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Settlers: It’s we who suffer from apartheid - not Palestinians!

Palestinian workers holding an Israeli work permit wait in line to board an Israeli bus designated for Palestinians only after the Eyal checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Qalqiliya, March 4, 2012. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

The word “apartheid” is slowly seeping more and more into mainstream discourse on the occupation. Yet I recently came across two cases in which, how to say, the usage of the word was a bit surprising.

The first came in the official Yesha Council newsletter, which posted an item on the Palestinian-only buses recently “inaugurated” for Palestinian workers who enter Israel on a daily basis. You can read more about these bus lines here.

Besides pointing to Chaim Levinson’s (Haaretz) piece claiming Palestinians are happy with the new arrangement, the Yesha Council – who went with the headline “Apartheid, nice to meet you” – goes even further:

And what about the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria? Those, thanks for asking, can only travel in 60% of the area. Furthermore, Israeli citizens with a blue ID card can enter the cities of Nablus and Jenin, for example, only if they are… Arab. According to army regulations, entrance to those areas is forbidden to an Israeli of Jewish nationality, who may face punishment for doing so. Racial discrimination, anyone?

Another attempt to spin things around was seen on Facebook, where a settler named Chani Luz, who works for a right-wing NGO called Tadmeet (aimed at calling out left-wing tendencies in Israeli media) said the following in response to the signs across the territories warning Israelis from entering Area A:

The Jews are the ones who are discriminated against on the roads of Judea and Samaria!

Freedom of movement is not available to Jews.

A Jew who wants to travel from Ofra to the Meggido junction, for example, can not chose the natural geographical route: north on Route 60 to Nablus and from there to Jenin, as he could have 20 years ago. A Jew must chose to circumvent Samaria through the Jordan Valley, or by Highway 6, a route which adds dozens of kilometers and and least one hour more of driving.


A sign forbidding Israeli Jews from entering Area A in the West Bank, which is under PA control. (photo: Tadmeet)

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    1. Anna

      Would appreciate some more information and analysis here please…

      Reply to Comment
    2. Anna, the Israeli military forbids Israeli entry to the portions of the West Bank known as Area A, which comprise roughly 18% of the West Bank. These spattered non-contiguous areas are ostensibly under the control of the Palestinian Authority (translation: the everyday duty of maintaining the occupation is subcontracted to the PA) but the Palestinian inhabitants are still subject to military law and the army decrees who can enter and exit. There are internal checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank, through which sporadic checks are made, but for the most part it’s pretty easy for Israelis to break the ban on their entry to Area A. This is of course good news for any settlers who are suddenly seized by a burning desire to visit the neighbours and witness how the other half lives. In the meantime, the amount of money poured into settlement infrastructure (i.e. the building of connecting roads, closed to Palestinian vehicles) means that they aren’t at any inconvenience.

      I’m not surprised that claims of ‘apartheid against settlers’ have started happening. It’s only natural in a place where a discussion of murder at the hands of heavily armed troops typically devolves into a critique of slingshots made from bits of old tyre, and where throwing stones is a deadly threat to life and limb but the use of white phosphorus in built-up residential areas is somehow a military necessity and the height of moral restraint. It’s like a scene out of Lewis Carroll in here.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        The discussion of death of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers typically evolves into pointing out that Palestinians resort to suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and shooting rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities, which I presume are in some books considered military necessities and the height of moral restraint. It is only a scene out of Lewis Carroll if you are presenting it as an entirely one-sided and biased presentation.

        Reply to Comment
        • When I wrote that I had Mustafa Tamimi’s death in mind. He was shot at point-blank range from an armoured jeep, with the soldier actually opening the door of the jeep to fire the tear gas canister. The response of Avital Leibovich from the IDF spokesperson’s unit was to tweet a photo of a slingshot lying on a duvet, with the caption, “This is what he was doing.” And that pretty much typified how discussions on his death went.

          I could also bring up several +972 comment threads that talk about stone-throwing and its lethal nature in exactly this way, and the real-life conversations outnumber those by about ten to one. I’ve been taking part in these discussions long enough to know how they go. So have you.

          Even if you factor in the suicide bombing campaign, the death tolls don’t change and the power dynamic doesn’t change. And yes, some people do consider suicide bombs to be a military necessity, but this is hardly relevant to the point I was making – the same people who will talk about the lethal danger posed by a stone will quite happily minimise the dangers of phosphorus bombs. The same basic attitude is present in these descriptions on what it is like to suffer apartheid as a settler.

          Reply to Comment
      • Y-Man

        “It’s only natural in a place where a discussion of murder at the hands of heavily armed troops typically devolves into a critique of slingshots made from bits of old tyre, and where throwing stones is a deadly threat to life and limb but the use of white phosphorus in built-up residential areas is somehow a military necessity and the height of moral restraint.” Ha, well said!

        Reply to Comment
    3. Piotr Berman

      I think that understanding irony is a galut type of thinking that some Jews retain after aliyah, but luckily, only few.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Khaled Khalid

      Judea? Samaria?
      Why not Thrace, Parthian, Cartheginia and Roman Empire?
      Which Millennium are we living in?

      If we’re going to talk about Historic ties to the land argument then Jews living in Manhattan, New York, Brentwood come out on the wrong side of the argument.
      (Unless, of course, there is some Special Dispensation for one particular religion/Ethnic Grouping.)

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron Gross

        To answer your question, Judea and Samaria are the names Israel uses to refer to what you call the West Bank. It’s our “narrative,” as people say at +972. The least you could do is respect our narrative that much, as we should of course respect yours when you say “West Bank.”

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          It’s totally perverse to claim that the Palestinians ought to respect a narrative that denies the legitimacy of their existence.

          Reply to Comment
          • Aaron Gross

            How does the use of “Judea and Samaria” delegitimate the Palestinians’ existence? It doesn’t even deny their claim to rule over the land, any more than it denies Jordan’s legitimate rule over the East Bank.

            You’re familiar with my views from my comments here. Do you really, honestly believe that I subscribe to a narrative “that denies their legitimate existence”?

            There was an article recently at +972 by Jerry Haber about narratives and terminology. I recommend it to you.

            Reply to Comment
      • rsgengland

        The West Bank has only been called that since the illegal annexation of that area to Jordan after 1948.
        The area had always been called Judea and Samaria, and the only reason it is still called the West Bank is due to the attempt to separate the area from its history.
        If territory for a Palestinian State is so important, why was there no such state during the Jordanian occupation.
        The only call then was for Israels destruction, much the same as it is today.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Aaron Gross

      I’m wondering whether this approach will do what it’s supposed to do, which is to subvert and undermine the “Israeli apartheid” propaganda. My first thought was yes, but on second thought it’s more likely to be counter-productive. If you say, “we’re the victims of apartheid,” people still hear the word “apartheid” in connection with Israel. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. It’s a cute idea, but I don’t think it’ll work. Unfortunately, I think the only way to counter the “apartheid” propaganda is to lobby to suppress it in mainstream media.

      Reply to Comment
      • Within the Green Line, things are muddier and more complex, but the situation in the Occupied Territories clearly and comfortably fits the legal definition of apartheid. I know you have a real aversion to the word, but its use is not propaganda. It’s a simple legal descriptor for the situation as it exists currently.

        Reply to Comment
        • Aaron Gross

          I don’t think Israel/Palestine fits the Rome Statute definition of the word, but I was actually evaluating the settlers’ propaganda on its own terms, totally aside from the question of of who’s right. What do you think? Which side would the “we’re the real victims” propaganda end up helping?

          I think “apartheid” propaganda is propaganda even if it’s 100% true. (That doesn’t mean all use of the word is propaganda.) It’s used to influence the masses at an emotional level via mass media, just like the pro-settlement propaganda.

          Reply to Comment
          • Sorry, I misunderstood what you were trying to say.

            I think that the settlers who issued these statements are perfectly aware that apartheid in South Africa was about whites maintaining power through segregation, and not about whether whites were able to go on picnics to Soweto. I doubt that they even believe their own statements when they try to paint themselves as victims of an apartheid policy in the West Bank – this is their attempt to elicit sympathy from people overseas, who may not know how the occupation works in practical terms. (And sometimes it works – I once saw a photo of a red ‘Area A’ sign on a pro-occupation blog, complete with an indignant note on ‘Palestinian apartheid’. Amusingly, the sign in the photo was the one attached to the Magav outpost on the edge of Beit Jala.) So in that sense, these settlers are using apartheid as a propaganda weapon, and they are shooting themselves in the foot with it as you say.

            However, if I were to take what they have said totally at face value, then yes, I would have no problem with admitting they are victims – of a kind. To quote Mandela, “I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”

            Reply to Comment
    6. exUK

      The difference between Arab and Jew on the territories is so obvious! The Jewish settlers are there out of choice and out of own free will.Whether for subsidized housing, or reasons of belief,religion etc.,they dont HAVE to be there .If they dont like doing detours they have the whole of “Israel proper” in which to live.However if you are a 3rd generation Arab on the West Bank,you didn’t choose your parents or where you live.You dont have a choice.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        And if you are a 3rd generation Jew in the West Bank that didn’t choose your parents or where you live?

        As for Arabs, there is a rather large number of West Bank Arabs that left in the last 40 years and are now living abroad. There are some leaving every year, especially Christians. The door out is hardly closed.

        I think your distinction is rather simplistic.

        Reply to Comment
    7. carl

      “Judea and Samaria are the names Israel uses to refer to what you call the West Bank. It’s our “narrative,” as people say at +972”:
      it is a selective and biased narrative that push in order to annex and exploit the Palestinian territories while keeping the coastal plan between ashdod and ashkelon, i.e. a piece of land never ever ‘Israelite’.

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron Gross

        Carl, have you ever heard of a narrative that wasn’t selective and biased? That’s practically the definition of “narrative.”

        Reply to Comment
    8. meron

      If these settlers apply in order to become palestinian citizens and not russian colonizers, I am quite sure that they will not have these problems:
      “Menachem Froman was a wonderful Israeli and a noble man: The last time we met, about one month ago, was when we together went to speak to President Mahmoud Abbas. You were weak and in pain, but the meeting and working for peace gave you strength. And you spoke for about one hour. And President Abbas listened and responded. He had admiration in his eyes for you and appreciation for your love of humanity and your dream to see peace before you left this world. You told Abu Mazen that you look forward to being a citizen of the State of Palestine, living in your home in Tekoa. Abu Mazen responded that he looked forward to giving you a Palestinian passport.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Leen

        Fun fact, Menachem Froman used to have regular meetings with Sheikh Yassin, who was the spiritual leader of Hamas and were quite friendly.

        Reply to Comment
    9. Chani Luz’s Facebook statement “The Jews are the ones who are discriminated against on the roads of Judea and Samaria!” nicely sums up the definitional necessity of control. The land is ancient, labeled in one of the most important texts of all history, with the text owners asserting their ancient right. Once “Judea and Samaria” is employed, residents, no matter of how many generations there, take a decided second place to name right.

      And this is where apartheid will come from. The ancient necessity remastered induces apartheid. I guess the whites of South Africa lived apartheid too–albeit quite differently.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard Lightbown

        I am probably too late on this forum to get an answer. But can someone tell me what the West Bank (‘cos this is my narrative Aaron) was called before 1948? I once asked some Palestinians on the West Bank this question I didn’t get an answer.

        Reply to Comment
        • berl

          Richard, it was called “falastiin biladuna” (palestine our land) by al-din al-ramli – born and rased in ramla, from were he took his family name – in the XVII century. feel free to read one of his books (if u know arabic).
          btw, for the ‘internals’ the name was irrelevant: they knew that they were part of this region, and part of this land: it was a problem just for the ‘externals’

          Reply to Comment
          • Richard Lightbown

            Thanks Berl, that is very interesting. (Pity I don’t know Arabic.)

            Reply to Comment
    10. Philos

      Let them claim that there’s apartheid against Jews. It doesn’t hurt the Palestinian cause. It only makes the settlers and their supporters look like the hysterical looney’s that they are. I’m all for it. I hope Israel sends someone to the UN to give a speech on Palestinian apartheid against Jewish settlers.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Zephon

      I have never had such a laugh in my entire life. It’s like watching an idiot publicly slap himself in the face over and over again and screaming while a man across the street is just gawking in utter astonishment at the spectacle. Then the idiot stops long enough to blame the man across the street – for slapping himself silly!

      You just gotta laugh at these people at this point!

      So embarrassing.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Noevil9

      That simply defies the level of sanity of those people who come from all over the world(only Jews though) with this notion of maybe, and I say maybe ,as it not proven except by the texts made by the beneficiaries of such text.To a claim older than Jesus himself,and they wish to apply it in physical territorial form against the international law of the nations in the 20th century, from 3500 years ago?! What logic and common sense is this? Then we should be surprised that they claim victimhood? as another commentator said, let them take it up to the UN. It might do the Palestinians some good!

      Reply to Comment
    13. Very good post. I will be going through some of these issues as well..

      Reply to Comment
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