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WASHINGTON – The Jewish presence in the West Bank is considered by Arab nations to be a stumbling block to any peace agreement.

But Palestinians are prospering because of Israel’s investment in the “occupied” territory, known to Jews as the biblical Judea and Samaria, according to Sondra Baras, who travels to the area on behalf of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities to seek support for parks, child-care centers and other programs.

“Israel has encouraged economic development within the Palestinian areas and [Palestinians] are taking advantage of this,” Baras told WND in an interview. “We are seeing investment and we’re seeing new businesses. More and more Arabs are entitled and enabled to work in Jewish communities in Israel and they’re making wonderful salaries.”

She said such economic success is important to ridding the region of its terrorist influences.

Her organization connects Christians worldwide to those Israelis who live in disputed regions of the country.

It wasn’t until Israel captured the West Bank territory during the 1967 Six-Day War that Israelis moved in.

In 1968, a small group of religious Jews rented rooms at a hotel in the region in Hebron for Passover, saying they wanted to be near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, Islam and Christianity, she explained.

“The Miracle of Israel,” narrated by the late Leonard Nimoy, reveals the story of the only nation in the history of the world that has maintained a national identity without a homeland – and did it for centuries.

The Israeli government apprehensively permitted them to stay “temporarily.” From that beginning, hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews now reside in the West Bank, citing religion, history and Israel’s security among their reasons for being there.

Now there are housing complexes on the West Bank for an estimated 400,000 Israelis, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The changing population balance has provoked Palestinian anger and drawn condemnation from far-left international organizations, including some divisions of the United Nations. Yet, a small but growing number of Arabs are moving into Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, drawn by cheaper rent and better services.

A staggering 92 percent of households interviewed in the Palestinian territory of Gaza are severely poverty-ridden, forced into debt just to meet basic needs, such as food, shelter and education, while 69 percent had no jobs, claims Islamic Relief.

The report also found that almost half of the Palestinian Arabs interviewed were suffering from psychological problems and chronic diseases, such as hypertension, asthma and heart disease as a result of the 50-day war between Israel and Gaza that left more than 2,200 people dead in July 2014.

Baras told WND the majority of Palestinian territory is impoverished, but Palestinians who reside in Jewish settlements of Israel are financially well-off.

Hear the interview:

“An Arab who works for an Israeli company will make five times what he would make if he were working for a Palestinian company,” she said. “We see it on the roads – the cars that the Palestinians are driving on the roads, they’re great cars, new cars of all the best models.”

She argues the prospects of economic and social mobility offers a different end result than what the Palestinian government encourages: terrorism and radicalism.

“One of the things that we find particularly interesting is that in recent years … more and more Palestinian Arabs – Muslims – are not turning into lovers of Israel or Zionists, but they are realizing that when they refrain from terrorism, when they go about their business of just trying to live a good life, they live a better life,” she said. “Younger, more impressionable kids are being radicalized by social media. The more mature middle class responsible families in the Palestinian areas are realizing that terrorism is bad for them – and that’s our hope.”

The Palestinian Consumer Protection Society has joined forces with the National Committee for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, known as the BDS movement, in an effort to impede Israel’s economy and strategically tarnish Israel’s international legitimacy.

It recently threatened to reveal the names of and blacklist any Palestinian company that seeks partnership with Israeli businessmen, who seek to unite Israelis and Palestinians through entrepreneurial opportunity.


The BDS movement has “an enormous amount of money behind them, some of the money from the European governments, but much of it from the Arab world – what we might call Petro dollars,” Baras explained.

“It has achieved enormous success in Europe, where there are many countries insist any goods imported from Israel that are actually grown or produced in Judea or Samaria have to be labeled as ‘produced by the occupied West Bank,'” she continued. “The idea being that it makes it easier for them to boycott those particular goods. The result has been that major supermarket chains, for example, refuse to purchase any goods that are purchased in Judea and Samaria.”

But BDS has not had a substantial impact on Israel, Baras said, instead actually harming Palestinians.

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“The BDS movement targeted [the company] Soda Stream in a number of ways a couple of years ago,” she said. “Soda stream was located in Judea and employed about 700 Palestinian Arabs in their plant, who were making salaries five times of what they would make if they were working for a Palestinian company.”

She explained: “The result of the BDS movement is, the Israeli company continues to thrive, but hundreds of Palestinian Arabs have lost their jobs. The Palestinian leadership really and truly does not care for the welfare of their people. They care for their own prestige, they care for their own wealth. In fact, a lot of the money that is poured into the Palestinian authority finds its way to their personal pockets.”

Congress crafted bipartisan legislation in March that would prohibit the BDS movement against Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (H.R. 1697/S. 720), introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in March, would expand 1970s-era laws that bar complying with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments or international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

While the measure is aimed at the BDS movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Israel from those manufactured in West Bank settlements.

Baras believes the settlement movement, Israel and the Middle East are on the precipice of dramatic change for the better in light of the pro-Israel stance of the Trump administration, which has been far more muted in its criticism of settlements than its predecessor.

The issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank returned to the headlines in December 2016, during the last weeks of Obama administration, when the United Nations Security Council voted 14-0 to condemn Israeli settlements. The United States, which often vetoes resolutions critical of Israel, abstained and allowed the resolution to pass.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by repudiating the Obama administration. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended the U.S. position in a lengthy speech that repeatedly admonished Israel over settlements. But it had little impact because he was gone from office in days.

“Even here in the United States, the United States government has been supporting the Palestinian authority for years – pouring millions of dollars into the Palestinian authority,” Baras said. “That same Palestinian authority is turning around and supporting the families of terrorists. Basically what happens – if you have a terrorist in your family who either has lost their life or is caught sitting in an Israeli jail, the Palestinian authority will reward you. Essentially the Palestinian authority is saying ‘you kill an Israeli, we’ll pay you money.’ This Palestinian authority is getting those funds from the United States and from Europe.”

Palestinian terrorist groups have been paying stipends to families of dead or imprisoned terrorists since 1964, a practice was made routine by the Palestinian Authority during the Second Intifada of 2000-2005. The so-called “Martyrs’ Fund” system currently pays $170 million a year to 35,000 families of dead or convicted terrorists.

President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in May, in no uncertain terms, that payment must stop, warning that peace cannot be achieved while murder is being subsidized.

“Today we are at a critical juncture though, because with the new administration in the United States, President Trump has come in, and from the beginning, come out with a much more pro-Israel stand than we’ve seen in many, many years – in a complete reversal from what we’ve saw in the previous administration,” Baras continued. “President Trump has made very clear statements about the Jews who have a right to live in Judea and Samaria.”

Baras is urging Americans to adopt a settlement.


“From the beginning CFIOC has been very involved in encouraging churches and Christian communities to get involved in the settlement movement in a very practical, personal way. One of the ways we’ve done that is through the Adopt a Settlement Program,” she said. “We offer the opportunity to a particular church or group to adopt and connect in a direct way with one of the communities in Judea and Samaria. They develop an ongoing relationship, where they raise funds on a regular basis – they’ll take up on offering once month for their adopted community. They may take a tour group, or have representatives of the church come to Israel.”

Despite the economic incentives that influence Muslims to refrain from radicalism, Baras believes Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“It is absolutely critical today than ever before that Americans – the people of America – raise their voices in support of the Jewish right to live in Judea and Samaria, in our biblical heartland. Today for the first time we have an administration who will listen to these voices. We have Congress who will listen to these voices. And it will strengthen their resolve to do what needs to be done to create a better safer Israel, and ultimately a better and safer Middle East.”

“The Miracle of Israel,” narrated by the late Leonard Nimoy, reveals the story of the only nation in the history of the world that has maintained a national identity without a homeland – and did it for centuries.


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