‘Articles of Faith’: The absence of critical thinking about Israeli settlements


Kohav Hashachar

CiF Watch has no official position on Israeli homes built across the 1949 armistice lines – the settlements.

As a blog dedicated to combating antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy at the Guardian, however, it is within our purview to expose misleading or erroneous geographical, political or legal claims about the settlements by Guardian journalists and commentators – and to combat the demonization of Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. 

One of the most stubbornly held (often logically and politically under-explored) beliefs about the Israeli settlements (at the Guardian and elsewhere) is that their existence (or growth) represents the biggest obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians – and even, some would argue, between Israel and the larger Arab world.

Whilst reasonable people can oppose Israeli construction across the green line for any number of moral, political and legal reasons, it is peculiar how few critics even bother to defend their view that Israeli withdrawal from the disputed territories will lead to peace (and foster co-existence) with the Palestinians or, at least, will make the Jewish state more secure.

These articles of faith typically ignore historical evidence and political facts which contradict their thesis.

For instance, if this theory is valid, why didn’t Israeli withdrawals from Gaza, S. Lebanon (and ceding military and civilian control over parts of the West Bank to the PA) result in peaceful outcomes? Why didn’t the rocket attacks on Israeli communities, and other acts of terrorism, cease?  

If Palestinian/Arab anti-Zionism, antisemitism, extremism and terrorism, is in fact fed by ‘the settlements’ – and represents Islamist terror group’s raison d’être – why weren’t Hezbollah and Hamas (and extremist movements active within the PA) politically neutered by the absence of settlements (and IDF presence) in these territories? 

What evidence is there that Israeli withdrawal from most or all of the West Bank (and eastern Jerusalem) will result in the creation of a peaceful, non-extremist Palestinian government and political culture?

The absence of critical thinking about the issue is often typically accompanied by disinterest in Israeli opinion – expressed in political polls and Israeli elections – which demonstrates that while most Israelis support the idea of a two-state solution, they support withdrawals from land necessary for a Palestinian state only if the creation of that state truly leads to peace. 

A strong majority of Israelis – who have lived through Intifadas, thousands of rocket attacks and (just as important) the absence of international support for military actions to defend their nation from such assaults – believe that (under current political conditions) such withdrawals will not, in fact, lead to peace or improved security.

Those who insist that the ‘settlements’ represent the biggest obstacle to peace should be asked to explain why recent history in the region should be ignored and why Israeli fears about such a monumental military decision (which can’t easily be undone) are unfounded.

What do they know that Israelis don’t? 

49 replies »

  1. Moreover to the point, why is Arab racism accepted by so many otherwise enlightened and tolerant people?

    No one thinks there is anything amiss with Arabs living alongside a Jewish majority in Israel but these same people show virulent hatred and and intolerance bordering on outright irrationality at the notion of Jews living alongside an Arab majority in Judea and Samaria.

    The true litmus test for peace is Arab acceptance of Jews living among them. As long as they reject it, peace by definition, is impossible.

  2. “One of the most stubbornly held (often logically and politically under-explored) beliefs about the Israeli settlements (at the Guardian and elsewhere) is that their existence (or growth) represents the biggest obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians – and even, some would argue, between Israel and the larger Arab world.”

    There’s no such belief in the wider world. See here

    “For instance, if this theory is valid, why didn’t Israeli withdrawals from Gaza, S. Lebanon (and ceding military and civilian control over parts of the West Bank to the PA) result in peaceful outcomes?”

    Because there are many points of conflict, not just one.

    • So, Aunttanya, do you happen to know what “the world” thinks? Are you a psychic? No, more like a psycho, like most Jew-haters.

      • Well, the leaders at Camp David seemed to know more about the problems they were discussing than you or the author. Seeing as the world was watching (the tiny few who are actually interested in Israel), then yes, I do know what the world thinks.

        You don’t have to be a psychic to know what the issues are if you pay any attention and stop trying to be a smart ass.

        • “…and stop trying to be a smart ass.” UncleTanya

          Hmmm, what a whiner… But I suggest YOU quit projecting and making an ass of yourself. Deal?

      • There goes Serge with his stream of invective again!
        What a tiresome individual he is with no arguments to support his case,he can’t get beyond the first sentence before the bile begins to ooze out..

        • Awww, you are sooo sensitive, snotty. BTW, if you find me “tiresome” you can either take a nap or not reply. You can also quit posting here, instead of whining like a baby. As for “arguments” you have NONE. You only have your hysterical anti-Jewish rethoric. So, you are the tiresome here, though you are also fun to trash. BTW, say hi to your “rabbi friends” and “relatives in Jerusalem.”

          • Keep it up! Very entertaining! Nothing to say as yet but perhaps you might as and when sanctions start to wipe the smile off your face. I think you need to do some work on your spelling as it’s beginning to give me eye-strain.


          • Aren’t you worried about your pseudo-relatives in Jerusalem, snotty? What about your pseudo-rabbi friends? Do you have buddhist friends too?

  3. As an ardent Israel supporter I’m finding it tough accepting the recent settlement announcements, irrespective of anything the Arab side or the world media say or do. I know this is complex and that settlements fall in to different categories – some more defensible than others, but it does not feel right that Israel’s closest partners are so up in arms on this – they must have a good knowledge of this key issue. Would love to see a joined up defense of Bibi’s strategy, with a viable Palestinian state and security for Israel as the outcomes.

    • Then listen to what Tsipi say about her talk with _Bibi when they tried to form her government at the last election.

    • Wouldn’t we all! But ,Netanyahu does not have a strategy that includes a viable Palestinian state.If he does have a strategy it basically amounts to a state which could be termed ‘Greater Israel’.
      As long as he retains American support he clearly feels confident he can continue to modify the ‘facts on the ground’.
      As for Mr Levick he simply trots out the paper legalese which bears no relation to reality on the ground. The legislation IN PRACTICE is not worth the paper it’s written on.
      Consequently Israeli security depends on killing as many Palestinians as possible up to the point where the international outcry becomes just a little too embarrassing..In the long run,surly not a recipe for Israeli security.

      • How your nonsense about “Greater Israel” squares with the withdrawal from Gaza? Ah, sorry, it’s just the old snottyville, “talking in riddles”, as usual.

        • What withdrawal from Gaza? The brave boys and girls of the IOF can’t keep away from the place. Something like 40 incursions and violations of the ceasefire in the last month. Giving the lie to any pretence that Israel is a viable partner for peace. But of course you will believe any lie in support of the policy of ‘Greater Israel’.


          • Try being just a little bit less condescending, UncleTanya. Meawhile, look up the meaning of “douche-bag”.

          • Uncle
            There was no occupation and no settlements between 1947 and 1967 . What prevented the Palestinians from declaring their nation state during those intervening years . Furthermore , why would any Israeli citizen of sound mind believe the creation of a Palestinian state mean the end of the conflict

    • Sharon, it’s not about whether Jews or Arabs build homes. It’s about whether states build towns and cities for their citizens in territory that is recognised as belonging to another people. (And before someone jumps in to say that the West Bank doesn’t belong to the Palestinians: neither did the territory of modern-day Israel belong to Jews before Britain and the UN agreed to facilitate the establishment of the Israeli state. That’s just how these things work.) For the past four decades, Israel has been building Jewish settlements in territory that the international community agrees is occupied land, and land that will form a future Palestinian state. Therefore, every international legal institution says that such settlements are illegal.

      When Jews build homes inside the recognised borders of the state of Israel, they are called villages, towns and cities just like anywhere else. It’s only when they are built on occupied land and in defiance of international law that they are called settlements – or, to use another perfectly accurate word, colonies.

      And it’s not anti-Semitic or extremist or deluded or leftist to point these things out. They comprise the overwhelming consensus among the international community.

      • chrisjamescox: …and can you explain why Jews cannot live in what you say is territory recognised by the international community as being occupied? Can you explain why Arabs live side by side with Jews in Israel but Jews cannot live side by side with Arabs in a future entity call Palestine?

      • Be wary of any so called consensus or being trapped by your own careless thought and use of vague words that deceive you and others. May I suggest e.g. that you follow accounts of the Jews from Arab countries expelled 1947-67 and properties expropriated after a stay of up to 2600 years? You might start with the term Mizrahi Jews and go from there. We’re all victims these days of sound bytes and information oveload. It’s understandable, but doesn’t usually deserve to be shared as eternal pronouncements and truths.

  4. Same question to you Chris James Cox .
    If a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza is contingent on the absence of a Jewish presence , perhaps you can explain why the Palestinians failed to declare their independent sovereign state of Palestine any time between 1947 and 1967 . After all there was no occupation and no settlements preventing such a declaration during that period ie the prevailing conditions preventing a Palestinian state were absent .
    Care to have a stab at the answer ? Don’t worry if you struggle with an answer . I’ve been posing the same question to Arabs and their supporters for as long as I can remember and have yet to receive a meaningful answer .

    • You need to find out more about the history of modern Israel. “Meaningful answer ” obviously means “answer I don’t like.”

      • “You need to find out more about the history of modern Israel. ‘Meaningful answer ‘ obviously means ‘answer I don’t like.'”

        And rather than just supplying this answer, which you apparently are “in the know” about, you’re withholding it as some sort of punishment of your intellectual and moral inferiors, eh?
        Your unfounded assumption that “meaningful answer” means “answer I don’t like” demonstrates a demonizing of others you don’t agree with, and a need not to know.

  5. I’ve never received a satisfactory answer as to why Jews waited 2000 years before showing an interest in returning to Israel.

    • It’s never too late, “Frank”. Now, why do you have this obsession with Jews? Envy? Emotional insecurity? A failed existence? Give us a satisfactory answer.

      • “before showing an interest in returning to Israel”

        Jews always showed an interest in returning to Israel. It’s in our prayers (including the Amidah, which is said three times a day). it’s in the Psalms (OK, that referred to the Babylonian exile, which was longer than 2,000 years ago). We say it at the Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

        There were always some Jews living there, and Jews never stopped longing for the return.

        The fact that you’re ignorant of this proves… well, it proves that at best you’re ignorant.

    • “I’ve never received a satisfactory answer as to why Jews blah blah blah.”

      Arrogant and insulting. That Jews need to explain themselves to you for anything – the son of European racists and murderers who have given Jews ample reason for each of those 2000 years NOT to exist in Europe. They don’t have to ask your permission for anything you pompous ignorant fool.

        • So says our pet Frankenstein, a moronic moral cripple, a condescending turd with an obsession with Jews. Just pathetic.

      • t”he son of European racists and murderers who have given Jews ample reason for each of those 2000 years NOT to exist in Europe.”

        What took so long? 2000 years is a long time. I thought Jews were supposed to have higher IQs than everyone else.

    • Jerusalem had a century long Jewish population, sfrom the nineteenth century on they even are the majority of the inhabitants.
      After the downfall of the Osman empire a lot of Arabs immigrated into the mandatory territory, as the statistics show. Now they call themselves Palestinians.

    • Here’s one: they didn’t. Throughout that 2,000 years, people went back, sometimes in groups, sometimes individually, from all around the Diaspora. Zionism birthed the concept of creating a modern nation-state in the Land, but Jews of all eras took great risks to return home, living under each of the empires to take control of the region, so that they could be in their own land.

      If you’re genuinely not aware of this, do some reading on the subject. Fascinating stories. In the 1200s, for example, large groups headed by French rabbis made aliyah.

      Protip: Jewish history is quite complicated, and when not being oversimplified, is often, these days, being actively lied about.

  6. The expulsion and property expropriation of 850,000 Jews from eleven Arab countries (1947-67) was in revenge for the declaration of the State of Israel and its victory over Arab invading forces. Those Jews had been living in the Arab and Iranian world for up to 2600 years. Their arrival in Israel was difficult for them and for the Israelis, but they now constitute more than half of the Jewish population of Israel.

    There was a stable, middle class core of Palestinian Arabs who did not flee in the 1948 conflict and acknowledged the reassurances of the British and the Jews to stay put. Yes,there were unfortunate incidents on both sides: some wildly exaggerated.

    Unlike the Jews from Arab countries, the Palestinians shared the dialect, religious practices, and culture of the Egyptians and Syrians from where many came which might have made resolution far easier than that of the Jews or of the upwards of 20,000,000 Europeans who were relocated after WWII

    A salient difference between Jews and Arabs is clear here. The Arab League chose to demonize Israel and degrade the lives of generations of their fellow Arabs at UN expense whereas Israel, without fanfare, under the worst of conditions accommodated its own UN declared refugees. Israel was short on funds, food, and habitations and sometimes it took years to meet the needs of the newcomers who were culturally Arabized, painfully different and didn’t speak modern Hebrew.

    Egypt and Syria could have demonstrated the love of their fellow Arabs and the humanity that must be prescribed in Koran. Notice the basic difference! In any case, both refugee problems are interrelated and should be resolved in an interrelated fashion.