Tal Schneider is an Israeli journalist and blogger. At her blog, she recently published this excellent piece by Afif Abu-Much, who lives in the community of Baqa Baqa al-Gharbiyye in Israel. Afif’s village is one of those that would be handed over to the Palestinian Authority in the sorts of land swaps that Avigdor Lieberman champions and all too many other Israelis support. The legitimacy and morality of such an action is often debated, but actually hearing from an Israeli citizen who would be directly affected by such a move is sadly rare. I am very grateful that Tal has permitted me to reprint this piece here, in full, as she and Sol Salbe translated it from Hebrew.
It has been reported this week that Israel has proposed to the US administration to consider the transfer of certain Israeli areas
located within the Triangle, to Palestinian sovereignty. Some 300 thousand Israeli Arab citizens live there. The idea is to compensate the Palestinian Authority (PA) for the annexation of the settlement blocs in the framework of the land exchange between the parties.
Were the plan to come into fruition, the Arab proportion of the Israeli population would drop to 12 per cent, which may please some of the parties participating in the negotiations between Israel and the PA. At this stage it seems as if the Americans have not responded and it is far from certain whether the Palestinians would agree to taking populated areas containing infrastructure dating back to the ‘fifties in return for the settlements . Nevertheless there is no doubt that the proposal shows the kind of thinking which is prevalent in the upper echelons of government in regard to both the Israeli Arab population on one hand and the settlers and settlements on the other.
ֿI am an Arab citizen who lives in the community of Baqa Baqa al-Gharbiyye in the Triangle [near the Green Line], a region that Israel has proposed hand over. Every month about half my wages are taken by state in taxes so that the Prime Minister would have the ability to buy ice cream for 10,000 shekels per annum, scented candles for 6000 and allow himself to squander water to the tune of 80,000 shekels (not to mention the half million spent on that bed for Thatcher’s funeral etc.)
The taxes that I’m compelled to pay by law, financed the construction of the settlements. Over the same period, my community and other Arab communities rarely saw anything in return for those taxes. All Israeli governments over the years have been meticulous in channelling the money to the settlements and not to those places which were in need of it. Now, as a New Year “present” , they are going to move me and my family, deprive me of my citizenship (do they have the legal right to do it?) and all that in order to keep the settlement blocs as part of Israel.
Why we should be used as a bartering object for the purpose of keeping the settlements? In what way are people who live there superior to Arab citizens? On the contrary, nothing does more harm to Israel’s image than the settlements. It not for nothing that Israeli law has not been applied there and the place is under military rule. Have you ever heard an American or European leader attack or condemn Israel because of the Arab communities in the Triangle, the Galilee, or the Negev?
The status of the settlements is a controversial matter in international law. Most countries are opposed to the policy that led to the establishment of the settlements and their continuing expansion. Israel has been criticized, condemned and has been on the receiving end of countless reprimands by US, European officials as well as the UN Security Council. Those criticisms stemmed from the fact that the existence of the settlements is a violation of international law. Israel has also been described as an Apartheid state because of the settlements, and because of the suffering caused to the Palestinian population in the Territories.
It is simply wrong to place Arab towns and villages and the settlement blocs on the same level. Those who lives across the Green Line and beyond the State’s “borders” are the settlers and not the and Arab citizens. Those who inflict damage on, and undermine the peace negotiations, are the settlers and not the Arab community. Accordingly, this proposal – the transfer of Arab citizens to the Palestinian Authority as if we were dealing with a herd of sheep and not citizens of the state – is unacceptable. It also contains a not inconsiderable number of backward ideas. What is happening here is trafficking in humans beings — citizens who happen to belong to a minority.
Finally, just imagine what would happen if one day the President of United States, Barack Obama, were to propose to transfer sovereignty of certain parts of the US populated by the Jewish minority to another country ( say Cuba) as compensation for other regions and thereby reduce the number of Jewish citizens in the US.
How would that be viewed? How would it have been taken in this country? What would be the reactions within the government? How would Prime Minister respond? Here is your answer: Straightaway everyone would rise and scream and yell and shout and call Obama an antisemite, a racist, A President of an Apartheid country, a person devoid of human feelings and so on. What is the difference between that and the Israeli offer to transfer me and my family as compensation for the annexation of settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria?