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/

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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”