Israel’s Settlement Movement:  What Do You Know?

For your calendar:

From Gush Emunim to Amona:  The Story and History of the Settlers Movement

Presenter: Moshe Levi, Community Shaliach for the Jewish Greater Federation of MetroWest New Jersey.

Wednesday, February 1 at 7:45 PM at Oheb Shalom.

Free and open to the community.

Two days ago, Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, announced on behalf of the Israeli government that it has approved the construction of 2,500 new West Bank settlement homes, most, but not all, of them to be built within the existing settlement blocs that Israel hopes to keep in a future negotiated deal with the Palestinians.  An additional 566 units are approved for construction in East Jerusalem.  Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu, taking questions from Knesset members, said that the new homes in the settlements were “just a taste” of what is to come.  The Prime Minister expressed his delight at the departure of President Obama and the inauguration of President Trump, noting the Obama administration’s “not one brick” policy of opposing any construction beyond the Green Line (the armistice line that was Israel’s border from the end of the 1948 War of Independence until the 1967 Six Day War).  Mr. Netanyahu indicated that he would discuss the issue of settlements, along with other key issues Israel faces, with President Trump when he visits Washington next month.  Mr. Netanyahu is, no doubt, quite pleased with the initial statements made by President Trump about Israeli settlement activity and his appointment of David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel.

Some may react to this news by cheering new Israeli settlement activity and would likely say that it’s Israel’s right to build settlements anywhere in the land it wants to either because it’s the Jewish people’s God-given right to do so, or perhaps because we won the land fair and square in a defensive war, or because the Arabs hate the Jews and want to destroy the State of Israel, or because Israel does not face a demographic problem at all and is not risking being outnumbered by the Palestinians, or because Israel needs to protect itself from the threat of Islamic terrorism that would most certainly take root in any newly created Palestinian state.

Some may react to the news of new Israeli settlement activity by condemning the construction of new West Bank homes and would likely say that Israel is destroying any hope of a two-state solution by creating facts on the ground that cannot be reversed, or perhaps that Israel is denying the very character and nature of Zionism by occupying another people, or perhaps that Israel is risking its democratic nature as a nation-state by occupying another people that has no opportunity for national self-expression, or perhaps because Israel, as the Jewish State, must never act unjustly.

Some may react by opposing Israeli settlement construction, but only because they feel that Israel must take a wait and see approach to what happens next in the Middle East.  With Syria in shambles, with ISIS still a potent threat that is inching closer to Israel (ISIS took credit for the recent murder of four Israeli soldiers who were run over by a truck in Jerusalem), with Iran on the rise and its support of Hezbollah in Lebanon growing stronger, some would say that this is no time to relinquish territory, but neither is it a time to build settlements on the land.

And, of course, some may not react to new Israeli settlement activity at all, either because they don’t care one way or the other, or perhaps because they don’t understand the complexity of the issue.  But people who care about Israel even a little should be neither apathetic nor ignorant about what the State of Israel does.  People are entitled to their opinions about how the Israeli government manages its society, including how it approaches the relationship to the Palestinians.  But, like so many important issues in life, apathy and ignorance do not help to bring about solutions to problems.

Because it is so crucially important that we are knowledgeable about Israeli settlement building, I have invited Moshe Levi, the Jewish Agency’s Community Shaliach (representative) to the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey, and an expert in the history of the Israeli settlement movement, to present on this important topic on Wednesday, February 1st at 7:45 PM at Oheb Shalom.  The title of Moshe’s lecture will be “From Gush Emunim to Amona:  The Story and History of the Settlers Movement.” Using multi-media images and video, Moshe will discuss the origins of the settlement movement, the ideology of its supporters, and its relationship to the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It’s important to note that the presentation will be objective and neither pro-settlement nor anti-settlement.  The purpose of the lecture is to educate and inform, not to make a case either for or against Israeli settlement construction.  Whether you consider yourself knowledgeable and informed, or a novice on this topic, I urge you to attend.

In the weeks following this presentation, I will invite our congregation to discuss our views on Israel’s settlement movement and what American Jews can and should do to advocate for those views.  I anticipate a lively but civil discussion, as is appropriate even when a topic is controversial.  Date and time will be shared on the night of Moshe’s presentation.

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