Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Fitzgerald: Occupation? What Occupation?
{Re-posted from 2005 -- a re-posting prompted by Macfarquhar's  invocation of "occupation" as "Occupation" in his story, twice, and prompted in particular by this sentence in his story today:

"The old guard members in the Palestinian Authority are struggling to remain relevant at a time when their failed 20-year quest to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands makes them seem both anachronistic and obsolete"

That calls for a reply, even if thatreply was written years ago:

A poster at a well-known website recently recommended that readers acquire “knowledge of the day to day lives of the Palestinians and their experience under occupation."

"Occupation"? What "occupation"? All the territories the Israelis now possess are theirs by legal right -- the right conferred by the League of Nations Mandates Commission, when it carefully defined the territory which would be set aside, from the vast territories in the Middle East that had formerly been in the control of the Ottoman Turks as part of their empire, and which had been won by the Allies. An Arab State, a Kurdish State, and a Jewish state were all promised. The Arabs got their state -- no, in the end, they got far more than their state but rather, in 2005, 22 members of the Arab League, the most richly endowed with natural resources of any states on earth, enjoying the fruits of the greatest transfer of wealth in human history The Kurds did not get their state, because by the time things had settled, Kemal Ataturk was driving a hard bargain and would not permit it. The Jews got the Mandate for Palestine set up for the express purpose of establishing the Jewish National Home, which would inexorably become, all parties realized, in time a Jewish state. It did not seem wrong then, and does not seem wrong now, that the Jews should have a state of their own. They asked only for the right to have no barriers put up to their immigration, and no barriers put in the way of their buying land. That was it. That was the sum total of what they demanded. Until the 1948 war, when five Arab armies attacked, not a single dunam of Arab-owned land (and remember that nearly 90% of the land, in any case, remained the possession of the state or the ruling authority, as in the Mandatory period) was appropriated. No one should dare to write about this subject without having done the research on demography, land ownership, and law.

The Israeli claim to the West Bank (as Judea and Samaria were carefully renamed by Jordan after 1948, in precisely the same way, and for the same reason, that the Romans, nearly two thousand years before, had renamed Judea as "Palestine" and Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina) is not that of a military occupier, though it is also that. The main legal and historic claim is that based on the League of Nations Mandate, which in turn, was based on a considerable historic and moral claim recognized by the educated leaders of the then-civilized world, who actually knew something of the history of the area, and were not nearly as misinformed as so many have been by the mass media, and the laziness and prejudice of journalists today.

The notion of "occupation" of course evokes imagines of Occupied Paris, or Occupied Berlin, after the war. It implies no justification for the claims of the power with the military presence. But the claim of Israel to the lands it took in 1967 are based, for the Sinai, on the standard rules of post-war settlement, the rules which have obtained for centuries, whereby a victor in a war of defense keeps what he has won. If the Israelis chose not to, or were forced not to exercise that right, it does not mean that the right did not exist. It did, and it applies even more forcefully to Gaza and the West Bank. But the claim there is not based merely on the successful conquest of territory to which otherwise Israel had no claim. It did have a claim, a claim based clearly on the Mandate for Palestine -- and like all the other League of Nations Mandates, was formally accepted, taken over as it were, by the United Nations when it came into being. This is a matter of record. It cannot be undone.

Whatever else one wishes to say about the West Bank or Gaza, the word "occupation" is a tendentious, and cruel, misnomer. What it seeks to imply, what it seeks to implant in the minds of men, is clear: Israel has no rights here. This is nonsense. This is the very reverse of the truth. Read the Mandate, and the Preamble to the Mandate, for Palestine. Then read the records of the Mandates Commission -- and especially how they reacted when the British unilaterally announced that the terms of the mandate would not be applied to Eastern Palestine -- that is, the consolation prize given to Abdullah of the Emirate of Transjordan.

Read it, and understand it.

Posted on 11/28/2012 9:46 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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