When Palestinians call all Israelis “settlers”, peace is distant

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

If you read Palestinian media much, or some of the pro-Palestine English media, you’ll find that often when there are attacks on Israelis inside the Green Line, that the exact same language is used as for incidents in the West Bank.

For instance, Jewish people are referred to as “settlers” whether they live in Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv, Ramla, Efrat or Rosh Ha Ayin. Whereas Israeli Hebrew and English media may refer to “settlers” only on one side of the line, others view them all as “settlers”. Some Israeli intellectuals fantasize about the line, like Zeev Sternhell, who suggested Palestinians “concentrate the struggle” only on one side of it, but for many the line is imaginary. This screenshot illustrates this, it is of a description of a video from Rosh HaAyin, where a woman from Kfar Kassem tried to stab some people. She was detained.

But you’ll note the description, the Israeli town, which is inside the Green Line, has been turned into “Kfar Qasim” (in point of fact Rosh HaAyin was built on Majdal Yaba, not on Kfar Qasim). The residents are “setters.”

Some in Israel believe ending Israel’s control of the West Bank will end the “occupation”, but what they don’t understand is that in many Palestinian media circles every Jewish person in Israel is seen as a “settler” and “occupied Palestine” doesn’t mean the West Bank, it means all of Israel.Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 12.30.03 PM

This is one clear reason many Jewish Israelis instinctively understand that withdrawing from the West Bank doesn’t matter, because the conflict is over the whole land, and the whole country. That is why the left-wing narrative of the conflict does not catch hold among many people.

When the popular perception in these circles is that all Jewish people living in Israel, on either side of the Green Line, are “settlers”, or “colonizers” and that the whole country is “occupied Palestine”, that presents Israel with a zero-sum game.

The populist view to label all Israeli Jews as “settlers” dehumanizes them and purposely makes them all legitimate targets of attacks. Many people don’t want to dig too deeply into this issue, because it will force them to admit that despite the talk of “two states”, that the narrative of “they are all settlers” presents a major problem.

Much research has been done on how Israel’s policies “erase thee Green Line,” in text books and in tours, history lessons and elsewhere. The idea is that there is no education for peace. Those studies are correct. There is no education for piece. There really is, in the popular narrative, no two states. There is one entity. The concept of two is primarily in the elite imagination…and even there it is relatively weak.

You have to look at how people actually discuss things. And when all of Israel is a “settlement”, and everyone a “settler” and every Israeli town doesn’t have a name, but only a pre-1948 name, then there can be no “end to the occupation”…because millions of Israelis won’t accept to end themselves.

6 responses to “When Palestinians call all Israelis “settlers”, peace is distant

  1. The only possible advantage to Israel withdrawing from the disputed territories is that it would be a good PR move; the Arab violence against Israel would continue, and the international community would have to acknowledge that the West Bank settlements were not, after all, the issue. The only problem with this is that this is exactly what Israel did in Gaza in 2005, and even though Arab violence against Israel continued, world opinion did not change.

  2. Hi – good article but please get an editor. There are a couple glaring spelling and grammatical errors.

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