Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Op-ed in the Los Angeles Times

My Opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times:

In defense of 'settlements'

Jews belong in Judea and Samaria as much as Palestinians who stayed in Israel.

By Yisrael Medad

June 28, 2009

No one, including a president of the United States of America, can presume to tell me, a Jew, that I cannot live in the area of my national homeland. That's one of the main reasons my wife and I chose in 1981 to move to Shiloh, a so-called settlement less than 30 miles north of Jerusalem.

After Shiloh was founded in 1978, then-President Carter demanded of Prime Minister Menachem Begin that the village of eight families be removed. Carter, from his first meeting with Begin, pressed him to "freeze" the activity of Jews rebuilding a presence in their historic home. As his former information aide, Shmuel Katz, related, Begin said: "You, Mr. President, have in the United States a number of places with names like Bethlehem, Shiloh and Hebron, and you haven't the right to tell prospective residents in those places that they are forbidden to live there. Just like you, I have no such right in my country. Every Jew is entitled to reside wherever he pleases."

We now fast-forward to President Obama, who declared on June 15 in remarks at a news conference with Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, that Jewish communities beyond the Green Line "in past agreements have been categorized as illegal."

I believe the president has been misled. There can be nothing illegal about a Jew living where Judaism was born. To suggest that residency be permitted or prohibited based on race, religion or ethnic background is dangerously close to employing racist terminology.

Suppose someone suggested that Palestinian villages and towns in pre-1967 Israel were to be called "settlements" and that, to achieve a true peace, Arabs should be removed from their homes. Of course, separation or transfer of Arabs is intolerable, but why is it quite acceptable to demand that Jews be ethnically cleansed from the area? Do not Jews belong in Judea and Samaria as much as Palestinians who stayed in the state of Israel?

Some have questioned why Jews should be allowed to resettle areas in which they didn't live in the years preceding the 1967 war, areas that were almost empty of Jews before 1948 as well. But why didn't Jews live in the area at that time? Quite simple: They had been the victims of a three-decades-long ethnic cleansing project that started in 1920, when an Arab attack wiped out a small Jewish farm at Tel Hai in Upper Galilee and was followed by attacks in Jerusalem and, in 1921, in Jaffa and Jerusalem.

In 1929, Hebron's centuries-old Jewish population was expelled as a result of an Arab pogrom that killed almost 70 Jews. Jews that year removed themselves from Gaza, Nablus and Jenin. The return of my family to Shiloh -- and of other Jews to more than 150 other communities over the Green Line since 1967 -- is not solely a throwback to claimed biblical rights. Nor is it solely to assert our right to return to areas that were Jewish-populated in the 20th century until Arab violence drove them away. We have returned under a clear fulfillment of international law. There can be no doubt as to the legality of the act of my residency in Shiloh.

I am a revenant -- one who has returned after a long absence to ancestral lands. The Supreme Council of the League of Nations adopted principles following the 1920 San Remo Conference aimed at bringing about the "reconstitution" of a Jewish National Home. Article 6 of those principles reads: "The administration of Palestine ... shall encourage ... close settlement by Jews on the land, including state lands and waste lands." That "land" was originally delineated to include all of what is today Jordan as well as all the territory west of the Jordan River.

In 1923, Britain created a new political entity, Transjordan, and suspended the right of Jews to live east of the Jordan River. But the region in which I now live was intended to be part of the Jewish National Home. Then, in a historical irony, a Saudi Arabian refugee, Abdallah, fleeing the Wahabis, was afforded the opportunity to establish an Arab kingdom where none had existed previously -- only Jews. As a result, in an area where prophets and priests fashioned the most humanist and moral religion and culture on Earth, Jews are now termed "illegals."

Many people insist that settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. But that convention does not apply to Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza district. Its second clause makes it clear that it deals with the occupation of "the territory of a high contracting party." Judea and Samaria and Gaza, which Israel gained control of in 1967, were not territories of a "high contracting party." Jewish historical rights that the mandate had recognized were not canceled, and no new sovereign ever took over in Judea and Samaria or in Gaza.

Obama has made his objections to Israeli settlements known. But other U.S. presidents have disagreed. President Reagan's administration issued a declaration that Israeli settlements were not illegal. Support for that position came from Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, former president of the International Court of Justice, who determined that Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria did not constitute "occupation." It also came from a leading member of Reagan's administration, the former dean of the Yale Law School and former undersecretary of State, Eugene Rostow, who asserted that "Israel has a stronger claim to the West Bank than any other nation or would-be nation [and] the same legal right to settle the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as it has to settle Haifa or West Jerusalem."

Any suggestions, then, of "freezing" and halting "natural growth" are themselves not only illegal but quite immoral.

Yisrael Medad, an American-born Israeli commentator, has lived in Shiloh since 1981. He is head of information resources at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and blogs at

They had Sarah Leah Whitson,

Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, counter me, here.

She compares Jews living in Judea and Samaria to "thieves" possessing ill-gotten gains. She ignores that Jews have full rights to reside there no less than as do Arabs in Israel.

And Whitson is a robber baron stealing from her readers the historical truth by blinding them to the fact that Israel administers the area because Arab states and organizations had been engaged ever since 1948 first in a terror campaign of the fedayeen and then the PLO's Fatah with the intent of annihilating it and secondly, their attempt at a 'second round' war of aggression they prepared for in May-June 1967.


My previous op-eds in the LATimes:

'We will pay the price of folly'

Date: Sep 13, 1993
Start Page: B7

Yisrael Medad, a Jewish settler on the West Bank, says that it is the most natural of all rights that Jews live in the land of their forefathers, and decries the Israeli government for supporting Palestinian self-rule.

"Our children walk among the ruins at Tel Shiloh, where young Samuel the prophet spent his time in the Tabernacle. This Rosh Hashanah holiday, we'll visit the Seilun spring, whose name preserves that of Shiloh. Our junior and high school children daily ride the roads for distances of between 11 and 28 miles to attend classes. Their buses have been stoned and at times have been targets of Molotov cocktails aimed at them by their Arab peers. My neighbor, Rachela Druck, was murdered on the eve of the 1991 Madrid conference.

Our enthusiastic foreign minister, Shimon Peres, has placed us in an invidious position. We will pay the price of his folly. Without consulting our country's professional security experts, he has led the government into an agreement that invites our enemies to assume that the Bosnian precedent of ethnic cleansing can be repeated with impunity. More than that, the military, economic and water-supply dangers to a pre-1967 Israel are quite obvious. Israel's citizens are awakening to the intolerable situation they will soon face."


The loyal opposition won't be silenced

Date: Nov 7, 1995
Start Page: B9

Yisrael Medad says assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was one of the most abrasive of prime ministers and that his murder will be manipulated to ensure that not only the extremist fringes are dealt with harshly, but even the legitimate opposition will be silenced.

"There is growing evidence that a dangerous backlash is developing in Israel's social fabric in the aftermath of the shooting of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In a radio interview, his widow, Leah, said of the killer, "It is enough {that} I know in which school he grew up." His daughter declined to shake the hand of the opposition Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the grave site. Israel's state-sponsored television showed angry citizens demanding that all anti-government demonstrations be halted. Posters were displayed blaming opposition politicians for the assassination.

The assassin declared, according to police investigators, that he first attempted to kill Rabin 10 months ago. From remarks attributed to him, it appears that his was an insular ideological position rather than one shaped by what has been termed the "verbal violence" at rallies protesting the Oslo process.

What complicates matters was the undeniable fact that Rabin was perhaps one of the most abrasive of prime ministers. His tongue-lashings were the stuff for a new political dictionary. He insisted that the Likud was "an aide of the Hamas" terror organization. Other ministers adopted similar disparaging declarations. The Labor-led coalition government was able to stay in power by a very thin margin. President Ezer Weizman, noting that the government's majority of one vote was gained because a deputy minister wanted to keep his chauffeured car, pleaded that the Oslo process be slowed down to allow for additional thinking.


When Only the Land Keeps Its Promises

Date: Jan 17, 1997
Start Page: 9

"The number of American Jews residing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is perhaps proportionately higher than in other sections of Israel. This is a factor of the ideological commitment necessary to live there combined with old-fashioned idealism. In my home community of Shiloh, almost 30 miles north of Jerusalem, lying between Ramallah and Nablus, almost 20% of the 170 families have North American origins. Many of us are contemplating our future here in the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to follow through with the Oslo process.

All of us voted for Netanyahu in the elections less than a year ago. Undoubtedly, his American style, manners and approach reminded us of certain positive aspects of American politics. We also found in his speeches and promises a resonance of that which lured us to dwell in the landscape of the Bible, Israel's homeland.

Leaving behind, in most cases, fairly comfortable lives and surroundings, we rejected what we perceived as an existence that was as empty of essence as it was futureless. Not only were we "going home" to where the Jewish people were born, where judges, kings and prophets fashioned our culture and religious beliefs, but we also were enlisting ourselves in the service of a pioneering vision, assuring for generations to come that Jews would, once again and forever more, live as Jews in the places that were undeniably Jewish. Not Tel Aviv or Ra'anana or some other yuppie Israeli town but Hebron, where King David first ruled; Tekoa, where Amos tendered sheep, and Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was erected. We were going back to our roots."


True Security Threat: Withdrawal

Date: May 8, 1998
Start Page: 9

"The Declaration of Principles signed on the White House lawn in September 1993 was presumed to have ushered in a new era in the Israel-Arab conflict. Yasser Arafat and his PLO had promised to fulfill obligations, something they had never done--not with their "Zionist enemy" or even with their Arab compatriots.

Later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed himself to following through with the guidelines and signed agreements, hundreds of pages long in certain instances, which the previous Labor-led government had bequeathed to the new Likud coalition. The government of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres avoided the issue of Jewish civilian presence in the areas that the Palestinians presumed would eventually be relinquished. Rabin, despite his deriding the approximately 150 Jewish settlements, provided unprecedented security measures for them including bypass roads and increased military personnel and equipment."


Palestinian Authority Is Too Corrupt to Govern

Date: Aug 10, 1998
Start Page: 5

"Even in Israel, few people doubt that in May 1999, Yasser Arafat, chairman and erstwhile president of the Palestinian Authority, will declare the establishment of the independent and sovereign state of Palestine. A grand if not dress rehearsal was held a decade ago in Algeria when a declaration of independence was read at a session of the Palestine National Council. That charade followed Jordan's King Hussein's announcement absolving himself of responsibility for the area recognized as the West Bank, which incidentally his grandfather annexed, an act devoid of international legality.

Arafat, despite seeming successes, foremost the creation of a beachhead on what he considers Palestinian soil, has made many mistakes over the years. For sure, many countries already acknowledge the existence of Palestine as a state. Embassies and other diplomatic trappings have served the needs of the Palestine Liberation Organization as it evolved from a terrorist organization. But to declare a state of Palestine would be a mistake if only because it would be committing the most grievous injury a leader can cause his people. I believe Palestine must be saved from itself. For if the Palestinian people are to be served and their best interests are to be catered, a separate state of Palestine is the last thing they need."


The Breaking of the Barak Myth: Who will pay for the 'brilliance' of Israel's most decorated warrior in his handling of the withdrawal from Lebanon?

Date: May 24, 2000
Start Page: 9

"Ehud Barak sat opposite Israel's TV Channel One diplomatic reporter this past Monday night and was asked if he had made a mistake in his early troop redeployment last week of an army outpost in southern Lebanon. Barak, Israel's prime minister and, by his own election propaganda, Israel's most-decorated warrior, smiled and niftily avoided the trap. "I never look back but always to the future," he said. The viewers, left in the vacuum of a politician's self-enhancement, gained an insight into what is perhaps the empty void that now stands at the top of the country's administration.

In his May 15 Knesset speech, Barak sarcastically referred to the knights of the Hasmonean Tunnel and Joseph's Tomb, the bloody incidents of September 1996. Those disturbances were former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's responsibility. But within hours, Barak's own shining armor was bestained as the sounds and pictures of the Palestinian violence were broadcast on television screens. Stunned, Barak assumed an assertive stance but, nevertheless, the shooting continued and, at week's end, one soldier had been shot in the head and an infant was torched by a firebomb in Jericho."


Thor said...

"Of course, separation or transfer of Arabs is intolerable, but why is it quite acceptable to demand that Jews be ethnically cleansed from the area?"

It isn't, but why do you insist that the Palistinians who were chased from Israel during and in the wake of the six day war do not have a right to return?

"Do not Jews belong in Judea and Samaria as much as Palestinians who stayed in the state of Israel?"

Batya said...

good article

Human Rights Watch should be supporting Jewish human and civil rights, not supporting racism against Jews.

the wife

YMedad said...

Thanks to the wife.

Thor, aggressors who planned to kill and rape Jews, destroy their homes and fields and lost a war don't have any 'right of return'. The UN provided for compensation and not only Israel pays. And will Jews from Arab Lands, as many as the Arabs who fled (not all were forced out btw) be equally compensated? Fair's fair, even as a result of war.

Raffi said...

You manage to twist logic enough to make it sound like forbidding the Jewish settlements is a racist act, yet you would certainly refuse to follow your own logic to its conclusion.

If you truly believed what you are saying, you would never make the distinction between all Palestinians, and "Palestinians who stayed in Israel" that you do in the very title of your article. What gives you, a U.S. born Jew more rights to live in the West Bank, than a Palestinian child in Jordan whose parents were born in the West Bank? Will you be ok with new Palestinian settlements being built near Tel Aviv and Haifa, funded by Palestinians from the west, and settled by Palestinians from around the world?

I don't think so, but you're free to tell me I'm wrong, that you do support the "right to return" of all Palestinians to live anywhere in Israel they choose.

Raffi said...

YMedad, Israel is killing innocent Palestinians all the time, and even has a budget set aside for destroying their homes. It is building walls, roads and fences which cut them off from their fields. What percentage of the Palestinians that fled the oncoming war a few decades ago were actually responsible for such acts?

You say that "fair is fair". Do the Israelis responsible for these acts lose their right to live in Israel? Or is fair actually not fair?

Please, get past your victim complex and open your eyes. Future generations of Jews are going to look back at this time in your history not as a period when you were morally tested, and failed. While many in the United States may be fooled, the world is not, and history will not be either.

YMedad said...

"What gives you, a U.S. born Jew more rights to live in the West Bank, than a Palestinian child in Jordan whose parents were born in the West Bank?"

Because its the Jewish homeland? Can I live in Mecca?

"Will you be ok with new Palestinian settlements being built near Tel Aviv and Haifa, funded by Palestinians from the west, and settled by Palestinians from around the world?"

There are none of those that I know of. Why would Pals. wish to live in a (tongue-in-cheek) racist, aggressive, inhumane society like Israel?

"Israel is killing innocent Palestinians all the time"

All the time? We never manage to kill terrorists? Or arrest 16 yr. iolds with bomb-making amterials at checkpoints? None of this happenes?

"and even has a budget set aside for destroying their homes."

oh, don't be silly. the Army has a budget and it can be used for destroying homes if Arabs are foolish enough to use terror against innocent schoolchildren, restaurant diners, bus riders, etc. or for buying planes or paying pensions.

"It is building walls, roads and fences which cut them off from their fields."

I am against a security barrier but the Pals. brought that on themselves (see above).

"What percentage of the Palestinians that fled the oncoming war a few decades ago were actually responsible for such acts?"

ah, which one was that exactly? 1929? 1936-39? 1947-49? 1949-56? 1965-?

Anonymous said...

As pro-democracy demonstrators are killed in Teheran and as its ayatollahs further their designs to arm themselves with nukes, the leader of the free world harps on Israeli settlements. You can almost understand where he's coming from. Iran is a tough customer, and crazy too. It's tempting not to rile it and to deflect criticism by focusing on some lonely remote outposts in the middle of Judea and Samaria's barren moonscape.

Not only isn't Israel scary like Iran, it'll broadmindedly collaborate in an effort to appease its detractors. How facile it therefore is to claim that peace and bliss on earth hinge on tearing down a few Jewish tents, rickety lean-tos, ramshackle sheds and decrepit trailers. It's true heroism to take them on in the guise of securing global propriety. It's plain to see that no greater peril plagues humanity - if we only avert our gaze from Iran, that is.

David Wilder said...

Yashar Koach - great article - happy to see it in a major US daily - have to do more of these and get the word out.

David Wilder

Anonymous said...

Your defense of settlements in the West Bank is unconvincing. You
appeal to resolutions declared by the long-ago defunct League of Nations and
agreements relating to the British Palestine Mandate, which was dissolved over
60 years ago, while ignoring the far more relevant United Nations resolutions
and World Court rulings since the 1967 Six Day War that clearly declare the
settlements illegal.

I support your belief that Jews should be allowed to live wherever they want, but
not necessarily under Israeli sovereignty. Your identification as a “revenant,”
one who returns to ancestral lands to “reconstitute” a Jewish National Home,
suggests a desire to conquer these lands without regard to who is currently
living there. This attitude is counter to Jewish law and morality. You are
substituting of the sanctity of human life for reclaiming of territory by
choosing to live in an area dominated by Arab Muslims and designated by the
world community as a future Palestinian state. Your actions place yourself, your
family, and the Jewish people in jeopardy by valuing land over human life.

YMedad said...

"This attitude is counter to Jewish law and morality."

This is utterly stupid. If anything, the attempt by Jews to buy back their homeland between 1850s and 1947 was not only unique in world history but was much more lenient a policy than the Bible.


Dumb. The UN inherited the League of Nations.

The Arabs have already a "state in Palestine". It's called Jordan. Any other state would be destabling and another terror/crazy state no one needs.

Anonymous said...

The early Zionists' purchase and settlement of land was a highly commendable method of nation building, a period we can all be proud of. It's the establishment of settlements on land acquired through war, i.e., the West Bank, even if it was a defensive war, that's problematic.

Even if the UN inherited the League of Nations, its most recent resolutions must supercede its old ones.

Saying that Jordan is a Palestinian state does not relieve Israel of the responsibility to treat Arabs living in the West Bank with a minimum of respect. Does the existence of a Jewish state excuse all mistreatment of Jews living outside of Israel?

Another terror/crazy state in the Middle East would be destabilizing. Having one already that has consistently committed acts of collective punishment (retaliation) against its adversaries for over 60 years is enough.

Happy and Proud said...

Considering the fact that HRW receives a large amount of funds from Saudi Arabia and is asking that country for more, it's difficult to take any of its statements on Israel's activities seriously.

Anonymous said...

"Jews belong in Judea and Samaria"
I understand a desire to communicate with words that support your thoughts. But, is it your thought that Yehudim should refer to themselves and the land named for them with Latin terms? Is Latin the lingua franca? Even revenant is a frog term is it not? I understand that your thoughts would not be effectively communicated with constantly paraphrasing the de-Yehudizing terms like big "W", Big "B" west bank, the largest river bank in the world, with the historically correct terms for the homeland of the Yehudim that is named directly for them or references the area as it was known when they first claimed it (i.e. Yehuda, Shomoron [little guardian and with Yehuda is YoSh and both with Azza is YeShA], Binyamin. etc., etc. And I do see the IL government district nomenclature that is at variance with my desire for historic correctness).
"Palestinians who stayed in Israel." The previous comment applies here and why must you be an enabler of low self-esteem, self-identity for those that not only have the same heritage, customs as those from the peninsula of their own name, those that come to kill you, that you ascribe, designate them with a historically incorrect and de-Yehudizing term originally designating invaders from the Aegean? So you believe any "Jew" has the same right as the imperializing anti-Shemites to the land of the "Jews" own name? Puh-leeze say you didn't mean that. As an aside, I happened to mention your and Jay Shapiro's use of the term revenant (keep in mind another meaning not intended is something like a living zoombie) with someone who is not so amenable to Yehudim living the land land of their own name given the facts of those that come to kill you on your ground. You gave them a better appreciation of your legitimate existence in the land of your own name and that the right of return of genocidal, mass-murdering, extortionists back to the homicidal, Hamite peninsular homeland of their own name may not be such bad reality after all. That it would be humane since you would not have to kill them when they, G-d forbid, come to kill you. So, that about all I have to say on your title. I try to get to the meat of the article soon. Overall though, I am amazed mostly the LA Times allowed your thoughts to be expressed. That they were expressed with Latin terms, I have already mentioned my objections to. I amazed you can keep the contents of your stomach down when dealing with LA Times too.