EU's latest settlement hypocrisy – where’s the protest from US Jews?

The EU is building illegally in Area C, but condemns Israel for cultivated unused land.

Att'y Stephen M. Flatow

OpEds Steve Flatow
Steve Flatow

The Obama administration and European leaders are condemning Israel for changing the status of a small piece of land near Jericho--even though it just been revealed that the European Union itself has been illegally sponsoring the building of Palestinian "settlements" in the territories.

The Israeli land decision involves 580 acres of empty desert. Some of it already lies within the jurisdiction of the Israeli town of Almog; some of it was unclaimed land that the Israeli government has now declared to be "state land."

If Israel had had not made the move, it would have soon regretted it. The Israelis know from bitter experience that if they leave land empty long enough, Arab squatters will move in--and trying to get them out would undoubtedly mean expenses and nasty media headlines.

And after all, why shouldn't Israel take steps to cultivate empty land that has been a part of the historic Jewish homeland from time immemorial? No Arabs would be displaced; no harm would be done to anybody. It simply would continue the century-old process of making the desert bloom. That's what we call Zionism.

Of course, other governments called it something else. Obama administration spokesman John Kirby said that changing the legal status of the tiny parcel of land is "undermining the prospects for a two-state solution." Well, so what if it does? Since when is Israel bound to implement that "solution"? The State Department and the United Nations may want a Palestinian state, but that doesn't mean Israel has to agree that doing so is desirable or safe.

The German Foreign Ministry said, “We condemn the Israeli government’s decision…is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace." The British government issued a similar denunciation.

An Israeli NGO tried to take the EU to court over the issue, but the EU has sought dismissal of the case on the grounds that it has "diplomatic immunity."
It's almost funny to hear European governments condemning Israel's rather innocuous action, when they themselves are going much further. London's Daily Mail reported this week that the European Union has in recent years "built more than 1,000 buildings on the West Bank." I’ve seen some of them myself.

The construction is going on in Area C, which is under Israeli jurisdiction. "The buildings are given to Palestinians and paid for using aid money from European countries, including Britain," according to the Daily Mail. An Israeli NGO tried to take the EU to court over the issue, but the EU has sought dismissal of the case on the grounds that it has "diplomatic immunity."

"The buildings…are intended to 'pave the way' for more land to be brought under Palestinian control, according to official EU papers," the Daily Mail added. "Many are bulldozed by Israel only for the EU to repeatedly rebuild them; generating more costs for the taxpayer…the EU – which receives £350 million per week from Britain – is using diplomatic rules to place officials above the law, foiling attempts to hold bureaucrats accountable."

My point is not simply that the EU has revealed itself to be hypocritical, although surely it has. My point is that American Jews need not be defensive or apologetic about Israel's action regarding the 580 acres.

Neither Israel nor American Jewry is required to accept the Obama-European Union view that the Judea-Samaria territories are in fact "Palestinian territory." The truth is that Israel's legal, religious, and historical right to those areas is far stronger than any Arab claims. And Israel has every right to take empty desert land, situated in the historical Jewish homeland, and make it bloom.

There was a time when all American Jews were proud of such agricultural development efforts. We should be proud today, too.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.