The Jerusalem Post of June, 13 2001
FREEZE ARAB SETTLEMENTS
By Michael Freund
Since Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat announced his acceptance of a cease-fire last week, over 40 mortar shells have been fired at Jewish communities in Gaza, several Israelis have been injured in shooting attacks in Judea and Samaria, and five-month-old Yehuda Shoham died after being assaulted by Palestinian stone-throwers near Shiloh.
Perhaps someone should point out to the Palestinian leader that the Mitchell report calls for a "cease-fire," not a "please fire." It may just be an issue of semantics, but the difference between the two is fairly significant.
While the Palestinian drumbeat of war grows frighteningly louder, the voices emanating from Israel's extreme Left have sadly grown shriller. Rather than placing the blame for the current violence on Arafat and his cohorts, where it so obviously belongs, Israel's oracles of liberalism have instead chosen to fire salvo after salvo of verbal mortar shells at the Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Take, for example, what Ha'aretz columnist Hannah Kim wrote on June 6: "The murder of a settler over the Green Line is not the same as a murder inside Israel proper." While Kim is obviously correct that a geographical difference exists between an event occurring in location X and one in location Y, she is disgracefully wrong in suggesting that Jewish blood in Herzliya is somehow redder than Jewish blood in Hebron. Such statements are not only repulsive, but they are indicative of a condescending, elitist view towards Jews of the territories.
Unfortunately, examples of such intolerance abound. Last week, Army Radio reported that a complaint had been filed with the Second Television Authority against journalist Emmanuel Rozen, who said in a June 1 broadcast that, "Israeli soldiers will occasionally be asked to pay with their lives so that the settlers can be more secure." Imagine that. Those pesky settlers have the nerve to expect that their own government should protect them. Who do they think they are - citizens?
Other journalists seem to have no qualms about pinning broad labels and stereotypes on the Jews of the territories. On June 10, Ha'aretz columnist Doron Rosenblum penned a vicious harangue against the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, calling them "an overbearing fanatic minority." How Rosenblum can toss such nasty generalizations at a population of 200,000 people that includes secular, religious and Haredi Jews, native-born Israelis as well as American, French, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, is nothing short of astonishing.
But what is far easier to grasp is the sad fact that some of Israel's journalists are consumed with hate for the Jews of the territories. Though they proudly raise the banner of Western liberal values and bemoan the lack of tolerance in Israeli society, it is they who are perhaps the most vocal practitioners of division and discord.
Nowhere is the hypocrisy of the Left more apparent than in their call for a complete freeze on construction in Jewish settlements, which, they assert, changes the status quo on the ground in favor of Israel. But hiding behind this legalistic argument is a more sinister double standard, because how often have you heard the Left say that building in Arab settlements should be frozen as well? If a Jew in Kedumim adding a toilet to his home constitutes a change in the status quo, then why doesn't an Arab adding a toilet in Kalkilya have the same effect? After all, a flush is a flush, is it not?
The Palestinians have erected thousands of illegal structures throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza, including on state land owned by Israel. Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem have trampled on the law at will, building illegal structures at a frenzied pace in recent years. All of this activity is designed to create facts on the ground and tilt the status quo in favor of the Palestinians. Curiously enough, the Left is silent on this issue.
What some Israelis fail to recognize is that you cannot talk peace with the Palestinians and hate with the settlers, and still think of yourself as an open-minded and tolerant person. It is one thing to disagree with the Jews of the territories, but it is quite another to demonize them and treat them as second-class citizens.
If the Left wishes to bar the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Gaza from building, then it only seems fair to apply the same standard to their Arab neighbors too. Surely what is good for Moishe is equally applicable to Mussa. Hence, the time has come to freeze Arab settlements as well, and to stop discriminating against the Jews. After all, isn't that what liberalism is truly all about?
(c) Jerusalem Post
(The writer served as deputy director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office from 1996 to 1999.)