29 March 2011
The following article by Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon was originally published by the 'Wall Street Journal' on 29 March 2011.
Israel and the occupation myth
By Daniel Ayalon
The recent murder of a family of five in Itamar shocked Israelis to their core. A terrorist broke into the Fogels' home before stabbing and garroting to death the two parents, Udi and Ruth, and their children Yoav, 11 years old, Elad, 4, and almost decapitating Hadas, who was only three months old. There has since been very little outcry from the international community. Many nations who are so used to condemning the building of apartment units beyond the Green Line remained silent on this sadistic murder. Meanwhile, the few international correspondents to have covered the massacre have placed it in the context of ongoing settlement-building and Israel's so-called "occupation."
However, regardless of one's views on which people have greater title to Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank, it is a historically inaccurate distortion to claim that the occupation that breeds this type of violence. If this mantra were true, then it must be the case that before the occupation there was no violence. This defies the historical record.
In 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron-which stretches back millennia, long before the creation of Islam and the Arab conquest and subsequent occupation of the area-was brutally attacked. The Jews who had been living peacefully with their Muslim neighbors were set upon in a bloody rampage, inspired by Palestinian Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, who later became notorious as Hitler's genocidal acolyte during the Holocaust. In two days, 67 Jews were hacked or bludgeoned to death. Jewish infants were beheaded and Jewish women were disemboweled. Limbs were hacked off the dead as well as those who managed to survive.
On visiting the scene shortly after the massacre, Britain's High Commissioner for Palestine John Chancellor wrote to his son "I do not think that history records many worse horrors in the last few hundred years." This and other similar pogroms happened, not only before the "occupation" of Judea and Samaria, but even two decades before the state of Israel was reestablished. From 1948 to 1967, Judea and Samaria were illegally occupied by Jordan, which renamed the area the West Bank, in reference to the East Bank of the Kingdom of Jordan that fell beyond the Jordan River. Not one Israeli was allowed into this area, yet nor did Israel know one day of peace in that time, during which it saw brutal attacks launched from the West Bank against Israeli civilians.
Further evidence against the mantra that the occupation breeds violence can be culled from Palestinian sources. Take Hamas's founding charter, for instance, which does not mention occupation or settlements. What is does contain are calls for the complete destruction of Israel, down to its last inch, such as: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." The charter goes even further, aspiring to a point in time when there will be no Jews left anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, the Palestine Liberation Organization, currently headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, notes in its founding charter that "this organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank," while still calling for a "liberation of its homeland." This was written in 1964, fully three years before Israel conquered the West Bank during the Six Day War.
It's safe to say that the violence and terror visited upon Israelis has little connection to "occupation" or settlements. This myth has no historical foundation, but is easy to proclaim for those who have little understanding of the conflict. Yet these fatuous canards only make our conflict harder to solve. The recent massacre in Itamar highlighted the Palestinian Authority's ongoing incitement to violence through its media, mosques and educational system. At this point, the basic parameters of the peace process need an overhaul. If our aim is to reach a peaceful resolution, then merely ending the "occupation" would far from guarantee that, as history has shown.
Israel was assured in the past by the international community that if it just retreated from Gaza and Lebanon, peace would flourish and violence would come to an end. In both cases, this hope proved deadly wrong, and millions of Israelis have been subjected to incessant attacks from these territories since the retreat. This is not about "occupation" or territory; it is about meaningful coexistence. Only when the root ideological causes of our conflict are solved can Israelis and Palestinians make the painful concessions necessary for peace.
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