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

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If children with guns are safer than their unarmed peers, then Somalia must be the safest place in the world to grow up

Mark Steel
Theresa May  

Democracy and the police: a system in crisis

Nigel Morris
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff