Occupied Territories is a term that's often used to refer to Gaza and the West Bank, areas in the Middle East. However, the term is somewhat of a misnomer.

There is a widespread misconception that Gaza and the West Bank formed part of a country called "Palestine" before the creation of Israel in 1948. However, this isn't the case. The land of Palestine was a British protectorate, that earlier in the century covered what is now Jordan and Israel, together with Gaza and the West Bank. About 75% of Palestine was given to Jordan, with the rest being left as British territory. Until 1947.

In 1947, Britain effectively gave the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea to the United Nations to split up into two countries - one for Jews and one for Arabs (despite the fact that Arabs had already got 75% of Palestine in Jordan!) Once the borders had been decided, representatives of the Jews and Arabs were consulted. The Jews accepted the offer (reluctantly - the original Balfour Declaration 30 years earlier had suggested a Jewish state in the whole of Palestine). The Arabs rejected it - and the Israeli War of Independance started shortly after. So here we have the first problem.

Gaza and the West Bank were never part of a sovereign Palestinian state. Therefore they can't be "Occupied Palestinian Territory".

After the war finished, territory had changed hands. Israel's prototype borders had changed, but internationally they were accepted as they finished at this stage. For example, this is now the border with the West Bank generally referred to as the "Green Line". This is purely an armistice line, not an official border.

More interestingly, though, is what happened in Gaza and the West Bank. By rights, they should have become an Arab state of Palestine. But instead, they were occupied - not by Israel, but by Egypt (Gaza) and Jordan (the West Bank).

Jordan and Egypt occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1948 - before Israel was anywhere near them.

Fast Forward for 1967. In response to a huge buildup of troops in the Sinai, Israel attacked Egypt. And despite begging Jordan not to get involved, they did. And Egypt and Jordan both lost territory - Egypt losing the Sinai (which was theirs) and Gaza (which wasn't anyway), and Jordan losing the West Bank (which, again, wasn't theirs). So at this point, Israel could have been considered an occupying power - but in fact, it had as much (or as little) right to those territories as Egypt and Jordan did! On the other hand, though, Israel did immediately offer the land back to its neighbours in return for Peace - but the Arabs weren't interested. Furthermore, Jordan was later on to remove all claims to the West Bank altogether.

The Palestinians could have had their state again in 1967.

Was what Israel did right? This is a much harder question to answer. Even though it is questionable whether the regions were legally in a state of military occupation, Israel treated them as such. Most citizens of the regions weren't offered Israeli citizenship (although Arab citizens of East Jerusalem were, and a large proportion accepted this). In addition to this, the moving of its citizens to these areas is also legally questionable. But "Occupied" does have an official definition, and it isn't the correct term in this situation. "Disputed" is much more appropriate.

Recently, Israel has started to take action to rectify this, with the Palestinians now being in total control of Gaza. And if the period of comparitive quiet that we are now in lasts, I believe significant portions of the West Bank will be given to them as well. But remember. The Palestinians could have had their country in 1947 and in 1967. I personally hope this time their leaders have the foresight to choose Peace.


rootbeer277 said "But what was the situation like before 1948? And when did England get involved making the area a protectorate?". From 1517 to 1917, the area was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. When Germany (who Turkey supported) lost the First World War, the area was split between France (Lebanon and Syria) and Britain. In 1923, Jordan was created from 75% of British Palestine. So in answer to your question, England got the area as part of its defeat of an ally of Germany. There were Arabs and Jews in the area pre-1948, and the original UN partition plan tried to fit most of these people into the Arab and Jewish state as appropriate.

Auduster said "I am uncomfortable with this writeup, in the way it treats the countries as the entities, not the people.. Without viewing this through the prism of individuals, you cloud the issue with the idea of countries having rights.. I think this view of sovereignty is dubious. Nonetheless, its an intriguing piece of work.". Of course individuals have rights. And Israeli Arabs have rights (in theory, as many rights as Israeli Jews... in some ways they haven't been treated correctly, but this is being rectified slowly). A lot of Arabs left before and during the Israeli war of independance. Not because they were forced out, but because the Arab governments encouraged them to leave so they could destroy Israel, and then move back afterwards. Every Arab left in Israel after 1948 was offered citizenship. Many of them (or their decendents) are still there. They have seats in the Israeli parliament. They play in the Israeli national football team (and an Arab team recently won the annual domestic league). So yes, you are right, people have rights. And under Israel, the Arabs have as many rights as their Jewish neighbours.


Definition of "Occupied"

Oolong said "I think it might be worth quoting a definition of 'occupied' to back up your contention - off the top of my head, I found it unconvincing because it's not obvious that the territory involved would need to have been part of a sovereign country beforehand.".

I did some web searching on this, and came up with this page - http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/occupied. I have no idea if it has any political bias one way or the other - but it's interesting. It says the following.

Belligerent or military occupation occurs when one nation's military garrisons occupy all or part of a foreign nation during an invasion (during or after a war). There are a number of ways to view Military rule. The Hague Convention of 1907 and the customary laws of belligerent occupation govern belligerent occupation in international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949 (and amended in 1977), governs treatment of civilian noncombatants during an occupation, and the rights of militants resisting occupations.

Note it says "foreign nation". It then goes on to list examples of occupation, and has a few interesting cases.

  • Under "Historical occupations"
    • Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem by Jordan (as I say above)
    • Occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt (as I say above)
    • Occupation of Palestine (but this is interesting, as it contradicts its own definition, as Palestine was never a foreign nation!)
  • Under "Disputed occupations"
    • Israel (1967 borders) — unrecognized by parts of the Arab world, though recognized by Egypt, Jordan and most of the Maghreb (their point here, is that a lot of the Arab world considers ALL of Israel to be occupied land, and not just the West Bank).
  • Under "Disputed to be an occupation by nation of dominant military forces in area"
    • The West Bank and Gaza Strip — by Israel since 1967 (as I say above)
    • Golan Heights and East Jerusalem (these pieces of land have been annexed by Israel under International Law. The people living there were all offered Israeli citizenship, and mainly accepted it)

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