I’m an Orthodox Jewish settler raising seven children in the West Bank. I’m also an American citizen and I voted for Donald Trump. Yeah, I’m that lady. I opened a local business here, and I did so on purpose — to respond to BDS anti-settler activities by encouraging Jewish West Bank residents to work in the West Bank and keep their own businesses local in the West Bank. I believe in annexation and I do not support a two-state solution.
And that makes me a peace-loving, Palestinian-respecting individual. I’m not the racist. You are.
You, my liberal, anti-settler, anti-Trump friends who hate my views — if not me (yet) — are the racists. I have spent a lot of time particularly in the past three months being told by US Democratic voters and UN supporters what a monstrous racist group of people we are, those people “like me.”
I’ve finally had enough. I’ve invited so many of you to engage and hear from real people instead of judging, and you show no interest. Apparently, it’s preferable to let television and the New York Times inform your views on my little corner of the world.
I want to start with the US elections. I have read post after blog after article telling me why Trump voters voted for him. What we think, how we feel, what matters to us (and what doesn’t, like women and/or minorities), and who we are. With some serious name calling. But you didn’t ask me. And you don’t actually know what I think or feel or want or why I voted. So you are pre-judging me. Based on a whole lot of stuff. But it’s prejudice, no matter how you slice it. And I have tolerated — just barely — eight years of a president who not only told me what to think and feel, but told the world assumptions about me as a white person who grew up with “privilege” that just aren’t true. I watched as my life choices and values as a person living in the West Bank of Israel were summarized, judged and assumed by the leader of the free world in a way that is just false, and offensive to my sense of fairness, justice and humanity. I have been misjudged and mischaracterized, in fact penalized, without a proper understanding of what reality looks like over here.
I have watched a president grab executive power while Congress screamed and the citizens ignored it. I watched a president on the political left, who was democratically elected and is entitled to his views, create a culture of demonization of the Right in a way that is unprecedented in my lifetime. I saw policies that moved the US towards socialism. And I voted against any more years of that. Not that you asked. But when you — or he, or Hilary — call me a misogynist or a racist or a pig or “deplorable” for voting the way I did, you are judging a whole band of “them” that isn’t you. And I know how much you hate it when other people do that.
As for being an Israeli settler? I live and work with and among Palestinians. They are my neighbors, my colleagues, my friends, and yes, my threat. They, their dignity, pain, reality and families are in my face and consciousness daily. I don’t presume to claim to know what all Palestinians as a group think or believe. What I do know is that there is a very wide spectrum and a whole lot of shades of gray without much black and white. Let me start by asking you: do YOU know that?
While the world watches Aleppo burn and Syrian children slaughtered in the thousands every year without so much as single protest or call to action, the same world is out to show that Israeli occupation of another people is the true evil in the world.
And that same prejudiced world has been living with democracy for so long that I think maybe you have all forgotten what it really means not to have it. Here is the problem I need you to grapple with for a moment: there is no Palestinian leadership option that will give people a voice, empower and educate women, create and build freedom for the individual. Palestinian citizens of Israel today (many of whom call themselves proudly Arab Israelis and not Palestinians, but not all, it’s part of the shades of gray and a different blog post) have access to subsidized education, universal health care, can open a business, sit on the Supreme Court, and be members of Israel’s Parliament. They can fight the system lawfully and from within and stand up in our parliament, the only democracy in the Middle East, and explain why Israelis need to improve the situation today for Palestinians.
Do you actually know what “racist” reality exists today? Israelis are bound by law, including in the “West Bank” to obey and uphold the laws. That makes us culpable legally and financially if we cause harm to anyone or anything. But a resident in a territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, just a few miles from my home can smash into the side of my car, laugh and walk away. A Palestinian can buy land and build on it. A Jew cannot. In fact, a Jew cannot travel into Palestinian controlled areas at all, without fear of lynching, beatings and murder. Which will not only go unpunished, but when they happen are celebrated in the streets. That makes ME the victim of racism and apartheid over here in the West Bank. Arabs living in Israel have more freedom, more education, more democracy, more of a voice and more opportunity than in the thousands and thousands of miles of stretches of the many Arab countries in the Middle East. Jews no longer exist in those countries because of the racism/apartheid against them that is so rampant, so commonplace and yet, has not warranted a single speech in the UN or from the White House condemning it.
When I am castigated for supporting the annexation of land that some of you wrongfully identify as “occupied” (it’s disputed, not occupied, based on International Law; look it up.), you are telling me that Palestinians, whose current situation is far far less than ideal and is causing anger and sadness and needs improvement, all want to live under an oppressive, dictatorial, thug-like regime that embezzles, doesn’t provide girls with proper education, trains in hate, and has no democracy, because it is comprised of Palestinians. (Picking leaders by ethnicity? How racist of you!)
You are telling me that “they” desire this over living in 100% freedom and democracy in a “Jewish” state that has Arab/Muslim religious rights, education, healthcare, and the ability to make change legally and effectively through serving in the government. And if you aren’t telling me what they want, you are telling me that you know that this is what is best for them. That this is the best alternative of those that are out there waiting for them. It is most definitely the alternative that John Kerry just laid out.
You are telling me what they want, what they prefer…. Or at least that you know, sitting over there in Massachusetts and California (and Herzliya) what they SHOULD want. What’s best for them. You are taking your Western ideals and assumptions and choices and imposing them on people here without a true understanding of peoplehood, of the history. You are swallowing political rhetoric about a group of people – about them, and about me. And that is your prejudice — your racism.
Annexation would end the dispute over disputed territories. It would give full rights to those living in the areas known as “post 1967” lines. It would allow Jews and Arabs to buy land and build where they live. And to argue and disagree and VOTE. And make the system better over time. With a real democracy. It would allow women to become doctors and lawyers and famous news anchors, just like the Arab female role models Israel already has! It would allow Israel to throw out and deport all terrorists. Freeing the Palestinian people of the terrorists in their midst just as much as it would free Jews. Equal opportunity banishing of bad guys. Because I believe that non-terrorist Palestinians don’t want to live among terrorists, or be ruled by terrorists, or have to shelter terrorists. Or be labeled by the world because of those terrorists. I think better of them than that. Do you?
Annexation would yes, “water down” my Jewish demographic. But that doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t scare me. You have just assumed that it would because of your racist prejudices against me. I would rather see people of all faiths live on the one island of democracy, freedom and hope that exists in the middle of an insanely mad world of violence, death, clitorectomies, child brides and much worse that is the Middle East today, than hand Palestinians over to the hands of thug leaders they don’t like or respect, they only fear and have to obey. Which is what those not blessed to be in Israel proper today have to suffer from.
The Palestinians living in Gaza are raised on hate. They have missiles in their kindergartens and children’s bedrooms. Girls and women can be beaten, as in most of the Middle East, because of prevailing culture and the leadership. While you seem quite ready to create an official state in a “Two State Solution,” where that is where the bar is set, I don’t have such little regard for Palestinian lives. For little Palestinian girls. I want better for them. Israel can give them better — because Israel already does, for many.
I think they deserve as rich and wonderful life as I am blessed to have. And Israel is the only place in the Middle East that can give it to them. You want to give them Gaza? How about Aleppo? Or Saudia Arabia, where women can’t drive and there are tutorials on televison on how to use makeup to cover up their beatings? That’s all you think that they are worth?
If you are fighting so hard for a reality where that is the best they can get, then take a look in the mirror because the racist sure isn’t me, it’s you.
First published in The Times of Israel. (HT: Denis)