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Letter to the editor

Published: October 8, 2010
Section: Editorials


In last week’s paper, Rick Alterbaum posed what seems like it should be a reasonable question: “Why can thousands of Arabs currently live in Israel proper while no Jews would be allowed to even live in a future Palestinian state?” While this may seem like a legitimate question, in reality it ignores the reality of the conflict. The settler movement that Alterbaum defends is comprised of dangerous extremists who hope to retain a system of Jewish supremacy in the West Bank and would never be willing citizens of a Palestinian state.

Alterbaum conveniently ignores that the settler movement began in opposition to a Palestinian state. The stated goal of the National Religious movement is that the Palestinian territories should forever be a part of the State of Israel. They believe that Jews have the right to settle anywhere in the West Bank, a right they would never accord to Palestinians in Israel. They build strategically in order to make the West Bank’s separation from Israel impossible. The Israeli government has supported this movement by providing subsidies to Israelis settling in the Occupied Territories and using the resources of the Israeli Defense Force to protect these settlements.

Alterbaum neglects to mention that these settlers aren’t moving into the West Bank to live alongside the Palestinians. They are building Jewish-only communities–on land they stole from Arab landowners–supported by an extensive Jewish-only infrastructure. Their sewer systems, water systems and highways are for Jews only and do not benefit the Palestinian community. While water resources are relatively unlimited to Jewish settlers, they are especially scarce for their Palestinian neighbors.

According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, settlers in Pnei Hever, near Hebron, consume 194 liters of water per day per capita–while in the nearby Arab town of Yatta, average water consumption is just 27 liters per day per person. On the Jewish–only highway system in the West Bank, Palestinians are restricted from travelling on over 300 kilometers of road. These highways separate towns and families and make travel in the West Bank difficult for Palestinians.

Alterbaum fails to discuss settler violence against Palestinians who have been shot at by settlers during the olive harvest season. Settlers throw rocks at children on their way to school, uproot crops and commit other acts of violence with the purpose of scaring the Palestinians into leaving the land.

In the ideology of the settler movement, this violence is justified by the claim that the land belongs entirely to the Jewish people and the Palestinians are “occupiers.” Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 Purim day rampage at the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron which killed 29 Muslims and wounded 150 more is only an extreme but emblematic example. The settler movement continues to honor Goldstein as a hero.

Alterbaum tries to innocently present the situation of the Occupation as though it were simply a question of whether or not Jews should be allowed to live in the West Bank. He uses the term “judenrein,” using the memory of the Holocaust in order to present these violent extremists as innocent victims. He ignores the fact that the settler movement has absolutely no interest in living alongside their Palestinian neighbors as equals. The actual aims of the settler movement are revealed as they seek to strategically build as far and as deep into the West Bank as possible to ensure that no Palestinian state can ever be created. If Alterbaum truly believes that Jews should be able to live in ‘Judea’ and ‘Samaria,’ then let them do so as equal citizens of the Palestinian State, or in the alternative, within a one-state solution in which Palestinians are granted full equality and the right to vote.

– Lev Hirschorn ’11