Opinion |

Call It What You Will, but It’s Still Occupation

B. Michael
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Palestinian students and teachers wait for Israeli soldiers to allow them cross through a gate in the West Bank town of Hebron on September 6, 2020.
Palestinian students and teachers wait for Israeli soldiers to allow them cross through a gate in the West Bank town of Hebron on September 6, 2020.Credit: AFP
B. Michael

Boaz Haetzni, a “columnist and tour guide” in the occupied territories is angry about a column I published in Haaretz a week ago. I wrote about the grotesqueness of inviting people to take vacations in the occupied territories where evil, avarice, racism and violence run rampant without let or hindrance.

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Maybe Haetzni was frightened by the possible damage to his income, or perhaps he simply saw an opportunity to recycle the lamest and sloppiest excuses that Israel has invented to justify the occupation.

>> Read more: An occupation vacation

So I’ll hitch a ride on his article to once again set the legal and historical record straight, lest even a single Haaretz reader innocently swallow the swill Haetzni is selling.

Israel’s legal trick is to argue that because there was no legal sovereign in the West Bank in June 1967, it’s impossible for the territory to be occupied. For there to be an occupation, there must be a sovereign from whom the territory was captured. If there is no sovereign, then there’s no occupation.

Therefore, the territories became all kinds of things – “liberated,” “administered,” “held,” “tafus betfisa lohmatit” (the Hebrew equivalent of “under belligerent occupation,” except that the Hebrew term doesn’t actually include the word for “occupation”), “wrapped in filo dough” ... anything except “occupied.”

Not one serious person worldwide ever bought this shady maneuver. It’s been thrown out of every possible door. Even when the late Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy recruited all of his prestige to market this Israeli bluff, nobody bought it.

But the Levy Report (a 2012 document that concluded that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation) required a response. And it duly arrived, as expected, from the organization responsible under international law for international humanitarian law – the Red Cross. When it comes to occupations, it is the overseer, the interpreter, the arbiter.

And the Red Cross once again said that under both the Hague and the Geneva conventions, which deal with the laws of war and humanitarian law, only two conditions must be met to declare a given territory occupied. First, the territory must have been seized by military force. Second, the territory must be under military rule.

The question of what sovereignty the territory was under prior to the occupation is completely irrelevant. “Accordingly, contrary to what is claimed in the Levy report, it is manifestly clear that the West Bank is occupied by Israel,” the Red Cross said. Plain and simple.

Paintball in the West Bank settlement of Kedumim.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

I’d also like to use this occasion to inform Haetzni of what it said in that same document about the settlements: “Furthermore, concerning the settlements in the West Bank, it has to be emphasized that Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits a state from transferring parts of its own civilian population to territory it occupies ... also prohibits any action by the occupier which facilitates such transfer.” So perhaps Haetzni the tour guide should nevertheless warn his customers before he takes them on a hike in the occupied territories.

For dessert, Haetzni praised Haaretz for its factual accuracy and implied that my insulting article damaged this accuracy. “He [meaning me] is pushing the paper into abandoning the factual credibility in which it excels,” Haetzni wrote.

That’s really not nice of me. So I’ll try to recover a smidgen of Haaretz’s credibility. All the legal information cited above appeared in Haaretz on November 4, 2012 under the headline “The Levy Report vs. International Law.” The article was written by Juan Pedro Schaerer, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation for Israel and the Occupied Territories.

If Haetzni actually read Haaretz and the credible information it publishes regularly and carefully, perhaps he would have saved himself from writing the pseudo-erudite nonsense he published in this credible newspaper.

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