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Op-Ed: Europe's Favorite Occupation

Europe has never heard of "Physician, heal thyself."
Published: Tuesday, July 09, 2013 10:38 AM


For the European Union (EU), labeling Hizbullah as a terrorist organization amounts to a tough philosophical question.  But labeling Israeli products from Judea and Samaria as non-Israeli entails no such travails. 

While there is no question that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization, defining Judea and Samaria as “occupied territory” is debatable at best. 

In international law, a territory is occupied when it has been conquered from a sovereign country.  The west bank of the Jordan River was neither a sovereign country nor part of a sovereign country when it was conquered by Israel in June 1967.  During the 1948 War, and as a result of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the Hashemite Kingdom conquered and annexed the hilltops of what was supposed to become part of an Arab state according to the 1947 Partition Plan.

This annexation was never recognized by the international community (with the exception of Britain and Pakistan).  So Israel did not seize a territory from a recognized and legal sovereign country.  Rather, Israel recovered a territory that had been granted to the Jewish people for self-determination by the Balfour Declaration (1917), by the Sèvres Treaty (1920), and by the League of Nations Mandate (1922) which was confirmed by the UN Charter in 1945.

Those are binding international documents, as opposed to the 1947 Partition Plan, which was a mere recommendation (like all UN General Assembly resolutions) and which became moot the moment it was flatly rejected by the Arab League.  The west bank of the Jordan River is thus a disputed, not an occupied, territory.

There are many disputed or occupied territories in the world.  Yet the EU does not discriminate against products from those disputed or occupied areas.    

China rules over Tibet and Xinjiang against the will of those territories’ populations.  Xinjiang’s indigenous Uighurs used to constitute 90% of the province’s population sixty years ago; today they are a mere 60%.  More and more Tibetans are rebelling against Chinese rule over their country: since March 2011, over 100 Tibetans have torched themselves.

Uighurs and Tibetans can hardy count on the West to gain independence.  China holds about $800 billion of US Government bonds, and its army constitutes a credible military threat to US allies in East Asia such as Japan and Taiwan.

As for France, President Sarkozy did speak out about Tibet and even met with the Dalai-Lama.  But at the G20 Summit in London in April 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao refused to meet his French counterpart and demanded a French declaration “recognizing” that Tibet belongs to China.  Sarkozy duly complied. 

In 1979, Morocco conquered Western Sahara, a country that was supposed to become independent after the end of Spanish rule.  The Moroccan government ruthlessly represses the Polisario Front and transfers settlers to its southern colony.  But the West and the UN couldn't care less.

In 2008, Russia conquered Abkhazia and it actively promotes Russian settlement there.  The US and the EU, however, feel that the last thing they need it to pick a bone with Russia over its settlers in Abkhazia. 

In 2009, the Sri-Lanka government decimated in a bloody war the Tamil independence movement.  The world has mostly been relating to this massacre as an internal issue.

I am not suggesting that Israel should be left alone just because the above undemocratic regimes are ruthless.  The West rightfully expects Israel to live up to its own democratic standards and to abide to international law.  But then the West should apply the same principle to itself.

Last month, the UN renewed the status of French Polynesia as a “non-self-governing territory” and it asked France to set Polynesia on the path to full independence.  Altogether, there are 16 territories in the world defined by the UN as “non-self-governing territories.”  The French typically claim that their overseas territories prefer their present status to full self-determination and independence.  That claim certainly doesn't wash with New Caledonia.

Since 1986, the United Nations Committee on Decolonization has included New Caledonia on its list of non-self-governing territories.  Following secessionist unrest and military repression, the French Government agreed in 1988 to hold a referendum on Caledonian independence within ten years.  In 1998, the French Government convinced the pro-independence Kanaks to push-off the referendum by another fifteen to twenty years.  Since 1998 plus 15 equals 2013, Kanaks have been inquiring lately about their referendum.  France’s reply is that the price of independence will mean the end of all economic aid –undoubtedly a powerful deterrent.     


There is no philosophical debate in Europe about whether or not IRA, ETA or FLNC fighters should be labeled terrorists or militants.
France denies independence from far-away subjects, but people are denied their independence in the European Union itself.  Cyprus, an EU member, has been partially occupied by Turkey since 1974.  The Turks have displaced about 200,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.  They have brought in Turkish settlers and built a separation fence.  The EU has given-up on solving this conflict and it has come to terms with the status-quo. 

Spain will not let the Basques and Catalonians secede, and Britain has been fighting to keep Northern Ireland within the UK.  There is no philosophical debate in Europe about whether or not IRA, ETA or FLNC fighters should be labeled terrorists or militants. 

True, Catalonians have Spanish citizenship and Caledonians are French nationals.  The comparison with the Palestinians can therefore not be stretched.  Still, there are in the European Union disputed territories and peoples whose independence is denied.

After the EU announced its decision to discriminate against Israeli products that come from a disputed area, the Israeli Foreign Ministry tried to convince the EU to back down by claiming that discriminating against those products would affect the income of Arabs employed in factories located beyond the Green Line. The Israeli Foreign Ministry is thereby depicting Israel as a convicted criminal asking the Court not to jail him so that he can keep supporting his beaten wife and children.

Rather than using this pitiful argument, Israel should bring it on: if the EU has a new policy of discriminating against products coming from disputed areas, Israel should reciprocate with products coming from New Caledonia, Catalonia, and the Basque Region.  After all, there might be Israelis who care about the Kanaks’ right to full self-determination, and they should be allowed to express their displeasure at France by not buying products coming from that colonial relic. 

Alas, giving “the Goyim” a taste of their own medicine is something Israelis cannot fathom.  Not only in the state of Denmark is there something rotten.