If you know your Shakespeare, you’ll recognize this quote from Julius Caesar: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our settlements. Any adherent of Taoism knows, A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single settlement. The answer, Bob Dylan fans affirm, is blowin’ in the West Bank.
I confess I almost missed it. Right there under my nose “forever” and I almost missed it. The key to all the world’s problems is the settlements! By settlements, I mean the only definition of the word in the world’s vocabulary, Israeli settlements.
Wars, famines, natural disasters, economic crisis, suicide bombings and mass murders, epidemic outbreaks and infectious diseases—all and more routinely threaten every corridor and distant corner of the earth, but the eye of the one-eyed world only brings settlements into focus.
What did we do prior to the establishment of the State of Israel? Who were the bogeymen and where on earth were they settled? What yarns did the old folks hand down to the children from cave to desert sands to rolling seas, from open fire to open porch?
Today’s tellers of tales are TV’s talking heads, parrot heads as I’ve come to think of them. They are paid—highly—to spin pap and propaganda rather than deliver news. And they know, left and right alike, no one likes settlements. It’s the dirty word they can punctuate their drivel with as much as they like without running afoul of sponsors or the FCC (in that order). You can read it on their stress-furrowed brows before they even open their mouths. Mute your TV and read it clearly on their lips: set-tle-ments. Getting rid of them would be the Second Coming. But of what?
If the Israelis flat-out stopped building settlements forever, would it bring peace on earth? Peace in the Middle East? Peace between Palestinians and Israelis?
Ask Israel’s leaders what they want and when they answer shalom, i.e., peace, they mean security. The two words are synonymous to them. Ask the Palestinians what they want until you’re blue in the face and you can’t get an answer. Peace must roll off the lips as easily in Arabic as it does in English or Hebrew, but who has heard it? Palestinian Arabs certainly know how to say jihad, intifada and shaheed distinctly, and how to indicate unequivocally what they mean by them. Know what’s Arabic for “peace”? As I thought.
With the usual arrogance of the western world, we in the United States insist on asking and expecting other peoples to think the way we do. While I’m not in favor of Israel creating more settlements, I am in favor of letting those chosen to govern do what they sincerely believe is best for the security of their people. They know now, as never before, Israel can’t rely on the United States for its survival.
Brilliant Israeli pianist/writer/government spokesman David Bar-Ilan chose his own words for peace quite some time ago: “Semantics don’t matter. If Palestinian sovereignty is limited enough so that we feel safe, call it fried chicken.”