How to defeat the myth of the Israeli “occupation” with facts

Violent attacks by Israel’s enemies exact a high price in Jewish blood. But attacks in the media and by international organizations also exact a high price – in goodwill and in political and economic support among Israel’s friends and partners around the world.

Most anti-Israeli attacks in the media take the form of lies – from apartheid to ethnic genocide to the slaughter of Palestinian children.

These “big lies” have sharp edges. Words have a powerful emotional impact…that makes them sting when they land. But because these words – apartheid, genocide, massacre – have common specific meanings, they are also relatively easy to refute.

Indeed, by no rational stretch of the meaning of these words, Israel cannot be guilty of such slander. No separation or discrimination against citizens by race or ethnic origin – no apartheid. No methodical mass murder of people because of their race or ethnicity – no genocide. No targeted and deliberate killing of innocent children, no massacre.

But a defamatory accusation persists, largely because the lie is so simple and its meaning so vague and diffuse: occupation.

We occupy a hotel room, a restaurant table. Protesters occupy the college president’s office. The word implies the ephemeral.

Thus, in the mainstream and social media – as well as in the reports of UN agencies and some NGOs – we learn that Israel “occupies Palestinian territory”. That lie would be bad enough. But some of these comments raise the stakes, going as far as calling Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) an “illegal occupation”. This assertion is often reinforced by citing a “consensus of international opinion” or the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Just as words like apartheid and genocide have real definitions, the term “occupation” has a strict definition under international law and precedent.

First, just because a preponderance of countries at the United Nations vote to condemn the Israeli “occupation” does not mean that it is illegal. In fact, the notorious anti-Israel voting habits of UN members are well documented.

To make a more precise point on this subject: the opinions expressed by the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations, whatever their number, do not make international law.

Second, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention to prove that Israel illegally “occupies” Judea and Samaria reveals equally serious flaws in the anti-Zionist argument.

It is true that a provision of the Convention provides that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its civilian population to the territory which it occupies”.

However, according to international legal expert Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason University’s Scalia Law School, “Under international law, occupation occurs when a country takes control of the sovereign territory of a other country”.

However, the Palestinian Arabs never had sovereignty over any part of the Holy Land.

Palestinians never ruled any land until Israel ceded control of parts of Judea and Samaria as part of the Oslo Accords in 1993-95, then unilaterally left Gaza in 2005.

On the contrary, Judea and Samaria were illegally seized by Jordan in 1949 – during Israel’s War of Independence – when the Jordanians ethnically cleansed it of all Jews.

Notably, the Jordanians did not offer the Palestinian Arabs a state on this land…nor did the Palestinians ask for one. They did not try to form a state or claim the land until Israel conquered it.

The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, approved by its successor, the United Nations, actually included Judea and Samaria within its borders. Thus, according to Kontorovich, when Jordan attacked Israel in 1967 and was expelled from it, under international law and practice, the new dominant country “inherits the borders of the previous geopolitical unity in that territory”.

In other words, when Israel defeated Jordan, the sovereignty of Judea and Samaria legally reverted to the Jewish state.

Moreover, in 1994, Israel concluded an unconditional peace with the defeated sovereign nation, Jordan. This, also according to international law, would in any case put an end to any alleged state of occupation.

As for the forced displacement of citizens to conquered land, Israel never “deported or transferred” part of its population to Judea and Samaria. While it is true that many Israeli citizens have established communities in these territories, this was never done at the request of the Israeli government or organized by it.

Rather, these Jewish communities were established voluntarily by passionate Jews seeking to live in their former native homeland, including families who had been driven out in 1948.

While the State of Israel did not object to many of these Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, there is no restriction in the Geneva Convention that in any way obliges the heir to the new territory to do it.

Finally, we should remind those, like the UN Special Commission of Inquiry, like Amnesty International and like the UK government’s official travel advice page – all of which refer to the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” in their communications – that many countries in the world are really busy under international law.

Consider this: Russia occupies the sovereign states of Georgia and Ukraine, Turkey occupies northern Cyprus, Morocco occupies Western Sahara, and Indonesia occupies East Timor. All these occupiers transferred their nationals to their occupied territories to fortify the illegal occupations.

When was the last time the United Nations—or The New York Times, NPR Where CNN— covered, let alone condemned, those true illegal occupants who unquestionably violate the Fourth Geneva Convention?

It seems that only Israel is systematically reprimanded for “occupying” land – to which it has ironclad legal rights – even as real criminals under the Fourth Geneva Convention are given a pass.

In short, Israel is not an occupier under international law…and it certainly does not occupy “Palestinian territory”, since the Palestinian Arabs have never owned or controlled any territory.

Moreover, the media, the United Nations and many NGOs ignore the flagrant and indefensible violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention by many countries, while attacking the clear rights of Israel to control Judea and Samaria until that the Palestinians agree to make peace.

James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misconceptions about Israel and its relationship with the United States.

James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misconceptions about Israel and its relationship with the United States.

Michael A. Bynum