Bergen County was honored to host Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith and his wife last week. How sad that it followed the tragic murder of five members of the Fogel family.
But out of respect for the victims of this vile terrorist attack and concern for the future, I must object to Rabbi and Mrs. Goldsmith’s bold defense of the term “settlers” to refer to the brave Jews like themselves who have chosen to live in Judea and Samaria.
Whether the Goldsmiths or any members of our pro-Israel community accept it or not, the truth is that the term settler, which rightly conjures up proud memories of generations of Jews who braved impossible challenges to build the State of Israel, is now viewed by many as a pejorative term, even among otherwise strong supporters of Israel. Despite the Goldsmiths’ claims, use of the term settlers by those who are trying to make the case for Israel will not succeed in the marketplace of ideas. At a time when the demonization of Israel is one the greatest threats we must combat, use of this term does nothing to help Israel’s case – and everything to hurt Israel’s legitimate claims to these disputed areas. Whatever its noble historical antecedents, in modern parlance the use of the term has no positive value outside the pro-Israel community. Use of this term makes it easy to dismiss Israeli claims and undermines the sacrifices that so many have made to live in these places, sacrifices that were so well-described by the Goldsmiths during their visit.
Perhaps most significantly, use of the term settler, as many writers and thinkers have demonstrated in leading publications, denies the humanity of our fellow Jews who were murdered. It allows people to pretend that they were brutally murdered solely because they lived in Itamar. We owe it to them to remind all that they were murdered for being Israelis, and honorable Jews. The importance of the words we use to make our case must not be underestimated. In their grief, and living in Israel, the Goldsmiths may not realize this. Despite our grief, we must.