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Part of : Zionism and Israel - Issues and Answers FAQ
No country has ever had its legitimacy called into question because it ran an occupation. Nobody believes the United States should be destroyed because it is occupying Iraq, or that Iraq should be destroyed because it occupied Kuwait. This strange argument is applied only to Israel.
Nobody should live under occupation. The current occupation is not the result of "Zionism" but of the refusal of Arab Palestinians to live in peace with Israel. It is complicated by the beliefs of some Israelis in "Greater Israel," which was not a part of mainstream historical Zionist ideology and does not have consensus support of all Zionists.
The occupation is a result of of the vicissitudes of history. In the view of most Israeli Zionists, it is not a part of Zionist ideology.
Unfortunately, for many years, the Arabs of Palestine claimed that all of Israel is "occupied" Palestine, and many continue to do so. The Palestinian Authority presents maps that show "Palestine" as all of Israel.
The conflict did not begin in 1967, and anti-Zionism and Arab objections to the existence of Israel did not begin then either. All of the ills that have befallen the Arabs of Palestine result in large part from their refusal to allow Jewish settlement in their midst. Violent opposition began with the riots and massacres of the 1920s, and continued in the 1948 war of independence. Despite the opposition of Palestinian Arabs, the Jews of Palestine built a state, and because of the war, the Arabs of Palestine were deprived of their own chance for self determination. Their opposition to Israel was expressed as Palestinian Arab nationalism in the formation of the Fatah and the PLO, well before 1967. These organizations aimed to destroy all of Israel, "occupied" by the "Zionist entity." Given that position, it was hardly likely that Israel could negotiate peace with the Arabs of Palestine.
Gamal Nasser closed the straits of Tiran and threatened to annihilate Israel in 1967. The PLO declared that their goal was to evict every Jew who had entered Israel after 1917. Jordanian guns fired continuously on Jerusalem and other parts of Israel despite warnings to stay out of the conflict. Israel was forced to defend itself. The territories were conquered primarily as "hostages for peace." This was an Israeli government decision, and it was repeated often and openly in public speeches by Israeli officials in the summer of 1967. However, it soon became apparent that there would be no peace negotiations. At the Khartoum conference, the Arab states vowed, "no peace, no negotiations, no recognition." In their 1968 covenant, the PLO vowed to "liberate" all of "Palestine" - including Israel.
Until 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan and Gaza was administered by Egypt. Israel did not prevent the Palestinians from forming a state, but they did not do so. The 1949 armistice borders were never recognized by any Arab state. They were meant to be the basis of peace talks, not permanent borders, but the peace talks never happened. In international law, an occupied territory is territory of another sovereign that has been conquered in war. Jordan renounced its claims to the West Bank, and Egypt never claimed the Gaza strip as part of its territory. The Palestinians do not have a state, and have said they do not want a state with interim borders. Therefore the legal status of these territories as "occupied" is dubious. Nonetheless, many Zionists have come to recognize that another people live in Gaza and the West Bank. The Arabs of Palestine have declared themselves to be a nation, just as we Jews recognized our own nationhood in the Zionist movement. Most Zionists now recognize that we must take cognizance of Palestinian national aspirations. However, at the same time, and by the same logic, the Arabs of Palestine and their supporters must honor the Jewish right to self determination.
The occupation was for many years relatively benign. Palestinian Arabs worked in Israeli towns and Israelis visited Arab towns. There was no "Apartheid" and the checkpoints were usually a formality.
A part of the Zionist public believed that the newly conquered territories should be part of Israel. They included areas that had held Jewish communities for many years, as well as holy places of the Jewish religion such as the wailing wall in Jerusalem, the tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem, and the tomb of Abraham in Hebron. They included areas such as Gush Etzion, Atarot and the old city of Jerusalem, where Jewish communities had been ethnically cleansed and expelled or forced to flee in 1948. Nonetheless, initially, the majority consensus in Israel was that most, or all of these territories would be returned in return for a genuine peace offer.
As the years passed, attitudes hardened. In 1975, the UN passed the infamous "Zionism is Racism" resolution. Israeli political sentiment veered to the right in reaction, and the Labor government was forced to allow the founding of Elon Moreh. In 1977, the rightist Likud party came to power. They believed in the cause of Greater Israel, and they gave settlement expansion a big boost. However, even the leader of the Likud, Ariel Sharon, has come to understand that it is wrong to rule over another people. Israel is withdrawing from the heavily populated Gaza strip, taking the calculated risk that this area may become a base for intense terrorist activity against Israel, under the control of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad extremists. These organizations believe it is their holy duty to wipe Israel off the map.
Optimism over a reasonable solution that would allow self-determination for both sides was born in the Oslo accords. Unfortunately, though the PLO officially renounced violence in the Oslo accords, Palestinian Arab extremist organizations began a series of lethal terror attacks, forcing Israel to institute a harsh regime of checkpoints, and to build "Jews only" bypass roads to Jewish settlements. In 2000, the negotiations broke down and the Palestinian Arabs resorted to terror attacks and suicide bombings in Israeli cities. At one point, there were 130 Israeli casualties in a single week. To control the bombings, Israel stepped up the regime of checkpoints and is building a security fence. These measures undoubtedly cause regrettable hardship to the Palestinians. However, they were implemented reluctantly. They are not the result of an "apartheid" ideology, as critics claim, nor are they attempts to "ethnically cleanse" Palestinians. They are security measures implemented with the greatest reluctance. In particular, the security fence contradicts the "Greater Israel" ideology and is certainly not a product of radical Zionism.
The occupation is more benign than its critics would have you believe. The "evils of the occupation" have been deliberately exaggerated by Palestinians and enemies of Israel. Officials of the Palestinian Authority spread false rumors that Israel was injecting Palestinian children with AIDs and distributing poisoned candies, that Israel had dumped radioactive waste in the West Bank, that Israel was irradiating Palestinians and giving them cancer at checkpoints, and that Israel had killed over 500 Palestinians in Jenin in operation "Defensive Wall." Several anti-Zionist writers insisted that the Israeli government is engaged in a diabolical plot to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank, offering no proof at all. None of these rumors and announcements have any truth to them. They are part of a propaganda war aimed at justifying terrorism and extremist demands.
One of the most diabolical claims of anti-Zionists is that Israelis are like Nazis, and are perpetrating an Holocaust in the Palestinians. Israelis are not putting Palestinians in gas chambers or starving them to death. Israel is fighting a war, against a vicious and implacable enemy. The Jews of Europe were innocent citizens who were selected by the Nazis for extermination solely because of their religion. Israel has instituted security measures that are cause hardships for the Palestinians and are sometimes harsh. Occasional excesses, committed by Jewish and Muslim and Druze IDF soldiers alike are not the result of evil conspiracies or racist ideology, but errors of individuals that are the sad and inevitable result of a war that has been forced on Israel.
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