An occupation is illegal under international law

DUMMERSTON — Though most of Martin Cohn's response to my Viewpoint on Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling its ice cream in the occupied territories [“For now, two cheers for Ben & Jerry's,” Oct. 20] recycles well-known Israeli talking points, he deviates from the party line by implying that Israel's presence in the West Bank and other areas does, indeed, represent an occupation - albeit an occupation he considers to be justified.

The authorized Zionist nomenclature for these territories is “disputed,” not “occupied.” The reason Israel insists on this language is that if the West Bank and Jerusalem are considered “occupied,” then Israeli policies in these areas are bound by the international legal instruments governing the conduct of occupying powers.

Among the numerous policies prohibited by these instruments is “the transfer of the civilian population of the occupying power into the occupied territory,” i.e., the establishment of permanent settlements.

There are currently approximately 700,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

By more or less conceding that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are, in fact, “occupied” (as pretty much everyone in the world except Israel and its fellow travelers recognizes to be the case), Mr. Cohn is effectively acknowledging that Israel's behavior is illegal, and not simply open to “criticism” by “reasonable people.”

Whether Jordan's and Israel's original occupation of territory in 1948 - and Israel's original occupation of 1967 - were legally and ethically justified are questions that cannot be adequately discussed in a short op-ed, let alone in a letter to the editor.

Suffice it to say, however, that it is a well-understood principle of international law that occupation, whether initially justified or not, is a temporary condition. The Israeli occupation has now lasted for more than half a century.

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