Are the West Bank and Gaza “occupied territories” as Palestinian Arabs assert?
With the division of a new Jewish state of Israel from other portions of the mandate Palestine as a result of the 1949 armistice, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip became much highlighted geographical units. From the period of 1948 to 1967, the West Bank was under Jordan’s control which it took in 1950, giving citizenship to the Palestinians residing there. On the other hand, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control during that period. Israel took control of all of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Sinai and the Golan Heights after the 1967 war.
Forming a military establishment in these occupied territories, Israel denied Palestinians of their basic civil and political rights, liberty as well as freedom of expression. Palestinian nationalism was degraded to the extent that even display of the Palestinian national colors became an act worth punishing. There were more aspects from the Palestinian life that was forbidden by Israeli military administration, going as far as banning the use of wild thyme, a common Palestinian cuisine element. Israel started to build settlements and allowed Jewish citizens to move into the West Bank and Gaza, having no regard of the fact that it is a breach of the international law. The unjustified practices of Israeli military in the occupied lands include curfews, demolitions and closure of Palestinian schools, roads and institutes. Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned around three hundred thousand Palestinians and that too, without a trial. Many of these prisoners died of the torture and neglect from the Israeli prison administration. In their clarification, Israeli officers claim that harsh measures are required to put a leash on terrorism. According to them, all sorts of opposition from Palestinians, including non-violence, counts as terrorism and hence should be thwarted. Falling under the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, Palestinian Arabs regarded these as the “occupied territories”. Palestinian spokesmen speak about the Israeli military action as an infringement of the Palestinian sovereignty and an invasion of their lands. Israel persistently resisted the efforts of the international treaties to define West Bank and Gaza as “occupied territories”. Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court asserted that since the convention “is based on the assumption that there had been a sovereign who was ousted and that he has been a legitimate sovereign”; therefore there is no applicability of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. Therefore, Israel regards itself as a “legal administrator” of these territories and not as a “foreign occupier.” Regardless of Israel’s claims, it is widely regarded as the “foreign occupier” of Gaza Strip and the West Bank. International community has disapproved the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands on more occasions than one; however, no sufficient steps have been taken to enforce the international law or to account Israel for its violations of geographical boundaries.