Gershom Gorenberg writes:
The settlement’s security man did not like us. He did not like the cameraman with his bulky gear, or the two documentary film producers who’d brought Dror Etkes and me to the outpost of Derekh Ha’avot south of Bethlehem, and he certainly didn’t like Etkes, an Israeli activist known for expertise on land ownership and for his legal challenges to West Bank settlement. The security coordinator wore civvies but bounced a bit on the balls of his feet in the spring-coiled posture of junior combat officers, or recently discharged officers.
“You can’t film in the neighborhood,” he told us. Neighborhood is a euphemism for an outpost, a mini-setttlement ostensibly established in defiance of the Israeli government but actually enjoying state support. Derekh Ha’avot — the name means “Forefathers’ Road” — is next to the veteran settlement of Elazar but outside its municipal boundaries. The security man worked for Elazar. Filming would be “a security risk. I don’t know a lot about security, but I know a little,” he sneered, meaning, I know a whole lot.
That security argument, I can say with very little risk, was a bluff. Derekh Ha’avot, home to three dozen families, stands on privately owned Palestinian land, as military authorities confirmed in an October 2007 letter to another activist, Hagit Ofran (in Hebrew). But last year, in a ploy to evade a Supreme Court order to demolish the outpost, the Defense Ministry announced it was reexamining the land’s status to see whether it was actually state property.
The man facing us at the outpost who wanted nothing filmed was making his small contribution to keeping the occupation’s realities out of the sight of the majority of the Israeli public. For that, he deserves thanks from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Comfortable public ignorance of West Bank realities is essential to the Netanyahu’s domestic efforts to paint a fictional picture of the West Bank and of Israel’s deteriorating diplomatic situation.