Camie Davis

The ‘brutal occupation’ and ‘right of return’ narratives are lies

Regarding differing POV’s of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Gershom Gorenberg said, “It would help to stop using a simplified, inaccurate picture of 1967 as an excuse for intransigence today.” The million dollar question is, though, which side is using an inaccurate picture of 1967? I believe it’s the side pushing the narrative that Israel is a brutal occupier who stole the Palestinian’s land and prohibits their right of return.

Hopefully, the following content is simple and factual enough to cut through some of the complexity and lies of revisionist history that has become accepted narratives regarding Israel.  The narratives are grossly inaccurate and not only endanger Jews but enable Palestinian Arabs to remain in a cycle of victimhood.

To counter one of the main false narratives, I’ll plainly state that Israel didn’t steal the Palestinian Arabs’ land.  Did they acquire land that had been controlled by Arabs at some point?  Yes.

In 1947 after a vote at the UN, the partition of Palestine into two countries was recognized – one for Jews and one for Arabs.  The Jews said yes to the partition, the Arabs said no.  Hence, the modern nation of Israel was born out of Palestine.  But because the Arabs said no, a nation for the Palestinian Arabs within the former area called Palestine doesn’t exist.

Immediately after the establishment of Israel, five surrounding Arab nations attacked it.  Arab leaders instructed Arabs still living in the former British Mandate of Palestine to abandon their homes temporarily while they “drove the Jews into the sea.” The Arabs who left expected to return after a quick, decisive victory. But neither a victory nor a return occurred.

The Arabs lost the Arab-Israeli War of 1948/War of Independence.  When the war ended, the nation of Israel still existed by holding its ground, literally, that had been given to them via the UN partition.  What happened to most of the land that had been intended for a Palestinian Arab state? Egypt seized the territory of Gaza and Jordan seized Judea/Samaria and deemed it the “West Bank” due to its proximity to the Jordan River.

After the ’48 war, an armistice line was agreed upon. The color used to draw the armistice line on a map was green, hence, the “Green Line.”  The line was not drawn as a permanent border, rather as a cease-fire line, and it remained until 1967.

In 1967 multiple Arab nations warred against Israel again and Israel won/survived again.  Not only did Israel survive, but it increased its land mass.  Within six days of fighting, Israel took control of land from Jordan past the Green Line into the “West Bank” and of east Jerusalem, thus unifying the city, took control of Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and took control of the Golan Heights from Syria.  The land expansion of Israel during the war was not a grandiose act of colonization.  It was an outcome of Israel winning the war.

After obtaining the land, though, Israel didn’t annex Judea/Samaria or Gaza. Therefore, the status of who rightfully owns the land was/is disputed by some, hence the terms “disputed territories” and “occupied territories.” These terms transmuted into the narrative of Israel “occupying Palestinian land” and worse, that it is a “brutal occupation.” This narrative has been pushed for so long and so often that it’s accepted as a fundamental truth and used as justification for the “armed resistance” of the Palestinian Arabs against the “brutal occupation.”

However, the term “occupied territories” is deliberately and incorrectly used to condition people to believe that Israel stole the land from the Palestinian Arabs and, therefore, Jews live on it unlawfully and unfairly. This revision ignores the fact that the land was won defensively by Israel and it was won from Egypt and Jordan, not from Palestinian Arabs at-large. International law recognizes that in order for a country to be occupied, it had to belong to another country first.  The land that Egypt and Jordan seized in 1948 was never formally annexed, hence, Israel did not occupy the land from Egypt or Jordan, and certainly not from Palestinian Arabs.

Speaking of Palestinian Arabs, when the Arabs in pre-partitioned Palestine said no to statehood, most either became ill-treated refugees by Egypt in Gaza, became Jordanians in the “West Bank,” or moved to Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. This is important to remember in light of the on-going rioting at the Gaza/Israel border under the pretense of the false narrative of the “right to return” to Israel.

In 1948, 750,000 (although credible sources believe that this number is exaggerated) Arabs become refugees due, ironically, to the war five Arab countries instigated against Israel. To help these particular refugees the United Nations established a branch called United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA).  Incidentally, no special UN relief agency was established to help the 800,000 Jewish refugees who were expelled from Iraq, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Libya, and Morocco between 1948-51.

In an unprecedented move, UNRWA eventually granted the status of refugee not only to the Arabs who were displaced due to the war in ’48, but to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  According to UNRWA, “It is unique in terms of its long-standing commitment to one group of refugees. It has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees, defined as ‘persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.’ The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration.  When the Agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.”

Normally, the number of refugees naturally diminishes in correlation with time passing after the occurrence of the crisis which caused the refugee situation.  Not so with UNRWA’s unprecedented specification of what constitutes a Palestinian refugee.  Any descendant of a male Palestinian Arab who was displaced in ’48 is considered a refugee.  It’s a cycle that keeps the Palestinian Arabs in perpetual victimhood mode and a state of flux.  It also fuels the “blame Israel” narrative.

It is absurd and not the responsibility of Israel that 70 years after the ’48 war, the Arabs who were displaced and/or their descendants are still treated as refugees.  Also, it is not feasible nor is it the responsibility for Israel to absorb the inflated number of 5 million “refugees” who believe they are entitled to a “right of return” back into Israel.  The influx of that demographic would pose a security threat to Israel, to say the least.

After the ’67 war, the international community embarked on a quest to fix the “problem” of Israel acquiring Judea/Samaria (“West Bank”).  Israel was willing to enter peace negotiations with the Arab nations that had attacked them.  They even went so far as to say they would relinquish the land they had acquired in their victory in exchange for peace.  The Arab League gave their answer when they adopted the “three no’s” formula in a meeting in Khartoum: “No to peace with Israel.  No to negotiations with Israel.  No to recognition of Israel.”

During this time some of the Israeli populace and Israeli government decided the best solution for Israel was to build communities in Judea/Samaria.  Technically they had and still have the right to do so.  It bears repeating: International law recognizes in simplistic terms – to the winner goes the spoils; land amassed defensively in a war is rightfully gained land.  Also, international law recognizes that only territories captured in a war from an established and recognized sovereign are considered occupied.

Still pushing to formulate a solution to the “problem” of Jordan losing the land of Judea/Samaria, the UN drafted and passed Resolution 242.  The resolution deliberately didn’t specify how much land Israel acquired in the war had to be returned to the losers.  The Arab states pushed the UN to include the word “all” but the UN didn’t relent.  The wording of the resolution was hotly debated after it was drafted and passed.  But those who participated in the draft confirmed that Israel wasn’t expected to give all its gained land back.  When asked to explain the resolution’s position, for example, principal author of the resolution Lord Caradon of England said, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.”  Also reaffirming the wording of the draft, U.S. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg stated, “The notable omission – which was not accidental – in regard to withdrawal is the word ‘all.’”

Even so, Israel gave back the majority of the land it had acquired when it entered a peace agreement with Egypt and when it withdrew from Gaza.  Israel also allows the Palestinian Authority to administer parts of Judea/Samaria.

Anti-Israel pundits conveniently forget or ignore that the resolution called on the Arabs to recognize Israel’s right to exist peacefully.  Instead, the Arab League declared the “three no’s” and continued on a path of violence especially when they began supporting Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) efforts to destroy Israel via an on-going “revolutionary armed struggle.”  Arabs have also shown support and given aid to Hezbollah, Hamas, and other anti-Israel jihadists and have supported Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, who supports terrorism.

It is worth noting that when the PLO was founded in 1964 with the purpose of the “liberation of Palestine through armed struggle,” the Golan Heights, the “West Bank,” East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip – all the territories that would have been a national state for Palestinian Arabs if they had said yes to the UN partition – were under Arab control, i.e, “liberated” from Israel.  Yet, these territories were never turned into a state for the Palestinian Arabs.  The demand for more land was and is a pretext for Arabs warring against Israel.

Especially after the third Arab war against Israel in 1973, it became clear that Israel couldn’t be defeated easily, if defeated at all, militarily.  As Israel built up a thriving democracy in the Middle East, the PLO was not only reeking havoc via terrorism in Israel and around the world, but Arafat was also setting a precedent on how to wage a propaganda war against Israel.  His tactics are still employed today.

While the PLO was hijacking planes, kidnapping and murdering Jews (including the Olympic athletes in Munich), carrying out suicide-bombings, killing a U.S. Ambassador, hijacking a cruise ship and throwing a wheel-chair bound American Jew overboard, and many other acts of terrorism, Arafat created a new narrative about the “moderation” of the PLO.  With the help of the KGB and Viet Cong, he morphed into a “legitimate statesman” who convinced the world that his armed resistance (terrorism) was not only justified but necessary, due to what Israel had done to the Palestinians – stolen their land and become brutal occupiers.  Under such brutal conditions, what else were Palestinians to do other than resist the occupation through violence and terrorism?  And while convincing the world that his brand of nationalism was justified and moderate, Arafat rebranded Zionism as racism.

In 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon echoed Arafat’s propaganda after an Israeli woman was murdered in a terrorist stabbing attack.  He justified the terrorism by saying, “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half-century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process.  As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”  It was Arafat’s formula to a T: If only Israel would stop occupying Palestinian land (stop existing), terrorism would end.

The under-dog state of Israel, which had no alternative if it wanted to survive, had to become masters of self-defense against Arab induced wars and on-going terrorism.  Yet, it was rebranded, by a terrorist no less, and began being portrayed by pro-Arab/anti-Israel human rights groups, politicians, and the media as a brutal apartheid regime occupying Palestinian land, who indiscriminately murdered Palestinians and prevented Palestinian self-determination.  Even textbooks in the UNRWA schools for refugees promotes this narrative, glorifies martyrdom, and denies any Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem.

Arafat was a master of talking on two levels – one for the consumption of the Western masses and one for the incitement of Arabs.  Abbas shows the same duplicity posing as a “moderate” peace partner, yet he denies the Holocaust, refers to Jews as “dirty settlers, extremists, and dogs,” and incites Arabs to commit acts of terrorism and pays stipends to those who do and to their families.  As Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman said, “There is no difference between Arafat and Abbas: both are Jew-haters who believe in and promote terror.  The only difference is that Abbas is more dangerous because he knows how to mask his true face more effectively.”

Yet even when Israel’s enemies, such as Hamas, show no duplicity but overtly admit that they are trying to harm Jews, the media and anti-Israel groups still push the narrative that Israel is a brutal aggressor who murders Arabs indiscriminately, when clearly Israel is defending itself.

One of the media’s go-to polemics against Israel is that a disproportionate number of Palestinians die in conflicts with Israel and that Israel uses disproportionate military force.  One anti-Israel pundit even went so far as to tell me that it is immoral that the IDF goes to “extremes to save a handful of Jews.”  In the current anti-Israel climate, Israel is faulted if the Jewish casualty count is too low and if its self-defense tactics aren’t symmetrical to its enemies’ tactics.  And if Israel makes a perceived mistake when fighting against an enemy who has publicly stated “we love death more than you [the Jews] love life,” who uses women and children as human shields, and who encourages martyrdom, the perceived mistake is inordinately examined and highlighted while the violent actions of Hamas and other Arabs attacking Israel are dismissed as inconsequential.

Regarding the recent riots at the Gaza/Israel border dubbed the “Great March of Return,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, the co-founder of Hamas and a senior member said, “When we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public.  This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support.”  Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar declared, “We will take down the border and we will tear their [Jews’] hearts from their bodies.”

Hamas official Salah Bardawil acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed by the IDF during Gaza border riots were members of Hamas.  It also became known that Iran paid stipends to families who partook in the riots.  And participants at the riots told reporters that they wanted to burn and kill Jews and that they were instructed by Hamas to hide weapons under their clothing and to try to breach the security fence.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus stated what should have been obvious but was ignored and/or reframed by the media when he said, “This proves what so many have tried to ignore: Hamas is behind these riots, and the branding of the riots as ‘peaceful protests’ could not be further from the truth.”

Hamas, a terrorist organization, has ruled Gaza for over a decade.  Its rule began after Israel withdrew from Gaza.  In exchange for land, there has been no peace.  Instead, Hamas began using Gaza as a launching ground for suicide-bombing missions against Israel and for shooting missiles (supplied by Iran) into Israel. (As I write this, a barrage of missiles are being fired into Israel.)  The missiles are launched from or stored among the civilian population, even in schools and hospitals.  Hamas has also spent millions of stolen-aid money to build tunnels into Israel with the intent of kidnapping and/or murdering Jews.

Israel’s preventive measures against the terrorism of Hamas and other even more radical terrorist groups in Gaza, most notably Palestinian Islamic Jihad, include the Iron Dome missile defense system, discovery and destruction of tunnels, and a blockade, which even the UN has acknowledged is legal, that restricts the import of certain materials that terrorists routinely use to carry out attacks.  Israel also restricts movement in and out of Gaza.  Egypt also has a closed border that restricts movement in and out of Gaza.

Despite the blockade, Israel allows tons of aid into Gaza on a regular basis.  Gazans are the largest per capita recipients of international aid in the world, yet much of the aid never reaches civilians. Hamas systematically steals or squanders the aid. The civilians of Gaza have paid a heavy price for electing Hamas to govern them. Anti-Israel pundits blame Israel for the “open-air prison” conditions in Gaza. But Hamas is to blame for the parts of Gaza which are in ruins and for restrictions imposed.  The blockade remains until Hamas agrees to recognize Israel’s right to exist and it renounces violence against Israel.  Just recently a senior leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, declared that Hamas would do neither.

Hamas, with the backing of Iran, has a clear objective at the Gaza/Israel border under the guise of the “Great March of Return”: to sacrifice its civilians in order to infiltrate the border and harm Jews and to further the anti-Israel narrative.  Israel has a clear objective, too: to protect its civilians, even at the cost of furthering the anti-Israel narrative.

Since ’67, several resolutions have been passed by the UN and peace accords have been signed by both Israel and so-called leaders representing the Palestinian Arabs in hopes of solving the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Despite the extreme measures Israel has taken to give land in exchange for peace, Arabs have yet to demonstrate that they will live peacefully in exchange for land.

What anti-Israel antagonists refuse to acknowledge is that Israel has the right and will not relent the right to “live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” per Resolution 242.  Until this happens, Israel will protect itself.  Israel’s antagonists will most likely keep framing Israel’s self-defense as brutality.  When in reality it is a nation exhibiting strength and fortitude and a reminder that Jews actually value their lives more than they value world opinion.

About the Author
Camie Davis is a non-Jewish writer and advocate for Israel.