Pinchas Wallerstein
Photo: Gil Yohanan
What about the Arabs?
If we pay settlers to leave their homes, why not do the same with Israeli Arabs?

I hear the words uttered by leftists who try hard to pass the new “evacuation-compensation” law, and I’m truly touched. There is so much humane concern in their words; seems they are overcome by such deep love for the settlers and such great concern for their fate.


I always hoped to see the day where all political walls come down in the face of humanitarian obligations that are supposed to enjoy consensus. With great pain I saw how the terrible daily suffering of residents uprooted from Gush Katif and northern Samaria only touches one camp within our political spectrum. For two and half years now, most of these evacuees have no home or work and are facing a government policy of foot-dragging, exploitation and humiliation, while only their rightist supporters feel their pain.


Yet there comes the “evacuation-compensation” bill and brings the walls down. I have no doubt that those who feel such deep sense of obligation to the fate of residents who may find themselves without a home are also working on a law that would ameliorate the terrible injustice suffered by those expelled from northern Samaria and Gush Katif. Those include, by the way, residents who rushed to secure their future and signed agreements with authorities well in advance, as well as those who were unable to bend the principles they believed in and cooperate with the folly of expulsion in exchange for more compensation.


Therefore, I’m quite touched, and I’m in favor of the bill. Yes, you may be surprised, but what not? Yet if this idea is so humanitarian and so just, let’s also apply it to Arabs in the Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm and to Galilee Arabs. If we’re going with this bill, then let’s offer them compensation for their apartment if they move to one of the Arab countries, where they will be able to celebrate their national identity. Why not?


Or maybe suddenly this bill sounds a bit less like a moral and just legislation and more like a political-racist law?


‘We have not taken foreign land’

Those who initiated the bill like to describe the anxiety and distress of Yesha leaders in the face of what they refer to as “ideological distress.” Indeed, I am concerned, but not in the face of ideological distress. We see 10 interested parties for every house that becomes available in Judea and Samaria, because for years now the Israeli government has been chocking us and not allowing us to build more.


Yes, I’m also concerned when I see the fence being erected in the heart of my homeland and dividing the Land of Israel into two. Yet during Hanukah, while I look out my window at the mountains where the Maccabees fought against the Greeks, I cannot but recall the words of Shimon, the son of Matitiyahu, who told Antiochus something that is so relevant today as well: “We have neither taken foreign land nor seized foreign property, but only the inheritance of our forefathers, which at one time had been unjustly taken by our enemies. Now that we have the opportunity, we are firmly holding the inheritance of our forefathers.”


The Greeks came and left, Hellenists came and disappeared, and destructive ideas disconnected from the roots of the Jewish people emerged and dissipated. Those who think they can sever the deep ties between the Jewish people and the historical land of its forefathers to which we returned followings thousands of years in exile, in exchange for some kind of compensation law, is merely delusional.


Pinchas Wallerstein is the former chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council in Judea and Samaria


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