By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
(The authors are members of the board of the Religious Zionists of America.)
Another illegal settlement has arisen in the Judea-Samaria (West Bank) territories, the New York Times reports. Surely there will soon be an expression of “deep concern” from the Obama administration, a furious resolution from the United Nations Security Council, and a letter from twelve angry congressmen mobilized by J Street.
Oh, wait. It’s not a Jewish settlement — it’s an Arab settlement. Cancel the outrage!
A feature article in the New York Times on August 31 reports that the Palestinian Authority is building a new settlement called Rawabi. The first 600 apartments are already complete, out of a projected 6,000 units that will house an estimated 40,000 people.
While Jewish communities in the same area, with even larger populations, are called “settlements” by the Times and the rest of the world news media, Rawabi is for some reason characterized as a “town” and a “city.”
Why is one man’s community called a “settlement” and another’s a “town” ?
Because a “settlement” sounds like a foreign implant — something that has no business being there. A “town” sounds normal and natural. Supporters of the Palestinian cause –whether in the news media, the State Department, or misnamed “peace” groups– want to award Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Arabs. They want everyone to recognize those territories to be “Palestinian.”
The problem they face is that there are three significant obstacles to calling the territories “Palestinian”: international law, history, and a text of religious history called the Bible.
According to international law, Jews have at least as much right as Arabs to build towns in Judea and Samaria. All of the documents related to the governing of those territories throughout the past century — the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate, and so on–specifically endorse the right of Jews to build there. The territories have never been part of a “Palestinian” state which made them legally off-limits to Jews.
And according to the historical record, Judea and Samaria belong to the Jews. That’s why they have been called “Judea and Samaria” since ancient times. The Jews had a sovereign state there for nearly a thousand years, then maintained a continuous presence for the past 3,000 years. Arab roots in the area are remarkably shallow: the vast majority of the Arab residents are the children or grandchildren of migrants from Arab countries who immigrated when the Jews began developing the land in the 1920s and 1930s. The local Arabs traditionally called themselves “southern Syrians” and never claimed any separate “Palestinian” identity until they began using it as a propaganda weapon against Israel in the 1960s.
Tens of millions of Bible believing Christians in America, and many more around the world, join millions of Jews in acknowledging that the Bible repeatedly and unambiguously refers to Judea and Samaria as the heart of the Jewish national homeland. As birth certificates go, that’s pretty strong.
That’s a lot for proponents of the Palestinian cause to overcome. Some of them have used terrorism to try to intimidate Israel into withdrawing. Some have used threats of boycotts and international isolation to frighten the Israeli public and its Diaspora supporters.
And some use the weapon of language to subtly wage war, wielding labels and slogans and assumptions as rhetorical swords to slash their opponents. Exhibit A: The illegal settlement of Rawabi.