Israeli Settlements Doom Two-State Solution
The occupied West Bank recently witnessed the biggest land grab in its 30-year history when Israel seized 990 acres belonging to five Palestinian villages to build 5,000 new housing units. Writing in Ha’aretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, journalist Amira Hess called this latest annexation nothing less than state-mandated “armed robbery.”
It might surprise some readers to learn that under Israel’s Law of Return (1953), my American-born, secular Jewish daughter and my Jewish grandson are welcome – just as any person with a Jewish mother – to settle in the West Bank. In fact, were they to touch down at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv tomorrow, they’d be granted almost immediate citizenship. And under a plethora of laws, regulations, and practices, they’d enjoy more rights and benefits than Palestinian-Arabs with the bad luck to be born in Israel.
They would be joining the migration called “making aliyah,” roughly translated from Hebrew as “movin’ on up” to the West Bank. Settlers are enticed by subsidized four-bedroom houses at $200,000, twice the cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Tel Aviv, complete with gardens, first-rate schools, swimming pools, tax breaks and scenic views. Only the morally squeamish are on stolen land. Moreover, the 700,000 Palestinians (and their descendants), expelled by pre-state Jewish terrorist groups like the Stern Gang and the Irgun, can never return to their homes.
Both Labor and Likud, the major Israeli political formations, have followed a policy of building settlements, of “creating facts on the ground” while simultaneously engaging in the “peace process.” Eventually the settlers would be too numerous and entrenched to be dislodged. When I toured the West Bank in 1981, there were 12,000 Jewish settlers. Today, they number some 350,000 with another 250,000 in East Jerusalem. The government has achieved its objective and Monty Python’s parrot stands a better chance at resuscitation than a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Correspondingly, Israel has abandoned any pretense about being “the sole democracy in the Middle East,” as it becomes an openly racist, unapologetic apartheid state. As Middle East scholar Ben White reminds us, “Jewish and a democracy” is an oxymoron and classic Orwellian double-think. According to several close observers, Israel now resembles a theocracy or “ethnocracy” with a democratic façade. The fact that Arab citizens (18 percent of the population) can vote or be elected to the Knesset is a sham because in reality they are powerless. In sum, we may be seeing the culmination of Israel’s original settler-colonial relationship with the Palestinian people.
Can anything be done? Rabbi Henry Siegman, former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress and once passionate Zionist, believes the Palestinian struggle for statehood is “the mirror image of the Zionists” who founded their own state in 1948. In a recent interview for Democracy Now!, Rabbi Siegman asserts that Israel has undermined the common bonds and values that once united our two nations. In a final effort to alter their behavior, he advises the U.S. to tell Israel, “We cannot be seen as aiding and abetting this oppression and permanent disenfranchisement of an entire people. So, you’re on your own.”
This is wise counsel because continued U.S. military, diplomatic and financial support for Israel’s domestic and foreign policies does not serve the interests of the overwhelming majority of American citizens. For our own sake—and Israel’s – we must cease being its patron and enabler.