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. Continue reading
It is clear that US citizens need to start asking what exactly we are supporting in Israel. The general belief and political rhetoric tell us that the US is, through military aid and diplomatic support, protecting Israel’s very existence, that is, the lives of millions of Jews
whose history is so full of episodes where we were the victims of violence, ethnic cleansing and even genocide. But in recent years, the story of Israel as a Jewish state has been dictated by demographics and questions of apartheid. So when we support Israel, are we protecting a long-besieged minority and a US ally or are we supporting the kinds of discrimination that are anathema to most of the world?
A disturbing answer to this question was provided by former US President Bill Clinton in his remarks at the celebration of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday: “Is it really okay with you if Israel has a majority of its people living within your territory who are not now, and never will be, allowed to vote?” Clinton asked. “If it is, can you say with a straight face that you’ll be a democracy? If you let them vote, can you live with not being a Jewish state? And if you can’t live with one of those things, then you are left with trying to cobble together some theory of a two-state solution.”
Clinton’s words are a rather clear summation of both the US and Israeli approach to the Israeli occupation, at least among those who are desperately clinging to the long-dead Oslo Process. Those words carry some shocking modes of thought; they also demonstrate very clearly why Israel has gotten more intransigent and the United States ever more feckless over the years.
When I was a kid, my family, friends, and school all passed various hats, boxes and pledge cards around to raise money for the Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, or Jewish National Fund. This was all about planting trees in Israel.
As I became a teenager, and on into my early 20s, and the situation in Israel became somewhat more fraught for me, I still saw giving to the JNF as one sure way to promote something good without the political entanglements of so many other causes.
Boy was I wrong.
In the town of al-Araqib, in the Negev desert, a JNF bulldozer is standing poised at the village cemetery, ready to plow it down in order to make way for…wait for it…a “peace forest.”
This is the 17th time the village has been razed by the Israel Land Authority, which controls all state land, some of it in partnership with the JNF. The Bedouin claim to this land has been in dispute since 1951 when, the villagers say, they were forced out. Israel claims the land was abandoned, a very familiar claim regarding Arab lands in the wake of a war from which many families, not wanting to get shot or blown up, did flee, expecting to return.
Al-Araqib is one of many so-called “unrecognized villages” in the Negev. By definition, all construction in these villages is illegal in Israel, because the state will not grant a building permit in a village which, technically, “does not exist.” Continue reading