Palestinians are not Israelis

Israel’s control over Judea and Samaria is not “occupation,” at least not according to international law.

Palestinians travel through a crossing monitored by COGAT on umrah, the pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj (photo credit: COGAT)
Palestinians travel through a crossing monitored by COGAT on umrah, the pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj
(photo credit: COGAT)
The American tourist was staring at me with “deer in the headlights” eyes. She did not comprehend what I had just said to her. I had said that Palestinians are not Israelis.
A minute earlier she had revealed to us – a group of about 15 of her peers, plus me, all gathered in my Efrat living room – the root cause of Palestinian terrorism. It was due, she announced, to Israel “treating Palestinians like second-class citizens and denying them the right to come to Jerusalem.” By this she was inferring that Palestinians are citizens of the State of Israel who are discriminated against and denied numerous rights.
If this initial reality check caused this woman to be taken aback, my next statement elicited her indignation. I felt her silent outrage when I told her that, furthermore, given that Palestinians are not citizens of Israel, they have no right to enter the country. At this point her emotions took over and I sensed that she stopped listening to any further explanation.
Her difficulty with this idea is not uncommon; it is shared by numerous foreign visitors whose primary source of knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the mainstream media. Similar disinformation is disseminated to people who visit the region as participants in carefully crafted and managed political tours under pro-Palestinian auspices.
They conflate the two populations, Israeli and Palestinian, and learn that the State of Israel maintains the “occupation” solely to keep despoiling “its Palestinians.” Some American visitors also express the parochial view that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is analogous to the relationship between white citizens and citizens of color in the United States, and that Israel needs to become a more “inclusive” society. This opinion has been voiced by first-time visitors who have been in the country for less than a week.
IN FACT, Israel’s control over Judea and Samaria is not “occupation,” at least not according to international law. As ambassador Alan Baker points out, “International law defines ‘occupation’ as one power occupying the lands of a foreign sovereign. In Israel’s case, Israel is not occupying any foreign sovereign’s land; Israel entered the area known as the West Bank in 1967 and took over the authority to administer the land from Jordan, which was never considered to be a sovereign in the area.”
In spite of the situation not being one of occupation, under Israel’s administration of the area and its Arab population, Israel upholds the litany of human rights established under the Fourth Geneva Convention. For those who take the time to read the Fourth Geneva Convention, it is apparent that Israel safeguards the rights enumerated therein, in spite of specious claims to the contrary, and in the face of long-standing, violent opposition from within the Palestinian Arab population.
The right of Palestinian Arabs who reside in Judea and Samaria or Gaza to cross the 1949 armistice line and enter the State of Israel – including its capital, Jerusalem – is not among those rights. American citizens also do not possess the right to enter Israel, nor to enter Canada, nor to enter the United Kingdom, nor to enter France. There is no right of entrance. Foreign citizens may enter a country if permission is granted by that country, either with or without a visa; entry is not a right.
Permission for Palestinian Arabs to enter the State of Israel, whether from the Gaza Strip or from Judea and Samaria, is either granted or denied through application made to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories.
Its website (http://www.cogat.mod.gov.il/en/Pages/homepage.aspx) displays the number of Palestinians who enter Israel for various reasons on a daily basis, as well as the tons of equipment and goods that, on that given day, enter the Gaza Strip from Israel.
As of this writing, the COGAT website indicates that “yesterday at the crossings, 105,324 Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria entered Israel.” Of these, 17,109 came for humanitarian, generally medical, purposes; 71,415 were foreign day laborers; and the remainder entered for sundry reasons. Similarly, 1,594 people crossed between Gaza and Israel, of which 145 came for humanitarian purposes.
COGAT also reports on that day that 13,817 tons of equipment and goods were transferred from Israel into Gaza.
The naysayers, such as the woman mentioned above, might doubt the veracity of these figures, as they are provided by an Israeli source. Furthermore, these numbers grossly contradict what they have come to believe is the situation. But these numbers are accurate and corroborated by the United Nations and other international agencies, which cannot be accused of being pro-Zionist.
The numbers are astounding in their own right, given the ongoing threat posed to the safety and security of Israeli citizens by Palestinian terrorists. Just recently, the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) reported that so far, more than 450 significant terrorist attacks have been thwarted in 2019.
It was the unprecedented level of terrorism during the First Intifada (1987-1991) and especially during the Second Intifada (2000-2004) that compelled Israeli security forces to impose travel limitations upon Palestinian Arabs, particularly their ability to enter the State of Israel. Although most of the restrictions within Judea and Samaria no longer exist – namely, IDF checkpoints and roads limited only to cars with Israeli license plates –  the crossing points between the state and the Palestinian areas are still closely controlled.
Confusing Israelis and Palestinians and their respective rights, the former who are citizens of the State of Israel and the latter who are not, is but one example of the lack of understanding by outsiders of the many complexities and nuances of this seemingly intractable conflict. And more often than not, the lack of understanding and confusion, as in this case, serves to defame the State of Israel.
The writer lives in Efrat and is the director of iTalkIsrael.