Are Settlements an Obstacle to Peace? And Just Who is Advocating Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing?
If one listens to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, or even to spokespersons in the George W. Bush Administration, to say nothing of the mainstream media, one might well conclude that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (the so-called "West Bank") are the main obstacle to an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. The truth about what really prevents Middle East peace is exposed by a story that appeared in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles last week, reporting on a ruling by an Egyptian Administrative Court that the Egyptian government must strip Egyptians married to Israelis of their Egyptian citizenship. This ruling is not aimed just at Egyptians who marry Jewish Israelis, but also at Egyptians who marry Arab Christian or Moslem Israelis. And the ruling was wildly popular in Egypt.
Now Egypt is an Arab nation that has been at peace with Israel for over 30 years. Israel does not occupy a single square foot of Egyptian territory. Indeed, it even gave back land in the Sinai that arguably was never part of Egypt in the first place. In doing so, it dismantled the Israeli settlement of Yamit and other Sinai settlements and displaced their Jewish population. (Some of the displaced Israelis moved to towns in Gaza, only to be thrown out again by their own government in 2005.) Yet Egypt is rife with hatred of Israel. Its press is virulently anti-Semitic, and attributes all sorts of conspiracies to Israel, including the 9/11 attacks. The Jew-hatred openly displayed in the Egyptian media is rivaled only in the Palestinian press. One Egyptian pop singer made his career with the hit song "I Hate Israel."
Please don't tell me that this all reflects Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Egypt itself occupied Gaza from 1948 through 1967, and never made any effort during that time to create an independent Palestinian state. Indeed, it ruthlessly quashed Palestinian restiveness unless it was directed against Israel, in the form of fedayeen attacks.
Actually, I take it back. Egyptian hostility does stem from Israeli occupation of Palestine, but the "occupied lands" in question are all of Israel. As George Will has repeatedly quipped, "The problem is not that Israel is being provocative. The problem is that Israel's being is provocative."
The official policy of the United States is that Israel should stop even "natural growth" of existing settlements within their existing borders. In other words, if an Israeli family living in Efrat has, thank God, two more children, and wants to add on an additional bedroom to their house, or perhaps wants to make room for their aging grandparents to live in their home, that represents an obtacle to peace. Oh, please!
Both inside and outside Israel, talk of transferring any part of Israel's Arab population is quickly branded as racist, ethnic cleansing. Moreover, Israel's critics, including former President Jimmy Carter, accuse Israel of being an "apartheid" state. This despite the fact that Israeli Arabs live and work and prosper in Israel, with full civil rights that are in fact, and not just in theory, enforced by the Israeli courts.
In contrast, real apartheid and ethnic cleansing is both advocated and practiced by the Palestinians, and by the U.S. State Department. The life expectancy of a Jew who finds himself in an Arab village may be measured in minutes. The anti-settlement policy is predicated on the assumption that any future Palestinian state must be (to use the Nazi German term) "Judenrein," free of any Jews. All Jewish settlements must go. Yet what would be the reaction of the U.S. State Department if Israel were to state that in return for a withdrawal to its pre-June 1967 borders, all Arabs residing within those borders must leave?
This irony was illustrated (literally) by Yaakov Kirschen in a recent Dry Bones cartoon. The cartoon may disturb some who would wrongly assume that Kirschen's character is happily advocating expulsion of Israel's Arab population. However, what Kirschen is really doing is revealing the true nature world's anti-settler sentiments.