What Right Does Israel Have To Occupy The Palestinian Territories?

Why would any Palestinian acquiesce to a life of servitude? Why would any country for that matter? The age of imperialism ended in the last century. So did the age of apartheid

What Right Does Israel Have To Occupy The Palestinian Territories?

Before the establishment of Israel, the UN passed a resolution that proposed dividing what was then called Palestine into two states: one comprised mostly of Palestinian Arabs and the other made up mostly of Jewish people, including many from Europe who had settled in the area after fleeing the Nazis. However, that two-state solution never saw the light of day.

In 1948, Israel declared itself to be an independent sovereign state and went to war with the neighbouring Arab states, taking control of 77% of the Palestinian land. Half of the Palestinian population fled or were displaced, their property seized, and their civil and human rights obliterated.

As the years passed, Israel, armed by the western powers, mostly the US, went to war several times with its neighbouring Arab states, always claiming to be acting in self-defence. During the Six Day War of 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and the Sinai from Egypt. Following the war, UN Security Council Resolution 242 was passed “formulated the principles of a just and lasting peace, including an Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the conflict, a just settlement of the refugee problem, and the termination of all claims or states of belligerency.” It was never implemented.

In October 1973, Egypt carried out a surprise attack on Israel, hoping to retake the Sinai but failed. Five years later, President Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel. The Sinai except for Gaza was returned to Egypt. However, Gaza and the West Bank remained under Israeli occupation.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton brokered the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians which opened the door to the creation of a Palestinian State. Three decades have elapsed and the US has only paid lip service to that idea. The main reason is that right wing extremists in Israel, most notably the current prime minister, Netanyahu, are stridently opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state. They regard the West Bank as rightfully theirs, the Judea and Samaria of ancient history. As for Gaza, they view it as vital to Israel’s national security.

According to one source, “most Palestinians who live in occupied territories are not granted Israeli citizenship, so they are not allowed to vote in Israeli elections despite living under full or partial Israeli rule. Israel has restricted movement in and out of Gaza since 2007 through the implementation of a blockade. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, there’s no formal blockade, but an extensive network of checkpoints manned by the Israeli military that puts a similar restriction on Palestinian residents’ freedom of movement.

In 2020, once the Abraham Accords were signed, Netanyahu sought to bypass the Palestinians by establishing ties with Arab nations. When Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 787 civilians and a few hundred soldiers, he sent his troops into Gaza to carry out a bloody and vicious rampage.

None of this would have been possible if the US had not armed and abetted Israel. However, the US has increasingly found itself isolated on the global stage for his unconditional support for Israel. Even on the home front, he is facing considerable opposition, not just from Muslim and Arab Americans, but also from many Christians and Jews, and most notably from many voters under the age of 24. This being an election year, he has decided to resurrect the two-state solution.

To ward off that threat, Netanyahu was able to get 80% of the Knesset to vote in opposition to the creation of a Palestinian State. When asked recently about his end game in Gaza, Netanyahu said it was absolute victory over Hamas.

Once Hamas is destroyed, he wants to turn Gaza into a demilitarised zone, with entry and exit controlled by Israel. Unsurprisingly, Biden’s conception of a Palestinian state is not that different from Netanyahu’s. He said it would not have a military and only those who Israel has cleared would be allowed to govern it. In other words, it would be a colony of Israel, permanently subservient to Israel, within which Palestinians would effectively live under siege.

Why would any Palestinian acquiesce to a life of servitude? Why would any country for that matter? The age of imperialism ended in the last century. So did the age of apartheid, as vividly exemplified by the transformation of South Africa.

If a Palestinian State is demilitarised, then shouldn’t Israel also be demilitarised?

Why should the world grant Israel the right to occupy Palestine forever? South Africa has taken that very question to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

The US, along with the UK, told the court that the October 7 attack by Hamas showed the vulnerability of Israel. The US legal representative said: “Any movement towards Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza requires consideration of Israel's very real security needs.” He offered no condemnation of what the settlers have been doing to Palestinians in the West Bank for decades or what the Israeli military has been doing in Gaza for the past five months.

Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu questioned the ICJ’s hearing’s legitimacy, saying it infringed on “the right of Israel to defend itself against existential threats.”

On the last day of hearings, Turkey’s deputy foreign minister said that the attacks of October 7 proved, once again, that there can be no peace in the region unless Israel ends its occupation. Concluding that the occupation was “the real obstacle to peace,” he urged the court to declare it illegal.

Regardless of the ICJ’s decision, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories has been shown to be a “cruel and unusual punishment” for the 5 million who reside there. Their only “crime” is that they were born into a Palestinian family.

If this is not discrimination based on race, then what is? If the collective punishment being meted out to them, often including murder, torture, and starvation, is not genocide, then what is?

Dr. Faruqui is a history buff and the author of Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan, Routledge Revivals, 2020. He tweets at @ahmadfaruqui