Noam Chayut: Israeli occupation is neither moral nor legitimate

Share

In 1979, the year I was born, the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank was 12 years old. I was 10 during the first Palestinian uprising, when my father and his comrades in a reserve unit forced innocent Palestinians out of their homes and shops and, as a form of collective punishment, sent them to clean the streets of graffiti opposing Israeli occupation.

When I joined the army, the 30th anniversary of occupation was being "celebrated", and three years later, as a young officer, I was sent with my soldiers to confront the second intifada. In one month of riots we killed a hundred Palestinians and many more were wounded by live ammunition.

We were told that our goal was "to sear into the consciousness of Palestinian civil society that terrorism doesn't pay." To achieve this, we were to "demonstrate our presence". This meant entering Palestinian residential areas at any time, day or night, throwing stun grenades, shooting in the air or at water tanks, throwing tear gas grenades, creating noise and fear. For the very same reason, we committed revenge attacks such as demolishing the homes of terrorists' families, or killing random Palestinian policemen (armed or unarmed): an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If militants attacked a road, we would close it to Palestinian traffic; if stones were thrown at cars on a road, we would place an indefinite curfew on the closest village.

The Israeli military regime over the Palestinian population is now in its 45th year, and while Palestinian violence has dramatically declined, Israeli soldiers still testify about being assigned to "disrupt the day-to-day routine" in Palestinian areas to create in the local community the feeling of "being constantly pursued".

It is still unclear what the Palestinian leadership will propose to the UN tomorrow, beyond recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. We don't know if, or how, the outcome of any vote will be felt on the ground. However, testimonies from more than 750 former Israeli soldiers and officers who have served in the Occupied Territories over the past decade, make one thing clear: from the point of view of the Israeli army, the occupation is not a temporary means of controlling the population. There is no end to it in sight.

Those who oppose the recognition of a Palestinian state cling to a false belief that Israel's occupation is temporary, its aim to create political space for democratic rule in a future Palestine. This belief is what makes the occupation morally tolerable. Because if an occupation is a permanent one, it can only be illegitimate, not just because the ruler is foreign, but because controlling people via coercion and military orders is immoral.

Even if we accept that a 44-year-long occupation is still temporary in a 63-year-old state; if we ignore the reality of hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews settled in Palestinian territories, or the existence of two separate and unequal legal regimes imposed on the two ethnic groups in the same small piece of land, it is hard to remain optimistic about Israel's intentions to evacuate, when we hear its soldiers' reports to Breaking The Silence, an NGO which collects their testimonies.

We should accept the fact that the army does not intend to withdraw from the Occupied Territories, and that the status quo is the Israeli government's plan for the future. We should take the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs – who lives in a settlement on Palestinian land – at face value when he declares there won't be peace even in 50 years.

When security and prosperity continue to flourish for "us", while liberty and freedom are continually withheld from "them", it is difficult to think of any other non-violent action the Palestinian leadership can take besides seeking international support for ending the Israeli occupation.

The writer is a former Israeli army officer and member of 'Breaking The Silence', an NGO which gathers and publishes testimony from soldiers and works in partnership with Christian Aid to expose the realities of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace

Gabriel Sassoon
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little