After 20 years of a failed peace process based on the Oslo Accords, it’s about time we talk seriously and honestly about the Israeli occupation. The occupation is expensive politically, economically, and socially. Let me first define the occupation.

Israel occupies a people, it does not occupy the land. The land of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people and it has been reclaimed after years of exile.

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To my friends on the Left, this is the simple truth, this basic premise is the reason you too are living in Israel. The city or village you are now living in once belonged to an Arab, whether they sold it to a Jewish buyer, fled during the War of Independence, or were forced to leave during the War of Independence. The basic fact is that at some point, your town had the same status as Yehuda and Shomron currently do.

To my friends on the Right, this is the simple truth, the restrictions imposed on Arabs over the fictitious green line are dehumanizing, immoral, and counterproductive. The walls, checkpoints, and restrictions do protect Israeli lives, but, at what cost? Most reports and exposes on the occupation highlight Arab children at checkpoints, or fathers that are unable to cultivate their land due to the wall or passage restrictions imposed on them. At the same time, these reports present the soldiers as the face of the occupation, the incarnation of evil themselves. The Arab victim and the Jewish oppressor.

I’d like to look at another cost of the occupation that is never discussed, reported, or exposed. What is the cost of occupation to the young men and women forced to impose this occupation on the Arabs? If we are to believe folks on the left, these soldiers enjoy oppressing the Arabs and are the biggest impediment to “peace”.

Allow me to present you with another idea. The majority of soldiers guarding checkpoints are 18-20 years old, have very little life experience, and are forced to make extremely difficult decisions for themselves and for the Arabs they are sent to occupy.

How many of you, during your freshman year at college couldn't choose a major, or decide where to spend spring break? The hours you agonized over these decisions, spoke with friends, faculty, family, etc. These were major decisions to make, even if in retrospect they are less important.

In Israel, boys and girls the same age as you were during those life decisions are forced to tell a child at a checkpoint that she can’t visit her dying grandmother, with no reason other than, my commander said so. Do you honestly believe that an 18-year-old soldier, away from home for the first time, derives enjoyment from this job? I honestly believe that this soldier, more than anything, wants to whisper to the Arab girl, “I want to let you through, I believe you, I want your grandmother to get better, and I’m sorry that I can’t let you through”. Unfortunately, they are forced into a position where showing any sign of weakness or empathy will land them in prison, or may give them mental anguish. Policy is made in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, not at the checkpoint in the Shomron. Perhaps the children guarding the checkpoints develop a rough exterior that borders on the violent as a defense mechanism against letting their true emotions explode.

We must never give up our right to the land of Israel, but we must seriously question the occupation of the Arab inhabitants of Yehuda and Shomron. As soon as we’re honest with ourselves about the nature of this occupation, we can discard Oslo, and begin anew. The hidden cost  of occupying a group of people is the strain it puts on our society, namely, the young boys and girls tasked with carrying out a policy that was created in Tel Aviv.


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