50 Years Of Israeli Occupation Is Far Too Long

In just a few weeks, the world will witness a remarkable and sobering milestone.  By June, 2017, Israel will have been a military occupying power in the Palestinian territories for 50 years.  Given the West’s blasé attitude, you might think this anniversary were inconsequential, but for millions in the Middle East, their hope and future depend on a shift from the status quo

Some Canadians take a fatalistic attitude to the occupation and associated strife, making comments like, “the conflict will never end,” or, “they’ve been fighting for thousands of years” – neither of which is true.  But regardless of the myths and the cynicism, 50 years of military occupation is far too long, and international players – including Canada – need to get serious about bringing it to an end.  This crippling standoff between Israelis and Palestinians represents a ongoing failure in international diplomacy, and remains a source of ongoing strife in the broader Middle East.

Some Israelis have suggested that this Palestinian territory – the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza – is theirs, won through a war with Jordan and Egypt in 1967.  But the UN Charter and international law do not recognize the acquisition of territory by force, and the land was never Jordan’s nor Egypt’s to “lose.” 

Israel’s military occupation is not benign, and it has been widely condemned by legal experts.  It comes with soldiers, guns, walls, checkpoints, sniper towers, arrests, searches, land confiscations, house demolitions and more.  Every day, Palestinian civilians live with its reality: waiting at checkpoints to get to work; tolerating humiliating searches; farmers blocked from accessing their olive groves; patients blocked from getting treatment at health facilities; families fearing the loss of their homes.  After 50 years, we should not be surprised when some of them lose hope and turn to violence to vent their frustration. 

The occupation is also destructive for Israel.  One book released by the Israeli Political Science Association concludes that Israel’s occupation has severely undermined core societal values and institutions.  The authors argue that suspicion and distrust within the occupying Israeli society transform themselves into contempt and humiliation of the occupied Palestinians.  These changes, the book argues, cause the fragmentation of Israel’s moral texture.  Human rights journalist Gideon Levy is more blunt: “[Israel] is a state whose sense of direction has been lost, its ability to distinguish good from evil impaired.”

There is no reason the Palestinians shouldn’t have their own state.  It was the intent of the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and the right to self-determination of all peoples is enshrined in international law.  For years, the Palestinians have satisfied the three criteria normally set out for peoples demanding the right to self-determine.  First, the Palestinians exist as a distinct people with a distinct identity.  Next, the borders of the Palestinian state are clear, and would mirror that of the 1947 armistice (Green) line.  Finally, the Palestinians have a recognized government, the Palestinian Authority, established via the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The vast majority of the world is ready to welcome Palestine as a member of the UN community of nations.  In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted 138-9 in support of “Non-MemberObserverState” for Palestine.  There is no reason that the cultural, economic and societal aspirations of the Palestinians should continue to be held hostage to an intrusive and brutal Israeli occupation.

It is true that there would be logistical challenges to the establishment of a free Palestine today.  Indeed, Israel has worked hard over 50 years to create “facts on the ground” as a deterrent to Palestinian self-determination.  Most notably, Israel has illegally moved 600,000 Jewish-Israeli civilians into Palestinian territory, in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition against the colonization of occupied land. 

  • But these and other      obstacles could be overcome if the West had the honest desire to do      so.  The Geneva      Initiative of 2003 is one of several independent initiatives between      Israeli and Palestinian civilians which demonstrates that a mutually      agreeable deal for both Israelis and Palestinians is possible.  For much of the world, the Western      governments’ lack of resolve on Israel-Palestine makes a mockery of all      our talk about human rights.  
  • Middle powers like Canada      may feel like they don’t have much of a role to play, but this is      untrue.  Both Israelis and      Palestinians crave legitimacy, and abhor talk of their human rights abuses.  Just as the Security Council condemnation      of settlements riled Israel in December, ongoing condemnation of human      rights violations by Canada and others would similarly create pressure for      an end to the impasse.
  • The world would not have      tolerated US occupation soldiers in Germany 50 years after World War      II.  In the same way, the world      should not tolerate Israeli soldiers in the West Bank 50 years after the      1967 war.  But unless something galvanizes      Trudeau, Trump and other Western leaders to action, we may soon observe      another sad anniversary of Israel’s ongoing military occupation.  If so, Israelis, and especially      Palestinian civilians, will continue to pay a heavy price for our indifference. 

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Khaoula Chehbouni
    published this page in khaoula 2017-06-13 12:40:00 -0400
Join the newsletter Donate

See other recent stories:

The Liberals’ Feminist Foreign Policy is not Compatible with “Business as Usual”

The Liberal Government's Troubled Relationship with the Rule of Law

Trudeau's "Feminism" Just Ain't Cutting It

Consultations On Islamophobia Are Not An Alternative To Action

The Conservatives' Jerusalem Promise Is Scheer Madness

In Case You Missed It, Parliament Issued Its M-103 Islamophobia Report

Is Singh’s NDP Prepared to Distinguish Itself?

When Will Canadians Get The Anti-Islamophobia Measures They Want?

Bill 62: Colonialism 101

Canada Must Learn From Past Arms Sales Folly

Israel is Being Singled Out – For Favouritism

Roger Waters' support For BDS strengthens his anti-war credibility

Israel's War Of Textbooks Comes to Canada

Give The Anti-Palestinian Rhetoric A Rest

Canada Must Do More Than Just Throw Money At Palestinian Refugees

UWO Rejects Pressure From Israeli Lobby Group Over UN Special Rapporteur

Whats Up With Treyf a Debatably Jewish Podcast

Canada's Flip-flop On West Bank Wines Betrays Canadian Consumers' Interests

Canada Now a Hawk On Nuclear Arms

Trudeau Government Blocks Direct Flights to Beirut

Niki Ashton represents new breed of Canadian leader

Abuse of Prisoners Is Intolerable, Whether in Palestine or Northern Ireland

Liberals Largely Insincere On Arms Trade Treaty Bill

Canadian Politicians Can’t Cherry Pick Malala Yousafzai’s Message

Dysfunction at the UN: The Saudis aren’t the only ones to blame

50 Years Of Israeli Occupation Is Far Too Long

Trudeau’s Simplistic Approach Won’t Work In Syria

Canadian Zionists Join World Wide Campaign to Mark Centenary of Balfour Declaration

Trudeau Must Not Rubber Stamp Trump’s Military Interventions

NDP Leaders Race Should Be About Who Can Beat Trudeau