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Report that claims 'there is no occupation' presents an opportunity

What is behind the left’s anger at a government commission report that rejects the existence of the occupation? The report presents an opportunity to replace empty political rhetoric and legality with a focus on facts on the ground.

By Itamar Mann

The Israeli left responded with a mixture of laughter and rage to former Justice Edmond Levy’s report on the status of the West Bank and its claim that “there is no occupation.” One commentator particularly baffled was human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, who wrote that the “report was written in Wonderland, governed by the laws of absurdity.” Instead of the laws of absurdity, Sfard wants us to continue embracing the laws of war.

Such responses reflect confusion. Their underlying assumption is that claiming what is going on in the West Bank is not an occupation means morally accepting it. But even though the report fails to describe the domination of Palestinian life in the West Bank, that conclusion does not follow. Why, then, are so many of us, within Israel-Palestine and internationally, so attached to the occupation category?

One of the central arguments the report makes is that the West Bank is not occupied, because occupation is a temporary situation. Israeli control in the West Bank, on the other hand, has no end in sight. This argument sounds quite pernicious. It assumes that just because Israel took violent custody over this area, it gained rights to it. However, while it is true that 20th century international law has forbidden the acquisition of land by force, such movements from fact to norm are not unfamiliar to international lawyers.

A more constructive approach should embrace parts of the conclusions, instead of rejecting it wholesale. The strategic goal should be to point out what does follow logically from sovereignty over the West Bank. West Bank Palestinians must immediately be granted the right to citizenship and political participation. Not granting such rights would augment growing accusations of apartheid against Israel. Alongside possible investigations by the International Criminal Court, this would fuel the transnational movement for democracy in Israel-Palestine – which Israelis and Palestinians are of course part of.

The occupation paradigm has historically served Israeli governments to fend off criticism by pretending to negotiate, and this report sends a clear message to audiences abroad. The golden age of negotiation is long gone. Rather than waiting for a messianic conclusion to “peace talks,” pro-democracy citizens of the world must support likeminded Palestinians and Israelis right now.

Make no mistake – regardless of the conclusions, the legal reasoning in the report is flawed. Many arguments are omitted in what seems to be an intentional mischaracterization of the standard legal position on this issue. This sloppy work seriously reduces the credibility of the report. However, the report does laudably capture what has been happening on the ground for a long time now. It exposes how the settlements were a premeditated project fostered by Israeli governments, and that there was consequently never a serious intention to allow the Palestinians to exercise self-determination. The Israeli left has been making these claims for years. Why should we discard them when they come from a committee appointed by a far-right government?

As Noam Sheizaf pointed out, the argument that the West Bank is “not occupied” because the Jordanians never acquired legitimate authority there is not new. But Levy’s report does reflect a refreshing willingness for international legal creativity. It does not abandon the legal method all together, but unabashedly connects often-abstract legal doctrine with political power and political will. We must learn from that. It is imperative to develop new normative vocabularies instead of the familiar fetishism for the international law, as interpreted in Geneva. The latter may aim to protect humans from arbitrary state violence, but has nothing serious to say about freedom. Its underlying purpose is bodily integrity, not the liberation of the soul.

Abandoning the occupation paradigm will enable us to rethink self-determination for both groups much more ambitiously. It will encourage us – Israelis and Palestinians – to address real-life grievances on our own, not wait for some future remedy from the High Court of Justice, which in any case has failed.

One way to start would be to shift focus. The last bastion of human rights the report addresses – after it has done away with occupation – is the right to property under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An obvious different focus is the right to citizenship. Instead of focusing on buildings and land, a report premised on equal rights will focus on men, women, children, voting, discrimination, and access to public services, such as water.

Such reports may seem to already exist – ignored because weak human rights organizations rather than strong governments write them. That is partly true, but standard human rights reports are all written through the occupation prism. They are therefore limited in what they can wish for, and cannot offer changes to the structure of the regime.

Like Levy’s, such a report will depart from existing doctrine by redefining domestic institutions. Some may say it will describe a wonderland, as it will require cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, which doubtless seems like a dream. But those who fight to preserve the occupation paradigm are the ones currently ignoring the reality.

The strongest argument for the occupation paradigm is that without it we have no law at all, which makes it ostensibly impossible to speak truth to power. But we should admit that, almost invariably, the only body that gains from this paradigm, which pretends that Palestinians and Israelis are divisible, is a government always seeking to divide us further.

Itamar Mann is a doctoral candidate at Yale Law School.

Read also:
Panel appointed by Netanyahu concludes: There is no occupation
‘Nonexistent occupation’ memes go viral in social media

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Richard SM

      Is the Levy Committee’s view that it never was occupation in the first place, or that it was an occupation but can no longer considered so now? If the latter, at what point do they believe it changed?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      The report does not assert Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank. It asserts an Israeli or rather a Jewish legal claim over the West Bank with certain associated rights pending final resolution of the nature of the territory. There are other claims, so the territory is disputed and not currently a part of Israel. Arguing for the absence of a state of military occupation does not directly translate into arguing for sovereignty or annexation.

      Reply to Comment
    3. XYZ

      Thank you, Kolumn9 for injecting sanity into this discussion. This, by the way, has always been the position of the government and which has given the green light to building the settlements in the territories.
      This has been twisted and distorted the way Gold Meir’s comment that there are no Palestinians….she never said there were no Arabs living in the country. She was just pointing out that they did not have a national identity as “Palestinians” because before 1948 the Arabs rejected the term and so the term Palestinian meant “Jew” in Eretz Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      Have I got this right? The report allows Jews to build and live in the unoccupied territories as Israeli citizens. Palestinians are unpeople. As nothings equal to features of a landscape, they do not need right to protection, accommodation, nourishment, schooling, work. If they do get to benefit from one or perhaps more of these, it’s because we’re a kind, generous people. But y’know, sooner or later, like our infiltrators, they’ll have to go.
      .
      Such rulings must be why the world’s 1% boast that they prefer to hire Jewish lawyers.

      Reply to Comment
    5. XYZ

      SH-
      Comments like yours always ignore the fact that the Palestinians have their own autonomous regime that is given considerable financial support by the outside world. They get “schooling, work, nourishment, accomodation and protection” from their own autonomous Palestinian Authority regime. I am sure you really know that. If the Palestinians don’t like the way it is run, they should change it and improve it. They are not “starving” and they are not failing to be schooled and they have a higher standard of living than Jordanians, Syrians or Egyptians.
      The Jewish community before 1948 in the country was also under British occupation, but they also had an autonomous internal government under the Jewish Agency. They built up the infrastructure of the future state while living under the British occupation Mandatory regime. Interestingly enough the British offered the Arabs to also set up an autonomous Arab Agency but the Arabs turned it down because it would have involved collecting taxes from the Arab population in the same way Jews paid taxes to their autnomous gov’t, and the Arabs would have had to choose who would run it which would lead to a civil war. That is a big reason that they never got their political act together.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Rafael

      Never I’ve seen in a serious democracy this sort of collusion and submission by the courts to the agenda, the illegal agenda, of other chambers of power. Is Israel a banana republic?

      Reply to Comment
    7. PAUL

      Whilst a declaration of Non-Occupation doesn’t translate into annexation/Israeli sovereign status… are there any geographical entities in the world that is disputed territory, whereby one group of people are citizens of a State and another group mixed amongst them are citizens of no-where…

      The answer is in some ways its irrelevant..this is splitting of international legal hairs.. it doesn’t look good, if the occupation “doesn’t exist” and Jewish residents can vote in the Knesset whilst their Arab neighbours cant… its increasingly hard to argue this is not apartheid… a whole new world of potentially positive possibilities are opening up…

      The “left” should embrace the logic that after 45 years is not “occupation”….

      Reply to Comment
    8. Shlomo Krol

      Kolumn9 and XYZ claim, that this territory is neither Israel nor it is occupied. It is alittle bit Israel and alittle bit occupied. When it comes to the “right of Jews to settle there”, than this territory has been for so long under the Israeli control, than it is alittle bit Israel, just enough Israel to deem the land grab legal. When it comes to the rights for the people living there, than it is not Israel: three generations of people under the Israeli military control are not enough to deem these people deserving rights. They can only have rights in their autonomous regime which would care for their schooling, nourishing and accomodation, so that Israel would get rid of this burden, but which would not have any sovereignty over the land, which is alittle but Israeli land, just enough to build there Jewish only settlements.
      Such regime has name. It is called apartheid. Apartheid is considered crime against humanity by the international law. Israel has been committing this crime for more than four decades. Israel cannot commit crime against humanity and call itself democracy, consider itself victim, or claim it belongs to the advanced world and count on advanced world’s support. Apartheid is not sustainable, if we don’t dismantle it, it will fall down on our heads and it is going to be very, very painful. This is tertium not datum: either it is temporary occupation and then the settlements are illegal or it is permanent annexation and then Palestinians from Nablus and Gaza have the same right to establish outposts in Gush Dan as Jews have right to establish outposts in Samaria. Either this or that, there’s no “aliitle this and alitte that”, there’s no “something in between”.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Y-Man

      @Kolumn 9 “certain associated rights pending final resolution of the nature of the territory”…so when can we expect this “final resolution of the nature of the territory? It’s been about, what, 46 years? Are they still making their minds up? Waiting for things to shake out? This is a really, really hard question, huh!?! We have so-called “facts on the ground,” and then we have elaborately worded faux-legalistic bullshit like “It asserts an Israeli or rather a Jewish legal claim over the West Bank with certain associated rights pending final resolution of the nature of the territory. There are other claims, so the territory is disputed and not currently a part of Israel.” What? Ridiculous.

      @Shlomo Krol Boy you hit the nail on the head.

      Reply to Comment
    10. sh

      “They get “schooling, work, nourishment, accomodation and protection” from their own autonomous Palestinian Authority regime. I am sure you really know that. ”
      The Palestinian Authority regime is not autonomous in its capacity to protect life and limb. It is not autonomous in its ability to protect livelihood or administer water sources or even to travel between the separate bits and bobs that are supposed to be under its jurisdiction, the so-called Area A that should of course be known as Areas A. As you well know Israel is responsible for security in Area B – we all know whose security we’re talking about; hint: not that of Palestinians – and area C comprises an unrecognizably swollen Jerusalem full of unprotected Palestinians.
      .
      The prize for the celebrated intricacy of these brilliant arrangements goes to Hebron though, which has the unique distinction of containing areas A, B and C.
      And I haven’t told you one repugnant thing that you didn’t already know.

      Reply to Comment
    11. sh

      That was for XYZ

      Reply to Comment
    12. Kolumn9

      @Shlomo, Don’t be so dramatic and stop pretending that this is a binary case where the land can either be Israeli or occupied and that there are no other possibilities. There are multiple cases in the world of non self-governing territories which are neither occupied nor annexed by their current controllers.
      .

      The fact that the land has no sovereign is public knowledge. The Jordanian occupation did not change this fact, nor did it remove the rights of Jews to settle the land as per previous international commitments. The land is not a part of Israel, but Israel in the name of the Jewish people stakes a claim. There is no contradiction here whatsoever. The Arabs too have a claim on the land, so the only possible resolution is to determine the best way to partition the land so that both parties can move on.
      .

      @Y-man, the idea that the resolution of this issue is a unilateral Israeli burden is silly. It is as if for you the Palestinians and Arabs do not exist indeed and have no agency in the matter. The Jewish people have a historical and religious claim to Judea and Samaria and a legal claim sanctioned under international law since the San Remo conference of 1920. All these rights and claims are still active. There will be no determination of the final status of this territory until the parties sit down, put their claims on the table and figure out a way to work towards an outcome that is sustainable and advantageous to all sides.

      Reply to Comment
    13. It also provides the perfect impetus for the Palestinian Authority to be completely dissolved, and then for the responsibility for governing the millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank to fall squarely on the shoulders of Israel.

      The National, July 3, 2012 – ‘West Bank faces cash crisis after $100 million IMF request is rejected’
      http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/west-bank-faces-cash-crisis-after-100m-imf-request-is-rejected

      Reply to Comment
    14. Y-Man

      @Kolumn9 – the final status of this territory IS determined! The Israelis have controlled it and colonized it for 46 years! You guys simply have to shit or get off the pot– make Israel a Jewish Apartheid state with Arabs in the territories as second class citizens (because your holy book promises it to you) or give them equal rights. It’s really that simple. This pussy-footing around with “well, we’ve all gotta sit down and hash this out” is so cynical and disingenuous, and it allows Israel to neither shit nor get off the pot. Peace talks in this case are like discussing how two parties will split a pizza while one party is already just eating the pizza. The IDF, all these Jewish settlement organizations, and best of all that ridiculous Jewish forestation thing, all change the “facts on the ground,” ie build a giant motherfucking barrier in a land that has been occupied for 46 years. Meanwhile, jawing idly about how “the Jews and the Arabs just need to sit down and hash things out as adults” allows people like you to seem moderate and reasonable while in fact tacitly consenting to, if not actively aiding, the grinding process of land (and water) grabbing.

      Reply to Comment
    15. “The strategic goal should be to point out what does follow logically from sovereignty over the West Bank. West Bank Palestinians must immediately be granted the right to citizenship and political participation. Not granting such rights would augment growing accusations of apartheid against Israel.”
      .
      I think this is implicitly what Noam was arguing several months ago when he suggested “just let the settlements proceed.” They cannot be stopped under the present regime in any case, so let that regime win, to find itself facing charges of overt legal discrimination in a single jurisdiction. But the Palestinian Authority will be retained to prevent such a single jurisdiction view, thereby allowing the IDF to occupy nothing while limiting foregin lives for the security of the State.
      .
      I think Abbas’ hysterical threat to dissolve the PA was linked to this continuing encroachment; at some point, the PA will be viewed as a client entity if it cannot deliver real citizenship to its people.
      .
      Realistically you will have a client Authority period, eliding into demands for uniform citizenship. Non-occupation will morph into governance without representation, and the Israeli courts will have to deny in an increasingly frequent count such claims of nonrepresentation and citizenship. Violence will break out, likely more than once. If everyone is lucky, a largely nonviolent movement with teeth (able to inflict economic damage) will emerge. At the end of many long days and nights, Israel will admit forms of secondary citizenship, perhaps in economic rights, until finally the values of its Declaration of Independence, which I continue to believe will not die, will force a bi-national State where the dream of a Jewish majority is lost.
      .
      Security fears, and the rape of suicide bombing, has lead to this juncture. The Israeli polity seems unable to understand it has won the security war and, as any national populace, does not what to see what the apparatus does to the enemy. (See Mark Twain’s “War Prayer,” denied publication by one journal in his lifetime, published after his death.)
      .
      The legal arguments for equal protection must continue to be made, and they will. So too must those West Bankers devoted to nonviolence while denying the servitude of their lives also continue to act. Even though, in both cases, the result for now and next day will be mostly futile. I can see telling a devoted leftist NGO to keep going. But how can I ask those living in the Bank to keep trying? I dearly hope they do, for they are our–an our beyond Israel yet including it–hope, yet they must live the futility and often humiliation. I don’t live that; they do. A lot to ask of people I will never meet.

      Reply to Comment
    16. XYZ

      Everyone here is whining “why isn’t Israel ending the occupation”? This isn’t the question. The real question is “why don’t the Palestinians want to end the occupation”? With Olmert’s acquittal yesterday, Ha’aretz and others are resurrecting his “peace plan” that he offered to Abbas, and which Abbas rejected, as Condo Rice reports (yes, Abbas is calling her a liar, but she is no friend of Israel and has no reason to lie about this).
      Olmert offered what you know and what I know is the “deal everyone knows the terms of” which is withdrawal of Israel more or less to the pre-67 lines, division of Jerusalem and removal of most if not all the settlers in the West Bank. As I said, Abbas rejected it. The sticking point in the “right of return” (ROR)of the Palestinian refugees. If a Palestinian leader offered to give it up, or accept a “symbolic” return of, say, 50,000, no Israeli leader would be able to turn it down, including Netanyahu,. The WHOLE WORLD would demand Israel accept these supposedly “reasonable terms”. But no Palestinian leader can give up actual, full implementation of the ROR. Abbas said he would be considered a traitor to the Palestinian revolution. Arafat told the same to Clinton at Camp David…that he would be assassinated. So there you have it…the Palestinian leadership prefers the status quo…the continuation of the occupation, instead going down in history as a traitor.
      Please recall that even here at “972″ one of the crimes Mubarak was accused of against his people was maintainance of the peace agreement with Israel. Peace with Israel ON ANY TERMS is considered treason by the Arab street.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Shlomo Krol

      Kolumn9, you write:

      “…stop pretending that this is a binary case where the land can either be Israeli or occupied and that there are no other possibilities. There are multiple cases in the world of non self-governing territories which are neither occupied nor annexed by their current controllers.”

      OK, let’s say it’s not black and white but something grey. Then why is it “grey” in a way you are trying to defend? Why not, for instance, the opposite way? That Israel is long enough to grant basic rights to the residents of the territories it controls, but not long enough to transfer its own population to this territory? I think such proposition makes no less sense than the one that you defend. I think, the right of Palestinians to establish the ouposts in Haifa or in Gush Dan is no less valid than the “historical and religious claim to Judea and Samaria and a legal claim sanctioned under international law since the San Remo conference of 1920″ of Jewish people. After all, their grandparents were born there and had property in these areas, how ’bout this? Also, the “legal claim of Jewish people” had sense when Jews were stateless people struggling for national self determination. Now as this struggle succeeded (it happened in 1948-1949, in case you forgot), there are absolutely no “legal rights of Jewish people”, the very concept is outdates, there are only rights of citizens of Israel. While the Palestinians are indeed stateless people struggling for national liberation and it would make much more sense to apply to them, as to the ethnic group rather than to the collective of citizens (they are not citizens of any sovereign state), the concept of “historical, religious and legal rights of an ethnic group”. So why not just to grant Palestinians equal rights and at the same time to banish Israelis from settling in Judea and Samaria?
      If you say that it’s an absurd than you must know, the paradigm you are trying to defend looks even more absurd to everybody besides those who have interest in the occupation and colonization, while preventing the Palestinian people from implementing their most basic rights. There’s no even need to deconstruct your “legalistic” and “moralistic” arguments. You cannot conceal what everybody can see: you don’t care neither for the law nor for the morality, but only for the interests.
      When you promote your interests you totally deprive others, millions of people, of their most basic rights. This is unacceptable, it can never be tolerated by others and nobody would seriously consider your “grey area” argument. Maintaining the apartheid is immoral and it is contrary to Israel’s interests, because the apartheid is much greater existential danger for Israel than rockets of Hizballah, suicide bombers of Hamas or nukes of Iran.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Bronxman

      The report of the 3 jurists concluding that the occupation is legal will not go down as great legal scholarship. It seem more like a case of starting with a desired conclusion and working backwards to pick the parts that backed up the conclusion. This will do much to support law abiding citizens – but law abiding citizens in what seems to be becoming a lawless society. My personal feeling is that the Law of Unintended Consequences is alive and well and ready to make a very noisy appearance.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Y-Man

      @XYZ the idea that Condoleeza Rice is somehow “not a friend of Israel” is one of the most delusional things I’ve read in a long time. What should I believe? That Israel isn’t interested in a settlement because they’ve had 46 years to unilaterally withdraw, they have settled hundreds of thousands of Jews there, and are building a giant fucking border fence… or that Israel is just DYING to make a just settlement and those Arabs just won’t do it! If Olmert, that creepy rapist, actually did offer this amazing deal and Abbas rejected it, why didn’t he make it public immediately, to put pressure on Abbas? Why do these things only come to light years afterwards, as with the Camp David myth about Arafat refusing a similar deal from Barak? Because they are total bullshit, that’s why. XYZ, you seem like a reasonably intelligent person. You are either dishonest or you are really good at deluding yourself.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Shlomo Krol

      Y-Man

      You’re wrong. Abbas admitted, that there were serious negotiations. He never said however he rejected the offer, neither Olmert said that. Olmert said he never received an answer from the Palestinians. Abbas said the Gaza war and the change of the government in Israel effectively stopped the talks. See http://www.haaretz.com/news/abbas-olmert-offered-pa-land-equaling-100-of-west-bank-1.1747
      The current government of Israel refused to continue the negotiations were they ended, scrapped Olmert’s offer; the Palestinian leaders totally distrust Netanyahu, I think this is the reason for their refusal to negotiate and their demand to freeze the construction in the settlements. There was much criticism of the Palestinian leadership for negotiating with Israel ever since Oslo without insisting on settlements freeze. There was no clause demanding settlements freeze in Oslo agreements, rather there was a vague commitments of the both sides “to refrain from changing the existing situation”. The population of the settlements more than doubled meanwhile since 1993, more lands were grabbed. This is why many Palestinians believed that the peace process was used by Israel as the cover for the land grab. Just as Israel’s most important sensivity was the sharp rise of terrorism since Israel created the PA and ended direct control of the Palestinian population centers, probably the main sensivity of the Palestinians was the growth of settlements. This is why these two issues were the main issues of the roadmap: the Palestinians were required to disarm the armed faction, restore law and order and resume cooperation with the Israeli securitry forces, the Israelis were obliged to freeze construction in the settlements and immediately dismantle all unauthorized settlements. The both sides commited to the roadmap, though Israel issued its reservations. The main reservation was that Israel will continue to build in the built up territory of the settlements “for the purposes of the natural growth” without allotting more lands to the settlements. As for the unauthorized outposts, Israel committed to dismantle them immediately. Nine years passed since the roadmap was signed in Annapolis. The achievements of the PA, the quasi-government of the occupied people, which doesn’t exert real control over the territory, are very impressive, everybody admits it. The terrorism was stopped, there are sometimes still terror attacks, some of them really horrible (such as the murder of Vogel family), but they are relatively rare and are rather acts of individuals than of the terrorist infrastructure. The loss of control of the PA over Gaza strip and turning this territory into a terrorism stronghold marred the optimism and is used by the Israeli rightwing to monger the fear among Israelis and to excuse their opposition to territorial concessions and to settlements expansion. However, the achievements of the PA on the territory it controls, in the A areas of the West Bank, are very impressive. Now, as for the the Israeli commitments: Israel failed spectacularly. The robust political system, the long traditions of the statehood, the strong army, independent jury and free media didn’t help Israel to free itself from the blackmail and fearmongering of the minority which opposes division of the land and end of colonization and apartheid. The unauthorized outposts which Israel promissed before the whole world to dismantle immediately, part of them are on the private land of Palestinian peasants, are still here. And now, judge Edmond Levy issues report that they are in fact legal, that there is no occupation at all and that these outposts should be authorized and legalized rather than dismantled. All this makes laugh of the Israeli commitments: everybody can see, that the documents, signed by Israel, don’t worth paper they are written on. As the result of this failure, the Palestinians can see, that they have no partner for negotiations. This is why their demand to freeze the settlements construction as the precondition for the resumption of negotiations is totally justified. Specially when a right wing nationalist government is at the power in Israel, which refuses to relaunch negotiations from the point the prior government ended them.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Shlomo Krol

      XYZ,
      It’s not precise, that Abbas rejected Olmert’s offer. This is not what Abbas, Olmert and Rise say. They all say, that negotiations ended at the verge of major breakthrough due to the Gaza war and Olmert’s resignation. Here is what Olmert says, referring to Morris Talansky case, of which he was acquitted recently: http://articles.cnn.com/2012-05-05/middleeast/world_meast_israel-olmert-us_1_olmert-palestinians-peace-proposal?_s=PM:MIDDLEEAST
      As for the Palestinian right of return: Abbas and other Palestinian leaders expressed more than once their willingness to compromise on this issue. Here is his interview to der Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-palestinian-president-mahmoud-abbas-i-will-not-back-down-a-676374.html

      SPIEGEL: But with such remarks, you create the suspicion among Israelis that you actually hope to eventually overcome this Jewish majority, particularly when you continue to insist that all Palestinians expelled in 1948 have the right of return.

      Abbas: I understand these concerns. Today, there are 5 million Palestinian refugees. I’m not saying that they all have to return, but we need a fair solution. United Nations Resolution 194 …

      SPIEGEL: … of Dec. 11, 1948 …

      Abbas: … states that those who relinquish their right of return must receive appropriate financial compensation for doing so. In other words, the solution has been on the table for 60 years, so what’s the problem?

      SPIEGEL: Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert made you the best offer: The establishment of a Palestinian state on far more than 90 percent of the West Bank, a division of Jerusalem and the return of a few thousand refugees to Israel. Why did you reject it?

      Abbas: I didn’t reject it. Olmert resigned from office because of his personal problems.

      Another link: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=174002

      Regarding another major issue of dispute, Abbas appeared to indicate acceptance that there would be no mass influx of Palestinian refugees to Israel in the context of the Palestinian demand for a “right of return.” Rather, he said, citing the Arab League peace initiative, there would have to be a solution to the refugee issue that was “just and agreed upon” by both sides.

      There were other expression of willingness of the Palestinian leadership to seriously negotiate the issue of the Palestinian refugees. This issue is one of the core issues, it must be solved. Unfortunately, it is used by many Israeli right wingers as an excuse to fan the fears, to reject division of the land and to deepen the colonization and apartheid.
      In fact, the apartheid and colonization are much more dangerous for Israel than negotiated resolution of the Palestinian refugees problem.

      Reply to Comment
    22. “As for Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, many have interpreted it, but it seems the dominant view is that the article indeed was meant to resolve the harsh reality imposed by some states during the Second World War, when they expelled and forcibly transferred some of their inhabitants to the territories they had occupied, a process which was accompanied by a substantial worsening of the condition of the occupied population (see this HCJ ruling and this article by Alan Baker).

      This interpretation is supported by a number of sources: the authoritative interpretation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), responsible for implementing the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states regarding the purpose of article 49 of the Convention:

      It is intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.

      Lawyers Prof. Eugene Rostow, Dean of Yale Law School in the US, and Prof. Julius Stone confirmed that Article 49 is intended to prohibit the same inhuman acts committed by the Nazis, i.e. a massive transfer of people into the occupied territories for the purpose of destruction, slavery or colonization:

      [T]he Convention prohibits many of the inhumane practices of the Nazis and the Soviet Union during and before the Second World War – the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization, for example….The Jewish settlers in the West Bank are most emphatically volunteers. They have not been “deported” or “transferred” to the area by the Government of Israel, and their movement involves none of the atrocious purposes or harmful effects on the existing population it is the goal of the Geneva Convention to prevent. (Rostow)

      Irony would…be pushed to the absurdity of claiming that Article 49(6), designed to prevent repetition of Nazi-type genocidal policies of rendering Nazi metropolitan territories judenrein, has now come to mean that…the West Bank…must be made judenrein and must be so maintained, if necessary by the use of force by the government of Israel against its own inhabitants. Common sense as well as correct historical and functional context excludes so tyrannical a reading of Article 49(6.) (Julius Stone)

      We do not believe that one can draw an analogy between this legal provision and those who sought to settle in Judea and Samaria not as a result of them being “deported” or “transferred” but because of their world view – to settle the Land of Israel.”

      Reply to Comment
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