Anna Roiser
Anna Roiser

Let’s not settle for half-truths

The Jewish News’ Rosh Hashanah edition featured an ad to buy lots in “Givat Adumim”. It was described as “the largest housing project only four miles from Jerusalem”, with nearby conveniences including the “Design City” shopping mall and the “Magic Kass” amusement park.

Whilst that may all be true, if it were all you knew about Givat Adumim, you wouldn’t understand anything about it.

Here is some other significant information. It’s not in Israel. It would be a new West Bank settlement, illegal under international law. It would extend the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc deeper into the West Bank, one more nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. Also, its construction hasn’t even been approved by the Israeli government – it may never be built.

If Givat Adumim is built, only Jews would be allowed to live there. They would live under Israeli civil law, be able to travel freely into Israel, and vote in Israeli elections. The residents of the Palestinian village of Al Muntar, just a few hundred meters away, wouldn’t be able to enter Givat Adumim without a permit. They live under military law and cannot visit Israel (or even east Jerusalem) without a permit, nor vote for the administration which governs them. Two legal regimes for a single area, depending on ethnicity.

Clearly, the ad didn’t give the full picture. (Anti-occupation group Na’amod produced a more accurate version.)

Givat Adumim’s backers have long lobbied the Israeli government for permission to build; the more plots they sell, the stronger their position becomes. It seems obvious that the Jewish News should not provide a platform for the promotion of an illegal and immoral project with significant geopolitical implications. Yet the ad is actually entirely consistent with our communal institutions’ approach to Israel: tell only half the story and everything seems rosy.

For example, a trawl through the Board of Deputies’ statements on Israel shows that, notwithstanding their lip-service to the two-state solution, the occupation is never mentioned; as in the Givat Adumim ad, the occupation is the elephant in the room.

The Board’s response to Human Rights Watch’s report accusing Israel of apartheid exemplifies the issue: “The ridiculous ‘apartheid’ slur in this report is belied by the fact that, as it stands, Israel’s next Government may well rely on the support of Arab parties, voted for by the country’s fully-enfranchised Arab citizens. Israel’s Arab citizens have been appointed as ambassadors, professors, Supreme Court judges, hospital directors, and other key roles throughout Israel’s socio-economic landscape”.

As with the Givat Adumim ad, none of these points are untrue, but by themselves they present a partial and totally distorted view. They ignore that, for 54 years and with no end in sight, Israel has, through a brutal military occupation, controlled the lives of millions of Palestinians who are not and cannot become citizens; who cannot even enter Israel never mind become a judge in its courts or an elected member of Knesset; who do not even have the protection of the law those politicians create and which those judges uphold, but instead live under perpetual military law. This is why not only Human Rights Watch, but also Israeli human rights groups including B’Tselem, Yesh Din and Peace Now have described the situation as “apartheid”.

A debate can be had as to whether the situation amounts to apartheid, but debate cannot be meaningful if relevant facts are simply ignored.

Such a refusal to acknowledge the whole picture is nowhere better reflected than in our communal bodies continually expressing their support for the two-state-solution whilst determinedly ignoring that the very possibility of two states is fast receding into the distance, propelled there by the Israeli government they unquestioningly support. Hence Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s recent proclamation that there will be no Palestinian state, recited approvingly by Israel’s ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely, evoked not a murmur from our leaders, despite their professed commitment to its realisation.

The approach of engaging with Israel as if the occupation did not exist runs deep in the community: in our Israel education, in our synagogues, in our communal spaces. The Givat Adumim ad vividly illustrates just how misleading this picture is. We cannot meaningfully discuss Israel without openly acknowledging the occupation, the oppression it inflicts on Palestinian people, and its underlying political goal of preventing a Palestinian state.

Let’s not settle for half-truths.

About the Author
Anna Roiser is a lawyer also studying part-time for an MA in Israeli Studies. Anna is a founding member of Na'amod: British Jews Against Occupation.