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I Have a Right to Live in Judea and Samaria

Israeli ‘settlers’ should not have to justify their existence

by
Malkah Fleisher
July 21, 2023
A 2017 photo shows the Palestinian West Bank village of al-Sawiya in the foreground, and the Jewish settlement of Eli in the background

Jaffar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images

A 2017 photo shows the Palestinian West Bank village of al-Sawiya in the foreground, and the Jewish settlement of Eli in the background

Jaffar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images

On June 20, four Jews near the town of Eli were just going about their day when they were targeted and shot to death. Some in the midst of enjoying warm bowls of fresh hummus and pita, others were casually gassing up their cars. Three beloved sons in the prime of their lives and a father were gone—cruelly plucked from their families and communities.

Heartbroken by the terrible murders, I posted to Twitter, expressing my condolences to the Jews of Eli, a town in Samaria named after the High Priest of Israel who raised Samuel the Prophet at the Mishkan (tabernacle) in nearby Shiloh.

Here are some of the responses that came pouring into the comments:

“Long live Palestinian freedom fighters,”

“Strength to the resistance,”

“Illegal settlers in occupied Palestinian land were neutralized by brave Palestinians,”

“The price for stealing someone else’s home and land!”

I wish I could tell you that this appalling dehumanization and callous hatred shocked me. But it didn’t. I, and the half million Jews who make their homes in our ancient homeland of Judea and Samaria, are demonized daily. Efforts to cause our deaths are openly justified and celebrated by people who loathe us.

As a defender of Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been called a murderer, Nazi, psychopath, colonialist, apartheidist, or simply an animal on social media. Which is quite a lot of aggression toward a mom like me—a regular person whose major battles today included a war with a tempting pastry at the office (which I won!) and a locked gear-shift problem in my car I tried to solve with a dreidel I found in my cup holder (true story).

Thanks to people who demonize the Jews of Judea and Samaria under the guise of “human rights,” here I am in the absurd position of trying to counter extreme and unfounded accusations against me and my neighbors and explain how not-evil we are.

Here are some more things we shouldn’t have to explain:

We “settlers” are Israelis, and we enjoy the democratic support of our country

Some people assert that being outside the Green Line makes us illegitimate. But the fact is that I pay Israeli property taxes, get my electricity from the national grid, use the national health care system, and my kids are taught the Israeli school curriculum in school. Our residents are Israeli doctors, lawyers, rabbis, army officers, teachers, politicians, engineers, shop owners—everything you can think of. Outside my window as I write this, I can hear tractors widening out the nearby highway, because the State of Israel is investing in Judea and in Judeans. And so are the rest of Israel’s citizens—our people just elected the most pro-Judea and Samaria government in the nation’s history. An accident? Hardly.

“Settlers” are Jews

To all the armchair anthropologists on social media, nice try with the “You’re Khazars!” or “You’re Europeans!” No. We are an ancient nation—among the oldest in the world. Many of us can trace our ancestry, and all of us can trace our faith, back far before the other Abrahamic religions even existed. That the foundational experiences and stories of the Jewish people occurred right here in Judea and Samaria is demonstrated not simply by the text of the Bible but by endless amounts of archeological evidence from the surrounding hills, and by numerous artifacts and texts from other ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Assyrians, Moabites, Persians, and Romans. It is here, in our ancestral homeland, that we yearned to reunite for 2,000 years. As the indigenous inhabitants of this land, we’re inspired by our Judaism and Jewish history and we know how central our land is to our Jewish identity and future.

“Settlers” are peace-loving

Contrary to what detractors would have you believe, we don’t actually run around booting Palestinian grandmothers out of their orchards or holding guns to the heads of Arab children. In fact, it is we who find ourselves constantly under attack. We have bad-faith actors masquerading as human rights defenders, who I called out in another tweet I wrote after the Eli attack:

Thanks for not hiding behind false apologetics and fake lip service to human rights. You want us dead, and I respect the reality of that.

Do you know what it feels like to send your kids on a walk out in nature, and harbor a fear that they will be massacred? To stand at a bus stop and worry that you’ll be knifed in the chest during your morning commute? We are on constant alert, and can never let our guard down—not the women, not the children, not the infirm. This is our reality.

We have, with God’s help, dedicated our homes and our lives to helping create a free, safe Israel in the Jewish heartland. We are the children of survivors, we inherited their strength and we have faith that we will persevere.

Part of loving peace is protecting peace. We’re peaceful. But we’re not pacifists. Know the distinction.

“Settlers” are not racists

So many of our opponents, as a delegitimization tactic, try to paint us as seething Arab haters to make us seem barbaric. But I hate to disappoint you—we’re not. In fact, we’re among the most likely of all Israelis to actually have normal, friendly personal interactions and relationships with Arabs, because we live close to them and deal with them on a daily basis. For example, the local supermarket’s cheese counter manager and I regularly bless each other with good health, and the leader of an Arab clan in Hebron helped us launch fireworks for my daughter’s bat mitzvah.

We are happy when advances for us can be of use to other good people in the area. A new multi-million-shekel Israeli bypass road of Route 60 was just inaugurated, significantly reducing commute times in the Hebron Hills, for Jews and for thousands of Palestinians—and that’s good news for everyone.

Our lives and motivations don’t revolve around spiting or fighting Arabs. We are not here as a response to them. We’re here because we have a natural, healthy love for our G-d, our nation, and our land.

“Settlers” are not motivated by greed

There’s not a place in all of Judea and Samaria that a hater doesn’t charge a Jew with having stolen. But we know the truth. We know whose land we live on. This is the heart of the heartland sworn to our ancestors and this is also the territory recognized as ours in the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Accords, and the League of Nation’s Mandate for [a Jewish] Palestine. And while life in Judea and Samaria is beautiful, it was earned through hardship and great sacrifice. We push ahead by establishing farms, building our communities, and living normal, productive lives.

We are not alone

Some haters like to suggest that residents of Judea and Samaria are the pariahs of the world and that everyone agrees we’re evil, illegal, and unjust. But we know that people around the world stand with us as we work to rebuild our homeland. These people include Bible-believers who know what we’ve been promised, indigenous peoples who are amazed that one small native nation was able to wrestle its lands back from occupiers, ancient peoples who understand the intricacies of a long and illustrious heritage, anti-jihadists who take notes on how to stand strong in the face of aggression, and nationalists who respect the value of bolstering authentic culture.

We are not going anywhere

One of the things I most wish our enemies understood is what an utter waste it is to kill themselves trying to kill us. It is sick that so many Palestinians are willing to launch their children at our children, losing them in the process. They just waste life. Our lives, and theirs. Yet we keep growing. We’re soft-hearted, but we are thick-skinned. Attacking us hurts, but it will not stop us.

Here’s how I put it in my previously mentioned tweet:

Do you really think killing 4 of us will create a Palestine or destroy an Israel? 40? 400? I know it’s always fun to throw a party in Shechem or Gaza, but do you not realize how utterly futile these attacks are? In the end, you will fail. There will never be a Palestine on the Land of Israel. We will not budge one inch. You caused us pain today, that’s definitely true. But we’ll just kill the killers. You achieved nothing. Like every other day. Choose life. Abandon the fruitless fight for control in the Land of Israel.

We deserve to live

Israel-haters routinely and openly justify the murder of Jews in Judea and Samaria, as if killing us is the normal response of any right-thinking person. But—and I know it’s shocking—we actually have a right to live and thrive. Returning to our land after 2,000 years of forced exile and ongoing persecution is the rectification of historical injustice. The Jews of Judea and Samaria have the guts and the spirit to stand up in the face of not just local antisemitism, but global antisemitism. We are strong and determined, and will never give up.

I have never attacked anyone, I have never stolen anyone’s land. And I don’t have to justify my existence to anyone. So I won’t. The Jews have never submitted their convictions for anyone’s recognition or permission. In that spirit, we, the Jews of Judea and Samaria, will push ahead.

I am a wife and mother who lives by choice in Judea. I will continue to teach my children to love our story, to live our story, to know our rights, and to fight for a better future. I have faced rock attacks, Molotov cocktails, and ambushes. I face daily antisemitic tropes and attacks on social media. But I won’t be deterred. Neither will my neighbors. Millions of people around the world stand with us. Millions of Israelis stand with us. The IDF stands with us. History stands with us. And I pray that God will continue to stand with us as we help advance the evolving story of Shivat Tzion—the great return to Zion.

Malkah Fleisher is an Israel-rights activist, host on the Yishai Fleisher Israel podcast, and a marketing communications strategist at JNS. She is a graduate of Cardozo Law School and a wife and mom raising three kids in Judea.

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