Barriers To Peace

To mark 40 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, Trócaire are running a campaign, calling on the Israeli government to fully implement the recommendations of the International Court of Justice regarding the wall Israel has built annexing Palestinian land.

In yesterday’s UK Independent, Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev is quoted as saying:

“We do not accept that the West Bank is occupied in the classic sense.”

What makes for a ‘classic’ occupation is far from clear. One wonders if ‘classic’ features can be discerned in the continued confiscation of Palestinian lands, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and the settler population, the house demolitions, the administrative detentions, the extra-judicial assassinations, and of course, the monstruous separation wall annexing Palestinian land.

Perhaps Israel’s occupation is not a ‘classic’ occupation because the purpose of its occupation is not to exploit the population, but to dispossess it, thus making possible further Jewish settlement.

Today’s Ha’aretz editorial offers a pretty conventional view of matters from the Israeli point of view:

Over the past decade, Israel has elected governments that have expressed the desire of a majority of Israelis for a bilateral solution of two states for two peoples and a withdrawal from most of the settlements. The withdrawal from Gaza was to have been the first stage. The victory of Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, cut off the process.

This is plainly false, since the expression of a ‘desire’ for ‘a withdrawal from most of the settlements’ would not manifest itself in continued settlement expansion. B’Tselem figures show that the West Bank settler population (excluding East Jerusalem) rose by 63% between end 1997 and end 2005.

No reasonable person would deny the right of Israeli citizens to security, nor for that matter the duty of the state to protect its citizens. But if the primary concern of the wall is security, why does it annex Palestinian land? And what security is to be found in illegal settlements on other people’s land?

Trócaire are right to be running this campaign, since the Palestinians continue to suffer terribly because of the occupation. However, I am wary of the use of the word ‘peace’. Everyone says they want peace. War criminals get described as men of peace. During the ‘peace process’, Israel continued to expand its settlements in the West Bank, with the support of the United States, whilst complaining that it had ‘no partner for peace’.

That doesn’t mean that there can be no peace. But real peace will not arrive unless there is justice, and that means, for starters, ending the occupation, disbanding the settlements, and bringing down the wall.

You can sign Trócaire’s petition here.

5 Responses to “Barriers To Peace”

  1. 1 JG May 28, 2007 at 8:46 pm


    The argument for it not being a ‘classic’ occupation is that when the West Bank was taken in 1967 it was not officially Jordanian land because it had previously been annexed by Jordan (unilaterally). So, the thinking goes, its status hadn’t been settled since the British mandate and it was therefore up for grabs.

    It’s incredible that the Israeli regime are still using this argument when nobody else in the world subscribes to it, not even their own legal people.

  2. 2 Hugh Green May 29, 2007 at 7:51 am


    I guess governments will invent things to justify their position, and the Israeli government is no exception.

    With regard to Jordan’s ‘unilateral’ occupation of the West Bank, Avi Shlaim demonstrates in Collusion across the Jordan that the occupation was hardly unilateral: in fact it was begun with the tacit support of the Jewish Agency, based on a common interest in containing Palestinian nationalism.

  3. 3 JG May 29, 2007 at 11:40 am

    I hadn’t heard of that book. Just took a look on Amazon. Was it a good read?

  4. 4 Madronna Holden May 9, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Sorry I just found your post. However one defines words by their abstract meaning, here is something derived from my experience living in Ramallah and teaching at BirZeit University. After living under Occupation among the Palestinians, I can only define this condition in terms of the personal experience of this people–just as I concur with you that justice and peace go hand in hand:

  5. 5 Hugh Green May 11, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Madronna,

    Thanks for the comment, and for sharing your very interesting post.

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