In Haaretz, Yitzhak Laor writes: It’s doubtful if there was such foolishness in global politics since World War II as the settlement enterprise. The fact that the Israeli political leadership has engaged in it since 1967 makes the pill all the more bitter.
The sparse population in the West Bank, relative to the crowdedness of central Israel, created for Israel interests to suppress from the beginning any Palestinian efforts to organize. Moshe Dayan was considered an enlightened occupier thanks to the permission he gave Palestinians to work in Israel, for dirt cheap, and to import money from Jordan through the open bridges policy. As a colonialist, he was a cruel and short-tempered ruler. Only Ariel Sharon competed with him in historical blindness.
The army rushed to refer to the territories by their biblical names Judea, Samaria and Gaza. They called residents of the territories “locals,” as if to say they lacked any other connection to land, people, and history. They were quickly treated as a danger during the process of parceling out their privately held land, a process in which an entire people was humiliated for decades. Hundreds of thousands were imprisoned, masses of them methodically tortured, tried in kangaroo courts, put under curfew in honor of our holidays, and had their land expropriated. An entire nation was subjected to hunger, siege, humiliation of parents in front of their children, killing without distinction, as well as – how could it be otherwise? – being preached to about the injustice of resistance. Israel created with its own hands the security threat and through that threat the right controls us.
Fairly late in the game, when Sharon became convinced that the Gaza Strip was no longer worthwhile, he abandoned it and closed its residents within an enormous ghetto, poor and starved. Gaza is far from the center of the country, and just as most Israelis have no interest in the Negev, Gaza as well, from enlightened Israel’s perspective, can expire between one so-called war on terror and the one following it.
However, through the West Bank it’s easy to unmask the occupation. It was under Jordanian control until 1967, and it bothered us less than did Egypt or Syria. Nor did the detachment from Beit El or other illusions interfere with the development of our spiritual lives. But Israel understands only force, and the Palestinian population was militarily weak. Here, ever since the 1978 Camp David Accords, Sharon expanded the settlement enterprise.
The drugged-up nation wasn’t told about water and real estate. They injected it with terms like “land of the forefathers” and “security.” The settler lords were awarded luxuries, lived on the business of the forefathers and now they are the so-called far right that the world, including the Palestinians, is being asked to keep in mind when we plead helplessness. The army, always moderate in the Israeli psyche, will represent the security interest because the army is us and we are moderates. However, the settlers need the army to deepen control and the army needs the settlers to control the territories. That’s the tango.
The tendency to blame the Palestinians for failing to compromise is part of the colonialist hauteur. We imprison Palestinians, torture, steal, spread out on their land and ask them to compromise with us? In the name of what? In the name of fear of the extreme right?
Now Avigdor Lieberman comes along and declares that a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians is impossible and everyone is silent. The Palestinians are actually offering a peace deal. The big obstacle and the one that grows from year to year is the settlement enterprise, which promises that no solution will be achieved until it sinks us all.
In order to put pressure on the government, it is worthwhile learning from Beitar Jerusalem and its fans’ racist war: The fear of international sanctions work. The time has come to encourage the international community to fight Israeli intransigence and pressure Israel to give up on the occupied territories and its residents, who lack a voice from the perspective of our democracy.