Monday, October 31, 2016

The end of an occupation

Sar Shalom

In just over a week, we'll be celebrating the anniversary of the end of the Soviet occupation of West Berlin. What's that, you don't remember the Soviets having ever occupied West Berlin? Well, don't you remember the Berlin Airlift during which the Soviets prohibited all ground deliveries to West Berlin? What? You don't consider that an occupation and even if it was an occupation, it ended in less than a year and for over 40 years it was possible for supplies to get to West Berlin over land. Fine, does Checkpoint Charlie ring a bell? From the time the Berlin Wall was built until the fall of East Germany, anybody entering of leaving West Berlin had to pass through a phalanx of zigzag barriers and military inspections on the eastern side. What's that? You say that the Soviets still did not have any forces actually present in West Berlin?

Well there you have the real definition of occupation. It consists of forces of the occupying power being garrisoned in the occupied territory and the legitimate government of the territory being unable to function. Yet somehow, this requirement for occupation does not stop much of the world from decrying Israel's occupation of Ramallah and Jenin. Just as Palestinians have to pass through checkpoints when they pass from Area A/B to Area C, Germans had to pass through checkpoints to move between East and West Berlin. Just as the West German government was able to carry the full scope of its operations in West Berlin and no Soviet troops were garrisoned there, the PA is able to carry the full scope of its operations in Area A and there are no IDF troops garrisoned in Area A.

The major argument for the notion that Israel is not occupying the "West Bank" is that there is no legal basis on which to say that the territory belongs to anyone besides Israel. However, there is another why the Palestinian people are not under occupation. Over 90% of the Arab population of the "West Bank" lives in territory governed by the PA. Unless one is willing to say that West Berlin was under Soviet occupation prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, that means that over 90% of the Arabs of the "West Bank" are not living under occupation.


  1. I was not discussing any lands that were genuinely occupied by the Soviets. I specified West Berlin which was NOT occupied by the Soviets, but which exhibited many of the characteristics of what supposedly constitutes Israel's occupation of Gaza and Area A.

    The point being, next time you hear someone rant about how the Palestinian people are living under "occupation," ask if that person believes that West Berlin was under Soviet occupation. If they insist that there is a difference, ask what attribute of occupation is manifest in the Arab population centers of the "West Bank," excluding that of the less than 10% who live in Area C, that was not manifest in West Berlin.

    Did you even read the last paragraph?

  2. Nice analogy. I can give you a 3rd reason why Israel is not occupying the "Palestinian people," but I will refrain for now. You can probably guess it anyway.

    1. Are you referring to the fact that the Palestinians are not an entity that can be occupied?

      The problem with that argument, and the uti possidetis juris argument that the land belongs to Israel, is that both arguments leave open the charge that Israel rules over a group of people who have no say in how they are ruled. My argument that the Palestinians are no more occupied than Lesotho is occupied by South Africa makes the case that Israel does not rule over the Palestinians and that their lack of full independence is due to their own failings.

  3. Legal arguments and appeals to international law are nonsense on their face. I ignore them

    1. What is international law?

    2. International law is the collection of treaties signed between nations and customary practices of nations. Read anything by Eugene Kontorovich to understand what international law is.

    3. Trudy: Does that mean you consider the Nurenberg and Tokyo Trials to have been a farce? Do you believe that the provision of the ICCPR guaranteeing the right to manifest one's religion, which means that there is no basis to bar prayer on the Temple Mount, should be considered a non-entity?

      The law has been perverted in order confer benefits on an international darling, the Palestinians, at the expense of an international whipping boy, Israel. That does not mean that there is something fundamentally wrong in the law. The problem is in the arbiters of the law.

    4. I guess that depends on your definition of terms. Certainly the winners are never war criminals whatever the reality. International law is largely a matter of the justice of the victorious. That doesn't mean that it's not warranted, only that it's certainly uneven. Curtis LeMay for instance noted that 'If we lose we'll be the war criminals here' regarding their firebombing of Japan.

      I think you have to be very careful about how you prosecute such things. Point in fact there's a movement among African nations to withdraw from the ICC because their leaders and countries are for the most part the only ones charged (with one or two exceptions). But they are essentially correct on the point of who's dragged into the ICC. That does not in any way mean that Sudan's Bashir isn't a war criminal, or that's there's not a good case to drag the Rwandan government into a war crimes trial or Kenya's Kenyatta, or my favorite, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equitorial Guineau, wildy supported by and supportive of Obama, on a personal level and an honest to god known cannibal.

      Be that as it may. Many African nations feel that they're unfairly is singled out; either because of racism, the history of European involvement, their relative international weakness or other reasons.

      In a very broad way, without stepping in the swamp of apartheid too deeply, the RSA's international problems for decades had almost nothing at all at what they did or who they did they did it to. It had to do with the color of the people in power. No one argues anymore that apartheid was a good thing or even a necessary evil. But it blanches in comparison with level of atrocities in next door Mozambique or next door Angola during more or less the same time period. If Pretoria is worthy of sanction why not Maputo where the Marxist government oversaw the slaughter of a half million people? Why did not our moral better angels start stringing people up after the conclusion of the Biafran war? I can't for the life of me understand that. Or why is Ethiopia now our ally even though the entire history of the Horn of Africa for the last half century is covered in the blood of Ethiopian government engineered famines no different from the Ukrainian Holodomor?

      The takeaway for me is that mayhem and war crimes are situational and contextual in nature. Sometimes we find it convenient to ignore them

      Moreover, and for a moment I'll wear my lawyer hat, even though I am not one I've been sleeping with one for 40 years and am life long study partner and sounding board.....laws are useful for those who obey them. The lawless are, at their core, lawless. Liars lie, cheaters cheat, criminals do criminal things. That is their nature. Impressing international law on parties who don't care what the law says and recognize no legitimacy to enforce it are immune. No one's going to drag China, Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Any-other-stan, Laos, any Central American nation, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan into the dock for crimes against humanity.

      This is why I tend to ignore political uses of courts for political purposes. There is justice and there is not-justice. There is equity and there is results. They often don't play out the way we expect they would.

  4. Yup.

    The real occupying power, as evidenced by the recent UNESCO vote, is Islam.

    The anti-Zionist trend within the western-left wants to say that Israel continues to "illegally occupy" the "West Bank" and Gaza, even though it does no such thing.

    Maybe it's time to simply turn the tables on the bastards by affirming Israeli sovereignty within specific borders.

    Kedar's idea concerning dealing with Palestinian-Arab leadership on the tribal, or local, level, could prove helpful.