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West Bank settlement (archives) Photo: EPA
West Bank settlement (archives) Photo: EPA
 
 

Settlers and human rights

Op-ed: West Bank Jews claim too often and too loudly that their rights are grounded on scriptures

Rafael Castro
Published: 12.23.12, 11:02 / Israel Opinion

The case for Jews to reside in Judea and Samaria is solid. It is regrettable the world has yet to realize this. The blame must not be laid on global anti-Semitism or ignorance about the roots of the Israeli-Arab conflict, but mainly on the way Jewish rights have been justified to date.

 

Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria claim too often and too loudly that their rights are grounded on scriptures. This argument, legitimate as it may be to a religious Zionist or Evangelical public, is a losing argument when addressed to everyone else: It is a losing argument when presented to Muslims who can quote Islamic jurisprudence to corroborate their claims over the whole of Eretz Yisrael. It is a losing argument with secular Jews and Christians, who believe that the interpretation of international law should not be conditioned by the Bible. It is even a losing argument among those ultra-orthodox Jews who believe that the Talmud disavows contemporary Jewish claims in the Holy Land.

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Given these precedents, is it really surprising that the White House, the European Union and the United Nations refuse to acknowledge the rights of Jews to reside in the West Bank? Couching the case for Jews to reside in Judea and Samaria in religious language has done incalculable damage to a cause which is primarily one of historical and human rights.

 

We will not dwell on Jewish historical rights over Judea and Samaria. These have been elucidated elsewhere and are well-known to most readers. It is high-time to discuss the rights of Jews to reside in the West Bank in terms of human rights. Is this a joke? To those who conflate human rights with the goals of the Palestinian liberation movement, probably. But let us take these peace activists to task: If Jews were once again denied the right to reside in England or Spain these pacifists would be appalled. At the same time these pacifists deny analogous rights to Jews who have for decades resided peacefully in West Bank towns like Efrat and Ariel.

 

Lofty rhetoric. Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AFP)
Lofty rhetoric. Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AFP)

 

Let us believe that they genuinely support Jews' right to live in peace and security in the West. Yet by denying similar rights to Jews in the Middle East these pacifists implicitly deny universal human rights standards. Misguided cultural relativism pushes them to hold the West - and Israel - accountable to a sterling standard while excusing members of non-Western cultures for such immoral acts as bombing civilians, preaching violence in the name of God and planning the mass expulsion of religious minorities.

 

Israel should perhaps forgive Western pacifists for their naïveté. But can it condone the hypocrisy of the Arab leadership? If Abbas and the Palestinian Authority genuinely desired peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, they would invite the Jewish residents of the West Bank to apply for citizenship in a future Palestinian state. To accept Jewish neighbors on their soil would be the best way to prove that a future Palestinian state would be a tolerant multi-religious and multiethnic society. It would also be the best way to reassure Israelis that a Palestinian state would be a peaceful neighbor. Nevertheless, Palestinian leaders openly vaunt their determination to cleanse all Jews from the West Bank.

 

The irony cannot be missed that Abbas, for all his lofty rhetoric about democracy and human rights, strives to establish an ethnically pure Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

The court of world history will praise Nelson Mandela for reassuring whites that a post-apartheid South Africa would not curtail their civil and property rights. There is no reason for the international community not to demand the same assurances from the Palestinian leadership with regards to Jews. These assurances would demonstrate that Palestinians genuinely respect the rights of minorities and that they are ready to avoid the mistakes of independence movements elsewhere in the Arab world.

 

As long as the Palestinian leadership does not give Jews assurances analogous to those given by Nelson Mandela, there is every reason to believe that the profligate use of the word "peace" by Abbas is a mantra devoid of all substance and honesty. Under these circumstances a Palestinian state should not be established.

 

It is the right and the duty of Israel's government to justify its reticence towards the establishment of a Palestinian state on human rights grounds. It is respect for universal principles of human rights - not the sacrifice of human beings to placate Islamism and Arab nationalism - that will bring genuine peace to the Middle East. Israel should remind the world about this truth.

 

 

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