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The ‘settlements’ issue

Joseph Farah World Net Daily December 12, 2002

Once again, we’re hearing that awful word again in the context of the Middle East debate.

“Settlements.”

That’s
what the conflict is all about, we’re being told. That’s why the Arabs are
mad at the Israelis. That’s the root of the violence, the terrorism, the
hatred. U.S.
Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer raised the ugly specter of “settlement”
recently in a speech last week. Kurtzer, the former ambassador to Egypt and
one of the architects of the failed peace process, once again blamed Israel
as an obstacle to peace. “Israeli
settlement activity cripples chances for real peace,” he said. He also underlined
with emphasis and a pregnant pause this conclusion: “Settlement activity
must stop.” What about these “settlements”? What are they? Why are they bad? Why should they be stopped?

I
think most Americans and most non-Israelis draw certain mental pictures when
they hear this term. I know I did before I began visiting “settlements” in
Israel. I discovered they were not armed camps. They were not frontier outposts
in alien territory. They were not fortresses built to grab more land for
Jews. No. Much to my surprise, I found these “settlements” to be nothing
more than communities – peaceful Jewish communities that don’t interfere
with nor abrogate anyone else’s rights. They reminded me of suburban developments
in Southern California more than threats to peace. The
word “settlement” itself is loaded. Who is a “settler” in the Mideast? According
to the Arabs, only Jews are “settlers.” But that simply is not the case.

Arafat
himself was born in Egypt. He later moved to Jerusalem. If, at the moment,
he is living in the West Bank, he is a “settler” there, not a native. Indeed,
most of the Arabs living within the borders of Israel today have come from
some other Arab country at some time in their life. They are all “settlers.”

For
instance, just since the beginning of the Oslo Accords, hundreds of thousands
of Arabs have entered the West Bank or Gaza – and never left. They have come
from Jordan, Egypt and, indirectly, from every other Arab country you can
name – and many non-Arab countries as well. These surely aren’t “Palestinians.”

Since
1967, the Arabs have built 261 settlements in the West Bank. We don’t hear
much about those settlements. We hear instead about the number of Jewish
settlements that have been created. We hear how destabilizing they are –
how provocative they are. Yet, by comparison, only 144 Jewish settlements
have been built since 1967 – including those surrounding Jerusalem, in the
West Bank and in Gaza. Why is it that only Jewish construction is destabilizing?

The
Arab “settlement” activity is not new. This has always been the case. Arabs
have been flocking to Israel ever since it was created – and even before,
coinciding with the wave of Jewish immigration into Palestine prior to 1948.

And
that raises a question I never hear anyone ask: If Israel’s policies make
life so intolerable for Arabs, why do they continue to flock to the Jewish
state? Why aren’t they leaving in droves if conditions are as bad as they
say? The
truth? There is more freedom under Israeli rule than there is in any Arab
country. If you’re a headstrong Arab, bent on protest, this is the place
to be. Don’t try throwing stones at Syrian police. You won’t live long. Don’t
try publishing anti-kingdom newspapers in Saudi Arabia. You won’t live long.
Don’t try fomenting revolutionary jihadism in Egypt. You won’t live long.

So,
sooner or later, those who are determined to protest, the professional agitators,
the future Arafats of the Arab world all come to Israel. The Arab world is
happy to be rid of them. This exodus serves two purposes – limiting the threat
to Arab regimes and fanning the uniting flames of anti-Israel hatred. It’s
a population safety valve the totalitarian Arab world just loves. Prior
to 1900, the entire region was a barren wasteland with low populations of
Jews, Muslims and Christians. No one had much interest in the Holy Land,
as Mark Twain pointed out in his own travels to the area – until the Jews
began to return. Then the economic activity began. The jobs were created. The opportunities appeared. And then the Arabs came.

The
“settlement” issue is a canard. It’s a propaganda ploy to suggest that only
Jews are newcomers to the region. The truth is there are lots of “settlers”
and would-be “settlers” in the area – including Arafat and his friends. By
the way, under the Oslo Accords, there are no restrictions whatsoever on
Israeli construction in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
These “settlements” are perfectly legal. And I, for one, can see no legitimate
reason for them to stop.

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