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Building Jerusalem

On the edge of Route 1 as that thoroughfare runs through eastern Jerusalem lies an Arab neighborhood by the name of Sheikh Jarrah. In one section of the neighborhood, an Israeli flag waves and Jews walk back and forth to the tomb of Simon the Just (Shimon Hatzadik), who served as high priest in the Second Temple. The synagogue surrounding the tomb is filled with men studying Torah and women reciting Psalms. Approximately ten young families live in a building adjacent to the tomb.

Relevant Links
East Jerusalem  Elliot Jager, Jewish Ideas Daily. What and where is it?
Cherry-Picking History  Omri Ceren, Contentions. Taking the Palestinian position on Jerusalem, as the U.S. State Department has done, means installing an atypical 18-year historical blip as the baseline for negotiations.
The Future of Israel's Capital  Nadav Shragai, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The unresolved issue of land ownership in eastern Jerusalem has led to illegality, chaos, and violence; the interests of all parties lie in rectifying the situation. (PDF)

Every Friday, protesters gather at the edge of the neighborhood to demonstrate against evictions of Arabs from their homes. The evictions are legal, as the Arabs in question are squatters, having been living rent-free for years in houses that don't belong to them. But the real complaint of the protesters, who comprise both Arabs and Jews, concerns the prospect of Jewish families taking over the houses and thus contributing to the changing character of the neighborhood.

Sheikh Jarrah is not the only Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem undergoing demographic change. On the Mount of Olives, the Beit Orot yeshiva, situated between the Augusta Victoria church and the Mormon outpost of Brigham Young University, is in the process of constructing housing that could ultimately bring a total of 300 Jewish families to the area. This could help to create a continuous Jewish presence from the Mount of Olives cemetery down toward the Temple Mount.

Historically speaking, eastern Jerusalem was where most Jews always lived. In biblical times, the city as a whole was limited geographically to the area surrounding the Temple Mount (known today as the City of David). Even in the modern period, as settlement expanded in the 19th century, it was to the eastern parts of the city that Jews moved. Not until 1929, under the pressure of Arab riots, did officials of the British Mandate undertake to separate the populations and force most Jerusalem Jews to resettle in the west. Those who remained, in the Jewish Quarter and a few other neighborhoods of the Old City, were expelled in 1948 when these areas fell into the hands of the Jordanians.

In 1967, with the return of Jerusalem's eastern sectors to Israel, Jews quickly settled wherever property was available while Arabs remained in all-Arab enclaves like Sheikh Jarrah. Today, the Jewish population in all of eastern Jerusalem numbers about 200,000, of whom about 2,000 reside in Arab neighborhoods.

What now? Israeli politicians and activists who favor agreements with the Palestinians based on the concept of "land for peace" share the view of the British Mandate: peace can be achieved only by separating the Jewish and Arab populations. This was the logic behind the 2005 evacuation of the Jewish settlements in Gaza, and today it is the goal of those who wish to cede land in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. An expanded version of the same idea is the guiding principle of the international community. According to it, all land captured by Israel in 1967 should be ceded to the Arabs, thus returning the Jewish state to the armistice lines as they existed at the end of the 1948–49 war of independence.

In contrast to this, Jewish settlers seek an integration of the two populations.  Those politicians and activists who regard land-for-peace as a bankrupt policy similarly see integration as a solution.  Their strategy is to settle as many Jews as possible in an as many areas as possible in both the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, thus making the segregation of the two populations a logistical nightmare, if not an impossibility. Many settlers now wish they had pursued this strategy—also known as creating "facts on the ground"—more energetically in the 1980's, when the settlement movement was focused more on homogeneity than on size, with the result that the Jewish population in the West Bank, now at about 330,000, is much lower than it might have been. Such thinking is in part behind the current rush to establish new settlements as well as to expand existing ones, which according to this logic will make it that much harder for any government to undertake a wholesale, Gaza-style evacuation in a future peace agreement.

"Facts on the ground" will undoubtedly influence public policy in Israel. Places with very small Jewish populations or that have been abandoned by Jews are almost always considered negotiable or by definition as belonging to the Arabs. Prime examples are the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem and most of the West Bank itself. By contrast, Jewish cities like Ariel and Maaleh Adumim, thanks to the size of their populations, are usually conceded to the Israelis in most peace proposals.

Past experience suggests that a genuine peace agreement with the Palestinians is unlikely to emerge for many more years, and during that time the demographics of eastern Jerusalem could change significantly. Moreover, Israel's last previous experiment with evacuating its citizens is almost universally considered a failure. Not only did the departure of the IDF from Gaza lead to serious security problems, including the still-unceasing rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled territory, but the evacuees themselves have yet to be settled properly in homes and communities. The action also caused large segments of the Israeli citizenry, especially those within the religious-Zionist camp, to lose faith in the willingness of the government to protect their interests.

Will a future Israeli government insist on drawing the country's borders so as to recognize new realities and avoid incurring a much larger trauma than the fiasco of 2005? On Jerusalem, at least, the Netanyahu government has so far declined to be clear, issuing unequivocal declarations against any future division of the city while at the same time permitting very little construction to take place in virtually any part of Jerusalem, east or west. Whether it allows continued settlement of Jews in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas of eastern Jerusalem will perhaps provide one barometer of its longer-term intentions.

Hadassah Levy is a website manager and marketer for Jewish Ideas Daily. 

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Yosef Blau on September 16, 2011 at 9:32 am (Reply)
Settling Jews in east Jerusalem in Arab neighborhoods order to ensure that Israel keeps all of Yerushalayim is a reasonable position. Claiming that it represents integration instead of separation is disingenuous. Integration would mean that Arabs move into Jewish neighborhoods as well as Jews moving into Arab ones.
PetraMB on September 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm (Reply)
I take it that you are a supporter of the so-called one-state solution. Hamas is on your side -- I'm on the other.
Ellen on September 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm (Reply)
Forget about national states--that's so late-20th century vintage. We are now going back to the period of imperial rule, which is what most of human history consists of. It is amazing how modern educated people always seem to think that whatever form of government or lifestyle was invented most recently in time must, a priori, be assumed to be better than the way things were done in earlier periods of history. The reason why most social groups have historically lived under imperial rule is that most social/ethnic/religious groups are incapable of sustainable self-government. That is increasingly the conclusion one must draw looking at the Arab Revolts unfolding around Israel and the economic disintegration of much of Europe. The late and unlamented Hapsburg family that ruled the Austrian Empire for centuries--trying to keep the lid on an assortment of 55 different ethno-religious groups--would feel right at home in our contemporary world. The idiotic Wilsonian ideal of national self-determination for every ridiculous tribe or sect that can blackmail its way onto the UN docket of activities is about to reach its predictable end. Let the PLO go to the UN for another pointless melodrama. Meanwhile, more settlers will settle in more settlements and more irreversible facts on the ground will be created.

Soon, there will be very few viable states left in the Middle East, and many fewer left in Europe as well. And fortunately, for us lovers of Zion, Israel will be one of them.
Akiva Lichtenberg on September 18, 2011 at 1:34 am (Reply)
It's almost laughable to see the settlers supporting integration contra the Palestinians, who support segregation--as if the settlers were the real humanitarians in the situation and the Palestinians were the bigoted bad guys. One only has to take a cursory glance at the settlers' voting records to show that many of them routinely support politicians who not only do not harbor any ideals of harmonious integration with the Palestinians, but actually propose population transfers to separate the Jews from the Arabs. Undoubtedly these same voters see no problem in denying Arabs (Israeli or otherwise) from renting or buying property in Jewish towns in Israel. And if the settlers were such proponents of integration, why must they be protected in fenced-in areas by large army divisions? Indeed, by the time of the Disengagement in 2005, there were more IDF soldiers than there were Israeli civilians. As with the evictions from Sheikh Jarrah, it is clear that changing the facts on the ground is at best a political ploy, at worst an outright land-grab for power. It should go without saying that none of these instances should count as an excuse towards Palestinian violence and continuous foot-dragging with regards to the peace negotiations. But to imagine the Sheikh Jarrah evictions as justified or to view the settlers as promoters of co-existence in a unified Israel is delusional.
Hadassah on September 18, 2011 at 8:38 am (Reply)

Arabs do in fact live in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Examples are Katamon and Pisgat Zeev, where Arab villas sit next to Israeli homes. Though the numbers are small, they are growing as well.

PetraMB -

A two-state solution is possible only if the two states can co-exist. As long as one side is interested only in terrorism, the other cannot concede anything. Note that the Palestinians are talking about 63 years of oppression by Israel. This means that they consider the very existence of Israel to be oppressive to their race.

Ellen -

Israel was formed in order for the Jewish nation to have self-determination. The repudiation of this concept may not be a good thing for Israel.
Miriam on September 18, 2011 at 8:42 am (Reply)
Yosef, Arabs ARE moving into Jewish neighborhoods. For example, Pisgat Zeev has a growing Arab population.
Ellen on September 19, 2011 at 6:42 am (Reply)

I'm not suggesting a repudiation of self-determination for the Jews because, quite bluntly, we won this self-determination by fighting a defensive war. That is how most borders and countries are secured--by emerging victorious in a war. It has nothing to do with the United Nations, League of Nations or other such absurd inventions of 20th-century politics.

In contrast, there are lots of nations that have been created in the past 60 years without even the flimsiest realistic basis for their national existence. They were invented in the wake of the disintegration of larger empires that couldn't sustain themselves. The PLO state being voted on at the UN is one of many examples. But unlike the many others (e.g., Iraq, Syria, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, etc.), this state will not ever come into being, in my view, because Israel will not allow it and it has no coherent plan for its own survival. The Hamas leader just condemned the PLO for even submitting his request for statehood to the UN.

The number of functioning states in the world is going to decrease rapidly in the next 20 years, but the number of useless bureaucrats clogging up UN seats may continue to grow. Imperial rule, one way or another, is on its way back--led not by the Europeans, mind you, but rather by serious powers like China and India. I wouldn't be surprised to see Europe colonized by the Chinese, too.
PetraMB on September 19, 2011 at 5:29 pm (Reply)
Hadassah, though I've long been a supporter of the peace camp, I've also come to realize quite some time ago that the Palestinians are more than ambivalent about having a state of their own if that means validating Israel's existence as a Jewish state. Still, that doesn't mean that we should give in to the fantasies of a one-state solution long championed by the likes of Hamas and supposedly "progressive" forces in the West. Israel would be a very different place with a 40 percent Arab minority -- that may well grow to 50 percent . Given the realities in our neighborhood, I for one cannot see that it would be a better place.
Chicago Man on September 19, 2011 at 8:01 pm (Reply)
Akiva Lichtenberg, your comments are ignorant of history and current political realities. These areas of Jerusalem are Jewish areas. Many of the Arabs living there are squatters who moved into these neighborhoods when the Jewish residents were murdered and driven out during the pogroms in the 1920's. These areas were ethnically cleansed by the British, then the Jordanians, removing any remaining Jews. Jews were murdered so that these properties could be "occupied" by Arab squatters. You conveniently ignore how the Arabs "changed the facts on the ground."

If Arabs have valid legal title to a property, they should not be evicted. But without valid legal title, they are squatters and may legally be evicted, just like any squatter in any country, regardless of ethnicity. If the courts have determined that they don't have a right to the land, why are you arguing the point?

Excluding Jews from living anywhere in the world is racist, but that is exactly what you and the Palestinian Authority are advocating. The PA has vowed not to let any Jews live within the borders of the proposed Palestinian state--ethnically cleansing over 500,000 Jews from their homes. This is a crime against humanity, but you don't mention that.

And you are dehumanizing your fellow Jews by labeling them "settlers." Why not call all Arabs "terrorists?" What you are doing is on the same level--painting everyone with one giant dehumanizing brush, regardless of their politics, intentions, or aspirations. Why do the "settlers" have to be protected by a fence, you ask. It is because many of their neighbors want to kill them. Nearly 2000 Jews have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists since the Oslo process began, and tens of thousands of Jews have been maimed. Jews are murdered in their sleep; infants have been stabbed to death and had their throats slashed. That is why there are fences surrounding these communities. Ask the Arabs how they can justify murdering infants sleeping in their beds and blow up buses full of school children.

You also failed to not mention that under the PA, as in Jordan and most other Arab countries, it is a crime punishable by death to sell land to a Jew. This edict is usually carried out by a lynch mob before a trial can be held--justice Palestinian-style.

Why do you accept the notion that Arabs should be allowed to remain where they live, but Jews cannot? Ethnic cleansing is ethnic cleansing. It is a crime against humanity no matter what the nationality of the people involved. You are not allowed to move a civilian population with title to the land. The Jews living in the disputed territories have every right under international law to live there, and no one has the right to move them. Jews whom you call "settlers" can be ethnically cleansed, but Arabs can remain within Israel? Either trade populations or let both populations remain in place, requiring the legal authority to protect their rights. If a state cannot guarantee the rights and safety of its citizens, Jewish or Arab, it is not qualified to be recognized as a state. The Israeli legal system isn't perfect, but it does a good job of protecting the rights of Arabs living within Israel. If the Palestinians cannot do the same for Jews, they do not deserve recognition as a state or deserve the respect you show to them. You should show some of that respect to your fellow Jews, whose basic human rights you completely disregard by referring to them simply as "settlers."
Akiva Lichtenberg on September 20, 2011 at 1:57 pm (Reply)
Chicago Man, I find it very interesting that you choose to read value into my label "settlers." Would you have preferred that I say "Jews?" "Israelis?" "Homo sapiens?" "Homo sapien adherents of Judaism who are citizens of the State of Israel while residing in land that was captured by the Israeli Defense Forces during the Six-Day War?" I did not mean to make any value judgment when using the label "settlers." "Settlers" is simply the common term used to refer to those Israeli Jews living in the West Bank. That you instinctively saw that label as carrying negative connotations is odd, to say the least.

Of course the fences and security forces for the settlements are there to protect the settlers from Palestinian violence. And it shouldn't be that way. Ideally, there would be no need for such protections. But think: Would you be OK with Palestinian security forces protecting Arab-Israeli towns? That would be absurd. But if Palestinian security forces are allowed the same jurisdiction over all Arabs in Israel and the West Bank that the IDF is allowed over Jews in the West Bank, that is precisely what would happen. The settlers live in the West Bank only because of the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War and because they are provided with continued protection from the IDF. Should that protection disappear, it is difficult to imagine most of the settlers remaining in Palestine.

I would be careful with your argument about deeds to property. In an ideal world, all people would reside on the properties that they rightfully own. But you fail to recognize that the sense of ownership works both ways: By your reasoning, Palestinians should be allowed to return to their ancestral hometowns that are now part of Israel. In fact, many of them still have the keys to their grandparents' homes, which for the most part have been destroyed to make way for new Israeli towns. I don't support the Palestinians' Right of Return because it would be counterproductive in achieving a secure Israel and because it would erode the Jewish character of Israel. Similarly, I view the eviction of Arabs in East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli Jews (who are almost always religious) as counterproductive to the achievement of peace. This is certainly not ideal, but I believe that it is the best compromise that can be reached given the facts on the ground.

Also, you should be careful with your numbers: 500,000 is a lot of people, but it's the wrong number in this situation. Presumably, you were referring to the number of Jews living in the West Bank; but the number is actually closer to 300,000 ( Even so, that number overstates the number of Israeli Jews who would be evicted from their homes under a peace agreement, because all versions of such an agreement would include land-swaps that would include the vast majority of the settlers in Israel. Of course, evicting any Jew from his or her residence is a tragedy that should not be taken lightly. But, in the end, the number of settlers who will have to leave their homes pales in comparison to the number of settlers who will continue living where they live now.

Finally, I would be very wary of bringing up the human-rights card. Yes, Palestinians have inflicted unspeakable damage and committed horrific crimes against innocent Israeli civilians, not to mention soldiers too. But that should be an excuse to overlook the numerous human-rights violations that radical settlers and soldiers have committed in the West Bank. That those crimes may not be morally equivalent is not a valid excuse for more senseless violence. While it is justifiable for the IDF to hunt down terrorists, it is not justifiable for soldiers to humiliate innocent Palestinians on a daily basis. And it is certainly never justifiable for settlers to desecrate Arab property and maim or murder Palestinians.
Chicago Man on September 20, 2011 at 8:46 pm (Reply)
Akiva Lichtenberg--I reject your assumption that "the settlers live in the West Bank only because of the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War." They lived in these areas before the Six Day War, too--at least until the land was ethnically cleansed of Jews by the Arab Legion.

"Settlers" (yes, I prefer "Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria") live in the Israeli towns in these areas because this is the traditional Jewish homeland---where our ancestors lived and worked the land. They live in these towns because much of the land was purchased by Jewish philanthropists and the Jewish National Fund in the late 1800's and early 1900's. They live in these towns because, according to the Torah, the Balfour Declaration, the British Mandate by League of Nations, and the UN, they are legally allowed to live in these towns.

According to the relevant international laws, including the applicable UN resolutions, the land you call the "West Bank" (west bank of what? Is there an "East Bank?" How many banks are there?) is disputed territory--not "occupied." The territory once called Palestine was partitioned in the 1929 to placate the Arab terrorists,then partitioned again in 1947 to placate the Arab terrorists once again (the partitions failed to placate the terrorists' desire to murder Jews, as other withdrawals and land transfers to the Arabs always have). UN Resolution 181 is not a legally binding document because it was refused by the Arab High Command, which was negotiating on behalf of the Arabs (by the way, the term "Palestinian" referred to the Jews of the Yishuv until Arafat adopted the word in 1964).

So, if UN Resolution 181 is merely a non-binding suggestion rejected by the Arabs, on what legal basis do the Palestinians claim ownership of the land? They are not an indigenous population: Ottoman and British census documents show that the overwhelming majority of the Arabs in-migrated from other parts of Palestine (i.e., the East Bank) and from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. You see, borders and nationalities are European colonial imports not native to this region. When the Jewish money flowed in, so did the migrant Arab workers looking for better opportunities for work and freedom from oppression by sheikhs. Keep in mind that "Palestine" was never an independent state and never had a government, monetary system, nationality, language, culture, or anything else. It is merely a political term and refers to a geographical territory that was part of the Ottoman province known Southern Syria. It was an unpopulated, desolate, swamp-filled land in which, as Mark Twain observed, you could walk for days without seeing another living creature. Until the British White Paper of 1939, which put a clamp on Jewish migration (without limiting Arab migration) to Palestine, the Jews were the majority population of Jerusalem and a significant part of the population of western Palestine (Jews were restricted from living in eastern Palestine, now Jordan).

As I stated previously, the only land to which the Palestinians have a legal claim to is the land in which they have legal title. The applicable UN Resolution in this case is 262, which states that the disposition of "disputed territory" (the phrase deliberately omits a prefatory "the," so as to allow for necessary adjustments) shall be negotiated by the aggrieved states which are party to the conflict. The parties to the conflict were Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The Palestinians rejected sovereignty over the land when they rejected UN Resolution 181, so they are not considered a party to the conflict. In this case, the Jordanians are the most relevant party to the conflict; but they have long since given up any rights or claims to the territory, and they never legally owned the land in the first place. The applicable international law states that the land shall then fall back to the last legal claimant to the land. Well, the British took the land from the Ottomans, then gave up their rights to land to the League of Nations, which created a mandate for the land, then handed it to the UN, which recognized the State of Israel. I guess the Ottomans might have a claim--but they don't exist any more, so the only party to this conflict that never gave up its rights to the land (and is also the original owner of the land) is the Jewish people and its modern legal representative, the State of Israel. Under international law, the Palestinians don't have any rights to this land.

And if you negate the law of conquest, which you seems to do, then how exactly did the Jordanians, British and Ottomans get this land in the first place? The only way Arabs ever entered the land (and stayed, prior to the land's resettlement by Jewish pioneers) was through conquest. There is not a single piece of land on this Earth that is owned by the original property owner. All land is taken by conquest, and indigenous people are replaced by other "indigenous" people. The people who claim to be "indigenous" arrived in the land by conquest and lost the land by conquest. So where is their claim??

As for individual Palestinians, I agree that they should be compensated for homes and property that they lost during the war. But they started the war, so first they must compensate the Jews who lost their homes and properties, including the Jews who were kicked out of all of the Arab countries. The Jewish claims more than offset the Arab claims (the figures I have seen put the Jewish claims at hundreds of billions of dollars). Also, having a key doesn't mean ownership. That canard doesn't fly in a court of law and it doesn't fly here. I have tons of keys from places I rented over the past 30 years, and not a single one represents a home to which I have a legal title. If people cannot show a legal title, they didn't own the property. They may have been squatters or renters or share croppers or migrants who didn't understand land ownership, but not legal owners of the land. (Most people who did have documentation of ownership were compensated, and until the 1950's some were even allowed to return to their homes.)

As for the Jews who wish to move into neighborhoods in Jerusalem, it is borderline bigotry even to mention that they are almost always religious. Why does that matter? Do you also take stock of the religious practice of the Arabs who want to live there? Jews have a right to live anywhere they want if they have title to the land, regardless of their religiosity. I believe that in this case they do have title to the land or are renting from legal title owners. And, in areas of Jerusalem that were ethnically cleansed by the Arab Legion, they are merely returning to the property from which they or their ancestors were illegally removed. You seem to be using a double standard here. I support compensation for anyone who lost property and holds title to that property. Since the property is under Israeli jurisdiction, I see no reason why Jews have to settle for compensation (whereas the Arabs living in the disputed territories are not residents of Israel, so compensation is the appropriate legal remedy). Why would you deny these Jews the right to return or resettle areas where Jews were forcibly removed by an invading Arab army? In the United States, we have affirmative actions laws to address the wrongful discrimination practices of the past. I don't fully agree with these laws, but certainly this would be a case in which the wrongful action of the past--ethnic cleansing of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem by the Arab Legion--would merit such correction. The bottom line is that if you don't have title to a property and are not renting from someone who does have title, the common legal remedy is eviction, Jew or Arab.

I used the 500,000 number because the Arabs claim that Jerusalem is part of the West Bank. Thus, if you recognize the Palestinian claims to the West Bank, the Jews living in Jerusalem would be considered "settlers" too.

You make lots of assumptions which are a bit naive, to be kind. The Obama plan outlined in his speech at the State Department this past spring immediately puts all disputed land into the hands of the Palestinians. The common wisdom is that land swaps would be the solution, but this assumes that the Palestinians are willing to do swap. You are assuming their generosity and reasonableness when they have never shown either. The presumption has always been the trading of land (not "the" land) for peace, but Obama starts off assuming the land already belongs to the Palestinians. So what does Israel have to trade? It cannot even get these people back to the negotiating table, let alone willing to negotiate land swaps. Obama gave away Israel's one remaining card to play. Even if the Palestinian Authority were willing to swap some land (which they adamantly deny), the entire Old City of Jerusalem and much of the Jewish neighborhoods would be put in Palestinian hands. The PA is on record stating at numerous times that it is not willing to give up the Old City and will only provide limited access to the Jewish holy sites--but not to the Kotel. The PA denies that the Kotel or the Temple Mount has any relation to the Jewish people. It calls the Kotel the Al Barack wall--Barack being the name of Muhammad's ass (and America's, too), which he allegedly tied to this wall. So your assumption of land swaps is not very realistic. Israel will have to fight tooth and nail for every inch of land, and the Palestinians (according to the Obama plan) will be under no obligation to trade because they already have been given most of what they want. The rest of what they want is the rest of Israel (as stated under the phased plan for Palestine, but that is another conversation.

Evicting a Jew from his or her land isn't just a tragedy, it is a war crime. Ariel Sharon might have gotten away with evicting the 9,000 or so Jews in Gaza and the Jews in Taba, but you cannot remove 500,000 Jews from their homes. Israel already has a housing shortage and not enough money to solve it. Even if some or most Jews were graciously allowed to stay in their homes, you still couldn't relocate vast numbers of Jews within the Green Line. Israel still hasn't settled the 9,000 Gazan Jews into permanent homes, and they were evicted six years ago.

As for human rights violations, I agree. No one should violate the human rights of another. However, the Palestinians do not abide by any conceivable notion of International law. They cite it only when they are the alleged victim; and, even then, the overwhelming majority of their claims are purely fictitious. I will give a few examples. Mohamed Al Dura, the little boy they claimed was killed by IDF gunfire: It was proven years later that IDF could not have possibly killed this child and that the video was doctored. Who killed him--or whether he was killed at all--I don't know, but I know this so-called
"human rights violation" didn't happen. I also know that Palestinians routinely deliver munitions and transport terrorists in Red Crescent ambulances and use schools, mosques, and UN buildings as cover for shooting rockets and mortars at the IDF, hoping the IDF will return fire. These are illegal actions according to the Geneva conventions on warfare. You are not allowed to engage in warfare using a civilian population as cover. Those non-combatants who are unfortunately killed by IDF's return fire are the responsibility of the terrorists who violated the conventions of warfare in the first place, not of the IDF, which is legally allowed to return fire. I have heard of cases in which IDF officers humiliated Palestinians (though I have heard far more cases of the IDF's going above and beyond and assisting them). Most of the cases of which I have heard have been prosecuted. This happens in war: Even the Americans and British have been guilty of this. I have heard of very few cases of Palestinians being killed by Israeli civilians without justifiable cause. I do not hold with the claims made by B'Tselem or the other left-wing NGOs. But if there are cases of Jews murdering Arabs (killing is justifiable, murder is not), I would hope that these people would be prosecuted for their crimes. As for vandalism, that is not a human rights violation. It happens in my neighborhood in the States. We have gangs who tag things and Arabs who through rocks through synagogue windows and vandalize Sukkahs. These are criminal acts, but they are not on the same level as human rights violations.
Akiva Lichtenberg on September 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm (Reply)
Chicago Man,

Yes, Jews lived in the West Bank before '67; but they wouldn't be there now if it weren't for the fact that the area was captured by the IDF in '67. As to your parenthetical question, the answer is, yes, there is an East Bank. It's called Jordan. Technically, "West Bank" could refer to all lands on the western bank of the Jordan River; but because of the disputed nature of the western-bank lands that were captured by Israel in the '67 war, it has become a term that refers to all lands outside the Green Line. The rest of the West Bank, in the geographical sense, is just Israel.

So what if the ancestors of today's Palestinians moved into the then-province of Palestine relatively recently? The move is certainly no more recent than the influx of European Jews. The point is that millions of Arabs can rightfully call the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan their home. That's where they live, regardless of whether the term "Palestinian" is a recent term for them and regardless of how long ago their ancestors arrived. If all we cared about was where someone's ancestors lived, most Americans would have to go back to Europe, Asia, or Africa. Where exactly Palestinians can live must, unfortunately, be decided through negotiations. Similarly, as you point out, millions of Jews rightfully call that same land their home. And because of factors beyond their control (wars, rabid antisemitism and anti-Zionism, terrorism), the exact borders within which those Jews can live must, unfortunately, be decided through negotiations. It is a sad state of affairs, but I believe that negotiations are the only reasonable way to sort out this mess.

By your own convoluted legal history, Israel has no more claim to the disputed territories than the Palestinians do, since Israel never claimed sovereignty over those lands, not in the '47 Partition Plan and not in any negotiations since then (they have not annexed the West Bank). And I have not negated the so-called laws of conquest--the Geneva Conventions did (they were signed after the conquests by the Ottomans and British). We no longer live in a world in which land can be conquered through war and simply kept by the conquerer, and I believe that's a good thing. The Jordanians did not have any more right to the West Bank, the Egyptians to the Gaza Strip, or the Syrians to the Golan Heights than the Israelis do now to the West Bank, legally speaking.

Your use of pronouns in your seventh paragraph is vague. Does "they" refer to the Palestinians? In that case, your claim is nonsensical, since there was no Palestinian army that invaded Israel or kicked Jews out of their homes. Does "they" refer to those Arab nations that did expel Jews from their homes in response to the creation of Israel? If so, your claim is inaccurate, because there were nations that expelled Jews in '48 but did not invade Israel at that time. Presumably, then, you were referring to those Arab nations that both forced their Jews out and invaded Israel. I would be in favor of those nations' compensating the descendants of those persecuted Jews, most of whom reside in Israel today.

In a way, you hinted at why it is impossible for the Palestinians to demonstrate legal ownership of land. They were migrants or sharecroppers, living in lands that belonged to absentee landowners. It would be very hard for most Palestinian families to live up to the standard of documentation that you are demanding. But this doesn't mean that they didn't live in the homes; they were not homeless, nor were they nomads. Hence, they have their keys. Granted, keys do not themselves constitute a valid claim of ownership. But it is undeniable that these people lived in what is now Israel. Many ran away because the Arab Legions promised that the Zionists would be shooed away soon enough. Many ran away because they were scared of the war. And many others were evicted from their homes by the IDF, oftentimes for strategic purposes. The point is that they did leave homes in which they had lived. Again, I do not support the Palestinian Right of Return, because that would erode the Jewish character of Israel. But it should be obvious that the Palestinians do have a right to some land between the Jordan to the Mediterranean. The question is how much and where.

I did not mean to come off as bigoted by parenthetically noting the religiosity of most of the Jews living in SheikhJarrah/ Shim'on Hatzadik. I just thought it was interesting to note which parts of Israeli society are taking advantage of the eviction of Arabs from those neighborhoods. More important, I don't think most of those Jews are actually descendants of Jews who originally lived in that neighborhood. Where are their grandparents' deeds? Rather, I suspect that most of them just want to maintain a Jewish presence in as much of Jerusalem as possible. Once again, if you would like Jews to return to all places where Jews once lived in the West Bank, then you also must allow Palestinians to return to those towns in Israel where their ancestors once lived. But that is impractical and counterproductive to achieving peace.

Obama's position is nothing new for an American president. All the negotiations under Clinton and Bush Jr. were held under the implicit assumption that the state of Palestine would include over 90% of the West Bank. Many of those negotiations fell apart over how much and which parts Israel would be allowed to annex. Obama called for similar parameters for renewed negotiations. I guess this shocked people because he made explicit what no previous president had. My assumptions about land swaps are the same as Obama's and Netanyahu's. Yes, even Netanyahu supports the creation of Palestine through land swaps. Granted, he takes a tough position on Jerusalem; and he won't say out loud where Palestine will be. But it's obvious that it would be in most of what is now the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has been willing to swap land. One of the reasons why the Olmert-Abbas talks fell apart was that they couldn't agree on how much of the West Bank would be annexed to Israel and how much would be part of Palestine. I agree it is not right that the PA wishes to bar Jews from visiting the Kotel. But it is important to note that Obama did not mention Jerusalem in his outline for peace negotiations. Again, what he said was unoriginal. (It should be noted that Obama came out strongly against the Palestinian quest for statehood in the UN and against any role for Hamas in the negotiations.) So, once again, 500,000 Jews would not be expelled from the West Bank, as the vast majority of those Jews would remain in their homes under agreed-upon land swaps.

I completely agree with your assessment of Palestinian war atrocities, and in general I think that Palestinian violence is far worse than most Israeli human-rights violations. But there *are* Israeli human-rights violations. It pains me to hear about settler violence, but it does exist and is not uncommon. Worse, the IDF has oftentimes looked the other way and not gone after the perpetrators. As for B'Tselem and "other left-wing NGOs," do you not hold with their claims because you don't like the claims? Because the claims are factually inaccurate? Or because the claims are coming from left-wing organizations? Vandalism does not count as a human-rights violation, but such acts do occur and should perhaps give us pause, making us think about the dangerous consequences of having settlers live in a state of Palestine.

(On a side note, the Torah is not a legal document and I pity those who view it as such. But that, as you might say, is for a different conversation.)

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Inheriting Abraham