Palestine, an Occupation not a Conflict

A correct diagnosis of the situation is a prerequisite to finding a reasonable solution


By Hiba El-Farra

When the Palestinian struggle for freedom is discussed, the term ‘conflict’ is often being used and abused.

For many Palestinians, this term does not adequately describe the Palestinian experience nor what the people of Palestine have endured over the past seventy-one years of their struggle for justice and freedom. And it surely does not describe the Israeli aggression and injustice towards the indigenous people of Palestine. Simply because, what is going on between the Palestinians and the Israelis is not a ‘conflict’ it is an occupation.

For the world to get anywhere in this debate on the question of Palestine, the world needs to call a spade a spade.

When a patient goes to the doctor seeking a treatment for an illness, the first thing the doctor has to do is to diagnose the illness correctly and only then can the condition be properly treated. Misdiagnosing the condition will lead to prolonging or exacerbating the illness and eventually not being able to treat the patient at all.

When talking about the situation in the Palestine and calling it a conflict, we are misdiagnosing the cause which consequently would make it impossible for us to go forward from here. So, we must call it by its true name: occupation.

An occupation is where one group of people has been unfairly oppressed by another group of people and in most cases been displaced from their homeland, whether physically, culturally, politically or all of the above.

For more than 70 years the settler-colonial state of Israel has occupied greater Palestine, and for more than 50 years Israel has militarily-occupied the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Amnesty International attests that this has resulted in systematic human rights violations against Palestinians living there.

Eighty percent of Palestinians living within the pre-1948 borders of British Mandate Palestine were displaced in the 1948 creation of Israel, and the majority of them and their descendants have remained stateless refugees ever since. Those who remained on their land after 1948 are now subject to over 65 discriminatory Israeli laws. The Palestinians in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza have been living under Israeli military occupation since 1967, the longest military occupation in modern history, where every aspect of life is impacted and restricted.

And yet it seems the world is expecting the Palestinians to give up on their aspirations and sign off their rights to freedom, dignity and equality in order to reach a lasting ‘peace’. Palestinians crave real peace. But any imposed “peace process” that begins with a misdiagnosis of the problem will continue to compound the problem, and will continue to be unacceptable to the Palestinians; their seventy-one years of resistance makes it clear enough that real peace must bring peace for all.

Some might argue that all the peace talks over the years are proof that Israel was open to settling this issue and giving the Palestinians some of their rights. Unfortunately this is far from the truth, and to help understand that we should try and look at the ideological regime that governs the state of Israel. It is soon evident that the rights that are given to the Israelis are in no way to be compared to those of the Palestinians and that discrimination is one of the main pillars that the Israeli ideology was built on.

For those that do not believe that this is the reality on the ground, you would do well to go to Israeli schools and neighbourhoods and compare them to those of the Palestinians. To visit some towns like Hebron/Al-Khalil and compare the “Israeli only” roads to the ones Palestinians are permitted to drive on. To compare the water restrictions for the Palestinians there to the unrestricted water allowance for the (illegal) Israeli settlers. To go to the Israeli military courts where young Palestinian children are shackled and taken to stand in front of a military judge after signing papers written in Hebrew (a language many can’t speak or understand), for acts as simple as throwing a stone. To break bread with any number of Palestinian refugees in the global diaspora, now in their third and fourth generation of statelessness. To observe the collective punishment in demolishing Palestinians homes in the occupied West Bank. To bear witness to the continued siege on Gaza that has turned it into the world’s largest prison, where 1.816 million people are living in 365 km2 of rubble and being denied the basic needs for living. And to look at the illegal Israeli settlements that were built on Palestinian land across the West Bank while the very negotiations for ‘peace’ were taking place and still continue to be built until this day.

Israel has continued building illegal settlements despite many United Nations resolutions urging Israel to stop the building of settlements and to dismantle the existing ones. As one example, UN resolution 2334 that states: “Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including ‘natural growth’”.

If you read the Oslo Accords and compare what the Palestinians were meant to be given on paper with what they have been given in reality, it is difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that Israel entered these negotiations to simply “buy time” and build as many settlements on Palestinian land as they possibly can. Israel has been deceptive by giving the world the impression that it wants peace while reality suggests that Israel is so far from wanting peace, as it has no intention of relinquishing its discriminatory occupation.

And on the issue of justice, let us consider that the displaced Palestinians’ Right of Return, inscribed under UN Resolution 194 since 1948, has been denied and ignored by Israel and not mentioned in any recent negotiations, while the right to settle in Israel can be exercised by any European or American Jew that has no ties with the land of Palestine. Can such blatant discrimination ever lead us to peace?

One would stop and ask, based on all the above whether the Palestinians are being unreasonable in their demands? Or for that matter, if Israel truly wants peace? And the road to peace, is it reachable or are the obstacles too hard to overcome? And finally, the main question, where to go from here? Have we reached a dead end?

The answer to all the above invites us to take a look at the numerous United Nations Resolutions that Israel has ignored over the past 70 years and ask ourselves, what if it was any other country that committed this number of violations of international law?

When looking at all this, it is hard to see a glimmer of hope or a light at the end of the seventy years long tunnel. Unless, that is, the international community for once can stand and call Israel out for all its violations of both international Law and human rights.

So how can we be hopeful for the future?

The answer will come when the world stops blaming the victim and starts calling what is happening on the ground an occupation rather than a simple conflict. If we can reach peace in Palestine, we will then reinstall the faith in humanity as a whole in generations of young men and women who have lost hope for a better future. It is time for Australia to stand on the right side of history.

Header Photo: al-Junaidi has been accused of throwing stones and will face formal charges in front of an Israeli military court. Credit: Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

[Opinions expressed are those of the author and not official policy of Greens WA]