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Monday, 4 March 2013
Fitzgerald: Judea, Samaria, and "Occupied Lands"
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[Re-posted from Nov. 9, 2005]

Lebanon’s Daily Star carries an article today with the headline: “Jordan's king to visit Occupied Territories, Israel.”

The word "occupied" needs to be carefully examined. It is ordinarily used when the country deemed to be the occupier has no claim to the land it occupies, and is only there temporarily, following a conflict, with no intention or right to remain.

Thus "Occupied Paris" or "Occupied France." Thus "Occupied Germany" or "Occupied Japan" after the war. But to use the word "occupied lands" for lands which are part of the Mandate for Palestine is another matter. These lands were part of the two Ottoman vilayets that were deliberately set aside by the League of Nations, after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, for the establishment of the Jewish National Home. This was done on the perfectly reasonable and indeed irreproachable theory that like the Arabs (who were promised one Arab State), the Kurds (who ultimately never got any state), and the Armenians (ditto, except for a Soviet republic, only recently made independent), the Jews could be given a state of their own. The moral, legal, and historic claim of the Jews -- some of whom had left the Middle East after the Jihad-conquest by the Arabs in the 7th century, and some of whom had remained to live as dhimmis in Iraq, Syria, Judea itself, Yemen, and North Africa -- would be seen by fair-minded person who had bothered to investigate the matter as an overwhelming claim.

Indeed, when the British, who had made solemn commitments under their power as mandatory authority, simply closed off all of Eastern Palestine (which went to form present-day Jordan) in 1921, the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations was horrified. Arab propagandists --Rami Khouri, Rashid Khalidi, Saeb Erekat, and so on -- like to refer rather quickly, and self-assuredly, to "occupied Arab lands" (or variants on the phrase) knowing that their interviewer or interlocutor will never stop to question them, about the long history of the word "Palestine" (and what it was defined as in Western Christendom) and the brief history of the phrase "Palestinian people," about the real understandings, and weighings of claims, and equities, that lay behind the League of Nations' decision to create, as it created other mandates in the Middle East and elsewhere, the Mandate for Palestine. Nor is much attention given by the BBC, or "The Guardian," or RF1 or "Le Monde," or NPR or any number of newspaper reporters, to another matter: the precise data on demography and land ownership (cadastral records) in what the Western world, but never the Islamic one until the last century, always referred to as "Palestine" or the Holy Land.

How many people discussing "Palestine" realize that in the Ottoman Empire, nearly 90% of the land in the vilayets (and a separate sanjak for Jerusalem) which formed "Palestine" was owned by the Ottoman state? How many know that until the 1948 war, what land the Jews could buy from Arab landlords was bought at exorbitant prices, and at what prices? How many know that the State of Israel is the legitimate and intended successor of the Mandatory authority, Great Britain, which in its turn had inherited the land owned by the Ottoman state? How many know that the entire settled population (i.e., exclusive of the Bedouin who wandered from Egypt to the Arabian desert) of the land that then went to form the "Palestine Mandate" could not, in 1850, have been more than 100,000 in all? How many have bothered to read the accounts of travellers, from Volney to Chateaubriand, to Melville and Mark Twain, who all described the fantastic desolation and ruination of the Holy Land in the 19th century -- until the revival of economic opportunities as the Jews began to come back? Arab in-migration, mostly illegal, exceeded Jewish migration into the very mandatory territory during the entire pre-World War II life of the Mandate.

And, of course, there is always the little matter of that absurd phrase, and more absurd concept, the "Palestinian people" -- a phrase which, if you care to look for it, you will find employed not once prior to the 1967 war by any Arab spokesman or leader anywhere, not in the world's press, not in the Arab press, not in any speech or piece of paper offered up, among the hundreds of thousands of speeches and pieces of paper, offered up on the Arab side, including all those at the United Nations.

Look through the entire U.N. records and try, in 1948, or 1953, or 1956, or 1959, or 1966, to find a single mention of the "Palestinian people."

And you won't find one.

Here's an example of how to use the word "occupied" properly. But before reading the setnence below, first, banish all use of that post-1948 phrase "West Bank" and instead use, unembarrassedly and repeatedly, until it becomes second nature, and until you have forced others to use the terms as well (for it is all by dint of repetition that one succeeds in having right, or wrong, language employed) "Judea and Samaria." These toponyms are not some invention of "Biblical settlers" deliberately changing history by making up terms. They appeared on all the maps throughout the Western world for nearly 2000 years. In the Bible, of course, these placenames came naturally to, among others, Jesus.

And why should you use those terms if they make you at this point just a little bit embarrassed and self-conscious, as if to use them is to identify yourself as some Bible-belt holy-roller, some o Jewish "settler" fanatic? The answer is that you have become a victim of incessant Arab propaganda, and have internalized what that propaganda has so successfully encouraged the world to believe about the venerable Biblical placenames "Judea" and "Samaria." [They never got around to doing the same, amusingly, with the word "Gaza," which is just as Biblical and just as identified with the Jewish history retold in the Old Testament, which is primarily a chronicle, a history, as are "Judea" and "Samaria" -- apparently the Egyptians, still under inattentive King Farouk, never thought it necessary to rename it -- after all, they had seized Gaza and never thought they might lose it again -- as the "Northeastern Bank (of the Nile)"].

But "Judea" and "Samaria" were used by the Jews for more than a thousand years before Jesus began to use those words, and so did all Christians for another nearly 2000 years, until the Arab Muslims came along in 1948 and began to make everyone forget those terms, be embarrassed by those placenames, and instead adopt, for two of the most important, though tiny places, in world history, the absurd phrase "the West Bank" -- a phrase which, of course, has meaning mainly for the Jordanians, and is not even geographically accurate, describing as it does a kind of ear-shaped area, and not a "bank" of land, of similar width along its entire length, parallel to the river in question -- the Jordan -- at all.

If the Arabs ever get their wish, following upon the next "Palestinian" equivalent of the Treaty of al-Hudaibiyya, and go in for the kill, and seize Jerusalem, and then begin calling it Al-Quds (just as the Umayyads seized Christian monuments and claimed them for Islam, not least in Jerusalem), how long would it be before the remaining Christians and Jews in the world would be dutifully calling it "Al-Quds" and looking a bit embarrassed about using that old word "Jerusalem"?

In any case, if you are reading, and still with me, and prepared to use the terms "Judea" and "Samaria" as you should, you are then ready to pronounce the sentence below, which uses the word "occupied" with historical accuracy, and with due attention to the legal rights, under the Mandate, of the various parties. In other words, this sentence does NOT do what the BBC and much of the European press does, when they repeatedly inform us -- quite inaccurately, I'm afraid, that the "Palestinian people" are "struggling" to "get back" their "occupied lands."

The sentence is as follows:

"In Judea and Samaria, lands that were part of the original Mandate for Palestine, and hence intended by that Mandate for the express purpose of establishing the Jewish National Home, and now occupied in large part by Arabs, the Israelis should work to give those local Arabs a degree of autonomy that would be superior to that which the Arabs give to all the non-Arab minorities -- Sudanese blacks, Berbers, Kurds, and so on -- living under their rule, but should be discouraged from yielding up control of any of the territories they now possess, for in order to prevent war in the future, the Muslim Arab forces will be inhibited only where the doctine of "darura," or necessity, can be invoked."

A long sentence but worth the wait, or perhaps one should say it is worth its weight.

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Posted on 03/04/2013 1:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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