In life, context is everything.
Context will determine whether two historical situations which may seem parallel to each other actually share any similarity.
Or, if the situations that looked similar at first – perhaps because we were guided to that notion by a voice an article or the like – in fact share very little in common.
Tony W. Cartledge’s March 2 article at Good Faith Media entitled, “Land Grabbing, Old and New,” indicates that two forms of “land grabbing” have something in common.
What are these two instances?
The first is Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has proven to be much more devastating than it appeared from the vantage point of March 2.
For example, as of this writing, Putin’s army has leveled an entire city, Mariupol, and killed thousands, including many through execution. He has used the vast weaponry available to the Russian forces in the attempt to conquer a country, which, amazingly, has proven resistant to Russia’s power.
Educating the reader as to the meaning of the term “irredentism” shows how Putin’s game is related to Putin’s current desire to reconquer old territory.
“Crimea had once been part of the Soviet empire in the days of the ‘United Soviet Socialist Republics,’ [sic] and Putin wanted to have it back in the USSR (with apologies to the Beatles’ 1968 tune),” Cartledge writes.
Putin may wish to restore Crimea to Russia, but the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is long gone. But now we have a successful Russian land grab (Crimea), and a faltering effort at another (Ukraine).
Focusing only on Ukraine, Putin’s invasion is a clear attempt at conquest, employing the shabbiest of excuses. And in utilizing these excuses, Putin has wrought great destruction, while, at the same time, unifying the NATO countries behind efforts to promote failure, this latter being an interesting unintended consequence of the invasion.
The invasion is intentional, vicious and destructive to the point of being murderous, and it is totally immoral.
Around midway into the article, Professor Cartledge hints that he is going to be turning his gaze to Israel when he employs the Hebrew word for the Jewish dietary laws. “On principle,” he says, “we recognize that occupying someone else’s land – just because you can – is not kosher.”
Through that blanket statement and the use of the word “kosher,” the author opens the door to his real purpose in writing this article: Israel’s relationship to the West Bank.
“Many people who are quick to condemn Putin are unmoved by the State of Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank, where groups of settlers … move into Palestinian territory and start building houses, which grow into towns and cities.”
Here I repeat my claim at the beginning, something critically important that the author totally ignores: Context is everything.
The West Bank and the Ukraine contexts cannot be more different.
In June 1967, Israel fought a defensive war against three of her Arab neighbors: Egypt, Syria and Jordan. When war seemed imminent, Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974, pleaded with King Hussein of Jordan not to enter the conflict.
The king, likely feeling duty-bound to participate with his Arab allies, fought. And lost. As did Egypt and Syria in one of the most remarkable wars in modern history. Each defeated country lost territory as a result.
Thus did Israel find itself on the West Bank of the Jordan river with territory previously occupied by Jordan. In other words, the West Bank did not fall into Israeli hands through an irredentist effort to reconquer territory with tens of thousands of deaths.
When Israel found itself in charge of that land, Israel sought to return the land in exchange for peace, which did not come.
Instead, in Khartoum, the Arab League famously denied the pursuit of peace, and the status quo remained until Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, in return for which Egypt received the Sinai Peninsula from Israel, captured in that remarkable war.
This piece of history is enormously complex. But it should be obvious that the situation regarding the West Bank constitutes a context so far different from what is going on in Ukraine at this moment that to claim that the two situations are the same instances of land-grabbing is absurd.
Since the time Israel acquired the West Bank, Israel has tried several times to negotiate a settlement that, had the effort succeeded, would have resulted in the return of much of the West Bank to the previously stateless Palestinians.
To this day, should a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conundrum be offered / extended, Israel would willingly return territory.