Letter: Foggy thinking on Israel’s “occupation”

Australian Financial Review – 24 June 2014


Laura Tingle makes the unsubstantiated, ill-informed claim that the Australian Government’s articulation of its position on east Jerusalem was a result of the “Israel lobby” switching its “funding allegiance” to the Coalition (“The fog of war rolls from Jerusalem to Canberra”, AFR 20 June). This is not simply a fiction, but deeply offensive.

Tingle suggests using the term “disputed” is not balanced because it is Israel’s preferred term. However, this word is more correct at international law than her preferred term, “Occupied”. Israel controls the City as a consequence of the outcome of its defensive actions in the 1967 war started by Jordan. Jordan seizure of the territory in 1948 was never recognized internationally, nor in international law, and in any case renounced any claims in 1988. And there has never been a Palestinian state.

Given “occupation” only occurs at international law when one sovereign state takes control from another state, Israel’s claim to the area is at least as strong as that of any other party.

Importantly, UN Security Council resolution 242 in 1967 requires Israel to withdraw from “territories” in exchange for peace, (not “the” territories as John Kerin wrote in his 20 June article on this issue). The lead drafters of the resolution have made clear that this was written specifically to indicate that the boundaries would need to be settled by negotiations, which shows they regarded the parties as having competing claims.

Furthermore, the use of neutral terms such as “disputed” is more conducive to peace. If the Palestinians are continually encouraged by the use of loaded terms such as “occupied” to believe that they can achieve their state through international pressure on Israel, they are less likely to make the negotiated compromises necessary for a two-state resolution.


Colin Rubenstein
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council
South Melbourne