Friday, June 5, 2009

On Settlement

The BBC Monitor publishes a digest of Israeli editorial reactions to President Obama's Cairo speech. I was most struck by this comment by settler Benny Katzover, published in Ma'ariv:
Obama reiterated his wish to establish two states for two peoples. Balance and equality between Jews and Arabs as it were. But Obama "forgot" that in the Jewish state there are more than a million [Israeli] Arabs who enjoy democratic rights unknown to their brothers in Arab countries. No one stops them from building… But for us Jews in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] it is forbidden to live, build or to buy land. Obama, who is supposed to be sensitive to racism, has turned himself into a racist.
I'd never really thought about that, but if an Israeli citizen of Arab ancestry were to buy land and build his home in the West Bank, nobody would think twice. But when a Israeli citizen of Jewish ancestry does the same, he is "expanding the settlements" and it is a source of international condemnation and handwringing. Someone explain to me why Katzover is wrong, how this is something other than rank racism? Does it bother anyone else that we've somehow all accepted the premise that a Palestinian state must rightly be judenrein?

4 comments:

Shane said...

I wish I knew more about what it takes to become a citizen of Israel. From what I understand, any Jewish person is allowed to emigrate to Israel and claim citizenship rapidly. This is due to the unusual circumstances leading to the creation of the modern Israeli state.

So what now? We're comfortable with Israeli policies that would never pass 1st Amendment review in the U.S., but the consequence is that we've essentially forced ourselves to acknowledge that the 2 state solution is better.

In any case, Katzover is wrong in his implicit reasoning that emphasizes Israel's behavior towards its own Arab citizens. We Israel critics are far more concerned with their treatment of noncitizens. And in fact, the criticism of expanded settlement building is that it is unproductive in the peace efforts and that it hurts the state of Israel's bargaining position at the table.

Evan said...

Expedited citizenship for Jews does strike me as an issue as well, but Germany has the same practice for ethnic German immigrants, and I understand it's pretty standard among the other European nation-states, strange as it is from an Anglo-American worldview. And as a practical matter, without Jewish immigration the whole point would be moot, as demographics would quickly ensure the Arab vision of a one-state solution. The whole issue cuts down to core questions of what it means to be a nation-state and where such a construct draws its legitimacy. If there were easy answers we wouldn't still be talking about it 60 years on.

"the criticism of expanded settlement building is that it is unproductive in the peace efforts and that it hurts the state of Israel's bargaining position at the table."

Oh, without a doubt. But can we at least acknowledge the reason that it undermines the peace effort is the blatantly racist demand of Palestinians to live in a Jew-free territory?

Shane said...

Yeah, I didn't mean to downplay that - I will unequivocally state that Palestinian attitudes and actions (of both the leadership and the ordinary people) deserves a far larger share of the blame for the violence in Israel.

However, the reason why I focus more criticism on Israel is because I feel like they should know better. If my younger brother were to get drawn into a fight, I may still criticize him for improper behavior.

I would have preferred to see a one-state solution with a secular government and equal rights extended to all ethnic and religious backgrounds, but then again, I would have preferred a talking robot who fetches my coffee, too.

Evan said...

And it's only right to note that some number (I don't know if it's even possible to know how representative these actions are) of West Bank Jewish settlers do live up to the worst stereotypes.

Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine comments on the attacks on Palestinians by settlers upset at Netanyahu's compromise position: "Assuming the truth of these reports, I am not be able to distinguish the settlers' actions from terrorism." Sigh. I told y'all this was complicated.