'Settlements’: Jewish disease or G-dly requirement?

Tuvia Brodie,

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Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is http://tuviainil.blogspot.com He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

The world talks of Israeli ‘settlements’ as if ‘settlements’ were a deadly disease that must be eradicated for the benefit of humanity. For many in the world, 'settlements' do a horrible thing: they bring Jews into Judea-Samaria (what some call, ‘the West Bank’).

That's horrible because Jewish 'settlement' acts like a disease. It prevents the healthy growth of peace in the Middle East. If Israel wants peace, it must remove the 'settlements'.

This is what Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas declared when he spoke to the UN last week (Rory Jones, “Abbas to Seek U.N. Security Council Resolution Against Israeli Settlements in West Bank”, wsj, September 23, 2016). The ‘settlements’ must go. If Jews won’t remove them, Abbas wants the UN to do it.

For religious Zionists, Judea-Samaria (the West Bank) is ancient Jewish homeland. Even Robert Serry, who in 2015 finished his term as the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, seems to agree. As he finished his term, he spoke of Judea-Samaria. He called Judea-Samaria, “the heartland of previous ancient Jewish kingdoms” (Baruch Gordon, “The precise number of Jews in the 'West Bank'”, arutzsheva, 03/06/16). Apparently, even a UN expert has agreed that Judea-Samaria is ancient Jewish land.

The world doesn't care about ancient Jewish history. The world agrees with Abbas. It claims that Jewish construction in Judea-Samaria is a plague that must be stopped. 

This disease, ‘settlements’, is unique. It appears in only one region of the world. It appears only in the Middle East. It appears only in Israel. It’s spread only by Jews.

A ‘settlement’ is a Jewish community built by Israel on land Israel won in the 1967 Six-Day War—a war begun by Arabs to push Israel into the Mediterranean. According to the Jewish anti-Israel NGO, B’Tselem, this Jewish 'settlement' disease has spread to 125 official sites (‘Settlements—Background—Land expropriations and Settlements’, B’Tselem, last updated November 23, 2015). There are also ‘about 100’ additional unofficial ‘outposts’; plus an enclave inside Hevron and 12 neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem (ibid). According to The English Jewish Population Stats Report for Judea and Samaria, dated December 31, 2015, there are 766,000 Jews (app 12.5 per cent of Israel’s Jewish population) living in these ‘settlements’.

An official ‘settlement’ is one that is authorized by Israel’s government (B’Tselem, ibid). These communities have approved planning schemes and receive the same benefits and services as towns within Israel’s pre-1967 borders (ibid) [I’m not sure that’s entirely true]. An unofficial ‘settlement’ does not have government authorization to exist [true]. But it receives support and assistance from a variety of Government Ministries [also true] (ibid). 

The world tracks this disease. The world watches Israel the way a physician watches to see if that strange rash you’ve got is expanding. Every time anyone in Israel talks of ‘settlements’, the world jumps as if to scream, ’Disease alert! Disease alert!’

Follow the headlines:

-the US accuses Israel (Tovah Lazaroff, “US accuses Israel of ‘systematically' seizing Palestinian land”, jerusalempost, July 6, 2016).

-the Palestinian Authority accuses Israel (Hugh Naylor, “Palestinians accuse Israel of annexing the West Bank”, thenational.ae, October 18, 2012).

-Britain accuses Israel (Jason Beattie, “'Deplorable': Britain accuses Israel of risking peace deal with huge expansion plan”, mirror.co.uk, December 3, 2012).

-the UN accuses Israel (“UN chief and Israeli PM trade barbs over settlements”, aljazeera, January 26, 2016).

-anti-Israel Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) accuse Israel (Inna Lazareva, “NGO accuses Israel of covertly planning to restart 'frozen' West Bank settlement project”, soft.net, December 29, 2015).

-Germany and France accuse Israel (“US, Germany, France Accuse Israel Of ‘Appropriating’ Land In The Jordan Valley”, matzav.com, March 17, 2016).

-the new Canadian government accuses Israel (“Canadian government accuses Israel of violating Geneva Convention due to settlements”, fullreport.ca, June 24, 2016).

-the EU accuses and condemns Israel (“EU condemns new Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem”, al-arabiya, October 3, 2014).

Yes, 'settlements' are particularly pernicious. They're a disease. They kill peace the way cancer cells kill healthy cells.

Some Jews see ‘settlements’ as a disease that will kill peace—and Israel, too. For example, earlier this month, we saw exactly that diagnosis (Alon Ben-Meir, “Settlements: self-entrapment of existential proportions”, huffingtonpost, September 8, 2016). Ben-Meir wrote that ‘settlements’ put another “nail in the coffin of peace” (ibid). He called Israel’s settlement policy a ‘self-entrapment’ that threatens Israel’s very existence (ibid).

This last statement is curious because it stands against what our Jewish Heritage teaches about settling the land of Israel, including Judea-Samaria. Here’s a partial update of what I wrote last year about settlements and Judea-Samaria (“G-d is a liar!” arutzsheva, June 16, 2015):

The gentile nations proclaim that Judea-Samaria must not be ‘Jewish’. They say Jewish ‘settlement’ in Judea-Samaria (the ‘West Bank’) is prohibited. They claim Jews cannot possess it or occupy it. They declare that Jews must never dwell in it.

Humanitarians come from these gentile nations. They claim to be the moral voice of Western civilization. They decide what’s right and wrong. They’ve decided that a Jewish presence in Judea-Samaria is wrong.

They declare it’s illegal for Jews to own Judea-Samaria.

Some nations don’t say Judea-Samaria is ‘illegal’ for Jews to own. They say, Jewish ownership is ‘illegitimate’.

Humanitarians don’t distinguish between ‘illegal’ and ‘illegitimate’. They don’t need to. Both words send the same message: Jewish settlement in Judea-Samaria is forbidden.

Our Jewish Heritage says the opposite. Our Gemara (Talmud) was handed down from generation-to-generation for more than 1,000 years before it was codified some 1,500 years ago. It was and is our ‘Oral Tradition’. It represents the living documentation that explains how Judaism works in the real world.

In that Talmud (Tractate Kiddushin, p.37a), our Oral Tradition explains ‘settlement’ in Israel. It discusses the Torah commandment ‘to dwell’ in the land of Israel. It says that in order to ‘dwell’ in the Holy Land, the Jewish nation must first possess the land and then create ‘settlement’ there  (translation by ArtScroll, The Schottenstein Daf Yomi edition, Kiddushin, Mesorah Publications, New York, February, 2011, p 37a).

Put another way, G-d disagrees with Humanitarians. G-d says Jews must dwell in the land of Israel—and ‘dwell’ means ‘settlement’. It’s a Divine commandment.

Our Heritage is clear. ‘Settlement’ is part of a G-dly requirement.

 In case you were wondering, Judea-Samaria is within the borders of the ‘Israel’ G-d describes in the Torah (Bamidbar 34:1-12). The borders are clear. G-d gave the entire west bank of the Jordan River to the Jews.

Humanitarians reject that. They reject our G-d’s words. They reject our G-d’s commandments. They reject our G-d’s borders.

They declare that our G-d’s commandment to possess Judea-Samaria is ‘illegal’. They say G-d’s commandment to ‘settle’ Judea-Samaria is ‘illegitimate’.

They say Judea-Samaria doesn’t belong to Jews. It belongs to those who hate Jews. Jews must leave that land—or else.

Here are two questions for you: is settling Judea-Samaria a G-d-inspired action that is part of G-d's Plan for Israel? Or, is settlement a uniquely Jewish disease that could kill Israel if not eradicated (Ben-Meir, above)?

These are important questions because, as history unfolds, you’ll be asked to make decisions. You’ll be asked to decide, where do you stand: with G-d, or against G-d?

This ‘settlement’ issue presents you with one of those decision-points. Whom do you believe—the G-d of Israel, or the world’s Humanitarians?

Choose wisely. Your future may depend upon your choice.