The limited Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank) is labeled by its enemies, and unfortunately by many media outlets, as an “occupation.” In reality, this
limited presence is dictated mainly by Israeli security needs, and costs Israel significant resources and sometimes the lives of its solders and citizens. So is it correct to call it occupation?
Yes, we did occupy this land, but not in 1948 or 1967. (Those who call the Israeli presence an occupation just make a small historical mistake.) We occupied Canaan around 1000 Before Common Era – more than 3000 years ago – when Hebrew tribes led by Joshua conquered the land and made it their home. During our history, having been expelled from Eretz Yisrael and forced to live in foreign lands where we were frequently persecuted, Jews always called the Land of Israel home and dreamed of coming back to it. A small number of Jews always managed to live there despite all odds. Only recently Jews were able to return and rebuild their home.
Conquest and occupation of a land was not a unique phenomenon in these ancient times. It was a historical reality. In The Middle East in particular, Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hyksos, Persians, and Romans are just a few examples of the many nations that conquered and occupied different lands and people.
But what about not-such-ancient times? Let us have a glimpse at the inhabitants of some modern countries and where they came from:
● Bulgars, who originated in the Volga Basin of Central Asia (presently part of Russia) occupied some European lands in 632, established the first Bulgarian country, and called it home.
● Arabs, who originated from the Arabian Peninsula, started a campaign of conquest and occupation of lands outside the Arabian Peninsula around the years 632/634, which in the present time, results in 22 Arab states called home by different Arab people.
● Hungarians (Magyars), who originated in the region of the Ural Mountains (presently part of Russia), started a series of attacks and wars after the year 900 and occupied European lands at the Carpathian Basin. Around the year 1000, they established the kingdom of Hungary, which Hungarian people call home.
● Turks originated in Central Asia (presently part of Russia). In 1354, the Ottoman Turks crossed into Europe, and after a series of wars in 1453, conquered Constantinople and continued the process of expansion and occupation. At the end, Turks established the country they now call home on parts of Southeastern Europe, Eastern Thrace, and Western Asia.
● Russia, following its continued policy of expansion (which has not stopped even at the present time), amassed a huge territory. One of the examples of the lands Russia occupied is the large land of Siberia. Russian expansion in Siberia dates between 1581and 1800. With all the lands Russia occupied it made itself the largest country in the world -- the country which Russian people call their home.
● Europeans began their occupation of South America in 1494 and of North America in 1604. Presently there are 35 countries in the Americas, established as a result of the original European occupation, which different American people call home.
● In 1769-1770, the establishment of a British penal colony began the European colonization and occupation of the Australian continent, which today 23 million Australian people call home.
● In 1840, European colonization and occupation of New Zealand began, followed by wars with the indigenous Maori population. Today Europeans constitute 74% of the 4.5 million New Zealand people who call this land home.
A continued excursion into history (including recent history) will render a much longer list of countries that were established by “occupation”.
As we can see, Jews made Israel their home much earlier than any of the countries in the above examples.
It would be crazy to suggest that all of the above “occupiers” should leave and return to the lands of their origin. No person in their right mind would even dare to make such a suggestion. But when it comes to the Jews, many in this world think that anything goes.
So what about Israel? From the very beginning, her “friendly” neighbors harbored the desire to throw the Jews into the sea, or at the very least, demanded the “humane” option to force the Jews to go back to their lands of origin. Strangely enough, Jews do not want to be thrown into the sea or leave their home and return to the countries where, for centuries, they were forced to live and suffer through anti-Semitism and persecution – countries where anti-Semitism is still present even today.
Thank God Israel is strong enough to make sure this never happens.
The historical land of Jewish origin is Mesopotamia, where our ancestor Abraham was born, which is roughly present day Iraq. So here is a “great” idea: Arabs from Iraq go back to the Arabian Peninsula – the land of their origin – and Jews return to the land where the city of Ur once stood.
But wait a second, Arabs are also descendants of Abraham so they have all rights to live there as well. So now what?
Maybe the time has come to stop this nonsense about Israeli occupation (strangely enough, when the West Bank was under Jordanian rule, no one was mentioning occupation).
A people cannot be accused of occupying their own home. But the fact is that on this tiny land now live two peoples, and a formula for peaceful coexistence must be found for the sake of the well-being and decent life of both Israelis and Palestinians.
The only reasonable way to accomplish this is through negotiations. And if negotiations will ever happen again, maybe each side will start negotiations by bringing to the table not the list of demands to the opposite side but the list of compromises it willing to make.