by Kim Petersen
June 2, 2003
The words were a stunning, frank admission coming from a military officer turned politician, a man who declared that Jordan was the Palestinian state. “You may not like the word, but what's happening is occupation. Holding 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is a bad thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and for the Israeli economy.” Now that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that there is in fact an occupation going on in the West Bank and Gaza strip there are to be some blatant implications from this declaration.
Of course banished from the discourse now must be the utterly fallacious references to the “contested territories,” “disputed territories,” or “so-called Occupied Territories.” This has huge significance. It is now stated that Israeli settlements are being and have been built on the territory of another people. Roads and checkpoints have been built on someone else’s territory. Houses and olive trees have been extirpated on someone else’s territory. Water has been expropriated from the people of the territory. A wall is being constructed without the rightful occupant’s permission. It seems obvious in light of this glaring admission that all these egregious activities must cease and be repealed. The land must be returned to the rightful owners.
The Israeli occupation forces must be withdrawn. The settlers must leave with them. Restitution must be made for the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure, housing, and agriculture and for the killing and devastation wreaked upon the Palestinian people.
It is a confession that Israel is and has been knowingly violating the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel has been committing war crimes in the Occupied Territories since 1967. It is a de facto recognition of UN Security Council Resolution 242.
Not only has been Israel been committing crimes against Palestinians but against its own citizens. A group of courageous Israelis have been imprisoned for refusing military service in the Occupied Territories. These refuseniks had been denied conscientious objector status. Even the Israeli High Court had rejected the notion of “selective conscientious objectors” for the refuseniks. Now Mr. Sharon must release these moral knights.
What brought Mr. Sharon to confess to the occupation? Most likely it was the economic and geopolitical realities with which Mr. Sharon was faced. Despite huge cash infusions from the US, financially Israel has been rocked by the al Aqsa Intifada. Israel was increasingly being faced with world censure for its crimes in the Occupied Territories. There is little chance of Israel being fully accepted into the world community until it ceases its illegal pogrom.
Is the admission real? Probably. Will it change the polity of the Middle East? One tends to be highly doubtful.
Mr. Sharon has since tried to wriggle out of his earlier admission. It seems “occupation” refers to the people and not the land. Said Mr. Sharon, “I meant, it is undesirable for us to rule over a Palestinian population.” Semantically this version is ludicrous; “occupation” refers not to people but to real estate.
Other high-ranking Israeli officials view Mr. Sharon’s actual intentions with a heavy dose of skepticism. Hypothetically, if Mr. Sharon’s early statement, by which occupation is usually known to refer, was real then the Quartet’s Roadmap should be unnecessary and the final status should be clear. Seems things are still being contested after all.
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org