Counterpoint: Who Is Disturbed, and Why?

by Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Philadelphia-area lawyer and journalist whose focus is the Middle East Denying basic human rights to any ethnic group on the basis of membership in that group is surely anathema to all who believe in the fundamental dignity of human beings. For any government to refuse the right of residence, employment, security or reproduction (refusal to allow families to house their offspring is tantamount to a denial of reproduction), or even breathing rights, to a populace based on their membership in an ethnic or other group constitutes the most blatant form of racist discrimination. And yet the Meretz opposition to the construction of new homes in Judea and Samaria, and so the one being addressed in these opposing essays, turns the quest for justice and fairness on its head. Meretz demands that we adopt and endorse the Arab Palestinian leadership’s racist policy officially denying Jews the right to reside in, be employed in, be secure in, or even breathe in, the territories under dispute. If we are really concerned about the safety of Israel and of the United States, as Meretz claims is its motivation in making this request of us, wouldn’t they be asking us to vehemently oppose the racist operative documents and actions of the ruling Arab Palestinian parties requiring that the area in dispute be judenrein? If a Western country applied the kind of policies against any other ethnic group in the world that the Arab Palestinians apply to Jews and that the Jews are stunningly applying to themselves, it would draw the outrage of, at the very least, those loudly decrying the continuing presence of Jews in the disputed territories. That lack of outrage towards Arab policies is known as the bigotry of low expectations. But Meretz’s position is even weaker than that because the “government” to which Meretz seeks to cede this land has never actually possessed it. The chain of custody for the disputed territories at issue is the following:
  • The area under dispute is area that Israel came to control in a defensive war in which Jordan - the state which had occupied the area in dispute – attacked Israel after repeated requests by Israel to refrain from military hostilities.
  • Jordan is the only sovereign state that controlled the area between 1948 and 1967. Jordan only occupied the area, however, it never annexed or asserted sovereignty over it.
  • Prior to 1948 the area was offered to the Arabs, who rejected that offer and instead waged war against the nascent state of Israel in order to acquire all of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. They didn’t want Jews then either.
  • Prior to ’48 the land passed to Great Britain from the Ottoman Empire at the conclusion of World War I.
  • The Ottoman Empire had controlled the territory for hundreds of years before that.
The claim that under the Geneva Convention Israel wrongly “occupied” the disputed territory is simply false. The Arab Palestinians were never a sovereign nation – and only land that had belonged to a sovereign country can be illegally occupied by another. In any event, the question remains, why should we endorse racist restrictions imposed upon Jews living in this area? Finally, let’s be honest. If the expansion of the “settlements” were the obstacle to peace and their removal would herald in an era of glorious co-existence, why were hundreds of Jews murdered in Israel by Arab Palestinians between 1948 and 1967? And why would the PLO have been formed in 1964, before Israel “occupied” one inch of Gaza or the “West Bank”? And why would both the Fatah Constitution and the Hamas Charter demand the violent destruction of the “Zionist enterprise” from all of historic Palestine? So, the argument that any more Jews (or any Jews, for that matter) residing in Judea and Samaria is the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East is not only disingenuous but shamefully hypocritical. Any advocates for peace should demand, at the very least, that all races be permitted residency, employment, security, reproduction and breathing rights in the territories – not just Arab Palestinians. Israel’s decision to allow Jews to build additional homes in the Jerusalem suburbs of Har Homa, Ramat Shlomo and Pisgat Zeev, is something that should be supported by all human rights advocates.