I took a recent Hiatus from blogging to experience Israel- on the other side of the green line- and to sum up my thoughts in a way that I can be clear about the situation that currently exists in Israel.
I want to begin with a horrendous statement made by sitting President Barak Obama in his speech to the future intelligentsia of Israel (but only within the green line).
“It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. (Applause.) It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank — (applause) — or displace Palestinian families from their homes. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. (Cheers, applause.)”
This statement highlights Obama’s characteristically dividing speeches. What he did in this single statement was to divide the country in two—there is the ragtag gang of settlers who commit violent acts against Palestinians and “the rest of the country.” It’s not the first time he’s put the blame on the ‘other’, but it’s shocking nonetheless. (It also explains why Ariel was excluded…disgusting, but characteristic)
So I want to share with you two experiences I had with those “settlers” to explain the situation in Judea and Samaria. (Names changed for the typical reasons)
It was me and three friends. We were standing atop a hill overlooking the various towns and villages around us. Abraham and I were English speakers with a minor understanding of Hebrew. Isaac was a native Israeli who only understood Hebrew. And Jacob who preferred to speak in Hebrew though, like most of the Israelis I had met, he could speak a flawless English. Both of the Israelis had served in the IDF.
The sight was gorgeous as the Judean Hills really allowed a great view of the places around us. The foliage and winding roads created a beautiful piece of artwork.
“How far can a sniper see us from?” I asked, recalling a recent hullabaloo about an IDF soldier taking a picture through his scope. Jacob shrugged, “I dunno, probably around 13 kilometers… But the distance he’s able to shoot is farther.” Abraham pointed to a nearby Arab village, one that could be seen with the naked eye. “So a sniper from there would be able to shoot us?” Jacob nodded, “but I’m not afraid of them.”
We laughed at his seeming audacity. He then clarified, “What I meant is that this village isn’t known to be violent. If it were, there would be what to be afraid of. ”
The second story was told to me by another Israeli ‘settler’ in the same area. Let’s call him Yisroel.
I was out running last night and I decided to take another road I hadn’t taken before. After a little while I found myself near a village. I decided to head to it and check it out. As I drew nearer the village-like right outside- I realized very quickly that this wasn’t an Israeli place. I quickly turned around and headed back to where I came from. As I did a truck drove past and the driver waved at me. I breathed a sigh of relief that nothing happened and continued running. As I reached the end of the road that leads to the village I realized that I missed a sign that had written-in big black letters- ‘be careful, this road leads to an Arab village.’
These settlers are not “the other.” They have concerns about their own safety- even within areas that are considered ‘non-violent’ by the Israelis themselves. No matter how much leeway they can give the Palestinian Arabs, they can never feel fully comfortable with the decision. Yet, they do it anyway, everyday…
If only the Arabs would do the same.
PS. I would like to share another two things: an article in the National Geographic shared by IDF spokesperson Captain Barak Raz titled ‘First Person: How This Palestinian Made Friends With Israelis‘ (which is understandably proPal) and the following video created by ElderofZiyon on Bedouin settlements in the Negev (which can also be applied to Judea and Samaria).