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Israel’s 50-Year Occupation: Harmful to Its Long- Term Interests and to Jewish Ethics

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
August 2017

As the world marks 50 years of Israeli control of the West Bank and East  
Jerusalem and the construction of settlements housing approximately 700,000  
Israelis in violation of international law, some believe that the Israeli  
government intends that this occupation be permanent.  
Prime Minister Netanyahu has declared that there will never be a Palestinian  
state while he is in office. Other members of his government call for the  
annexation of the occupied territories.  
Many Israelis are concerned about their country’s treatment of Palestinians.  
Prof. David Shulman of the Hebrew University notes that, “No matter how we  
look at it, unless our minds have been poisoned by the ideologies of the  
religious right, the occupation is a crime. It is first of all based on the  
permanent disenfranchisement of a huge population.”  
While Israeli settlers enjoy protection from the Israeli army and subsidies  
from the government, Israel keeps 3 million indigenous Palestinians in the  
West Bank under military rule with restrictions imposed on nearly every  
aspect of their lives. While Palestinians live under military law and cannot  
vote, settlers have the full rights of Israeli citizenship.  
Dan Ephron, author of Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and  
the Remaking of Israel, describes it this way: “… it includes separate legal  
systems — Israeli law for settlers and much harsher military law for  
Palestinians — and separate courts that mete out wildly unequal penalties …  
on Israel’s Independence Day in May, the government’s Central Bureau of  
Statistics published a report with updated population figures … A map in the  
report depicted the West Bank as just one more region of Israel, labeling it  
‘Judea and Samaria District.’ The population figure, 8.68 million, included  
settlers who live in the West Bank. But it left out their neighbors, the  
The Israeli government is promoting the idea that the occupied territories  
are really part of Israel. The Green Line, the border which separates Israel  
proper from the occupied areas, no longer appears on schoolbook maps or  
newspaper weather charts.  
The Economist (May 20, 2017) declares: “… the never-ending subjugation of  
Palestinians will erode Israel’s standing abroad and erode its democracy at  
home. Its politics are turning towards ethno-religious; chauvinism …The  
government objected even to a novel about a Jewish-Arab love affair. … To  
save democracy and prevent a slide to racism or even apartheid, it has to  
give up the occupied lands.”  
While Israel proclaims itself a “Jewish” state, more and more Jewish voices  
are being heard in Israel, the U.S. and throughout the world saying that its  
treatment of Palestinians violates Jewish moral and ethical values. Hebrew  
University’s David Shulman put it this way: “In the end, it is the ongoing  
moral failure of the country as a whole that is most consequential, most  
dangerous, and most unacceptable. This failure weighs … heavily on our  
humanity. We are, so we claim, the children of the prophets. Once, they say,  
we were slaves in Egypt. We know all that can be known about slavery,  
suffering, prejudice, ghettos, hate, expulsion, exile. I find it astonishing  
that we, of all people, have reinvented apartheid in the West Bank (New York  
Review of Books, June 22, 2017). •

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