The Settlements are an Obstacle to Peace

John Kerry Secretary of State John Kerry gave a 70-minute speech that focused largely on Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace (Photo: State Department/ZUMA Press/Newscom)

Remarks presented at the Massachusetts Democratic Committee’s Settlements Resolution Forum on April 19, 2017

I am a 77 year old resident of Marblehead involved in Jewish organizations locally and nationally since my bar mitzvah in Temple Beth El in Lynn. 

Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 and what is supposed to be only temporary has become illegal and is the longest occupation in the world.

The transfer of Israeli citizens to the West Bank in 1967 violated the 4th Geneva Convention and was contrary to a legal opinion of a lawyer for Israel’s Foreign Ministry

For the last 45 years, since 1972, not a day has gone by where I have not been aware of Israel’s violations of the human rights, and devaluation, of Palestinians caused by its settlement policies.

The growth of the settlements from one settlement with 100 squatters (not permanent settlers but illegal trespassers) in 1967 to 123 now with 350,000 (not including 250,000 in East Jerusalem) and the need to maintain and protect the squatters (many religiously fanatic zealots from Brooklyn) has spawned numerous additional  obstacles to peace, including:

unequal distribution of water, denying Palestinians fair access to minimal water while allowing squatters enough for irrigation and pools;

a massive theft of land from Palestinians leading to Israel taking control of over 40% of the West Bank;

the destruction of over 48,000 homes and other structures since 1967 (very few for security reasons);

the building of a wall, 85% inside the green line separating families from their lands, schools and businesses;

the ignoring and overlooking of squatters and the IDF destroying 800,000 olive trees;

the establishment of military law for Palestinians and Israeli civil law for squatters;

the failure to enforce criminal laws against squatters while punishing Palestinians for the same actions;

the restricting of movement by constructing many checkpoints and physical barriers  unrelated to security concerns, resulting in employment and medical complications; and

the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians, sometimes more than a year, in administrative detention  without ever charging them with a crime, leading to today’s  humanitarian based hunger strike.

WHO OPPOSES THE SETTLEMENTS

The UN General Assembly has passed hundreds of resolutions since 1967 condemning or criticizing Israel’s occupation, settlement policy and other violations of Palestinian human rights.

The US, since 1972, has voted in favor of 20 UN resolutions while vetoing 88.

Recently a UN committee found that many of these obstacles to peace taken together are evidence for a finding that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.

The 4th Geneva Convention forbids the transfer of an occupier of its civilians into occupied territory and the International Criminal Court defines it as an indictable war crime.

Six former heads of Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet, in the powerful movie, Gatekeepers,  deplored most of the political leaders as being indifferent to negotiations with their Arab enemies. One, Mr. Shalom, said, “We have become cruel. To ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population”.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2002 said “Over 35 new settlements have been constructed this year.  Each one is a step away from the safety deserved by the Israelis and two steps away from the justice owed to the Palestinians.  If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined.”

An Israeli -Yitzhak Frankenthal on July 27, 2002 said “My beloved son Arik, my own flesh and blood, was murdered by Palestinians. The Palestinians … have been ready to make peace with us; it is we who are unwilling to make peace with them

Nine mainstream Christian denominations/organizations, including the Methodists, are so opposed to settlements that they have adopted resolutions not to buy settlement goods.

As of September 14, 2015, 136 (70.5%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognized the State of Palestine.

US presidents including Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama have either declared the settlements illegal or an obstacle to peace.

Secretary of State John Kerry on December 4, 2016, warned that the building of Israeli settlements was undermining any hope of an agreement to allow two states to live side by side and is a deliberate obstacle to peace.

Jewish groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace, J-Street and Americans for Peace Now have stated their opposition to the settlement policies of Israel.

A Pew Research Center survey in 2013 that found that “just 17% of American Jews think the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security; 44% say that settlement construction hurts Israel’s own security interests. 

HAS THE SETTLEMENT POLICY KILLED THE TWO STATE SOLUTION DEAD?

Israel’s aggressive settlement policy has made the establishment of a viable contiguous Palestinian state (a generally acknowledged path to peace)  physically and politically nearly impossible.

Thomas Friedman, in an op-ed published on February 10, 2016, said, “The  peace process is dead. It’s over, folks, so please stop sending the New York Times Op-Ed page editor your proposals for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.”  

In 2015 Netanyahu pledged that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. This should surprise no one. Since 1967, Israel has pursued a policy, as promoted by Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1920’s; i.e., the full annexation of the West Bank (code words “Judea and Samaria”).

WHO SUPPORTS THE SETTLEMENTS

The Congress of the United States and President Trump’s newly appointed Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

CONCLUSION

Failure to support this resolution authorizes: the maintenance of what is now the longest occupation in the world; increased illegal transfers of Israeli citizens to settlements; more extensions of the illegal wall; continued violations by Israel of international human, civil and criminal laws with their attendant deaths and destruction of property and the death of the two state solution.

Ironically, the settlements and their attendant abuse and humiliation and, frankly, terrorization of Palestinians are also contrary to the core values of Judaism. As stated by Rabbi Ben-Zion Gold, who recently passed away, the former director of Harvard Hillel;

“The Jewish settlements on the West Bank are a grave and dangerous mistake that have done much harm to Israel. Micah. ‘He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ By all means, Humbly.”

Israel’s settlement policy is un-American, undemocratic, unjust and an obstacle to peace. As stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., ”There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.”

I urge the committee to vote in favor of this resolution.