Time to Ban Ban

Over the past week or so, the internet has been set ablaze by recent comments by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.  Ban issued a statement where he chided Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and described violent Palestinian reactions as “natural.”

His exact words were, “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process. Some have taken me to task for pointing out this indisputable truth. Yet, 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.”

There are a myriad of problems with that statement, perhaps the most disconcerting is that it came from the head of the largest international organization in the world. While history has shown that no one should expect anything but an anti-Israel bias to come out of the UN, one should be worried that the head of that organization is making those statements. Statements that are so detached from historical facts and rooted in anti-Semitism have no place coming from someone who is supposed to be a neutral observer, not taking the side of a terrorism-sponsoring pseudo-government over that of a democratically elected, internationally recognized nation.

Before delving into the specific Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how Moon’s comments are lacking substance, let us examine history.  Throughout ancient, and modern history, groups of people have always been occupied, yet resorting to violence is not a given as Ban says. In today’s world we have multiple perfect examples.  Take Tibet for instance. When was the last time the world heard of a Tibetan nationalist murdering people on the streets of Beijing?  When was the last time Tibetans responded to Chinese occupation by suicide bombs rocking Shanghai?  That does not happen, and Chinese occupation of Tibet dwarfs any Israeli “occupation” of Palestinians. It does not happen because Tibetan society and their religion does not condone or promote violence the way Arab society and Islam do. There are no streets in Tibet named after mass killers, no rewards given out to the families of Tibetans who kill themselves along with innocent Chinese civilians.

Moving closer to the Middle East, look at the Kurds.  A century ago, the Kurdish people were spread out among the newly created countries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Kurds have always desired statehood, and have a stronger case than Palestinians. Despite battles in Turkey, the Kurdish people never committed mass atrocities against Iran, Syria, or Iraq the way Palestinians have against Israelis. The Kurds have even taken up arms to be the on the front line of the world’s battle against ISIS.  Kurdish populations in Iraq were victimized, gassed, and had mass killings committed against them, yet they did not resort to the type of violence Ban Ki-Moon attributes to Palestinians. Violence has not always been the reaction of an occupied people, yet Ban refuses to acknowledge that as it would take the blame off of the Israelis. The type of violence taking place on the streets of Jerusalem and Hebron are unique to Palestinians because their society, government, and their religion condone, promote, and incite it.

On top of Ban’s comments being disassociated from reality in terms of historical reactions to occupation, they diverge from the actual occupation in question. Flat out, Israel does not occupy Palestinian land, unless one takes the radical approach to believing all of Israel is Palestinian land.  The Oslo accords, 22 years old, ensured that 98% of the West Bank is governed by the Palestinian Authority.  With virtually all Palestinian citizens being governed out of Ramallah, exactly who is Israel occupying?  What’s funny is that no one in the international community dared declare “occupation” when Jordan was ruling the West Bank with a heavy fist from 1948-1967.  However, once Israel conquered that land in the Six Day War, everything changed.

Palestinians constantly claim that roadblocks and checkpoints are humiliating, but what the West won’t say to them is that millions of people go through the same safety measures before boarding airplanes and do not complain.  If being checked for bombs and weapons is humiliating, the Palestinians can only blame history which has shown that as checkpoints increase, violent attacks against Israelis decrease.  It is well known to Israelis and the Palestinian Authority that any roadblocks and checkpoints set up by the IDF are temporary and will be removed when the PA is able to rein in its citizens.

When Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the PA stop using the same anti-Semitic, incendiary remarks that Grand Mufti Al-Husseini used in the 1920’s, then Palestinian youth will stop trying to stab IDF soldiers, shoot Israeli civilians, and murder innocent Israelis in cold blood. Time and time again, the stability of the PA has been threatened by internal conflict and fights with Hamas, but Israel has been the one propping it up.  Israel wants the PA to be able to govern the West Bank because the enemy you know is better than the one you don’t, but Israel does not see the PA as its enemy.  Ever since Oslo, Israeli governments have wanted closer cooperation with the Palestinian government, yet time after time it has been rebuffed.  The summits at Camp David (2000) and Taba (2001) are perfect examples of this.  Both times, Arafat walked away with great chances to have a Palestinian state.

Those on the Left love to point out that there are Israeli settlements in parts of the West Bank, but that is the ancient Jewish homeland.  There have been Jewish communities there for 3,000 years, with a 19 year break when Jordan made the West Bank Jew-free.  There is no Israeli occupation of the West Bank, there is Israeli protection of Israeli communities that have returned to their homeland.  There are Israeli checkpoints that require the same level of security as any international border, and airport.  None of those facts was mentioned in Ban’s comments that attempted to shift all the blame onto Israel.

Yes, Palestinian youth are unhappy with their present situation in life. The economic opportunities they have open to them are not great. Where in history does it say that those automatically produce killers and terrorists?  Palestinian youth are stuck in a situation where they have a corrupt and inept government in the Palestinian Authority, but the alternative appears to be Hamas.  When Israel actually did occupy the West Bank and Gaza, those economies skyrocketed.  Now, Palestinians are left with corrupt officials who have stolen hundreds of millions from the international community to line their own pockets.

When I was in Israel, a question was posed to me by an IDF soldier.  He said, “Imagine a two-state solution is reached.  Israel is no longer burdened by massive defense costs and can invest in infrastructure and education.  Palestinians no longer resort to terrorism and are forced to build a functioning state.  How would the futures of those two countries look?”  Try and imagine that.  Israel would instantly become a world leader in dozens of fields, and Palestine would go the way of Arab nations with no oil: poor, desolate, and maligned.  Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement that in no way fits in with the facts on the ground, and only continues the trend of Israel-bashing at the United Nations.  He blames Israel for a political and economic situation that is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority.  His comments are detached from reality in multiple ways and it does severe damage to issue such misguided statements.  Ban should be holding the PA responsible for the damage it has done to its own citizens, not trying to shift the blame onto Israel.  The PA fought for the right to govern their own people, and now that they have it, they actually have to govern.

About the Author
Saul Mangel is a political consultant for top officials in the United States and Israel. He specializes in international relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Originally from Philadelphia, Mr. Mangel holds a bachelor's degree in political science and is a former IDF combat soldier.
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