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If you repeat ‘occupation’ often enough

Israel's capture of the territories doesn't fit the definition, but that hasn't stopped Palestinian accusations

Everyone knows that to get noticed in this world, one must develop a brand that is instantly identifiable. The logo or word can mean only one thing; all other competitors get pushed aside. A new American president was catapulted into office largely on the strength of his brand name.

Whoever is running PR for the Palestinians knows this better than most. How else to explain why the word “occupation” applies to them alone? There are far more worthy and sympathetic victims of occupying powers that most people have never heard of or properly considered.

Of course, an argument can be made that Palestinians are not even victims of an occupation. After all, no Palestinian ever lived in a nation called Palestine. Jews and Arabs resided in what is now the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since biblical times, when the Kingdom of Judea first came into existence. These lands, apparently, were more essential and sustaining to Jews than to Arabs. The word Jerusalem appears in the Old Testament nearly 700 times; in the Koran—not once. Given the ferocity of their stated entitlement to the holy city, this omission from their sacred book is paradoxical, if not duplicitous.

The territories are more disputed than occupied. Yet, given the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo Resolution, which was incorporated into the League of Nations and adopted by the United Nations, Israel’s legal title to the territories is superior to anyone else’s.

And Israel came to reoccupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem after winning a defensive war against Jordan in 1967. Ironically, when Jordan occupied the land from 1949-1967 without any valid legal claim, no one condemned its occupation, and the word Palestinian was scarcely mentioned. The occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem became a global outcry only after Israel reclaimed it. And ever since then Israel has been under no legal obligation to withdraw until security and peace with its Arab neighbors could be assured. The Palestinians have consistently demonstrated that neither security nor peace will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, in the intervening years, Tibet has been occupied by China, Northern Cyprus by Turkey, Kurdistan by Turkey, Syria and Iran, and Kashmir by India. And each of these are far truer occupations given that the occupiers have little or no historical claim or connection to their conquest, and the victims of these occupations are being deprived of a homeland that once truly belonged to them, and them alone.

Moreover, neither of these displaced peoples have ever called attention to their cause by hijacking a plane, blowing up a bus or pizza shop, murdering the Olympic team of their occupiers, slitting the throats of little children, tossing an invalid in a wheelchair off a cruise ship, assassinating a United States senator, celebrating 9/11 by throwing candy, firing rockets indiscriminately at civilian populations, and knifing civilians at will.

Furthermore, unlike Palestinians, these persecuted peoples have not vowed the total annihilation of their occupiers, and have never sworn that should they ever regain their land, no Chinese, Turk or Indian will be permitted to live on it. For those appalled at President Trump’s “Muslim ban,” why support a Palestinian cause that would ban Israelis from living in Palestine?

Twenty percent of Israel is today comprised of Arabs who enjoy equal rights. That’s what a liberal, democratic, pluralistic society looks like. Don’t expect a future Palestinian state to feature any of those characteristics—think Gaza, with its brutality and barbarism, where Christians and Jews, and homosexuals and Sharia-fearing women, are an endangered species.

Meanwhile, the double standard applied against Israel has reached circus-like dimensions with U.N. resolutions condemning the Jewish state dwarfing nearly nonexistent actions taken against not only China, Turkey, India and Iran, but even genocidaires like Syria and Sudan. Global threats of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel abound; Israeli academics are shunned, speakers shouted down, students hassled. Meanwhile, no rock star or NFL football player, acting on principle and in solidarity, ever refuses to visit Ankara or Mumbai.

The poor Kurds, Tibetans, Cypriots and Kashmiri must be watching with occupation envy. What makes the Palestinians more special or the Israelis more rapacious? Holy land history aside, how did the occupation of the West Bank become so sacred and deserving of such global fixation? Perhaps anti-Semitism is ultimately what has given Palestinians their uniquely freakish branding edge.

Surely the Palestinians have suffered, but a good deal of it is self-inflected. Had they accepted the state they were offered at Camp David in 2000, they would now be celebrating their 17th birthday.

What a waste.

In the end, branding won’t get them anywhere. Statesmanship, the renunciation of violence, the acknowledgment of the Jewish state, and the hard work that comes with nation building, surely will.

About the Author
Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist and Distinguished Fellow at NYU School of Law where he directs the Forum on Law, Culture & Society (FOLCS). He is the author, most recently, of the novel, "How Sweet It Is!" His forthcoming nonfiction book is titled, "The High Cost of Free Speech: Rethinking the First Amendment."
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