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Resolution for 2017: Stop substituting ‘the occupation’ for ‘Zionism’

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Without a doubt, my most painful memory of my short trip to Palestine, over ten years ago, is the conversation I had with two friends at a checkpoint.  I told myself at the time that I must never forget that moment, and indeed, I haven’t, and I still hope I never do.

It was a sweltering hot July day.  My two friends, both activists from Nablus, had been showing me around the West Bank, and we were standing, as Palestinians have been doing for years, at a checkpoint, waiting for the Israeli soldier to let us through.  But the soldier was in no hurry.  Sheltered from the sun in her little kiosk, she was chatting on her cell phone.  She spoke Hebrew, which we did not understand, but it was very clear from her giggles, her body language, her relaxed manner, that this was no business call, but rather the banter of best friends, or lovers.

One of my friends asked “I wonder if it is legal for a soldier to have personal conversations while at a checkpoint,” to which the other answered, bitterly, “probably, so long as it increases our wait.”

I am a Diaspora Palestinian.  I did not grow up in “’48 Israel,” nor in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.  I had never before had to wait at checkpoints, at the mercy of occupation soldiers.  I knew checkpoints were illegal.  I had to remind my friends of what they knew very well too, but could not necessarily articulate as they stood yet again, as they had done tens of thousands of times before, at a checkpoint:  the soldier’s attitude was irrelevant, the very checkpoint is illegal, even if she were offering us ice water.

I understood why I could think as I did, while my friends compared soldiers’ attitudes.  They were just as, if not more, politicized as I am, and they knew, as well as I did, that the checkpoints were illegal.  But their daily reality was different, hence their immediate responses also differed.

We live in different worlds.  I live outside of Seattle, denied my Right of Return.  They live in Nablus. Younger than me, they were born, and they grew up, under occupation. Any West Bank Palestinian under 50 today has grown up under occupation.  My friends have never traveled very far without crossing multiple checkpoints, and the attitude of an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint makes a difference to them.   I was born and raised outside of Palestine, with an acute awareness of the illegality of the occupation, and everything associated with that occupation.   The checkpoints are illegal.  The settlements are illegal.  The most recent United Nations Security Council Resolution, Resolution 2334, which “Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law” confirms, or as it puts it, “reaffirms” a reality most of the world already knew.

And in my Diasporan worldview, which has absorbed the Western hegemonic metanarrative even as I also consciously reject it, I still occasionally think in terms of “the occupation,” as if it were a singular complicating factor.   Just this morning, as I was walking and thinking of the book I am writing, I considered the titles of two chapters. One “The Occupation Has a Gender,” examines in great detail the often erased consequences of Israeli military rule on the lives of women young and old.  The other, “The Occupation Has No Gender,” problematizes the concept of “women and children” as innocent victims, because in so doing, it implicitly suggests that the majority of Palestinian men are not innocent.

Then I had my own “a-ha” moment.

I, too, was slipping…

Just as my friends in Palestine, at the checkpoint, focused on the behavior of the soldier, I was defaulting to the hegemonic discourse, which posits that “the occupation” is the problem.  As if the Nakba were not the defining moment of the dispossession, disenfranchisement, and violation of the human rights of the Palestinians:  it’s not “the occupation.” As if the fact that the Palestinian refugee problem being the longest unresolved refugee problem in modern history were no big deal: it’s not “the occupation.” As if the fact that Palestinians within Israel live separate and unequal lives were acceptable: it’s not “the occupation.”  As if the stranglehold on Gaza, now entering its tenth year, making that the longest military siege in modern history, were a side note: it’s not “the occupation.” Indeed, the mainstream discourse does not even bring up the siege of Gaza in its discussion of “obstacles to peace,” further erasing the oppression of a population harshly penalized for engaging in democratic elections.

Just as my friends knew full well that the checkpoints were illegal, but zoomed in on the soldier’s behavior, I know Israeli policies throughout historic Palestine are unjust, oppressive, and still speak of “the occupation.”

Such is the power of the hegemonic Zionist narrative, that we still slip into it, even as we rightly celebrate the discursive change brought about by our recent successes.  And we must keep in mind that our successes remain strictly linguistic, as long as the siege on Gaza is enforced, the settlements keep expanding, and the refugees remain in the Diaspora, or internally displaced, longing for their homes.

Language matters.  If it didn’t, we would not applaud the fact that the word “apartheid” is now circulating in various circles where the Question of Palestine is discussed.  If it didn’t, Israel and the Zionists in the West would not be launching an attack on our freedom of expression.  If it didn’t, we would not be speaking of “The Question of Palestine” rather than the “Palestine-Israel Conflict.”  Language matters because it impacts how we think of reality.   Correctly naming the problem, then, is primordial, a critical first step to solving it.

My New Year’s Resolution, which I hope millions of others will also make, is to stop substituting “the occupation” for “Zionism.”  Not one more slippage.  The era of discussing the occupation as the presumed greater Israeli evil is over, and should be tossed into the trash heap of history.  As we celebrate the discursive change around Palestine, we must be cautious no longer to speak or write about “the occupation” except as one of the many varied facets of Zionism.  Palestinians cannot afford any more erasures, as these are extremely detrimental to our cause, to justice. And just as we realize that the two-state “solution” was never a viable option, we must also inscribe into our new discourse that the occupation was never the problem.  Zionism is.

2017 is an important year, it is the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. The Balfour Declaration also reveals another hegemonic misrepresentation.  Its qualification, as it expresses concern that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” erases the fact that the “existing non-Jewish communities” were both the overwhelming majority, at an estimated 90%, and the Indigenous people of the land.  This erasure, then, started long before “the occupation,” so much so that, when we now hear a speech by Western politicians about Palestine and Israel, such as US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent speech, in which the Palestinians were a mere side note, and where the focus was almost exclusively on Israel, and Israel’s “security,” we must understand that this is not new, but that the erasure was already enacted through the language of the Balfour Declaration.  And today’s reality is the reification of that language.  We must be extremely vigilant in fighting and countering this, and we can start with our own terminology.

We’ve made much progress, and 2017 must be the year we re-inscribe our history, our experiences, our rights.

It’s not the occupation. It’s Zionism.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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69 Responses

  1. Atlantaiconoclast on December 31, 2016, 10:07 am

    Here is another one: settlements. Why are we using that word? Why not call them what they really are? Jews ONLY colonies! I swear, even the most anti Israel person rarely uses these three words to describe what Israel is doing in the West Bank.

    Maybe if all of us started using “Jews ONLY colonies,” we might get people to see how today’s Israel has very much in common with the old Jim Crow South and its Whites ONLY accommodations.

    Or am I being “anti Semitic”?

    • Mooser on December 31, 2016, 12:00 pm

      “Or am I being “anti Semitic”?”

      Let me give you a tip, “Atlantaiconoclast”: If you have to ask other people “Or am I being anti-semitic?” and don’t know yourself whether you are, you shouldn’t fool around with this stuff. You will only get yourself in trouble.

    • Mooser on December 31, 2016, 12:16 pm

      “Maybe if all of us started using “Jews ONLY colonies,” we might get people to see how today’s Israel has very much in common with the old Jim Crow South and its Whites ONLY accommodations”

      Oh, come on. Don’t you know the entire basis of today’s conservative movement is that America went down the tubes when we passed the Civil Rights Laws, and lost our freedom to discriminateand lost our freedom to make choices? You are, I assume, in favor of people being “free” and making “choices”

      So you want the US to interfere in the administration of Israel the way the Northern Federal government dictated to the Southern segregation States? You want people to support Israel losing the same ‘freedumbs’ we have lost in the US?

      So there you go, I’ve lined up a bunch of icons, and given you a baseball bat. Start smashing.

      • Atlantaiconoclast on December 31, 2016, 8:55 pm

        Mooser, I could care less if YOU think I am anti Semitic. I was being sarcastic.

        I don’t agree that most conservatives are frustrated over the Civil Rights Act of the 60s. Most are eager to prove they are not racist. But yes, many of the Alt Righters do want freedom of association. But even they don’t think that is as important as a general shrinking of state power and an end to political correctness and anti White ideology.

        I want a complete end to all aid to Israel. If Israel wants to embrace its apartheid aspects, let it do so on its own dime. And let it face its wars ALONE. Meanwhile, I will be boycotting Israel at the consumer level. I don’t expect my govt to do these things for me. And FYI, Jim Crow was most wrong for it was state mandated discrimination as are the Jews ONLY colonies.

        In my personal life, I am in an interracial relationship and do not set a color requirement for friendship. But I don’t think it is my right to force others to see things the way I do in that regard. Also, Blacks in the North were not that free. I think you have this need to demonize the South.

      • Mooser on January 1, 2017, 1:25 pm

        “Mooser, I could care less if YOU think I am anti Semitic. I was being sarcastic.”

        Oh, I see. Very clever. You sure showed me.

        “In my personal life, I am in an interracial relationship and do not set a color requirement for friendship”

        That’s nice.. Some of my best friends are Jews.

    • JWalters on December 31, 2016, 7:40 pm

      You are being accurate. In the Zionist delusion certain facts are anti-Semitic.

      • Atlantaiconoclast on December 31, 2016, 8:56 pm

        thanks for seeing my sarcasm

      • Arby on January 3, 2017, 5:00 pm

        Indeed, Facts are always ‘not facts’ to the unprincipled who feel that those facts say something about them that they would rather not have aired.

        I think one can disagree with Atlantaiconoclast without attacking him (or…). I have no problem with what he said. I have no deep thoughts about it, but I did not find it offensive.

        There are those who will take any and every opportunity to discourage us (the people as opposed to special interests and their gatekeepers). Those of us who are here for learning and the friendly exchange of ideas would do well, I think, to remember that.

  2. annie on December 31, 2016, 10:46 am

    this reminds me of my response to a winep tweet yesterday, distinguishing Muslims from Islamists. my text was directly from their source, slightly tweaked.

  3. CitizenC on December 31, 2016, 11:07 am

    Zionism, not occupation. But what is Zionism? Not merely the colonization of Palestine, but a reaction against the modern world, against assimilation and integration, an attempt to preserve pre-modern “Jewish identity”. The basic opposition of Zionism is not Jewish settler vs Arab indigene in Palestine but Jew vs gentile everywhere.

    This separate “Jewish identity” is morally and intellectually untenable. See for instance Shlomo Sand on the “inventions” of Zionism, including the myth of the “secular Jew.” Dezionizing Israel means, to start, secular Israeli nationality in the place of Zionist Jewish nationality.

    Dezionizing the US means replacing Jewish separatism and identity politics, which is as untenable as Sand’s catalog of “inventions”, with politics drawing on the classical liberalism of the Enlightenment and Jewish emancipation. In religion, classical Reform (and perhaps classical Orthodox insofar as it is anti-Zionist), socialist internationalism, or plain secularism.

  4. Citizen on December 31, 2016, 11:22 am

    Balfour, he wanted to get the Jews out of England and get the US doughboys into the fight against the Germans. It’s so poetic that the letter was directed to a Rothschild.

  5. AddictionMyth on December 31, 2016, 11:29 am

    True but actually it took the rise of a white-supremacist dictator in my own country to realize that Israel is caught up in a frenzy of Jew-supremacism. I think the only solution at this point is one state with equal rights for all including full freedom of speech and religion. Israel will be fine I promise. :-)

  6. amigo on December 31, 2016, 12:47 pm

    Germany was Occupied after WW2 but Germans did not have to wait for hours at checkpoints or have their produce go rotten while they waited to get to market.Germans did not have their homes broken into at 2/3 in the morning and be thrown out onto the Strasse while British squaddies ransacked their homes and peed on their carpets and shat on their beds.Germans did not have their children hauled off to prison and suffer beating on the way.Germans did not have their homes demolished without due process or were they denied planning permission.Germans did not have their homes sprayed with skunk juice by thier occupiers.

    I agree , it is not the occupation .It,s the inhumanity that the occupation affords and the fiendish behaviour of the zionist occupiers that is the problem.

  7. wondering jew on December 31, 2016, 1:33 pm

    The perspective of the writer vis a vis herself or her people is clear.
    When I wish to clarify my thoughts I read yeshayahu leibowitz. He very clearly endorses the establishment of israel and furiously condemns the occupation. If it’s a war of ideas, then it is his ideas which you need to defeat.

    I consider his ideas valid for his people and your ideas valid for your people.

    • just on December 31, 2016, 1:51 pm

      Aren’t we all “people”?

      Good grief, Yonah~ nice to know that your allegiance to zionism and continuing murderous Israeli injustice is firmly entrenched!


      • Mooser on December 31, 2016, 8:40 pm

        “I consider his ideas valid for his people and your ideas valid for your people.”

        And “Yonah” non-sequiturs that one right out of the park!

    • annie on December 31, 2016, 2:08 pm

      this guy:

      In a 1968 essay titled “The Territories”, Leibowitz postulated a hellish future:

      The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Forces, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.[9]

      you don’t sound like him at all.

      In 1993, he was selected for the Israel Prize. Before the award ceremony, Leibowitz was invited to speak to the Israel Council for Israeli–Palestinian Peace, where his controversial remarks calling upon Israeli soldiers to refuse orders triggered outrage (and Yitzhak Rabin had threatened to boycott the ceremony). The jury convened to discuss the possibility of withdrawing the prize, but Leibowitz himself announced that he would refuse to accept it, because he did not want to create antagonism when receiving the prize.[10]

      besides, he died in 94, so who are you to decide what he’d think of all this today. here it says he had “unyielding criticism of the rabbinic establishment in Israel”

      his argument as early as 1968 that Israel should withdraw from the newly-conquered West Bank and Gaza strip, or his public call for conscientious objectors from the time of the Lebanon war of 1982 and subsequently in the Palestinian territories. Leibowitz’s ability to stir up public controversy was in evidence as late as 1993, the year before he died, in a speech to the Israel Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, where he reiterated his call on soldiers to refuse to serve in the Territories, using, not for the first time, highly provocative language comparing special units of the Israeli army to the SS.

      nothing about your commentary reminds me of yeshayahu leibowitz.

      • Maghlawatan on January 1, 2017, 5:43 am

        Leibowitz really understood the system and where Israel was headed. Finkelstein does too.

      • wondering jew on January 1, 2017, 2:22 pm

        I do not consider myself an heir of yeshayahu leibowitz and if a student, a very reluctant student. It is rare to find a real liberal zionist, but I would propose him. His ferocity against the occupation was unparalleled, but he called himself a zionist. I am not saying what his precise answer would be when at this moment we face the death of the two state solution. (Gideon levy was once a zionist, but is one no longer, so a similar change might have occurred in leibowitz, but he was a Zionist given his time here on earth.)
        I’ve never seen him comment on the nakba and his disillusionment with Israeli actions preceded 1967. But he considered the 6 day war the greatest catastrophe of the Jewish people.

    • Naftush on January 2, 2017, 9:39 am

      Yonah, staple CitizenC’s post to the article and see where the writer is coming from and hopes to head. CitizenC elaborates on the thing the writer wishes to obliterate: Zionism as Jew vs. gentile everywhere. Jewish identity in scare quotes. Lobotomizing American Jews of wrong (according to Shlomo Sand) in order to dezionize the U.S. The writer alone would settle for our expulsion. Adding CitizenC, we should brace for filleting. Here’s the point MW has reached: no more “war of ideas” but “reporting” and spreading “resistance.”

      • Mooser on January 2, 2017, 1:13 pm

        It’s awful, the anti-semites have already broken “Naftush’s” syntax!

        “on the thing the writer wishes to obliterate: Zionism as Jew vs. gentile everywhere”

        Because “Zionism as Jew vs. gentile everywhere” is the best way to sell Zionism to day’s Jews.
        You stick with that, “Naftush”, and don’t let anybody take it away from you. Why, just think of how badly we have the “gentiles” outnumbered!

      • eljay on January 2, 2017, 2:28 pm

        || Mooser: … Because “Zionism as Jew vs. gentile everywhere” is the best way to sell Zionism to day’s Jews. … ||

        If it works, why not? Zionism and the “Jewish State” need all the cannon-fodder they can get.

        (I suppose they could appeal to non-Jewish Zionists to sacrifice their lives for the glory of a “Jewish State” in which they’d be second-class citizens, but I don’t expect they’d get too many volunteers.)

  8. just on December 31, 2016, 1:47 pm

    Oh wait. America’s ‘other BFF’ said this:

    “Certainly, May is a strong supporter of Israel. On 12 December, she delivered one of the more pro-Israeli speeches you will hear by a sitting British prime minister. In an address to the Conservative Friends of Israel, she spoke of her pride in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which Britain recognised the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. She described Israel as “a remarkable country … a thriving democracy, a beacon of tolerance, an engine of enterprise and an example to the rest of the world.” ”

    Link to May’s speech:

    Keep your bucket handy.

    Thank you, Nada.

  9. kalithea on December 31, 2016, 3:15 pm

    It’s not the occupation. It’s Zionism.

    Hello-oh! Thank you! Thank the Lord! Finally! Finally, ringing in the New Year with the truth about Zionism being exposed. I’ve been almost an isolated voice since at least 5 years now trying to make this point, even with the smartest individuals in different rooms ignoring my dogged pursuit of this issue, who thankfully don’t lack compassion but whose moral compass might need an adjustment. Hey! I don’t want to judge; I’ll blame it on years of indoctrination. But mother! has it been an uphill struggle to make people see that It’s ZIONISM, Stupid!

    I was of course a little nicer about it; wasn’t I Mr. Silverstein? The day he writes an article like this finally showing he gets it; I’ll be back with my pearls of wisdom and not a minute sooner.

    To everyone who’s holding back on speaking the truth about Zionism; you’re still chasing your tail; you’re still not getting it; maybe you don’t want to get it; but you’re lying to yourself; therefore you’re lying to others; and you’ve wasted so much precious time; therefore you’re part of the problem not the solution despite your efforts.

    Now at this 11th hour, when Zionism is being exposed as the Lobby was first exposed some years ago, we face emerging fascism with a Trump presidency; and trust me the issue of Zionism is going to get very contentious. Already, there is chatter among our Zionist-suborned policymakers intending to legislate equating and even replacing anti- Semitism with the new and fraudulent version: anti-Zionism. We cannot allow this to happen. This is the worst that can happen. It will abort the emerging awareness regarding Zionism’s true nature essential for justice. Zionism is inherently fascist, and very regrettably, Trump is the perfect standard-bearer for Zionism and we have a battle royal looming to take this delayed discussion to the heights it should have gone after Obama took office.

    Had everyone come around sooner, on the issue of Zionism, we wouldn’t be facing the censorship firing squad that’s about to be mobilized to stop the true narrative from going viral.

    Happy New Year to one and all, although hard times are coming. Resist ZIONISM.

  10. YoniFalic on December 31, 2016, 6:01 pm

    Stanley Cohen has provided an excellent summary of the real issue in Israel’s never-ending crimes: It’s not just settlements.

  11. Tom Suarez on December 31, 2016, 9:12 pm

    Thank you, Nada Elia ! The term “occupation” (whichever of its myriad possible definitions, geographic and otherwise) has always worked to Israel’s favor, obscuring the actual issue.

    • Sibiriak on January 1, 2017, 12:51 am

      @Tom Suarez

      1) Belligerent occupation is quite well-defined under international law, and the boundaries of Occupied Palestinian Territory have been clearly specified by the UN and International Court of Justice.

      That’s not to say that other uses of term “occupation” are not possible, or that one must agree with the UN/ICJ. Some people, for example, argue that all of Israel is “occupied” Palestinian territory as well. However, the fact remains that there is a clear legal and international consensus on the meaning of the term, which allow it to be used with precision in that regard.

      As Jonathan Ofir puts it:

      The whole world recognizes that Israel is an occupying power. This is completely uncontroversial.”

      2)If the term “occupation” has so obviously worked in Israel’s favor, why then has Israel has been so vehemently opposed to its usage? The term is anathema to expansionist Zionists. They flat-out deny that there is any occupied territory at all– it’s all “disputed territory” .

      Again, Jonathan Ofir:

      A few days ago, a video interview with Alan Baker, Israel’s former ambassador to Canada (as well as military prosecutor and senior legal adviser in the Israeli army’s international law division), was released, under the title: “International Law Expert: Israel Is Not an “Occupier.”

      In the interview, released by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Baker makes the essential claim that Israel is not an occupier, because he says that international law defines occupation as “one power occupying the lands of a foreign sovereign”.

      But Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations (HR) states that a “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army,” and according to their common Article 2, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 apply to any territory occupied during international hostilities. Baker calls the West Bank “disputed territory,” as does Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

      * * * * *

      [Israeli] adventurism is not only about expansion – it is about spinning and twisting international law to serve this adventurism – with deceit.

      In 1967 Israel took on the adventurism which even some of its own leaders first feared (after having ethnically cleansed most of the territory from most of the Palestinians in 1948) – the conquering of further territory with a large Palestinian population, one which now, with Israel’s Palestinian citizens combined, counts as many Jews as non-Jews, despite various and ongoing campaigns of ethnic cleansing since.

      Israel tries to hide these occupations in various ways, with various spins.

      In 2005, Israel, under PM Ariel Sharon, did the famous “disengagement” from Gaza, the “significance” of which was elucidated by Sharon’s security adviser Dov Weisglass as “the freezing of the peace process.” Yet even this “disengagement” proved to be mere spin.

      Whilst the Israeli government claims that Gaza is no longer occupied, both the UN, and even the United States regard it as “occupied”.

      Israel also seeks to obscure its Golan occupation. After a promising oil test drill last year, Israel worked arduously to try to have the United States endorse its illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan, also conquered in 1967. In his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu reportedly claimed that Syria was no longer a functioning state, allowing “for different thinking.” In a bizarre, first-ever cabinet meeting atop the Golan heights earlier this year, Netanyahu simply vowed that “the Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.”

      There’s nothing to be in doubt of regarding the Golan – it’s Syrian territory. Not “disputed territory.” Not “disengaged from” territory as Israel would have it spun in other locations it occupies. And yet, we are told in no uncertain terms – that this Syrian territory, occupied in an uncontroversial way (and illegally annexed in 1981), is part and parcel of Israel.

      * * * * *

      Tell the Palestinians in the West Bank that there’s no occupation. Tell the Gazans. Tell the Syrians. Tell everyone. There’s no occupation. Repeat it again and again. There’s no occupation. It all becomes “Israel”, and Herzl’s ‘dream’ is turned into ‘reality’ by brute force and propaganda.

      [emphasis added]


      Again I ask, if the idea of “occupation” is so favorable to Israel, why the vast, longstanding, multifaceted, furious Israeli propaganda campaign to deny the reality of occupation?

      • Sibiriak on January 1, 2017, 1:22 am

        Classic example:

        Op-Ed: There is No “Occupation”

        by Morton A. Klein, National President, Zionist Organization of America

      • Sibiriak on January 1, 2017, 1:45 am

        Let’s be real: opposition to the term “occupation” is really opposition to the two-state idea.

        Ending the occupation* would leave Zionist Israel intact in the short term, making its democratic transformation a separate phase in the struggle.


        *The BDS Movement: “International law recognises the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel.”

      • Talkback on January 3, 2017, 2:09 pm

        Sibiriak: “Baker makes the essential claim that Israel is not an occupier, because he says that international law defines occupation as “one power occupying the lands of a foreign sovereign”. ”

        So according to Baker, Netanyahu and other Hasbara trolls Jordanian was never an occupier and its annexation of the Westbank and East Jerusalem were legal. Therefore the Geneva Conventions are applicable and Israel’s settlements and its annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal.

        Absolutely brilliant reasoning!

    • Tom Suarez on January 1, 2017, 11:16 am

      Hello Sibiriak, I never said, or meant to suggest, that there is no occupation. Rather, the occupation is a symptom, not the disease itself. Get rid of the “occupation”, and it will be a rude morning after when you realize that the problem itself has not changed.
      Also, I do not agree at all about the geographic parameters of the occupation being somehow universally (or even casually) agreed upon. Quite the contrary, the “bar” has continually been shifted, with no valid resolution to the intermediate thefts.
      As one example, Israel was never given the land between the Partition and the Armistice Line — it is as much stolen land as the West Bank etc. Israel’s only vague legal claim to unoccupied land is within the Res 181 confines (though it was an illegal Resolution), and then only if it stops blocking the return of the Palestinians within those parameters. There are many aspects of the “occupation” that are a matter of common — but false — presumption, always, to Israel’s favor: Jaffa, as one example.
      Finally, that Israel hates reference to the “occupation” is in no way inconsistent with this. The occupation is a means to an end. But to regard the occupation as the actual core problem, is a grave mistake.

      • Sibiriak on January 1, 2017, 2:23 pm

        Tom Suarez: Rather, the occupation is a symptom, not the disease itself.

        True. “The occupation” is a concrete policy , a concrete reality. “Zionism”, on the other hand, is an ideology (or more precisely, an umbrella term for a complex of ideological currents) which has led to the policy. So it would be a blatant category error to “substitute ‘the occupation’ for ‘Zionism’.”

        Get rid of the “occupation”, and it will be a rude morning after when you realize that the problem itself has not changed.

        You wildly overstate your case. Getting rid of the occupation would mean getting rid of a massive amount of oppression and suffering. Getting rid of the occupation would also mean the current de jure state of Palestine would become a de facto state. Those would be huge changes.

        Getting rid of the occupation would mean the achievement of the first goal of the BDS movement. The other two goals–

        Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

        Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.

        —would remain unfulfilled, of course. But that hardly nullifies the achievement of the first goal. To return to your metaphor, eliminating symptoms is not an insignificant achievement at all: eliminate all a disease’s symptoms and the presence of the disease becomes of minimal concern.

        Also, I do not agree at all about the geographic parameters of the occupation being somehow universally (or even casually) agreed upon.

        I never said anything about universal agreement. What I said was: “ the boundaries of Occupied Palestinian Territory have been clearly specified by the UN and International Court of Justice.

        That’s true. The ICJ in its 2004 “Wall” opinion stated unequivocally that the dividing line between Israeli territory and occupied Palestinian territory was the 1949 “Green Line.” I’d be happy to quote for you verbatim from the Court’s opinion, if you wish.

        Regarding the UN itself, there have been multiple UN resolutions calling for a two-state settlement of the conflict based on the 1949 Armistice lines (aka “Green Line” / “pre-1967 borders”).

        There have been ZERO UN resolutions calling for a two-state settlement based on the original res. 181 recommendations after those were not backed by the UNSC, not implemented, and superseded by the UN- sanctioned 1949 Armistice Agreements.

        Likewise, there have been multiple UN resolutions condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory (defined by the 1949 “Green Line”) including East Jerusalem.

        There have been ZERO UN resolutions condemning Israeli settlement in territory inside the “Green Line” but outside res 181 recommended borders which Israel acquired during the 1948 Nakba.

        To be even more specific, the principle of the inadmissibility of a state’s acquisition of territory through war has only been applied by the UN/ICJ to territory acquired by Israel in 1967. It has never been applied to the territory acquired during the 1948 Nakba. There are both legal and political reasons for this which I can go into detail on if you wish. But it in any case, it is simply a fact.

        In sum, it is indeed quite accurate to say the boundaries of Occupied Palestinian Territory have been clearly specified by the UN and International Court of Justice. . Whether those boundaries are just ( I don’t think the are) is an entirely different question.

  12. ritzl on January 1, 2017, 12:43 am

    Also it’s Occupied Palestine, not the derisive, dismissive, hasbara-culture terminology of “the occupied territories.”

    Thanks Nada. Another good one.

    • Sibiriak on January 1, 2017, 9:45 am

      ritzl: it’s Occupied Palestine, not the derisive, dismissive, hasbara-culture terminology of “the occupied territories.”

      You need to brush up on your “hasbara culture” a bit. “Occupied territories” is not “hasbara-culture” terminology. There is no “occupied Palestinian territory.” There are no “occupied territories” of any kind. There is no occupation, period. It’s all “disputed territory.”

      • annie on January 1, 2017, 10:03 am

        It’s all “disputed territory.”

        exactly, hasbrats don’t recognize palestine (or the territory) as occupied. because they dispute the definition and terminology they call it disputed territory which has a different meaning legally. but, their lack of recognition doesn’t lesson the fact palestine is occupied and recognized as such internationally.

      • ritzl on January 2, 2017, 12:01 am

        Yeah it’s tough to keep it straight sometimes. Friends of Palestine can’t seem to say the name Palestine and enemies of Palestine just say disputed. Hard to know where “hasbara culture” leaves off and “hasbara culture” begins.

  13. Maghlawatan on January 1, 2017, 5:45 am

    Zionism was a stupid idea 100 years ago. Considering how it has twisted Judaism into a cruel philosophy it is still stupid.

  14. Eva Smagacz on January 1, 2017, 6:48 am

    Another issue that gets forgotten as we are directed to discuss Israel using Zionist parameters, is an issue of right to return.
    The double standard is very clear if you compare the attitude towards Yugoslavia refugees, and Palestinian refugees:

    This is from Annexe 7 of Dayton Peace Agreement:

    All refugees and displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin. They shall have the right to have restored to them property of which they were deprived in the course of hostilities since 1991 and to be compensated for any property that cannot be restored to them. The early return of refugees and displaced persons is an important objective of the settlement of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Parties confirm that they will accept the return of such persons who have left their territory, including those who have been accorded temporary protection by third countries.

    2. The Parties shall ensure that refugees and displaced persons are permitted to return in safety, without risk of harassment, intimidation, persecution, or discrimination, particularly on account of their ethnic origin, religious belief, or political opinion.

    • ritzl on January 2, 2017, 12:04 am

      That’s an amazing catch.

    • YoniFalic on January 3, 2017, 6:40 am

      So what’s the difference between Bosnia Herzegovina and Palestine?

      Apparently in the 21st century it is still okay for white genocidal racists to displace and to expel non-Europeans from homeland, but expelled or displaced white Europeans must be restored to their homes.

  15. just on January 1, 2017, 11:59 am

    In The Guardian this morning…

    Rashid Khalidi:

    “As 2017 dawns, the ghost of Lord Balfour still haunts us. Just as the British foreign secretary’s 1917 declaration considered only how the Zionist movement could serve the interests of the greatest power of its day, so has the recent speech of the US secretary of state, John Kerry, advocating a two-state solution addressed mainly the interests of today’s superpower and its protégé, Israel. There has been some progress since 1917: there is no mention whatsoever of Palestinians or Arabs in the Balfour Declaration, whereas Kerry paid ample lip service to the Palestinians, albeit always in relation to Israel’s concerns and desires.

    Lost in the uproar caused in some circles by the condemnation of Israeli settlements embodied in Kerry’s speech and in UN security council resolution 2334 is the fact that, in line with previous US policies on Palestine, both ignore basic rights of the Palestinian people, and the requirements of international law, of justice and of equity. …

    Although the Obama/Kerry parameters are likely to be consigned to oblivion like those of Bill Clinton 16 years ago, it is worth examining them to see how Israel-centric the entire discourse on Palestine is.

    Much like the Balfour declaration, these parameters were in fact tailored point by point to Zionist desires. Thus they cite UN general assembly resolution 181 in support of the recent Israeli demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. But instead of that state being confined to the generous frontiers laid down in 1947 in UNGA 181 (which promised more than half of a country with a large Arab majority to its Jewish minority), the Palestinian state is to be restricted to 22% of mandatory Palestine. Moreover, it is to be demilitarized, and will only come into being, if ever, after yet another “transitional period”. Israelis have had independence and sovereignty for 70 years. The Palestinians will have to wait, yet again, for theirs.

    The parameters enshrine the “land swaps” beloved of peace processors. This innocuous term is in fact designed to allow Israel to snatch even more than 78% of Palestine, exchanging worthless desert for prime real estate.

    The Kerry/Obama parameters refer to a “just, agreed, fair and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue”. How can such a solution be just if descendants of the majority of Palestinians who were expelled in 1948 are explicitly denied return to their homeland? The parameters note that refugees’ “suffering must be acknowledged”. Where is the vital acknowledgment that carving a Jewish state out of a majority Arab country necessarily and inevitably caused that suffering?

    These parameters call for “freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo”, without recognizing that for 50 years Israeli governments have shredded that status quo, desecrating Muslim cemeteries like Mamilla and Bab al-Rahmeh, demolishing ancient Ummayad buildings discovered south of the Haram, and much else, in the race to dig down to the only strata that matter to nationalist Israeli archaeologists. They add that “Jerusalem should not be divided again like it was in 1967,” without addressing the fact that the “unification of Jerusalem” has been a cover for 50 years of land theft and subjugation of more than 400,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites.

    Then the parameters address the holy of holies: Israel’s “legitimate security needs”. These are treated as unconditional and absolute. In practice they are so elastic that they have been used to deny pasta to besieged Gazans. Typically, the focus is on security for the Israeli occupier, not for the occupied Palestinians who are in fact utterly insecure. Security for Israel is paired with the “end of occupation”. The latter is conditional: it comes only “after an agreed transitional process” and with the involvement of Egypt and Jordan, which for decades have closely collaborated with the Israeli security services, often against the interests of the Palestinians.

    Finally, the parameters call for an “end [to] the conflict and all outstanding claims” as part of a normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states. How is that to take place if basic Palestinian claims are ignored, while all serious (and some outrageous) Israeli claims are addressed?

    The Balfour Declaration was issued at the height of the imperial age, when colonization was still in good odor. It laid down a blueprint for the dispossession of the Palestinians, tearing a regional wound that is still unhealed. One hundred years later, the colonial settler project that Lord Balfour blessed still bulldozes its way through Palestine, and the Palestinians remain in limbo. We have yet to see the parameters of a just, equitable and secure solution that gives both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples the equal rights they deserve.”

  16. Ossinev on January 1, 2017, 1:57 pm

    Classic example:

    Op-Ed: There is No “Occupation”

    by Morton A. Klein, National President, Zionist Organization of America

    – See more at:

    From the article by this intellectual giant Morton A.Klein a so called American citizen one of a large number overt Israel First Fifth Columnists:

    “The territories of Judea-Samaria-Gaza and the Old City of Jerusalem were integral parts of the Jewish kingdoms throughout the biblical eras, and are explicitly mandated by the Hebrew Bible as part of the Land of Israel”

    You do realise that this statement as any form of claim of Zionists “rights” to Palestine is quite simply batshit crazy. The Bible , Old Testament New Testament , Jewish ,Christian or otherwise is a work of fiction weaved around actual or imaginary figures and events in Palestine 2000 + years ago. If you or the aforesaid Mr.Klein really believe that this in any way overides 21st Century International Law you need to look urgently at therapy options.

  17. James Canning on January 2, 2017, 1:53 pm

    I think it a mistake to attack “Zionism”, given the vagueness of that term. The primary problem is the continuing occupation of the West Bank and related illegal Jewish settlements.

    • annie on January 2, 2017, 3:18 pm

      while the term may be vague, the actions done in it’s name are not — at all. as long as zionism is on the attack (and there has never been a time it has not been violent) it’s fair game. it’s a moral duty to resist (including attacks of resistance) destructive immoral racist structural systems of theft and oppression.

      • just on January 2, 2017, 3:54 pm

        Yes, Annie.

        Language matters. Actions matter. I cannot even count the times that Hanan Ashwari and so many others have spoken and written about the Occupation while the West, East, North and South jammed their fingers in their ears and shut their eyes while hurling epithets at the Palestinian VICTIMS in Palestine and those that cry out for their freedom and justice.

        James Canning, please read this from Tom Suarez:

        “Terrorism: How the Israeli state was won”

        – See more at:

        It might change your mind. It’s the root cause analysis of the ethnic cleansing and Occupation of Palestine and Palestinians. I look forward to reading the book.

      • annie on January 2, 2017, 4:38 pm

        just, speaking of which, i just watched this excellent short film, recommended:

      • just on January 2, 2017, 4:56 pm

        That’s extremely powerful.

        All set to a bit of a famous symphony~ no words necessary. Thank you, Annie.

    • talknic on January 3, 2017, 12:33 am

      Don’t be duped. There’s nothing vague about Zionism. Vagaries are an asset promoted by Zionists themselves in a deceitful MO designed muddy the waters and cause distraction from any ugly realities.

      Zionism is actually a very highly organized colonial enterprise with a strict code of behavior that has, predictably, resulted in turning the very people it claims to be working for, against each other.

  18. mcohen. on January 3, 2017, 3:05 pm

    Zionism has been a difficult and centuries long political process to win back the state of Israel from various colonizers.the problem is that the Jews have been to few in number but the population is building and the defences are improving.did an arab army colonize Israel.most definitely.did the Turks colonize Israel.most definitely.with the help of the great powers of the day some of Israel has been won back.the pushback by Israel is not an “occupation”.it is the on going rebirth of a country on the same land over thousands of years

    • Talkback on January 3, 2017, 5:22 pm

      The only problem is that all of the historic events happened a long time ago when people didn’t care about international law, humanitarian law or human rights. The invasion and conquest of land, genocide, expulsion, dispossesion and subjugation of people was “normal” and often based on historical or religious claims.

      But I guess that the rest of humanity doesn’t want to be dragged back to bible times, the middle age or even before 1945 by die-hards who simply want the rebirth of supremacy through anchronistic, immoral means.

      • Mooser on January 3, 2017, 6:44 pm

        “.the problem is that the Jews have been to few in number but the population is building and the defences are improvin”

        “the problem is that the Jews have been too few in number”. Now, why might that be?
        Anyway, what’s the minimum number of Zionist Jews needed to keep Israel viable? If new rights for Palestinians, or even a state, make conditions in Israel less attractive to Jews, how many can Israel guarantee will stay under the new conditions?

    • echinococcus on January 3, 2017, 9:44 pm


      I just love your latest twist-or-turn: because Palestinians had been occupied by imperial overlords, they now must be pushed out and murdered wholesale to annihilation, by Martians (and Scots like your good self, no doubt) in the name of anticolonial liberation.

    • talknic on January 3, 2017, 11:54 pm

      @ mcohen. January 3, 2017, 3:05 pm

      “Zionism has been a difficult and centuries long political process to win back the state of Israel from various colonizers”

      The scriptures tell us our Jewish forefathers invaded the region

      “did an arab army colonize Israel”

      No. Israel didn’t exist between at least the Roman era until 00:01 May 15th 1948 (ME time)

      “did the Turks colonize Israel”

      See above

      ” … the pushback by Israel is not an “occupation”.it is the on going rebirth of a country on the same land over thousands of years”

      Bullsh*t suits you.

  19. Arby on January 3, 2017, 4:36 pm

    Commanding others to think and behave a certain way is authoritarian. ‘Occupation’, I’m willing to bet, says more to more people than ‘Zionism’. The author’s point is taken, but I think her cause would be better served by encouraging people to educate themselves on this subject, and to that end, hooking completely uninformed people will not go so well if the word ‘occupation’ is abandoned. We who are informed might be able to use the two terms ‘more appropriately’, but even so. ‘Occupation’, I think, is going to grab someone’s attention long before ‘Zionism’ is.

    The author is absolutely right about language being important. Stories are therefore important and for the very reasons she elucidates. I too bemoan the failures that those who would wake people up, rather than exploit them, make in the area of communication. My biggest buggaboo right now is this business of calling all ‘anti’ behavior ‘phobic’. Anti Islamic, for example, is not the same as Islamophobia. You can’t argue with fear. Fear, where it actually exists, is honest. But ‘anti’ is entirely different. Somewhat similar to ‘prejudice’ as opposed to ‘discrimination’, which the law has caught up with, as far as I am aware (here in North America).

  20. Talkback on January 3, 2017, 5:23 pm

    Stop substituting ‘the occupation’ for ‘settler colonialism’!

    • Sibiriak on January 3, 2017, 9:14 pm

      Keep “settler colonialism” for the academic sphere.

      For the general public, go with“Apartheid”, “illegal occupation”, “violations of international law”. “humanitarian crisis,” “human rights violations”, “war crimes”, “ethnic cleansing”, “genocide”, “state terrorism”. “far- Right regime”, “right-wing Nationalist regime”, “ethnonationalist”, “religious extremists”, “neo-fascist”, “anti-Western”, “illiberal”, “anti-democratic”, “rogue state”, “Netanyahu’s Israel” (like “Putin’s Russia”), etc.

      In short, use exactly the same kind of rhetoric neocons and liberal interventionists use when they want to delegitimize and demonize a state.

      • echinococcus on January 3, 2017, 11:44 pm


        Your list is trying to smuggle a number of established, abundantly documented and undiscussable transgressions along with a couple of “exactly the same kind of rhetoric neocons and liberal interventionists use”. I hope you don’t now need references to ethnic cleansing, to the Convention against Genocide, the consensus on the crime of Apartheid, the Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter, etc.
        Besides, your post supposes a legitimacy that you have yourself characterized as fictitious.

      • Sibiriak on January 4, 2017, 4:54 am

        echinococcus: Your list is trying to smuggle a number of established, abundantly documented and undiscussable transgressions along with a couple of “exactly the same kind of rhetoric neocons and liberal interventionists use”.


        No, nothing was “smuggled”, whatever that means. And most of them are used by neocons/liberal interventionists, not just a couple. I know you are focused on Palestine, but try reading some of the neocon/lib attacks on Russia. Putin committing “genocide” in Syria–didn’t you hear about it?

        The point is: I suggest powerful, emotionally-charged, already well-understood and familiar condemnatory language that is indeed accurate –rather than the far less emotionally charged, somewhat pedantic and unfamiliar “settler colonialism” which requires reams of explanation.

  21. MHughes976 on January 3, 2017, 5:28 pm

    Zionism to my mind is the belief that people who are Jewish, and they only, have an inherent right to a share of sovereignty in the Holy Land, others only by the grace of the true heirs. The Occupation is the situation in the WB and Gaza post-67. Zionism is a false principle and the Occupation is a horrible thing. There are people who think Z is fine but the O wrong. This is not a bad linguistic habit but a mistaken idea, whose error needs to be explained. It’s not that people who condemn O really already condemn Z and just need to be told to use the right words.

    • Sibiriak on January 3, 2017, 8:54 pm

      MHughes976 : Zionism to my mind is the belief that people who are Jewish, and they only, have an inherent right to a share of sovereignty in the Holy Land, others only by the grace of the true heirs.

      So if someone does NOT believe that, but nevertheless supports the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, he/she is not a “Zionist” in your view??

      • MHughes976 on January 4, 2017, 4:21 pm

        Yes, supporting Israel as a Jewish state or as the polity it is possible in those who are not Zionist in my terms – or in other terms, I would think – by belief or ideology.
        I’d be interested to hear other definitions of Z.

    • Sibiriak on January 3, 2017, 11:22 pm


      To give a concrete example, self-described “liberal Zionist” Peter Beinart asserts that the Palestinian people have their own right to self-determination in their own state in Palestine, i.e. he rejects the notion that only Jews have an inherent right to sovereignty in the Holy Land.

      Does that mean he is in fact not a Zionist at all, in your view?

      • MHughes976 on January 4, 2017, 1:18 pm

        Yes, if anyone believed that there are two absolutely genuine ways, neither superior to the other, of having a share of sovereignty over the Holy Land, being Jewish and being Palestinian, that person would not be a Zionist by my definition: a ‘semi-Zionist’, perhaps.
        A consistent semi-Zionist could not endorse partition without vote or the exclusions of 48 and would want to take all reasonable steps to put them right, would not accept that the security of the Jewish element took priority over the well being of the others and would not agree to the continuing disfranchisement of ‘the Occupation’ – would, I suppose, think that the Jewish element owed massive reparations to the others. I don’t really think that semi-Zionists could have founded or sustained Israel or even encouraged Israeli policies at any stage. Perhaps Professor Beinart is indeed what I would call a semi-Zionist. Louis Brandeis was perhaps one such during the Balfour era – he certainly, according to Margaret Macmillan’s ‘Peacemakers’, envisaged a Palestinian electorate of all Palestinians in Palestine plus all Jews everywhere. Mind you, that is such a paradoxical idea that it may be that semi-Zionism is always inconsistent.
        However, I would think it useful to use different terms for what I’m calling Z and semi-Z.

  22. irishmoses on January 4, 2017, 12:19 pm

    I think your impressive argument about the validity of the term Occupation fails to distinguish legal versus illegal occupation. The legal version, under the 4th Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, or belligerent occupation, allows a belligerent to occupy another’s land for a limited period of time in order to restore a normal, non-belligerent state of affairs at which point the occupier returns control to the occupied party and leaves or ends its occupation. The US ended its occupation of Germany in 4 years and 6 years in the case of Japan.. No colonies, just return to civilian control and leave. That’s the legal version.

    Israel’s legal belligerent occupation of Palestinian was very brief and arguably ended with the first settlements, in late 1967. Moreover, the secret Meron memo of that year put the Israeli government on notice that any transfer of Israeli civilians into occupied Palestine would be a war crime under Geneva 4. So, that knowledge coupled with its actions (transferring civilians into all-Jewish settlements in occupied Palestine) makes clear Israel intended to keep for itself as much of Palestine as it could get away with. Hence, the status of temporary, legal, belligerent occupation ended in late 1967. Anything since is clearly different and should properly be called something else. Illegal colonization, apartheid, anything but occupation which implies that the current state of affairs is somehow legal and temporary.

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