In a world ablaze, European governments and companies still see fit to boycott Israeli companies and products from the so called West Bank. The boycotting parties claim to base their actions on the fact that the West Bank is occupied territory and that the Israeli presence in the West Bank is the one true obstacle to durable peace.
It is apparently unbeknownst to them that both premises are entirely false.
In the West, the so-called "Green Line" is usually referred to when the "peace process" is being evaluated. Someone usually states that Israel should retreat behind this Green Line in order to maintain legitimacy and legality. The Green Line is allegedly synonymous with "the Borders of 1967." This is a highly misleading semantic trick. By asserting the Green Line as the borders of 1967, the case is made to sound as if this is the border from whence the Israelis started an aggressive expansion. The truth is the opposite. The Green Line is in reality the armistice line of 1949: the border where the Arab war of extermination was halted and where the Israelis finally prevented the attempted genocide of their people.
The term "occupied territories," even if not correct, is enough to nonplus the average Israel supporter and send left-wing and Muslim front groups into a twist. It is probably worthwhile to examine the legal accuracy of the term "occupied" as it is applied to the West Bank.
First, it is important to realize that the West Bank had no legally recognized sovereign prior to 1948. After the proclamation of the state of Israel in 1948, which then counted a scarce 660,920 Jewish inhabitants, Israel, literally on the day of its birth, was immediately faced with a war of extermination launched by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, complemented by Saudi Arabian forces fighting under Egyptian command and a Yemeni contingent.
During this effort to obliterate the nascent state, Jordanian forces took control of the area that had, from biblical times, been known as Judea and Samaria. The Jordanians, in 1950, changed this name to the "West Bank" [of the Jordan River], apparently in an attempt to semantically strengthen their case of "occupation" by making the territory sound as if it were a legitimate part of their East Bank. The move also appears to be an attempt to delegitimize Israel's claim to the area by de-Judaizing its name -- a strategy first adopted by Roman emperor Hadrian, when he changed the country's name from Judea to Palestine, after a nomadic maritime people, the Philistines, who had been in constant armed conflict with the Jews.
Moreover, only Britain, Iraq and Pakistan recognized the Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria. The rest of the world, including Jordan's Arab allies, never recognized the Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria as legitimate, let alone legal. The same goes for the Gaza Strip, only there, it was the Egyptians who ended up illegally occupying the area after the 1948 war of extermination.
During the Six Day War of 1967, Israel was faced with another war of extermination launched by its Arab neighbors. To survive yet another attempted genocide, Israeli forces conducted, in response, a war of defense in which the Israel Air Force destroyed Egyptian aircraft before enemy troops could reach Israel's fragile borders. In the process of this defensive war, the Israelis ended up expelling the Jordanians from the part of Jerusalem they occupied and the West Bank of the Jordan River: Judea and Samaria.
Because Judea and Samaria had no recognized sovereign, apart from the Ottoman Empire, prior to the illegal Jordanian occupation, the current Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria cannot possibly be designated as illegal. After all, from whom are they occupying the area, save from the former Ottoman Empire? The area can only be correctly designated as "disputed" territories, just like Kashmir, the Western Sahara, Zubarah, Thumbs Island, and a lengthy parchment of other disputed territories.
It has been alleged -- originally by diplomats of the Arab and Muslim world, and later parroted by a gullible European political elite -- that to leave this dispute unresolved blocks not only the peace process but also the general stability of the region. Any impartial examination of facts, however, shows that the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria has no significant relationship to either the "peace process" or regional stability. It is probably just irresistibly convenient for autocrats to keep telling diplomats to focus on Israel and the Palestinian problem to throw them -- as well as their own people -- off the scent of their own questionable governance.
If the Israeli presence in the West Bank, and the "settlements" from 1967 on, are the root cause of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, then why does Article 14 of the 1964 PLO charter call for the destruction of all of Israel? "The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty. Its responsibilities fall upon the entire Arab nation, governments and peoples, the Palestinian peoples being in the forefront. For this purpose, the Arab nation must mobilize its military, spiritual and material potentialities; specifically, it must give to the Palestinian Arab people all possible support and backing and place at its disposal all opportunities and means to enable them to perform their role in liberating their homeland."
In 1964, there was not a single Israeli in Judea and Samaria, nevertheless the PLO called for the obliteration of Israel. It is this '64 PLO mentality that has pervaded the upper echelons of Palestinian administration ever since. With the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, although PLO leader Yasser Arafat said 'yes' to peace, in the period following his actions led to the first massive wave of terror attacks, known as the "Second Intifada." In 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak made Arafat an offer that shocked the world. Barak offered the PLO nearly everything it demanded, including a state with its capital in Jerusalem; control of the Temple Mount; the return of approximately 97% of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, and a $30 billion compensation package for the 1948 refugees. Arafat turned this deal down. In 2008, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas almost 98% of the West Bank, and again accepted nearly all Palestinian demands. Olmert too, was turned down.
It seems therefore that nothing Israel offers that is less than 100% of its entire land -- in other words, if Israel agrees not to exist -- will affect the Palestinian Authority's [PA] willingness to make peace. The Arabs rejected a plan to partition the land, they did not want peace when there were no Israelis in Gaza, the West Bank or the Jordanian-occupied eastern part Jerusalem, and have repeatedly turned down generous peace offers.
Judea and Samaria are not occupied territories, and the Israeli presence there has no relationship to the PA's willingness to make peace.
Why then would European governments and companies boycott the region? They do not boycott other comparable regions. Even more revealingly, in 2006, the EU even actively aided an occupying power, Turkey, by approving a $259 million aid package for Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus.
Anti-Israel protestors in Melbourne, Australia in June 2010. (Image source: Wikimedia/Takver)
Why these double standards and what do they tell us about the morality -- or lack thereof -- of the people who hold them?
As Thomas Friedman once wrote "Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest."