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It's the Occupation, stupid.

After 45 years, Israel’s control over Palestinian life cannot be seen as temporary, or as an aberration. It is no longer about Israel having to choose between continuing the occupation and its democratic identity , since the choice has already been made. What is left to deal with now are the consequences of this choice.

By Hagai El-Ad

Five structures built on private Palestinian land being moved or not is not the question. Rather, look at the one-quarter of the occupied territories declared “state land,” where Jews are allowed to build “legally.” But what “state” are we talking about? In the name of what “law” and for whom?

For 45 years, “Judea, Samaria and Gaza have been under the State’s belligerent occupation. They are not part of the State of Israel.” Unflinching words from Israel’s Supreme Court justices, when discussing the decision to pull out of Gaza. No vague message or double-speak. The occupied territories are in fact as their title implies: they are not part of Israel.

Moreover, there are only few known government positions that have not changed for a generation. The words above offer a unique example, for they reflect the government’s position “since the Six-Day War and to this day,” as indicated by the Supreme Court. Hence, Israel’s stated position in the matter is not only crystal clear, but it has also been reaffirmed time and again, unchanged, for four and a half decades.

This supposedly clear-cut and unfluctuating position is a fiction. Anyone who has not spent the last 45 years on Mars knows as much. The fact that it has been relentlessly reiterated does not lend credibility to the hollow mantra, but rather on the contrary: it underscores how tenuous its connection to reality is. For in real life, in almost all respects, Israel acts as if the West Bank was an integral part of its sovereign territory, except for one fundamental aspect: the status of the Palestinians, who remain subjects without rights.

Indeed, the State of Israel was careful to maintain that, de jure, its jurisdiction would not be applied in the territories. This was mainly for the sake of convenience, allowing the State to dodge dealing with questions such as the citizenship of the subjects living under occupation, thus mostly avoiding the wrath of the world that would have been unleashed as a result of formal annexation.

But in practice, under the camouflage provided by this fiction, Israel has preoccupied itself for the past 45 years by finding creative solutions so that while averting annexation it could still mostly do as it pleases in the territories. The current incarnation of this creative streak focuses on the fate of five buildings in one settlement, but this is of course a distraction from the real prize. Five buildings? Private Palestinians land? Dodge the spin and focus on the million and a half acres, more than a quarter of the West Bank, that was declared “state lands,” where Jews can build “legally.” State land? Which state exactly, and what “law”?

This arrangement of an annexationless “temporary” occupation is the scheme under which Israel is building settlements and roads, taking advantage of land and water resources, denying Palestinians access to large areas, restricting people’s movement and their opportunities to develop their homeland and build their homes. All this, of course, only on a “temporary” basis and always for security reasons. All this, incidentally, not only according to the promises, on behalf of the State, of “generations of legal advisers,” but also with the approval of generations of Supreme Court justices. This is the reality that is uncovered beneath the fiction.

Once, when the occupation was young, the protest movement against it was called “the 21st year”. Yes, there were people back in 1988 that thought that going on like this was unacceptable. Back then, perhaps, it was still possible to end texts such as this one concluding  that Israel must choose between continuing the occupation and maintaining its democratic identity.

Since then another generation has passed. Now, it is not the 21st year but rather the 46th that has just begun. The question is no longer the choice, for it has been made, and is continuing to be made, day in and day out. The question now is one of dealing with the consequences.

Hagai El-Ad is the Executive Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. This post was originally published in Hebrew on Ynet

Netanyahu uses illegal settlement affair to teach leftists a lesson

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    1. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      OK, I honestly don’t see from this article why the occupation is not temporary. I read one sentence that made such an argument: “…Israel is building settlements and roads, taking advantage of land and water resources, denying Palestinians access to large areas, restricting people’s movement and their opportunities to develop their homeland and build their homes.” None of this indicates to me that the occupation is not temporary. Wasn’t most or all of this true of the Gaza occupation? People were saying that it was too late, the settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza could never be dismantled, until the ones in Gaza were. And please, I know some of you are going to say, “But Gaza is still occupied!” But the settlers and troops are out; why couldn’t at least that much be done in Judea and Samaria?
      I have seen arguments – elsewhere – that Judea and Samaria are different. The quantitative difference in number of settlers is supposedly large enough to be a qualitative difference. They can’t be withdrawn, the argument goes, as the Gaza settlers could, because of their numbers relative to numbers of soldiers and police. It’s not necessarily a convincing argument, but at least it’s an *argument*. I don’t see anything in this article here that even tries to address reality; just the usual talking points.
      I’m willing to admit that I’ve lived the last 45 years on Mars. I’ve hardly ever been in Judea and Samaria, and never in Gaza. I don’t follow the news too closely. But given that *most* Israelis have been living the last 45 years on Mars, from your point of view, wouldn’t it make sense to have something to say to us?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      The reason you are so confused is because you are confusing two different things. First, it is the that Israel acquired the territory during war and hence it is classified as ‘occupied’ according to the laws of war. Second, that the territory has never had a legal sovereign and its final status is disputed. You are confused by the terms ‘state land’ and ‘law’ because there really is no sovereign owner of the territory.

      This is a common confusion among the Palestinians and their supporters. They conveniently think that the ‘occupation’ is the problem. The real problem is the dispute over the sovereign control over the land. Until this is resolved in a manner that ensures the interests of all parties there is no good reason to end the so-called ‘occupation’.

      Israel doesn’t treat the West Bank as part of its sovereign territory. It has never been annexed and Israeli law does not apply there. Israel treats the West Bank as a territory that contains land that it expects to keep in any future configuration and as a land on which it has a legitimate claim.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Y-Man

      @Aaron: come on, Gaza and the West Bank are not even close to the same thing. Don’t delude yourself.

      @Kolumn9: “Second, that the territory has never had a legal sovereign and its final status is disputed.” So the sovereignty of a land does not in face belong to the people living there? You realize that you are implicitly admitting to colonialism– the “sovereignty” of Israel was promulgated by the Americans and the British. Because the Palestinian Arabs did not receive support from the West, “the territory has never had a legal sovereign.” This is a fancy way of dressing up the fact that you don’t consider Palestinians as deserving of the same rights as yourself. Israel is itself predicated on this ethnic supremacist impulse.

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      This was written last summer:
      “The sad truth is that in order to gain popularity and legitimacy, the protest movement had first to disassociate itself from the hated Left. Its ability to do so marks both its potential and its limits.
      If the Left’s slogan remains “It’s the Occupation, Stupid” and that of the Right remains “There is no Occupation, Stupid”, the success of the current social revolt lies in its unwritten slogan: “Don’t mention the Occupation, Stupid”.”
      That social protest went into hibernation, as though Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were chillier than Moscow, which did not shy from braving its temperatures to tell Putin a thing or two before Russia’s Presidential “election”. The current coalition has made the Knesset wall-to-wall pro-occupation. Gazillions continue to flow to settlement in areas occupied 45 years ago. What is there not to understand?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Marco

      It’s the picture stupid !
      How can you publish such a picture in cover of this article ? You loose your credibility !
      You are using the same propaganda than the Hamas.
      Being for social right and justice doesn’t mean drawing israeli soldier as killers.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Piotr Berman

      Aaron from under Marsian bridge: “None of this indicates to me that the occupation is not temporary.”

      Perhaps the entire Zionist project is temporary?! Rather than having dull state with viable long term co-existence with the neighborhood (and that includes Europe), why not have some heroic fun, molding Jewish destiny, smiting enemies, enemy trees, lambs, wells, poultry etc., so when it will all end, there will be enough of heroic stories to survive another 2000 years in the Diaspora?

      Reply to Comment
    7. mick

      The absolute fact is that Jordan and Egypt did not have legal title to the territories. The land was former territory of the Mandate of Palestine, only successors to this entity can claim the land. Since Israel was the only successor to the Mandate it can legally claim any of the land.

      Reply to Comment
    8. mick
      “The absolute fact is that Jordan and Egypt did not have legal title to the territories”

      They didn’t claim any. They occupied per International Law. Jordan annexed as a trustee only at the insistence of the other Arab States.

      “The land was former territory of the Mandate of Palestine”

      Mandate expired May 14th 1948, When Israel declared itself independent of Palestine there stood two entities, Independent Israel and what remained of Palestine, a non-self-governing territory.

      “Since Israel was the only successor to the Mandate it can legally claim any of the land”

      Twaddle. UNSC resolutions are based on the law and UN Charter. They tell us Israel is the Occupying Power. Read UNSC res 476

      Reply to Comment