In response to the Israeli settlement policy column

| Staff Columnist

Allow me to sum up Alex Greenberg’s Israeli settlements policy: Israel has been building settlements in East Jerusalem since 1967; Palestinians have never been happy about the settlements; the peace process hasn’t worked; therefore, Israel should build more settlements. To my eye, that is not sound logic.

In his article “Some perspective on American-Israeli diplomacy,” [Mar. 19] Greenberg makes some far-out claims while supporting continued and unconditional U.S. support of Israel, specifically in regard to its settlement policies; and as an American Jew with a drastically opposing opinion, I feel obliged to respond.

For starters, Greenberg gives us a clear distinction between bad settlements (extreme-rightist settlements in the West Bank run by “zealots” and representing “a fervent opposition to the more liberal land-for-peace doctrine”) and good settlements (East Jerusalem settlements that are extensions of already existing Israeli suburbs in a “fairly evenly” split population).

According to Greenberg, since it “reclaim[ed] Jerusalem…in 1967, Israel has every right to build as it pleases, especially in a Jewish suburb.” Remember, of course, that this construction refers to the settlements not rooted in zealotry.

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The use of the term “reclaimed” is highly intentional on Greenberg’s part and essential to Israel’s “argument” for its continued settlement of East Jerusalem. Incidentally, Israel refused to make any argument to the World Court in 2004 when the court gave its unanimous opinion against the construction of Israel’s separation wall. In its opinion, the World Court reiterated that “The territories situated between the Green Line…and the former eastern boundary of Palestine under the Mandate were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the armed conflict between Israel and Jordan…Subsequent events in these territories…have done nothing to alter this situation. All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories, and Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power.”

That is to say that the World Court did not find that Israel had “reclaimed” Jerusalem at all, but rather “occupied” it. Far from being a “PO-TAY-TOE, PO-TAH-TOE” distinction, word choice here has had the terrible price of bloody conflict and loss of human life.

As for Israel’s “right to build as it pleases” that Greenberg suggests, the World Court had the exact opposite opinion, stating that the Israeli practice of building settlements in all occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, has “no legal validity.” It doesn’t stop there, though, as the court went on to call upon “Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the Fourth Geneva Convention” (i.e., to stop building settlements and to rescind its past actions).

Which brings us to Greenberg’s exhortation to “consider the track record of Israeli land policy that accommodates Palestinian interest.” Greenberg instructs us to remember Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, supposedly an olive branch that only resulted in “increased rocket attacks,” as the cornerstone example how Israel’s generosity has been exploited by Palestinians.

It seems the author is selectively remembering only that Israel withdrew its settlements from the Gaza Strip. What he is neglecting to remember is that Israel also removed its industry in Gaza, resulting in increased unemployment. Coupling its withdrawal from Gaza with a hefty blockade, Israel maintained its control of Gaza’s borders (including its sea border), a condition that most rational adherents to the Geneva Convention view as continued occupation rather than emancipation.

How this land policy in Gaza can be viewed as accommodating Palestinian interests is beyond me; but I do fully agree with Greenberg that this example is representative of Israel’s track record.

I encourage all members of the Washington University community who aim to give perspective on American-Israeli diplomacy to at least entertain a whole-picture view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict before lobbying our government to support 62 more years of failed policy.

Bram is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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