A West Bank Anatevka

Tuesday, December 4, 2007
by Jonathan Mark Associate Editor If any Zionist feels like singing, “We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand,” you better be singing about Oklahoma, not the Judean hills, unless you want to be thought of as “a hawk making lazy circles in the sky.” We know we belong to the land but no one else seems to know it. Kidumim and Kiryat Arba are as doomed as Anatevka. Forty years after Israel liberated the West Bank — after a 19-year ethnic cleansing of Jewish life there — its liberation is now seen to be as illusory as Indian summer. After Annapolis, the leaves are falling and winter’s closing in. In the years when he was campaigning for a Jewish state, Chaim Weizmann famously said, “The world is divided into places where Jews cannot live and Jews cannot enter.” The way the peace process is shaping up, the West Bank will be both. In the latest Commentary (Dec.), Hillel Halkin has written a fine epitaph for the West Bank settlers. Before we say goodbye, let’s just remember what exactly happened and who the settlers were. And that without their efforts, according to Halkin, Israel’s borders today would be even more precarious. Settlers who combined “Zionist messianism” with political activism account for “barely 10 percent of the more than 400,000 Israelis living today beyond the 1967 border,” reports Halkin. Roughly half of them live in settlements that are actually neighborhoods contiguous with Jerusalem. Most of the remainder “are close to the old border and/or within an easy commute of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.” An increasingly large proportion of them consist of non-Zionist secular Jews and anti-Zionist haredi Jews. In fairness, writes Halkin, “a deep religious and emotional attachment to the land of Israel” among settlers and supporters is simply “part of the patrimony of the Jewish people, which would never have turned to Zionism in the first place had that attachment not existed. As fate would have it, when Israel’s War of Independence ended.... most of the sites most deeply engraved in Jewish historical memory,” Jerusalem’s Old City, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria‚ “were left on the Jordanian side of the frontier, and Jewish access to them was denied. To think that, when these areas were suddenly and unexpectedly restored to Jewish control in 1967, there could have failed to be a surge of popular sentiment for settling and retaining them is to be ignorant of Jewish history and Jewish feelings.” And while these feelings were “strongest on the political right, it was by no means confined to it.” There was also the issue, after the 1967 war, of Israel’s “military vulnerability, a consequence of its being pinched to the bone by the 1948-49 ceasefire lines. ... No nation with hostile or potentially hostile neighbors could be safe within such borders, and it was, except on the far Left, a matter of national consensus in those years that there could be no return to them.” The trouble was, writes Halkin, “No Israeli government since 1967 ever had a coherent West Bank settlement policy.” Nevertheless, “It was inconceivable that the only place in the world, apart from Saudi Arabia, in which Jews were forbidden to live should be in their own historic homeland.” Well, it’s conceivable now. An editorial in Haaretz (Dec. 4) says, “Beginning an actual evacuation would signal to the world and the Israeli public that the Annapolis speeches were not just speeches.” In the Arab papers, no one was demanding that the Palestinians signal their good intentions to anyone. Every Israeli paper featured columnists yearning for peace, like Charlie Brown yearning for Lucy not to yank away the football, but every single Israeli paper also offered columnists who asked, at what point must Israeli dignity be totally surrendered for the sake of both the American left and the Bush administration’s boredom with the war against the Jews? A columnist for the leftist Haaretz, Bradley Burston, notes (Nov. 16), “leftists the world over can live with the concept of explicitly Muslim states teaching the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other explicitly anti-Semitic texts, while arguing that the very idea of a Jewish state implies and, in fact, compels racism against non-Jews.” Americans seem not to have comprehended the extent of the pain inflicted at Annapolis by Arab contempt to Israelis there. In Yediot Ahronot, Jackie Levy wrote (Dec. 3), at Annapolis, “the organizers were warned about the need to ensure that no Syrian or Saudi official unintentionally encounters some Zionist pest.” Simply put, writes Levy, “our enemies, among other things, are quite racist.... It’s amazing how the Arab world managed to convince the West that the racist hatred is merely legitimate religious sensitivity that must be taken into consideration.... For years we’ve been reprimanding ourselves over our attitude to Arabs [but] something changed around here.... When was the last time an Israeli film featured an Arab character that was less than divine?” On the Palestinian side, he charges, it has only gotten worse. “Even if all the roadblocks will be removed, there will be no peace around here as long as Muslim Arabs don’t view Jews as human beings.” Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick (Nov. 30) observed that the president cavalierly “legitimized Arab anti-Semitism. In an effort to please the Saudis and their Arab brothers, the Bush administration agreed to physically separate the Jews from the Arabs at the Annapolis conference in a manner that aligns with the apartheid policies of the Arab world which prohibit Israelis from setting foot on Arab soil.... [The] Americans prohibited Israeli representatives from entering the hall through the same door as the Arabs.” Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asked, “Why doesn’t anyone want to shake my hand? Why doesn’t anyone want to be seen speaking to me?” The humiliated Livni, writes Glick, “did not receive support” from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus notes, “in the Palestinian camp, there is a sense that they have nothing to lose,” while Israel’s prime minister finds himself  “in a situation where he cannot say no.” That’s the definition of surrender, when the other side has nothing to lose and you’re the one who can’t say no. And then, Marcus writes, “we will still be here,” while “Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror organizations, together with volunteers from the Islamic fundamentalist camp, gear up for the third intifada.”