Raymond M. Berger
Real Bullet Points

End the occupation? Look who’s talking

The international community sides overwhelmingly with the displaced refugees.

Isn’t it time to end the illegal occupation?

Consider the facts. A group of people from Europe acquires a territory by military means. Disregarding the rights of the indigenous inhabitants, the Europeans force them to flee at threat of death. For many decades thereafter, it prevents them from returning. To the present day, the Europeans rebuff the inhabitants’ desperate pleas to return to their homes.

Some of the refugees become citizens. But because of racist laws, the grandchildren of the displaced refugees now face deportation. To add insult to injury, the Europeans never provide compensation for the displaced natives or their confiscated property, although they propose a compensation offer.

In recent developments, the international community sides overwhelmingly with the displaced refugees. The International Court of Justice issues an advisory opinion that the occupation of the territory is illegal under international law. This ruling is followed by a United Nations General Assembly Resolution that affirms the Court decision and demands that the Europeans withdraw unconditionally from the territory.

The Europeans insist that they, and only they, have sovereignty over the territory.

They claim they are unable to withdraw because the territory is needed for their defense. Refugee representatives agree to accommodate this concern by proposing discussions for the long-term status of the territory that would provide for the Europeans’ defense needs. But the Europeans refuse. The refugees and their children and grandchildren remain displaced from their homeland.

The History

The above description sounds like the anti-Israel narrative promoted by Israel-haters and adopted by the international press. In this fake narrative, Jews are European—-rather than native to the land of Israel. They subjugate the native Arabs. Their actions are illegal and immoral.

But the illegal occupation I refer to above does not refer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, it describes the conflict between the United Kingdom and the island nation of Mauritius.

As one result of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1814 the UK acquired the colony of Mauritius from the French.

The current dispute centers on the Chagos Archipelago, a part of Mauritius, until the UK separated it from the island nation. The UK did so in 1965, in order to secure its continued occupation of the Chagos Archipelago. The UK granted independence to the remaining Mauritius islands in 1968.

The parallels with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute are striking. But there are differences as well.

One difference concerns the importance of the Chagos Archipelago to the UK versus the importance of the West Bank to Israel.

The UK argues that it cannot withdraw from the Chagos Archipelago because it must have the right to allow the continued operation of the US military base on the island of Diego Garcia. That military base, the UK argues, is needed to secure the safety of international shipping lanes in the region. These lanes accommodate the majority of the world’s oil supply and much of its trade. The military base also serves to combat drug smuggling, piracy and terrorism.

The UK’s defense of its occupation is accurate. But in a stunning double standard, this same UK, for years, has objected to Israel’s presence in the disputed territory of the West Bank. While denying its own illegal occupation of the Chagos Archipelago, the UK insists that the Israeli presence in the West Bank is an illegal occupation.

But while the UK has legitimate concerns about the need to control the Chagos Archipelago in order to secure the safety of international shipping, the security concerns of Israel in the West Bank are far more legitimate. After all, the Chagos Archipelago is thousands of miles from the British Isles. The West Bank, on the other hand, is embedded in the heart of Israel. It has been the source of thousands of deadly Arab attacks against Israeli citizens and soldiers. It is also a terrorist base for hostile regional forces such as Iran and their proxies, including the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations. These groups loudly proclaim their commitment to kill and expel Jews from Israel.

And yet the UK persists in its double standards.

And what of the displaced refugees? After the 1965 separation of the Chagos Archipelago from the rest of Mauritius, the UK cynically forced the native inhabitants of the Archipelago from their homes by choking off their food supplies. They did this in order to control their land, even though the Chagossians were never a threat to anyone.

Israel is far more justified in its actions.

The Palestinian Arab refugee problem was the direct result of a war of genocide launched against the new Jewish state by Arab forces during Israel’s War of Independence. These forces were more numerous and powerful than those of the small Jewish state. Most of those Arab refugees who lost their homes did so, not due to expulsion by Israelis, but to the orders of their own leaders. Those leaders urged them to flee in order to allow Arab armies to invade Israel and slaughter the Jews. (Arab leaders loudly proclaimed their intention to commit genocide against the Jews.)

In those instances where the Israeli military expelled Arab inhabitants it did so because of immediate threats to Jewish lives—–with many Arab villages doubling as military bases, weapons storage depots and staging areas for deadly anti-Jewish attacks.  On the other hand, the Chagossians were never violent or threatening.

It is true that non-binding United Nations Resolutions describe Israeli control of the West Bank as illegal. But, unlike the British occupation of the Chagos Archipelago, Israeli sovereignty in the Land of Israel is firmly grounded in international law: the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the 1922 San Remo Resolutions of the League of Nations; and the 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, which created a Jewish state and an Arab state. And that is to say nothing of a continuous 3,500 year Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. By contrast, Brits have never lived on the Chagos Archipelago.

A Tale of Two Occupations

What are we to make of the UK’s duplicitous positions on their occupation of the Chagos Archipelago and on the Israeli presence in the West Bank?

At least some Brits are aware of the morally untenable position of the UK in maintaining its occupation of the Chagos Archipelago. This is evidenced by opinion pieces in the left-leaning Guardian newspaper. The Guardian has excoriated the UK for refusing to end the Chagos occupation, abide by international law, and provide compensation and a just solution for displaced Chagossians. These are all things that the Brits demand of Israel in relation to the Palestinian refugees. At the same time, the Brits have refused the same set of demands for justice in the Chagos Archipelago, as placed upon them by the international community.

But few people in the UK and the wider world seem to care. Rather, most folks in the international community are content to ignore the Chagos injustice and instead they pile on Israel.

Nothing new here.

About the Author
The author is a life-long Zionist and advocate for Israel. He believes that a strong Jewish state is invaluable, not only to Jews, but to the world-wide cause of democracy and human rights. Dr. Berger earned a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has twenty-seven years of teaching experience. He has authored and co-authored three books as well as over 45 professional journal articles and book chapters. His parents were Holocaust survivors.
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