Quora, I Cannot Tell a Lie

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A Palestine man tries to put out a fire in Palestinian fields that were set by Israel settlers outside the village of Hawara and the Israel Yitzhar settlement in the north of the occupied West Bank June 1, 2009. [Photo boston.com MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images]

As a Palestinian, I don’t need to be nice and respectful to my oppressor, and I resent being censored, especially under the guise of the management of editorial content, and especially when my political speech can in no way be characterized as hate speech or speech “inciting violence”.

In Feedback for Quora Policymakers, I wrote about how I imagine the pushback against Quora’s ongoing infestation of hasbara, from which it’s been suffering for a long time now, might go — through pressure from Israel to categorize language supporting Palestinian human rights as “uncivil” and in violation of its Be Nice, Be Respectful (BNBR) policy. The idea is that anti-Israel or anti-Zionist political speech (often interpreted falsely as anti-Semitism) is similar in nature to anti-Palestine/anti-Palestinian speech (often interpreted falsely or overtly stated as anti-violence or anti-terrorism). Demonizing Arabs and Islam goes hand in hand with anti-Palestinian speech.

This morning, I had occasion to contact Quora again to report yet another mistake in the application of the BNBR policy by Quora Moderation. My answer to the following question was collapsed and the question itself was flagged for violating a policy on Quora:

What do Jewish settlers in the West Bank gain by burning down Palestinian agricultural land including valuable olive trees? [See news report: Palestine: Jewish Settlers Torch 100 of World’s Oldest Olive Trees]. Quora Moderation notice on the question says:

This question should be phrased with neutral and sincere language.
The question’s wording makes it seem like a joke, or intended rhetorically to make a statement, rather than looking for helpful answers. It should be rewritten to be a neutral, non-leading question. See
Quora’s policies on questions.

Significantly, this question is listed in the Quora topics section as both “about” the West Bank and about “Judea and Samaria”, thus implying
a false equivalency between the internationally accepted designation of the Israeli occupied territory called the West Bank on the one hand and the name given by the occupier to the territory on the other. Controlling the vocabulary of the conflict in Israel/Palestine is the hallmark of Israel’s PR campaign.

If you google this confusing nomenclature, you immediately call up a Quora question and answer. The Quora question is: Why are Judea and Samaria referred to as the West Bank?

Luckily, all four answers there are acceptable ones, despite the wording of the question and the fact that the content, even in the top answer, provides no historical context beyond 1967. The following excerpt from the top answer explains that “Judea and Samaria” is a term carrying a Zionist ideological content (prejudicial) that implies the areas referred to belong to Israel, to “the Jews", rather than the Palestinian people.

Samaria is in the West Bank, but only part of Judaea is in the West Bank. The “dividing line” between the land of the Jews and the land of the Samaritans was “East-West” not “North-South”. The title of “West Bank” is not prejudicial, it is descriptive. It is the part of Palestine that is not officially Israel that is west of the Jordan river …

The question about Jewish settlers uprooting and burning trees must not be equated with hasbara questions such as the one below, which I reported (it was subsequently deleted): When was the last time Palestinian terrorists took responsibility for an attack against the United States?

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Following is the text and image from my currently-collapsed answer, a collapse I hope will be overturned on appeal, to the question, What do Jewish settlers in the West Bank gain by burning down Palestinian agricultural land including valuable olive trees?

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Think of it like burning down a Jewish business (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

It is not difficult for me, as a Palestinian, to answer the question why Jews “settling” — i.e. squatting illegally on Palestinian land — vandalize Palestinian property, run over Palestinians in cars, burn olive trees, and on one occasion even burn a Palestinian family alive in their home — and get away with it (see The sadists who destroyed a decades-old Palestinian olive grove can rest easy).

Answering this question by denying the facts above or dismissing the gravity of the crimes committed by such people because they are Jewish and the defender fears that critical reports about such actions by Jewish individuals or Jewish organizations may cause a rise in anti-Semitism in the world does Palestinians no favors. This is a grave and serious problem for us in the short as well as the long term, economically and politically. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),

Infestation expected to affect olive harvest in the West Bank

Olive-based livelihoods in many areas of the West Bank are undermined by Israeli settlers who uproot and vandalize olive trees, and by intimidation and the physical assaults on farmers during the harvest itself.

The Israeli government itself continues to whitewash such crimes perpetrated by its Jewish citizens, many of whom are also American Jews.

Palestine: Jewish Settlers Torch 100 of World’s Oldest Olive Trees

Palestinians report that Israeli settlers have burned down agricultural land including valuable olive trees, while Israeli forces prevented the Palestinian owners from putting out the fires; Israeli press reports that the cause of the fire is “unknown” and that Israelis and Palestinians “worked together” to extinguish it.

Israel deploys its PR apparatus to “dispute” and obfuscate the illegal status of settlements on the West Bank as stipulated in a number of basic conditions for occupied territories in the Fourth Geneva Convention in Article 49, which states that “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power” are illegal and that the Occupying Power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Such obfuscation can be found in the following site as indicated below, which incredibly cites the law of the occupying power for validation:


A few words are necessary to explain … two other factors are pertinent. Zionist ideology was important on this issue. Land occupied a central position in the Zionist policy of public land ownership, common and inalienable property of the Jewish people exemplified by Jewish National Fund (1901) according to which land was inalienable and is now on a 49-year lease. Israel’s security is relevant. If the settlements have military purposes, they have been considered legal.

It is not “retaliation” or an innate evil nature that drives these Jews in the West Bank to commit acts of vandalism and terror with impunity. It is the ideology to which they subscribe, a secular ideology tinged with a certain religious dogma (Zionism).

Their ideological/religious position is often described as “extreme”, as a position held by a minority of Israel’s Jews in and out of the Knesset. But, in essence, their position is no different from the impulse that drove Jewish militia in 1947/48 Palestine to massacre Palestinians, subsequently raze hundreds of their villages to the ground, and, ironically in the context of this question, plant trees and forests through the Jewish National Fund to cover up their crimes.

What they gained through such violence then, is what today’s Jewish settlers hope to gain — a Jewish state with expanded borders achieved through terrorizing the native population. In other words, a tried and true strategy of settler-colonialism.

According to Sara Hirschhorn, 60,000 out of the 400,000 Jews now living in the West Bank (or 15%) are American. She writes that whereas it is more comfortable to regard such Jews as “political heretics” or “psychologically unhinged propagandist”, in fact, they share similarities in their background to many American Jews of their generation.

Israeli Settlers Weren’t Always So Religious — They Were Once Secular Hippies

This group of Americans were the highest Jewish and Zionist identifiers of their generation. For various reasons, they felt after the 1967 war that they weren’t going to be able to fulfill these ideals living in the United States.

Some had religious beliefs that living in the whole of the land of Israel meant the occupied territories — the West Bank, or what is referred to by those who subscribe to that ideology as Judea and Samaria. There are those who also saw political imperatives: If there was not a Jewish presence in these areas, they would be liable to be swapped in a future peace agreement.

And some people believed they wanted to live in the land of Israel, but conveniently, their sister also lived in a settlement, and their best friend from high school lived there, too, and wouldn’t it be nice to live in a place with family and friends. Lifestyle factors also play a role, although obviously these are politicized lifestyle factors: You may get a good school with a nice house and a private garden and an easy commute, but you know where you’re living — over the Green Line.

It is time for people to recognize Palestinian fundamental human rights in their own homeland — all of it, from the river to the sea.
Rima Najjar comes from Lifta/Jerusalem and Ijzim/Haifa

Written by

Palestinian and righteously angry

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