Psychological warfare is not all that different in organization from the kinetic kind. There are campaigns and objectives. Recently the objective of our enemies – the Arab-European axis of antisemitism – has been to destroy the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. The attacks have come from several directions, but the objective is the same: to establish in the minds of target populations, which include Israelis, Europeans, and Americans, the idea that Jews living in the territories is illegal, immoral, and detrimental to the prospect of peace in the region; and to force their expulsion.
The operations include the EU’s requirement for special labeling of products produced by Jews in Judea and Samaria. The decision was made in 2015, but the difficulty of implementing it without appearing to be overtly antisemitic seems to have deterred many countries from following it. In 2019, the European Court of Justice affirmed the ruling, but some countries still show pangs of conscience.
A more recent operation has been the “settler violence” campaign of recent weeks, waged by various European-funded NGOs (e.g., B’Tselem and others), that claim to report violent harassment of Arab residents by Jewish “settlers” with the connivance of the IDF. Leaving aside the huge imbalance between the number and severity of incidents that can be attributed to Jews and the daily attempts by Arabs to murder them, “settler violence” is often self-defense which is provoked by Arab attacks, and then “documented” by NGO activists, Israeli and European, who just happen to be in the area with their video cameras. Even so, actual data indicates that anti-Arab activity by Jews has actually decreased recently:
…the data made available by the Israel Police point to something remarkable – the number of incidents of Jewish violence is decreasing. From 2019 to 2021, there has been a 61.1% drop in so-called price-tag attacks. Moreover, the number of indictments of Jewish extremists has doubled from 16 to 32 over the past year. That is not the picture the pro-Palestinian groups wish you to see.
“Occupation,” “settlements” and “settlers” also figure prominently in the NGO-initiated campaign to declare Israel an “apartheid” state. The imposition of apartheid is considered a serious crime, based on the prominent example of the former South African regime, which almost everyone agrees, viciously violated the human rights of its subjects. However, since there is no resemblance between Israel and apartheid South Africa, Israel’s accusers (e.g., Human Rights Watch (HRW)) had to gin up their own definition of “apartheid” to apply to Israel. The Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, defines “apartheid” as a crime against humanity, including
… inhumane acts of a character similar to [murder, enslavement, extermination, deportation, torture, rape, etc., etc.] committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime;
Needless to say, this does not characterize the regime in Judea and Samaria. The HRW report cites a “two tiered-citizenship structure and bifurcation of nationality and citizenship,” but the fact that the laws in effect in Judea/Samaria differentiate between citizens and non-citizens is common practice and does not constitute apartheid. Other accusations are the usual exaggerations and inventions characteristic of NGO discourse about Israel. And of course the terrorism that requires security-related responses is never discussed, except to deny its relevance to Israeli countermeasures.
As always, history illuminates what politics obscures. The British Mandate for Palestine, which charged Britain with implementing the Balfour Declaration to provide a Jewish homeland, included all the area between the river and the sea (until 1921, it also included what ultimately became the Kingdom of Jordan). The Mandate itself called for “close settlement” of Jews on the land. In 1947, the UN recommended partition of the land into a Jewish and Arab state, and when the Mandate terminated in May 1948 (in the midst of war precipitated by Palestinian Arabs), the State of Israel was declared, “on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly.”
Immediately thereafter the area of the former Mandate and the new state was invaded by five Arab nations, in contravention of the UN charter. When the dust settled in 1949, Jordan was illegally occupying the eastern part of the territory, which it murderously ethnically cleansed of its Jewish population. The next year, Jordan officially annexed the area – again in violation of international law – and invented the appellation “West Bank” to refer to what had historically been called Judea and Samaria.
Jordan controlled this area for 19 years, during which time only Britain and (possibly) Pakistan recognized its sovereignty. During this period, in contravention of the Armistice Agreement that it had signed, which called for “free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on The Mount of Olives,” Jews were not permitted to visit their holy sites in Jordanian-controlled areas, such as the Western Wall. Regarding the Mount of Olives, which has been in use as a Jewish cemetery for 3,000 years,
At the end of 1949, Israeli lookouts posted on Mount Zion reported that Arab residents began uprooting the tombstones and plowing the land in the cemeteries. The destruction of the cemeteries continued over the course of the 19 years that the Jordanians ruled eastern Jerusalem. Four roads were paved through the cemeteries, in the process destroying graves including those of famous persons. Skeletons and bones were strewn about and scattered. Tombstones were used as paving stones for roads in the Jordanian Army camp in Azariya, east of Jerusalem. In Azariya, a telephone booth was found built out of tombstones, and Jewish tombstones were also used as flooring for latrines. Uprooted tombstones were also used in Jordanian military positions surrounding the city. Both the newer sections and ancient graves were destroyed, some a thousand years old.
After the liberation of Judea and Samaria in 1967, Jews returned to areas in which they had been displaced by Jordanian ethnic cleansing, such as Gush Etzion and eastern Jerusalem, as well as other places from which they had been driven by Arab pogroms and terrorism, such as Hevron. They also established some new communities that were on the other side of the lines that had been drawn in the 1949 Armistice Agreement. It should be noted that the agreement made it clear that the armistice lines have no political significance and are drawn “without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”
In an unintended irony, the EU insists that Israeli control of the area amounts to “belligerent occupation” although the area being “occupied” by Israel was previously illegally occupied by Jordan (which illegitimately transferred its stolen property to the PLO in 1988). So in effect the liberation of the territories put Israel in control of all the land that had been originally earmarked by the Mandate for a Jewish homeland.
The EU then misinterprets Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was originally intended to prohibit acts like the deportation of German Jews to occupied Poland for the purposes of forced labor and murder, as rendering the unforced movement of Jews across the Green Line (which has no political significance) a violation of international law.
In this day when college professors can be fired for using language that is deemed inappropriate and offensive, it should be noted that the terms “West Bank,” “settler,” and “settlement” are precisely those things. But their employment is supremely important for the psychological and diplomatic/legal war against the Jewish state. The abandonment of Judea and Samaria would be blow to the security of the Jewish state that might be fatal, because they are necessary to maintain defensible borders, and to prevent the establishment of a Gaza-like terrorist enclave next to Israel’s population center. The loss of the holy sites in Hevron, eastern Jerusalem, and other places that would fall under Arab control, and the loss of the optimism for the future created by the victory of 1967, would be a spiritual and psychological defeat, a great victory for the Arab-European axis that wishes to see the Jewish state undone.
And we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking that a retreat from Judea and Samaria would be the end of it. The PLO has never abandoned Arafat’s “Grand Strategy” to bring about an Arab Palestine from the river to the sea, which depends on first reversing Israel’s gains in the 1967 war. The plan got a great boost with the Oslo Accords, that gave legitimacy to a PLO-ruled entity (and later gave birth to one ruled by Hamas). It’s certain that an Israeli withdrawal would immediately be followed by demands for the Arab “refugees” to realize their “right of return.”
Unfortunately, many Israeli politicians seem to have internalized the mindset that is promoted by the psywar campaign; otherwise, they wouldn’t be so quick to bend when pressure is applied from Europe or the US on questions of Jewish and (illegal) Arab building in Judea and Samaria.
Judea and Samaria are the spiritual heartland of the Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael and are essential to her security. There is no other single goal that is more critical to Israel’s long-term survival than establishing a strong Jewish majority there and fully incorporating them into the state – and rejecting the antisemitic lies of our enemies.