In the Israel-Arab conflict, no issue is more controversial than the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Even the name of the place is controversial since Jordan managed to rename it “The West Bank” and that is what most people call it now. That change in name conveniently papers over the fact that this part of the Middle East has 3000 years of Jewish history and that it was ethnically cleansed of Jews by Arabs armies in the 1948 Arab-Israel war.
Israel is accused of instituting a system of apartheid in Judea and Samaria, but is there really apartheid in Judea and Samaria? I spoke with several people who live or visited Judea and Samaria, including David Ha’ivri, a long-time Jewish resident, and my conclusion is that yes, there is undoubtedly a form of apartheid in Judea and Samaria, but perhaps not what most people would expect.
While in Israel all ethnicities have equal rights, such is not the case in Judea and Samaria. In Judea and Samaria, there is one group that is consistently and extensively discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity, and that group is the Jewish people. This form of discrimination is enforced by the Palestinian Authority, and it is supported by the Israeli government under the Oslo accords.
The following table summarizes the restrictions placed in Judea and Samaria on three groups depending on the area. Areas A, B, and C were created as a result of the Oslo accords.
(1) Israel does not guarantee protection to Jews who choose to enter area A, and the Palestinian Authority has full authority. If Israeli Jews enter area A, they are at high risk of being attacked by Palestinians. If the PA police finds Jews in area A, it hands them over to the Israeli police who can then charge them with a criminal offense.
(2) Some roads in area B can be used by Israeli Jews to travel from one part of area C to another, but they are not permitted to enter the rest of area B.
(3) Israeli Jews are allowed to live in area C but only in the parts designated as Jewish communities.
(4) Israeli Jews can cultivate land but only within Jewish communities. Also, if Jews cultivate land that is not owned by anyone, they can never gain ownership of the land whereas Arabs who cultivate non-owned land in area C can gain ownership after 10 years.
(5) In theory under the Oslo accords, the rights of all Israelis are the same in Judea and Samaria; however, the PA chooses to not enforce the same restrictions on Israeli Arabs as it does on Israeli Jews. The PA has full authority in area A, and the authority is shared with Israel in area B. Few Israeli Arabs live within Jewish communities in area C, but some do.
(6) Non-Israeli Arabs can live anywhere in area C except within the designated Jewish communities. Area C is the largest of the three areas, but the Jewish communities constitute a tiny fraction of area C. Arabs, just like Jews in area C, must obtain permits in order to build residences.
(7) Non-Israeli Arabs can visit anywhere in area C, including Jewish communities, but most Jewish communities require them to first obtain a security pass. Many non-Israeli Arabs work in Jewish communities, and those jobs typically offer far better pay and benefits than jobs in non-Israeli-owned businesses.
If the table is collapsed to eliminate the citizenship and to show only the ethnicity, the discrimination against Jews is even starker.
Knowing the Arab world, however, the apartheid situation of Judea and Samaria is not surprising. While in Israel Jews and Arabs have the same rights, in the Arab world, all Jews were chased away and therefore have nothing left, let alone rights.
Judea and Samaria today is the result of taking a land that the Arabs had ethnically cleansed of Jews, and timidly injecting some Jewish presence back into it. It does not prevent Arabs from growing and prospering on that land if they so wish. The only severe restrictions that exist are imposed on Jews, not Arabs. Judea and Samaria today reflects much more the Arab world that has no place for Jews than it reflects the Israeli values of equal rights that Jews have infused into Israel.
The following is information provided by three residents of Judea and Samaria. It was edited only for brevity:
I live in Kfar Tapuach in area C with my wife and eight children. Seven of them were born here in Judea and Samaria. We made our life here. We planted olive trees, we planted vineyards, and we make wine. We feel that we are fulfilling the words of the prophets. Jeremiah said to the children of Israel who were being exiled from the land, “again you will plant vineyards in the mountains of Samaria”. There are so many things that are special and unique here. Taking part of the gathering of the nations of Israel after 2000 years of exile and lacking sovereignty. In the last 150 years, we have seen the reawakening of the Jewish people and the return to the land of Israel, and it’s an amazing experience to see Jewish people of all colors, and from many backgrounds, returning from Yemen, Scandinavia, Poland, Morocco, all gathering together in one synagogue reading from the same prayer book the same words, including the words of the prophets who said that we would return and rebuild the villages and cities.
Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of Israel, is the very essence and core of Zionism, the Jewish national movement of return, the national vow after 2000 years of exile and lack of sovereignty. Jews prayed to God, and we taught our children that one day we would return to our land and rebuild our cities and our villages. The core of our existence on the land of Israel was based on the mountaintop and the mountain region of Judea and Samaria. Our number motivation to live here is our historical connection to the land. Of course, there are other values that motivate people, such standard of living. Typically, in Judea and Samaria there is a very good Jewish education system. Villages tend to be small and many people like that atmosphere. Various communities have their own features, such as some religious communities where all residents observe some level of Jewish laws. Some of the members of the communities are farmers, but many work in a variety of fields, such as education, high-tech, and so on.
Area C is under the authority of the IDF, i.e., Israel’s ministry of defense. Jews can live in designated Jewish communities in area C; we cannot live in area C in a place not designated as a Jewish community. Even within Israel’s green line, Jews are not typically able to move into non-Jewish areas because they are not welcome there. Israeli Arabs have the same rights as Jews in area C. Non-Israeli Arabs have freedom of movement within all of Judea and Samaria, including area C; the only exception is that in most Jewish communities, they need a security pass in order to enter (Israeli Arabs do not need such passes). Thousands of non-Israeli Arabs work in businesses such as factories in area C.
Israeli citizens (Jewish or Arab) are obligated to follow all of Israeli’s laws, including paying taxes to Israel. If Israeli citizens break the law, they are answerable to the Israeli justice system, including the police, same as anywhere else in Israel. Israeli citizens vote in Israeli elections. Typically, Israeli Arabs do not live anywhere in Judea and Samaria although there are exceptions, but many work in area C. Many Israeli Arabs go to Ariel University which is located in the Jewish community of Ariel in Judea and Samaria. Non-Israeli Arabs who live in area C pay their taxes to the PA.
In most cases, interactions between Jews and non-Jews are limited to work settings, but those interactions are generally very positive and friendly. Non-Israeli Arabs who work in Jewish communities in area C generally receive much better wages, benefits, and workplace safety than they do in Arab businesses in the rest of Judea and Samaria. Some of the shopping centers in Jewish communities receive many non-Israeli Arab shoppers. There are also many non-Israeli Arab-owned shops in area C that receive Jewish shoppers. Terrorist incidents are rare but are of course very disturbing when they occur. Less formal interactions also occur between Jews and non-Jews in area C and they are typically positive, but they are relatively infrequent.
Area B has an overlapping of responsibilities; Israel is responsible for security, but the PA is responsible for all of the local government issues, such as building codes, business permits, and any municipal services. There are no Jewish communities in area B. Although Jews are not strictly forbidden from entering (unlike area A which is forbidden by Israeli law), Jews are generally not allowed to enter (there are often large signs warning Jews not to enter), and they put their lives at risk if they do. There are however main roads in area B that Jewish residents of area C can travel on to get from one Jewish community of area C to another.
Israeli Jews and Arabs who purchase items in area B would pay sales taxes to the PA. Non-Israeli Arabs who live in area B pay their taxes to the PA even though their security is provided by Israel. Non-Israeli Arabs who live in area B pay their taxes to the PA.
Area A is off limits to Jewish people; that was not the case before the Oslo accords. This area is completely controlled by the PA. Non-Israeli Arabs can enter area A, but Israelis (Jewish or Arab) are not allowed to enter because Israel cannot ensure their security. Israeli Arabs generally enter area A without problems but can sometimes have problems. Small numbers of Jewish left-wing activists take the risk of entering area A and usually suffer no consequences, but the PA police normally arrests Jews who enter area A and hand them over to the Israeli police who can lay charges against them.
Judea and Samaria, the Jewish heartland
My last name means “The Hebrew”, which is why my radio podcast is named “The Hebrew in the Heartland”. Our national movement dates back to Biblical times. We read in the Bible that Abraham who lived in the north in the area now known as Iraq was called by God to a land that God would show him. Abraham went and arrived in Shechem which is today Nablus. So, the first connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel was right here where I live. Then all the other Biblical events in the five books of Moses all occurred in areas here in Judea and Samaria. Road 60, the highway of the Bible, connects several Biblical locations: Shechem, Shiloh, Beit-El, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hevron, and Bersheva. Bersheva is in the Negev; it is the only one of these places that is outside of Judea and Samaria. This where our fathers walked. This is where our history began.
Before the Oslo accords, I drove to Shechem (aka Nablus) which is ten minutes north of my home and has a licensing department; it is much closer for me than going to Petach Tikvah, a city to the east of Tel Aviv.
What’s even more disturbing is that Jewish people no longer have free access to Jewish holy places that are located in area A and even some in area B. For instance, Joseph’s Tomb which is located in Shechem is a very significant biblical location where Jewish people traditionally went to study Torah, to pray, and to have religious family events. For example, it was customary for Jews in this region to hold a family event at Joseph’s Tomb for the circumcision (Brit Milah) which takes place on the 8th day of a boy’s life. I had these ceremonies at Joseph’s Tomb for my own two sons who were born before the Oslo accords.
Now there are arranged trips in the middle of the night for Jewish people once a month to visit Joseph’s Tomb. The IDF provides security. Only a limited number of people can go, and they must board a special armored bus. The Jewish visitors must have left before morning. As a result of these restrictions and the high demand for Jews to visit, each individual can visit only for about 15 minutes at a time.
One important thing to understand is that areas A, B, and C are not cleanly separated on the map. Instead, they consist of many small patches that look somewhat like a checkered board. Because Israeli security is only provided in area C and for some matters in area B, Jews are sometimes deprived of protection. For example, my father-in-law once had 400 goats stolen by thieves who came from area A. The thieves loaded the goats in four trucks in the middle of the night and took them to area A. My father-in-law called the Israeli police, but they said that they could do nothing because they have no jurisdiction in the area to which the goats were taken. Eventually 20 out of the 400 goats were found somehow and returned to my father-in-law.
I’d like to add some points with regard to agriculture, farming, and land rights in Judea and Samaria. In the past 100 years, this land changed hands four times: The Ottoman Empire (until 1920), the British Mandate (1920 to 1948), Jordan (1948 to 1967), and Israel since 1967. There are laws from each one of these different regimes that still apply while some laws no longer apply, also some laws apply only to non-Israeli Arabs and some laws apply only to Israelis (Jews and Arabs). It can be very confusing. Often the image projected in the media is that the laws in Judea and Samaria are only unfair to non-Israeli Arabs, but in reality, there also laws that are unfair to Jews, and land rights are one example. For instance, in my particular situation, I planted 500 olive trees on land next to my community of Kfar Tapuach. That land did not belong to any individual and was not declared state-owned land (if the land was state-owned, there is a process to follow to use the land). If I was a non-Israeli Arab, after using the land for 10 years, I could register the land as my own property though an Ottoman and Jordanian law. But because I am Israeli, there is no way for me to register this land in my name even though I have been cultivating it for 25 years with no objection from any individual or government.
Now if the government decides to declare this unowned land as state land, they can just kick me out, uproot my trees, and owe me no compensation. If I were a non-Israeli Arab, a few years of cultivating a parcel of land in Judea and Samaria would provide me with a legal claim that would be respected in Israeli courts. Even if a non-Israeli Arab would plant trees in listed state own land without being noticed, the government would have a very difficult time reversing the process, and that person would win de-facto ownership.
ANONYMOUS ISRAELI JEWISH WOMAN:
I live in Sha’are Tikva which is not very different from the rest of Israel. There is no checkpoint to get to my community, although there is one just beyond my exit off the highway. We are very close to the green line and only about 25 minutes without traffic to Tel Aviv. The person who cleans my house is a lovely Israeli Arab woman who lives in Kfar Qsem which is very close to us but on the other side of the green line. In fact, many businesses in Kfar Qsem are owned or partnered with the Yishuv right next to us. She has worked for my neighbor for over 15 years.
The biggest difference between living here versus within the green line is that I drive by a walled Arab Palestinian village and see first-hand every day how segregated life is here. The village does not have any demonstrations that friends of mine who live in Chashmonaim have every Friday with stink bombs and a general ruckus.
I hear from older residents that we have historically had good relations with the Arab village, so much so that people from our Yishuv sued Israel to try to get them to not build the wall. I have not done research to verify that myself. Another rumor is that the relations are so good because for some reason from 1948 to 1967 Arabs were not allowed to live in their village and Israel coming in let them return to the village. Again, no research of my own to verify.
We moved here because we felt that our absorption into Israel would be easier if we could be near family (we are related to three families on this Yishuv). We rent and I felt that four more Jews would not make or break any peace process. I am very middle-of-the-road politically. Neither the concept of giving back land nor the concept of Greater Israel is really working to solve the conflict.
In terms of shopping, there is a small shopping center here and in two Yishuv very close to me, and when I cannot find something here, I go into a town very close to me within the green line called Rosh Haayin.
One more humorous thing. There are a few donkeys owned by someone in the Arab village that very occasionally get loose and find their way to our Yishuv. Wall or no wall, it is just part of life here. They roam around for a little while and then I do not see them again.
ANONYMOUS ISRAELI JEWISH MAN:
Day-to-day life where I live is generally pastoral and ordinary. For most people, that’s hard to believe, but that’s the case. We wake up, go to work, come home, etc. Even though I live somewhat deep into Samaria, it is generally very quiet here, although like everywhere else, during the second Intifada and at other times, that wasn’t the case.
Non-Israeli Arabs build the houses here, as they always have, but since I’m not in construction, I have no interaction with them. There have been issues on the road, particularly with one village north of here. People I know were murdered. I was shot at. Molotov cocktails, rocks, gas balloons were thrown on the road. But generally, it is quiet and there are no issues. In our community, you can walk the streets day or night with no fear, and same with driving to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, or almost anywhere else.
The place where there are real interactions between Jews and Arabs is at the Rami Levy supermarket in Shaar Binyamin. We work together and shop together there. Jewish and Arab men ask each other what shampoo to buy for their wives because none of us have a clue. Regulars all say hi to the cashiers and other workers because we see each other weekly. The guy at the cheese counter knows what I want before I open my mouth.
A few weeks ago, I heard an Arab mother speaking with her daughter (probably 4 years old) in English with no accent. My guess is that they were from Deir Dibwan, where most of the people normally live in the US but come here for the summer and other occasions. There are many towns like that around here although that’s not a widely known fact.
In general, Jews and Arabs live parallel but separate lives. We aren’t allowed in their areas where they want nothing to do with us. They work in our communities but behind fenced-off areas (building is dangerous in general, plus there have been cases of terror from workers). We drive the same roads (except the roads through their areas, A and B, where we aren’t allowed), but they pick up their hitchhikers and we pick up ours.
A few years ago, I wanted to jointly market olive oil with Arabs from Taybeh, the only 100% Christian village in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. I spoke with a Franciscans who had been working there for years and whom I met through Gary Krupp and Pave The Way Foundation. The priest loved the idea and said that he would discuss it with people in Taybeh. In the meantime, I spoke with a neighbor of mine who grows olives, and he loved the idea as well. From our perspective, it would be fantastic, not only from a marketing perspective, and not only from a PR perspective, but also for building a connection with people who live just a few minutes away but still in another world. Unfortunately, the other side said no. For them, it would be a lose-lose proposition: Their Muslim neighbors would see them as traitors (there were riots against the Christians in 2005 when a Christian from Taybeh had a relationship with a Muslim woman from Deir Jerrir), and truth be told, I think that they themselves see us as enemies with whom peace can’t be made.
De facto, there is peace, or rather, an absence of war; but not more. I don’t see any changes to that in the near future. We’re not leaving or disappearing, and the other side isn’t coming to terms with that. So it will continue like this for the foreseeable future: Generally, it is peaceful, but I’m not beating my Glock into a plowshare just yet.
Note: The following are roads in Judea and Samaria, areas A and B, on which Jews are not allowed to travel (of course, Jews are not allowed anywhere in area A).
- Road #354
- Road #3266
- Road #3267
- Road #3556
- Road #3698 (part)
- Road #3517
- Road #3527
- Road #3676
- Road #3586
- Road #45
- Road #436
- Road #3 ((northern part)
- Road #450
- Road #463
- Road #466
- Road #4566
- Road #466
- Road #449 (western part)
- Road #4568
- Road #4775
- Road #4777
- Road #5077
- Road #505 (middle part)
- Road #5066
- Road #5076
- Road #574
- Road #5506
- Road #5526
- Road #5487
- Road #5715
- Road #5717
- Road #5815
- Road #60 (much of the middle, from Schechem to Jenin)
- Road #588
- Road #6115
- Road #6010
- Road #6255
- Road #6155
- Road #66 (southern part)