Understanding ‘End the occupation’

Although it’s a popular mantra, few understand what it means.

Zeina Ashrawi, of the Students for Justice in Palestine Society of George Mason University, participates in an anti-Israel rally in Washington, DC (photo credit: JIM WATSON / AFP)
Zeina Ashrawi, of the Students for Justice in Palestine Society of George Mason University, participates in an anti-Israel rally in Washington, DC
(photo credit: JIM WATSON / AFP)
During the last few decades, the Palestinian propaganda machine aided by anti-Israel elements in the international community have created one of the most powerful and effective emotional and psychological weapons to defeat Israel: “End the occupation.”
Although it’s a popular mantra, few understand what it means.
It could refer to what Israel conquered during the Six Day War in 1967, or what Israel acquired during the War of Independence (1948-49), or everything “from the river to the sea.”
At first, Arab Palestinian propaganda focused on Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) as a “violation of international law,” specifically, the Fourth Geneva Convention as interpreted by the International Committee of the Red Cross. An anti-Israel, Geneva-based NGO, the International Committee of the Red Cross was the first to accuse Israel of “occupying Palestinian territory,” thus arbitrarily allotting a disputed area to one side. Because the International Committee of the Red Cross is also – uniquely – an official UN agency, its decisions are considered authoritative.
After Israel signed the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat (for the PLO), withdrew from Areas A and B, and along with the international community assisted the Palestinian Authority in developing its institutional structure, the focus turned to Israel’s legal and historical claims to Area C, in which all of the “settlements” are located. Experts and pundits debated the issue, but neither side was able to convince the other.
The debate over territory was important, but had limited effect because as Palestinian terrorism and incitement continued unabated and after two more withdrawals – from southern Lebanon in 2000 (which empowered Hezbollah), and from the Gaza Strip in 2005 (which empowered Hamas) – Israel was reluctant to surrender more territory. The “land for peace” mantra no longer persuaded anyone except hard-line ideologues. Even Israelis who supported the “two-state solution” were unwilling to make further concessions.
During the last decade or so, a new argument became prominent, often espoused by Israeli Jews and Progressive Jews in North America who are pro-Israel: “The occupation” is not only about territory, but is about “the Palestinian people.”
This shift to a humanitarian argument is persuasive because it is presented as a moral issue: Israel has no right to control another people, or nation – the Palestinians.
This portrays Israelis (i.e. Jews) as persecutors and Palestinians as their victims.
Therefore, even if the question of the legality of settlements is conceded, the alleged violation of human rights – the moral issue – remains “the elephant in the room.” For example, critics charge that restricting where Palestinian Arabs can live, interfering with their daily lives, and invading their towns and villages, violating their civil and human rights, constitute “occupation.” Ending that occupation, however, is complicated because (1) Palestinian terrorists pose a constant threat, (2) radical Islamists are involved, and (3) withdrawal from Area C and creating a Palestinian state would promote terrorism.
In other words, “ending the occupation” as a humanitarian and moral issue cannot be accomplished without making territorial concessions and removing Israeli security control. The link is crucial: The humanitarian argument is used to justify and leverage Palestinian demands for territory and a state. Israel’s rational and realistic refusal to allow Palestinians to form an independent state, therefore, becomes entangled in a moral argument over the right of self-determination.
The failure to understand the dynamic relationship between the humanitarian argument and Palestinian demands for territory and statehood has paralyzed Israel’s attempts to justify its claims and the settlements in Judea and Samaria.
Therefore, Israel is trapped: As long as it refuses to grant Palestinians a state, holds on to Area C, and maintains its anti-terrorism activities in Palestinian towns, it will be accused of “occupation” and “persecution” of Palestinians. Moreover, “the occupation” is used to justify terrorism and “resistance.” The dilemma has profound effects.
“End the occupation” suggests an immediate and direct distinction between good and evil – and this is where it is most effective. Regardless of the details, the mantra creates a psychological determinism that forces an “either-or” decision.
Once the premise that occupation is evil is accepted, the conclusion is inevitable.
That’s why mantras are so powerful: They don’t require thinking and in fact prevent critical thinking.
It’s also why advertising works: You hear/ see “Coke” and its symbol and you think ‘sweet, pleasant, satisfying’; you don’t think about whether it’s good for you, or not. Similarly, “End the occupation” means Israel is bad and Palestinians are victims.
It’s a form of brainwashing that, like an addiction, alters perception and promotes rationalizations: Don’t worry, it will be okay; we’ll be happier, appreciated, loved; we can control the consequences.
Repeating mantras such as “Settlements prevent peace” and “Israel is a colonialist, apartheid state” may make someone feel empathy and a sense of injustice; whether or not the story is true is irrelevant.
Finally, “End the occupation” demands that Israel give up tangible assets (e.g. territory) for intangible agreements (such as diplomatic recognition) that are easily revocable.
The only way to fight against brainwashing and addictions is to assert self-awareness, critical thinking, and a realistic evaluation of the situation.
The most important refutation is that the first priorities of a state are to protect its population, preserve its society and defend its borders. That’s why all countries have armies, police forces and prisons.
Since Palestinians and Arabs seek to destroy Israel, Israel is obligated morally and practically to defend itself. Capitulation and surrender to terrorism are not options.
Second, a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would not become a democratic peaceful regime or resolve the problem of millions of “Palestinians” who live in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other countries, including Israel. The danger that it would be a failed state run by gangs and militias, like Somalia, is real.
Finally, Arab Palestinians are not captives.
Most have Jordanian passports.
They can move, and if they own land and property, they can sell it. Many have done so and are successful.
As long as terrorism exists there will be “occupation,” checkpoints, police interventions, and long lines at airports. “Ending the occupation” begins with ending incitement and hatred, ending terrorism.
“Ending the occupation” does not apply only to Israel. It includes ending the dictatorship in Iran that threatens the entire world. Ending the occupation applies to Hamas rule in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad and ISIS in Syria, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“End the occupation” is not a call to protect Palestinian rights, but to end Israel’s existence. It’s not a plea for humanity, but a paean to mayhem and genocide.
“End the occupation” should be understood for what it is: a death threat.