A Global ‘Occupied Territories’ Guide to the Perpetually Perplexed John Kerry

On January 15, France will convene a Middle East peace conference. In attendance will be 70 nations and NGOs, including the Palestinians, still celebrating a UN Security Council vote that labels all territories captured by Israel in the June 1967 War to be “occupied territories”, including Judaism’s holiest site, The Temple Mount and Western Wall, along with Jewish communities in Jerusalem’s Old City, East Jerusalem, Rachel’s Tomb, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

UNSC Resolution 2334 was made possible when President Obama instructed Ambassador Power to abstain. Just days later, US Secretary of State John Kerry launched an emotion defense of the vote that isolates the Jewish state that lasted over an hour. Israeli TV stations did not cover his hour-long lecture live. As far as Israel is concerned, both the Security Council vote and the Paris Conference are needless roadblocks, when actually there are two prerequisites for a real peace: Direct talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and the international community dislodging terrorist Hamas from its military/terrorist infrastructure, aka Gaza.

Still, a mere 120 hours before the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th US President, John Kerry will be in Paris to serve as cheerleader-in-chief of President Obama’s failed vision for the Middle East:

The last time Mr. Kerry sought to forge a peace-deal was back in April 2014, when he finally threw in the towel after nine months of inconclusive shuttle diplomacy.

Since Mr. Kerry or Francois Hollande are unlikely to do so, we thought we would list some of the scores of other “Occupied Territories” disputes that neither the Obama Administration nor anyone else has paid as much attention to as they do to apartment houses and kindergartens being built in peaceful Jewish communities on disputed territories in the Holy Land:

China/Japan–territorial disputes between China and Japan in the East China Sea continue, with both sides claim as their exclusive economic zone.

China/Korea–the historic Chinese-Korean historic dispute over land that was part of the ancient kingdom of Koguryo.

Korea/Japan— two rocky islets off the eastern shore of Korea, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, are disputed by the two countries.

Japan/Russia— these two nations have not yet signed a formal peace treaty to end the hostilities of World War II due to the unresolved territorial dispute over the Southern Kuriles.

India/Pakistan— Kashmir is claimed by India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris.

China/India— in a dispute with deep historical roots, China does not recognize the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of Indian territory.

India/China–Aksai Chin, sometimes known as Aksayqin, is administered by China but also claimed by India.

China/Taiwan/Malaysia/ The Philippines/Vietnam/Brunei — The Spratly Islands—a group of more than 650 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands located in the South China Sea—are now claimed by China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei.

Philippines/China/Taiwan –The Scarborough Shoal, near the Spratly Islands, is controlled by the Philippines, but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

Japan/China –a chain of remote, energy-rich islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and as the Diaoyu Islands in China, are the subject of a territorial and maritime dispute between the two powers.

China/Taiwan — the territory of Taiwan is disputed between the Taiwanese government and the People’s Republic of China.

Australia/East Timor — Australia and East Timor are in a dispute over the energy-rich Timor Sea.

China/Tibet — Freedom House regularly lists Chinese-controlled Tibet as the worst-rated disputed territory for civil liberties.

Malaysia/Indonesia — According to Asia Times, a series of long-standing disputes recently exploded in Asia, including a maritime dispute in the Sulawesi Sea between Malaysia and Indonesia.

China/Vietnam/Taiwan –in the South China Sea, 130 small Paracel Islands, which have been “occupied” by China since 1974, are claimed by both Vietnam and Taiwan.

Indonesia/South Moluccas – South Moluccas (Republic of the South Moluccas) claims independence, but that is disputed by Indonesia.

China/Uyghurstan — East Turkestan(Uyghurstan) is a region of China where Turkic peoples want independence.

Indonesia/West Papua — West Papua is disputed by the Papuans and Indonesians.

Malaysia/Philippines — Sabah or Northern Borneo is disputed by Malaysia and the Philippines.

U.S./Marshall Islands — Wake Island is controlled by the U.S. but also claimed by Marshall Islands.

United Kingdom/Argentina — The Falkland Islands are controlled by the United Kingdom but claimed by Argentina.

Mauritius/United Kingdom — The Chagos Archipelago is administered by the British Indian Ocean Territory, but the claim is disputed Mauritius.

Russia/Ukraine — Crimea, which has a long history of contention, recently was forcibly annexed by Russia from the Ukraine. Additional areas are currently under assault by Russian-backed separatists.

Russia/Georgia–after a 2008 “five-day war” with Georgia, Russia now effectively controls Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions that once were firmly part of Georgia.

Serbia/Kosovo — The Republic of Kosovo claims independence, but the claim is disputed by Serbia.

Moldova/Russia – a tiny strip of land called Transdniestria, an unrecognized breakaway state that lies along Moldova’s border with Ukraine, which had seceded from Moldova, is currently eyed by Moscow.

Azerbaijan/Armenia-the Armenia-backed Nagorno-Karabakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) claims to be sovereign, but Azerbaijan claims it is their territory.

Namibia/Botswana/Angola/Zambia/Zimbabwe — The Caprivi Strip, sandwiched between Namibia, Botswana, Angola, and Zambia. and also very close to Zimbabwe, is much disputed.

United Kingdom/Republic of Ireland–there is no ultimate resolution of the status of Northern Island between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Spain/United Kingdom–the Island of Gibraltar has been in dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain since the 1700s.

France/Comoros Islands — Mayotte is ruled by France but claimed by Comoros Islands.

Syria/Turkey — Hatay, a Turkish province bordering Syria, is still claimed by the Syrians.

Turkey/Republic of Cyprus — Northern Cyprus is recognized by Turkey as independent, but the rest of the world considers it part of the Republic of Cyprus.

Spain/Portugal — Olivenza and Táliga are still disputed by Spain and Portugal.

Syria/Kurds — Syrian or Western Kurdistan is disputed between Syrians and Kurds.

Turkey/Kurds — Turkish or Northern Kurdistan is disputed by Turkey and the Kurds.

Iran/Kurdistan — Iranian or Eastern Kurdistan is disputed by Iran and the Kurds.

France/Madagascar/The Seychelles/ Comoros Glorioso — theGlorieuses Islands (Archipel des Glorieuses) are operated by France as a nature preserve, but are also claimed by Madagascar, the Seychelles, and Comoros.

U.S/Colombia/Jamaica/Nicaragua/Honduras — The U.S., Colombia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Honduras have all claimed sovereignty over the two small isolated, and uninhabited islets collectively known as Bajo Nuevo Bank (The Petrel Islands).

U.S./Haiti — Navassa Island is disputed between the U.S. and Haiti.

Denmark/Natives — The Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic is controlled by Denmark but some of the islanders want independence.

Angola/Cabinda — The Republic of Cabinda claims independence but this is disputed by Angola.

Somalia/Somaliland — Somaliland claims independence from Somalia.

Spain/Western Sahara — in 1975 an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was sought on whether Western Sahara, at the time of colonization by Spain was a “territory belonging to no one” (terra nullius). The situation was similar to the West Bank, which was terra nullius or owned by no one when captured by Israel in 1967.

We haven’t counted the implosion of Libya, the unrelenting bloodletting in Syria, or the ethnic cleansing of historic Christian and Yazidi areas in Iraq.

Let’s hope that the new President of the United States, Donald Trump and the new UN Secretary General António Guterres will begin to refer to this roadmap of global disputes as the guide for international priorities instead of embracing a dangerously out-of-date Mideast roadmap that would only lead Israel into oblivion.

Co-authored by Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian and consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. 

About the Author
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Associate Dean and Global Director of its Ed Snider Social Action Institute