At the end of January, the United Nations Human Rights Council declared war on Israel, issuing one of the harshest reports against the Jewish state in recent memory. Replete with falsehoods and half-truths, the document is a chilling assault aimed at undermining the legitimacy of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria.
The inquiry, which was conducted by the “International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” accuses Israel of carrying out a policy of “total segregation” and “systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people.” It asserts that the Jewish state has committed “serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law” and demands that Israel “immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers.”
Not surprisingly, the document makes no reference to the Biblical or historical Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, nor does it even bother to mention Israel’s position regarding the legal disposition of the areas. The report is so egregiously one-sided that it could just as easily have been produced in Ramallah as in Geneva.
But instead of taking action to counter the UN’s slanders, slurs and smears, some Israelis are prepared to throw up their hands and simply declare defeat.
“It’s impossible to explain the issue of settlement construction anyplace in the world,” National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror was quoted as saying in closed discussions in the Prime Minister’s Office (Haaretz, February 7).
“It’s impossible to explain this matter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel or even to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” he reportedly said.
Not to be outdone, outgoing Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor went on Channel 2 the following day, contending that Israel should unilaterally restrain Jewish building.
“We must put a stop to settlement construction past the Green Line, other than in the main settlement blocs," Meridor said, adding that “we must make unilateral moves. We need to allow ourselves space to breathe.”
With all due respect to Meridor’s pulmonary prognosis, this is no way to wage a battle of ideas.
If Israel is finding it “impossible” to explain settlement construction, that is simply because it makes little or no effort to do so in a compelling manner. After all, when was the last time you heard a government minister articulate and assert Israel’s legal right to these areas? How forceful have Israeli embassies and consulates abroad been in telling the story of Judea and Samaria? IF YOU think I am exaggerating, try the following exercise.
Visit the websites of the Israeli embassies in Washington and London, and see if you can find something – anything! – which explains Israel’s rights to Judea and Samaria. Or check out the website of the Foreign Ministry, which refers to these areas as the “West Bank,” the terminology that is used by the Palestinians.
How many people abroad know that the Jewish presence in Hebron dates back more than 3,000 years? Or that “settlements” such as Neve Ya’akov and Kfar Etzion were created during the British Mandatory period even before the State of Israel was founded? Centuries before the invention of Islam, King David was born in Bethlehem, Amos prophesied in Tekoa and Judah the Maccabee fought at Beit Horon. And 1,800 years before the PLO was established, Jews at Beitar were battling the Romans.
Simply put, our right to this land is undisputable and incontestable. If we are losing the war for public opinion it is because we have stopped trying to win it, leaving the field of battle wide open for our foes.
For all their other faults, the Palestinians stay on message, delivering a simple mantra over and over again: Israel stole our territory, they are occupying our land, give it back. By contrast, Israel continually serves up mixed messages, adding further confusion and weakening our stance. We need to make our case, confident in the justness of our cause and cowed by no one.
Indeed, instead of declaring defeat, we should be celebrating victory. The fact is that just 45 years after the 1967 Six-Day War, the settlement movement has created an irreversible reality on the ground. Consider the following: In 2005, there were approximately 250,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria. Today, there are more than 360,000, an increase of 44% in just eight years.
According to the Interior Ministry, the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria grew by a whopping 4.7%.
And the population growth is not limited to suburban bedroom communities but also extends to towns and villages deep into the territory. For example, Maskiot, which is located in the Jordan Valley northeast of Shechem (Nablus), saw its population surge by 30% last year.
Moreover, the Jewish population of the territories is much younger than the national average, with nearly half of Judea and Samaria’s Jews being under the age of 18, compared to 28% nationwide.
It is time that we underline these facts and spread the message far and wide.
Whether the world likes it or not, the people of Israel have returned to Judea and Samaria to stay. No power on earth can possibly uproot hundreds of thousands of Jews from dozens of communities spread throughout the area, so the UN and others would do well to focus their energies elsewhere.
Israel has a moral, legal, historical and Biblical right to settle every hill and populate every valley of this ancient land. And that is exactly what we shall do.