Names and Perspectives and East Jerusalem and the Annexed Palestinian Territory

“I don’t consider territory to the east of the Green line to be Israel, I consider it to be the West Bank of Jordan, captured in 1967 and ceded by Jordan to Palestine in 1988”

“Sure, but that’s just your perspective”

“Well, few international states recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, not even Canada”

“Ok, but that’s just a perspective. And we haven’t heard any local perspectives yet”

Names are a problem in Jerusalem. The city was divided by the 1948 war, and re-united when the West Bank of Jordan was occupied in 1967. On july 4th 1967 the borders came down, and the city of Jerusalem was re-united. And yet, few international states recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem because of the  foundational principle in international law that you can’t acquire territory through war. On the ground the Green Line (the Eastern Border of Israel from 1948-1967) is invisible, you really have to know what you are looking for to recognize where it was. Once you do, you notice plazas where previously there were no-go zones, and you see how the thickness of the no-go zones vary with the geography. You can even imagine what it might have looked like in 1948, when Jordanian fighters successfully defended the old city of Jerusalem against the Zionist army – firing from parapets and fortifications at the top of the wall, the steep hills of the old city would have made it difficult for Israelis to take the city. (If we do in fact meet with an Irgun fighter, I will surely ask him about his feelings as regards not capturing the old city in 1948, and the status of Jews in Old Jerusalem between 48-67).

With life on the ground normalized, at least superficially, what is the proper way to talk about the different areas? Should one call the territory captured from Jordan in 1967 the “West Bank”, or does the “West Bank” start at the separation (annexation) wall? My motivation for precision suggests I not use the term “West Bank” at all, but rather “West Bank Administrative Zone” and “captured West Bank of Jordan”. But using terms in this way makes communication difficult – people here seem to call the West Bank administrative Zone the “West Bank”, and don’t want to recognize that East Jerusalem and the rest of former Jordanian territory to the west of the separation wall is part of the “West Bank”.

One solution might be to refer to the “disputed territory” between the Green Line and the separation wall, and the “West Bank” to the east of the separation wall. I don’t like this very much, because it reduces the conflict between the international consensus and the few countries which recognize Israeli claims to East Jerusalem/territory up to the separation wall to a “dispute”, i.e. one having two seemingly legitimate sides. On the other hand, compromises are required to conversing within the context of groups, especially groups trying to be “politically neutral” like Operation Groundswell.

There are certainly many different perspectives on East Jerusalem and the territory between the Green Line and the separation wall. But I don’t think anyone should be expected to think their perspective is “just their perspective”. Perspectives are potentially general, and the basis of social movements and societal consensus, because people can give reasons for their perspectives that appeal to shared principles. I think everyone is entitled to their perspective, but no one should be told their view is “just their perspective”, in such a way to reduce it to be only as important as everyone else’s perspective. People can navigate the territory of perspectives in such a way as to bring sense to confusions – even purposefully created confusions.

I will not acquiesce to the view that it is “just my perspective” that the territory between the Green Line and the Separation Wall is “disputed”, or that it is territory annexed by Israel by way of war. I can provide reasons for both of these perspectives, which I think are strong enough that anyone should adopt them – even if they have opposite values to me and insist on calling this disputed territory “Israel”, and insist that gaining territory through war is legitimate.


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