Israel: Unusual Occupation

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Coercive Noninterference. The Israelis have tried not to disrupt Arab life unnecessarily, but there is no mistaking the fact that they are there as conquerors, not as friends. Arab farmers on the West Bank of the Jordan have been forbidden to sell their crops in Israeli markets for fear that they might undercut Israel's farm prices, which are on average 25% higher. Instead, they have been quietly permitted to export their produce to Jordan; a temporary bridge has been built next to the war-wrecked Allenby Bridge to allow Arab trucks to cross over to collect such produce.

To ease the friction of occupation, the Israelis wisely decided to let the Arabs govern themselves as much as possible, and to ensure Arab cooperation they have invented a technique that might be called coercive noninterference. When the prewar mayor of Nablus (pop. 44,000) announced that he would resign rather than front for the Jews, the occupation authorities simply informed him that no one would be appointed to replace him; since the local government could not function without a mayor, that meant that it would undoubtedly collapse, throwing the town into chaos. The mayor stayed. When Arab teachers throughout the West Bank called a general strike, the Israelis made no attempt to stop them. It was perfectly all right with Israel, the teachers were told, if Arab children had no schools to go to. The strikers returned to their classrooms.

The success of the occupation has been so great that it has led many Israeli politicians to demand outright the annexation of the conquered lands once and for all. The government, whatever its intent may be, publicly rejects such ideas. "It is not enough for us to look down from the Golan Heights, see our settlements lying safe below, and say that now peace is assured," said Defense Minister Moshe Dayan two weeks ago. "We shall have to look at it also from the point of view of the Syrians, who see our troops 38 miles from Damascus and who do not see that as a situation guaranteeing peace."

Not that Dayan, the one-eyed hero of the war, wants to give back any part of the lands before the Arabs agree to make peace—if they ever do. What he was telling his countrymen was that the occupation, although necessary, has hardened the fears of Arab leaders that Israel is bent on conquest and has made them, if anything, more determined than ever to destroy the Jewish state. The occupation, Dayan warned, is therefore likely to last a very long time.

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