The Moral and Intellectual Corruption of Settler Ideology

Last week, I posted on the subject of the West Bank's two-tiered justice system, dredging up something I had written several years ago but still believe adamantly: "Inside the borders of Israel proper, Arabs and Jews are judged by the same set of laws in the same courtrooms; across the Green Line, Jews live under Israeli civil law as well, but their Arab neighbors -- people who live, in some cases, just yards away -- fall under a different, and substantially undemocratic, set of laws, administered by the Israeli Army."

This elicited a response from Yisrael Medad, a prominent settler, who wrote on his blog the following:

People, like Jeffrey Goldberg, complain of a two-tiered justice system on the West Bank.
What "two-tiered"?

Let's get this straight: the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria are not citizens of Israel.  So, they can't vote. Just like an Israeli living in the United States but who is not a citizen cannot vote. Arabs of the new Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, if they opted for an Israeli ID, can vote in the city's municipal elections.

Otherwise, they have a democratic system in place.  And they can enjoy justice.

They can appeal, still, to the High Court of Justice.  The police, firemen and Hadassah Hospital are their's. As long as no peace treaty has been fully worked out, and their terror continues, and their incitement continues, and their educational system is hateful, among other negatives, why shouldn't there be a two-tiered system?

Let's run through this quickly. First, "Arabs living in Judea and Samaria are not citizens of Israel. So, they can't vote." Imagine the following sentence, justifying apartheid: "Blacks in South Africa are black. Therefore, they can't vote." How is this an argument and not a tautology? Obviously (or not obviously, to some people) this is the crux of the situation -- Arabs on the West Bank are denied voting rights in Israel, and are also denied the right to separate completely from Israel. (Their leaders haven't helped the situation, but the Israelis have not helped much either.) A more accurate, if still tautological, statement would have read: "Israel will not enfranchise Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. Therefore, they are disenfranchised."

Next: "Just like an Israeli living in the United States but who is not a citizen cannot vote." Is this what passes for a deep thought among the intellectual leaders of the settlement movement? There's one crucial difference between an Israeli immigrant in America and a Palestinian on the West Bank: The Israeli immigrant in America voluntarily moved to America. The Arab on the West Bank is from the West Bank. He didn't move to Israel, Israel moved to him.

Of course, the occupation of the West Bank was justified militarily, after Jordan used it to launch an attack on Israel in 1967. But that doesn't change the basic fact, known to all, that Arabs happened to be living on the West Bank when Israel arrived. They are not immigrants to the West Bank. They are native to the West Bank.

As for the rest of Medad's post, I simply don't know if he sincerely believes that Arabs on the West Bank have equivalent legal rights before Israel's High Court, or equal access to Israeli services, or if he knows he's pulling our legs.

One of the most dispiriting aspects of the Middle East conflict is the inability of both sides to see that their enemy also has legitimate claims to the territory in dispute. Palestinian rejection of the right of Jews to live in their ancient homeland is absurd and immoral. But so is the notion that Palestinians on the West Bank are somehow immigrants, and should be punished as immigrants until they agree to enjoy their punishment.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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