Waking Up to a New Reality

One morning last week, I came to my office at the press center in Jerusalem at 9:45am and was greeted with two new dissonant realities within minutes.

David Bedein,

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One morning last week, I came to my office at the press center in Jerusalem at 9:45am and was greeted with two new dissonant realities within minutes.

An official letter from the Israel Government Lands Authority authorizing our family's purchase of a home in the city of Efrat. Efrat is 14 kilometers south of Jerusalem, a city of almost 1,800 families, set to expand to 5,000 families according to the municipal plans that were approved by the government of Israel more than a quarter-century ago.

After twenty years of rental, we finally own our home. Well, there was not much time for the sentimentality of owning a home in the state of Israel.

Only minutes after opening the letter, the second reality hit like a ton of bricks.

The 10:00am newscast on the Voice of Israel reported that the High Court of Justice had declared that the government's Disengagement Plan, while violating human rights and civil liberties, was legal. Israeli human rights and civil liberties law simply do not apply to Israeli taxpayers and law-abiding citizens who live in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the court said, since Israel has not yet annexed these areas. And Efrat is smack in the middle of Judea.

The High Court of Justice, therefore, declared that Israeli citizens who live in Judea and Samaria have no human rights and no civil liberties. Hence, the silence of organizations such as the Israel Association for Civil Liberties and the Anti-Defamation League. In other words, the only place in the world where Jews have no de jure human rights and civil liberties would be in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

This is not the first time that I have heard such a notion.

On July 23rd, 1990, our news agency organized a dialogue between Israeli-American residents of Judea and the US Consul in Jerusalem, Mr. Phillip Wilcox. During that discussion, the guests from Judea noted the sensitivity of the US government to the human rights and civil liberties of Palestinian Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. They asked the US consul about the human rights of Jews who live in the same areas - given the traditional sensitivity of the US government to human rights and civil liberties in this part of the world.

US Consul Wilcox responded quickly and straightforwardly, and with no emotion: "If you live where you live, you have no human rights and no civil liberties."

The US consul invoked the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids nations that conquer other lands in war to settle their citizens in those lands. Wilcox, consistent with this position, now heads the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, which has as its purpose the eradication of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Golan and even in the new neighborhoods in Jerusalem that were established by Israel since 1967.

Wilcox's statement ignored the fact that the San Remo Treaty had been adopted by both the League of Nations and by the United Nations. That treaty protected the right of Jews to purchase land and to settle in the Jewish National Homeland, defined as anywhere west of the Jordan River.

Yet, 15 years later, Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz adopted the precise formula that Wilcox had articulated in 1990: that Israelis have no human rights or civil liberties if they live in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, even if they are law-abiding and tax-paying Israeli citizens.

Even the mainstream Israeli left-wing had never held such a dogmatic approach. That had been the position of the Israeli Communist Party and an anti-Zionist organization in Israel known as Matzpen, which had always favored unilateral retreat from all areas acquired by Israel in the defensive war of 1967.

Indeed, the man who had spearheaded the "territories for peace" ideology, the late former army intelligence chief Aharon Yariv, told me that the difference between his view, coined in 1974 as the Yariv-Shem Tov peace formula, and the attitude of the New Left today was that the Yariv-Shem Tov formula mandated "territories for peace" and not "territories before peace". And Yariv warned that ceding territory without a peace agreement would run the risk of an enemy using that territory as a forward position to attack.