40 Years of Misinformation
Sixteen years ago this week the Seattle Times published an op-ed by me, entitled Victory and Territory; Lessons of the 1967 War. I gave some of the background history of the conflict and debunked some widely believed myths.
I find that not much has changed, especially our perceptions, which have if anything have deviated further from the truth with the passing of time.
We have just finished a weekend marked by a well-orchestrated hate-fest against the State of Israel by those claiming they are just trying to be helpful. A review of their arguments is in order.
The most common charge is that we are commemorating 40 years of illegal Israeli “occupation” of lands belonging to a group of people called the Palestinians. Let us turn to the map and locate the “Palestine” Israel invaded. The Sinai clearly belonged to Egypt and was returned in 1982 under the Camp David Accords. The Golan Heights were taken from Syria and are not claimed by anyone else. Their disposition awaits a
Syrian presence at the negotiating table.
The Gaza Strip had been occupied by Egypt and no offer of a state or even autonomy was offered to the Palestinian Arabs. The West Bank had been annexed by Jordan. Both acts were deemed illegal by the almost unanimous vote of the United Nations. Even the entire Arab League voted against their fellow Arab states. The 1964 Charter of the newly founded PLO specifically stated that neither of those areas were considered Palestinian territory.
On June 5, 1967 the only piece of land classified as “occupied Palestine” was Israel within the 1949 armistice lines. The West Bank and Gaza had been offered to the Palestinian Arabs, along with Western Galilee, by the non-binding UN Resolution 181, dated November 29, 1947. It suggested partitioning the land west of Jordan between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. In exchange, the Arabs were to call off their planned war and settle into a state of “economic union” with the Jewish state.
The invasion of six Arab armies on May 15, 1948 made a mockery of that suggestion and Res. 181 was now off the table. What legal authority would dare claim that the Israelis are still bound to surrender land to the Arabs under 181 after they had started a war whose stated aim was to destroy every vestige of Jewish territory? Apparently there are a few still trying to make that argument.
What gave Israel the right to claim any land west of Jordan? Contrary to popular belief, Israel was not created by the UN under Res. 181 in compensation for the tragedy of the Holocaust. All the legal paperwork for the creation of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine was drawn up and ratified by the League of Nations in 1922, eleven years before Hitler came to power in Germany. Article 25 clearly stated that the minimum land allotted to the Jews was all lands west of Jordan. The original draft included lands east of Jordan as well, but Britain gave those lands to the Arabs, creating the state that is now Jordan. It is amazing to read this document surrounded by charges coming from every quarter that Israel illegally expanded to the Jordan in 1967. In the absence of a true peace agreement, the legal owner of all these “occupied” lands is the State of Israel.
Then why does Israel also refer to these lands as “occupied?” When they captured the territories 40 years ago they only annexed East Jerusalem, uniting the Holy City for the first time in 19 years and opening the holy shrines of all faiths to their worshipers. The rest was put into a temporary status, pending the outcome of negotiations. The legal term for such a status is “military occupation.” By not pressing its strong claim to the land and leaving the door open for compromise, Israel is accused of being an illegal occupier.
The other supposed legal case against Israel is that it is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Protocol, written in 1949 to address the abuses of Nazi Germany. We do not need an attorney to expose the absurdity of this claim. Reading only as far as Part I, Article 2, we find that the Convention is meant to apply in war, or when one country is occupying the territory belonging to another. I have already dealt with the fact that Jordan and Egypt were not the legal owners of the territory Israel took from them.
That should settle the matter by itself, but pardon me a bit of overkill. The Convention certainly does not apply when the invading nation has a strong legal and historical claim to the lands in question. Israel has been the only homeland of the Jews for the past 3000 years, despite our wanderings. The eastern boundary is given in Numbers Chap. 34. It is the Jordan River. Jews ruled that land as a sovereign nation for about 1000 years. There has never been an Arab state west of Jordan. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab country, or the seat of the Caliphate.
Add to that the boundaries in the League Mandate mentioned above, giving Israel the right to govern all lands west of Jordan. Whether you consult ancient religious documents or modern diplomatic documents, the eastern boundary of the Land of Israel is the Jordan River, and there are no “occupied territories,” al la Nazi Germany.
The final charge is that the creation of Israel displaced the Arab residents. The Arab population west of Jordan grew explosively from 1917 to 1948, from health improvements and large-scale immigration into Palestine due to improved economic opportunities. The refugees fled from a war, started by their leaders, whose objective was to drive the Jews out of their homes. A similar number of Jews were forced to leave their homes by Arab riots against them. Israel settled all who came there. The Arabs have left their people to rot in camps so that gullible visitors can pity their plight.
Peace will come to the region, and the suffering of the Palestinian people will end, when Arab leaders make their peace with the fact that the Jews have come home to their land.
Together they can build a paradise for all their peoples. The first step is to get the story straight.