Monday, January 26, 2009

The PR War – Blaming the Settlers

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Last night on the CBS program 60 Minutes there was what can only be described as an abomination. Reporter Bob Simon who Jewish and has lived in Israel did a hatchet job on the State of Israel. He basically blamed all of Israel’s problems on Jewish settlers. No context. No other issues were brought up that might be important factors impacting on the situation there. It was all about the settlers. It’s completely their fault.

The strong implication was that if not for them all would be just fine and dandy. We would now have a two state solution - Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and harmony. Not one word about Islamism, Iran, Hezbollah or Hamas and their uncompromising philosophy of total rejection of any Jewish State… or their determination to fight to the finish to see that happen …or the fact that the vast majority of even peaceful Palestinians are sympathetic with them.

The only problem according to Mr. Simon is the religious fanaticism of the settlers. Nothing about the fanaticism of religious Islamists who are far more dangerous to world peace and a far greater impediment to an Israeli Palestinian peace than even the most rabidly fanatic settler! You wouldn’t even know they existed watching this program!

There was an interview with Daniella Weiss the Mayor of a large settlement. This did not help matters. It just reinforced the view that fanatic Jewish settlers are the sole cause of the problem. The impression left was that if only Israel would do something about these people we would have ‘peace in our time’.

What made matters worse was an irrelevant portion of this program that showed Israeli soldiers commandeering the homes of innocent Palestinian families on the West Bank for practically no reason. The Arabs were made to look like victims of a brutal army doing it to intimidate and torture them. Again - no context. No explanation was even attempted. As if Israel didn’t have any valid reason to do that. It evoked comparisons to the Holocaust - with the Palestinians playing the victimized Jew and Israeli soldiers as the Nazi tormentor.

This is the face of Evil. It is also the face of a naïve leftist Jew who thinks that if only we give up the West Bank the Arabs will stop hating us. It is as though this man has absolutely no Jewish soul despite the fact that he was born Jewish. Does he think that if the settlers just leave their West Bank settlements that the Islamists will beat their rockets into plowshares? That Israel will finally flourish as never before because the Palestinians will now have their own state.

Has he not learned anything from Gaza? That was supposed to be the prototype of the Palestinian State. These were the hopes then. We hoped that giving them some land would enable them to show their peaceful intentions and sincerity in building a State.

What was their response? Plowshares? No. It was Rockets, Rockets, and more Rockets. It was kidnapping and suicide bombing attempts - most of which were foiled by Israel. They have put all their resources into killing as many Jews as they could. The welfare of any fledgling State they could have built fell by the wayside. And Israel’s security needs exacerbated their situation. Of course they blamed it all on Israel. And the world community completely bought into that right along with the Bob Simons of the world. To these people it is all about Israel. Peace will come if Israel gives up the West Bank. Right. And Hamas won’t take that over like they did Gaza. And I have a bridge to sell you.

But I do not give settlers like Daniella Weiss a pass here either. Just because settlers like her are being completely blamed for all the problems in the Middle East does not mean that they aren’t a problem. The philosophy of the settler movement is not about security. It is about Yishuv Ha’aretz -settling Eretz Yisroel. That is an important Mitzvah. But it is not the only Mitzvah. There are other considerations like Pikuach Nefesh. The Torah values the saving of lives more than any other Mitzvah in the Torah. There are only three Mitzvos worthy of sacrificing one’s life. Building settlements is not one of them.

It is true that most Palestinians hate us anyway. But do we have to taunt them? Is settling the West Bank worth the increased enmity? Do we have to pour gasoline on a fire? Is it OK to keep settling Eretz Yisroel if it increases the anger of the Arabs and incites them to increase atrocities against us?

Settlers like Daniella are not in a position to dictate terms to the world. But they think God is on their side. So they go about building settlements and taunting indigenous Arabs.

One may ask, how can I be so upset at Bob Simon’s treatment of the settlers and at the same time fault them for what they are doing? If we can’t give Palestinians the West Bank, why shouldn’t we settle it?

Settlement theology when put into action generates tremendous hatred from the Arabs. They have the same fervor for the land as we do. The more religious they are, the more devoted they are to the cause – to the point of Mesiras Nefesh. They will give up their lives for their cause of an Islamist Land of Palestine. The settler will do that too. But the Islamists have the additional ‘advantage’ of valuing death more than we value life.

Let me make one thing clear. We should not be giving any land to the Palestinians now. But we should not be allowing settlers to taunt Palestinians with their presence either. Except for major developments on border areas like Beitar an Kiryat Sefer, settlements should be replaced by military bases that should be made permanent - as long as there is any possibility of Arab terror in any form against anyone in any part of Israel.

We need to stop giving the world an issue. The most important thing Israel needs to do right now is to provide security for its people. It is counter-productive to settle West Bank for theological reasons.

Like it or not - short of the coming of the Messiah - a real peace in the Middle East will very likely involve some sort of Palestinian State. That will happen if there is ever a complete cessation of violence on their part. Whether that is possible remains to be seen. I have my doubts. But we have to show the world we are serious about it and stop giving them an issue. The sooner we all realize that the better off we will be.