The occupation is the duck!

“If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like duck… what is it?”, said Prime Minister Netanyahu in his AIPAC speech last year referring to the Iranian nuclear program. Using the analogy with the report of the Levi Commission, I ask: if its not occupation, then what is it?

After my last article I received some comments that challenged both the existence of the occupation and the involvement of the international community (and international law) in the conflict.

I don’t believe is healthy for us as a society to debate the existence of the occupation, so I will not refer to it. I will only paraphrase Bibi himself in the same AIPAC speech I mention above: “it is time to start calling a duck, a duck.” It is impossible to miss the big elephant in the room.

I will, however, refer to some sectors of our society that question the legitimacy of the international community (and hence international law) in their involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I believe this is a double standard. The Balfour Declaration, the UN Partition Plan, and other historic documents in which the international community supports (loudly and clearly) our right, as Jews to have a state are welcomed (and ironically used by the Levi commission to justify the occupation). However, when we talk about international treaties in which Israel is a signatory, they are often disregarded as irrelevant (take the Geneva Convention, for instance). As a modern state, either we like it or not, we are confined to obligations as members of the international community, and we are expected to fulfill them.  As we, for instance, expect from the new Egyptian government to comply with previous international obligations, such as our peace treaty, or the Iranians to comply with the IAEA regulation, we are also expected to comply with our own set of obligations.

The best way to deal with international movements that aim to condemn Israel, such as BDS, is to show to the world, with deeds, that we — in spite of what the accusations of the boycotters — are a responsible member of the international community and are committed to our obligations. Actions that seem to ignore international law are harmful to us, and contribute to further international condemnation of Israel.

The Levi commission and its findings are just an example of wrongdoing on our part. With it we are giving an impression to the international community that we are the ones to blame for the lack of progress in the peace process. Furthermore, it weakens the global support for the two states solution.

About the Author
Dany Bahar is a fellow in the Brookings Institute in Washington DC. He holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University.