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The Truth About ‘The Occupation’

When trying to analyze the middle-east conflict one encounters the same pictures and words over and over again. "Terrorism" cry the frustrated and frightened Israelis, "occupation" say angry Palestinians raising their clenched fists. Nowadays it is no longer only the Palestinians but the entire world getting upset about this famous occupation and fighting against it, declaring it illegal. So let us therefore have a closer look at this problem. And it has been a problem for quite a while now, as we all know. Since the 1967 war.... no?


Because actually what people tend to forget while getting furious with the Israelis, is the fact that this piece of land has been under occupation for even longer than that. A different occupation. For nearly twenty years. So, who did this to these endlessly suffering people who have never been allowed to taste the fruits of freedom? Actually it was their Muslim brothers from Egypt and Jordan... The same countries that are nowadays having wild demonstrations on the streets crying for International support for their Palestinian brethren. But as the Palestinians have been graceful enough to forgive their fellow Arabs for this little occurrence let us not get involved in this family fight ourselves. Let us abstain from judgment and rather look a little closer into the Israeli occupation which is the key issue of this conflict if you choose to believe Palestinian officials and spokespeople. A lot has been said, written and broadcast by them about the war and the following ‘illegal’ occupation:

For example it is widely believed that Israel viewed the territories it captured as conquered lands that were now part of Israel and had no intention of negotiating over their return. But saying that one question immediately arises, if this was truly their intent why did they never annex the West Bank but instead install and create a military administration? Could it be because this statement was wrong?

A look into history shows that almost immediately after the war, Israel began discussions intimating its willingness to negotiate a return of at least some of the territories. The fact that Israel subsequently returned more than 90 percent of the territories won in defensive wars after negotiations with its neighbors proves that Israel was always prepared to trade land for peace.

Another rumour that is often heard throughout the world is that "Israel expelled peaceful Arab villagers from the West Bank and prevented them from returning after the war."
Also this has turned out to be a lie, as history tells quite a different story yet again.
The fact is that After Jordan launched its attack on June 5, approximately 325,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank fled, encouraged by Arab radio broadcasts. These were Jordanian citizens who moved from one part of what they considered their country to another, primarily to avoid being caught in the cross fire of a war.

A Palestinian refugee who was an administrator in a UNRWA camp in Jericho said Arab politicians had spread rumors in the camp. "They said all the young people would be killed. People heard on the radio that this is not the end, only the beginning, so they think maybe it will be a long war and they want to be in Jordan”. Some Palestinians who left preferred to live in an Arab state rather than under Israeli military rule. Members of various PLO terrorist factions fled to avoid capture by the Israelis. Nils-Göran Gussing, the person appointed by the UN Secretary-General to investigate the situation, found that many Arabs also feared they would no longer be able to receive money from family members working abroad.

Israeli forces ordered a handful of Palestinians to move for "strategic and security reasons." In some cases, they were allowed to return in a few days, in others Israel offered to help them resettle elsewhere. Israel now ruled more than three-quarters of a million Palestinians — most of whom were hostile to the government. Nevertheless, more than 9,000 Palestinian families were reunited in 1967. Ultimately, more than 60,000 Palestinians were allowed to return.

The general opinion though is nevertheless unfavorable towards the Israelis as it is still widely believed that Israel imposed unreasonable restrictions on the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. This is like the other rumours I told you here, simply untrue.

Of course no occupation is pleasant for the inhabitants and I won’t deny that for a second, but Israelis understood this and tried to interfere as little as possible with the Palestinian’s everyday lives. They also moved the inhabitants in the Gaza strip from camps to new homes. What did their fellow Muslim brothers from Egypt have to say to that? They protested. After all they hadn’t seen any need to improve the Palestinians situation under their occupation so why should the Israelis? Not only that, but the Palestinians were also given freedom of movement. They were allowed to travel to and from Jordan. In 1972, elections were held in the West Bank. Women and non-landowners, unable to participate under Jordanian rule, were now permitted to vote. East Jerusalem Arabs were given the option of retaining Jordanian citizenship or acquiring Israeli citizenship. They were recognized as residents of united Jerusalem and given the right to vote and run for the city council. Also, Islamic holy places were put in the care of a Muslim Council. Despite the Temple Mount's significance in Jewish history, Jews were barred from conducting prayers there. Is all I told you here about the Israeli actions really so terribly inconsiderate and cruel and unforgivable? For the life of me I can’t see how!

Even if you now still decide that life under Israeli occupation is too terrible to tolerate somebody must still explain to me: exactly why did Arafat not only reject the peace plan delivered to him by Clinton and Barak at Camp David only one and a half years ago (which included everything he had officially asked for), and why did he never even come out with a counterproposal of his own?

But this is another story, to be told in a different article.
I have one last question though: If this is really all about ‘The Occupation’, how come the first Palestinian terrorist attack by the PLO was carried out years before the 1967 war?

Natalia Zawidovski is a an Israeli writer

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