|Israel Resource Review
||21st May, 2002
One Settler's Response to David
Newman's Much Abridged History of Jewish
Marc Zell, A "Settler" from Gush Etzion, Judea
This is one
"settler's" impromptu responses to David Newman's piece on "How
the Settler Suburbs Grew" (New York Times, 21 May 2002).
I am a resident of Alon Shevut in Gush Etzion, a "settlement," really a town of 5,000 Jews located about 20 minutes south of Jerusalem.
Alon Shevut was established in 1970 by a group of young Yeshiva students and their families associated with what became the world famous Har Etzion Yeshiva run by Rabbis Amital and Liechtenstein. Alon Shevut, like Kfar Etzion, Rosh Tzurim, Migdal Oz, Neve Daniel and Bat Ayin are built on land that was bought and paid for by the Jewish People long before the Jewish State was formed in 1948.
Its original inhabitants, many of whom were Holocaust survivors, and some of whom were members of the left-wing pioneering movement, Hashomer Ha-tzair, were attacked by Palestinian irregulars and the Transjordanian Arab Legion in the months that preceded the establishment of the State of Israel in May, 1948.
Kfar Etzion was captured by Arab forces on May 14, 1948, the day before the
State was declared and the major part of its 200 defenders were gunned down
in cold blood after surrendering to Arab forces. The remaining inhabitants
and defenders of the "settlements" of Gush Etzion were taken into capitivity
in Jordan and were released only in 1950.
After the capture of the "settlements" of Gush Etzion, the Arabs systematically destroyed every trace of Jewish life here, including uprooting thousands of fruit trees planted by the "settlers" who had reclaimed the barren hills and established a viable agricultural economy. In their place, the Jordanian army built an army base
and various encampments that for 19 years had a commanding view of the
entire Israeli coast from Ashkelon to Hadera.
For 19 years Jews were not allowed to set foot on their land and were left to viewing it from what became known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem. On other portions of the Jewish land in Gush Etzion, the Jordanians built a Palestinian refugee camp, Daheisha; it is to this day registered in the name of the Jewish National Fund. The Jordanians proceeded to annex the entire "West Bank" (a euphemism invented by the Hashemite regime to describe its newly annexed province and what had
theretofore been known throughout time immemorial as Judea and Samaria).
The Jordanian annexation was condemned by the entire international
community, save the UK and Pakistan, and the entire Arab world and was
consequently, illegal ab initio. No Palestinian Arab state in the area was
ever established or proclaimed as the Arab world had rejected the 1947 UN
General Assembly partition resolution (No. 181), electing instead to invade
the Palestinian mandate and destroy the nascent Jewish State and its
"settlements" from the Galilee to the Negev.
In 1967 after being attacked without provocation by Jordanian troops in
Jerusalem and elsewhere in the "West Bank," Israeli troops acting in
self-defense re-entered Gush Etzion and other areas of Judea and Samaria and
expelled the Jordanian forces. Three months after Judea and Samaria were
liberated, the children of the original inhabitants of Kfar Etzion
petitioned the Government of Israel to return to the site of their kibbutz
in Gush Etzion and received permission. Thus began the restoration of
Jewish life in Gush Etzion.
Today, there are some 15 communities in the
"Gush" administered by a Regional Council. In addition there is a sizeable
town called Efrat founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in the 1980s that numbers
some 10,000 souls and the soon to be city of Beitar Illit with some 20,000
inhabitants. To the south of Gush Etzion is the town of Kiryat Arba with
some 10,000 residents adjacent to the city of Hebron which too has seen its
ancient Jewish community restored after repeated attempts by the Arabs to
destroy it before 1948.
To give you some historical perspective, the modern Jewish communities of
Gush Etzion are themselves successors to a virtually unbroken chain of
Jewish "settlement" in Judea that began in the time of Abraham, two thousand
years before the first Arab settled here. The Jewish village of Tekoa,
established in 1977 adjacent to the Arab village of the same name and the
home of the prophet Amos ("and they build the waste cities, and inhabit
them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof' They shall
make gardeof their land which I have
given them, saith the Lord thy G-d"). Towering high over Tekoa is the
ancient Hasmonean and Herodian citadel known as Herodion with its
magnificent archeolgical excavations. From the top of the Herodion one can
see clearly the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the mountains of
Moab, now in Jordan. One can also see a vast plain dotted today by dozens
of Arab villages, none of which existed before 1967. These Arab
"settlements" were established (without international protest) when Bedouin
nomads attracted by the economic boom generated by the return of Jewish life
to Gush Etzion decided to "settle" down and earn good livings from the
construction trade and related businesses. Just east of the Herodion on a
site adjacent to the Dead Sea, there is a place called Qumran where the
first of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, written by Jewish "settlers" some 2000
years ago, were discovere d by one of those Arab Bedouins in 1947. Just to
the west of Herodion, a few meters outside modern Tekoa is another cave,
where 13-year old Kobi Mandell and his friend, were brutally murdered and
mutilated last year by a descendant of the same Arab Bedouin "settlers" who
now populate the plain below Herodion. And just around the bend from there
was where my friend and fellow immigrant Aharon Gurov was gunned down in
cold blood just a few weeks ago.
We have a custom here in Gush Etzion to climb up to the Herodion every year
on the Ninth of Ab and commemorate that solemn day with prayers under
candlelight from the ancient synagogue there. On that very site and on that
very day in the year 70CE those other earlier Jewish "settlers" of Gush
Etzion watched with horror as the Second Temple was engulfed by flames and
reduced to rubble by Roman armies in Jerusalem just a few hilltops away.
Further to the west in Gush Etzion, just a few hundred meters from my home
in Alon Shevut, there is a road leading to the newest of Gush Etzion
communities at Bat Ayin built on or near the site of the pre-1948 kibbutz of
Ma'asuot Yitzhak, named after the late Chief Rabbi of Israel and former
Irish Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Herzog (father of Israeli President Chaim
In 1990 when the first Jewish pioneers returned to that site, I
used to do guard duty throughout the night to help the new "settlers" get
started and helped them make their first prayer minyanim. Today there are
probably 100 families living there in homes they built with their own hands.
When the Jews of Bat Ayin were building the road that would link them to
Kfar Etzion and the rest of the Gush, they stumbled upon some stones that
appeared to have a deeper significance. After a few days of excavation by
the regional archeological team, they found the remains of another Jewish
"settlement" built during the time of the Second Temple. In this ancient
Jewish town, they found a mikva, or ritual bath, and at the bottom, a rusted
key . . . of the same type known to have been used by the Jews of another
ancient Jewish "settlement" known as Jerusalem.
Indeed, it now appears that
some of the residents of this ancient Jewish town in Gush Etzion were
refugees from the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 CE.
One of them brought with him or her, this momento from their former home,
which is today just a 20 minute drive north by car. In 1990 the newest
Jewish residents of this spot brought with them another "momento," the Torah
scroll that was taken into Jordanian captivity by their predecessors when
the Gush fell to the Arabs in 1948.
Forgive me for having taken so much of your time to read these few lines.
But I wanted to give you a perspective that the articulate and well-known
left-wing activist David Newman saw fit to overlook. The Jews of Gush
Etzion are not interlopers or trespassers; just as their counterparts all
over Judea, Samaria and Gaza are not. They are the "Indians" (Native
Americans) who have returned to their ancient home. They are part of the
long and unending chain of Jewish "settlers" who have been part of this
landscape since the time of Abraham to this very day.
Some day I might
relate to you the story of Judah Maccabee's connection with Alon Shevut and
the battle that King Jehosophat fought in the valley below Kfar Etzion, just
outside my window. Even the name of our people, the Jews, is taken from the
tribe, region, province, Kingdom of Yehuda (Judah/Judea), whose heartland
encompassed these very hills of Gush Etzion and Hebron for millenia. So it
goes on and on and on . . . .
It is therefore with amazement that I read David Newman's piece and hundreds
of others like it as well as the statements of some (but not most) of my own
countrymen who look upon these no longer barren hills and these fluorishing
Jewish villages, towns and cities in ancient Judea and Samaria as "colonies"
and "obstacles." I ask myself what kind of peace can there be if the Jews
cannot live and build in Judea. Has the world gone completely mad when it
sees the descendants of the Jews of ancient Tekoa and Hebron and that newly
discovered Jewish Second Temple period town in Gush Etzion as "trespassers?"
I say to the world that if you deny the legitimacy of our habitations in the
hills of Gush Etzion and Judea (and Samaria and Gaza), you deny the
legitimacy of the entire Jewish State . . . more than that: you deny our very
legitimacy as a People on this G-d given Earth. Understand this and you
will understand why the Arabs of Eretz Israel are relentless in their
campaign to expunge the "West Bank" and Gaza of its Jews; to make Judea
"Judenrein." Understand this and you will understand why David Newman and
his ideological soulmates are tragically wrong.
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How the Settler Suburbs Grew
Prof. David Newman
Chairman, Dept. of Politics, Ben Gurion University, Beersheva
Israel - There is nothing that causes as much
heated debate in Israel as the future of the settlements in
the West Bank and Gaza. It is now clear to most Israelis
that if there is ever going to be a final political
agreement with the Palestinians, it will require that some,
if not necessarily all, of the settlements be dislodged and
evacuated. A permanent plan would have to create a
Palestinian state that is compact and continuous - unlike
the disconnected wedges and enclaves of Palestinian
autonomy areas that were created by the Oslo accord and
that have left the settlements in place. Although this
reality is undeniable, the practicality of settlement
removal has largely been avoided by all Israeli
governments, including those of the left, even as that
avoidance makes the eventual uprooting of the growing
settler population more difficult.
There are today approximately 200,000 Jewish settlers
living in a variety of West Bank and Gaza communities. They
have arrived in those areas continually over the past 35
years, ever since Israel's occupation of the region after
its victory in the 1967 war. For the first 10 years,
settlement was limited to the eastern edges of the Jordan
Valley by the Labor governments of Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir
and Yitzhak Rabin. They did not allow settlements in the
densely populated Palestinian upland areas, assuming that
this area would eventually become an autonomous Palestinian
region linked to Jordan.
It was only after the Yom Kippur war of 1973 and, more
important, the rise of Israel's first right-wing Likud
governments, led by Menachem Begin from 1977 to 1983, that
settlement policy was extended to include the whole of the
West Bank region. Spurred on by the religious settler
movement Gush Emunim, settlements began to sprout up
throughout the mountainous interior as well as in close
proximity to the "green line" boundary between Israel and
the West Bank, with their inhabitants hoping to prevent any
future Israeli withdrawal from those areas. Gush Emunim
supporters believed that the land conquered in 1967 had
been returned to its rightful owners as promised to their
biblical ancestors by God. Hence, they were not interested
in such practical problems as demography, security or the
political rights of another people. And they set out to
make it as difficult as possible for any government to
relinquish the land in a future political agreement.
From 1984 onward, Israel was governed by several national
coalition governments - perhaps more adequately described
as governments of national paralysis - consisting of the
left-wing Labor and right-wing Likud parties. In each
instance, the coalition agreements included a clause
freezing all further settlement activity. And yet from 1984
to 2002 the settler population increased from a mere 30,000
to approximately 200,000 (not including another 200,000
living in East Jerusalem, which Israelis do not consider
part of the West Bank).
Even under Labor governments, settlement activity did not
cease. Few new settlements were constructed, but all the
existing settlements underwent consolidation and expansion
as new neighborhoods were built, new settlers arrived, and
a second generation of settler families grew up and made
their homes in these places.
In fact, the so-called settlement freeze proved to be a
lifesaver for the many small communities that had been
established under the Likud governments. Preventing the
construction of additional settlements allowed small ones
to grow to sizes that made them viable as functioning
The Likud governments, eager to keep the West Bank as part
of Israel, actively promoted the growth of the settler
population through large subsidies - cheap land, low-
interest mortgages and lower income tax rates for
individuals, as well as subsidies to local government
councils. (Labor governments attempted to cut back on these
subsidies but often met with political opposition from
their coalition partners.) Israelis moving to the West Bank
side of the green line could exchange a small three- or
four-room apartment in a crowded Israeli town for a bigger
house in a low-density community, with government benefits
not available to people living just a few miles away inside
Israel proper. It was basically a case of suburban
The settlements, like communities inside Israel, are
governed by municipal and regional councils that provide
public services and control land use planning and
development. A recent study by B'tselem, an Israeli human
rights organization, shows that while the built-up areas of
the settlements take up only 1.7 percent of the land in the
West Bank, the area encompassed within the municipal
boundaries of the settlements takes up 6.8 percent of the
land. Regional councils, which provide services to smaller,
scattered communities through a regional authority, govern
an additional 35.1 percent. Together, these settlement
councils effectively control 41.9 percent of the area in
the West Bank.
After decades of growth, these settlements have created a
completely new landscape. They are no longer outposts on
exposed hills, but are fully developed communities with
schools, commercial centers, industrial zones and municipal
services all created for the settler population - needless
to say, the Palestinian neighbors who occupy the same
geographical space do not share in these benefits.
The very solidity of these planned developments makes it
almost impossible to remove all of the settler population.
Instead, the debate, even among left-wing Israelis who
oppose the settlements, is over how to redraw the future
border between Israel and a Palestinian state in such a way
as to retain as large a number of settlers and settlements
on as little territory as possible. This would probably
require transfer of an equal amount of territory from
within Israel itself - some have suggested the expansion of
the Gaza Strip region - as compensation for the settlement
territory that would be formally annexed to Israel.
But even if such a territorial solution were to be
acceptable to both sides, this still leaves around 35
percent to 40 percent of the settler population living in
areas farther east, into the West Bank, who would have to
be evacuated. Israelis left and right already fear a day
when the government will have to send the army in to move
these settlements if the settlers refuse to go. Even the
best outcome would probably mean violent demonstrations of
the type seen in the early 1980's when the Northern Sinai
settlements were dismantled as part of the implementation
of the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement; a worst case would
involve armed confrontation between soldiers and settlers.
This is a major reason why even the Labor governments that
negotiated and supported the Oslo accords did not stop
settlement growth and instead allowed population expansion
even at the cost of creating further resentment among the
Now, however, public support of the settlements is
declining. Recent surveys show that a majority of Israelis
believe that eventually there will be a Palestinian state
and that the settlements will have to move (and this
regardless of the recent vote by the Likud Party to oppose
the establishment of a Palestinian state). Early in the
development of the settlements, settlers argued that their
towns contributed to Israel's security. That is not
accepted by most Israelis now, and in fact the settlements
are seen for what they are, namely a security burden.
Public support is likely to decline further if they are
also perceived as the main obstacle on the way to a final
Unlike other matters that will need to be negotiated with
the Palestinians, the settlement problem, created and
expanded by successive Israeli governments, will have to be
resolved by Israel itself. For Israelis who have lived in
the West Bank for more than 25 years, for those who were
born there, there will be heartbreak, even if the
government can give them housing elsewhere. That is one
price they and Israeli society will have to pay for a
This article ran in the New York Times
on May 21, 2002
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Dr. Newman's Settlement Myths
Newman, writing in the New York Times on May 21, "How the
Settlements Grew", gives credence to the myths concerning
Israel's Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Dr. Newman mistakenly states that these communities have been placed in "the densely populated Palestinian upland areas", without mentioning that only one Israeli Jewish Settlement lies inside a densely populated Palestinian Arab area - the Jewish community in Hebron, which is constructed on Jewish owned property inside Hebron.
While correctly reporting that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin that expanded Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, Katif and the Golan,
Dr. Newman neglects to mention that Begin established another principle, which was that no Israeli community would displace any Arab village.
Begin's policy was different from Israeli policy that followed the 1948 war, when Arab villages such as Bir Is Seiba were overran by the Israeli army and replaced with the city of Beer Sheva, where Dr. Newman lives and teaches today.
Dr. Newman neglects to mention that Beer Sheva is defined as an "illegal Israeli settlement" on all
maps issued by the Palestinian Authority. It would be instructive to know if Dr. Newman would be prepared to forfeit his home in Beer Sheva for peace.
Dr. Newman neglects to mention that the PLO and the PA have never called on Israel to remove Israeli settlements on areas taken during the 1967 war in exchange for a peace treaty, as Egypt did in during its negotiations with Israel, 1977-1982.
The position of the PLO and the PA is consistent, demanding that Israel relinquish all areas acquired in 1967 AND in 1948, under the premise, promise and illusion of the "right of return", as the PLO and PA understand it.
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Taking Exception: Stop Blaming
European Commissioner for External Relations
It came as more than a shock to open The Post over breakfast on
a brief visit to the American capital last week, and to read in
the column of a respected conservative journalist that having
murdered Jews by the millions in the 1930s and '40s, Europe now
practiced "anti-Semitism without Jews" and was playing its part
in the "second -- and final? -- phase of the struggle for a
'final solution to the Jewish question' " [George F. Will,
op-ed, May 2].
How could someone I had previously regarded as well-informed and sane write this obscenely offensive rubbish? Questioned on the point, a Washington-based colleague responded that it was a pretty typical piece. He had seen plenty more like it, and there was similar muttering on Capitol Hill. So what is going on?
A few facts first. The Holocaust is one of the darkest stains on Europe's history, a crime against humanity that heads too long a list of totalitarian barbarities in the last century. The rise of its Nazi perpetrators was resisted by some, but there were others, including a distinguished American ambassador to London who fathered a president, who looked the other way.
My own father, like so many others, spent six years of his life fighting this wickedness; my wife's father was killed after D-Day. America's intervention in the war was decisive. Evil was repelled. And afterward, British servicemen continued to do what they believed to be their duty, fulfilling the United Nations mandate in Palestine, where many were killed by terrorists who were not Palestinian.
Since then, Europe has rebuilt democratic societies based on pluralist values and the rule of law. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall we have extended democracy across our continent. That democracy has occasionally been challenged by xenophobic extremism -- anti-immigrant, anti-outsider and doubtless sometimes anti-Semitic. Like the politics of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. Any attack on a synagogue is outrageous. But there have also been many attacks on the symbols and followers of Islam. Mr. Le Pen appeals to those who are hostile to North African immigrants. To regard this bigot's success principally as a recrudescence of anti-Semitism is ill-informed.
Anyway, what should we conclude about Europe from this pustulation? When a couple of years back there was an outbreak of arson attacks against African American churches in the United States, should we have leaped to the conclusion that the Ku Klux Klan was heading for the White House?
Anti-American prejudice in Europe is repugnant. It comes as a shock to me to find in a country I love and admire the mirror-image of this -- a visceral contempt for Europe. Hunting for reasons for this, do we have to come back to poor Israel? A senior Democratic senator told a visiting European the other day: "All of us here are members of Likud now." So any criticism of the policies and philosophy of Likud condemns one as an anti-Semite?
There will be no settlement in the Middle East without the creation of a viable Palestinian state and an Israel that can live secure within recognized borders. Israel must have the assurance that it will not be overwhelmed by returning refugees. The terrible suicide bombings must end; they are wicked acts, and it is a disgrace that they have not been more strongly condemned by Arab leaders. But a Palestinian state will require a return to the 1967 borders, or something very close to them, and it cannot be holed by settlements like a Swiss cheese. Without such an outcome the madness will continue, children will be murdered, blood will flow. And the blame will not be all on one side. Much hangs on the international conference that Colin Powell announced at the end of last week.
As a British minister I used to try to persuade American congressmen to take a tougher line on the funding of Irish terrorism. I would argue -- usually to polite disagreement, I recall ruefully -- that terrorist acts were always wrong. I would begin my set piece by saying that the beginning of wisdom in Ireland was to recognize that there were two authentic cries of pain and rage. Well I still believe it. And the same applies in the Middle East.
It is not anti-Semitic to say that, any more than it is to suggest that we will do our common campaign against terrorism irreparable damage if we allow it to be hijacked by Likud. Heaven help Israel, heaven help Palestine, heaven help all of us, if this mad and grotesque assault on reasoned debate continues. But heaven, I fear, will have its work cut out.
This piece ran in the Washington Post on
May 7, 2002
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