Binny’s explanation of the word “Occupation” is an important step in discussing this conflict. In light of it, I want to point out one inherent wrong that goes hand-in-hand with the Occupation: Palestinians in the West Bank don’t have a state. I think we Israelis know this simple truth but don’t always acknowledge how unfair it is.
I feel a little surge of pride every time I get to use my Israeli passport. I know that laws were designed with my interests in mind and if they weren’t, I can fight them as part of the democratic process. There is no authority that rules over me that I didn’t vote for. It makes me angry that Arafat denied my historical connection to this land. There is something for me to celebrate on Yom HaAtzmaut. My tax money goes to my government and no one else gets to intervene. I am allotted rights that protect me. My country has more than “observer status” in the family of nations. When I hang my flag up, it is not inherently a symbol of resistance; it is just a symbol of life. The Jewish people have a fundamental right to self-determination and in Israel it is actualized. Having a state matters.
For the sake of a thought experiment, let’s assume the Occupation were totally benevolent (I think this is a bit of an oxymoron) and Israel held nothing back from the Palestinians. Would even that be good, fair, just? No. Because when you don’t have your own passport or your own real country and your only relevance as a people is a demographic question for your occupier, you are being stripped of something that matters. This is inherent to occupation.
I would expect us as Israelis to be sensitive to this. When so many people tell us that we aren’t a people and don’t have a right to a state, shouldn’t we know better? Self-proclaimed Zionists have told me that as long as Palestinians have basic human rights in their own cities, then justice is being done. Debate how/when the region will be ready for a Palestinian state (or any other model that gives Palestinians citizenship), but many members of our government haven’t even agreed that this should happen. In the Zionist Congresses, we told the world we deserved a state to call our own and demanded they accept that. We owe the same to Palestine.
The conversation does not end here of course and I recognize this is not a solution to the problem. But the first step is recognizing what is wrong. The Occupation exists and no matter how benevolent we may be, it is bad. By definition, it denies people something which I hold dear. Once we really accept that and unabashedly acknowledge that Palestinians in the West Bank are being denied the right to a state, we can talk about how to fix it.