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Understanding Israeli Occupation

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.
February 7, 2005

March 31, 2003: It was 3:30 am in California (I was back in the states for work) and received a phone call-now we all know to receive such a call in this hour usually means bad news, the following is what I was told: at 12:40 pm Israeli time, members of my family headed to our weekly group brunch at our favorite outdoor café, the London in Netanya, Israel. It was simply another day, the weekend had arrived, Spring was in the air and the sun was warmly shining upon everyone. Soon a good meal and lots of laughter with our group was to begin. For some reason that morning, as she exited our bank (part of our Friday morning routine) my mate decided to call the group and suggested they move to another outdoor restaurant. Twenty minutes later eyewitnesses reported that a soldier saw a suspicious-looking Arab attempting to enter the crowded London Cafe in Independence Square, and prevented him from doing so. This terrorist then turned to a group of soldiers walking close by the London, and blew himself up adjacent to them. Dozens injured, many who severely suffer to this day. Intuition saved my mate's life and those of our friends. So much pain, so much destruction, all done on a beautiful Spring day-no one thought as they awoke this morning that a few hours later they would be lying in their own blood and that of many others. How did we arrive at this barbaric act?

The justification for the preceding act of terror and horror is Israel's occupation of Palestinian land. No matter who speaks on behalf of the Palestinian people, its leaders, its terrorist groups or its people, we are told that the illegal occupation by Israel is THE cause of the problems in the area. Before addressing this issue, let the preceding vignette into your mind's eye that one group justifies attacking and murdering innocent civilians as well as soldiers because they say that Israel is illegally on their land. This is normal human behavior? Furthermore, the international community has assisted this kind of thinking by accepting a particular point of view not grounded in fact or truth. If you question Westerners, really quiz them about the context and the perspective surrounding the occupation you discover that many do not know the history, nor do they have a basic understanding of this region of the world. However, they do feel comfortable repeating revisionist history, misrepresented legal statements, and manipulated news stories.

So much has been written about occupation-an internet search alone yields over 2,100,000 hits. With very few exceptions there is always something missing in these pieces-context and perspective! Most of the reports provide only a snapshot of the phenomena called occupation and intentionally do so to support a political position. This kind of reporting clearly misrepresents historical facts and legal documentation.

A gentle reminder before proceeding: reality is a person's perception of events. It does not matter if this perception is supported by the facts or by truth. This is precisely what has occurred with the concept of Israeli occupation. Perception can be managed, even altered by intentionally framing any circumstance, situation or event in a manner that supports an individual or a group's position. Much of the world leadership has acted in accordance with the misperception and misrepresentation of facts-their motivation is self-interest.

Dore Gold1 suggested the following reasons why distortion of the truth serves the Palestinian cause: Three clear purposes seem to be served by the repeated references to "occupation" or "occupied Palestinian territories." First, Palestinian spokesmen hope to create a political context to explain and even justify the Palestinians' adoption of violence and terrorism during the current intifada. Second, the Palestinian demand of Israel to "end the occupation" does not leave any room for territorial compromise in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as suggested by the original language of UN Security Council Resolution 242. Third, the use of "occupied Palestinian territories" denies any Israeli claim to the land: had the more neutral language of "disputed territories" been used, then the Palestinians and Israel would be on an even playing field with equal rights. Additionally, by presenting Israel as a "foreign occupier," advocates of the Palestinian cause can de-legitimize the Jewish historical attachment to Israel.

Let us put into context two primary arguments supporting the idea that Israel illegally occupies Palestine: history of the region and international law that purports to sanction Palestinian positions.

For purposes of this paper the historical timeline begins 1947/1948 and yet what occurred prior to this date is also necessary as it provides an expanded context for events that took place after 1948. Let's begin by agreeing that Jews and Arabs resided in what is known today as Israel Proper as well as in the territories called Gaza and the West Bank during this time.

History tells the tale:

On November 29, 1947 Palestine's Arab leadership rejected the United Nations' plan to partition the country into a Jewish and an Arab state.

On May 14, 1948 Israel became a sovereign country recognized by the United States and many other countries as a member of the world community of nations. The British (recognized legal controlling agents of this area) left the country- Five Arab armies (Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq) invaded Israel.

The Arab countries were defeated and then they signed armistice agreements with Israel in 1949, starting with Egypt (Feb. 24), followed by Lebanon, Jordan and Syria (July 20). None of the Arab states would negotiate a peace agreement.

Roughly 650,00 Arabs left Israel and around 650,000 Jews were expelled from surrounding Arab countries during the War of independence (numbers vary depending on your political connection). The Jews were absorbed into Israel while the abandoned Arabs were intentionally not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands they ran to in spite of the vast Arab territory adjacent to Israel.

Crucial to note two distinctions: the Arabs were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders who promised to rid the land of Jews while the Jews were expelled, they lost everything, homes, monies, clothing, books-everything. Fleeing Arabs lost as well. Please note that 68% of the Arabs left Israel never seeing an Israeli militia or soldier. Second distinction to note is that of the 100,000,000 refugees created since WWII, the Arab (Palestinian) group is the ONLY ONE in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own peoples' lands. Please also note that 150,000 Arabs did remain inside Israel Proper (now numbering 1.2 million) and they were granted Israeli citizenship. These Arabs have their own political parties, are members of the Israeli Knesset, and have all the citizenship privileges as Jews in Israel. The freest Arabs live in Israel!

An observation by a Palestinian who was a child in 1948- Sarah El Shazly2: The fact is that the Arab world warned us against staying with the Jews. They also warned us that Arabs were going to fight the Zionists and that Palestinians should leave to avoid getting hurt. Many trusted these Arab leaders and left as instructed…my family stayed home…Jews begged Arabs to stay and live with them…the ones who remained still live there today and prosper.

Her next remark bares repeating and remembering: Palestinians have gotten the short end of the stick in Arab society. It suits Arab leaders to keep this group in a state of poverty and conflict and to channel all resentment toward the Jews. You don't believe me? Ask yourself why Jordan or Egypt or Syria never gave the Palestinians a country?

Up until 1948, Gaza and Judea and Samaria (West Bank) were part of the British Mandate. Let's get history correct-both Egypt and Jordan illegally occupied the respective territories of Gaza and the West Bank from 1948-1967. Jordan illegally annexed this territory-neither international law nor the Arab countries recognized Jordan's annexation.

From 1948/1950 until 1967 Egypt and Jordan controlled and ruled over their respective territories. They established refugee camps for the fleeing Arabs, never developed an infrastructure for them and life was difficult.

Another observation by Sarah El Shazly: Let's go to the refugees ... (the Arabs) they stuck Palestinians in camps with deplorable living conditions. Why didn't they (Jordan and Egypt) leave them alone in their homes? Why promise them refuge and reward them with nothing more than prison camps? And most of all why didn't they provide Palestinians with homes in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights when Arabs had control over them?

It is crucial to note that not once, during this occupation by Arab states was there a move toward Palestinian nationalization. Not until 1967 did Arab refugees begin to identify themselves as part of a Palestinian people-this is 20 years after the establishment of the state of Israel and under the administration of fellow Arabs.

In 1967, after the six-Day War, these territories (originally meant for the Jewish nation's homeland according to the British mandate charter) returned to Israeli control.

Yes, Israel has been inside the two territories from the 1967 War until today. A reminder, Israel was attacked by Arab nations; all sovereign countries-Israel defeated them in six days. This gets us to the legal myths that surround these same territories.

International Law explains why Israel is allowed into these disputed territories:

If one uses international law and/or resolutions to justify its claim, then one must be prepared to accurately clarify his/her position given the provided documents. In addition, when others or I call into question the interpretation or truthfulness of the use of these same documents, be prepared to defend the position rather than misdirect the conversation to another topic. Policy based upon lies, revisionist history and misrepresentation of the truth is illegal, immoral and unethical. In order to truly understand the rationale for a law or resolution you must also place this within the historical context of the time; there is a cause and effect relationship.

Former Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court3 wrote in the 1970s that there is no de jure application of the fourth Geneva Convention regarding occupied territories to the case of Gaza or of the West Bank. Why? Illegal occupation is based upon the assumption that there had been a sovereign who was ousted and that he had been a legitimate sovereign. Thus, those who use the Geneva Convention to justify Palestine's current status are incorrect; if they continuously use this argument they are lying. Why? There was and currently is no such country known as Palestine. It is important to understand that in many other cases in recent history (Cyprus, Kurile Islands, Abu Musa) in which a country's border was crossed due to armed conflict and had its sovereign territory seized, the term of occupation was never used-it seems only when it comes to Israel that the stigma as Israel the aggressor has gained wide spread acceptance.

From Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian spokesperson and darling of CNN to Mustafa Barghouti, Marwan Barghouti (jailed head of PLO Fatah), university professors and TV's commentators, they all repeat the mantra of illegal occupation as the root cause of the problems. Curiously, if you listen carefully or read with due diligence you are often hard pressed to learn which international law they are referring. If they do refer to some international law they either talk in generalities, never addressing the specific part of the law that justifies their position or they misrepresent a document as being international law, e.g., UN Resolution 194.

I am not an international lawyer so read my comments as one who examines the world critically and carefully after having thoroughly examined the presented material. It is safe to say that international jurists make a clear distinction between situations of aggressive conquest and territorial disputes that are the result from a war of self-defense. The noted former Head of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Stephen Schwebel4, wrote in 1970: Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title. This statement requires an accurate accounting of historical events in order for the truth to be told. There is a direct and binding relation between international law and facts on the ground. Historical sequence of events is critical to understand resultant legal documents. For Judge Schwebel's statement to matter, understand that June 5, 1967, Israel only entered the West Bank after repeated Jordanian artillery fire as well as ground movements across the armistice borders. Jordan began their action at 10 am, Israel warned Jordan via the UN at 11 am, the attacks continued. Therefore, at 12:45 pm Israel took proper military action. Jordan's actions had revoked the validity of the armistice signed with Israel. This alone gave Israel legal right to enter the West Bank.

The most abused resolutions used against Israel are UN Resolutions 194 and 242. Palestinian leaders, its people and other supporters use these documents regularly to claim that these resolutions give Palestinians the right of return to Israel and right of the land in the territories. These claims are inaccurate, incorrect and baseless. Those who say otherwise are ignorant, intellectually lazy or intellectually dishonest, or have a political agenda contrary to Israel's rights in these same territories.

UN resolutions fall into two categories: those emanating from the General Assembly and those coming out of the Security Council. Resolutions from the General assembly are not binding legally and serve only as recommendations, e.g., UN 194. Those resolutions exiting the Security Council are binding, e.g., UN242/338 and the international membership of the United Nations have agreed to honor such resolutions. For specifics on each of the afore-mentioned resolutions much has been written-go to the internet and you will find hundreds of thousands of sites.

UN Resolution 194

Created December 11,1948 to address the refugee issue which was the result of Israel's War of independence-it was a non-binding document.

It recommended that the Arab states and Israel resolve all outstanding issues through negotiations

The UN recognized that Israel could not be expected to repatriate a hostile population that could endanger its security. Thus, the suggested solution to this problem, like in all previous refugee problems, would require at least some Arabs to be resettled in Arab lands.

At this moment in history, Israel did not expect the refugees to be a major issue; Israel thought the Arab states would resettle the majority of the people and that compromise on the others would be forth coming.

Arab states rejected this UN resolution!

Interesting that at the time in history when this resolution was created, Arabs flat out rejected it. Now, it is the resolution they hang their hat on when it comes to justifying their actions.

The current dispute over the territories is allegedly the result of Israel's decision to occupy, rather than as a result of a war imposed upon Israel by the coalition of Arab states in June of 1967. However, UN Resolution 242, which serves as the basis for the 1991 Madrid Conference, precursor to Oslo, and the so-called 1993 Declaration of Principles, gave Israel rights within the territories. I know this is contrary to what is common knowledge and accepted belief. This resolution has been the corner stone of the PA's stance toward occupation. To put this politely, the PA and almost all other Arab nations and some Western nations have intentionally misled the public with regards to what the resolution said and required of all parties.

UN Resolution 242

Created November 22,1967 to serve as guidelines for a peace settlement to the 6-day war.

The most controversial clause in UN 242 is: Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict-this is THE portion of the resolution that Palestinian and other Arabs use to justify that Israel is illegally occupying their land.

It is worth repeating that the words the or all and the June5, 1967 lines were not used in the language of this resolution. The history of this document is a paper unto itself and the topic is worth re-visiting to best understand my words. Thus 242 only speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of the withdrawal-this according to Arthur Goldberg, American Ambassador to the UN in 1967. This implicitly indicates that Israel has rights in these same territories.

Clearly stated in this resolution is the notion that Israel would not be required to withdraw without prior agreement of peace. In other words, the resolution does not make Israel leave as a prerequisite for Arab action.

UN 242 does not specify how much territory Israel is required to give up

The resolution clearly requires Arab states to make peace with Israel and demands secure and recognized boundaries.

Finally, it is important to remember that Palestinians are NOT mentioned anywhere in this resolution. Nor does it require that Palestinians be given any territory or political rights. On Oct. 15, 1968 the PLO rejected UN 242.

Fact :the use of the generic term refugees. This was used to deliberately acknowledge there were two refugee problems-the Arabs and the Jews.

These are but the highlights of a few of the legal arguments used to falsely claim that Israel is illegally occupying the territories. It is true that Israel had taken up occupancy in the West Bank and Gaza territories as was and is their legal right to do so. Israel is well within her legal rights to be in these areas according to the UN resolutions I have presented as well as some documents I have not shared due to limited space. Couple the documents with historical statements and behavior (context), and you can better understand the truth. How do today's PA leaders, media analysts and university professors reconcile the following examples of occupancy discourse with their own justifications? The PLO's first leader an Egyptian, Ahmed Shukairy is remembered for saying on May 31, 1956, to the UN Security Council: It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria.

Is this not another disconnect from the revised history you have learned? I find it amazing that using the PLO's own words of record, using their own published documents that the world has remained so gullible.

Additionally, upon examination of the PLO Charter, Article 24, the claims that the West Bank or Gaza are part of "historic Palestine" are nonsense-here is, in part, what their own document says: This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, [or] on the Gaza Strip...

There is ample international legal evidence, legal opinion and legal testimony that has established Israel's legal rights to these territories. From the 1922 League of Nations mandate, to the United Nation's Article 80 of its Charter, to UN resolution 181, through to UN 242. As interpreted by a multitude of legal scholars, Israel has justification for its case concerning the territories of Gaza and the West Bank. I do find it most interesting that the international community has chosen to look the other way or use other self-serving interpretations for events that have happened in the following locales: Kashmir, Azerbaijan, Western Sahara, and many others.

Oslo Accords (I & II)

Signed September 13, 1993 the Oslo Accords were signed and they provided an opportunity for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Accords clearly gave Israel permission to be in the territories that are in dispute to this day.

It is crucial to understand that the Oslo Accords were yet another attempt to develop a peace agreement with the Palestinians -these accords are a continuation of decades old process that had their start after the 6-day war in 1967 with continuation after the 1973 war-two wars in which Arab countries attacked Israel.

On September 28, 1995 Israelis and Palestinians signed yet another deal known as the "Interim Agreement" or "Oslo 2." This agreement allowed for a second stage of autonomy for the Palestinians, giving them self-rule in the cities of Bethlehem, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Tulkarm, parts of Hebron and 450 villages, while allowing Israeli-guarded Jewish settlements to remain.

The Oslo 2 agreement divided the West Bank and Gaza into three areas, each with distinctive borders and rules for administration and security controls: Areas A (the Palestinian Authority now has full responsibility for internal security and public order, as well as full responsibility for civil affairs), B (Israel maintains overriding security authority in order to safeguard its citizens and to combat terrorism), C (Israel retains full responsibility for security). This agreement, signed by the Palestinian leadership, gives Israel overriding security authority in order to safeguard its citizens and to combat terrorism.

Furthermore, on Oct. 26, 1994, Jordan relinquished West Bank control to Israel and just with this fact alone, one cannot authentically argue that Israel is an occupier.

Note that 98 per cent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has come under Palestinian jurisdiction and has also transferred 40 spheres of civilian authority to the PA. With these agreements Israel was granted legal rights to the territories and was and continues to be legally allowed to be inside these same territories.

International law (Geneva Convention, article 6; Hague Regulations) land is considered occupied when it is under the actual control of the occupier. Even the most reluctant observer must admit that since Oslo, Israel has not occupied the territories

To this day, the agreed upon stages of the Accords (Interim Plan) have yet to be realized. A second Intifada is currently being waged against Israel, Road Map not withstanding.

You can't abuse and misrepresent international agreements to justify your position and then turn around and dismiss these same agreements as anti-Arab and/or as anti-Muslim when we challenge the Palestinian interpretation and contradictory use of these same agreements.

We live in a world committed to co-existence. For this to occur we either all live by a set of common agreements or we live in anarchy produced through terrorism, fear and war. I understand that today's generation of Palestinian youth and young adults as well as much of generation X in the West believe that Palestine has been illegally occupied by Israel-why? There are two reasons: the Palestinian leadership made a conscious decision to teach and preach revised history, they made Palestinians victims, they distorted the legal facts and have intentionally misled two generations; it is time for the truth to be told. For politicians to act as they do, this is another story, well worth an explanation!

Additionally the press has not served as the critical voice the public deserves or expects from its media and it accepted revisionist history thereby erroneously creating an improper context of events as they have unfolded here in our area of the world. Although true that everyone is entitled to his/her opinion; however, you are not entitled to make up your own facts!


  1. Gold, Dore, From occupied Territories to disputed territories, posted Jerusalem Letter, Jan.16, 2002
  2. El Shazly, Sarah, What Really happened in 1948?, posted Front Page magazine, December 28, 2004
  3. Shamgar, Meir, Former Chief justice of Supreme Court argued in contrast to President Carter's position subsequently the Reagan and Bush administrations changed the legal determination in the 1980's
  4. Schwebel, Stephen, International Court of justice, as reported by Dore Gold, Jan.16, 2002

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