“Annex my neighborhood, not that other guy’s neighborhood”

If the Arabs of Anata ever make it into long-annexed French Hill, they will slaughter the Jews there as if it was a "settlement." Op-ed.

Stephen M. Flatow ,

Illustration: Neve Daniel (file), in Gush Etzion
Illustration: Neve Daniel (file), in Gush Etzion
Miriam Alster/Flash90

There’s a peculiar recurring phenomenon in Jewish history, in which some Jews attempt to convince an enemy that they are the “good,” reasonable, moderate Jews, by contrast with some other, extremist, “bad” Jews. That approach never works. Yet some partisans are trying it again, today, in the “annexation” debate.

In Israel today, and throughout the Jewish world, there is a vigorous debate concerning the possible annexation—actually, reunification is a better word—of a very small part of the Judea-Samaria territories that Israel won in self-defense in 1967.

That’s good. Debate is healthy. All sides should be heard. It’s the essence of democracy and free speech. The problem starts when some of the arguments are based on disingenuous allegations or distortions of the historical record.

It’s one thing to make an argument based on anticipating bad results. Anti-annexationists say “the world will get really mad at Israel,” or “the Arabs will get really mad at Israel.” And then one can debate whether those fears are well-founded.

But it’s another thing to claim that Israel’s Jewish majority will be endangered by the proposed territorial reunification. Anti-annexationists do this by calling the plan “West Bank annexation,” and then pointing out that the “West Bank” has over 2 million Arab residents. So—the argument goes—if Israel absorbs millions of Arabs, it will lose its Jewish majority.

But that’s a completely dishonest argument—because the territory in question is 30% or less of Judea-Samaria and has only a tiny Arab population. There are no Arabs living in the Jewish towns whose status is under consideration, that is, the Gush Etzion bloc, the city of Ariel, and the city of Ma’ale Adumim. The exact number of Arabs living in the Jordan Valley—which also may become a part of Israel—depends on where you draw the lines, but the figure is certainly in the tens of thousands at most. Not hundreds of thousands. Not millions. There’s just no demographic danger to Israel.

A different, but equally problematic, argument was made this week by the author Yossi Klein Halevi. “Every morning I wake up to a view from my porch that offers a sober warning against annexation,” he wrote. “I live in the French Hill neighborhood at the edge of northeast Jerusalem, and on the hill directly across from my apartment is the Palestinian village, Anata. The security barrier separating French Hill from Anata, which was annexed in 1967 as part of greater Jerusalem, has excluded the village from its municipal boundaries. As a result, Anata often lacks basic municipal services like garbage collection.”

Let's stop pretending that the “settlers” of French Hill are any more acceptable to the Arabs that the “settlers” of Gush Etzion.
I hope that Anata’s garbage collection services will be upgraded. Every neighborhood deserves timely collection of its trash. But Halevi is missing the point. The key word in his statement is “annexed.” His neighborhood, French Hill, in what is considered northern Jerusalem since then, was annexed. But today, Wikipedia says French Hill is a “settlement.”

In other words, he thinks it’s perfectly fine that Israel annexed his neighborhood—he just doesn’t want Israel annexing the other guy’s neighborhood, over in Gush Etzion, which is just ten minutes south of Jerusalem.

I’ve got news for Yossi Klein Halevi: The Palestinian Arabs in Anata think that his presence in French Hill is just as illegal and offensive as the presence of Jews in Gush Etzion. They don’t distinguish between “good” Jews and “bad” Jews. They consider French Hill to be “occupied Palestine” just as much as they consider Gush Etzion to be “occupied Palestine.” They object to the past annexation of French Hill just as much as they object to the future annexation of Gush Etzion.

Halevi mentions the “periodic outbreak of riots and stone-throwing [in Anata] pitting teenagers against soldiers.” Imagine, for a moment, if the soldiers stayed back, and the rock-throwing mob charged into French Hill. Do you think they would stop at the parking lot where the garbage trucks are stationed, commandeer a few of them, and return to Anata?

Of course not. Because the real problem, in the minds of the Palestinian Arabs—as they have said a million times in their newspapers, television and radio programs, schoolbooks, and Facebook pages—is not inadequate sanitation services. The real problem is that the Jews are “occupying Palestine.” That includes the “good” Jews like Yossi Klein Halevi, who mistakenly thinks the Arabs can be appeased by not annexing the neighborhoods of the “bad” Jews, over in Gush Etzion.

If the Arab rock-throwers of Anata ever make it into French Hill, they will stone and stab and slaughter the Jews there just as in every other pogrom-like Arab mob assault that has taken place throughout the past century, whether in a “settlement” or in the heart of Tel Aviv. And when they are done killing the “good” Jews in French Hill, they will continue down the road to Gush Etzion, where the “bad” Jews live.

Let’s continue debating the pros and cons of reunifying Gush Etzion with the rest of Israel. But please, stop pretending that the “settlers” of French Hill are any more acceptable to the Arabs than the “settlers” of Gush Etzion. Remember the old UJA slogan, “We Are One” …? It’s true in this context, too.

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” is now available on Kindle.