The Palestinian film, "Paradise Now," which describes in an understanding way the lives of two Palestinian terrorists, won a string of important awards from major film festivals, culminating in this month's Oscar nomination as best foreign film.
How is it possible that such a film is acclaimed by many people of culture and art, after all the tragic events caused by brutal terror? Why the double standard for terrorism?
The main reason is that suicide terrorists (we should call them "genocide terrorists") are, when active in Israel, regarded by many not as murderers but as freedom fighters whose motives should be understood.
Unfortunately, Jewish media people -- among them many Israelis -- have a strong share in this unjust and dangerous distinction. There is one word that is the basis for the acceptance of Palestinian terrorists, a word used again and again in all political discussions around the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. That word is "occupation."All land that was not part of Israel until 1967 is termed "occupied territory." By that definition, it is stolen land, and all means seem to be justified to force Israel to return the theft.
Thus, there can be no discussion about Gush Etzion or other settlement blocs; there can even be no discussion about a united Jerusalem. These areas are stolen and illegally occupied and have to be given back soon.
The term "occupation" also reminds many people of the German invasion and occupation of large parts of Europe in World War II, and the deep resentment we have to Nazism makes Israel's transgression even worse. It is only a little step from the word "occupation" to the comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany. And if this were so, who can deny the Palestinians the right to oppose vehemently this kind of occupation of their land?
The use of the term "occupied territories" is dangerous, irresponsible and fully unjustified. Let us remember three main points in order to show why Israel's presence in the territories cannot be called "occupation":
1 -- Israel didn't initiate a war in order to conquer land. Israel was attacked in 1967 and went into a defensive war to save the land and people in Israel.
2 -- Israel didn't take any land from a sovereign state. The "occupied territories" were in 1967 illegally in the hands of Jordan and Egypt (the West Bank and Gaza), and their presence there was not recognized by the world (not even by the countries of the Arab League).
3 -- The areas captured in 1967 were promised for Jewish settlements by the League of Nations in 1922, and all the resolutions of this international body were transferred to the United Nations and incorporated in its decisions (Article 80 of the U.N. Charter).
There is no analogy in history that territories captured in a defensive war under similar circumstances were regarded as "occupied territories" and not as a basis for border changes in a peace treaty. And what is the difference between the land that was annexed to Israel after the 1948 Independence War and the areas gained after the 1967 War? Why do the first ones belong to Israel and the others are illegally "occupied?"
The very soft treatment of the Hamas movement, which won the election in the Palestinian Authority and which declares that all Israel has to be "freed" by terror from "occupation" is the proof for that. Our use of the misleading term "occupied territories" encourages the double standard with which many nations of the world treat the various terror groups -- Al Qaeda and Hamas.
If there will come a time for a peace agreement between Israel and a reliable Palestinian partner, many concessions will have to be made. But how can we declare in advance that all these areas don't belong to Israel, that they are part of an illegal occupation?
Those who declare that great parts of Israel are occupied territories also indirectly support the Arabs claim that the Jews really don't have any true roots in the Holy Land, as it is written in Palestinian school books and Arab propaganda.
By declaring that all these areas are part of an illegal occupation, we also support the peculiar idea that all these areas must become judenrein, an idea that is not conducive to real peace. If more than 1 million Palestinian Arabs live in Israel, why is it unthinkable that Jews will live under Palestinian Authority?
In this connection, it must be stressed that almost all Jews who settled beyond the green line of 1967 built their homes on public land and not on privately owned Arab property.
If our demand for security lacks a basis of law, justice and morals, if we don't stress our rights in the land of Israel, if we basically justify the Arab position that large parts of Israel belong only to them and are forcefully stolen, we cannot wonder when we see so many young students on American university campuses accepting the Palestinian propaganda against Israel.
We cannot wonder when so many writers and media people speak out against Israel politics; we cannot wonder when large churches tell their congregants not to support Israel economically; and we cannot wonder if a prestigious award is given to a film that shows understanding, even a certain admiration, for anti-Israel terrorists.
Arthur Cohn is the Academy-Award-winning producer of numerous films, including "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" and "One Day in September."
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