Amos Oz, the respected Jewish writer and thinker, considers the role of the writer ‘a defender of the language, the one who can read the warning signs and sound the warning bells…persecution [has] always and everywhere started with the pollution of the language… the defilement of the language precedes and prepares for the defilement of life and dignity.’
The Israeli – Palestinian conflict has a mountain of corrupted language and chorus of warning bells ringing loudly on both sides. The Israeli government rain down missiles on Palestinian civilians claiming ‘self defence,’ while Hamas suicide bombers murder Jewish and Israeli citizens and are celebrated as ‘martyrs.’ No side can claim to be propaganda free.
The term ‘settler’ is one which has always bothered me, when referring to Israeli’s who move to Arab communities, such as in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, areas under Israeli occupation since the 1967 war. It is a term widely used on all sides seemingly without challenge.
As far I understand it settling is a passive term. One settles after having arrived at a point in which they may not have received all they wished for, however they are content with what they do have and are accepting of their lot. Thus, they settle.
For example, a poker player, after having been dealt his initial hand and having done his best to improve it, to a point where he believes he is in a superior position, will settle. He achieves his settlement through consideration, negotiation and often an ounce of luck. A player who cheats, for example hiding cards or sabotaging another player, will naturally be disqualified from the game and most likely will find it difficult to play with others in the future.
Another example, when property is bought and sold, the final result is a settlement. Both the buyer and seller have their starting positions and ideal outcomes in mind and through negotiation they reach a settlement which both agree to be fair. The buyer will naturally have wished for a cheaper deal and the seller a higher one, however both parties realise that they cannot always obtain their ideal outcome, thus they reach a settlement.
Finally, when legal disputes between individuals arise they work towards a settlement. One party, or perhaps both, believe they have been wronged and want to be compensated for their loss or damage. In some cases it may be that neither party can be restored completely to their previous position, however through negotiation they are able to reach a settlement, which, while it may not be everything they desired, is sufficient to compensate for their loss or damage.
In the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights the key elements of settlement as outlined above – negotiation, consideration, fairness and mutual agreement – are conspicuously absent when referring to so called Israeli settlements.
So called Israeli settlements are born through coercion, force, intimidation, displacement and destruction. A poker player who forces his fellow players to hand him the best cards before settling, cannot be said to have played fairly; a property transaction, where one is forced into paying more or receiving less than is reasonable, could not be considered party to a mutually beneficial deal, in fact in such cases the deal may even be illegal; finally, a proper and just legal settlement cannot involve intimidation, or have compensation come about through the destruction of the other party.
For these reasons the term settler does not sit well with me. What these people are doing is not passive. They are not negotiating, considering or being fair to the other parties. Their actions are aggressive, imposing, violent, invasive, destructive, illegal and a hindrance to a peaceful two state solution, all the more so when one considers the two main reasons so called settlers move to so called settlements – because of economic incentives and benefits from the Israeli government or fervent religious belief. More accurate terms to describe them would be occupier, coloniser or invader.
Finally, once a settlement has been reached, both parties, no matter how dissatisfied with the outcome, generally consider the matter over. The poker player, who did his best to improve his hand though ultimately failed, throws it in and hopes for a better hand next time; the buyer or seller of property, who has done their best, must now work with what they have; and legal settlements often contain clauses stipulating the matter as final and closed. For the poker player to sabotage another players chances, for the buyer or seller of property to antagonise the other party or for the compensated to seek further damages could result in retaliation or punishment and would have no justification.
Therefore, so called Israeli settlers who throw rubbish including bricks, bottles and acid from their so called settlements into the marketplaces and onto the businesses of Palestinians below, forcing them to erect tarpaulins and metal grates for protection of their stock and lives should consider whether they are settlers or occupiers.