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On Settlements

This past Sabbath, my wife, two daughters and I went to Beit-El, which is a “settlement” north of Jerusalem. My in-laws have recently moved there, since my father-in-law has just started working at Israel National News Radio (The Marty Roberts Show).

Driving to Beit-El is an experience. The roads are winding and narrow, and palestinian villages are clearly visible from the road. At one roadblock, the edge of Jericho is a few meters from the car. During some sections of the journey, we found ourselves driving alongside palestinians. It is somewhat nerve-wracking at first, but you have just have to remind yourself that these roads are the ones taken by the foreign dignitaries who visit Yasser AFatRat, so the terrorists are not likely to do anything. Furthermore, most of the palestinian cars are taxis, so I figure that they are the honest, hard-working civilians who just want to make a living.

Beit-El itself is extremely close to Ramallah. (I plan to take some pictures of Ramallah from my car at a later stage). Every time I see the roadblocks in front of Ramallah, I remind myself of the two reservists who were not so lucky (warning: graphic link). I wonder whether these roadblocks were there at the time they strayed into Ramallah, or whether they are the legacy of this bloody chapter in palestinian terrorism.

As I have already mentioned, Beit-El is a “settlement.” This word is misleading, since it conjures up images of caravans and temporary housing. But Beit-El looks like any suburb that I have ever seen. Brick houses, green gardens, shops and schools. It is hard to believe that places like these are decried by practically all of the world’s leaders as “obstacles to peace.” In fact, in my humble opinion, the whole issue of settlements and settlers is misleading. Settlers are often depicted as gun-toting religious fanatics who destroy palestinian olive groves and are the root cause of all of the world’s terrorism.

The settlements are often described in terms that make them sound like they are encroaching on palestinian land. But the truth is something else entirely. For a start, the inhabitants of Beit-El (and other similiar settlements) are G-d fearing, law-abiding people. They go to synagogue, pray, invite guests over for meals, and hope for peace. They believe that the lands around Beit-El belong to the Jewish people (this week’s Torah reading coincidentally dealt with Jacob’s dream in Beit-El!). In other words, they believe that Israel has a legitimate claim to the land. As we know, palestinians say that the “territories” belong to them. In my books, this is a case of two claims for some land. The territories are therefore “disputed.” Their final status should be the result of peaceful negotiations. it should not be taken for granted that these lands belong to the palestinians. (in the Geneva accord, Israel would agree to give up places like Beit-El, and leave the houses etc in good condition so that the palestinians can simply move in!)

There are some other facts that everyone should be made aware of. For a start, the settlements were not built over razed palestinian villages. They were built on vacant land. And they were often built by palestinians themselves, who received a livelihood from this work. The palestinians also performed other work in the settlements, whether it be manual labor, or working in the local store. The settlements provided a benefit to the average palestinian who just wanted to make a living. Some settlements, like Efrat, even maintained good relations with the neighboring palestinian villages. This is a thing of the past now, thanks to AFatRat and his merry gang of murders.

Even if you believe that the palestinians are entitled to a state, and the settlements would be within the boundaries of this state, the notion of removing Jews from these areas is racist. When Israel was established as a state, it offered the Arabs a chance to become citizens. The ones who did not flee did just that, and they are enjoy the best conditions out of all the Arabs in the Middle East. Now if the palestinians receive their own state, why should the state be devoid of all Jews? It is so offensive that Jews live under palestinian rule if they so choose?

I know many of you will disagree with my views, but I really believe that the settlements and their inhabitants have been unfairly demonized. They really are not the root cause of the world’s terrorism. For years, the palestinians benefited from them. Besides, radical palestinian groups view all of the state of Israel as a settlement. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa are also occupied territories in their mind. This is not to say that I agree with those ‘settlers’ (or normal Israelis for that matter) who take the law in to their own hands and try to perpetrate terror against palestinians. Terrorism is terrorism! Not only that, but I also disagree with the ‘settlers’ who disobey army orders and try to resist taking down outposts. The army must be obeyed since they are protecting Israel’s civilians.

I invite your thoughts on these issues. I know this will be a controversial topic, but the more discussion, the more enlightened and informed we can all become.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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