reason that these two countries conquered territories that were, according to international agreements, international decisions and international law, parts of the Jewish national home. Actually, the only right to sovereignty over these territories belonged and still belongs to the State of Israel.
The legal standing of the whole of the land of Israel was well defined by a number of international agreements. The most important is the agreement that was adopted in the Peace Conference of San Remo (following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War); this agreement determined - on the 24th of April 1920 - that Britain would be given a mandate over the Land of Israel, which had been approved by the League of Nations. The text of the mandate was indeed agreed upon and confirmed by the League of Nations on the 24th of July, 1922, and came into effect in September 1923.
In the introduction to this document, it is stated that "The Principal Allied Powers agreed among them also that the Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". The declaration on 2 November, 1917 is the famous Balfour Declaration, a document which won international ratification.
Also, in Paragraph 2 of the document, the League of Nations declares that "the Mandatory powers will be responsible for providing political, administrative and economic conditions that will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as determined in the introduction.
In the introduction it specifically referred to "the historical connections of the Jewish people with the Land of Israel and to the reasons for “reconstituting their National Home in that country.”
It was upon this foundation that the British Mandate was established. But Britain betrayed the mission that it was entrusted with, and instead of carrying out its commitments, it did everything it could to endanger the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people and decided ultimately, in 1947, to end the mandate unilaterally, and withdrew from the land of Israel on the 15th of May, 1948.
Meanwhile, the United Nations, which superseded the League of Nations, decided to divide the Western part of the land of Israel into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab; however this decision, made on the 29th of November 1947, not only was rejected outright by the Arabs, but seven Arab armies immediately invaded the land of Israel in order to put an end to the young State of Israel, which was established on the 14th of May, 1948.
The war of 1948 ended in a cease-fire agreement. A line was drawn on the map, which delineated the locations of the armies on both fronts, the eastern and the southern, at the moment of the cease-fire. This is the "green line". This line is not a border, and neither Israel nor the Arabs regarded it as any more than it actually was: a line that defined the location of the various armies at the end of one phase in the hostilities; it could be moved to one side or the other if fighting resumed - as actually did happen in 1967. As a result of the war of 1948, parts of the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel became occupied by Jordan and Egypt. "Occupied", because the only right of sovereignty over these territories was that of the Jewish people or, in other words, the state of Israel, and not to the Arabs and of course not to the "Palestinians", a "people" who had never been heard of before.
The war of 1967 created a new situation in the area: the cease-fire line from 1948-1949, which is drawn in green on maps, was moved as a result of this second war eastward to the Jordan River, and in 1994 its location was confirmed as the international border by the peace agreement with Jordan. In the south, the green line moved as a result of the Israeli victory over Egypt in 1979 - recognized as the international border in the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. There is no longer a green line! It has been annulled by the new war and converted ultimately into a "purple line" by means of peace treaties. Those who sanctify the Green Line have created a kind of idol. They created a Palestinian people and a Palestinian state behind this "holy" line, but they are less interested in the good of the Palestinians than to create conditions that will make it easier to destroy the Jewish national home.
Forty five years after the decision that was taken in San Remo, Israel recovered her rightful sovereignty over the territories that were rewarded to the Jewish people as its national home. How it is possible to call Israel's possession of its homeland an "occupation of Palestinian land" is beyond all logic. The tragedy is that the Jews themselves have adopted this terminology and have caused it to become a cornerstone of their national policy.
All of these facts are well known, but it is quite easy to forget them. Therefore it is essential to repeat them again and again no less than the number of times that we endlessly hear the lies regarding the imaginary occupation.
This rule also applies to the demand to return to Syria the "occupied" Golan Heights as a "price for peace". In this case as well, the facts are well known, but it is necessary to repeat them and to say them again and again. Syria lost the Golan Heights as a result of two wars that it initiated and waged against Israel in 1967 and 1973, and also after many years in which they used the Golan Heights as a military base from which to carry out endless attacks against innocent Israeli villages in the Hula Valley. Because it lost this territory by violence, Syria has no right to have it under its sovereignty again, just as Germany cannot demand the return of the territory that it lost in the Second World War.
One last word about "occupation". If, from the point of view of history, there is "occupation" in the Middle East and North Africa, it is Islamic occupation. With unsheathed sword, the armies of Islam burst forth from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, conquered vast areas, oppressed peoples and destroyed cultures and languages - and all in the name of Allah and his prophet. And today they are poised for the conquest of Europe.
Moshe Sharon is Professor emeritus of Islamic History in Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.