In the U.K., a group of Jewish students have launched a “Sign on the Green Line” campaign, urging pro-Israel groups in Britain to adopt a policy of only using maps that show the Green Line, the 1949-1967 ceasefire lines demarcating the boundary between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.
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Their initiative is long overdue.
Israeli politicians who are intent on painting the Palestinians in the most negative light make much hay of the repeated references on Palestinian media and schoolbooks that describe places like Haifa or Jaffa as Palestinian rather than Israeli. There is particular concern that maps appearing in Palestinian textbooks that fail to identify Israel in its official pre-1967 borders are extending a culture of denial in which the Jewish state has, quite literally, been erased from the map.
But it’s a two-way street. Increasingly, maps deployed by Israeli institutions fail to show the Green Line, suggesting that the West Bank and sometimes even Gaza are somehow part of the State of Israel. To Palestinians, this cartographic annexation by Israel of the area in which the State of Palestine will someday be established suggests a denial of Palestinian aspirations that is every bit as offensive to them as the parallel denial of Israel’s existence is to Israelis.
Israel’s own laws regard the areas beyond the Green Line as occupied territory. The clear demarcation of the Green Line in maps used by Israeli and pro-Israeli groups in the U.K. and elsewhere should hardly be worthy of mention.
But the British students have encountered stiff opposition from the Zionist Federation, JNF, Board of Deputies and other Anglo Jewish establishment organizations, who really ought to know better.
The strongest argument I ever heard for Israel finally setting its international boundaries came not from some hippy peacenik but from one of the toughest types in Tel Aviv.
I recall the then-deputy chief of the Shin Bet telling me that one of Israel’s most serious problems was that it was, literally, a country without boundaries. He said the failure to draw Israel’s physical borders was corrupting Israeli society, which was suffering from a connected failure to draw clear legal, moral and societal boundaries in everyday life.
The negative response to the British students is shortsighted and paranoid. Their suggestion that Israel be encouraged to recognize and acknowledge its own borders is neither threat nor insult. It is a necessary condition of Israel’s political and moral health.