There’s an old anarchist slogan: “property is theft.” In Israel this is true of the settlements.
Haaretz once again proves why it’s Israel’s newspaper of record by reporting a blockbuster story of a secret Defense ministry report documenting that the settlements are based on a tissue of lies and theft:
Just four years ago, the defense establishment decided to carry out a seemingly elementary task: establish a comprehensive database on the settlements. Brigadier General (res.) Baruch Spiegel, aide to then defense minister Shaul Mofaz, was put in charge of the project. For over two years, Spiegel and his staff, who all signed a special confidentiality agreement, went about systematically collecting data, primarily from the Civil Administration.
One of the main reasons for this effort was the need to have credible and accessible information at the ready to contend with legal actions brought by Palestinian residents, human rights organizations and leftist movements challenging the legality of construction in the settlements and the use of private lands to establish or expand them. The painstakingly amassed data was labeled political dynamite…
…In the vast majority of the settlements – about 75 percent – construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.
A 2006 Peace Now report documents that a large percentage of Israeli settlements are built on such Palestinian land (the total acreage was something like 33% or more if I recall correctly). In the same sense that the United States was built and based upon the theft of Native American land, we similarly see that settlements could not exist without the theft of Palestinian land. And just as the U.S. has had to negotiate agreements with various tribes to compensate them for such theft, Israel will have to do the same. It will eventually either have to return the land or compensate the rightful owners if any semblance of justice is to be done. There certainly can be no legitimate resolution of the conflict that doesn’t address this deep injustice.
The carefully assembled journalistic indictment clarifies that the report not only documents the shady dealings of the illegal outposts, which one might expect–but refers as well to the most well-established settlements:
The data, it should be stressed…refers [to those at]…the very heart of the settlement enterprise. Among them are veteran ideological settlements like Alon Shvut (established in 1970)…Ofra (established in 1975)…and Beit El (established in 1977, population 5,308, including Hagai Ben-Artzi, brother of Sara Netanyahu). Also included are large settlements founded primarily for economic motives, such as the city of Modi’in Illit (established in 1990 and now home to 36,282 people), or Givat Ze’ev outside Jerusalem (founded in 1983, population 11,139), and smaller settlements such as Nokdim near Herodion (established in 1982, population 851, including MK Avigdor Lieberman).
The report puts the lie to claims by the Israeli foreign ministry that settlements conform fully to international law and it also confirms the government’s willing collusion in the charade:
…The Foreign Ministry Web site…states: “Israel’s actions relating to the use and allocation of land under its administration are all taken with strict regard to the rules and norms of international law – Israel does not requisition private land for the establishment of settlements.” Since in many of the settlements, it was the government itself, primarily through the Ministry of Construction and Housing, that was responsible for construction, and since many of the building violations involve infrastructure, roads, public buildings and so on, the official data also demonstrate government responsibility for the unrestrained planning and lack of enforcement of regulations in the territories.
I fear that despite the damning nature of this report and others like it, little will change within Israel with regard to the settlements. Israelis do not choose to know or understand the facts. Reports like this are distant from the average Israeli’s daily concerns.
The settlements are like those blood sucking vampire bats which remove just enough blood from their victims so as not to kill them, but too much to do much good for their health. Or to put it another way, settlements are the Count Dracula of Israeli society. They suck up the lifeblood and nothing can kill them except a stake through the heart. And which Israeli leader has the courage to face the deadly Count and plunge the dagger?