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The “Settlements” Obsession

by Prof. Phyllis Chesler

Why Are “Settlements” Such An American Ivy League Obsession? Why is the dismal lack of human rights in Moslem countries less important?

I recently spoke at length about Islamic gender and religious apartheid in the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world. This was, perhaps
The unending tragedy of the Middle East is the refusal of the Arab leadership to accept a pre-state and post-state Jewish presence; to engage in business and to trade peacefully, create lasting bonds of peace—precisely what the earliest Zionist pioneers envisioned…
, the first time that anyone had ever focused on this subject at this distinguished Ivy League university.

I described both the level of poverty and illiteracy in the Arab and Muslim world and the absence of a free press, independent judiciary, human rights, and of the increasingly savage persecution of women, infidels, dissidents and homosexuals; about the prisons teeming with thousands of Muslim political prisoners who had been kidnapped and were now being tortured for “thought crimes.”

I described a culture in which women were arrested, whipped, gang-raped, and then either hung or stoned to death for alleging rape or for daring to leave dangerously abusive husbands; a culture that has spawned death-eating terrorists who have exposed Muslim and Arab civilians to permanent, bloody danger; and about how these cunning, brazen jihadists have now expanded their global reach and unleashed their bombs and suicide killers against the entire world.

And then I committed a serious “thought crime” of my own.

I argued that, in effect, the demonization of Israel by the media, by governments, international bodies, human rights organizations, and university professors allowed the world to self-righteously bypass, minimize, avoid, utterly disappear Muslim-on-Muslim and Muslim-on-infidel tyranny and torture. Scapegoating Israel is what focuses attention away from the larger suffering in the Middle East and in the Muslim world in general.

And then a young, well-spoken, earnest, curly-headed college student asked this question: “You are talking about diverting attention away from the real issues, right? But, if we focus on the absence of freedom or the absence of women’s rights in the Middle East won’t that divert our attention away from the Settlement issue?”

For a moment, even I was startled. This may have been the first time this student had ever heard my point of view and yet he immediately subjected it to his ruling obsession, his guiding paradigm. To him, and to so many others like him, when it comes to the Middle East there is no greater issue than that of the “settlements.”

And so I told him that whatever he or I think about “settlements” or “communities” that what happens in Israel concerning this matter does not affect the entire world and is not coming America’s way in the form of jihad. The settlement of the “settlement” issue will not open a single jail cell in Egypt, Yemen, Iran, or the disputed Palestinian…territories—dare I say the Palestinian “settlements”?

He was not moved. He had come to ask—or was honestly driven to ask—this single question. His young mind was not open to a different perspective, not even for an hour. Rather, whatever he heard had to be immediately subjected to how it might affect the issue of the Israeli “settlements.”

Yes, the young man also looked Jewish.

The “settlements” continued to follow me. Two days later, my synagogue hosted Dr. Rafaela Segal, the assistant mayor of Kedumim, as its speaker. She was passionate, eloquent, enthusiastic, and spoke with enormous dignity. Segal is also an eye doctor and works at a hospital and clinic—and she is both a mother and a grandmother. Whether one agrees with Israel’s “settlement” policy or not, here is a woman whose warmth and idealism cannot be questioned.

Kedumim was founded in 1975 by a group of determined pioneers. Now, 5,000 people call Kedumim home. There are twelve neighborhoods in Kedumim spread across many hilltops and valleys. These 5,000 pioneers have built and now run nurseries, elementary schools, religious schools, high schools, schools for immigrant and special-needs children, a music school, a municipal library, a museum, and an institute for Holocaust studies. (Do only Jews do these things? As they did in the European ghettos under Hitler and even in certain concentration camps?) Due to Kedumim’s location, and to an advanced military detection system, resident IDF soldiers have been able to stop terrorists who were coming from afar to attack Netanya and Kfar Saba.

I am sure that young Ivy League student would seize upon this information. Their location is in the heart of Palestinian territory, home to the “indigenous” peoples of the region—who are never conceived of as the Biblical-era Jews who were driven out many times and who have always returned. “Indigenous” only applies to Arabs, those who formerly thought of themselves as citizens or residents of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq.

Where is Kedumim? Is it really far away from the “real” Israel?

Kedumim is within easy commuting distance to all the major Israeli cities: 30 minutes to Petach Tikvah, 50 minutes to Tel Aviv, 20 minutes to Kfar Saba, 60 minutes to both Haifa and Tel Aviv.

In my view, the unending tragedy of the Middle East is the refusal of the Arab leadership to accept a pre-state and post-state Jewish presence; to engage in business and to trade peacefully, create lasting bonds of peace—precisely what the earliest Zionist pioneers envisioned—a vision shared by many pre-politicized Arab civilians on the ground. Instead, the corrupt and tyrannical Arab leadership, to the detriment of their own people, chose to go to war against the Jews. The “catastrophe” was, to a large extent, “self-inflicted.” Read Dr. Ephraim Karsh’s excellent new book Palestine Betrayed on this subject.

Read it—and weep for how Arab and Palestinian leaders have betrayed their own people and in so doing have launched a permanent war against the Jews.

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