In a June 24 article on the Haaretz website entitled “Leave the settlers there,” opinion writer Yair Sheleg condemns the Israeli left for comparing Jewish settlers to Hamas. According to Sheleg, the comparison is “based on the following logic: The Israeli majority is the equivalent of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which recognized Israel and is willing to make peace with it, while the settlers are equivalent to Hamas in their refusal.”
Sheleg’s review of the defects of this analogy does not include the most obvious one—that Hamas is more likely to recognize a Jewish state within the 1967 borders than are the settlers. He instead focuses on such issues as how “even the most moderate Palestinians have yet to voice consent to the ideas that most moderate Israelis have been promoting for many years – see, for instance, their demand for the refugees’ ‘return’ to Israel.” The argument is thus transformed into one in which not even Palestinians willing to embrace Israeli existence are moderates, and that the only moderate view—espoused by most moderate Israelis, who have been nobly espousing it for many years—is that there is no right of return.
The writer goes on to expose other fatal flaws in the comparison by the Israeli left, such as that “most of those who equate the settlers with Hamas also generally argue that Hamas must be treated as a significant player in the negotiations. But the settlers, they say, should be ignored.” This political snubbing may have something to do with the fact that Hamas constitutes a legitimate government while the settlers do not; Sheleg meanwhile blames the Hamas example for the fact that the Jewish settlers have turned to terror—a line of reasoning which becomes more complex when we try to determine the cause of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, where there are no settlers.
We are reminded that Sheleg does “not intend this as a justification of settler terror” but that, if we insist on abiding by the equations of the Israeli left, “we need to remember the wise statement often made about Palestinian terror: It is not enough to fight terror; it is also necessary to dry up the swamp in which it breeds.” Whether the Israeli left has made parallel references to settler swamps is not discussed, nor is the fact that it is easier to dry up swamps when area water supplies are being diverted to Israeli swimming pools.
One advantage to Sheleg’s proposal that the settlers “be given the right to remain in their settlements, with Israeli citizenship, even after Israel has vacated these areas to make way for Palestinian sovereignty” is that this is the “morally preferable” solution. Evidence in support of this judgment is that Charles de Gaulle, “who very much wanted to get out of Algeria, refused to sign an agreement until the Algerians agreed to allow the French settlers to remain, because he understood that he could not violate the principle of natural justice, which holds that a person should not be forced out of his home unless it is absolutely necessary.”
The principle of natural justice becomes all the more intriguing when “his home” does not actually belong to “him.” Sheleg nips such protests in the bud, however, by asserting that, “[a]fter all, no one would suggest evacuating residents of the United States just because their forebears conquered the land via horrendous massacres.” If 17th-century events constitute a precedent for modern-day behavior, perhaps Italian astronomers should continue to be tried for alleging that the earth revolves around the sun.