Dov Daniel

Stop apologizing for the “settlers”!

Choose your side: pictures of soldiers from Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. “settlers”) who have fallen in the war against Gaza alongside propaganda from Hamas threatening to target “settlements”

A great darkness descended upon our nation on October 7, 2023. Those tragic bloody days, the pain of which we have not even been able to metabolize, were followed by the fear and terror of being under attack everywhere in Israel, and a terrible state of the current war. This is the most difficult time for our people that I have experienced in my fewer than five decades of life.

However, with that darkness there has emerged a shocking clarity. In a world of identity politics and moral relativism, a world shrouded in shades of gray, one would expect a more ambiguous response. The unthinkable atrocities of Hamas could have been condemned by everyone from the Palestinian Authority to the Ivy League Universities, to the people of Gaza. In fact, they could have simultaneously continued to secretly support the campaign to annihilate Israel, while condemning the horrific attack. However, in a moment of rare clarity, the world has come out and boldly stated exactly what they believe. The PA stands by Hamas, as do 70-90% of West Bank Arabs. In the streets of world capitals the masses shamelessly call out for the annihilation of Jews, and the presidents of every one of the top three Ivy League schools questioned by Congress clearly stated that calling for Genocide of Jews is not unequivocally wrong.

While Hamas propaganda and the Iranian allies can continue to tinker with the settings of the ironic global moral compass, it should be clear to every person in Israel, and any morally upright person in the world where the divide lies between good and evil. Israel stands for good, for human dignity, for the value of human life, for investing in a future that has prosperity and promise. Hamas stands for destruction, for realizing the absolute worst that man can be, both on an organizational level, savagely trampling every kind of human right and on an individual level, driving its members to commit unspeakable acts.

The one remaining anomaly in this moment of clarity is an unfortunate lasting impression of the EU funded “Settler Violence” campaign. While Biden and Netanyahu discuss such critical issues as the war on Gaza as well as the northern Lebanese front, or when our own mayor in Efrat is interviewed by foreign press about Palestinian workers in Efrat, somehow, the issue of “settlers violence” comes up again and again as a major concern that the Israeli government needs to address. Invariably there is an apology acknowledging that there are some extremists, and an assurance that they will be dealt with to the full extent of the law. Indeed, even after October 7, Israeli authorities continue this witch hunt campaign against the evil settlers.

Investigative reporting into the details behind “settlers violence” found that statistically the vast majority of reported cases were in fact cases of self defense, where settlers attempted to defend themselves from attacks by Arabs. The rest of the cases include legal demonstrations in front of the homes of Israeli public officials as well as complaints by Palestinians about military operations, which for some reason are included in the statistics. This is a modern day witch hunt devised so we won’t have to admit that this is a war of good versus evil but rather two points of view with good and evil on each side. This narrative seems reasonable because it is balanced but it is false, it justifies evil and condemns the virtuous.

It is time to unravel this libelous narrative that has successfully delegitimized and estranged an entire population of peaceful, law abiding Jews who are the backbone of our country.

Settler’s violence – part of the broader anti-Israel propaganda narrative

Just as Israelis understand the irony of Israel charged with genocide, they should understand that other forms of delegitimization such as “settler violence” may also fall within the same category of baseless antisemitic propaganda. In years past, this might have been understandable; there is an allure to align with the New York Times, CNN and the likes, to consider ourselves the progressive Jews, unlike the evil settler Jews, who are the true enemy. However, now that Israelis see the progressive West for what it is, a supporter and enabler of unbridled antisemitism, Israelis should no longer take anti-Jewish reports at face value. Reports of settler violence are based on complaints by the same Hamas that reported 500 civilians killed by an Israeli air strike in Al-Ahli hospital, which in fact was more like 50 civilians killed by a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad. Why should we accept as truth antisemitic propaganda when it is levelled against Jews who live in Judea and Samaria?

How violent are these settlers?

Unlike any other rivaling or warring people, there was a bizarre dynamic between the settlers and the Arabs in Judea and Samaria. No South Koreans financially support North Korean families; no Russians crosses the border daily to earn their livelihood in Ukraine, nor vice versa (certainly not now). However, the average “settler” has done more to provide for Palestinian families than any Egyptian, Jordanian, or Syrian, and certainly more than the masses rallying in global capitols, chanting “from the river to the sea.” Prior to October 7, hundreds of Palestinians supported their families by working in settlements, surprisingly not fearing the violent settlers. This is because the settlers are anything but violent. They have been providing for Palestinian families by employing Palestinians in every field of industry in Judea and Samaria, from small businesses to big corporations, construction to car mechanics, restaurants to printing presses. Just like their Gazan relatives would cross the border and work in Be’eri (on October 7 these workers returned to rape and mutilate women they had identified while earning a living in the town), the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria have been the financial beneficiaries of the settlers’ trust, which does not dissuade them from their ultimate goal of eradicating the Jews from the West Bank, along with the rest of Israel. At the end of the day, nothing has changed in the last 100 years: long before the state of Israel was declared, Arabs could live anywhere they wish with no concern for their security, while Jews would not leave the walls of Jerusalem for fear of being attacked by the Arabs. When they left the old city it was to enclosed and secured structures, so they would not be attacked. To this very day Palestinians can build houses wherever they please and live with no fear in Israel or in Judea and Samaria, while a Jew cannot expect to survive without giving thought to security. Not only are the Arabs not threatened by the settlers, the settlers are the ones who provide them possibilities of financial stability and a comfortable life.

Why every Israeli owes a debt of gratitude to the settlers

Before October 7, Gaza was generally regarded as a situation we can live with. They did shoot rockets on occasion, and we had to spend enormous sums of money on Iron Dome, but ultimately there wasn’t much friction beyond that, while the situation in Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) was considered untenable. October 7 completely reversed that perception. Many Israelis realized that while it is easier not to deal with the urban Arab areas, ceding control over these areas has created far greater risks. In retrospect, it seems that the situation in Judea and Samaria is better because we have a military presence which can monitor and make sure larger threats are not lurking or growing in the dark. It is important to point out that wherever there are no Jews there is no IDF presence. And so, the only reason the IDF is in the West Bank is because there are Israelis living within the West Bank. If there were no settlements, there would be no military presence. With no military presence, Hamas could be shooting rockets at Tel Aviv with far less than one minute to impact, cross into the coastal areas in a matter of hours, and butcher, rape and mutilate tens of thousands of Israelis in far more densely populated areas of the coast.

The residents of Tel Aviv should be thanking the settlers for living on the front lines, thereby defending the coast, which could otherwise have been attacked on October 7.

The settlers on October 7

“Settlers” is considered a derogatory term, synonymous to most Westerners with “colonizers,” or war mongers, but let us consider specifically who the media is delegitimizing with the “settler violence” blood libel. Here’s a story of a settler, if ever there was one. Elchanan Kalmanzon, son of famed Rabbi Benny Kalmanzon of the settlement Otniel near Hebron, heard about the attacks on the South on October 7th. Being an ex-military hero, he called his younger brother  and nephew and together, the three of them rushed into the unknown carnage in Be’eri, to save lives. The three were unarmed but they went down and figured it out, found abandoned weapons, an abandoned armored vehicle, and went from house to house to fight terrorists and rescue the residents of Be’eri. The three succeeded in saving close to 100 people before Elchanan was shot by a terrorist who was hiding in a house. So let it be known that when you besmirch the “settlers” you are besmirching the name of Elchanan Kalmanzon, who in no official capacity other than a sense of duty, voluntarily came to the rescue of our people. You similarly dishonor the names of the ~100 soldiers, from privates to corporals to officers, fighters in commando units, specials ops, infantry, armored corps and intelligence who are also settlers and gave their lives to defend our people in this war. The settlers stand by their brothers and sisters and put their lives on the line for every Israeli, regardless of political affiliation. Do we not have the moral obligation to stand by them?

Finally, here is another eye-opening story for perspective. Artist Batya Olin from Kfar Aza had developed a relationship with a photographer from Gaza, Mahmoud, and together they embarked on a mission to show, through combined photography exhibitions, that Jews and Arabs can coexist, or at least so she thought. They were scheduled to tour with their show to San Diego. On the morning of October 7, Batya was locked in her safe room with terrorists rampaging throughout her town and attempting to enter her home. At 10 a.m., Mahmoud called her, and asked how she is, where she is hiding, and how many soldiers are in Kfar Aza. It was at that point that Batya concluded that Gaza is Hamas. There are no innocents in Gaza.

On October 6th, Batya, along with the majority of Israelis, considered moderate Jews and Arabs on “the good side,” and terrorists and settlers “on the bad side.” After October 7, it should be abundantly clear that there is no significant bloc of Palestinians who have an interest in peace. It should also be abundantly clear that the settlers, who have been sacrificing their lives to defend all citizens of Israel from the evils of Gaza, should be acknowledged for their contribution and no longer be treated as outcasts.

An apology is still due: but not for the actions of the settlers, nor for their existence. An apology is due to the settlers. After the Yagel brothers were murdered in cold blood in Hawara, the entire Israeli media and much of the population in Israel stood beside the murderers; instead of going to console the Yagel family, they went to show solidarity with the murderers, the residents of Hawara. Shame on us. Only after October 7, when we watched in shock as city after city came out in support of Hamas, can we really appreciate the sense of betrayal that our brothers must have felt when they were rejected by their own people.

This is a time for solidarity. Whether leaders or laymen, prime ministers or mayors or regular citizens: next time someone asks you about settler violence, tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves for buying into antisemitic propaganda. Settlers are our brothers, every ounce as morally upright and deserving of our support as any Israeli. Perhaps even more.

About the Author
Mr. Daniel was born in NY and made aliyah in the 1980's. He grew up in Efrat and studied at Har Etzion. Dov left Israel to study business in Philadelphia while his wife, Shani received a PhD in Biostatistics. After receiving an MBA from Wharton in 2006, Dov worked in Finance, Legal Services and Special Education. In 2017, Dov returned to Efrat with his wife and six Philadelphia born children.
Related Topics
Related Posts