What is the “Occupation”?


While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began about 100 years ago when Zionists first started immigrating to Palestine, the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip began in 1967 after the Six-Day War when Israel, fearing an imminent attack by Egypt, preemptively attacked Egypt and defeated Egypt, Jordan, and Syria to capture the remaining parts of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza) and the Golan Heights that had previously been administered by Jordan (the West Bank), Egypt (Gaza), and Syria (Golan Heights).  Ever since 1967, Israel has perpetuated a military occupation and control over the millions of Palestinians who reside in the West Bank and Gaza.  These occupied Palestinians do not enjoy freedom or full human rights, but rather Israel severely restricts their freedom of movement and maintains control over most aspects of their lives.  The 40+ year Israeli occupation of the Palestinians is the longest-lasting military occupation in the world that still exists today.

The occupied Palestinians in the West Bank continue to face not only home demolitions and land confiscation policies through which Israel has continued to support and expand illegal settlement construction and maintenance throughout the West Bank, but the occupation of the West Bank also regularly subjects Palestinians living there to checkpoints, curfews, surveillance, arrests and military detention for participation in demonstrations, and other infringements on their human rights.

While Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem from the West Bank after the 1967 war, this annexation is not recognized by the rest of the international community, and so East Jerusalem is considered to also be occupied territory by most people because it lies outside the Green Line—the pre-1967 armistice line that was established in 1949.  The Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are not under they same military occupation in the way that Palestinian residents in the West Bank are, but they lack Israeli citizenship and the official rights that go along with it, and they are routinely discriminated against in government services, including building permits and thus are subject to frequent evictions and home demolitions, and they can easily lose their resident permits for a number of reasons beyond their control.

The Israeli government and its apologists often claim that Israel no longer occupies the Gaza Strip, but this statement is not entirely true and can be misleading.  In 2005 Israel did unilaterally withdraw its settlers and armed forces from inside the Gaza Strip and instead began to focus settlement efforts in the West Bank.  Despite this withdrawal, Israel, with the help of Egypt, maintains control over Gaza’s borders, airspace, and sea access and has imposed a blockade against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in order to prevent the importation of weapons that would allow Hamas to arm, but the blockade also severely restricts the importation of food, medicine and other basic necessities.  Many have referred to Israel’s external control of the small but densely-populated Gaza Strip as an “open-air prison.”  This blockade or “siege” began in 2006 after the elections of Hamas, it was strengthened in 2007, and has remained in place after the end of Israel’s destructive war on Gaza in 2008-2009.  The blockade has been condemned by most of the international community and recently declared illegal by the International Committee of the Red Cross because it goes far beyond legitimate Israeli security concerns about the importation of weapons and has caused a humanitarian crisis that equates with collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza.  The recent flotilla of international activists that was raided by the Israeli military was just one example in a series of similar humanitarian ships that have attempted to break the Gaza blockade, deliver humanitarian supplies to the people of Gaza, and also draw attention to Israel’s problematic blockade.

The Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries have agreed to make peace with Israel if it ends the occupation and allows the creation of a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza that includes Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories (with some minor land swaps), including East Jerusalem, and recognition of the Palestinian right of return.  While the Israeli government has made previous offers for Palestinian “autonomy” or a pseudo-state that lacks full sovereignty, and the majority of Israelis claim to support peace and the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel has yet to be willing to make the necessary concessions that would meet the minimum Palestinian requirements and lead to a truly sovereign and viable Palestinian state.

  1. Jewish Voice for Peace page that includes discussion of the occupation, including a video: Occupation 101:

  2. http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/content/israeli-palestinian-conflict-101

  3. Article on the history of the conflict, including discussion of the occupation:

  4. http://www.merip.org/palestine-israel_primer/Palestine-Israel_Primer_MERIP.pdf

  5. ICAHD on reframing the conflict more realistically as opposed to the myths of “conventional wisdom”:

  6. http://icahd.org/eng/images/uploaded_admin_content/brochures/counter-rhetoric-text.pdf