Saturday, June 21, 2014

Israel's Hierarchy of Error

Re-posted from

Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frankel were kidnapped five kilometers away from my home. When news of the kidnapping reached my family this past Friday, the same thought crossed our mind: it could have been us. My teenage children study in the Gush Etzion area and they sometimes hitchhike to get home. On Fridays, I jog on our beautiful Judean hills, often passing a parked car of Arab farmers who tend their vineyard and could ambush me. Why then, many ask, expose yourself and your children to such danger? Indeed, “settlers” are not only accused of being irresponsible toward their children but also toward their country: they prevent Israel from enjoying peace, they take away precious public funds, and they bring international isolation upon Israel.
When I made “Aliyah” (i.e. immigrated to Israel) from Paris as a young man, I was asked why I was putting my life in danger by joining a war-torn country (Israel had recently gone through the trauma of Saddam Hussein’s Scuds). When cafés and buses exploded on a nearly daily basis in Israel’s cities at the beginning of the millennium, I felt safer in my “settlement” of Efrat than on the streets of Tel Aviv. When Hezbollah rockets rained down on northern Israel in the summer of 2006, Haifa residents found a safe haven in our “settlement.” When Prof. Zeev Sternhell wrote in May 2001 that Arab terrorists should spare him and focus instead on the “settlers,” he expressed his personal wish but ignored that of the Arabs themselves. Neither Hamas nor the PLO draw a demarcation line between “good” and “bad” Israelis.
Arab terrorism indiscriminately targets Jews on both sides of the “Green Line” and the cause of that terrorism is not Israel’s presence beyond that line. The three kidnapped teens are believed to be in Hebron, a city were 67 Jews were massacred by Arabs in August 1929 (38 years before Israel captured the West Bank). Between 1949 and 1967 (when all Israelis lived on the “right” side of the Green line), thousands of Israelis were targeted and killed by infiltrators from the Gaza Strip and from the West Bank. Nachshon Wachsman was kidnapped in October 1994 near Ben Gurion airport. When Israel removed all its settlements from the Gaza Strip, it was “rewarded” with thousands of rockets. When Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered (in July 2000 and in May 2008 respectively) to remove most Israeli settlements in exchange for peace, they were rebuffed.
So, no, I do not expose myself and my children to extra danger and I do not prevent the advent of peace. Nor do I feel like a burden to my country: I work hard and pay taxes as do my neighbors. Efrat has one of the most educated and productive populations in Israel, as well as an unusual high number of young IDF officers.
The theory that settlements isolate Israel doesn’t wash, either. Historically, Israel’s worst period of international isolation was in 1953: the Soviet Union had cut diplomatic relations with Israel; in the United States, the new Eisenhower Administration embarked on an openly pro-Arab policy; France and Israel had not yet developed their military relationship. Israel renewed its diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1991 and established diplomatic relations with China and India in 1992: all this happened under the “pro-settlement” government of Yitzhak Shamir and before the Oslo process. The occupation of northern Cyprus does not isolate Turkey and the occupation of Western Sahara does not isolate Morocco. International relations are governed by interests, not by feelings.
When Lily Galili tries, in her last i24News column, to draw a moral line between two types of Israelis, she typically expresses the delusion and intellectual dishonesty of the Zionist left. What was more “kosher” about expelling the Arabs of Lydda in 1948 and destroying their houses than about building villages on the bare hills of Judea? My house in Efrat is built on an empty hill. My office at Tel Aviv University is built on the destroyed Arab village of Sheikh Muwannis. As argued by Ha’aretz columnist Ari Shavit in his book "My Promised Land," the Zionist left tries to obliterate the fact that, for the Arabs, the true historical scar, the Naqba, is the exodus and destruction of 1948, not the mere change of sovereignty of 1967. Amos Oz castigates “settlements” but his kibbutz Hulda is named for the Arab village of Hulda that was destroyed by Israel in 1948. As Shavit writes: “It’s Hulda, stupid.”
Exactly. It is perfectly legitimate to argue that Israel should withdraw to the Green Line. But to say that doing so will bring us tranquility and moral vindication is silly and dishonest. Freedom, especially when you are Jewish, comes at a price regardless of where you live.
Thanks NG

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