Wednesday, November 20, 2019

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Israeli settlements, in the view of the Trump administration, are not illegal. Bernie Sanders, a Jew, was quick to contradict this Israel-friendly message, stating as if it were fact rather than opinion, the opposite viewpoint. Israeli settlements, tweeted Sanders, are illegal. 

Pompeo’s remarks were thoughtful and nuanced. Sanders’ tweet, on the other hand, was a condemnation, a pointed finger full of repudiation and blame. Pompeo spoke of peace and resolution, while Sanders used his platform to take a dig at Trump, accusing the president of “pandering to his extremist base.”
If we were to take a crack at what Sanders might mean by “extremist base,” it would be easy to arrive at the Evangelical community, a large voting sector that turned out strongly for Trump in 2016. This is as opposed to the Jews, who, at just 3% of the voting population, cannot be any kind of voting base, extremist or otherwise. White evangelicals do indeed care deeply about Israel and are willing to use their voting clout on her behalf. Jews (except perhaps for the orthodox, who represent only 11% of American Jewry), on the other hand, don’t see Israel as an electoral issue.
But when Bernie Sanders speaks of extremists, he’s not really speaking of a specific sector or community, not of Christians or Jews, but of all God-fearing people who pray and read the bible. Because Sanders knows that they are the ones who still hold fast to the idea that Judea and Samaria belong to the Jewish people. To Sanders, who appears to be a person who repudiates religion, in particular his own, the entire idea that people are entitled to territory and self-determination in their land based on their religion alone, is disgusting and elitist. In particular, it is disgusting for a Jew to feel this way: that he has rights to Israel by virtue of having descended from people with beards and payos.*

Sanders also spoke of "occupied territory." But the entire idea of an occupation is problematic since the land was restored to the Jewish people during a defensive war. Israel didn't just march in to accomplish a land grab. We were fighting for our lives, repelling invading armies that were attempting to wipe out the State of Israel and Jewish Israelis. At any rate, how is it possible for a people to "occupy" land that already belongs to them from ancient times? The connection of the land to the Jewish people is documented many times over.

But let's stipulate for argument's sake that Israel is the "occupying" power in the territory in question. The relevant clause of international law relating to occupation and settlement speaks of people being transferred or deported by the occupying power, in order to create facts on the ground. Israel did not deport anyone, and there was no transfer of people to the area. The Jews who settled in Judea and Samaria (and Jerusalem), came there of their own free will. They desired to live there because of the ancient Jewish connection to the land. No one forced them to live there. Judea and Samaria burned in their hearts. They yearned to be there.

Regarding the legal arguments, respected jurists such as Eugene RostowJulius Stone, Eugene Kontorovich, and Avi Bell have all ruled that Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria is legal. At the very least, Sanders might have acknowledged the strong body of proof these experts have offered in support of the idea that settlement is legal. Then it would be his right to counter and state that in his opinion, settlement is illegal, offering relevant arguments to support his theory. Instead, knowing nothing whatsoever about the law and certainly not as it applies to the settlement project, Sanders put his foot down, stating as if it were fact that settlements are illegal, completely ruling out the idea that, hey: It might be okay for Jews to build homes in their indigenous territory. Some pretty important jurists think so.
But to Sanders, you see, the legalistic debate around settlement is immaterial. He knows and cares nothing about the law, because let's face it: Bernie Sanders is no legal expert. He never studied law.

In his early professional life, for instance, Sanders worked as a Head Start teacher, a psychiatric aide, and carpenter. He wrote socialist propaganda and created “radical film strips.” The sum total of Sanders' knowledge of international law is surely into negative numbers. And he knows that, which is why, in his tweet he deferred vaguely to “international law” and the “UN” without offering any legal argument or substance to back his claims that settlements are illegal.

The law, it seems, is only a fig leaf for Sanders to hide what he feels about religion and perhaps more  particularly, about Judaism. More generally, it seems that from Sanders' purview, religious devotion is a disgusting concept, so disgusting that he can’t get past what he must see as the horrors of the bible to get to the bigger picture of why there is nothing wrong with Jewish settlement.

Because there is nothing wrong with Jewish settlement.
Like Sanders, I am no jurist. So I think of this issue in simple terms. The Jews are the indigenous people of Israel with thousands of years of connection. The very name of Judea means “Jew.” It’s where we’re from.
No one needs the Bible to know this. Because if you’re not a believer, there are history books. There are archaeological artifacts. The Western Wall in Jerusalem is real. You can touch it.
Connection and history aside, how does it hurt anyone for Jews to build homes for themselves? What could possibly be wrong with that? Jews don’t deserve shelter? A roof over their heads?
And this business of settlements being an obstacle to peace? What narishkeit.† We expelled thousands of our own people from Gaza during Disengagement, and dug up our dead, too, all for the sake of peace. Homes stopped nothing. Because homes don’t get in the way of peace. Terror gets in the way of peace.
Judea and Samaria, our ancestral territory, was restored to us during the course of a defensive war. We built homes on uninhabited hilltops. We displaced no one in the building of settlement homes.
And they are homes. Nothing more. Homes go up, and can also be torn down, God forbid. 
The question Bernie Sanders should be asking himself is why anyone objects to Jews building homes in Judea and Samaria, or anywhere else, for that matter. Why is the EU outraged at the thought of Jews building homes for themselves in Judea and Samaria or producing, God forbid, wine? Why are Arabs so appalled at the thought of Jews providing themselves with shelter? What is the problem that all of these people have with the Jews?

Why can’t they just let them be?
What is the source of Sanders’ loathing for his own people? Was there some sort of trauma in early childhood? Is he embarrassed by the herring and kichel, the chanting and swaying back and forth, the refusal of these stubborn people to go away already??
"Why won’t they just die out," you can almost hear him wondering, "so I can be like everyone else in a world where everyone is the same, united. Accepted."
These “extremists” just refuse to get with the plan. The plan that crowns Bernie king of the world, no longer a Jew, just a man of the people, or perhaps a demi-god.
The good news is that this will never happen. Because Sanders hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of becoming president of the United States of America. He's just too out there and old.

Bernie can make a schrei, and scream all he likes, but ain't no one going to force the Jews out of Judea and Samaria.

We've come home for good. Because whether Bernie likes it or not, this time we're not leaving.

We're not going anywhere at all.

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