Alan Baker argues that the “occupied territory” terminology as applied to the West Bank is flawed and biased, preferring the term “disputed territories.” (“‘Occupied territories’ a flawed, biased term,” April 17).
I would ask a different question: What do we call the “situation” that exists for the inhabitants of that area? What does one call it when a population of about 2.1 million Arabs/Palestinians (more, according to the Israeli Civil Administration) is functionally under military rule through the GOC Central Command of the Israeli Army (in order not to quibble, we could say about 45-50 percent are under direct Israeli military control, while 50-55 percent are in areas nominally under the control of the PA, but geographically fragmented); where to go from many Arab towns to another, even for schoolchildren, can require passing through multiple checkpoints that separate towns and cities; where the occurrence of a Jewish holiday (like Passover) can occasion a curfew on large parts of the civilian population; where little comes in or out of the West Bank without Israeli army control?
When Ariel Sharon, the “father of the settlements,” was prime minister, he finally called this situation an “occupation.” The heads of military intelligence and the Shin Bet interviewed in the documentary The Gatekeepers call it the “occupation.” So maybe we can agree to call military rule of a large civilian population on a land taken during war, with no ensuing clarification of its status or its population, an “occupation.” I may not like the word either, but I don’t know how else to describe this “situation.”
However, even for some who don’t like the term, they may still cogently argue that the occupation
is necessary, and then talk about the protocols of the occupation. Others may argue that it is better for Israel (as well as for the Palestinians) to end the occupation under this or that set of conditions. But to deny that the West Bank Arab/Palestinian population is under Israeli army occupation obscures the reality, and hampers our ability to understand crucial parts of what is happening.
Jerome A. Langer