Monday, May 25, 2009

What's in a name?

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

It is politically expedient and advantageous to continue to call Israeli citizens living in the disputed territories "Settlers". The term is used to demonize the people and thus separate them from "us". If a government has an agenda to abandon an area inhabited by citizens it is critical that the individuals living on that land be delegitimized in the eyes of the larger general public. By attaching a value of good/bad upon the two groups of people the government strengthens its position of power. Repeat this term, as has been done for decades and you end up today with the problem facing all Israelis-what to do with the disputed territory. People have come to believe that we actually are not entitled to any of the disputed territories. The government coupled with specific political entities here in Israel and with the assistance of the local media, all have helped create a situation that is contrary to Israel's security.

Who are those living in the disputed territories? They are fellow citizens, yes, Israeli citizens doing their best to live each day as everyone inside the proper of our country. They are no different than you and I with one exception-they believe vehemently in their choice to live among the various townships founding Judea and Samaria. Not withstanding the fact that the Israeli government encouraged and assisted with this movement after 1967, these Israeli citizens are willing to take a stand and are willing to engage in behavior that is consistent with their beliefs-some of us call this integrity.

At any point in time since 1967 the term of "settler" and "settlements" could have been aborted. However, each step of the way as Israel was emerging from multiple attacks by our Arab "neighbors" the terms remained. The reason is again simple; certain politicians needed to create disassociation between the citizens living inside and outside Israel proper. They need to do this to promote their own agenda and this strategy has worked; they gained power and remain in power in part because they are against "the settlers" who have become the "obstacle to peace." This is incorrect, inaccurate and not true but it resonates well: divide and conquer. We have allowed this to occur in our tiny country.

Rather than stand with one another against our common enemies, we choose to do what no Arab enemy has been able to do for all these years. Defeat us from within and no bullets need to be fired. Fact is, all our enemies need to do is cause a problem every now and then; we galvanize for a few short moments but soon return to all the previous accusations. Dependent upon what the composition of the government is, the so-called "settler" problem is once again used as a scapegoat. Repeated over and over and citizens become tired, disillusioned and want the easy way out of the situation. Of course, given one's perception of the citizens living in Hebron, Frat and other townships, it becomes a facile process to throw your fellow citizens under the international bus. It is so easy as you think it has no direct connection to your daily lives. Nothing could be further from the truth-this for another post.

Imagine if in 1948 those settlers who were here in Israel had decided to engage in the same "gaming strategies" and discounter those choosing to live in the Galilee! I understand this dilemma and do not use the word "settler" to describe Israeli citizens living in towns and townships in the Judea and Samaria territories-it is mandatory we come together at this moment in history. We are all residents in our respective Israeli locales-our enemy is watching every moment of our angst!

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