When You Understand Israel’s May 1948 Borders, You Understand There is No “Occupation”

There are really only two ways to consider the borders of Israel when it declared independence in May 1948: the entirety of the Palestine Mandate OR the proposed border put forward by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947. As discussed below, only one of these is legally valid, while both options demonstrate that Israel does not occupy any “Palestinian Land.”

May 1948 Borders: the Palestine Mandate

When the Ottoman Empire broke up, the French and British assumed control of various mandates until the local populations were able to establish their own functioning governments. The French took the Lebanon and Syrian mandates, and each of them became countries in 1943 and 1946, respectively, after the last of the French troops withdrew. The British took the Palestine and Iraq mandates. Iraq declared its independence in 1932. As for Palestine, the situation was more labored and complicated.

The 1922 international mandate made clear that the British were to help the Jews reestablish their homeland in the territory. However, the land east of the Jordan River was viewed as a land that the British could option to separate (Article 25), which they did. That land ultimately became the Kingdom of Jordan.

Regarding the rest of the Palestine Mandate, the British had a difficult time dealing with a local Arab population which did not want to see a flood of Jews enter the area. The multi-year Arab riots between 1936 and 1939 led the British to consider dividing the land between the Jews and Arabs (the 1937 Peel Commission which was not adopted) and placing a cap on the number of Jews allowed to enter the territory (the 1939 White Paper which was enacted).

By the end of the devastation of World War II, the British had enough rebuilding to do at home and the Jews clearly needed to have the cap on immigration terminated, so the Brits asked the United Nations to tackle the issue in 1946. The UN General Assembly voted to partition the land between the Jews and Arabs in a non-binding vote in November 1947. All of the Arab countries voted ‘no’ and the partition never took place.

When the British withdrew their last troops in May 1948, the Jews declared the new Jewish State of Israel. Like the Mandates of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, the British troop withdrawal was accompanied by the declaration of a new state on the ENTIRETY OF THE MANDATE, including areas which have now become known as Gaza and the West Bank.

May 1948: the 1947 Partition Plan

When Israel declared its independence, the Arab community was still seeking to control the entirety of the Palestine Mandate itself. It rejected the State of Israel in 1948 the same way it rejected the 1947 proposed UN Partition Plan. It considered both illegal, null and void, invasions of their own Arab land.

When five Arab armies attacked Israel when it declared independence, the invasion did not start at Jerusalem. For the Arabs, all of the land was a single contiguous unit. The lines of the Partition Plan were as invisible and irrelevant as the proposed borders of the Peel Commission.

And so it was for the Jews.

The 1949 Armistice Lines / the Green Line

When the international community talks about “occupation” today of “Palestinian Land,” they are referring to the borders as they existed before the outbreak of the Six Day War in June 1967. These were the frontier areas that came into being at the end of the 1948-9 Israel War of Independence. These Armistice Lines established between Israel and a number of the invading countries were drawn in the maps in green, so also became known as the “Green Lines.”

The Egyptian army took over the Gaza Strip area. The Israeli-Egyptian truce specifically stated that those Armistice Lines were not to be construed as final borders. Similarly, the Jordanian army took over much of eastern Palestine, which over time became known as the “West Bank.” The Israeli-Jordanian agreement also stated that the lines were not meant as borders.

However, Jordan took a number of particularly hostile moves. Not only did it evict all Jews from the “West Bank,” it annexed the territory in 1950 in a move not recognized by almost the entire world. It took a further step of granting all of the Arabs who lived in the West Bank Jordanian citizenship in 1954 (Jews were specifically excluded from becoming Jordanians).

From 1949 until 1967, the land was divided between Israel, Egypt and Jordan. There was no Palestine.

It was in this window of time that many countries began to recognize the State of Israel. While the frontiers of the land were subject to possible modifications as outlined in the two armistice agreements, the countries recognized the Israeli sovereignty up to those lines. And so it is until this day.

The 1967 “Borders”

The fighting continued to rage between the Israelis and Egyptians and Jordanians between 1949 and 1967.

Arab fighters would cross the Green Line into Israel from Egypt and Jordan and kill Israelis in night raids and Israel would retaliate. The United Nations would debate the “Question on Palestine,” particularly as over 700,000 Arabs who fled the fighting zone were not allowed to return to towns in Israel. And the Palestinian independence movement would develop, with the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, whose stated mission was to destroy Israel and reclaim the entirety of the Palestine Mandate for Arabs.

As fate would have it, the Jordanians attacked Israel in June 1967, after Israel launched a preemptive defensive war against Syria and Egypt which were about to attack. The Jordanians lost all of the West Bank which they had illegally annexed, the Egyptians lost Gaza and the Syrians lost the Golan Heights.

The 1949 Armistice Lines which were established and understood to be temporary, somehow morphed into the minds of many as the 1967 “borders,” implying a new sense of permanence, even though the war did the exact opposite – it reestablished Israeli control of the entire Palestine Mandate and reclaimed its boundaries of May 1948.

Israel did itself no favors. Rather than clearly state that its borders had been reestablished, it “annexed” the eastern portion of Jerusalem which had been under Jordanian control and only established military rule over the West Bank. It did this – much like it handed control of the Jewish Temple Mount to the Jordanian Waqf – in the hopes of winning over global support for peace. So much for that theory.

Even if one were to believe that Israel’s May 1948 borders were based on the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan, various countries recognized Israel’s expanded borders up to the 1949 Armistice Lines, effectively endorsing the concept of expanding one’s borders in a defensive war. That same principle would apply to Israel taking the West Bank in another defensive war in 1967.

Either way one looks at it – Israel’s May 1948 borders constituted the entirety of the Palestine Mandate or were limited to the 1947 Partition Plan – the entirety of the West Bank is Israeli territory.

No Palestinian Land / No “Occupation”

As the history above details, the Palestinians quest for self-rule has been aspirational. The global community has attempted to create a new sovereign Arab Palestinian country, or to somehow give the Arabs who reside in Gaza and the West Bank self-determination. The Arabs in Gaza got self-determination in 2005 when the Israeli troops left the area, and the majority of Arabs in the West Bank also have some self-determination in “Area A” and to a lesser extent in “Area B” when Israel handed control of select lands to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as part of the Oslo II Accords of 1995.

But there is no “Palestinian Land” beyond these lands which the PA controls. The balance is Israeli territory as it was from the time Israel declared its independence. The 1967 War did not begin “occupation” of “Palestinian Land”; it brought Israeli territory back under Israeli control from the Egyptians and Jordanians who invaded Israel back in 1948.

As the only “Palestinian Land” that exists today are those which Israel handed to the Palestinian Authority, it is impossible for there to be any “occupation.” The Palestinians will get only get more “Palestinian Land” if and when Israel gives incremental land to the PA.


The international community had defined being gay as a mental illness until 1973, and homosexuality is still considered a crime in roughly half of the member states of the United Nations. Almost all of those same UN countries also refuse to recognize the existence of the Jewish State and believe there is a “colonial occupation” of “Palestinian Land.” They may never come to accept gays or the Jewish State.

It took the western world a long time to accept the mental well-being of homosexuals, and perhaps one day soon, they will realize the rights of Jews to live throughout their homeland and that there is no illegal occupation of Palestinian land.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Legal Israeli Settlements

Recognition of Acquiring Disputed Land in a Defensive War

“Settlements” Crossing the Line

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Names and Narrative: Zionist Entity and Colonial Occupier

Republicans Do Not Believe There is Any “Occupation”

A Response to Rashid Khalidi’s Distortions on the Balfour Declaration

Related First.One.Through video:

The Green Line (music by The Kinks)

Judea and Samaria (music by Foo Fighters)

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The Green Line

Much of the ongoing debate about the Israeli-Arab conflict surrounds Israel’s borders. The Arabs seek the creation of  a new state of Palestine, up to the “1967 borders.”  That term has also been used by US President Obama as a basis for a peace formula.  However, the term and plan are flawed at its core, as the “1967 borders” were deliberately and specifically never declared borders by the warring parties in 1948-9, for different reasons.

In 1922, the predecessor to the United Nations declared in the British Mandate the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people“.  Because of the 1936-9 Arab riots, the British back-tracked from the original international plan and began to devise a solution that created only small enclaves for Jews within an Arab state.  By 1947, their actions set in motion a compromise plan by the United Nations that would have created distinct Jewish and Arab states.  That plan was rejected by the Arabs. When the British withdrew from Palestine in May 1948, the Jews declared an independent state and five Arab countries went to war against Israel to destroy the nascent Jewish state.

The end of the war in 1949 did not fix borders, but established armistice lines where the fighting concluded. No peace deals were signed between the warring parties as each sought ultimately different borders: the Arabs still sought the complete destruction of the Jewish state; the Israelis wanted borders that were more defensible.

The 1949 Egyptian Armistice Agreement stated clearly that: “The Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary,…The basic purpose of the Armistice Demarcation Line is to delineate the line beyond which the armed forces of the respective Parties shall not move.”  The Jordanian Agreement had similar language.

From Israel’s perspective, as it was subject to constant attacks, riots, wars and blockades to destroy the country, it viewed the 1949 Armistice lines as insufficient to provide it effective security.  The sentiment was best summarized by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eben to the UN Security Council in 1967, after the Arab armies once again set out to destroy Israel.

Why does accuracy matter?  How would a Palestinian call for the establishment of a new state of Palestine along the “1949 Armistice Lines” or the “Green Line” be any different than calling for such action along fictitious “1967 Borders”? Because the 1949 Armistice Lines underscores fundamental truths:

  • that Palestine never existed as a distinct country
  • that Palestine was not ruled by Arabs, but by the British and Ottomans before 1948
  • that five Arab armies from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq attacked Israel in 1948 in an attempt to destroy it
  • the “West Bank” is a newly defined term on newly conquered territory
  • highlights that the “Palestine Question” has always been a civil war- about the allocation of land between Jews and Arabs in an area that was once part of the Ottoman Empire
  • the “armistice lines” were never a border and never intended to be a border

The deliberate use of the term “1967 borders” gives a false impression that those lines were at any time approved and permanent. Further, using the term “West Bank” for the area east of the Green Line, makes that area appear to have been an actual Palestinian Arab entity, and as such, implies that the “occupied territory” is occupied Palestinian Arab land. Those conclusions are all false, and all fall away by using the proper Green Line/Armistice Lines terminology.


Sources:

Palestinian call for 1967 borders: http://palestinianmissionuk.com/news/president-abbas-calls-on-quartet-to-recognize-1967-borders/

Obama call for 1967 borders: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/world/middleeast/20speech.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

1922 UN British Mandate: http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/2FCA2C68106F11AB05256BCF007BF3CB

1939 British White Paper: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/brwh1939.asp

1947 UN partition plan: http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/0/7F0AF2BD897689B785256C330061D253

1949 Egypt-Israel Armistice agreement: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/arm01.asp

1949 Jordan-Israel Armistice Agreement: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/arm03.asp

1967 Abba Eben to UN Security Council on constant threat of Arab states: http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/mfadocuments/yearbook1/pages/19%20statement%20to%20the%20security%20council%20by%20foreign%20mi.aspx

1969 Abba Eben Auschwitz borders: http://www.mefacts.com/outgoing.asp?x_id=10191

2002 Arab peace initiative does not use the term “1967 borders”: http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm

FirstOneThrough article on “West Bank” and “Judea and Samaria”: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/names-and-narrative-the-green-line-west-bank-judea-and-samaria/

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria

The New York Times has taken more concerted efforts to balance the narrative between Muslims and Jews regarding the holy city and sites in Jerusalem. It has not taken such efforts elsewhere where it only uses an Arab narrative.

JERUSALEM

The holiest site in Judaism is “The Temple Mount” in Jerusalem, due to the fact that it was the location of Judaism’s two temples which existed from roughly 954BCE to 70CE. The Jewish King Herod built the Temple Mount platform specifically for Jewish use to ease access and flow to the Second Temple. To this day, it continues to be the direction of all Jewish prayer.

In Islam, that holy site is called the “Noble Sanctuary”, or “Bayt al-Maqdes” or “Al-Haram al-Sharif”. It is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina, both located in Saudi Arabia. The Noble Sanctuary holds the Al Aqsa Mosque and the shrine known as the Dome of the Rock.

Historically, the New York Times would reference the names that both religions ascribed to the holy site, typically with the Jewish name first (the Temple Mount), and later in the article, it would use the Islamic name (Noble Sanctuary). More recently, the Times would use both names in the same sentence, and occasionally use the Islamic name first, followed by the Jewish name.

JUDEA AND SAMARIA

However, when it comes to other sites in the region with different names from the two peoples, the Times excludes the Israeli terminology: specifically, “Judea and Samaria”. For such region, the Times will only use the term “West Bank”, except if an Israeli is quoted using the name Judea and Samaria.

Interestingly, the West Bank never existed as an entity until 1949, and was never even referred to by the United Nations Security Council until 1953. In comparison, Judea and Samaria, which cover more area than just the West Bank, have existed for thousands of years.

The “West Bank” came into existence after five Arab armies attacked Israel in 1948. The armistice lines established in 1949 at the end of the war with Jordan became known as the “Green Line” as the line was drawn in green on the maps. The haphazard demarcation did not follow any historic, political or geographic contours, but was simply where the warring parties stopped fighting. The area east of the green line eventually became known as the West Bank.

In the years following the 1948 Arab attack on Israel, every United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution regarding the “Palestine Question”, never mentioned Palestinians as a discrete people or the “West Bank” and Gaza as entities. Each resolution referred to the various parties in the conflict being Israel, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The term “west bank (in lower case) of the Jordan” only showed up for the first time in 1953.

The term “West Bank” is an Arab artifice and highlights the short, violent and illegal Arab rule of the area:

  • It was achieved in an offensive war to destroy Israel
  • The duration of Arab rule only lasted for 18 years 1949-1967
  • Arab rule of the West Bank was never internationally approved (the UNSC never voted on the April 1950 Jordanian annexation of the area)
  • Was administered counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention (the Jordanians and Palestinians deported all of the Jews out of the territory)

The exclusive use of the term “West Bank” gives a false impression that the territory has a long history of Palestinian Arab rule. Further, in never using the term “Judea and Samaria” for the region, the UN, the New York Times and others, distance Jews and Israelis from lands that they lived in for thousands of years.

As the New York Times and other publications now give equal weight to “the Temple Mount” and “Noble Sanctuary”, they should do the same for “West Bank” and “Judea and Samaria”. Alternatively, it could use neutral nomenclature such as EGL- East of the Green Line.

judeasamaria


Source:

2014 NYTimes Noble Sanctuary first, then Temple Mount (11/19/14): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/19/opinion/horror-in-israel.html

2014 NY Times mentioning Temple Mount and Noble Sanctuary at the same time (10/31/14): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/31/world/middleeast/israel-palestinians-jerusalem-temple-mount-al-aksa.html

(11/7/14): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/07/world/middleeast/israel-jordan-jerusalem-al-aqsa-temple-mount.html

(11/23/14): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/world/middleeast/mistrust-threatens-delicate-balance-at-a-sacred-site-in-jerusalem-.html

Only calling it the “Al Aqsa compound” and not the “Temple Mount” (9/17/14): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/world/middleeast/unrest-by-palestinians-surges-in-a-jerusalem-neighborhood.html?_r=0

2013 NYTimes mentions Temple Mount and only later Noble Sanctuary (10/15/13): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/world/middleeast/ten-jewish-men-arrested-at-temple-mount.html

(9/22/13): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/world/middleeast/jews-challenge-rules-to-claim-heart-of-jerusalem.html?pagewanted=all

2009 NY Times only mentions Temple Mount (10/26/09): http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/world/middleeast/26mideast.html

UN mentioning “west bank of Jordan” for the first time in 1953: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/101%281953%29


Related FirstOneThrough articles:

The Green Line

The EU’s Choice of Labels: “Made in West Bank” and “Anti-Semite”

Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”