Universities and the “Twitterverse” are flooded with anti-Israel propaganda accusing Israel of being an apartheid state that discriminates against Arabs on a racial basis. These propagandists’ other mantra is that Jewish settlers are colonists selling land that rightfully belongs to others. The two main strategies of Israel’s enemies are: 1) keeping the international community in ignorance of the region’s true history (with a sprinkling of anti-Semitic conditioning), along with 2) simply repeating the same lies again and again until they are unquestioningly accepted as truth.
The Jewish State’s control of Judea and Samaria (aka “the West Bank”) is the number one issue used to hound Israel in international debate and de-legitimization. The boldness of this approach has caused otherwise strong Israel advocates discomfort with taking a stand on the core issue, resulting in continual efforts to redirect the discourse to other topics that are “easier” to present and win. But, in truth, there is no reason to put aside the core issue because we Israel is in the right, and because Israel cannot allow itself to be defeated here.
Judea and Samaria are not just “some areas in Israel.” This region -which is in fact Israel’s higher ground – towers eight to nine hundred meters above sea level, and is just a stone’s throw from Israel’s main population center on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Considering that the main result of Israel pulling out of Gaza in 2005 has been Hamas and Islamic Jihad factions endlessly shooting rockets into our southern cities (and this – without having any topographic advantage – has cost the lives and livelihoods of many Israelis), how wise would it be for Israel to give up this strategic territory? If, G-d forbid, the terrorists were to be given the advantage of the high ground of the “West Bank” along with the freedom they enjoy in Gaza, all of Israel’s center could potentially be shut down. The Ben Gurion International Airport itself would be in the crosshairs of RPG rockets that could be carried on the shoulders of teenagers. Talk about the threat of Israel being isolated! I wonder how many brave airline pilots would agree to land in an airport under such a clear threat from the mountains towering above it? Just consider the vulnerability of a 747 landing in the Sderot Airport.
But the “defensible borders” chip is only part of the argument, and not particularly the most important part. Judea and Samaria are Israel’s heartland. They are at the core of our national call – the call that birthed the modern Jewish movement of return to the homeland. Zionism is built on the foundation of the connection of this people to their land: the Jewish people and the land of Israel. The Jewish prophets foresaw that the children of Israel would return to this same land after a long exile, and whether one believes in the divine origins of the Bible or not, all agree that as the “people of the Book,” we have preserved our traditions and culture throughout history, and are living that vision today.
The Jewish people have returned to settle the land of their fathers, not as foreigners, but as sons of the land. We are settling the hilltops of Judea and Samaria that have lain barren for thousands of years; we are investing all our physical and financial resources to bring roads and water to the tops of those hills that have been unused since biblical times; we take great joy in hiking the landscape and discovering the ancient winepresses carved in the stone (witnesses of the ancient wine industry that existed here, cultivated by the tribes of Israel). I am not aware of another people in the entire world who celebrate the pouring of cement and building of new homes as do the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, who can sense that every building block is connecting them to their history and their destiny.
The Jews in Judea and Samaria are not colonists. A colonist is not one who settles in his own land and invests to build and develop it; a colonist loots a foreign land to take its gains back to his motherland. Judea and Samaria are the heart of the nation of Israel. The Jewish people will forever respect, cherish, protect and rebuild this land.