Occupation and settlement in the Middle East

We write about the decades long occupation and settlement of a country on the edge of Europe – on the edge of the much plagued Middle East .

The long divided country was brazenly and unjustifiably invaded, and some 40% of the territory had been occupied before a ceasefire was called and a so-called ‘Green Line’ created. Some 40,000 troops of the invader were stationed in the territory. After the invasion, some 60,000 people had fled into the occupied region from other parts of the territory. Subsequently, around 120,000 settlers were brought into the country by the invader – a clear violation of the Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupier from transferring or deporting parts of its own civilian population into an occupied territory. The occupation is viewed as illegal under international law.

A phase of the long Israel and Palestine stand-off ?… Well, no actually… a description of Turkey and Cyprus !

Between July and August 1974, massive Turkish force invaded the island of Cyprus in answer to a coup in the country, the aim of which was annexation of the island by Greece (or, ‘enosis’… union with Greece). By the time a UN ceasefire was in place, Turkish forces had taken some 40% of northern Cyprus. The UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus – the line separating the Greek and Turkish populations of the island – became known as the ‘Green Line’.

More than one quarter of the population of Cyprus was expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where Greek Cypriots constituted 80% of the population. A little over a year later in 1975, there was also a flow of roughly 60,000 Turkish Cypriots from the south to the north after the conflict. Many of the families had lived in these areas for many generations.

Then, in 1975, in occupied Northern Cyprus, civilian settlers from Turkey began arriving. Some 120,000 settlers arrived from mainland Turkey in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In spite of the transfer of countless settlers from Anatolia, there’s not a single whine against the government in Ankara from those who purport to act in the name of ‘justice’ and against ‘occupation’. No whiny students jumping up and down outside theatres and cinemas when Turkish performances take place. No calls for boycotts. No calls for rights of return.


BDS, Suha Arafat, and some Jewish history

Small deluded groups of leftist opinion formers in western countries (e.g. the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign) continue in their efforts to discredit Israel and to institute boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against the country. Meanwhile, Jordanian-born Suha Arafat (born in Jerusalem under the Jordanian administration, and widow of deceased Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, who was born in Egypt) has instead stated that the time had come for the region’s Arabs to recognise the state of Israel, and that armed struggle to eliminate the Jewish state’s existence was no longer plausible.

Arafat has said that Arabs had to ‘clearly express […] recognition of Israel’. Further, she said that ‘no one can doubt its existence’. What she did not however say was whether or not she thought Israel had a RIGHT to exist… only that it DOES exist. The remarks had come on the tenth anniversary of her husband’s death last November 2014.

She had also expressed dismay at Hamas, and how the terror group had attacked Fatah leaders and buildings after its takeover of the Gaza Strip. Further, she said that Hamas was ruining the futures of Gaza youth, and committing ‘genocide’ upon its own people. The Hamas-generation has grown up with violence, without education, and with emigration as their only hope. She hoped that Hamas would finally understand that it should work towards peace.

While Arafat’s input was a milestone, Israeli officials speak about the need for Palestinians to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Doing so would recognise the state’s long-term sovereignty and permanence.

Israelis have a number of reasons for demanding their country be recognised as their national homeland. For the Jews, Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jews means the end of the conflict. They want to be sure that a Palestinian state bordering on Israel is the Palestinians’ final demand and that they accept the fact of Israel’s existence.

In some ways too the deluded European and North American BDS-ers also need to accept that fact of Israel’s existence, and to acknowledge that the State of Israel is simply not going to melt away. Boycotting Israel, whose agencies, institutions, universities, and laboratories have been responsible for so many Nobel Prizes and the creation of stunning advances for the good of us all, will not reduce Israeli academic nor military excellence. In boycotting Israel, the people likely to suffer most will be the thousands of Palestinian breadwinners who currently work in Israel’s factories and fields, both in Israel itself and in the West Bank.

The deluded also have to accept some historical facts, study a bit of Jewish history, and research with a great more depth the origin of the ‘Palestinians’ to whom they offer succour.

Firstly, in spite of the ancient Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman exiles endured by many Jews of the region, Jews have nevertheless had a continuous presence there for thousands of years (particularly in Jerusalem, Safed and Tiberias). Indeed, Jewish history and Jews themselves have a presence in the Holy Koran as well as in the Old and New Testaments.

Secondly, it was the Romans who first applied the name Palestine (Palestina) to the region around 70AD – around the time that they destroyed the Jewish Temple in the renamed Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem) – but it was not at that time a home to the Arabs whose universe at this point was still the Arabian Peninsula. Neither was Palestine a name that the later Ottomans would adopt, as their own imperial system used the ‘vilayet’ and ‘sanjak’ administrative system. They knew the region as composed of the Vilayet of Beirut, the Vilayet of Syria and the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem or Sanjak of Jerusalem. European Christians (i.e. the Church of Rome) however would continue to use the Roman name of Palestine… hence our modern attachment to the name.

Thirdly, the Arab ancestors of today’s Moslems in the region only swept in during the 7th century AD and with the imperialist expansion of Islam. Fast forward to the 20th century and to the British presence in ‘Palestine’ (the name of the region applied by the Romans, but ignored by the Ottomans), reference was always made to the Moslem ‘Arabs’ and to the ‘Palestinian’ Jews… the Palestinians were the Jews, the ‘Arabs’ were the Moslems (indeed, the anti-Israeli BDS-er need only refer to English language newspapers of the period to read this for themselves). Then, post-1948, and right through to the Six Day 1967 and the Yom Kippur 1972 and a bit afterwards, references were always to the Jewish-Arab conflict, never to the Jewish-Palestinian conflict.

Fourthly, not all of the diverse Arab populations of Judea, Samaria and Gaza have lived in these areas for the many generations and the many centuries that many voices urge us to believe. Either they came with invading armies, or were imported as cheap labour by the Turks and British, or wanted to profit from the economic advances made by the Jews who had been returning to rebuild their homeland since the 18th century (returning to an empty and barren landscape). Others fled to Palestine from neighbouring Arab countries. While these same voices mock the dual-passport-holding modern Israeli, they ignore the dual-passport-holding Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza many of whom have relatives in Israel, some in Jordan, some in Lebanon, some in Egypt, some in Europe and North America.

Deep silence from the SPSC about the killing of Palestinians in Yarmouk, Damascus!!!

The SPSC (Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign) – long offering succour to the fascist leaderships Hamas and Fatah – is fond of using the word ‘massacre’ when there isn’t one, and ignoring a real one while it actually happens! Maybe it is only worth wailing and demonstrating when a Palestinian is killed by an Israeli… that’s certainly what it seems like when you check out the SPSC website.

Having just had a look at the SPSC website we can confidently report a complete absence of condemnation from that group about the condition and fate of Palestinians in the Yarmouk district of Damascus (the so-called Palestinian ‘camp’ which is actually a city suburb). Similarly, no condemnation of the Syrian government massacre of its citizens… no condemnation of Islamic State and its killing of Palestinians. No great condemnation either from other groups about the bombing and killing of Yemeni civilians.

Further… no First Minister or any other politician heading a ‘Stop the War in Syria’ march in Glasgow or Edinburgh… no ‘Women for Syria’ rally… no ‘Women for Yemen and Yarmouk’ rally… No demands for governments to take action… All quite different from August 2014 when Nicola Sturgeon agreed to headline a ‘Women for Gaza’ rally in Glasgow.

While Israel was defending itself from terrorist acts mounted from Gaza last year, the streets around Israeli embassies across Europe were crowded with demonstrators in support of Palestinians, wailing about a ‘massacre’ in Gaza, and threatening all kinds of retribution on Jews. Massacre in Gaza there wasn’t, but there certainly is in Syria right this very minute, and civilians are dying in Yemen now too.

You don’t get to see that of course, because journalists and their cameramen find it much less comfortable to report from Yemen than from Dubai and the comfort of their hotel lounges. They like to report from Israel too when there is a dust-up in Gaza because the hotels are so much more congenial in Tel Aviv (piece to camera on the border with smoke in the background in Gaza). And of course you don’t get your attention drawn to it in the streets from groups such as the SPSC, because their prime motive is not support for Palestinians but condemnation of Israel.

Where are the events in support of the distressed Palestinians of Syria? Where are the calls for aid? Where are the plans to lobby MPs and get weeping celebrities in front of a camera? All there is… is silence. And yet… isn’t the SPSC supposed to be campaigning for Palestine?

Nix to a State of Palestine… Think about a confederation of Palestinian city and town states instead… But not today, or tomorrow… In the meantime expect more violence…

Widely publicised across Europe and North America during the recent Israeli General Election was the remark by Benjamin Netanyahu that there would be no Palestinian state if he prevailed in the closely-fought 2015 Election. Pundits latched onto how this had been the first time that the country’s prime minister had explicitly rejected such an outcome.

So… what was it that Benjamin Netanyahu actually said to create all the media excitement, and the upset, particularly among those who regard the establishment of a second Moslem Palestinian state (the first Palestinian state for Moslems having been created in 1922 and is today known as Jordan) as the one ‘moment’ most likely to return the world to peace and equilibrium and restored order, and to complete the world family of nations? Well… he said: ‘I think that anyone who goes about establishing a Palestinian state today and vacating territory is giving attack territory to extremist Islam to be used against the state of Israel. That is the real reality that has been created here in recent years. Whoever ignores this is putting his head in the sand’.

If you really examine the words, all that Netanyahu is doing is simply stating the obvious. He doesn’t state that he is against a (second Moslem) Palestinian state, indeed his statement is framed from the point of view of ‘anyone who goes about establishing’ such a state. That doesn’t sound negative, but rather positive. But… of course there cannot be a Palestinian state under the circumstances he then outlines… i.e. the creation of attack territory in that state which can be used by extreme Islamists to attack Israel.

Netanyahu is simply stating reality.

The conditions are not ripe. The Arabs of Gaza and Judaea and Samaria have lost the momentum. They have long missed their chance. Having refused the offers and concessions made by Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2007, and in light of the new and catastrophic strategic environment in the Middle East and the danger it poses to Israel, a second Moslem Palestinian state is off the table. Should it be on the table? How can it be? What IS this state? This Palestine. Certainly nothing conceived of by those plenipotentiaries drawing up and concluding the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States which was signed in 1933 and came into force in 1934. Almost immediately this ‘Palestine’ fails to measure up to the Montevideo Convention.

Article I of the Convention defines a state as possessing: a permanent population; a defined territory; a government; and capacity to enter into relations with the other states. What is the ‘defined territory’ of ‘Palestine’? It hasn’t yet agreed the border of the disputed territory with its neighbour, or indeed what its actual territory is. What is its government? The one in Gaza, or in Ramallah, or the imagined ‘unity’ one. Then there is Article X of the Convention which defines the primary interest of a state as being ‘the conservation of peace’. How does this equate with the Constitutions of both Fatah and Hamas which write of eliminating Israel, and with the aggression against Israel from Hamas and other militant groups?

So indeed… Off the table for now… No state for now… Nix… Not for some time to come… Not a state like any other known to us today, that is. Is this something to lament? No. Probably not. The world and UN agencies seem to operate quite comfortably without Biafra and Tibet and Tamil Eelam… and they’ll work fine without a second Moslem Palestinian state.

That is not to say never of course. There ARE models of independent micro-statehood like that of Andorra, or Monaco, or San Marino, or Vatican City that could be emulated in Judaea and Samaria and Gaza. With Israel and its IDF defending a secure border down the Jordan River Valley, small independent demilitarised City-states might perhaps be established, or an independent confederation of demilitarised town and city states, or clusters of the same, each with its own agri-hinterlands – some contiguous, some not – all coming together in a parliament in Ramallah, or Hebron, or Nablus, or Jenin. A demilitarised Confederation of Palestinian City-States? Something to consider?

For now though, gather yourself for the next round of hostility from Gaza against Israel and further setback for the Palestinian people as a result. Use the same script as last time…: Missiles and rocket-propelled-grenades lobbed indiscriminately at Israeli civilians… retaliation from Israel… deaths… international puffing and frothing… tears from celebrities… wailing about proportionality of response… representatives of the many totalitarian states in the UN speak with one voice etc etc…

Recent anniversary: Rachel Corrie (1979-2003), useful tool… useful idiot…

A few days ago the anniversary of the accidental killing in 2003 of Rachel Corrie by IDF ‘sappers’ in Gaza was marked by the usual peak in posts on social media networks by folks who actually seem to care about Corrie – useful tool of the pro-Palestinian propaganda machinery. It is an anniversary that encourages sentiment and excitement. Indeed, in Scotland two years ago (early weeks of 2013) a nation-wide theatre tour of the play My name is Rachel Corrie saw visits from Tobermory to Glasgow, to Ullapool to Skye, to Greenock to Musselburgh and Edinburgh, and to Dundee and Dunfermline, and many places between all of these.

It was a one-woman play composed from Rachel Corrie’s own journals, letters and emails. It created a portrait of the 23-year old American  woman from  Olympia, Washington – often described as a ‘girl’ –  who was supporting what has also often been described as ‘non-violent resistance to Israel’s military occupation’. Corrie was killed during operations carried out by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003. Today, in 2015, her parents (Craig and Cindy Corrie) continue to travel around the world giving talks maligning Israel, quite blind to the malign intent of their daughter.

It is important to remember what Rachel Corrie was actually all about – she was certainly no saint, and as a 23-year old adult she herself knew indeed what she was all about.

Corrie was an activist (her Wikipedia article describes her as activist and diarist) associated with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a body which has harboured known terrorists and which has openly advocated violence against Israel and the destruction of that country. On the day of her death she was not demonstrating for peace or trying to shield innocent civilians – as one might expect of a peace activist – instead she had entered an area where Israeli forces were carrying out a military operation. Her death occurred while Israeli forces using a bulldozer were removing shrubbery along the security road near the border between Israel and Egypt at Rafah to uncover explosive devices, and destroying tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists to illegally smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza. Corrie died while interfering with a military operation to legally demolish an empty house used to conceal one of these tunnels… a demolition not unlike these undertaken recently by Egyptian troops around the Gazan border with Sinai.

Much of the ‘sainthood’ and myth surrounding Corrie – a useful tool of the Palestinian propaganda machinery in Gaza – centres round a photograph wired by the Associated Press (AP) giving the impression that Corrie was standing in front of the bulldozer and shouting at the driver with a megaphone, trying to prevent the driver from tearing down the building concealing the tunnels. This photograph, which was taken by a member of ISM (Corrie’s organisation), was not shot at the time of her death however, but hours earlier. Indeed the bulldozer involved in her accidental death was a different one from the one she had been photographed in front of earlier.  The photographer admitted that at the time of her death, Corrie was actually seated.

An investigation into her death concluded that Corrie (whether standing or seated) could not have been seen by the driver of the bulldozer because she was behind debris which concealed the driver’s view.

The accidental death received worldwide publicity in large part because it was the first such incident where a foreign protester was killed, and because the protester was female, and often described as innocent. Corrie and her family would have been aware that the US State Department had warned Americans not to travel to Gaza, and Israel made clear that civilians who entered areas where troops were engaged in counter-terror operations were putting themselves at risk unnecessarily. The Israeli  army had told Corrie and other demonstrators from the ISM to move out of the way.

The organisation which Corrie supported – the ISM – claimed to be a humanitarian organisation dedicated to the principles of non-violent resistance, but it had demonstrated no interest in peace for Israelis. The ISM has acted as an apologist for terrorism, and has, at times, actively abetted militants. ISM is an organisation wholly opposed to the two-state solution envisioned by parties truly interested in peace.