Since its creation in 1948, the modern state of Israel has steadily stolen Palestinian land and driven Palestinians from their homes, cities and villages.
Nothing has been done to halt Israel’s steady march to tighten its absolute control of the Palestinian people with the obvious goal of ethnic cleansing, an historic fact well documented by Israeli scholar Ilan Pappe.
Under the protection of a security-obsessed military occupation, fully supported and underwritten by U.S. tax payers, Israel denies it has broken any laws. Israel makes its own self-preservation laws. It listens to no higher authority.
Israel has destroyed olive tree orchards and smothered stolen farmlands and pastures with modern malls where U.S. firms like Ace Hardware and Burger King enrich stock holders who don’t know, or don’t care, that they are taking part in the ugly crime of ethnic cleansing.
(The first time I saw an Ace Hardware store in a Ma’ale Adumim mall, I started my own personal boycott of Ace, an action unfair to employees of my local Ace outlet, but one that has increased the receipts of my small neighborhood hardware store.)
Those poor benighted U.S. media readers/viewers who are unaware of this reality live in a bubble of ignorance, protected by AIPAC and its political, media and religious allies.
The narrative of Israeli governments heeding no call but their own, has been with us all along, but U.S. media readers/viewers have avoided having to think about it, or do anything about it.
They live comfortably within their bubble of ignorance which is created and sustained for them by their newspapers, news magazines, television outlets, radio broadcasts, government leaders and, alas, their religious leaders.
It does not have to be this way. During the last decade, the narrative of settlements like Ma’ale Adumim has been available on the internet in reports like this one from Electronic Intafada, which begins:
It is only a fifteen minute bus ride from Jerusalem to the Ma’ale Adumim settlement. After entering through guarded gates, one’s first impression is of a Miami-style suburb. The town at noon seems almost abandoned because the major part of Ma’ale Adumim residents head off to work in Jerusalem during the day. . . .
As soon as Barack Obama demanded from Israel the simple act of “freezing” its settlement expansion, Israel trotted out Public Relations Plan A for distribution to the media: Have a heart, settlement residents need room for their families to grow.
Israel operates on the logic of the man found guilty of killing his parents. The guilty man begged for mercy on the grounds that he was now an orphan.
To tell you about the Israeli settlers’ plea for mercy, the Los Angeles Times (July 6) delivered its version of the orphan story: “Israel’s settlements in West Bank present a major hurdle.”
The opening paragraphs of the Times story set the tone for the plea with weasel words (Lobby talking points) used by writer Edmund Sanders:
Reporting from Ma’ale Adumim, West Bank — This sprawling, well-manicured Israeli settlement — with its rows of red-tile roofs, palm trees and air-conditioned shopping mall — could almost pass for Orange County. Except the guards in this gated community sometimes pack automatic weapons.
Settlements such as the city-sized Ma’ale Adumim, about four miles east of Jerusalem in the West Bank, are viewed by much of the world as illegal because they are built on land seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War. Many Israelis see Ma’ale Adumim as part of their country.
Now let us review the weasel words.
The reference to the illegality of Ma’ale Adumim is softened by the qualifying rhetorical device, “viewed by much of the world as illegal”. The phase “viewed by” suggests that the issue at hand is open to debate among reasonable people.
Reasonable, as, for example, as a story that might have appeared in a Birmingham, Alabama, newspaper, circa 1939, reporting that “segregation is viewed by many in the South as as a way to maintain harmony between the races and preserve our Southern Way of Life.”
Should such an analysis have been open to debate? No, certainly not in the minds of a small number of courageous Southern liberals, and an increasingly impatient black population.
It required two more decades of U.S. racial oppression for that “debate”–for and against segregation–to reach a definitive conclusion with “all deliberate speed”.
Now we have a 21st century debate. The Times’ Monday story includes the phrase: “many Israelis see Ma’ale Adumim as part of their country.” Do they, indeed? How many Israelis?
Most polls suggest that sentiment is largely confined to the pro-settler community, while “security-minded” government leaders continue to demand the inclusion of Ma’ale Adumimin a future Israeli state
To other more fair-minded Israelis the phrase “many Israelis see Ma’ale Adumim as part of their country”, unpleasantly evokes the case of the parent-killer who begs for mercy because he is an orphan.
The Times story continues:
Now the long-simmering dispute over this and other fast-growing settlements has become a major obstacle to restarting peace talks.
Settlement building is not a long-simmering dispute. It is part of decades of immoral and illegal actions by Israel and is much more than a “major obstacle” to peace talks. It is an indisputable violation of international law, which, if allowed to stand, will block any successful peace talks.
The parent-killer should mourn his Mom and Dad from his jail cell, not while sitting in the sun in his well-watered grass covered private backyard, shaded from the hot summer sun by a picnic umbrella purchased from a nearby Ace Hardware.
The LA Times reserves most of its early sympathy for the illegal settlers of an illegal city with these touching “facts”:
“Why is President Obama interfering with our lives, telling us how many children we can have and whether we can get married?” asked Benny Kashriel, longtime mayor of Ma’ale Adumim. . . .
Talk about a possible freeze has many here worried.
“You can’t freeze a city,” Kashriel said. “If you freeze, you go backwards. Every month we are not building and people are not coming, it affects the economic situation of the city. . . . It’s punishing.”
A freeze, officials say, would threaten the opening of four new synagogues and seven sorely needed schools. Class sizes are already near the legal limit of 40 students per room.
An additional 400 units of housing in various stages of construction might also be shut down, leaving homeowners — many of whom have already taken out mortgages up to $300,000 — with monthly payments and no place to live.
The Times knew American readers would identify with those folks holding mortgages of up to $300,000 with monthly payments and no place to live. And those same readers can also identify with parents whose children are in schools “near the legal limit of 40 students per room”.
Further down in the story, the Times reports on the Arab village of Aziriyeh, (in biblical times, the village of Bethany), where Lazarus was called from his grave by Jesus. (Or as the Times writes, carefully avoiding any validation of a religious belief, “where the biblical Lazarus is said to have risen from the dead”).
The comparison of Aziriyeh (Bethany) with Ma’ale Adumim is fact-filled. The comparison also strains for a “balance” that is impossible to achieve between occupiers and the occupied.
Since 1967, the story reports, the village of Aziriyeh has had three-fourths of its land stolen to enlarge Ma’ale Adumim. Its mayor, Issam Faroun, makes a comparison between his citizens and those of the illegal citizens of Ma’ale Adumim. The facts are presented fairly. The comparative use of water is an example.
Mayor Faroun said:
. . . that as Ma’ale Adumim frets about the fate of its landscaped grounds or swimming pools, Azariyah residents receive water only once a week. The town gateway has turned into a junkyard of trash, scrap metal and old appliances. Schools have 45 students per class and unemployment is 50%, in part because the barrier prevents workers from reaching Jerusalem.
With no room to expand horizontally, families are adding second and third stories to their homes as children grow up and marry. Bassem abu Roomy, 31, still lives in his parents’ house, sharing two rooms with his pregnant wife and two children. His younger brothers are not so lucky.
“We can’t add any more stories because the foundation of the house can’t support it,” he said. “So they can’t get married.”
When did the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis in Aziriyeh (Bethany) and Ma’ale Adumim go wrong? When that first brick was laid in Maale Adumim soon after 1967? When Ma’ale Adumim gobbled up three fourths of Aziriyeh’s farmland for its own use? Name your own moment in recent memory.
The LA Times wants us to look back no further than two decades when the biblical village of Lazarus and the modern Israeli city of Ma’ale Adumim had, as the Times describes it, their harmonious relations “strained”.
A decade ago, the two communities lived somewhat harmoniously. Israelis shopped in Azariyah [Bethany] and Palestinians worked on housing projects in the settlement. But during the last Palestinian uprising, in 2000, two settlers were shot in the village and relations have been strained since.
The competing needs of these two communities have become part of the international debate.
So there you have it. Everything was fine until two Israeli settlers were shot. This is a case study on why the Israeli Lobby and the U.S. Congress are so grateful for news stories like this one that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
For Sanders and the Times, the Arab village of Azariyah and the modern illegal city of Maale Adumim are merely playing a role in an “international debate”.
No wonder that parent-killer failed to get any respect with his request for mercy because he was now an orphan. He did not have the support of his own personal lobby making a case for orphans who have killed their parents.
The picture above is of a barrier in the Arab village of Azariyah (Bethany). The break in the barrier has been covered by barbed wire. The wire is removed and replaced on a regular basis by Israeli authorities, who built the barrier in the first place. This photo is from the website of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.