Israel Resource Review 21st May, 2002


One Settler's Response to David Newman's Much Abridged History of Jewish Settlements
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 Herzog).

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

Beer Sheva, 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 communities.

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 colonization.

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 Palestinians.

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 peace agreement.

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 stable peace.

This article ran in the New York Times on May 21, 2002

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Dr. Newman's Settlement Myths
David Bedein

Dr. David 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 Europe
Chris Patten
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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