Zionists, which is what we should call any apologist for Israel’s opposition to peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian nation, will often make the claim that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not “occupied” territories as activists and Palestinians say, but “disputed”. This is an effective tactic that can be employed to obscure the situation, and make it seem like an argument with two sides. It’s a powerful thing to say not because they might convince someone, but because they are able to hold open the semblance of a dispute between two sides, so reasonable individuals without specific knowledge of the situation are likely to want to remain neutral on the issue and say things like, “Well, some people say they are occupied, others say they are disputed”.
The argument that the territories are disputed does have some basis in international law. If you are unfamiliar with the Zionist position on the West Bank you should watch this video produced by the Israeli foreign affairs department. Although to be fair, they didn’t really come up with the idea for the video; it is largely a copy of this video made by an extremist settler group, but I’m sure the settlers didn’t mind having their arguments being used by the Israeli establishment to advance the settler cause. The argument, in short, relies on the idea that the West Bank was not recognized Jordanian territory between 1948 and 1967, so Israel’s seizing of it in the ’67 war was not invading another sovereign nation, and therefore not in violation of the basic principle of international law that states no nation shall acquire territory by force.
The problem with the argument is not that it is unfathomable, or superficially ridiculous, rather the problem is that the argument has been long rejected in the court of international law. Insofar as there is an international judiciary, it has decided time and again that the territory is not disputed; it is occupied. The territories are referred to as occupied in the security council resolution 242, it is an implication of security council resolution 478 which declares Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem to be in violation of international law and calls on all nations to remove their embassies from Jerusalem.
Israel’s position on the West Bank (and formerly on Gaza) are analogous to a defendant who, having lost a case in court, continues to make the same argument made by the defence in court in the world of public opinion. By rejecting the interpretation of international law made by the international community Israel is like a convicted felon protected against sanction by powerful friends. It is disingenuous for zionists to continue to appeal to law to make their claim on the Westbank because the fact they reject the decisions made by the UN means they are not interested in arguing their case in the context of international law anyway.