Challenging Haaretz’s Moshe Arens: Israeli settlers do not compare to Japanese internment camp victims

Moshe Arens argues that it is “wrong to push out Israeli settlers”, relating this “gross miscarriage of justice” to the expulsion of Japanese citizens of the United States from their homes during World War II.

Moreover, Arens fails to make any mention of the Palestinians forced from their homes. He also fails to discuss international law, claiming that the legal status of the Palestinian territories is “ill-defined”.

All in all, Arens’s opinion piece, published in Haaretz on May 1, is truly one of the most backwards things I’ve read. I challenge Arens to respond.

It is blaringly obvious that Aren’s analogy between Israeli settlers and U.S. citizens of Japanese descents just doesn’t make sense. We’re dealing with two entirely different situations. During World War II, Japanese Americans were forced from their homes and, in most cases, caged in internment camps. These individuals held U.S. citizenship and lived within U.S. borders. It was a time of egregious chaos in which the rights of American citizens were viciously denied.

Settlers, on the other hand, do hold Israeli citizenship but do not live within Israel’s borders. This is where the parallel ends and the analogy fails. In paragraph two, Arens calls for common sense. So, here’s a bit of common sense: If Israel’s borders wrapped around the West Bank, this territory wouldn’t be considered “disputed” and the settlers wouldn’t be considered settlers. Common sense shows us that unlike the aforementioned Japanese Americans, Israeli settlers are colonizing territories outside of Israel’s sovereign territory.

But it is a grave insult to the Japanese American victims of mass civil rights violations to be compared with settlers violating international law and, in many cases, displacing indigenous Palestinians who’ve lived in their homes for longer than Israel’s 64 years of existence.

It is also a grave insult to ignore entirely the effects of settlement building on Palestinians. Arens displays disgust with the idea that Israeli families who have been living in settlements for years might soon be forced out. But he displays no ounce of remorse for the Palestinian families forced from their homes after decades of living within their very own borders—much like the Japanese Americans Arens so offensively references.

In describing his opinion of the West Bank, Arens conveniently uses the term “ill-defined” to imply that Palestinian rights and demands have no basis in international or humanitarian law. After all, defined rights do not apply to ill-defined territories or to ill-defined people. What is of utmost concern to the great humanitarian is the protection of civil rights for settlers knowingly violating treatises like the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Civil and even human rights for Palestinians have no place in Arens’ discourse. Instead, we’re left with a broken analogy and an explicit rejection of Palestinian representation under international and human rights law.

Sami Kishawi

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