April 17, 2006

Blame The Arabs, Not The Settlers

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:57 pm by yisraelmedad

The Forward
October 11, 2002

My community of Shiloh has grown this past year. Although four families left for employment opportunities that required moving closer to their new jobs, 21 other families arrived. That information would not be very important except for the fact that Shiloh is located in Samaria, 30 miles north of Jerusalem. It is one of those “settlements” in those “territories” that seem to upset many people. It is a community that has lost three people to Arab terror in the past 18 months.

The faith of these “settlers” — who should properly be termed “revenants,” people who have returned to a place after a long absence — their commitment and their determination are intangibles that some Diaspora Jews still find difficult to grasp. To some Diaspora Jews, especially those who have traditionally championed a more liberal or left-wing approach to Zionism, the Oslo process is still strong after nine years of abject failure. For them, it seems, my community is an impediment to fulfillment of the Oslo vision of two states, one Jewish, the other devoid of Jewish communities.

To those who still champion the Oslo process, peace requires that Jews be banned from the heart of the Jewish people’s historic homeland, Judea and Samaria, as they were for 19 years after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. To them, the quarter-million Jews who reside there are always “the settlers.” Their communities constitute “human rights violations,” they are an “illegal occupation” and must be dismantled for their vision of peace to be fulfilled.

My home in Shiloh was never occupied, to use a phrase too liberally applied, by Arabs, though there are Arab villages nearby. Calling Shiloh a “settlement” implies something foreign, intrusive and temporary, something that is purposefully and maliciously imposed. To us, however, “settling” is the most natural thing for a Jew to do: to reside where his forefathers dwelled, where his kings ruled and his prophets spoke. My window provides a view that has been Jewish for more than 3,000 years. Here Joshua divided the land; here Elkanah made pilgrimage; here Hannah prayed, and here Samuel the prophet grew up. Not coincidentally, the community of nations also took this view and recognized, in a series of international agreements after World War I, the Jewish right to a “national home” in these same areas. They also authorized, it is worth recalling, “close settlement” on the land.

No, we are not violators of justice and international law. If there is any substance to the charges of ethnic cleansing and human rights violations so frequently tossed about, it relates to what the Arab leadership and its supporters have done and continue to do. We have done our best to avoid hindering Arabs as they continue to live here and in Israel, and have founded our communities almost exclusively on unused and unpopulated hilltops. Arab terrorists and their supporters justify killing our children and women just because we live here.

There is no logical link between the continued existence of Jewish communities in the heart of the Jewish homeland and the ending of terror or the achievement of peace. Prior to the 1967 war there were no “settlements,” no “occupation,” no “territories,” and yet there was no peace. Terrorism, though, was a constant factor. To suggest that our renewed presence in these areas somehow causes terrorism, as Arabs and some on the Zionist left maintain, perverts history and arguably encourages more terror.

Dismantling Jewish communities and yielding land will not bring peace and never has. During and after World War I the Jewish people was promised a restoration of its national home in the Land of Israel, and yet throughout the British Mandate period, Jews ceded land. Land was ceded in the 1922 partition that created the Kingdom of Transjordan in eastern Palestine and again in the 1947 U.N. partition of western Palestine. Land was given away after the 1956 Sinai campaign, in the 1978 peace agreement with Egypt and in the 1994 treaty with Jordan. It was always Israel that yielded, never the Arabs. And still, peace was not achieved. Now Israel is under pressure to yield once again.

Most Israelis now understand, in the wake of Camp David 2000 and the hostilities that broke out that autumn, that the Oslo peace process must be judged a failure. The continuing murder of Jewish women and children, the nonstop incitement to violence and hatred, the destruction of Jewish holy places — the destruction of the Temple Mount antiquities, the razing of Joseph’s Tomb, the torching of the Jericho synagogue — all these show the true intentions of the Arab leadership, should it gain full control of the “territories” as it would under the Oslo vision of peace. That this leadership’s agenda is very different from peace can be seen in the classic antisemitic portrayals in its schoolbooks, in its media broadcasts hailing violence and hatred and suicide bombings, and indeed in the human rights violations suffered by the local Arab population under Yasser Arafat’s despotic regime.

Those who bemoan Israel’s “transgressions” would do better to direct their energies to convincing the Arabs to cease their violence and embrace genuine peace. That would not only open a new chapter in the conflict but would put events back on the true course of morality and relevance.