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Israeli “Occupation” vs. Palestinian Self-Rule By: David Meir-Levi
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Arab propagandists, and many Westerners all too willing to take at face value their lies, blame the sufferings of the Palestinians on the Jews, specifically on Israel’s supposedly “brutal occupation” of Gaza and the West Bank. But do the facts justify this claim? Israel occupied these territories in 1967, as a result of Israel’s defeat of the aggression launched by Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq. Israel was forced to maintain its sovereignty over these territories after the war because of the subsequent refusal of the Arab states to sign a peace treaty. (Egypt finally signed one in 1979 in exchange for the entire Sinai peninsula, and Jordan did the same in 1994 in exchange for thousands of acres of formerly Israeli land east of the Jordan River).

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip lasted until 1994, when the Oslo peace accord brought Arafat and his terrorist army back from Tunis and established him as the head of the Palestinian Authority over Gaza and the West Bank. A brief review of neutral third-party analyses of Israel’s twenty-seven years of rule creates quite a different picture than the one presented by Arab propaganda, and establishes beyond reasonable doubt that under Israel’s rule, the Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoyed more political freedom, were provided more educational opportunities, and experienced greater economic well-being than at any time in their history before or since.

It is, in fact, the governments of the Palestinian Authority, and now of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which have imposed a brutal, graft-ridden, dictatorship over the Palestinian people, destroying their economy and terrorizing their society, killing or imprisoning thousands of their own people, and crushing all the democratic freedoms that the Oslo Accords demanded. It is they, not Israel, who have shut down every opportunity to create a state for the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Contrary to the Arab propaganda myth that Israel is a colonizing state that sought to expand its territories at the Palestinian’s expense, Israel extended its sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip only reluctantly, and did so in the process of defending itself against Arab aggression in the 6-Day War. As soon as Israel had defeated the Arab armies, it offered to cede the captured territories in exchange for peace. Arab leadership uniformly rejected this offer. Israel was forced to retain sovereignty over these captured territories because the Arab policy had only in one objective—the obliteration of Israel.

Within a few days of the June 10, 1967 cease-fire, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, made his famous speech offering to negotiate the return of captured territories in exchange for three Arab concessions: diplomatic recognition of Israel; negotiations to decide on universally recognized borders and on other outstanding issues; and peace. World opinion was amazed that the victor was offering to negotiate with the vanquished and was willing to make substantial concessions (return of territories) in exchange for symbolic and diplomatic ones (recognition, negotiations, peace agreements). To formulate a response to this unexpected new reality, the Arab states called a summit meeting in Khartoum (capitol of Sudan) in August, 1967. The result was the now infamous three Khartoum NOs: no recognition, no negotiations, no peace.

The Benefits of Israeli Occupation

Despite being forced by Arab intransigence to maintain its sovereignty over the newly captured territories, and to maintain a state of war with the entire Arab world, Israel undertook the economic, agrarian, medical, and infrastructural development of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for the benefit of the Arab population, in the expectation that such development would yield what the Israeli government called a “peace dividend.”

This Israeli “mini-Marshall plan” for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip involved investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to bring these territories into the 20th century with regard to infrastructure, roads, sewerage, sewage treatment, electricity, phones, radio and TV broadcasting, water purification and water supply. World Bank records indicate that the GDP of the West Bank grew between 7% and 13% per year between 1967 and 1994. Tourism skyrocketed, unemployment almost disappeared as hundreds of thousands of Arabs worked in Israel’s economy earning far more than their counterparts in other Arab countries. Seven universities, funded in part by Israeli and private Jewish money, grew up on the West Bank in place of the three teachers training schools that existed there before 1967.

During the decades of Israeli sovereignty, there was almost complete freedom of movement throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israelis shopped in East Jerusalem and in Bethlehem and in Ramallah, while Arabs shopped in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Arab students from the West Bank attended Haifa University’s Arab Studies department; and Arab Israelis could re-unite with relatives among the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Although Jordan was still de iure at war with Israel, Israel permitted West Bank Arabs to retain their Jordanian citizenship, in the expectation that Israel and Jordan would reach a peace agreement and most (although probably not all) of the West Bank would revert to Jordan, and even allowed West Bank Arabs to cross freely over the Jordan River in to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Thus, West Bank Arabs on Jordanian passports could travel anywhere from Israel. In 1988, King Hussein of Jordan revoked these passports and denied the West Bank Arabs their freedom of access and travel.

And, perhaps most significant of all, free and unencumbered access to Israel’s medical infrastructure resulted in a precipitous decline in infant mortality and a rise in longevity. The infant mortality rate was reduced from 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000. Under Israel’s systematic program of inoculation, childhood diseases in the Palestinian population, such as polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles, were eradicated. A significant percentage of today’s Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are alive and well only because they had the good fortune of growing up under Israeli sovereignty.

During the two decades preceding the First Intifada, the number of schoolchildren in the territories grew by 102%, and the number of classes by 99%. Illiteracy rates dropped to 14% of adults over age 15 (compared with 61% in Egypt, 45% in Tunisia, and 44% in Syria). The rapid growth in population as a result of access to Israeli medicine, in addition to Arab immigration into the territories from “Diaspora Palestinians” all over the Arab world, resulted in a tripling of the Arab population from around 950,000 in 1967 to more than 3,000,000 in 1994.[6]

All this time the Arab nations remained formally at war with Israel. In 1979, Egypt, alone among the Arab states, agreed to sign a peace treaty with Israel. In response to Egypt’s willingness to sign the peace, Israel withdrew its forces and civilian population from the Sinai.

Prime Minister Menahem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar es-Sadat invited Arafat to their peace table, but Arafat refused, and thus squandered what could have been yet another opportunity for Palestinian statehood. Sadat was then assassinated by Muslim radicals for making peace with the Jews.

In sum, there was not only no “brutal occupation,” there was a very fast paced, broadly implemented, and extremely successful economic and educational and medical and professional development of the Arab populations of both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under very salutary Israeli rule, all initiated by the Israeli government, as part of Israel’s vain quest for peace with its Arab neighbors. Under Israeli sovereignty, the Arabs of these territories experienced greater personal and political freedom, and greater prosperity, than ever in their entire history.

But all of this came to a grinding halt when Arafat took over.

Arafat Takes Over and Destroys Palestinian Prosperity and Peace

When the 1993 Oslo Accords allowed Yasir Arafat to set up shop in the West Bank as the head of the newly created Palestinian Authority, the robust economy created in partnership with Israel began to grind to a halt, and then went into a steep reverse. By 2002, the West Bank’s GDP was one-tenth of what it was in 1993. Israel has been blamed worldwide for the economic plight of the Palestinians even though it was entirely the responsibility of Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Yet, the record, as registered in annual UN Human Development Reports, clearly shows that the Palestinian people were much better off under Israeli occupation than under the Palestine Authority’s control.

Data provided by the UN Human Development program of 2005 [7] indicate that the economic difficulties experienced by the Palestinian Arabs were largely the result of policies of the Arafat regime and not from any oppression by the State of Israel. Looking at what it calls “The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT),” the UN report cites many examples of how positive trends in human development, initiated by Israel decades before, were reversed under Arafat. For instance, the second Intifada beginning in Sept. 2000 resulted “…in a sharp deterioration in living standards and life chances.” The poverty rate nearly tripled from 20% in 1999 to 55% in 2003. The report notes that because of the Intifada, the town of Nablus, for instance, a prosperous commercial hub prior to September 2000, became an economic basket case. Shops were closed; to survive, workers had to sell their tools, and farmers were forced to sell their land. It was Arafat’s war, not Israeli rule, which destroyed Palestinian prosperity and bled its people.[8]

A cruel irony, seemingly lost on western leadership and the media, is the fact that while the Palestinians receive more aid per capita than any nation in the world except Cape Verde (Africa), the Palestinian people have experienced a severe decline in economic well-being; because of Arafat’s terror war and his embezzlement of billions of dollars of this money for himself and his terror armies. The UN report suggests that Arafat diverted almost all of the aid money to his personal accounts and to his various terrorist militias. So the aid money, rather than helping the economy and thus creating conditions that would end violence, actually promoted violence.[9] The picture that arises from the UN 2005 report is a clear continuation of trends documented in the 2004 report.[10]

CONCLUSION

The anti Israel propaganda directed at the West cannot obscure the facts: the brutal oppression and economic deprivation from which Palestinians are suffering is the direct result of Palestinian misrule, and not Israeli occupation. From 1967 to 1994, under Israel’s sovereignty, the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoyed the highest standard of living and freedom (economic, personal, and political) in their entire history.

The anti-Israel diatribes of Arab propagandists and the Western “progressives” seek to deceive the uninformed by conflating Israel’s defensive actions today, which do indeed prevent freedom of movement as a way of preventing suicide attacks, with the entire 40 years of Israeli rule since the 6-day war. This is a lie of monstrous proportions, blaming the victim – Israel – for defending itself.

Equally reprehensible is the utter silence of Arab spokesmen and Western leftists about the crimes committed against the Palestinian people by their own leaders and by the leaders of neighboring Arab states.

Who is responsible for the plight of the Palestinians? From the data presented above, the answer is obvious. Their own leaders, both local and external, who have betrayed, cheated, intimidated, and oppressed them. Every opportunity for Palestinian statehood was rejected by leaders who chose war over peace, because their agenda was never peace but the elimination of the Jewish state.

NOTES:

References are to sources in the bibliography, listed by author. Where pages are not noted, the information has been summarized from broad segments of the authors’ works.

Much of the data and analysis for this article is taken from Meir-Levi, David, “Who is Really Oppressing the Palestinians?” Front Page Magazine, 2.3.06.

[1] Abu-Marzouk, Mousa, “Hamas’ Stand,” Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2007 http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-marzook10jul10,0,1675308.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail (Marzouk is the deputy of the political bureau of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement)

[2] Note the Walt-Mearsheimer Report, President Carter’s recent book, and the Baker-Hamilton report -- all concluding that the “road to Baghdad is through Jerusalem.” In other words, if only we could solve the Israel-Arab conflict and end Israel’s “brutal occupation,” then we could finally have peace throughout the Middle East. As though it could be rationally argued that the barbaric internecine terror war in Iraq, Syria’s 32-year occupation of Lebanon, Sudan’s 24-year civil war in which Arab Muslim Sudanese have slaughtered nearly 2,000,000 black African Christian and Animist Sudanese and nearly another million black African Muslims, Algeria’s 10-year civil war in which more than 100,000 have been killed and nearly 2,000,000 rendered homeless, Mauritanian semi-legal slavery, Somalia’s endless chaos of warlords against warlords, el-Qaeda’s barbaric terrorism against the West, and even Iran’s threatening quests for WMDs in order to create a new world order in a world without America (and without Israel)…..would all somehow disappear if only Israel would make peace with the Palestinians.

[3] According to the 2003 UN Arab Human Development Report, “…the Israeli occupation of Palestine constitutes a severe impediment to human development. This occupation distorts policy priorities, retards human development and freezes opportunities for growth, prosperity and freedom across the region, and not in the Occupied Palestinian Territories alone. The harsh indignities arising from occupation extend to all the Arab people….The occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands exerts a direct and continuous burden on the economies of affected countries and diverts resources from development to military and security objectives. The threat of Israeli domination also creates a pretext for deferring political and economic reforms in Arab countries in the name of national solidarity against a formidably armed external aggressor.” (emphasis mine). Source: The United Nations Development Programme, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, The Arab Human Development Report, 2003: Building a Knowledge Society. Web: www.un.org/Publications, and Web: www.undp.org/rbas. And cf. pp. 57 ff.

[4] Gilbert “History”, Idem “Routlege Atlas”, O’Brien, Oren.

[5] Oren, Sachar, and for an analysis of the legality of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, cf. Meir-Levi, David, Remembering The Six-Day War, Front Page Magazine, June 05, 2007

[6] Summarized from articles listed in “Economy of West Bank and Gaza Strip”(see below)

[7] UN Arab Human Development Program 2005

[8] Ibid, pp. 281 ff

[9] Ibid, pp. 312, ff

[10] UN Arab Human Development Program 2004

[11] Brown; Meir-Levi, “The Missing Piece is missing pieces”, “Left Wing Monsters”, “Islamokaze war and Palestinian poverty”; and Walsh, Elsa, “The Prince,” New Yorker Magazine, March 24, 2003, pp. 49ff.

[12] Erlanger, Steven and Kershner, Isabel, “With Pressure put on Hamas, Gaza is cut off,” NY Times, July 10, 2007; and cf a variety of other news sources for Hamas’ threatening military attacks on Israeli trucks bringing produce in to the Gaza Strip.

[13] For the most recent details of the chaos in Gaza under Hamas, cf. Erlanger, Steven, “A Life of Unrest,” New York Times, July 15, 2007, New York Times

[14] Mahmoud az-Zahar, a high level leader of Hamas, was interviewed frequently after Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip. Summaries of his interviews on el-Jazeera and ‘Ilaf (an Egyptian on-line news website), from which the comments above have been drawn, can be found at Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S), 10.09, 2005 (and cf. http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/html/final/eng/eng_n/hamastan_e.htm), in a Newsweek news summary of August 30, 2005, ( “The Last Word: Mahmoud Zahar:In Praise of 'Hamastan,'” Newsweek International, Sept. 5, 2005 issue ), and in Front Page Magazine (“The Nightmare of Hamastan,” by Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen, FrontPageMagazine.com, 10.31.2005). Osama Hamdan, an official Hamas spokesperson, stated Hamas’ goal in similarly stark terms in a recent interview on Lebanese TV (MEMRI Special Dispatch Series - No. 1682 August 16, 2007, excerpted from an interview on Al-Kawthar TV on August 6, 2007. And cf. http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1527.htm. “The Final Goal of the Resistance is to Wipe This Entity [Israel] Off the Face of the Earth").

Bibliography:

Bard, Mitchell The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict

Idem Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Brown, Nathan Palestinian Politics

Gilbert, Martin The Arab-Israel Conflict in Maps (1977)

The Routlege Atlas of the Arab Israel Conflict: 2002

History of Israel

Hart, Alan Arafat: Terrorist or Peace Maker (Authorized biography)

Karsh, E Fabricating Israeli History: The “New Historians” 1997

Arafat’s War (2003)

“Arafat's Grand Strategy”, Middle East Quarterly, 8.3.04

Meir-Levi, David Big Lies (2005)

Idem articles in Front Page Magazine

“Islamikaze War and Palestinian Poverty,” 9/15/04

“The Missing Peace is missing pieces”, 11/24/04

“Left Wing Monsters: Arafat” Front Page Magazine, 9/23/05

“Occupation and Settlement”, 6/24/05

“The Big Arab Lie”, 5/15/05

“Who is Really Oppressing the Palestinians?” 2/3/06

Remembering the Six-Day War”, 6/5/07 .

O’Brien, Conor Cruise The Siege

Oren, Michael. Six Days of War

PBS. 50-year war: Israel and the Arabs (DVD 1993, 2000)

Sachar, Howard. A History of Israel: Rise of Zionism to our time (2003)

UN Arab Human Development Program 2003, www.undp.org (2004).

UN Arab Human Development Program 2004, www.undp.org (2005).

Walsh, Elsa. "The Prince”, New Yorker Magazine, 3.24.03

Bibliography for the economy of West Bank & Gaza Strip,

Under Israel,1967-1994, and under the Palestinian Authority, 1994 to 2004

Abu Toameh, Khaled & Derfner, Larry, “A state of Corruption”, Nation and World, 7/1/02

Clawson, Patrick "The Palestinians' Lost Marshall Plans", deputy director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Doron, Daniel, “The Way forward for the Palestinians”, Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, 7/1/02, vol 7, #41

Ehrenfeld, Dr. D., "Where does the money go? A study of the Palestinian Authority", Testimony before the US Congress and the House Armed Services Committee.

Eidelberg, Dr. Paul, “Occupied Territories” eidelberg@foundation1.org, 7/18/03

Karsch, Efraim, “What Occupation”, Commentary, 7/2002

“Who Ruined Gaza?” National Post, 9/16/05

Mannes, Aaron, “Strategy for Israel: A real peace plan,” NRO (National Review on Line, http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-mannesprint120401.html), Dec. 4, 2001

Marsden, Keith, “Another View: the Viability of Palestine,” Wall Street Journal, Europe, 4.28.02

MEMI special dispatch Series #390, A Kuwaiti Daily Reports “Arafat Deposited $5.1 Million from Arab Funds into His Personal Account.”

Pipes, Daniel, “Anti-Israel Terror Backfires”, New York Sun, 4/20/04

Wall Street Journal, Economy summary, 4.28.02 (Under the Israeli military occupation from 1967 to 1990, Gaza and the West Bank made enormous economic progress as a result of Israeli investment).

Zwick, Israel. “New UN Document Refutes Palestinian Claims”, TheRaphi.com in www.americancongressfortruth.com.


David Meir-Levi lectures in English, Hebrew, and Spanish and is a contributor to Frontpagemag.com.


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