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The Lie of “Palestinian Territory”


December 9, 2012

The Lie That Broke Israel’s Back

Author: Steve Apfel

Israel now has a quasi-state to contend with. “A victory for the values of truth,” exclaimed Sudan’s U.N. diplomat after the General Assembly voted to admit Palestine as a non-member observer.

It’s a victory for the Palestinian camp, perhaps, but in truth it was a defeat — of historic proportions. Recalling one thing and reaffirming another, the resolution the GA voted on was packed with lies. Most were blatant. One lie — you could say the catchphrase of the Palestinian perpetual show — enjoyed the sanctity of accepted wisdom.

“The Palestinian territory occupied since 1967” appeared, in one form or another, some dozen times in the U.N. resolution. This whopper of an old lie, told so often and for so long as to merge fantasy with reality, made Israel’s defeat at the U.N. a long time coming. One might say that it made Israel’s defeat historically inevitable.

“Occupied Palestinian Territory” (OPT) is a thing of smoke and mirrors. Historically, it never happened; legally, there never was Palestinian territory for Israel to occupy. Israel took the territories from Egypt and Jordan in 1967, and there’s no getting away from that. So today Israel has more right than Jordan to be occupying the West Bank, and more right than Egypt to be occupying Gaza (if Israel’s blockade may be called occupation). “Palestine” never enters the equation. Turn Middle East wars and laws upside-down and any way you like, but if the territories belong to any U.N. member, or quasi-member, they belong to Israel.

Not even the famous U.N. Resolution 242 can help. It told Israel to withdraw from territories once held by Jordan, illegally, and Egypt, and it envisaged those territories’ return to those two countries. “Palestine” never got a mention in Resolution 242 — for a couple of good reasons.

Palestinians were not among the belligerents involved in the Six-Day War. Anyway, the people who were going to stake claim to a nation they would call Palestine were a year away from being born.

More than anyone, King Hussein of Jordan understood perfectly that a cart before the horse never gets off the blocks. So he told the 1988 Arab League summit in Amman: “The appearance of a distinct Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”

The Hashemite monarch was explaining to fellow potentates why a Palestinian nation had to be conceived in 1968. If it were not, then the West Bank and Gaza would be Israel’s by dint of war and law. Arab armies had been vanquished in six days, the territories lost to Israel. That made it imperative for the PLO to revise its covenant, which it did on July 17, 1968. The PLO meddled with Article 24, erasing the old declaration that the West Bank and Gaza were not occupied and now insisting that they were. With that sleight-of-hand, a newborn nation came into the world — with a newborn bastard illegal occupier.

Armed with nothing but chutzpah, the PLO lost no time cementing the lie that the Jewish state had usurped the foundling’s heritage. From there to the accepted wisdom of “Occupied Palestinian Territories” took no more than a quick step.

For all that, “Palestinian territory occupied by Israel” is more than a risible lie of history. It has had the power to alter history. For one thing, the international community took to the idea. For another, a goodly proportion of American, and even Israeli, Jews nailed their colors to that mast. For a third, an economic bubble has OPT to thank. Monthly pay slips for untold hundreds of U.N. staffers depend on that fallacious real estate. Hundreds of NGOs and staffers would be the poorer without it. And remember, OPT is the article of faith on which anti-Zionists peg their zeal. Their god demands little: hate Zionism and revere OPT. Hence the daily invocations. Label products from “occupied territories.” Boycott Israel and divest because of OPT.

Then there is the U.N. and its dependency on OPT. Some U.N. organs were custom-made for it — embedded the fabled territory in their names. One of those organs has a bona fide legal expert at the helm, sporting a grand title but no salary, for he plays the part out of conviction. And what is that conviction but the creed of the anti-Zionist faithful, the “Israel may not be found innocent” creed? It’s right there in this U.N. lawman’s sonorous title: “Special Rapporteur to the UN Council on Human Rights on violation of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

So Israeli crimes are pre-supposed, and the U.N. lawman tours a land of the U.N.’s own making to look for them.

But for the OPT whopper, the world would be a quieter place. And Israel with its settlement enterprise would not now be under U.N.-complicit threat.

Steve Apfel

Steve Apfel is director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of Hadrian’s Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel’s critics and a contributor to “War by other means” (Israel Affairs, Special Issue. July 2012).


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