If the movement for the restoration of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, the heartland of the land of Israel, (a.k.a. the "settler" movement) can be said to have had a spiritual guide, that would be my rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Cook (1891 – 1982). If you really wish to know the guiding principles of this movement regarding the relationship to the Arabs in Israel in general and in Judea and Samaria in particular, let's take a look at the source itself.

Decades ago, Rabbi Cook was once approached to participate in a series of meetings between Arab and Jewish spiritual and cultural leaders, in order to try to enhance mutual understanding. He thought it a good idea and participated. After a few meetings he asked the coordinator of the meetings to clarify with the Arab intellectuals whether it was clear to them that the Jews had not taken sovereignty from them, since they never had sovereignty or control of the land. The land was part of the Ottoman Empire, did not even exist as a separate unit, and when that empire fell apart, control of the land passed to the British Empire who held it as a League of Nations trust for the Jewish people, from which the state of Israel arose. The coordinator asked the Arab intellectuals and they wrote a letter acknowledging that the Jewish nation had not taken independence or sovereignty away from the Arabs living in the land of Israel.

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With the understanding that historically, legally, religiously and morally the land was the homeland of the Jewish nation and Zionism was its liberation movement – it was possible and indeed positive to hold talks.

The rabbi taught us that the Jewish nation has no opposition to non-Jews living here, as long as they accept that this is the Jewish state. It's important for Jews and Arabs to have a dialogue: to talk, explain, convince and do all that is necessary in order to minimalize hostility, overcome hatred, build trust and friendship between Arabs and Jews – and certainly to abolish any and all discrimination. But first it has to be clear that on the national level – the right of self-determination in this land is that of the Jewish nation. Once the Arab world recognizes this – peace will follow.

Rabbi Cook would point out that even the Qur'an and other Islamic writings recognize that this land belongs to the Jewish people. He would tell the story of how over one hundred and thirty years ago a group of Jews bought a tract of land near what is today Rechovot, in order to build a new Jewish community. After the signing of the contract a large party was held in which both the Arab sellers and Jewish buyers participated. When some Bedouin youngsters from the neighboring tribe came to disrupt the party, the elder of the tribe stopped them, saying: "Quiet! Respect! These are the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who are returning to their homeland, just as it says in the Qur'an!"

We have come home – and in our home there is room for others, as long as they recognize that this is our home and they wish to live in peace with us in it.

In the spring of 1947 - a few months before the UN passed the partition resolution – Rabbi Cook wrote this letter to the principal and teachers of a school near his home:

"Today in the afternoon hours as I passed the school, I saw a group of kids from the school that several times rudely insulted and accosted some Arab street vendors working there… I was very upset and embarrassed by what I saw… This event, which so hurt and embarrassed me, obligates me to point out the necessity to pay special educational attention to this, so as to eliminate the possibility of such an occurrence happening again, both from the standpoint of Jewish law and morality, for the good of the community and building of our state, and in order to safeguard the ways of peace and good neighborly relations".

The "settler" movement is predicated on the principle that though this is our land – our Arab neighbors are invited to live side by side with us in peace.

To be continued…
 
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