My friend was angry, indignant.
So I asked, “What’s up?”
“I’m against the occupation.”
I was curious, so I asked, “Just which occupation do you mean?”
Do you mean the former Chinese occupation of Mongolia? Or the current Chinese occupation of Tibet?
Do you mean the Russian occupation of Crimea? Of South Ossetia? Of Eastern Ukraine? Of Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad)? Of Georgia?
The British occupation of Gibraltar? Of Diego Rivera? Of the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas)?
Or do you mean the Chilean occupation of western Bolivia, which is now landlocked, just like the Palestinian Authority? Or The Chilean occupation of indigenous Mapuche lands?
The occupation of Namibia by South Africa?
Of Northern Cyprus by Turkey?
The current Turkish occupation of Northern Syria?
Of Western Sahara by Morocco?
The former occupation of East Timor by Indonesia?
The Indonesian occupation of West New Guinea?
The former occupation of Hawaii by the United States?
The Indian occupation of portions of Kashmir?
The Indian occupation of Goa? (Subsequently annexed by India.)
The former Egyptian occupation of Gaza?
The former Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria?
Which occupation do you mean?
My friend was getting angrier by the minute. “The Israeli occupation of Palestine!”
I did not want to upset my friend further, but I had to correct him.
Eugene Kontorovich, one of the world’s preeminent scholars of international law, has noted that Judea and Samaria are disputed, not occupied, territories. After all, in the history of the world, Palestine has never been a sovereign country.
By the time the first Arabs arrived in Palestine as invaders from the east, Jews had already lived in the area for over a millennium.
Jews have lived continuously in Judea and Samaria for over 3,500 years—-except for 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation of the area from 1948 to 1967. That Jewish absence was due to expulsion of the Jewish population by Jordan in 1948.
That expulsion was followed by the massive ethnic cleansing of Jews from virtually the entire Arab world. This was achieved by means of Arab government policies that included massacres, forced expulsions, property seizures, draconian anti-Jewish laws, and outright citizenship revocations. Estimates of the number of Jews expelled or forced to flee Arab countries range from 750,000 to one million. Notably, this is greater than the number of Arab Palestinians who fled or were expelled from what is today Israel.
Although small remnant Jewish populations continue in Morocco and Tunisia, the Arab world today is almost free of Jews. (However, tiny Jewish communities have recently been established in the Gulf region.)
Many Jews returned to the land of their ancestors in Palestine over the years. And in the first half of the twentieth century, many Arabs came as settlers from outside of Palestine—-from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other lands—- as a result of economic opportunities created by Jewish settlement and development in Palestine.
The international community—governments, media and civil society groups—-have been obsessed with the Israeli “occupation.” Remarkably, none of the other territorial issues summarized above has gotten much attention at all.
My friend remained indignant. “But the reality is that the occupation of Palestine is causing all the violence.”
Perhaps I should not have annoyed my friend further. But I couldn’t help but point out that Arab mobs and terrorists have been killing Jews in Palestine (and later Israel) since the Nebi Musa Riots of 1920—long before Israel existed, and long before the “occupation.”
Exasperated, my friend blurted out, “So what do YOU think is causing the problem?”
I paused for a moment, “Perhaps the Palestinians believe the Jews have no right to a state of their own.”