Rattling the Cage: Imagine Palestinian settlers in Israel

What would you say if, for the past 42 years, Palestinians had established communities a few kilometers outside Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Tiberias and Eilat?

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
People want to know: What is the big deal about the settlements? Houses, neighborhoods, towns - are they hurting anybody? Do they kill anybody? How can anybody compare settlements to Palestinian terror or to Iranian nuclear weapons? How can anybody believe that Jewish families living in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace? It's a legitimate question. Let me try to answer it by asking you to imagine how you would feel if, instead of there being 300,000 Israelis who'd gone to live in the West Bank, there were 300,000 Palestinians from the West Bank who'd come to live in Israel. And imagine if they'd set themselves up over here the way Israelis have done over there. What would you say if, for the past 42 years, streams of Palestinians had continually crossed the Green Line and, under protection of Palestinian soldiers stationed in Israel, had established communities a few kilometers outside Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Tiberias, Eilat, etc., etc. All over. Typically on hilltops looking down on you. There are about 125 Jewish settlements in the West Bank that exist because the IDF defends them; let's say that instead, there were 125 Palestinian settlements in Israel that existed because Palestinian troops defended them. If somebody said to you, "These are just Palestinian families living in Palestine, they're not an obstacle to peace," what would you say? Imagine if, instead of Palestinians having to pass through IDF checkpoints to get from place to place in the West Bank, we had to pass through Palestinian Authority checkpoints to get from place to place in this country. Whenever we wanted to leave our town or city - to go to work, visit friends, go shopping, to take the family for a weekend drive. Whenever we left Jerusalem for Tel Aviv, or Hadera for Afula, or any town or city for another. An American who worked in the West Bank gave this impression to New York Times columnist Roger Cohen: "I think the most important word to repeat is 'humiliation.' Palestinians can be successful software engineers, they can have an espresso in a cafe and blog on their MacBooks, but they cannot hide from their children that they are powerless in the face of an Israeli teenager holding a gun who may or may not be in a good mood." SINCE 1967, how many Palestinians passing through those checkpoints, or driving West Bank roads, or sitting in their homes, have seen their fathers or mothers humiliated by Israeli teenagers holding guns? What does it do to them? If you grew up seeing your father or mother humiliated by Palestinian soldiers, or any soldiers, what would it do to you? How would it be to grow up with such memories? And how would it be to know that the next humiliation for your father, your mother or yourself could be gestating in the bad mood or bad intentions of the next young soldiers you meet? You see, this is what it takes to maintain those neighborhoods and towns of Jewish families in Judea and Samaria. We Israelis don't know what it's like to be on the receiving end of it - only the Palestinians do. We can talk about all the Israelis the Palestinians have killed, but they can talk about all the Palestinians we've killed. We can argue over who was acting in aggression and who in self-defense. We can argue about history. The wars, and the stories of those wars, have two sides. But the story of post-1967 settlement and military rule is purely one-sided: We do it to them, they don't do it to us. We are the strong one. We cross the Green Line and take over the land they call Palestine, they don't cross the Green Line and take over an inch of Israel. Our soldiers rule over them, their soldiers don't rule over us. They need our permission to do the simplest routines of day-to-day life, we don't need their permission to do anything. We're neighbors, but they live under us, we don't live under them. We and the Palestinians kill each other, but in between killings, we're free and independent, they're not. We see to that. For years, the official Israeli line has been: "We do not want to rule over a foreign people." I would like someone to explain how we can maintain 125 settlements across the West Bank, not to mention another 100-plus outposts, without ruling over a foreign people. What's wrong with the settlements, why is everyone making such a big deal? No reason, unless you consider the Palestinians to be people, too, no less than Israelis. And not unless the sentence, "Do not do to other people what you would hate for them to do to you," means anything.