Israel’s latest land grab in the West Bank has met with all of the obvious condemnations from around the world. And, it’s true, this might not have been the best time to do it, or to do it all as punishment to the Palestinians for creating a murder culture based on revenge and vengeance that provided the environment for the executions of three innocent Israeli teenagers in June.
You would think before Departments of State and Ministries of Foreign Affairs would make statements condemning Israel that they would at least find out first what's behind their motivations.
The land confiscated, south of Bethlehem, was once Jewish land that fell to the Arab side during the War of 1948.
The Jews had purchased that land in the 1920s from Arab land owners at exorbitantly high prices, legal and binding. They proceeded to build a series of settlements that became known as the Etzion block.
In May, 1948, after several months of siege before the Mandate ended, the Etzion block heeded the call of the Yishuv to defend every inch of Jewish land without retreat. Those Jews put up a tenacious defense of their homes.
The Jordanian Legion, British trained and armed, by far the best fighting force in the Middle East at that time, supplemented by Arab irregulars descended on the block to force it to surrender.
After two days and a day before Israel declared its independence on May 13th, the Jews had to raise the white flag, put down their weapons and accepted the fact that they were now prisoners of war.
What happened next, like so much else in this history depends on your point of view. What is clear is that a massacre took place where dozens of unarmed Jewish defenders were shot or hunted down as they tried to run. The Jewish dead, 50 to more than a hundred depending on whose story you believe were left in the courtyard of Kfar Etzion and burned beyond recognition as the Arab force burned the settlement to the ground.
The bodies, burnt and ravaged laid there in the elements for almost two years before the armistice agreements allowed the State of Israel to go in and take what was left of their dead, and bury them according to Jewish ritual.
The highly disciplined Jordanian Legion has been implicated along with the Arab irregulars for the massacre. The Arab irregulars have that kind of stain on them all over the war of 1948. Kfar Etzion was not the first or the last time where they committed atrocities. The Jordanian Legion however, is another story. It’s hard to believe that a disciplined western force would have committed such a crime, totally unnecessary, but as we all know it’s not impossible.
John Bagot Glubb, the Legion commander makes no mention of any unauthorized shootings in his memoirs describing the victory at Kfar Etzion. Historians regard this as suspicious since all other accounts, Arab, Jewish and noncombatant witnesses, say that it did happen. It’s almost as if Glubb was ashamed or trying to hide something he knew he was culpable for.
Since 1967 Israel has rebuilt the settlements. Today it is home to over 70,000 people. So, one can make the argument that Israel should not have done this at this time but since they have, can anyone really say they had no right to do it.
The Jews paid for that land first in dollars and then in blood. What they did confiscating this parcel was to rectify a 66 year old wrong.