October 7 destroyed the myth that settlers are the cause of all Israel’s problems

Rabbi Leo Dee argues that to Hamas, all Israelis are settlers


Jewish settlers at the illegal outpost of Ramat Migron, on September 8, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

March 27, 2024 13:05

On October 7, the world changed. Not just because Israel’s enemies demonstrated that they wish to kill our children more than they wish to protect their own. Not just because they perpetrated the worst act of terror against a Western nation (proportionately) in the past 80 years. Not just because they chose to film it live for the world to watch their evil. But because they broke a paradigm.

Before October 7, there was a widely held view in Israel and around the world that the “West Bank” was unjustly settled by Israel following our victory in the 1967 Six Day War. Many people believed that these Israeli settlements and the settlers living in them were solely responsible for the hatred of Palestinians towards Jews. They argued that evacuating these settlements and exchanging “land for peace” was the correct formula to bring paradise to our region.

And then October 7 happened. Besides the shock that Palestinians were able to break through billions of dollars of security equipment and surprise our entire intelligence and military apparatus, the greatest shock of all was that the attack came from Gaza and not from the “West Bank”, and targeted “Israel proper” rather than the settlements.

Surely the Gazans, who had had independence for almost 20 years, and for whom we evacuated over 10,000 Jews living in Gush Katif in 2005, could not hate us that much? After all, they have enjoyed self-rule and billions of dollars of foreign aid since 2005, with Unrwa-funded schools and Qatar-funded mosques and hospitals. Had the attack come from the Palestinians in the West Bank, who clearly must hate the settlers who live side-by-side with them, this would have been a clear message to the world that we need to end this “settler enterprise” and give back the “stolen” land to the Palestinians. But the narrative was thrown into disarray, because what happened shattered the paradigm once and for all.

By attacking Israeli kibbutzim, such as Be’eri and Kfar Aza, and launching heavy missile attacks into Ashdod, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv, the Gazans made something very clear. They regard all of Israel as their “West Bank” and every Israeli as a settler. Perhaps the old world thinkers should not have been so surprised, since Palestinians and their supporters have been calling for a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea” for many decades — a term that defines the entire state of Israel as their rightful homeland. That is why I say that we are all settlers now. Hamas has made clear that they see no difference between any type of Israelis.

Until recently, settlers like myself who live in the West Bank described our region as “Judea and Samaria”, or “Yosh” for short, referencing the biblical homeland of the Jewish people for millennia that was established in our territory. The term “West Bank’’ was reserved for the old paradigm thinkers, along with foreign journalists and politicians, to describe the land that they believed was rightfully Palestinian. Today, I believe that we can correctly repurpose the term “West Bank” to describe not just the settlements across the Green Line but all the territory to the west of the Jordan River, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

President Biden and the British government recently rescinded the rights of certain “settlers” to enter their countries, in order to draw some sort of fake moral equivalence between Palestinians who rape and behead children, and a small number of extremist settlers who (very rarely) have engaged in arson or throwing stones. Clearly they have not noticed the dramatic change in Israeli identity that now reclassifies us all as settlers, according to the Palestinians.

A recent poll showed that 65 per cent of Israelis no longer believe in a two-state solution, up from a previous level of around 50 per cent over the past few years. Those Israelis who support a Palestinian state are now a small minority, and are shrinking every day because of the ongoing hostage situation and anger over Gazan brutality. With no serious Israeli political party advocating a two-state solution that would give the Palestinians an army, airforce and open borders to Egypt and Jordan, it would seem to be officially dead in the water.

When President Kennedy visited Germany in 1963, he expressed his opposition to the division of the capital city between the West and the Russians by stating “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner). Today, an American president could stand in Tel Aviv and say “Ani Mitnachel” (I am a settler).

October 7 revealed many misunderstandings in Israeli life, including the mistaken belief that the settler movement was the cause of all the woes of Israel. Now that all Israelis are united behind the war against Hamas, we can proudly declare that we all live in the “West Bank”, making every Israeli officially a settler (at least according to the ultra-reliable Hamas information bureau). As we search for a new paradigm to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least we can finally agree that we are all settlers now.

Rabbi Leo Dee is an educator living in Efrat. His book, Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity, has been republished in English and Hebrew in memory of his wife Lucy and daughters Maia and Rina, who were murdered by terrorists in April 2023

March 27, 2024 13:05

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