A full listing of sources on this debate can be found in the footnotes of David Kretzmer’s The Occupation of Justice: The Supreme Court of Israel and the Occupied Territories. CAMERA, citing scholars who dissent from the accepted view, misleads readers by failing to note that they represent a small minority in the field. Meron’s position is the mainstream one.
My “agenda” in researching my country’s history is to uncover the past and describe it in all its complexity. If CAMERA actually cares about accuracy, it should take time out from demanding corrections from others and correct its own accounts. If not, let it change its name to the Committee for Agitprop in Middle East Reporting in America.
The Real Issue
The debate between Gershom Gorenberg and CAMERA over the legality of the settlements, interesting though it is, remains a distraction from the main issue. Even that great supporter of Israel, President Ronald Reagan, conceded that the settlements themselves were “ill-advised.”
Indeed, it is hard to overestimate the degree to which the settlements are an obstacle to peace, not only because they are so difficult to remove, but also because they force Palestinians in the West Bank to confront on a daily basis the radical disparity between their lives and those of Israelis. Defending the settlements requires scores of checkpoints within the West Bank which subject Palestinians to long delays and humiliations. Bereft of land, water and freedom of movement, Palestinian society sinks in misery in full view of settlements with lush lawns and swimming pools. Two separate and unequal societies live side by side, perhaps not apartheid, but its close cousin.
To say that the settlements are an obstacle to peace does not mean that they pose the only obstacle. Surely the political fragmentation and violence of Palestinian society deserve a large share of the blame. But to ignore the role of the settlements— legal or not—is to revert to a pre-Zionist mentality in which nothing the Jews do can influence the beliefs and behaviors of non-Jews. The settlement policy of successive Israeli governments is proof that the Zionist desire to give Jews political agency has succeeded, but in a way that threatens the very future of the Zionist enterprise itself.
Emanuel Ringelblum Professor
of Jewish History
University of California, Davis