Settled About Settlements
by Chuck Chriss
There is a world-wide
consensus that Israel’s so-called "settlements" are a
bad idea. Here are some typical quotes, clipped from the news in
the last few days:
activity] severely undermined Palestinian trust and hope. It preempts
and prejudges the outcome of negotiations and in doing so cripples
chances for real peace and security. The US has long opposed settlement
activity, and, consistent with the report of the Mitchell Committee,
settlement activity must stop." (US Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer,
reported in Jerusalem Post, 12-4-02)
settlements are widely viewed as illegal under international law,
which prohibits military forces from establishing their own communities
in the areas they occupy." (Boston Globe, 12-5-02)
also make it clear that (Britain) has long considered such settlements
illegal and an obstacle to the peace." (British Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw, Jerusalem Post 12-6-02)
ARE THE SETTLEMENTS?
The word "settlements"
has become a code for whatever Jews are doing about living in areas
claimed by Palestinian Arabs. These are actually communities —
some small, some large — where Jewish people have chosen to live.
Most of them are found hugging the Green Line, the cease-fire lines
established at the end of the War of Independence in 1948-1949.
include neighborhoods in Jerusalem, expansion of existing communities
across the Green Line, or new communities in areas of the disputed
territories. There are a few large communities, such as Ariel in
Samaria; those larger towns hold about half of the settlement population
of 200,000 plus, not counting another 170,000 or so who live in
areas of Jerusalem annexed to Israel after the 1967 Six Day War.
This is nothing
new — since the first Jews returned to Hebron in 1967, both Labor
and Likud governments have permitted settlements, sometimes encouraging
them and sometimes trying to throttle them for political reasons.
The communities continue to grow and population figures are up even
in the face of increased terrorism in the last few years.
SETTLEMENTS ON "ARAB LAND"?
The areas seized
by Israel in 1967 from Jordan and Egypt are called the "West
Bank" and the "Gaza Strip" respectively. In all of
history before about 1950 they were Judea, Samaria and Gaza, part
of Eretz Yisrael. The ancient history of Judea and Samaria as the
setting for the Bible, the homeland of the Jews starting with Abraham,
is well known. But also Gaza, where Samson brought down the temple,
has deep roots in Jewish history, as Michael Freund writes in the
Jerusalem Post this week:
the Exodus from Egypt, when the tribes of Israel were apportioned
various parts of the Promised Land, Gaza was given to the Tribe
of Judah (see Joshua 15:47 and Judges 1:18) as its share of the
eternal inheritance. Since we are celebrating the festival of Hanukka
this week, it is worth recalling that the Hasmonean king Yochanan,
brother of Judah the Maccabee, retook Gaza in 145 BCE and his brother,
Shimon, sent Jews to settle there, hundreds of years before the
advent of Islam. In the fourth century, some 1,600 years before
the establishment of the PLO, Gaza served as the primary port of
commerce for the Jews of the Holy Land."
But, some will
say, that’s all ancient history; in the modern world this is Palestinian
Arab land. Sorry, but that is true only if you accept the topsy-turvy,
stand-history-on-its-head version created for propaganda purposes.
The web format of this memo explores the whole background of the
issue and shows why Israel and Jews have as much right to the land
as anyone else.
borders are a result of the series of wars since 1948. The last
sovereign ruler of the disputed land, with internationally recognized
borders, was the Ottoman Empire before 1918. The only definite borders
are those established by treaties between Israel and neighboring
countries — the West Bank and Gaza are not defined as any country’s
territory by any of the treaties. The land of the West Bank and
Gaza is disputed territory and Israel has the right to occupy, administer,
or withdraw to negotiated borders based on the defensive wars forced
on Israel by its hostile Arab neighbors. Various UN resolutions
that have addressed the issue — such as the famous UN Security
Council Resolution 242 — only require Israel to negotiate a settlement.
No UN resolution requires Israel to unilaterally withdraw from the
All land that
settlements occupy was land that was legally acquired or belonged
to the state, not private individuals. There is no stolen land.
Anyone who thinks their land was not legally acquired can go to
court in Israel for compensation, fair courts that frequently find
in favor of Arab plaintiffs. Some land has been taken by process
of eminent domain, for public works, or has been cleared for defensive
military purposes, but always with compensation and with due process.
(Of course, there was never compensation for land and valuables
taken from Jews who were expelled from other countries.
WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
There is, to
me, a larger issue. Why can’t Jews (and Christians and others) live
where they want in Islamic countries? The refusal of Islamic countries
to allow Jews to live there is scurrilous racism of the worst kind.
In any civilized country behavior like that would be denounced and,
in many places, would violate the law. But in all the Arab and Islamic
countries they shout from the rooftops "No Jews Allowed"
and this is accepted by the world.
regarding the areas in the West Bank and Gaza, let’s suppose for
a moment that it was exclusively Arab land (remember, not true).
Even if it was, why is it a "war crime", "atrocity"
or an unacceptable affront for Jews to want to settle there? In
the United States we see Mexicans, Japanese, Muslims from all over,
and many others come here in large numbers and establish communities.
If anyone dares voice some concern (just voice concern, not actually
do anything) it causes an uproar about racism. Why no uproar about
racist, antisemitic, outrageous speech and behavior by Islamic/Arab
countries who refuse to admit even one Jew and actively incite violence
against Jews outside their borders? Why is it OK that Isreal cannot
even stamp the passport of anyone who expects to go to an Arab country
at a later date?
If I, as an
American Jew, decided to buy a farm across the border in Canada,
not only can I legally do so but I would probably be welcomed by
my friendly new neighbors. There would be an expectation of peaceful
relationships by all parties. If a dispute arose, there are courts
and arbitration available for settlement, almost the definition
of civilization. But if an Israeli Jew steps across the Green Line
and buys land, he can expect to be the target of killers. Any Arab
who sells land to a Jew will be branded a collaborator and is in
danger for his life. Where is the world outrage at such an abomination?
Where are the leftist groups who range the world looking for problems
to solve while Jews are excluded under pain of death from their
own traditional lands?
As we look forward
to a post-Iraq and post-Arafat world, some see new opportunites
for peace in the Middle East. I think you can measure the prospects
for real peace between Israel and its neighbors by one criterion:
when a Jew can buy a farm from an Arab and live there in harmony
with his neighbors, then there will be real peace in the region.