Few people live on their ancestral land; few reside where they believe their religious faith originally preferred. If they did, more Mormons would populate Illinois, and more Native Americans would demand a return of property throughout the country.

Few people live on their ancestral land; few reside where they believe their religious faith originally preferred. If they did, more Mormons would populate Illinois, and more Native Americans would demand a return of property throughout the country.


So it can be perplexing to see Israel’s reluctance to bargain for a geographic area in the Middle East.


First: People shouldn’t launch rockets at residents of Israel, who should be able to live in peace. Also, it’s common sense that resentment and resistance follow territory being seized. (If a group of Potawatomi came to my house, showing artifacts proving their people lived here in the 1800s, and demanded ownership, I’d object because I bought my lot and have lived here for decades.)


Also: Most folks are against “internment camps” or “reservations” for some people, against “separate but equal” policies, and against ethnic cleansing, whether horrors committed in the Darfur region of Sudan, by Bosnian Serbs in the 1990s, or, yes, North America.


Still, the long-proposed “two-state solution” for the area – two states, neighbors, living in peace – seems as dead as the Dead Sea.


If so, the future seems doomed to either have an Israeli democracy that, by definition, could not be theocratic and extend privileges to Judaism, or to have a Jewish state imposing apartheid making Palestinians non-citizens (which would surely be exploited by terror groups like ISIS – which itself claims territory as ordained by its interpretation of Scripture.)


In and apart from Scripture, Palestine existed for Millennia, historians say. Along the present area once known as Judah or Canaan, there was peaceful coexistence for centuries. But after the Nazi Holocaust, Zionists, a national movement founded in the 19th century to establish a sovereign Jewish state called Israel, focused on Palestine, ruled by Great Britain from 1920-1948.


Zionists eventually won global support, but a fair process wasn’t spelled out. In 1948, Jewish fighters killed hundreds of Palestinians in al-Dawayima and Deir Yassin, and some 750,000 Palestinians were exiled. After years of armed conflict, Palestine is scattered, with the Palestinian National Authority managing about a third of the West Bank and Hamas governing the Gaza Strip.


The settlement issue is timely because the UN Security Council in December voted 14-0, with the U.S. abstaining, to criticize Israel’s continuing settlement program, which violates the Geneva Convention of 1949. The 14 nations backing the resolution were China, France, Russia and United Kingdom, plus Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.


The measure also criticized Palestinian violence. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, “This was a resolution that we could not in good conscience veto – because it condemns violence, it condemns incitement, it reiterates what has long been the overwhelming consensus international view on settlements – and it calls on parties to take constructive steps to advance a two-state solution.”


In the last decade, Israel has constructed thousands of homes and roads, schools and shops for Jewish settlers, further isolating Palestinians between checkpoints and segregated zones.


However, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who’s been intrusive in U.S. politics – strongly criticized the UN measure and the Obama administration.


International law forbids gaining territory by force (although occupied lands aren’t uncommon, sadly). Further, the same Old Testament that suggests it’s destiny that the Chosen People will inhabit the land from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea also notes that the land is God’s and humans merely caretakers, and five times prohibits moving boundary markers (twice in Deuteronomy, twice in Proverbs and once in Job).


In the last 50 years, every U.S. administration has opposed settling occupied land (Republican Secretary of State James Baker in1992 even threatened to stop aid because of the settlements), and concern isn’t anti-Semitic. Israeli human-rights groups such as B’Tselem, the New Israel Fund and Yesh Din also prefer negotiations, and respected voices such as Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter have criticized Israeli policies.


And in context, the resolution occurred just months after the U.S. government approved $38 billion in military aid to Israel for the next decade – the largest commitment ever for a U.S. ally.


Isn’t it possible for people of good will to have empathy for a group that suffered the Holocaust and also for those being displaced from their homes or discriminated against?


With at least 20 percent of Israel’s population ethnic Arabs who practice Bahá'í, Christianity or Islam, according to Israel’s census, how would Israel provide for the common defense or ensure domestic tranquility for them and Palestinians in a “one-state” solution? At best, it would be comparable to democracy in the United States before minorities and women gained rights.


Israel should stop or start: Halt settlements in occupied land or build a democracy with rights for all its residents.


Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; his twice-weekly columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com