Tuesday, December 10, 2019

What to call the disputed territories

Sar Shalom

As is well known, most supporters of Israel have a term for the disputed territories that is at odds with what almost all of the rest of the world calls it. For supporters of Israel, that territory is Judea and Samaria, the name by which those territories were known from biblical times until the 19th century. For the rest of the world, it is the West Bank, after the name Jordan gave it in 1949 and which had become standard during Jordan's occupation.

Both of those terms have their problems. The problem "Judea and Samaria" is that it conveys a sense of irredentism without conveying why it is rightfully Jewish (or Judean). Furthermore, using "Judea and Samaria" to refer to the disputed territory implies that the territory from Beersheba to Ein Gedi is not part of Judea. On the other hand, "West Bank" accepts the narrative of the party, Jordan, that acquired the territory in an aggressive war.

The term I would suggest is "Jordanian Conquest." This term conveys what distinguishes the disputed territory from what is not disputed in that the territory that Jordan succeeded in conquering is now disputed between Israel and the international community and there is no dispute between Israel and the international community over any territory that Jordan failed to conquer. The following approaches as to how to allocate any given Parcel X should illustrate the consequences of the terminology.

Approach 1: Was Parcel X under Arab control prior to the 1967 war? If so, no further information is needed, it should become part of Palestine.

Approach 2: Was Parcel X conquered by Jordan during the 1948-49 Independence War? If so, no further information is needed, it should become part of Palestine.

Both lines of inquiry are affected by the preamble to UN Security Council Resolution 242, which states, "Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war ...." If you accept the framing of the first question, then the preamble to 242 almost necessarily leads to the conclusion that everything Israel conquered in 1967 belongs to the Palestinians as of right and that that can only be amended with the Palestinians' assent. However, if you accept the framing of the second question, then embracing the conclusion is outright thumbing your nose as the preamble of 242.

Calling the disputed territory the "West Bank" implicitly accepts the first frame. Calling it Judea and Samaria says nothing about which frame to accept. Since it says nothing, it accepts that anyone who previously accepted the first frame would continue to accept that frame. Calling it the Jordanian Conquest places the second frame front and center. Getting the designation Jordanian Conquest accepted would promote that second frame.


  1. I know a self-described Jewish progressive who said he would just bet that I call the "West Bank" Judea and Samaria. I replied that I saw nothing wrong with it, and why should I? He unfriended me.

    1. May I suggest of different line of response? Instead of stating that it's "Judea and Samaria," ask "Why do you call it the 'West Bank?'" In the course of that discussion, point out how the designation "West Bank" was invented out of whole cloth by Jordan and that Jordan attained the capability to impose that designation by dint of having conquered it during the Independence War. Finally, ask what makes a conquest resulting from an aggressive war of extermination followed by ethnic cleansing legitimate while the subsequent reconquest in a defensive war of survival followed by a reversal of the previous ethnic cleansing illegitimate?

    2. Maybe this would be the answer to your question. Challenge the assumption that it is "Palestinian territory." This does not require that we abandon the historic term.

  2. Call them disputed, just as you did in the title. As the situation evolves, no need to make it more confusing.

  3. Sorry, it's "Judea and Samaria" as it always has been. Historically, it was referred as such prior to Jordan's annexation. And they are "disputed" (not "occupied" territories). I don't care what the international community says.

    1. Indeed they are disputed. Israel has the stronger claim but is willing to compromise in order to bring about a resolution, whereas the Pal Arabs claim Israel has no claim and their leaders boast of their absolute unwillingness to compromise. Naturally, the "international community" like the Arabs so well that they only need to be reminded to like them with very occasional terrorist attacks in their countries.

    2. In other words, we will have peace when Moshiach comes...

      Yes, Israel has proven that it will compromise, but the Pal Arabs want Israel to disappear. The Israelis don't want that, so the Pal Arabs will never be satisfied. So be it. We can keep the status quo regardless of what the international community thinks.

  4. My objective is that the phrase "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" should suggest that Israel has the right to permanently maintain on at least part of the disputed territory rather than suggest that it is entirely Palestinian by right.

    Does anyone object to setting that goal? Does anyone have any suggestion as to how "Judea and Samaria" would accomplish that goal?

    1. Frankly, I am not sure that calling it what you originally did in the original post will make a difference. People will believe that Judea and Samaria is "Palestinian by right" because they will not envision doing anything that benefits the Jews, whether or not international law actually agrees with the Jews.

      It is really stupid that the world insists on redividing the same territory over and over again. The only reason I can see for this is that the world, which has antisemitic attitudes, cannot allow the Jews to live on their own land, which is clearly where Jews lived since biblical times, and somehow thinks that since the Jews were exiled in 70 CE that's the end of it. Even though the Arabs originated from elsewhere, they are given the land by the world and the Jews are somehow "colonialists."

      The land was known as Judea since biblical times. So I don't see what the harm is in calling it by its correct name.

    2. You didn't answer my question.

      Do you care what conclusion is derived from the premise of "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war?"

      If it is of some measure of concern, is the opportunity cost of trying to change what conclusion is drawn too high?

      Other than calling attention to the Palestinians' claim resting on Jordan's having acquired the territory through war, do you have any suggestion as to how change that conclusion?

      Do you have any suggestions as to how to call attention to the effect of Jordan's conquest on current thinking?

      My suggestion of the term "Jordanian Conquest" is just one means to call such attention. I am perfectly willing to jettison that term if you suggest an alternate means to the ends I describe above. Do you have anything to contribute regarding my thought process?

      "It is really stupid that the world insists on redividing the same territory over and over again."

      What is your strategy to convince people of that? I outlined one and how it is supposed to have that effect. Questioning how one part is supposed to facilitate subsequent parts is useful. You're doing nothing of the sort.

    3. Then we will just have to agree to disagree. I don't see how calling it "Jordanian Conquest" will make a difference.

    4. With what step of the reasoning process do you disagree?

      Do you disagree that calling it "Jordanian Conquest" will induce people to think that their assumptions about the allocation of land are based on Jordan's having gained control of the territory through war?

      Do you disagree that raising questions about how perceptions of the allocation of territory were formed would alter the implications of holding that the acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible?

      What I do know is the "Judea and Samaria" (leaving aside that part of Judea is in internationally recognized Israel) is not convincing anyone who is not already convinced.

      I'd follow the advice of "Try something. If it doesn't work, admit that and try something else. But try something." Saying "Judea and Samaria" is clearing not achieving anything. Perhaps "Jordanian Conquest" will achieve something, and perhaps it won't. Worth a try.

    5. Getting people to acknowledge it's disputed land shows an open mind, which is all one can ask for. Making things more complex with theoretical constructs seems not only counter-productive, but energy better spent elsewhere. This seems designed for those who argue the issues, and the anti-Israel advocates will not be convinced no matter what. Though West Bank should be rejected as the product of unlawful aggression.

    6. I don't think calling it "Jordanian Conquest" is going to induce people to agree with this. The land was called "Judea and Samaria" long before 1948, and "West Bank" was introduced around 1950.

      Most likely, if you call it "Jordanian Conquest," people will wonder what the hell you are talking about. If you explain, they will say, "Oh, Judea and Samaria (or West Bank)," because they know what that is.

      There is a possibility that even explaining this name will not "convince anyone who is not already convinced." And if "Jordanian Conquest" doesn't work, what else can you do? Frankly, it's the facts, not a clever name, that will convince others of the inadmissibility of the Jordanian annexation and the evidence, from Biblical times to international precedent regarding the Palestinian Mandate, that will persuade others (if they are truly open-minded to your arguments).

      I think your comment of December 12, in which you challenge others to defend the choice of "West Bank," may be a better strategy to make your point. Otherwise, there may not be anything that will change the attitude of the world toward the "disputed" territories.

    7. Where does the name Jordan come from? Originally Trans Jordan, or that part of Palestinian Mandate that is on the other side of Jordan river. The river name is from Hebrew Bible. What native people would have their country named this way? Yet in everyone's mind Jordan is a country no less legitimate than France. If Jordan as a name for an indigenous Arab country is not wrong, "Jordanian conquest" won't bother anyone. I vote Judea and Samaria.