The letter from 107 Democratic members of Congress declaring that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and much of Jerusalem, are illegal is wrong on so many levels that I wonder if even most of the signatories themselves understand the implications of what they signed.
Members of Congress are busy men and women. I get that. They don’t have time to carefully read every request that comes across their desks. They can’t familiarize themselves with every nuance of the issue under consideration. They often must rely on their senior staff to provide guidance. If that’s what happened here, then they received very poor guidance indeed.
Most of the letter consists of predictable slogans and irrelevancies. For example, it warns against “settlement expansion into the occupied West Bank,” which is irrelevant because the new U.S. policy refers to existing Jewish communities and has nothing to do with whether or not they “expand.”
The letter also claims that the new U.S. policy could “lead to a more entrenched conflict.” More entrenched than a 100-year-long Palestinian Arab war against Jews and the existence of a Jewish state? More entrenched than the Palestinian Authority’s refusal even to negotiate with Israel? More entrenched than an entire generation of Palestinian Arab youth being raised—in the aftermath of the Oslo accords—on hatred of Jews and glorification of terrorism?
The letter asserts, absurdly, that the U.S. policy harms the possibility of “a contiguous Palestinian state” and therefore “jeopardizes Israel’s future.” I wonder how many of the signers have any idea what a “contiguous” Palestinian state is.
It refers to the idea of a “State of Palestine” that is one unit, physically linked, running from Gaza through Judea-Samaria and including parts of Jerusalem. Obviously, such an entity would be stronger and pose a much greater threat to Israel than the current reality of two physically separated Palestinian entities. Yet in the Orwellian language of the Democrats’ letter, a more dangerous Palestinian entity is good for Israel’s future, and a less dangerous Palestinian entity “jeopardizes Israel’s future.”
But there are two other aspects of the congressional letter that so far have received scant or no attention.
The first is the letter’s complete misrepresentation of international law. The letter points out that Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention “affirms that any occupying power shall not ‘deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’ ”
That’s correct, but it has nothing to do with Judea-Samaria and Jerusalem. Article 49 was drafted in the aftermath of World War II. It was specifically aimed at countering what the Nazis did, such as the deportation of German Jews to death camps in Poland.
The quote that the congressional letter includes leaves out an important word. The beginning of that paragraph in Article 49 states that it is referring to “forcible transfers.” The Democrats left out the word “forcible.” I wonder why. Maybe because it would make clear that Article 49 does not apply to Israel? The Jewish residents of Judea-Samaria and Jerusalem were not forced by the Israeli government to live there. They chose to take up residence in a region that has been at the center of the Jewish national homeland for more than 3,000 years.
Which brings us to the final point. The term “Occupied Territory,” as used by Article 49 and cited by the Democratic congressmen, refers to a country like Nazi Germany, which illegally occupies somebody else’s territory.
But Judea-Samaria and Jerusalem were never somebody else’s territory. Throughout history, they were never part of a sovereign country other than the Jewish kingdoms. The Jewish claim to that land is rooted in history, international law, and of course, the Bible. The Arab claim is based on lies, wars and terrorism.
The critics of Israel who organized the Democrats’ letter evidently have chosen to accept the Arab lie that Judea-Samaria and Jerusalem belong to the Arabs, not the Jews. The fact that the critics were able to rope so many members of Congress into adopting that position is tragic. But that, it seems, is today’s sad political reality.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism,” now available on Kindle.