The committee appointed back in January by Prime Minister Netanyahu to report on the status of the Jewish outposts dotted throughout the West Bank has finally submitted its findings. Nearly three months behind schedule the committee has reported that contrary to the prevailing belief the West Bank should in fact not be classified as Occupied Territory. Chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy the committee judged that since the West Bank had never been the legally held territory of Jordan, nor was it the territory of any other sovereign state at the time, the West Bank did not enter into the status of being under belligerent occupation following Israel capturing the area after the Jordanian attack in 1967.
It is always refreshing to see official recognition given to truths that have previously gone unacknowledged, as much as one must surely ask what took so long. Still, this new report will go some way in exploding many of the myths expounded in Talia Sassoon’s infamous report on the same subject from 2005. Although given that Sassoon has since made no secret of her allegiances with the far-Left Meretz party and that the report had been commissioned by Ariel Sharon who by that point seemed to be simply looking for the justification for the unilateral disengagement plan that he had evidently already decided to embark upon, it is some wonder that the report had ever been given any credibility at all.
Yet the truth is that for some time now a small handful of commentators and experts have been challenging the orthodoxy of the occupation rhetoric and pointing out some fairly basic facts about the legal status of the West Bank. For those with even the most rudimentary historical literacy comes the knowledge that since the UN’s 1947 partition plan was rejected by the Arab side the last standing international agreement regarding the legal status of the West Bank goes back to the 1922 League of Nations ratification of the San Remo conference which allotted the area as a ‘national home for the Jewish people’. However with most still mesmerised by the apparently irresistible draw of the two state delusion arguments based on this point have consistently fallen on deaf ears.
The unwillingness to hear these basic truths about the legal status of the West Bank is unsurprising when it is considered that acknowledging these facts would have huge ramifications for the entire framework within which most people view the conflict. The article of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory suddenly ceases to apply to the Israeli case and before people know where they are they find that those reliable old arguments about the illegality of Israeli settlements have become completely invalid. But then we already knew this. After all if the illegality of settlements has been such an indisputable fact since time immemorial that rather raises the question of why it was that it took the UN Security Council until last year to vote on the issue, a vote that incidentally never did pass in the end.
Establishing that Israel’s Jewish communities in the West Bank are not the illegal fortress colonies that they are mostly made out to be might force people to acknowledge that the entire Middle East conflict is not being sustained by rogue suburban planning on the part of Israel. Yet with more of the world’s attention focussing on Jews building houses on hilltops than Iranians building nuclear reactors beneath mountain ranges one does have to wonder.
What is remarkable is the way in which many of Israel’s friends, both those involved in Israel advocacy and simply in the wider Jewish community have refused to correct these falsehoods. While they might be prepared to speak out against Goldstone Reports and Flotillas all too often Israel’s supporters fail to challenge the most fundamental lies about the legitimacy of Jewish communities established throughout the Land of Israel or even Jewish rights in Jerusalem. It shouldn’t take a report to remind us of the uncomplicated truth that the West Bank is not occupied territory and that accordingly the Jewish communities that exist there do not contravene international law. Yet hopefully now a report by preeminent legal experts has established the genuine legal status of these issues more people will feel able to speak the truth about them openly.