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Thane Rosenbaum

Everyone knows that to get noticed in this world, one must develop a brand that is instantly identifiable. The logo or word can mean only one thing; all other competitors get pushed aside. A new American president was catapulted into office largely on the strength of his brand name.

Whoever is running PR for the Palestinians knows this better than most. How else to explain why the word “occupation” applies to them alone? There are far more worthy and sympathetic victims of occupying powers most people have never heard of or properly considered.


Of course, an argument can be made that Palestinians are not even victims of an occupation. After all, no Palestinian ever lived in a nation called Palestine. Jews and Arabs resided in what is now the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza since biblical times, when the Kingdom of Judea first came into existence. These lands, apparently, were more essential and sustaining to Jews than to Arabs. The word “Jerusalem” appears in the Hebrew Bible nearly 700 times; in the Koran, not once.

The territories are more disputed than occupied. Yet, given the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo Resolution, which was incorporated into the League of Nations and adopted by the United Nations, Israel’s legal title to the territories is superior to anyone else’s.

And Israel came to reoccupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem after winning a defensive war against Jordan in 1967. Ironically, when Jordan occupied the land from 1949-1967 without any valid legal claim, no one condemned its occupation, and the word “Palestinian” was scarcely mentioned.

The occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem became a global outcry only after Israel reclaimed it. And ever since then Israel has been under no legal obligation to withdraw until security and peace with its Arab neighbors could be assured. The Palestinians have consistently demonstrated that neither security nor peace will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, in the intervening years, Tibet has been occupied by China; Northern Cyprus by Turkey; Kurdistan by Turkey, Syria, and Iran; and Kashmir by India. And each of these is a far truer occupation given that the occupiers have little or no historical claim or connection to their conquest, and the victims of these occupations are being deprived of a homeland that once truly belonged to them, and them alone.

Moreover, none of these displaced peoples have ever called attention to their cause by hijacking a plane, blowing up a bus or pizza shop, murdering the Olympic team of their occupiers, slitting the throats of little children, tossing an invalid in a wheelchair off a cruise ship, assassinating a United States senator (Robert Kennedy), celebrating 9/11 by throwing candy, firing rockets indiscriminately at civilian populations, and knifing civilians at will.

Furthermore, unlike Palestinians, these persecuted peoples have not vowed the total annihilation of their occupiers, and have never sworn that should they ever regain their land, no Chinese, Turk, or Indian will be permitted to live on it. For those appalled at President Trump’s “Muslim ban,” why support a Palestinian cause that would ban Israelis from living in Palestine?

Twenty percent of Israel’s population is comprised of Arabs who enjoy equal rights. That’s what a liberal, democratic, pluralistic society looks like. Don’t expect a future Palestinian state to feature any of those characteristics – think Gaza, with its brutality and barbarism, where Christians and Jews, and homosexuals and Sharia-fearing women, are an endangered species.

Meanwhile, the double standard applied against Israel has reached circus-like dimensions with UN resolutions that condemn the Jewish state dwarfing the nearly nonexistent actions taken against China, Turkey, India, Iran, and even genocidaires like Syria and Sudan.

Global threats of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel abound; Israeli academics are shunned, speakers shouted down, students hassled. Meanwhile, no rock star or NFL football player, acting on principle and in solidarity, ever refuses to visit Ankara or Mumbai.

The poor Kurds, Tibetans, Cypriots, and Kashmiri must be watching with occupation envy. What makes the Palestinians more special or the Israelis more rapacious? Holy land history aside, how did the occupation of the West Bank become so sacred and deserving of such global fixation? Perhaps anti-Semitism is ultimately what has given Palestinians their uniquely freakish branding edge.

Surely the Palestinians have suffered, but a good deal of it is self-inflected. Had they accepted the state they were offered at Camp David in 2000, they would now be celebrating their state’s 17th birthday.

What a waste.

In the end, branding won’t get them anywhere. Statesmanship, the renunciation of violence, the acknowledgment of the Jewish state, and the hard work that comes with nation building surely will.

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Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, and Distinguished Fellow at NYU School of Law where he directs the Forum on Law, Culture & Society. He is the author, most recently, of "How Sweet It Is!"