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Dror Eydar

Our international trial

1.
We should be thanking the European Union for making us insist, time and again, that Israel is our own ancestral country. Love of the Jewish people is not the most prominent characteristic of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who came up with the regulations forbidding the EU to provide economic support to any Israeli "entity" with an address in Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and even east Jerusalem (!). Exempt from the restrictions are activities that "aim at benefiting protected persons under the terms of international humanitarian law who live in these territories and/or at promoting the Middle East peace process in line with EU policy." In other words, left-wing organizations that work to cut us off from our own land, the land on which our lives are based, are eligible for EU funds.

Of course, the ones who write the resolutions anchor them in "international law" as the EU sees it. The EU regards some parts of our homeland as "occupied territory" -- in other words, under Israel's belligerent occupation. Hence the claim that the settlements are illegal, so the EU must stop providing any grants that support them so as not to be tainted by their illegality. That was reason enough for all "Israel's land-lovers" to rejoice and accuse the settlement enterprise of impeding Israel's scientific progress.

Before we get to the resolution, we should take another look at the simple truth, which is anchored in the law of nations and in international law: Judea and Samaria are not conquered territories that we took from another country.

Since 70 C.E., when we were destroyed as a political entity, no sovereign country or any other nation controlled the Land of Israel; only empires did. After the War of Independence in 1948, Jordan annexed the region, but no one recognized the annexation except Great Britain and Pakistan. Israel's point of departure was that as far as it was concerned, the territories were, at worst, disputed. We claim full ownership of all of them by virtue of the resolution of the Entente Powers, also known as the Allies (the organization that preceded the United Nations after World War I) at the San Remo Conference in April 1920. During the conference, Great Britain was given the mandate to fulfill the Balfour Declaration -- "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." The mandate included even Transjordan and, certainly, Judea and Samaria.

Our claim to ownership also stems from our historical rights, which were recognized in the law of the nations. In the Six Day War, Israel took the land from a country that was not its rightful owner. Before that, the Arabs who lived there never complained that the land was occupied. That only happened once the Yahud ("Jews" in Arabic) came. As everybody knows, the Yahud are not allowed to control land under Muslim ownership (known as waqf, or trust) -- which is how the Muslims see the Land of Israel.

In short, from a legal perspective the laws of occupation do not apply here; land that does not belong to anyone cannot be conquered. The claim that Jewish settlement of the land is "illegal" under international law is not accurate. On the strength of the claims noted above, we as Jews have legal rights to the land, so the establishment of settlements is legal. If it is claimed that we are not allowed to put facts on the ground, the other side should be told that as well. But they build and put facts on the ground there; there is no reason to sit idle and allow our rivals to decide our fate.

2.
And then come the Europeans, who are not interested in justice for us, but only in justice for the Arabs. As we know, throughout its long history, Europe was never all that interested in justice for the Jews. This truth alone should release us from any need to take their world view into consideration and act in the Jewish state according to our own truth, values and interests. People quote David Ben-Gurion's statement: "It does not matter what the non-Jews say; it matters what the Jews do." That statement deserves emphasis, especially during Hanukkah.

Let us discuss the European Union's assumption, which does not want to support Israeli control in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem since it sees them as occupied territory. Well, there are about 200 disputed territories worldwide. Most of them are under belligerent occupation or the effective control of a country that has no legitimate claim to sovereignty over them. In 1979, Morocco annexed Western Sahara, which is 12 times larger than Israel. The European Union does not recognize Morocco's sovereignty over the area. The Turkish republic that was established in Northern Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 is, for all practical purposes, a Turkish satellite state. The European Union does not recognize the Turkish occupation. Another instance: Abkhazia was a district in northwestern Georgia until 2008. After the war in South Ossetia, Abkhazia broke away and declared its independence, under Russia's aegis. Here, too, the European Union does not recognize Abkhazian sovereignty.

In these three cases, the European Union signed agreements for political and economic cooperation with the areas in question, even though they were under occupation. Recently, the EU signed a fisheries agreement with Morocco in which it commits to allocate grants for the development of Morocco's fisheries industry in exchange for access to its waters. The agreement includes the occupied territory in Western Sahara.

Regarding the occupied territory in Northern Cyprus, last year the EU published a booklet showing off its various projects there. The Turkish settlers who were brought there after the invasion in 1974 (most of whom do not have EU citizenship) can receive EU funds in the form of scholarships, business grants, upgrades in infrastructure such as road safety and sewage treatment, improvement of cultural heritage sites and even money for concerts. Imagine European support for improving the roads in Judea and Samaria, scholarships for settlers and funds for holding cultural events...

Abkhazia, which is under Russian occupation, also receives direct support from the European Union. EU documents state that these programs of support require a pragmatic and flexible approach considering the status of the territory. Those are just three examples.

3.
Not surprisingly, the European Union has not imposed rules like the guidelines for providing grants to Israel on any other country in that situation. In this way, the Europeans applied a double standard: one rule for the Jewish state and another for the rest of the world. European universities and businesses conduct large-scale activity in Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus. Only for Israel did it make guidelines that restrict the provision of grants based solely on territorial status.

Since the beginning of our existence as a nation, we have been accustomed to the world applying a double standard to us. But there is irony here, since in 2005 the European Center for Monitoring Racism and Xenophobia (now the Fundamental Rights Agency) published a working definition of anti-Semitism. One part of the definition is "Applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation." How interesting. It might be said parenthetically that a double standard of racism is operative here, since the Europeans have no such expectations -- morally or legally -- of the Arabs.

A full analysis of the European Union's resolutions may be found in a position paper titled "EU's Israel Grants Guidelines: A Legal and Policy Analysis," written by Professors Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich, renowned experts in international law and fellows of the Kohelet Policy Forum.

Here is a possible way to expose the European Union's hypocrisy: by submitting petitions against its policy in Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara and Abkhazia.

As stated, these few comments are given only from the EU's perspective. When it comes to our own actions, we can stick to Simon Maccabee's answer to Antiochus' demand that Simon surrender to him territory he had taken in battle. "We have never taken land away from other nations or confiscated anything that belonged to other people," Simon said. "On the contrary, we have simply taken back property that we inherited from our ancestors, land that had been unjustly taken away from us by our enemies at one time or another. We are now only making use of this opportunity to recover our ancestral heritage."

As we recite in the blessing over the Hanukkah lights: "In those days, at this time." As then, so now.

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