The boycott folly

The West Bank did not come into Israel’s possession as an occupying power, because the land did not belong to any sovereign power.

Israel boycott 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel boycott 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
During a meeting this week in Brussels as part of a tour of several EU countries, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on European firms to cut economic ties with Jewish settlements and neighborhoods in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem.
The PA leadership has also called on France to take measures against hundreds of French Jews living in settlements, towns, farms and neighborhoods located beyond the 1949 armistice line, the London-based Al- Quds al-Arabi reported this week. The PA leadership reportedly demanded that the French government either strip these French nationals of their citizenship or put pressure on them to leave the settlements.
These Palestinian requests have fallen are particularly receptive, pro-Palestinian European ears.
In July, the EU issued guidelines that single out for censure Jewish nonprofit and educational institutions and other nongovernment entities that operate beyond the 1949 armistice line. EU grants, prizes and loans earmarked for scientific, technological and intellectual development will be denied any Jewish entity located beyond the Green Line beginning in 2014.
Support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Jewish settlements is not a uniquely Palestinian or European phenomenon. Prominent Jews, such as writer Peter Beinart, have promoted what they have the temerity to call a “Zionist BDS.”
These diverse proponents of forcing Jews out of Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem might have different motivations. But they all seem to accept the axiom that the very presence of Jews in these territories is at the very least illegitimate.
If they have their way, the only place in the world where Jews will be forbidden to live will be the land most resonant with Jewish history. It was, after all, in Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem that came into Israeli control during the 1967 Six Day War where the prophets of Israel spoke, where the Jewish kings reigned, where most of the foundational biblical events experienced by the Jewish people took place and where the Temple Mount, the single-most sanctified site in the world for the Jews, is located.
In short, Palestinians, Europeans and some self-professed Jewish Zionists seek to prevent Jews from settling precisely in the places where it makes the most historical, cultural and religious sense for them to do so.
Abbas, the EU and others opponents of Jewish settlements argue that they are illegal. The case for this belief rests almost entirely on the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, article 49(6) of which states that an occupying military power “shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
This clause, written after World War II, referred, however, to the huge forced population transfers the Nazi regime and other totalitarian powers perpetrated.
Legal experts are split on whether it is illegal for individuals to live in such territory of their own free will, particularly when they displace nobody. Furthermore, the West Bank did not come into Israel’s possession as an occupying power, because the land did not belong to any sovereign power. The Jordanian annexation of the area in 1949, which many Palestinians consented to – including those who rejected the 1947 UN Partition Resolution, which would have created a Palestinian state – remained unrecognized by the rest of the world. After its victory in 1967, Israel had as good a claim to the West Bank as anyone, if not a better one, considering that the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine recognized the Jews’ deep ties to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
What’s more, it is morally reprehensible to say, as Abbas has on numerous occasions, that a future Palestinian state will not tolerate the presence of Jews.
Israel has provided citizenship to about 1.7 million Arabs; why should a future Palestinian state not offer to do the same for Jews? The final borders of a Palestinian state must be determined through direct negotiations and mutual compromise, not unilateral measures such as boycotts designed to coerce Israel to leave areas so resonant with Jewish history, culture and religion.