Settlements and the Morality Gap

When society makes assumptions, it is valuable to recognize them and in some cases negate them.  For instance, the global political environment has made the assumption that, with regard to Israel, indigenous groups are the only ones that can make just claims to land.  Israel is accused of taking a colonialist stance in the West Bank, taking land from the indigenous people, the Palestinians.  At first glance, this seems to be a totally reasonable perspective.  The modern world has committed itself to civil rights and equality and should oppose any group stealing land from its inhabitants, right?  Or is it possible the West Bank Settlement media storm has removed the historical perspective from the equation and replaced it with charged emotions.  It would be a valuable exercise to reevaluate the Settlement issue with a bit more creativity.

Even amidst the crumbling American housing market, every day I see construction.  The pace of the real estate industry may have slowed, but it has by no means stopped.  Every building constructed, every farm, every politically active college campus is on land once home to indigenous peoples.  The Europeans that came to this continent for religious freedom, or economic opportunities, did so at the expense of indigenous peoples.  Yet, the descendants of these colonialist Europeans decry Jews for building in the West Bank.  This is a blaring irony and a horrible hypocrisy.  I ask all Americans that wish to point the finger of blame at Israel to close the morality gap and first give up your own back yard to the Native Americans who originally inhabited the land.  Furthermore, it is more just for a Jew to build in the West Bank, then for an American to build anywhere, because Israel is the historical homeland for the Jews.  A Jew building in the West Bank is akin to a Native American reclaiming American occupied territory.

In addition, are the Palestinians the indigenous people of the West Bank?  Only if you believe that might makes right.  The world is not Avatar and the Palestinians did not live happily with nature until the exploitative Jews came from Europe.  Palestinians are the descendants of Arab expansionists who displaced and killed countless souls.

The point is that land tenure and the relationship people have with land is much more flexible than the news will have you believe.  Jerusalem has been captured and re-captured 44 times.  There is no question that claims to the West Bank are complicated and that each side has compelling arguments, but it is unfair to characterize the Jews as colonialists or expansionists.  It is equally unfair to consider Palestinians the native people in the same way we consider Native Americans native peoples.

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