The 'occupation' is the problem

by Arthur Cohn

The Palestinian film Paradise Now, which sympathetically depicts the lives of two Palestinian terrorists, won the Golden Globe and was nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures in Hollywood for the best foreign film Oscar.

How is it possible, I ask myself, that such a film is acclaimed by people of culture? The main reason is that terrorists active against Israel are regarded by many as freedom fighters whose motives should be understood.

One word has transformed Palestinian terrorists into sympathetic figures in certain quarters and has tainted all political discussion surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: That word is "occupation."

All land not part of Israel until 1967 is deemed "occupied territory." And in dealing with supposedly stolen land all means are justified.

By these criteria there can be no negotiations about Gush Etzion or other settlement blocs, no discussion about a united Jerusalem. These areas are illegally occupied and have to be given back.

The term "occupation" also reminds people of the German occupation of Europe during WWII. This allusion to Nazism makes Israel's transgression even worse. It is only a small step from the "occupation" to a full-scale comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany. In this context, who can deny the Palestinians the right to fight the "occupation"?

Calling the West Bank "occupied" is irresponsible and unjustified. Let's remember that Israel didn't initiate the war in order to conquer land. Israel was attacked in 1967.

Israel didn't take any land from a sovereign state. The West Bank and Gaza were illegally in the hands of Jordan and Egypt respectively.

The disputed areas were promised for Jewish settlements by the League of Nations in 1922, and all the resolutions of this body were transferred to the UN under Article 80 of the UN charter.

THERE IS no parallel case in history that treats territories captured in a defensive war as occupied. Moreover, for most Arabs all the land of the state of Israel is stolen ("the occupation started in 1948") and those who speak now about "occupation" of the areas beyond the Green Line play into the hands of the Palestinians and their anti-Israel propaganda.

The soft treatment by many in the international community we are now seeing of the soon-to-be Hamas-led PA - which declares that all Israel has to be "liberated" by terrorism from "occupation" - is the proof for that. All use of the misleading term "occupied territories" encourages the double standard whereby many nations treat the various terror groups such al-Qaida one way and the Palestinian terror groups another way.

IF THERE will come a time for a peace agreement between Israel and a reliable Palestinian partner, many concessions will have to be made. But to declare in advance that all these areas don't belong to Israel, that they are part of an illegal occupation, makes no sense. Does the Old City of Jerusalem, which was attacked in 1948, not belong to Israel? Are areas like Gush Etzion not part of the Zionist enterprise? Have the survivors of the Jews brutally killed in the Hebron pogroms no right to return to their historical Jewish center?

Those who declare that great parts of Israel are occupied territories also indirectly support the Arabs' claim that the Jews really don't have any true roots in the Holy Land at all.

One sixth-grade Palestinian school book put it this way: "The argument that the Jews have historical rights in Palestine is the greatest lie in human history."

The ugly efforts of the Arab propaganda to rewrite Jewish history, by saying for instance that the Temple never existed, are indirectly supported by those who speak flippantly about "occupied territories."

By declaring that the West Bank is "occupied" we are also supporting the peculiar idea that they must become judenrein - free of Jews. If more than one million Palestinian Arabs live in Israel, why is it unthinkable that Jews would live under the Palestinian Authority?

AS FOR the ownership of the land, almost all Jews who settled beyond the Green Line built their homes on public land and not on privately owned Arab property.

If Israel's demand for security lacks a basis in law, justice and morality, if Israel does not stress its rights in the Land of Israel, if it basically justifies the Arab position that large parts of Israel belong only to them and are forcibly stolen, the Jewish state and its supporters cannot wonder when we see so many students on American university campuses embracing the Palestinian propaganda narrative. We cannot be surprised that so many writers and media people speak out against Israeli policies; we cannot wonder when major churches tell their congregants they are divesting from Israel; and we cannot wonder when a prestigious award is given to a film that shows understanding, even a certain admiration, for anti-Israel terrorists.

The ugly efforts of the Arab propaganda to rewrite Jewish history, by saying for instance that the Temple never existed, are indirectly supported by those who speak flippantly about "occupied territories."

By declaring that the West Bank is "occupied" we are also supporting the peculiar idea that they must become judenrein - free of Jews. If more than one million Palestinian Arabs live in Israel, why is it unthinkable that Jews would live under the Palestinian Authority?

AS FOR the ownership of the land, almost all Jews who settled beyond the Green Line built their homes on public land and not on privately owned Arab property.

If Israel's demand for security lacks a basis in law, justice and morality, if Israel does not stress its rights in the Land of Israel, if it basically justifies the Arab position that large parts of Israel belong only to them and are forcibly stolen, the Jewish state and its supporters cannot wonder when we see so many students on American university campuses embracing the Palestinian propaganda narrative. We cannot be surprised that so many writers and media people speak out against Israeli policies; we cannot wonder when major churches tell their congregants they are divesting from Israel; and we cannot wonder when a prestigious award is given to a film that shows understanding, even a certain admiration, for anti-Israel terrorists.

The writer is the Academy Award-winning producer of numerous films, including The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and One Day in September. This article first appeared in the Jerusalem Post on March 23, 2006.

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