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Jerusalem Post Blog: "Building Bridges: King David for the Occupation" by Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now Secretary General

"...the Yesha Council (Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip) launched a new campaign by the name of 'Yehuda and Shomron - Every Jew's story'"


In recent weeks, the Yesha Council (Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip) launched a new campaign by the name of "Yehuda and Shomron - Every Jew's story". This name was used in order to blur any political elements and to provide the campaign with an educational character. Advertisements and commercials bear the signature of a new organization from the creative offices of the Yesha Council called "Yehuda and Shomron - Hasbara Center".

In the framework of this campaign, biblical heroes and legendary figures were recruited to participate in the debate on the fate of the settlements; from King David and Yehuda the Maccabi to Rachel and Shmuel the Prophet, all were called aboard to fight for the vision of Greater Israel and the continuation of the Israeli occupation of the territories.

In this campaign, settlers present Judea and Samaria as an inseparable part of Israel, like the Negev or the Galil. In these ads, there are no Palestinians, no roadblocks, no military occupation and no terror. According to the Yesha Council, Bethlehem is a Jewish city devoid of Palestinians and the West Bank is available land, just waiting for the Jewish people.

Beyond this attempt to beautify the ugly reality and to paint a picture based on a lie, settler leaders are trying - with the encouragement of Jewish and Christian supporters abroad - to weave a religious character into the political struggle on the fate of settlements, which leaves no room for rational compromise.

Instead of addressing the fate of the territories and the millions of Palestinians living there as a political issue, settlers are focusing on religious elements and are trying to turn the matter into a religious-halachic issue

This very attempt deprives every person of faith from making an opposing decision by painting it as seemingly against Jewish law and making the idea of the two state solution a sin against Judaism

This monopolization of the religion and the attempt to instill religious elements into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a dangerous undertaking which can lead to extremism and bloodshed. When a rabbi becomes a statesman and religious text becomes law, democracy loses its authority and in the name of G-d, opposition to the withdrawal from the territories is allowed by any means necessary.

On the Palestinian side, there are also those who choose to evoke religion as an excuse to not recognize the right of Israel to exist. In opposition to the government of Mahmoud Abbas who sees the conflict with Israel as a political conflict solvable by political compromise, Hamas leaders continue the mantra that the link between Islam and all Israeli territory is historic and religious and that no Palestinian has the authority to give up any part of the land. With them, like with us, the link between religion and political conflict encourages violence and violates the authority of the chosen government to negotiate and compromise.

No one objects to the fact that the West Bank holds religious and halachic importance for the Jewish people. Nonetheless, the continued occupation by Israel of the territories and of the population there is against the Zionist dream based on a Jewish democratic state. Additionally, the occupation and the oppression of another people is not in line with Jewish values which are based on the respect of human rights, the quest for peace and the sanctity of human life.

Yesha's broadcasts of wide open spaces with a view, 'country' ambiance and feelings of spirituality and utopia lack the dangerous warning at the end, like in ads for cigarettes: continued occupation and settlement expansion is like a cancer in the heart of our people and can lead to the disintegration of the Zionist enterprise.