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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Playing our role again?

Maybe it's just my liberal upbringing blinding me to something obvious, but I can't seem to get my head around recent events going on in my area that seem, at best unfair... and at worst, downright illegal!

First a little background:

During the beginning of the Palestinian uprisings (intifadas) the Israeli government decided that having Israeli (Jewish) motorists driving directly through Arab towns and villages was too much of a temptation/provocation, and quickly set about building a network of bypass roads.  The rationale was that the Arabs would continue using the existing roads that bisected their communities, while the Jews would go around them on these new bypass roads, thus removing what had become too-tempting a target for rocks, fire-bombs and gunfire.

However, as soon as these bypass roads were completed there arose cries of 'Apartheid Road' from the Arabs, from the Israeli left and from useful idiots civil libertarians and human rights-niks throughout Europe.  Having been raised on a steady diet of liberal politics, I have to admit I too was somewhat bothered by the idea of certain roads being 'Jewish only', and was relieved to see these new bypass roads 'integrated', even though it obviously made the security situation significantly more complicated for those who had to patrol them.   

So, that was that. 

But not really.

You see, not far from where I live there was yet another proposed bypass road that was to be constructed from the eastern part of Gush Etzion, connecting it to the Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem.  The road was many years in the governmental planning and approval process, but its completion was eagerly anticipated by all as it promised to cut a 40-60 minute drive (sometimes as much as 90 minutes during 'rush hour') to as little as 8 minutes!  And best of all, like the other 'bypass roads' this new road would eliminate the need for cars from the affected Jewish communities to drive directly through the center of Arab communities.

This should have been a win-win for all involved.  With the concept of 'Jewish Only' roads long ago set aside as legally untenable, this new road would end up serving Arab and Jew alike... Arab sensibilities would be protected from 'offensive Jewish traffic' in their midst... and a new, safer road would provide quick access to Jerusalem for all.

It's all good, right?

Yeah right.  Nothing is ever that simple in Israel!

You see, this shiny new road was recently completed and opened... but only to Arab traffic!

Yes, you read that right.  Jews living in communities such as Tekoa and Nokdim are barred from using this new road, and still have to drive almost an hour on winding roads through Arab villages to reach Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, Arabs whose communities are in the same area are given free access.

Look, I'm sensitive to moves that might smack of heavy-handed ethnic discrimination against the Arabs, but what could possibly be the point of excluding Jews from this new road (other than deliberately making their lives more difficult/dangerous)? 

Additionally, these two settlements would seem, at first blush, to be unlikely targets for governmental ire directed at religious settlers since both Nokdim and Tekoa are 'mixed' communities (meaning they are made up of both religious and non-religious residents), a relative rarity in Judea and Samaria.

Over the past few years I have gotten pretty good at figuring out the real reason behind some of the more baffling governmental moves... but I have to admit that this time I'm stumped.  Some of my neighbors have offered the fairly logical conclusion that the decision to exclude Jews from the road is intended to isolate the communities in eastern Gush Etzion in advance of their eventual destruction in some future 'realignment' plan.  But I don't know...

If at some future date a decision is reached to abandon any communities in that area, it would be a simple thing to simply block the road and declare the area a closed military zone. But barring that, I can't help feeling that this is the sort of move that would instantly draw fire from the Israeli left, and even the U.N., if it were directed against the Arabs instead of at settlers.

With no realignment plan even on the table, I honestly can't understand how deliberately inconveniencing/endangering Israeli motorists hasn't drawn even a whisper of protest from anyone outside the settler community. 

Where are the human rights organizations?  Where are the civil libertarians?  Where are the legal scholars.  If this were about excluding Arabs from the roads there would be a pile of Amicus briefs a mile high stacked outside the Israeli supreme court  building!  But since it's 'only' against the interests of the settlers... nobody seems particularly bothered. 

I brought up the concept of 'selective outrage' (meaning taking issue only with legal issues that cut across your political turf) during the disengagement when visibly religious people, as well as those who had orange ribbons on their cars, were routinely subjected to illegal restriction of movement without so much as a peep from the left.  I noted at that time that the pro-disengagement camp's fervor for the 'rule of law' didn't seem to extend quite that far.

Well, once again Jewish settlers are being given the opportunity to play the role of 'The wicked son'... and once again, the civil libertarians all seem to be asleep or on vacation.

Note:  I know that for many of you this post will be the first you have heard on this topic, and I welcome your questions and comments.  But my hope is that those who are more 'in the know' will also weigh in with their insights and opinions.

However, this is not an invitation to flame the government, supreme court, Arabs, settlers, religious people, secular people, rightists, leftists or the police.  If you can't present your point-of-view/opinion without resorting to ad hominem arguments... please sit this one out.

Posted by David Bogner on December 3, 2006 | Permalink

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no real comment to make, I totally agree with you. I just wanted to be the first comment on the page:)

Posted by: ed | Dec 3, 2006 4:30:31 PM

I am not sure why you say you are liberal and against apartheid roads that are for jews only, yet when we cave in for security reasons and allow a road to be Arab only. that is ok (it is ok other than the fact that you do not understand what they gain).
Is apartheid only one way? it is liberal to allow arabs on a road built for the specific purpose of protecting jews, but reasonable that Jews cannot be on the normal roads the arabs have usurped?

Posted by: Rafi G | Dec 3, 2006 5:02:18 PM

I don't know that much about the nuts and bolts of this, but is it possible thi road will be used to allow the Israeli government to back up it's claims (which I agree shouldn't be necessary) that any Palestinian political entity on the West Bank will have some kind of contiguity to other parts of their territories? Again, let me re-emphasize that I don't know how this works, just trying to come up with a possible political motivation that is not so odious.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Dec 3, 2006 7:43:34 PM

FYI, the media still refer to bypass roads as "Jewish-Only" roads (hint hint: Apartheid,) regardless of the fact that the overwhelming majority of users are Arab.

Posted by: Evan | Dec 3, 2006 7:58:22 PM

I just came back from visiting some friends in Nokdim - boy would I have loved that bypass road. The road in use now not only twists and turns through Arab villages it isn't even lit at night.

Posted by: houseofjoy | Dec 3, 2006 9:51:03 PM

You're right, this is the first I hear of the issue... though probably not the last. The only relatively reasonable thing that comes to mind is that perhaps the government is planning to build another set of very similar roads intended for Jewish road to prevent the security issues from arising. That, however, doesn't seem very likely, so I really have no idea what to think. What I'd like to know is who exactly backed the roads being limited to Arab use... and do settlers themselves have any kind of plan to protest the unfair treatment?

Posted by: Irina | Dec 4, 2006 2:55:14 AM

Just can't believe this one -- discirmination against Jews, but used by the media to show how Israel is discriminating... grrr!

Posted by: Isaac B2 | Dec 4, 2006 9:15:29 AM

ed... Congrats. You were first. :-)

Rafi G... Exactly where did I say it was OK for any road to be Arab only?

Jordan Hirsch... Nice try but no doll for you.

Evan... The media has never been known for historical accuracy (or context, for that matter).

Houseofjoy... There are sections of that drive where you feel like you're in people's living-rooms!

Irina... You and Jordan go to the head of the line of people who want to believe the best about the government. Unfortunately neither of you are even warm.

Isaac B2... Yes, grrrr indeed.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 4, 2006 3:40:07 PM

To be honest, that's not what I really thought. But felt that I ought to have at least tried to come up with a reasonable answer before blaming the government yet again. I feel a little guilty, as an American, to condemnt the government for issues without having read a lot about them... but unfortunately, this looks like that might be one of the cases warranting such a condemnation.

Posted by: Irina | Dec 4, 2006 8:56:12 PM

Actually, you fell into a common trap with the wording in your article.

The bypass roads are/were not "Jewish-only" - they are "Israeli-only" which includes Israeli Arabs, but excludes "Palestinian" Arabs.

The same goes for highway 443 that runs over the green line. All Israeli citizens (such as Arabs) may use it, Palestinian citizens may not.

The "Arab only" roads on the other hand are aptly named, as "Palestinian" Arabs and Israeli Arabs are allowed on them, just not Jews.

So it really begs the question, "Are 'Palestinian' Arabs a different race or just citizens of a different State/entity from Israeli Arabs?", because those that choose to abuse the word apartheid seem to imply they are a different race from their fellow Arabs as opposed to citizens of an enemy state/entity.

Posted by: JoeSettler | Dec 4, 2006 10:04:23 PM

Uh, maybe there's no outrage because no one knows? I'm a fairly thorough reader of the JPost and don't recall having seen anything about this published? Maybe it's time someone became a squeaky wheel and call a press conference?

Posted by: aliyah06 | Dec 5, 2006 6:50:15 PM

Further factual corrections:

The original bypass roads were not created just for the convenience and safety of settlers - they were part of a program to create autonomous regions that would become part of a Palestinian entity.

Posted by: Ben-David | Dec 6, 2006 11:02:29 AM

Irina... Your problem is you expect the best of everyone. I worry about your career choice as an attorney! :-)

Joe Settler... Guilty as charged. As soon as I read your comment I slapped myself for making such an obvious blunder. Thanks.

Aliyah06... The right side of the media hear has run it... and the left will continue to ignore it. And there is nothing new under the sun.

Ben-David... Thank you for the correction. I was completely unaware of that.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 6, 2006 12:00:13 PM

Hey David,

Nice blog. The elites that currently run Israel have a very different dream for the future of Israel then you and I.
They want to be accepted among the nations of the world as a “Hebrew speaking Singapore” (Shimon Perez) or
“A place among the nations” (Bibi Nitanyahu)

For this to happen the world demands that Israel makes piece with the Arabs. However that is not happening, and unlike in the 50s and 60s when the left built the land, it’s the Settlers (as they call them) that now work the land and are sending their kids to the top units in the Army. It is only natural and obvious that the future leadership of Israel will come from this sect of the population.

This poses a real serious threat the elites currently in charge of Israel who want to retain their power at ALL costs. The settlers are their enemy NOT the Arabs. They use the Arabs as a tool to get rid of the settlers and control the population. That’s why the government is doing nothing to protect Settlers from terrorism and why the settlers are demonized by the media. The last thing they want to do is make it more convenient for Settlers to travel. This would encourage more settlement! Their goal is to destroy the settlements just like they did in Gush Katif and turn over the lives of the settlers so much that they won’t have the ability to take over the ruling elites positions.

This is what Sancherev did. He did a population exchange of nations every few decades so that if there was an organized uprising to challenge his leadership, by moving them around they couldn't function normally and could not have an effective revolt.

When the Israeli population realizes that it’s leaders are it’s worst enemies, stop voting for the ones who perpetuate this goal and elect one who is 1000% opposed the the Oslo accords and has faith in G-d such as Moshe Feiglin of Manhigut Yehudit, things will start getting better.

Posted by: Shlomo Walfish | Dec 7, 2006 5:43:03 AM

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