by Michael Freund
After Monday’s passage of the law aimed at regulating certain land issues in Judea and Samaria, Israel’s ostensible friends in Europe wasted little time before lambasting the Jewish state in remarkably harsh terms. Mustering all the vitriol at their disposal, which appears to be boundless when the subject is Israel, the leaders of the Continent went on a rhetorical rampage that was as obscene as it was offensive.
if European and international statesmen really want to have a debate about “occupied territories,” I say: bring it on.
As usual, it was the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, who scaled the heights of hyperbole when she called the law “new and dangerous,” as though resolving land disputes through compensation was an entirely unheard-of concept in modern law. But then Mogherini went further, declaring that “the Israeli parliament has legislated on the legal status of land within occupied territory which is an issue that remains beyond its jurisdiction.”
The irony of her own statement was apparently lost on her. After all, what “jurisdiction” does Mogherini have to interfere in Israel’s internal affairs, berate its democratically- elected parliament or interpret the legislation it chooses to pass? Other leaders, such as French President Francois Hollande, denounced the legislation, saying it would “open the way to the annexation of the occupied territories,” while the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolai Mladenov said that by legislating “in the occupied Palestinian lands,” Israel had crossed “a very thick red line.”
Well if European and international statesmen really want to have a debate about “occupied territories,” I say: bring it on.
A good place to start would be with some of Europe’s own colonial relics, which it greedily clings to, like a hung-over hobo grasping a bottle with a few remaining drops of vodka.
Take, for example, the island of Corsica, whose beautiful beaches, tranquil bays and dense forests conceal an ugly historical act: France’s 1768-69 invasion and annexation of the nascent republic. Despite the passage of nearly 250 years, many Corsicans continue to yearn for greater autonomy or even independence.
In December 2015, the nationalist Pè a Corsica Party dramatically won the island’s regional elections, coming within just two seats of an outright majority. And opinion polls show that two-thirds of Corsicans want to hold a referendum on independence from France.
Independence-minded Corsicans say that Paris has been deliberately trying to “Frenchify” the island, subduing its culture and language.
But when was the last time you heard European leaders, or anyone else for that matter, denouncing France for its “occupied territories”? And then, of course, there is Catalonia, where the regional government plans to hold a referendum on independence in September of this year despite opposition from Spanish authorities. Curiously, however, the Catalonians’ longing for independence doesn’t seem to elicit as much interest in Europe’s capitals as that of the Palestinians, even though the former have a much better case for a state of their own.
To begin with, there actually was a Catalonian state, albeit briefly, in the 17th century, whereas there has never been an independent Palestine in all of history. And even if one believes the Palestinians have been occupied since 1967, Spain has been occupying Catalonia for more than three centuries. That makes it a longer-running dispute, and justice delayed is justice denied. Moreover, Catalans can legitimately claim to be a nation with its own distinct language; the Palestinian Arabs cannot.
The list of course goes on, and includes places such as the Falklands.
It was 35 years ago this April that Britain dispatched a naval task force of more than 100 ships to take the islands back from Argentina, thereby reasserting their century- old colonial occupation.
More recently, in one of the biggest land-grabs in modern history, Norway cemented its hold on more than 2.7 million square kilometers of Antarctica when it unilaterally declared in June 2015 that its territory in the eastern part of the region extended all the way down to the South Pole. A white paper issued by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry stated openly that “the purpose of annexation was to subdue the land that now lies unclaimed,” and Norway asserts that the land belongs to it because it was there first.
Oddly, they don’t seem to apply the same logic to Judea and Samaria, where the Jewish presence predates the founding of Islam by over 1,500 years.
Clearly, when one puts things in historical perspective, Europe’s bellowing about Israel’s “occupied territories” is nothing more than diplomatic duplicity. This is especially true in light of the fact that Judea and Samaria are the ancient heartland of the Jewish people and the cradle of our civilization.
Unlike many of Europe’s own occupied territories, Israel has every right – morally, historically, theologically and militarily – to be in Judea and Samaria, and so we shall remain.
So next time the EU decides to holler about the need for “ending the occupation,” Israel should announce that it is sending human rights monitors to Corsica, Catalonia and other such areas, to ensure that the European occupying powers are not trampling on the rights of the indigenous residents.
And the Jewish state should also start working on some draft UN resolutions denouncing the ongoing European occupation of various parts of land around the world.
It might sound silly, but instead of constantly being on the defensive, perhaps it is at last time for Israel to give Europe a taste of its own medicine.
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