Scapegoating the "Settlers" (619)

By Shalom Freedman


There were no settlers in Judea and Samaria and Gaza in 1967. There were none in 1956. Those Jews who lived there in 1947 and 1948, and were murdered or driven out by the Arabs, were not called “settlers”, but rather Jews of Palestine living in Eretz Yisrael. Yet, even without the settlers, the Arabs tried to destroy the Jewish presence in the Holy Land, managed to kill Jews in whatever cruel ways they could. This is also true in the 1920s and 1930s. It did not take settlers to ‘create a quarrel’ between the Jews and their Arab neighbors. And it did not take settlers to induce the Arabs to try to make all of Israel/Palestine Judenrein.


The settlers are not now, and have never been the real cause of Arab hostility to Israel, unless, that is, you regard every Jew in the Holy Land as a settler. In that case, it really is the settlers with whom the Arabs are not willing to live in peace, at all.


Despite this, the world media, under Arab propaganda instruction, see the settlers as the main obstacle to peace. And this despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of them live on land that no Arab lived on. In fact, many of those very left-wing Jews who also ‘blame the settlers’ do live on properties that Arabs once lived on; while the settlers live on state lands, which were never settled before.


Arab hatred of the settlers comes, I suspect, in part because they understand that the settlers share a certain value with them. The settlers value ‘the land’ and the Arabs value land above all. The settlers are their rivals in a way that Jews content to dwell in high-rises in the cities are not. The Arabs hate the settlers, because they consider them their real rivals in claims of possession of state lands, which no one really owns.


The scapegoating of the settlers is also the means by which the Israeli Left makes the conflict a ‘rational’ and ‘solvable’ one. In order to be balanced, in order to give justification to their vision of peace, the Israeli Left must find the Jewish bad–guys. The settlers are given this role. The Israeli Left, because of this vision of ‘balancing it out’, has made terrible mistakes of judgment, which have caused Israel many lives. The Left does not understand that the heart of the conflict has nothing whatever to do with the settlers, but has everything to do with the right of Jews to have a state of their own in the holy land.


The world too, in order to be fair, has to find a Jewish source of evil to balance against Arab evil, such as Palestinian suicide bombers. The settlers play that role. The absurdity of comparing people whose major crime is living in their ancestral homeland with terrorists, who deliberately kill Jews wherever they can, does not seem to deter Middle East pundits. They know if the settlers would only go away, real peace would be established.


The truth is that it is not because there are too many ‘settlers’, but because the Jewish people failed to bring another two million people into Judea and Samaria, we continue to hear demands to make these parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland free of a Jewish presence. The great shame and error is not that there are too many settlers, but that there are too few Jews in those parts of the land of Israel that are closest to us historically and religiously.

<<< Back To Index