After we are done being appropriately and understandably shocked by the Ulpana neighborhood affair, by the cabinet's scandalous conduct, the absolute impotence of its attorney general and the unthinkable position of the State Attorney's Office, which volunteered its services in support of breaking the law; after we have finished reeling from the depiction of land swindlers as "normative people" and from the undermining of the High Court of Justice, we must ask: How is this anything other than business as usual in the State of Israel?
The generation of 1948 is disappearing, but its spirit has never diminished. In 1948, new immigrants were brought straight from the ships into abandoned Palestinian homes with pots of food still simmering in the kitchen, and no one asked too many questions. In 2012, the Israeli government is trying to whitewash the theft of Palestinian lands, all the while scorning the law. A single straight line - a single, perpetual mode of conduct - runs from 1948 to 2012: Palestinian property is ownerless, always abandoned property, even when this is demonstrably not the case, and Israeli Jews are free to do whatever they want with it. It was catch-as-catch-can with regard to Palestinian property in 1948, and it's catch-as-catch-can in 2012, in a never-ending game. Now, as then, the arrogation is authorized and sanctioned. Now, as then, a crime is a crime.
Still, there is a difference between 1948 and 2012. The expulsion and flight of the Palestinians, the usurpation of property and the prevention of the refugees' return in 1948 were the result of Israel's War of Independence. But 64 years later, the state is nearly a superpower, it holds sovereignty, yet it continues to wield control using the same corrupt means, as if it were still battling for its independence. What was arguably unavoidable in 1948 is nothing more than the gratification of the land lust of a group of powerful Israelis whose greed has the backing of the state. What was arguably a war crime then is now a violation and distortion of the laws of the state. What was at the time accepted by most of the world's nations is today accepted by none.
Back then, the state claimed various and sundry legal justifications such as "absentee property," and even the grotesque word pairing "present absentees" (nokhehim nifkadim ); now the talk is of "state lands" and "survey lands" - preposterous when the subject is occupied land. To this we can add the grabbing of private land and its transfer to settlers merely because they managed to cleverly take control of it. In the Israeli Wild East, as in the American Wild West.
In between, the state also expropriated thousands of dunams of Arab land - always Arab land - over the years, using various pretexts. In Israel circa 2012, when Jews go to live in the Negev it is "pioneering," "making the desert bloom." Bedouin settlements, even on their own land, is considered "appropriation," "a national threat." What has changed?
Nothing has changed since 1948. The expulsions and ethnic cleansings of 1948 would have been forgiven and forgotten had they ended then, in 1948. But 1948 is here, between the buildings of Ulpana in Beit El and the Jordan Valley, which Israel seeks to cleanse, slowly and gradually. Thus it is impossible to forgive and forget the sins of 1948. Were Israel to declare today: Injustice was done, it was the result of a war waged by the Arabs, but since then the state has done everything possible to end the injustice and perhaps also to atone for it, because then only a few people thought to question its legitimacy. But when the constant appropriation of dunam after (privately owned ) dunam never ceases, when messianic faith dictates that Jews have the exclusive right to this land, the international delegitimization campaign against Israel is understandable.
The homes of Ulpana themselves, more than all the hostile editorials, flotillas and "flytillas," are the hothouse of Israel's delegitimization. The attitude of the state and its institutions to this act of theft in Samaria sends a single, clear message to Israelis and the world: We will never stop this crushing, ultranationalist melody - then as now, in 1948 and in 2012.
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