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Land isn't a carnival prize

Reader comment on item: Two Years of Intifada

Submitted by jackstpaul (United States), Oct 9, 2002 at 04:13

"To the best of my knowledge, after every war that were waged against Israel, Israel had to retreat from the territories she conquered, with the exception of the Six Day War and Yom Kippur war. ( with the exception of the Sinai returned to Egipt ).

"Why should Israel give up territories that were conquered in wars imposed upon her?"

Gabriel, here's my thoughts.

Which wars were "imposed" upon Israel? 1948? Sorry, but the "war" didn't begin on May 15, 1948 when the Arab nations attacked "Israel"—a conceptual entity with no declared spatial borders—where did it begin or end, hence what constituted attacking "it?" By that date Israel had conquered almost all of the extra 23% of "Palestine" not allotted it under the Partition plan and produced the exodus of 300,000 Arab civilian refugees, in addition to causing many Arab casualties and suffered many casualties. If that doesn't indicate that there was a war already taking place, I don't know what will. 1948 War was imposed upon by Israel? By whom?

1956 Israel—in a pact with England and France—attacked Egypt. Not "imposed" on Israel.

1967. I don't know who to believe, because it seems very unlikely that Nasser was prepared to strike Israel, as many Israeli leaders at the time have said—Begin, (either Shamir or Rabin, if not both + many others), and Israel's saber-rattling was severe. I find the suggestions that Israel took advantage of the opportunity to grab the territories as compelling as opposing arguments. I expect every reader to disagree with my non-decision.

1973 The only clearly Arab-initiated conflict.

Aside from all of that, Land is the real issue:

1. "Land" isn't a prize to be won like from carnival games. The notion of land as "spoils of war" went out with as an international norm with the end of WWII and establishment of the UN, as much as supporters of Israel try to claim otherwise. And that applies to both offensive and defensive wars. Sorry, but the paradigm changed long ago, although instances here and there exist--usually from very powerful states--like the former USSR--because its hard to argue with them or put together enough support to force them to relinquish their claims. The "West" though adopted that paradigmatic change with great general acceptance—see Eisenhower and many other Western leaders speaking to this issue in post-WWII. Of course, adhering to this notion means adhering to "Western" notions, as Israel purports to.

If one believes that ownership is a virtue of the successful use of violence--"might makes right"--then you (Israel) can't complain when another party (Arabs) tries to take control of that land by additional violence. "Might makes right" isn't a Western political value—in theory, at least, so calling for utilization of a standard based on "might makes right" puts one at odds with what constitutes "civilized Western" political values. Re: "civilized" the concept addresses the notion of changing standards over time, i.e., we're civilized now and don't adhere to a theory of ‘might makes right."

2. Trying to claim the territories as Israeli land is either self-defeating or contradicts the practice of "liberal democracy" re: "liberal." Even if the land is recognized as Israel's, there's no right –under Western political values—to take the land from the specific individual landowners, i.e., the Palestinians. Israel can claim the land as theirs—ignoring the question of international recognition, but can't take *any* of it away from the present landholders without violating a core principle of Western political values: liberalism--the recognition of the rights and interests of individuals as taking precedence over other and other's interests—communal, government, etc. Claiming the land while leaving it in Palestinian hands at the individual level is self-defeating because Palestinians don't want Israeli rule and obviously will continue to fight it without end.

3. Of course the apologist will make claims about public vs. private land suggesting that some, most or a great amount of it is public, but if that standard is applied it should have applied to those who were the "public" at the time of taking control. Adding additional others to the public then constitutes confiscating property rights—even if publicly exercised—from those private Palestinian citizens—of their previous state(s) because it reduces their stake—greatly in that land as individuals.

4. Also, the attempts will be made to justify the ethnocentric application of property law recordkeeping which will (and have) deprive many Palestinians of their private property rights because the occupying power applies standards that many already-existing—some for many generations—can't meet because they didn't operate under a similar system previously. Not to be forgotten is the idea of democracy, self-determination, and representation. If Israel tries to claim "public" land as in the "public domain" whose disposition is to be decided by the ruling state, then that disposition by Israel fails to represent the interests of Palestinians since they're not, nor can they be, citizens, nor are they otherwise politically represented within the governing state. Taking land that is at the very least part theirs—even if "public"—the use of it must include representing their interests, lest it be an analogue to "taxation without representation" of "disposition without representation." Not very "Western," indeed.
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