Paul Boyer

Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix [Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services]

Not content to deal with domestic issues, the Arizona House has gone on record as saying the entire West Bank belongs to Israel and the 650,000 Jews who have settled there since the 1967 war “reside there legitimately.”

Without a peep of debate, the House on Monday said the area, which some Israelis refer to by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria, was granted to Israel “through the oldest recorded deed, as recorded in the Old Testament.” It also says the “claim and presence” of Jewish people in Israel, including the West Bank, has “remained constant throughout the past 4,000 years of history.”

And to legitimize the claim, it cites a 1922 League of Nations resolution which mentioned creation at some future point of a “national home” in the area for the Jewish people.

But the real key in HR 2009 is the Arizona House declaring that Israel is not an “occupier of the lands of others” and that there can be peace in the area “only through a whole and united Israel.”

“This does not displace current Palestinians,” said Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, who crafted the resolution. “This just says that this is historically part of Israel and the part of Israel that's disputed now should remain part of Israel.”

And what of the Palestinians whose families have lived there for generations whose land is being taken for settlements?

“Blame their leaders,” Boyer said Tuesday when asked about the measure.

He said that Israel acquired the land in a defensive war after being attacked by surrounding Arab countries.

“I just don't think Israel should have to give up land that they won in self-defense when they were attacked,” Boyer said. “Do you know of any country that's given back land that they won in self defense?”

The House resolution and the premise behind it drew a skeptical response at best from Leila Hudson, an associate professor of Middle East and North African studies at the University of Arizona. She called the measure “extremism based on ignorance.”

Hudson said that Arabs have populated the West bank since at least the 9th Century, and she took particular aim at the measure's reliance on that League of Nations action, based actually on post World War I treaty among various nations, as the basis for any claim that Israel is entitled to everything from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

She said that treaty simply ratified allowing Great Britain to have “protectorate” status over Palestine which included the West Bank.

There was that undefined reference to a future Jewish homeland. It also said nothing would be done to “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

But Hudson said there was nothing which spelled out any boundaries or even any timetable.

Hudson also said that, regardless of what anyone thinks of the 1922 League action, that has since been superseded by subsequent events.

That includes the actual legal creation of Israel in 1948 by the United Nations, an act that gave the new country much smaller borders than even before the 1967 war. It was a 1948 war with its Arab neighbors that created what was Israel until 1967.

And Hudson said a lot else has happened since.

“Israel continues to be in contravention of, or at least contentious dispute of international law as recognized by the vast majority of international associations,” she said, noting resolutions about Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

The resolution was introduced and pushed through the same day, with no discussion. It was adopted on a voice vote by unanimous resolution.

But most lawmakers contacted Tuesday and asked about the measure and their vote brushed aside its importance – or avoid the topic entirely.

“No comment,” said Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson, repeating that three times.

Rep. Albert Hale, D-Window Rock, also declined to weigh in.

And Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, said he didn't think much of the issue and his vote, “like it matters what we think.”

But for Boyer, who wears a lapel pin with conjoined U.S. and Israeli flags, the issue is significant. More to the point, he said it is important for Arizona to go on record supporting Israel.

Boyer insisted that while the resolution says all of the area belongs to Israel, that does not preclude a Palestinian state at some point. And he said that some Israeli leaders have made offered part of the West Bank.

“The refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is the crux of the problem,” he said.

Boyer brushed aside questions of whether the fact that Arizona was long populated by native tribes before arrival of Europeans, some with their own religious claims to the land, means that they are the proper owners.

“I'm not going to speak to that,” he said. “The only thing that I'm speaking to is I wanted to bring up the history, the historical record, the legal record, and what I think is the moral record of the state of Israel.”

He defended the description of the West Bank as by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria even though the federal government refers to those lands as “occupied territories.”

Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley, the only Jew in the House, was absent Monday and did not vote on the measure. But he said Tuesday he supports what it says.

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