The July 30 front-page article “In Mideast talks, an old challenge” accurately portrayed the growing number of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as an impediment to peace. But the portrayal of settlements as cozy middle-class enclaves, akin to American gated communities, belies the reality on the ground. The many human rights groups operating in the occupied territories have doggedly chronicled the theft of privately owned Palestinian land, settler violence against Palestinian lives and property and the humanitarian hardships caused by the separation wall. Moreover, despite the growing number of vigilante “price-tag” attacks against Palestinians, few arrests have been made.
The situation in the West Bank is complex. However, no portrayal of the settlements should equivocate about what happens when two peoples live side by side, one enjoying the benefits of political participation and a responsive legal system and the other living under military rule, devoid of rights. The ongoing human rights violations entailed by the settlements not only jeopardize the day-to-day lives of Palestinians, but they also threaten the fabric of Israeli democracy and degrade any chance of reconciliation, equality and peace.