The representatives of the settler organizations have recently declared their intention to establish 11 new settlements in the territories, including some, according to media reports, on privately-owned Palestinian land. The operation is being depicted as having been inspired by the 11 tower and stockade communities in the northern Negev that were established just before Yom Kippur in 1946. This is not the first time the settlers have compared their efforts to the settlement activities that provided the foundation for the establishment of the state. There is no basis for such a comparison, which is nothing more than an act of forgery and fraud.
The basic difference between the two undertakings is that the settlement project that preceded Israel's establishment was intended to create the territorial basis for the future Jewish state. It wasn't intended to deprive the Arabs of everything that was left or, for that matter, their right to a state of their own alongside the Jewish state.
The 11 settlements in the northern Negev, meanwhile, were meant to ensure the inclusion of the Negev in the Jewish state upon the expected partition of the Land of Israel into a Jewish state and an Arab state.
The current settlement campaign, on the other hand, like the unnecessary construction in East Jerusalem, is not designed to ensure the existence of the state of the Jews, but rather to deprive the Arabs of their state in the West Bank and their capital in Arab Jerusalem. That is precisely the difference between the just Zionism of self-defense and aggressive Zionism, which is totally dismissive of the Arabs and their human rights.
According to the settlers, the Jews have the right "to settle everywhere," and the Jews of course also have needs created by "natural growth." In their opinion, do the Arabs also have the right to settle everywhere, or is any construction by Arabs illegal for one reason or another? And don't the Arabs have "natural growth"?
In the eyes of the settlers, the term "illegal" only applies to Arabs, not to the settlers' construction, because the source of their inspiration is divine and beyond the democratic context. According to this approach, the law only exists as a tool of the state, as the settlers' subcontractor, to deprive the Arabs of what little is theirs.
Such an approach of "me and me alone" should outrage every reasonable person, and as a result a large and important part of the Israeli Jewish public believes that this line of thinking is intolerable. And it is not just them. The Obama administration knows that Israel can be attacked over the settlement issue because American Jewry, too, will not come to Israel's defense on the matter. If that is the situation, why should we complain about the goyim who view the settlements as an act of outrageous injustice?
Through their actions, the settlers not only undermine the legitimacy of settlement in the territories, they also undermine international legitimacy for the very existence of the State of Israel. The grave results are in plain view. Zionism's just cause and existential interests are grounded in the equality and mutuality of partition.
David Ben-Gurion understood this even during the Arab Revolt more than 70 years ago, as did the international community in its support of partition in 1947. It also reflects the international consensus today.
It is patently apparent that, beyond the issue of basic justice, dividing the land is also in the clear interest of Zionism and anyone who wants to maintain the State of Israel as the state of the Jews. In the arrogance of their position, which tramples on the rights of others, the settlers are compromising the foundations of the justice of the Zionist enterprise, and acting against the State of Israel's existential interests. By making the Land of Israel the supreme value over and above the State of Israel, they are joining, in a bizarre way, their left-wing post-Zionist "brothers," who also propose a single state that will succeed the state of the Jews.
The writer teaches Middle East history at Tel Aviv University.
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