As executive vice president of One Israel Fund, the premier organization that raises funds for the safety and welfare of the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley I am extremely happy that the United States of America has officially recognized what we have always known: That the settlements are not in violation of international law.
This past month there have been amplified attacks on Israel — both physical attacks from terrorist combatants and verbal attacks disguised as humanitarian condemnations. These attacks come from people who hate Israel for its mere existence — for serving as a home for Jews worldwide. Israel is the only true refuge for the Jewish people, who have been seeing a global resurgence of anti-Semitic violence and vandalism.
Although Israel is the home of the Jewish people, it is far from safe. Israel is under constant threat from terrorism. There are dozens of terrorist organizations that list destroying Israel and its people as its primary goal, and Israel is surrounded by Islamic nations that refuse to acknowledge the nation’s right to exist.
This most recent criticism stems from Israel using targeted air strikes in the Gaza Strip and along its Syrian border to stop terrorists, including the killing of a top commander of terrorist organization Islamic Jihad. Israel has to continually do this in order to protect its citizens and others who want to live in peace from the threat of future terrorism. Israel has a right to defend itself.
No other nation in the world would be so harshly viewed for protecting its people from terrorists. And no other nation would be so commonly censured for responding to ongoing assaults on its people.
As executive vice president of One Israel Fund, I see on a daily basis how much restraint Israel shows toward its enemies and I see how vulnerable Israelis living in Judea and Samaria are. Along with our organization’s expert director of security projects, Marc Provisor, I and my staff work to supply security and medical needs in a region of Israel that is often overlooked, sometimes inadvertently but more often in a concerted and determined effort to delegitimize these areas. Among many other projects, we have upgraded firefighting equipment in response to arson attacks, installed surveillance camera systems in Jewish communities, purchased armored vests for civilian security chiefs and emergency medical personnel, and mapped communication deficiencies so we could upgrade and improve emergency communications.
Amazingly, despite the constant attacks and threats, the Israelis living in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley not only choose to remain in their homes but choose to form good relations with the Arabs living around them. Terrorism never wins and One Israel Fund is proud to work proactively, and sometimes in conjunction with the Israel Defense Forces, to keep Jewish communities safe.
I have seen firsthand how many of these Jews coexist peacefully with their Arab neighbors. Their lives are intertwined — as neighbors, as people who just want to coexist in peace and as colleagues. Many Arabs in these regions are employed by Israeli businesses and shops.
It is for this reason that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is so faulty; BDS hurts both Jews and Arabs who work in these companies. BDS proponents claim their movement is a protest meant to better the lives of Arabs in Israel, yet they ignore atrocities happening daily to millions of Arabs living in other Middle Eastern countries, where women and gays are denied basic human rights and where there is no chance for upward mobility. Many of these oppressed Arabs are also of Palestinian decent. Instead, they target Israel. The reason is simple: Hating Israel is a thinly veiled way to hate Jews.
Recently, the European Court of Justice mandated that all goods produced in Israeli settlements must be labeled as such in order to “prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.” This move is capricious and unfairly targets Israel. There are many nations that, unlike Israel, actually illegally occupy regions and subjugate that region’s people, and yet Europe is only adding this label to Israeli products. I am disgusted to see religious discrimination be codified into European law.
BDS and this recent European law do nothing to help Arabs in Israel; its sole exploit — and I believe sole goal — is to delegitimize Israel and its right to be a sovereign nation. Some progressives in America have argued that military aid should be tied to settlements, with less American support for Israel due to the settlements. This is simply foolish. Israel is one of America’s closest allies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Weakening that bond would be unwise. America receives much from this relationship, including invaluable information regarding its own enemies in the region — information that has saved countless U.S. soldiers on the battlefield.
The media often portrays Israel as the aggressor, but that is far from the truth. Israel is a nation doing its best to protect its people while respecting the rights of all other people. As a nation formed with Jewish values, Israel values all life and often goes out of its way to preserve even the lives of its enemies.
In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. It displaced Jewish families and destroyed Jewish businesses, all for the sake of peace. And the reward was terrorism. The result was secret tunnels to smuggle weapons and conduct cross-border terror infiltrations, as well as the non-stop threat of rocket and mortar attacks.
Jews want nothing less than to live peacefully with their Arab neighbors but, while we work toward that dream, we cannot slack on security. Israel must protect its citizens and defend the values for which it stands.
Scott Feltman is the executive vice president of One Israel Fund, an American philanthropy.